My final class is scheduled for next Monday, which is both a bummer and a relief. I’ll miss working with my students, but I won’t miss my adjusted schedule at all–and there’s a ton of work coming at WRI. There was also some shuffling around of classes last week, so I won’t be teaching the capstone class they had me scheduled for, but they swapped it out with a second-level typography class that sounds like fun.


We have a new front door as of yesterday! The old red steel door is gone, replaced with a new (faux) 6/6 windowed security door. It’s wonderful how much light comes in through the window now, and every time I came down the stairs this morning I thought the front door was open.

Before Door

After Door


Last night I went out for beers with some designer friends at the Judge’s Bench, as part of a long-delayed effort to get together, and it was a very good time. Five of us met up from different circles around the Baltimore design scene, and it was fun to put history and shared experiences together. It’s funny how much overlap we all have together.


I’m taking a long lunch this afternoon to walk up to the Capitol lawn with a 70-200 lens and a tripod to shoot some pictures: The Arsenal of Democracy Flyover is scheduled for today at noon and I’m right in the sweet spot: They are flying directly down the Mall, over the Capitol, and banking off to the south from there. If I’m on the north side of the lawn, I’ll be in perfect position to get some great shots.

Date posted: May 8, 2015 | Filed under friends, house, photo | Leave a Comment »

Sleepy Bear

Feets

zonked

Jen and Bear

Fascinated

Mama and baby

Date posted: May 6, 2015 | Filed under family, photo | Leave a Comment »

Saturday morning at 7, Finn and I got our clothes on quietly, pulled the Scout out of the garage, and went to get breakfast together. Then we hit the first yard sales of the season.

This is a tradition that dates back to Finn’s infancy, when I would get her dressed and fed by first morning’s light, then set her in the backpack and hike the neighborhood while Jen slept in. She and I scored all kinds of things together, from bikes to desks to toys and tools, and Saturday morning was always the highlight of my week.

Walking with the girl

We started on our side of Frederick Road and worked our way back through the leafy streets until we hit the edge of the park. Finn was on the hunt for charms for her bracelet, and the first score of the day was a huge green glass ring the size of a doorknob and a small coin in the shape of a paw.

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Across Edmonson, there was a huge community yard sale happening, so we parked the Scout and walked, hand in hand. At first the pickings were pretty slim until we hit a house where a kid was unloading extra LEGOs, and Finn picked up a good-sized bag for $2. I found her a copper pin with a cursive F which a nice woman named Frances gave her for free. At some point, we began following a dude up the street who was asking after old cameras and adult bikes at each house. After a few stops, we caught up with him as he rummaged through a box of old photo gear and walked away with a light meter. I swooped in after him to grab an old Nikkormatic with a 50mm f/2 lens. The guy gave it to me for $10 because he couldn’t get the lens to unmount (after paying, I walked away and had it off in seconds).

$10 yard sale find. Bought it for the lens, but I wish it was a 1.4

Later we stopped at the house of one of Finn’s kindergarten friends, who were having a yard sale and a lemonade stand, and we refreshed ourselves. I struck up a conversation with his father, who had seen the Scout around town, and we found ourselves hanging out for another hour while the kids played in the driveway. At some point I noticed he had an old lens sitting on his table and found it was another Nikon mount, and demanded he let me pay him $5 for it. He threw in a nearly new Lowepro camera bag with it, which is just the thing I didn’t know I was looking for, but fits my camera and four lenses perfectly. His neighbor was selling a pile of window A/C units, so I picked out a nearly new unit for peanuts and threw it in the back of the Scout.

After tearing Finn away for lunch, I got busy in the garage sorting through all of the bins of stuff I brought back from my parents’ place. I cleaned out and moved the toolchest into place, organized the drawers and put everything away. He sent me home with a spare circular saw, belt sander, drill, rotary sander, and a router, all of which will be hugely helpful. The router I’m going to build a table around (or buy an inexpensive table for) so that I can mill wood faster.

Happiness is an organized toolbox

I organized a pile of spare wood left over from the porch job, moved the engine to the back corner, and knocked down the last parts of a rickety old shelf to put new wood hangers up. Then I found a place for an 8′ section of beam from Grampy’s barn. Suddenly there was a whole lot of room in the garage.

Tulips at sunset

Later in the day I futzed around with the new lenses and got them both to work in Manual mode; the Nikkor 50mm f/2 lens is nice, but will mainly be a backup for the AI 50mm f/1.8 lens I’ve already got. The other lens, however, has been fun to play with. It’s a Nikon-mount Vivitar 28mm f/2.5, so it’s wider and has a huge focus range. I spent most of the weekend learning where its sweet spots are so that I can get faster at shooting completely manually with it, which is fun. 28mm is a great distance to shoot from, too–not too close and not too far away.

Sunday was another good day of work and play; Finn had piano and swim lessons in the morning, and then we checked out an E-state sale (Finn’s pronunciation) behind the elementary school. It was pretty creepy–like walking into the Silence of the Lambs lotion-in-the-basement house, but interesting to check out. The owner had been an artist in NYC in the early 80’s and then moved to Catonsville sometime later, but his style was arrested firmly in the Reagan Decade, so it was a time capsule of quirk trapped in a little purple house.

Then we got to work in the garden in the afternoon moving bulbs and plants around to try and take advantage of the new sunlight available now that the cedar tree is gone.

We worked hard on this project until 5:30 or so, and broke for a quick dinner so that we could meet the neighbors across the street for some time in the playground. The weather was perfect, and the sun was warm. Our neighbors had to leave a little early to answer the call of nature, but Finn was playing with another girl, so we stayed. Her mother struck up a conversation with us and we talked until after the sun had set behind the school and the air cooled off. Saying our goodbyes, I carried a very tired, very barefoot girl back across the street and we put her into bed.

Fun on the slide

Date posted: May 4, 2015 | Filed under finn, friends, garden, general, photo, photography | Leave a Comment »

This post is one in a series based on a format at another website; much like genres of music, I can measure the phases of my adult life with the cars I’ve driven.

I’ve touched on my family’s history with wagons in previous installments, but I think the subject demands a little backstory. My father was a committed wagon aficionado before I was born, with a succession of full-size Fords from the late 60’s through to the early 80’s, when he switched to Chevy. The first wagon I can recall was a 1967 Country Squire, painted in light green. All I remember of this car was the back seat. This was back in the day of lap belts, wide swaths of sticky vinyl, and cold air whistling through gaps in the door cards. We traveled the width and depth of New Jersey, New York, and Massachusetts in this Ford, and it served us well through the 70’s.

A holiday trip to my grandparents’ farm was always on the schedule, and when the whole family was in town, the front yard was filled with a fleet of wagons, each representing a wing of our extended Irish family. My uncle Neil was a Dodge man, probably due to his experience as a police officer, and he drove a huge Fuselage-bodied yacht which he swore had an extra hidden gear: Warp Drive. Later, as his family expanded, he traded it for a series of full-sized vans. Uncle Dave was a Chevy man, and always drove a clean, corporate-looking offering from GM. Grampy ran his painting business out of a series of wagons, vehicles which probably didn’t belong on the road and were filled with the tools of his trade.

Dad’s Country Squire finally had enough miles on it that he got another, this one in a darker green. If I recall, the older wagon was relegated to hauling duty for his landscaping business, and usually sat parked in the cul-de-sac with the handles of at least two mowers sticking out the back window.

Later, after the Gas Crisis abated somewhat, we picked up a full-size LTD wagon in beige over brown, named Fozzie, which was the largest wagon I recall ever driving in. It was big and plush and stuffed with a comical amount of wasted interior space; I think we could have parked my mother’s Gremlin (named Kermit) in the back if all the extra plastic paneling hadn’t been in the way. It had pop-up rear facing seats in the cargo area, which were only really good for invoking car sickness–a problem when there were no windows to roll down.

The LTD was sold sometime after my Dad bought the repossession agency, which was a relief on their gas bill and the beginning of a parade of different wagon types and brands. We had several Chevy Impala-based wagons, some of which were quite reliable, and one of which scared the family away from diesel forever: the cursed Oldsmobile LF9 motor that happily shit all over itself at the first opportunity. My sister and I drove it to school one cold winter morning and broke down within view of the parking lot; we were told it was due to water in the fuel (GM did not include a water/fuel separator on this engine, so this makes sense), but I still believe it deliberately wanted to embarrass me in front of the entire 9th grade.

After the Chevy, we had an Audi 9000 wagon, which was a lot like driving the Millennium Falcon. This was back when Audi was synonymous with “overpriced European shitbox.” When it ran, it was fast and we could hide a lot of people in it. But it spent more time in the garage than in hyperspace, and we needed R2-D2 to decode the electrical issues it suffered from. Driving to pick up my parents from the airport one day, we turned on the windshield wipers in a summer squall. Within a half a mile the wipers shorted out the whole car, and we coasted to a stop on the access road to the Arrivals gate. I recall waiting a very long time before it started again.

Nevertheless, I liked a wagon, because I was doing a lot of hauling for marching band and as the head set builder for the drama club. After the VW accident and the Subaru trying to kill me, I drove my parents’ cars around for a while until another vehicle turned up in the impound lot: an ’85 Sentra wagon.

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Not mine, but exactly the same. Same colors, same shit wheels.

It was a tired example owned by a heavy smoker, which probably explained why the bank hadn’t wanted to reclaim it and the fire-sale price we got it for. Blue over gray, it had been in a minor front-end accident at some point, enough to bend the hood and wrinkle the driver’s fender but not damage the frame or engine. After we bought it, I spent an entire weekend scrubbing the nicotine off the plastic bits, scrubbing the carpeting and headliner, and fumigating as much of the stink out of it as I could. This was only partially successful.

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In 1985, this was LUXURY. My plastics discolored the exact same way.

My Dad sourced a used fender and aftermarket hood, and I pounded out the mounting points enough to get the fender lined up with the bumper and get the hood to close, although I was the only one who could open it. We never did repaint it, so it looked ghetto in three colors, but it ran, and it was mine.

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Gray over blue. Unless the upholstery was supposed to have been blue…

It served me well that winter and through the spring. It featured a 1.6 liter engine with a three-speed automatic, and got very respectable gas mileage at the expense of being a complete pig, but that was mostly OK with me.  It had four doors and a spacious rear cargo area so I could haul drywall and plywood and drums and friends. The pictured example has A/C but mine did not, which kind of sucked.

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Look how cheap those door cards are! That’s a Hefty bag, for crying out loud.

After graduation, my group of friends decided to hit Jones Beach before we all had to get serious with our summer jobs. We loaded up my Sentra, my friend Jon’s Cavalier, and headed south. Jon loved to beat on his Chevy and quickly left me in the dust; I remember pulling into the parking lot long after they’d gotten there, covered in sweat, and getting home at about the same interval. Still, it got me to and from work and parties and I could fold the rear seats down to crash if I couldn’t make it home, which came in handy that summer.

In the fall, as we firmed up college plans and I got ready to head to MICA, I emptied it out and gave it a final wash, and we sold it to help pay for tuition. If I remember correctly, Mom and I drove to Baltimore in a wagon of some kind, but I can’t remember what it was…

Other entries in this series:
’73 Volkswagen Camper Bus
’84 Subaru GL Wagon
’86 Mazda B2000
’86 Honda CRX
’93 Ford Taurus

Date posted: May 1, 2015 | Filed under cars | Leave a Comment »

Before I left for New York, I took a little time to pull the cowl cover off and stick my shop-vac hose down into the cavity between the inner and outer fender. This is a notorious rust spot on the Scout II, as all kinds of crap falls down through the cowl to land here, where it can’t get back out. When it gets wet, it takes a long time to dry out, and you get the idea.

Fender Cavity Full of Leaves

Clean Fender Cavity

The driver’s side is harder to clean out because the knee vent is in the way (back in Ye Olden Days, lots of cars had manually operated vents at knee or ankle height) so I’ll either have to get creative about getting in there or pull apart the emergency brake assembly to get the vent out to access it from the inside.

I’m now on the hunt for stainless window screen that I can zip-tie to the underside of the cowl vent, to keep new crud from getting in there.

And, judging from the pictures, it looks like someone was in there at some point with a can of undercoating or POR-15, which is a nice surprise.

Date posted: April 30, 2015 | Filed under Scout | Comments Off on Fender Wells

Having a little fun with a GoPro and the U-Haul I rented last weekend. There’s no sound, because it’s just wind noise.

Date posted: April 29, 2015 | Filed under family, photo | Leave a Comment »

Looking at CNN this evening, you’d think every block of Baltimore was overrun with mobs of looters. Jen and I watched some of the initial coverage from a Pho restaurant while Finn picked up noodles with her fingers. Later, after we got her into bed, the tempo of the reporting picked up, and we sipped cardamom tea while the senior center burned on the east side of town–miles away from earlier footage. Anderson Cooper actually did a decent job of keeping some sense of balance up until 10PM, frequently reminding the audience of the expanded scope and scale of the reported incidents, showing a map of their locations. Then, at 10, Don Lemon came on and immediately declared the city was falling apart into chaos.

I lived in Baltimore for fourteen years. For eight years I lived less than a half mile away from the Rite Aid you saw burning this afternoon. I bought a house downtown and lived there for six good years. I love Baltimore. It’s a confounding, mysterious, friendly, enchanting little city clinging desperately to relevance and prosperity. It doesn’t deserve to tear itself apart again, especially the areas that need investment the most. Because Rite Aid isn’t going to rebuild that store anytime soon, and the people in that neighborhood need it more than it needs them.

I hope to God things settle back down quickly.

Date posted: April 27, 2015 | Filed under Baltimore | Leave a Comment »

100

Famiy Dinner

Gravestones 2

Everybody

Birthday candles

D

Date posted: April 25, 2015 | Filed under family, photo | Leave a Comment »

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This goofy guy is my grandfather, William Dugan Jr. I share a couple of things with him besides my name, my physique, and my DNA. His name is Bill, but I have always known him as Grampy.

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He was born in April of 1915, the same month as Muddy Waters and Billie Holiday. Woodrow Wilson was the the President of the United States. The Allies were landing on the Gallipoli Peninsula in one of the largest and most useless campaigns of the First World War. Charlie Chaplin had just released The Tramp. A month later, the Lusitania would be sunk off the Irish coast, helping focus America’s attention on the war in Europe.

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He married my grandmother, Ruth, in 1938, and shortly afterwards my father was born. The worried looking baby he’s holding in this picture is most likely my Dad.

Untitled-2The notes I have on this photo say it was taken in Jersey City. They lived there until 1953 before buying a run-down farm in Upstate New York.

Untitled-3After moving the family north, he supported them by driving across the state each Sunday night to be in New York City by Monday morning, painting houses and hanging wallpaper through the week, and leaving for home Friday evening. Then he would spend all weekend working on the house, adding insulation and central plumbing.

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This series of photos is from a larger group that I scanned in 2006. I borrowed a video camera from a friend and filmed my grandfather talking about and identifying all of the people in these pictures before he forgot who they were and the information was lost forever. I have the footage  (the original MiniDV tapes are in our fireproof safe) and keep meaning to organize and catalog it all, but work, child, and life have made it difficult to finish the project.

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He’s going to be 100 years old tomorrow. Until just a few years ago, he was living in his own house, in complete control of his own faculties. At last count, he has eight children, eighteen grandchildren, and seventeen great grandchildren. I’m not even half his age, and I can’t imagine experiencing all the things he has in the span of his life.

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This is the Grampy I remember. A pair of loud shorts, those thick glasses, and a white undershirt. And dogs. Always dogs. I think the shepherd in the front might be Pumpkin, but I could be off by a decade.

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I’m not positive, but I think this one dates back to 1974 at my aunt Mary’s wedding. That’s some tuxedo he’s rocking.

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This is from a family reunion sometime in the mid-80’s. There are other better shots from this series, but I like the informal candidness of this picture.

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This is from about 2000, with his brother Tom.

We’re going to have a celebration for him tomorrow and on Saturday, and a bunch of the family is coming into town. I can’t think of anything better to say other than that I love this guy and I’m proud to share his name. Happy birthday, Grampy.

Date posted: April 23, 2015 | Filed under family, history, photo | Leave a Comment »

As you might have guessed from my pictures, the weekend was short on work and long on fun. We were invited to a backyard barbecue on Friday night, where food was eaten, drinks were drank, and Christmas trees were burned in spectacular fashion. Saturday we made a quick morning run to the store for more mulch and then jetted off to an afternoon backyard party. That evening we took in a showing of Epic in the neighbors’ yard, where we all filled up on movie candy and tried to stay warm; after the first half-hour I had Finn nestled on my lap sharing her Jujyfruit and Twizzlers.

Sunday was more relaxed, with a stop at church, a haircut for me, and then a steel band recital for the ladies in the afternoon. I puttered around in the garage to stay out of the wind. The tree service I called last week finally came out to estimate the cedar and greenhouse treeline, which came in about $250 less than I had budgeted for. Next I’ve got to price out a hauling service who can remove all the concrete next to the drive.

Date posted: April 20, 2015 | Filed under family, friends | Leave a Comment »