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Monday, February 13, 2017

Vegas.



"Remember what you told me
Shut up and put your money where your mouth is
That's what you get for waking up in Vegas
Get up and shake the glitter off your clothes, now
That's what you get for waking up in Vegas."


f you have ever been to Nevada, and flown there, you know the moment you get off the plane there's a welcome mat for you. It comes in the form of a slot machine. It's completely legal of course, but there is something sort of jarring when this is your first encounter.

I have been to Nevada several times and have walked up and sat down at machines pretty much every time I have been there. This most recent time was no different. Except this time I had a budget. How much? It was $1.00. Yes, you read the correctly, it was 4 quarters, 100 pennies, or however you want to divide it. In addition, I spent this massive fortune moments before I boarded my plane back to Illinois—I wanted to make sure I was there to carry home any winnings.

With so little experience, I slipped the dollar into the machine without realizing I had bet all of the money on one pull. It was a 25-cent machine and I thought I was going to have four tries. Oops. The machine did what it does best…it took my money with "no regrets, a better luck next time, or thanks for coming"…nothing. All I could do was laugh and walk away. Yes, I had more money in my wallet, but this was the fix I needed, I didn't win, and headed toward the gate.

I am really not much of a gambler; in fact, every time I have been to Nevada I have spent much more time taking pictures than having my money taken. Plus, the people are really interesting to watch and although you can't take pictures in casinos, there are plenty of opportunities once you venture outside. Over the years I have seen brides, Gene Simmons (look-a-likes—-with tongue and all) and so many interesting people it would not be possible to write about them in this small space.

But with the funny images, I have shot plenty of hurtful ones. It seems the land of dreams often ends with a sour note when there is gambling involved. Once I encountered a 20-something guy who was seriously down on his luck. The sign he held was tough to read as he put his life out there;  when I asked if I could take his picture, and pay him for it, you could see the shame he felt. He turned away, I took the photo and left quickly; I have no idea how the money was spent, but I am thinking it was not on food.

It might seem these are the only scenes you see in Nevada, however there's much more. If you go north you will find open ranges and beautiful scenery—check that, very beautiful scenery. This past trip I saw snow-capped mountains where five months earlier, I saw rock. Both were beautiful, but the snow added a completely different perspective of what this state has to offer. 

The photo above is of the slot machine that took my dollar. I am okay with it—-had I won I would have walked back and put it all back in anyway. I am fortunate to not have that urge, I know many people who do; for me, my urge comes in the form of pushing a button instead of pulling a handle. Both can be very expensive, but mine seems to pay a bigger reward in my opinion.

Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, February 6, 2017

What's that day?




"They say it's your birthday
It's my birthday too, yeah
They say it's your birthday
We're gonna have a good time
I'm glad it's your birthday
Happy birthday to you."


Unless I am mistaken, except for "Leap Year," there are 365 days in a year—on Earth. With all of the options out there to have a birthday, you would think the odds are pretty good not to see some overlap within a family. One would think at least.

Well, I believe our family defies the odds a bit.

When I decided to make my grand entrance into this world, I picked a date that would stick with me forever. My birthday, April 4, should not be that common. But ask my first cousin and he will say, "it's common with me..it's my birthday as well." Okay, so it's a fluke. Big deal.

Same two families again, and sure enough my sister and my late uncle share the same birthday. Of course, they're many years apart, but with all of the days (including leap years) here we are once more.

But wait, there's even more….

Same two families once again, and my brother and first cousin are born two days apart from one another. Again, there are a few years separating them, but it's getting kind of weird here. 

Want more? Sure you do.

It was only believed and not confirmed, but my grandfather's both had the same birthday. The reason they were not sure was they came from Europe and they never had a confirmed date of birth but when they arrived to the U.S. both had listed birthdays as the same. True story.

Could there be even more?

Actually, yes. My daughter and my wife almost had the same birthday but we induced labor to avoid this happening. It would have been too awkward and my wife was ready to call this one done and have her already. Hold it, there can't be more, can there? Well, maybe. My youngest daughter and my sister and uncle came within an eyelash of all three sharing the same day, but we induced again. 

Almost done; although not as joyous, my mother was born and buried on the same date. 

Whew…that's it. But if you don't see a coincidence, you would have to agree there's something crazy going on here. 

Lastly, I remember a long time ago I was always surprised when I heard so and so had their birthday on October 2. I knew several people with that date. I never understood until I did the math; I travelled nine months back and there was New Year's staring me in the face. (It turns out, the most popular birthdate in the world is actually October 5th, but still close enough.)

The photo above was take this past weekend. It seemed only fitting that on this date, I would be wishing a Happy Birthday to my daughter and grandson. With all of the available dates on the calendar, Hallmark is ready for when we walk in to buy multiple cards.


Thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Boys of Fall.



"When I feel that chill, smell that fresh cut grass
I'm back in my helmet, cleats, and shoulder pads
Standing in the huddle, listening to the call
Fans going crazy for the boys of fall


With so much happening in the world, you may have forgotten this weekend is the "Big Game." I can't say the real name as it is trademarked and I guess I could get in trouble. 

Today's "Snap.Shot." is not about the game, it's about what it takes to get to the game. Not by car or plane, let's go way back…how about local football. In the area where I live, football is a big deal. Check that, a really big deal. Families come together in what would be best described as a "clan" to watch players of all sizes play their hearts out. What's most amazing about these games is viewing the development of these young boys (and sometimes girls) on the gridiron. 

It usually starts around age 8 or 9 when you see the speed develop. The blocking is not as big of a deal in comparison with some of these players who zip past opposing players. This is also the time when predictions start to be brought into discussions. The predictions are…how far this or that player go with the game? As a photographer, I have heard some pretty wild ones, but I have also agreed with many of them—as long as an injury doesn't play a factor in their future. (That's something that never creeps into conversations.)

In our town, the coaches from high school are starting to scout the players as well. I guess you could say this is a little NFL, and they want to be familiar with "Who to watch? Who is committed? Who is moldable into the mix?" This is serious stuff; not just for the coaches but for the community and school. 

What's always interesting is to see how much changes from the start of the season (when it's really hot outside) through November (when it is really cold outside). The stands are usually  full in the beginning and bursting when the season ends. I never have to worry about being squished, I am on the sidelines and honestly that's as close as I want to get to the game. I was not born to play football, or really any sport, but my Nikon was!  

What's been the most pleasure is watching the 8-9 year olds progress and then suddenly they're on the Varsity team. Even more surprising, they have matured to sizes that are unimaginable. Reality does come back into play when they take off their helmets…they are still  young men. 

Although I am not sure how many, but several players have gone on to play Division 1 football; I know of at least a couple who have signed with NFL teams. Pretty cool that it all started with a small field in our town.

So let's move back to the Big Game. 

The photo above was taken at our local high school. If you think about where every one of these players started their love for the game, it usually travels back to that small field in the middle of a town and/or a city that's just crazy about the game--all  in hopes one of these players takes it to the professional level.

Thanks for stopping by.




Wednesday, February 1, 2017

This new smartphone has real appeal.




"Hello, baby
Yeah, this is the Big Bopper speakin'
Ha ha ha ha ha, oh you sweet thing
Do I what?Will I what?
Oh baby, you know what I like."

Last night, Apple announced its earnings to the investment community. Whereas many felt they were going to go one way, they once again proved them wrong by soaring upward.

I found it interesting that Apple did not discuss a new competitor coming into the market; I am not sure if this was an oversight or fear on their part. I suspect it's both.

Recently, and I witnessed this at the Minnesota Timberwolves game last week, I saw a woman holding this new wireless device in her hand. She held on to it  the entire game and frequently placed it near her head. I was not sure if this was a working model or one to generate attention, but it appears to have substantial "appeal."

After I left the game, I went online to check it out. I was not able to find much news, but did learn—and this is only rumor—but the model comes in green, yellow and black. I assume it has to do with when it is purchased and it's freshness. I have been asking people about the new phone—I believe it's called "The Banana" —and what they know about it. Most have never heard of it, but one person said they had heard it offers something most other smart devices offer but rarely used for this purpose.

Apparently, and I am still absorbing this news..the Banana can be used for one person to speak to another. No cords, just the ability to talk. Whoa. Amazing.

What impressed me most about learning of "The Banana" was it's unique ability to be consumed after using. Unlike the other smartphones, it's high in potassium and can be mixed and matched with apples, blackberries and other fruits. According to what I read, they call this "fruit salad." I tried to learn more about but I couldn't locate any "text" on the matter. 

In today's connected world, the thought of actually talking to another human "live" is difficult to imagine. That's why I believe this new device will give both Apple and Blackberry a run for their money. Knowing it brings back a human touch, and is good for you after your done talking, it's only a matter of time until other smartphones come out with similar capabilities. Perhaps we will see the introduction of the radish, cantaloupe, and grape be the next to hit the market. My only concern would be size. Will the grape and radish be too small? How will anyone fit a cantaloupe in their purse or pocket? I guess we will have to see.

The photo above is real. This woman, from tip off to the end of the game, actually held this banana and during the game held it to up and appeared to talk on it. What I really suspect is she had the desire to be on the Jumbotron. I didn't see it happen, but then again anyone who makes it up there is usually just monkeying around.


Thanks for stopping by.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Row 17 Seat E.



"There's a somebody 
I'm longin' to see
I hope that he turns 
Out to be
Someone to watch over me."

If you've ever flown Southwest Airlines, you probably know about their open-seating format. Some love it, others hate it, and many just want to get from Point A to Point B. I am in the first group—they're my very favorite airline.

There's something very odd about flying Southwest; it usually happens on a packed flight when you are one of the last to board the plane— you see so many eyes darting away from yours in hopes you will not see "that" seat. You know the ones, they're protecting that precious middle seat that sits between you and take off. However, when there are no other seats available, it's not like we're going to stand during the flight. (I am sure some would like us to give it a try, but it's not going to happen.)

Such was the case this past Friday. I was in the "C" group, which I think means, we don't want to "C" you get on and sit in our valuable middle seat; the eyes were darting and because I saw  the last remaining overhead luggage slot available —it caught my attention. In went my bag, and to my right was that valuable middle seat. I said my usual, "I am sure I am not going to make any friends today." Yet, the woman on the aisle said, "No you're welcome to sit here." I was holding my coat and she asked, "Want me to put it by your bag up there?" I know, I was shocked too.

As normally happens, we struck up a conversation. That's Southwest…people just do that. Of course, this was after the eyes stopped darting and were now focused on two people talking. Although I didn't ask her name, after hearing her story, I knew I had to write about what "kind" of person I was sitting next to. (I use the word, "kind," because that would be the only way to describe her.)

We talked about kids, where we were from, our spouses and more; it turns out her husband had served in Afghanistan and represented our country valiantly. However, when he returned home he came back with life-changing injuries that truly reflect the "will to live" this Soldier/Dad/Husband had toward life. They had both grown up in a small town south of Minneapolis—I would assume close to the Iowa border. It appears it was a typical story where they lived in the same town, didn't really know one another, met and fell in love. I also learned their names are Megan and Jack.

Then it happened. 

Jack was in battle and although I don't have the details, I assume he either stepped on something, was hit, and suddenly his life changed. He lost both legs, his hand was injured to the point where they were not sure they were going to be able to save it—yet they did. In fact I learned he is able to drive and live a productive life. 

This could be the end of the story, but it's not.

Throughout years of recovery, Megan and Jack have come to the rescue and  taken on the responsibility, of letting people know their story—the importance of working together to spread the word to groups, and work with others to help mend lives. I was mesmerized. They took a negative situation and would not let it break them--they have done much more with their lives had this not happened, their determination is something we all need to focus on and accept its challenges.

The photo above was taken in Washington DC a number of years ago near the Vietnam Memorial; it's only fitting, as I was on board that plane, I  would meet someone who changed my life with her story—-all while I was sitting in Row 17 Seat E. 

Thanks for stopping by.



Change.



"Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won't come again
And don't speak too soon
For the wheel's still in spin
And there's no telling who that it's naming
For the loser now will be later to win
Cause the times they are a-changing."

America is going through change.

Duh!

These past few months have seen a lot of emotion spewing forth. Some was to be expected based upon whomever won the election—but now that it's over, the emotion is still running rampant. It's not a big surprise as change often causes stress, and when stress is intense, it brings the best and worst out of people. 

I believe what has caused the most concern, and rightly so, is the fear of the unknown. It's been long said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." It might seem trivial, but fear can be debilitating and cause people to lash out and have irrational behavior. It's easy to say, "Calm down, all will work out." I just said it and I believe it, but it's really not that easy. America as a nation, has overcome many obstacles and this is another one. But we are strong, and although a lot can change quickly, we always make it back and remain standing and grow from the moment.

Think about it. Was it the housing crisis that crippled America? 9/11? Years and decades from now, students will read about 2016 and work to understand the change that took place in our society and how quickly it occurred. There are many people who are quite happy with the change and others who are not. But we as a nation have to come together and work toward unity. Without it, we are in a bad way.

America has been divided many times before—it may not seem as fresh as what's going on now, but there have been many times of turmoil. Whether it was race related, politically motivated, or something as insignificant as the Super Bowl (Okay, I know this is a big deal, but in this scope, it's minor—unless you live in Boston or Atlanta and then you're excused) we should be prepared for anything that comes are way, but it's just not that simple.

What has been the most alarming is how much has changed so quickly regarding women's rights. I know I might upset some people getting into this topic, but when you have as many females in my world, it's the real deal. I have always believed in equality and it's actually somewhat hard to believe it's still an issue. All you have to do is look at our workplace and you will see so much has changed—it took a while, but it changed and now in my case more than 90% of my counterparts are women. The difference in their capabilities…actually there are none. My best friend at work is probably the most professional, driven, person I know—and she is also a great Mom and wife to her family. I look up to her with pride. (She's usually in a good mood too.) 

The photo above was taken in Minneapolis this past week. I saw it while I was walking to take a photo of another very influential woman, Mary Tyler Moore. Although not planned, it seems that within a two-block radius a statement was being made—-"Times are changing and we will stand strong through it all." We have to, we are all in this together.


Thanks for stopping by.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Love is all around.




"Who can turn the world on with her smile?
Who can take a nothing day, and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile?
Well it's you girl, and you should know it
With each glance and every little movement you show it
Love is all around, no need to waste it
You can have a town, why don't you take it 
You're gonna make it after all."

She left us this week; I didn't even know she was ill. I guess when we haven't seen someone in a while we lose touch. But when we hear of a passing, we suddenly are reminded of the memories we have not thought about in a long time.

They say that "things often come in three's." I am sure it is just a coincidence, but recently it seems maybe "fives or sixes" are more like it. Since December there have been many losses that occurred and they came within a small space of time.

The loss of Mary Tyler Moore really hit people hard.  We knew her, of course from a distance, but she was part of our lives. A voice that was well recognized without even having to see who was speaking because it was so unique and she was Mary. She came into our homes a few different ways in our lives: she was Rob Petrie's wife, a few years later we knew her as Mary Richards, a single woman living in the Twin Cites AKA Minneapolis, MN—and we also saw her on the big screen. The one thing I remember about her, she smiled a lot—she was believable.

I would have liked to have met her. I am sure it would have been just a casual, "Hi, how are you, nice to meet you" passing, but it would have been special. She was a person who set a tone for women, who before her, were usually in the background. With all the women in my life, they feel her impact.

This past week I was in Minneapolis; in fact, I was there the night she passed away. Many people have no idea where Minneapolis, or Minnesota are located on the map. We talked about it in meetings this week. But once you spend time there, you quickly find out Minnesotans are just fine with being unknown. They know they have something very special and if you want to be a part of it that's fine with them, if not, they'll say, "we understand." It's also known as "Minnesota nice." They are!

The photo above is of the Mary Tyler Moore statue located in the hear of the city. Up until recently it had been out of doors and accessible for anyone who wanted to "make it all seem worthwhile" any time of day; it's only recently that it was moved indoors during a construction project. Although I had to Google it's location, something inside me knew…I would have gone anywhere in the city to reassure myself that I was "gonna make it after all."

Thanks for stopping by.