Opposites Attract……

The purpose has not been learning about the strangers, but learning more about myself in the process.

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“We carry inside us the wonders we seek outside us – “

                                                                                   Rumi

When I started thinking about the onehundredstrangers project, I really was not sure what I would accomplish by photographing and writing about the strangers.  As I move forward and meet more people, the purpose is becoming clear.  The purpose has not been learning about the strangers, but learning more about myself in the process.

Meet Charlie.  It was the 4th of July weekend and I had the opportunity to visit our local beach.   We have done so many times in the past and I have found many strangers in that area.  We visited the state pier on this day to photograph some “street photography.”  As I walked to the end of the pier, I saw someone who could not be more opposite than me.  I watched him for a few minutes and became intrigued by his sense of style.  I wanted to know more about him but I passed him by.

CharlieA.jpg

Why did I pass him by?  That is a question I have struggled with in my mind.  The answer does not have much to do with Charlie as it does with me and my internal struggles.  Questions that I have asked myself over several months are:  Was I scared to talk to him because he was a stranger?  Was his appearance off putting?  Was I judging him from his appearance?  Did I just not want to bother him while he was fishing?  What is the truth?  Was it Charlie or was it me?  I was afraid of the answer, to be honest.

I passed him by…..regretting that decision!

As I started walking back to the entrance, I had to pass Charlie once again.  This time I slowed my walk to a creeping pace, almost to a dead stop when I approached.  I asked about his fishing for the day and made some small talk.  I really do not know much about fishing but apparently he was receptive to my dumb questions.  I talked to him for a while and explained about my blog.  I learned from our conversation we are completely opposite.   There is that old saying that opposites attract, well this could not be more true!

During this process of photographing people, I have found there is always some sort of connection to the people I find to photograph.  It has been weird in a way that even 300 miles away from home, I can always find some sort of connection to where I live, people I know, family, friends, childhood, etc.  Almost like there is some sort of Devine intervention.

Here is his story……

Charlie grew up in Birmingham on the Western of town.  He moved to the beach 19 years ago.  He has friends that visit him for usually two weeks out of a month.  They fish everyday, usually for about 3 hours.  His family owned a chain of grocery stores in Birmingham.  He attended John Carroll High School, a private Catholic school.  He did not like the grocery store business, so he was a plumber by trade.  His brother ran the grocery store business.  He is a husband and a grandfather.  His granddaughter had just moved and he was missing her very much.  He recently attended his high school reunion in Birmingham.

Here is my story….

I grew up in the Eastern part of town.  I would like to move to the beach, but have not had the courage or the means.  I have friends that I do not see very often.  I am not much of a fisherman, even though my kids love to fish.  My parents were disabled and did not work for much of my life.  I attended public school in a low to moderate level income town and grew up in the projects.  I graduated college with a degree in teaching; however, I hated teaching and now work in the medical field.  I am a wife and a grandmother.  I see my grandson multiple times during the week and miss him when I do not see him.  I would never attend a high school reunion.

You see these differences I have mentioned, would be ones where I would be looked down upon in society.  I have many times in my childhood and even my adult life.   Charlie, may not have ever experienced that growing up.  That is the lesson I must learn from meeting Charlie.  Reality has a way of kicking you sometimes.  Charlie is my reality…to say, my judgement reality!

Then there is the physical differences that would be considered opposite.  Since I delayed writing about Charlie for so long, there were more than listed above.  Either way, it just proves that even though we are completely opposite, we can still be friends.  I have actually talked to Charlie via social media following our meeting.  An update from Charlie is his granddaughter is back home and he is loving every minute of spending their time together.  This makes me happy.

While I sit here and self-reflect on my chance meeting with Charlie, I see my internal flaws.  I almost passed this wonderful chance meeting with a person who was welcoming and open about himself.  Would I have ever had the chance with being so judgmental by my first impression?  A teacher once told me it is that initial meeting, that first impression that people will remember.  Make sure you make a good first impression.  Is that true today with so many differences among people?  Should I be so quick to judge someone based off tattoos and piercings?  Should I stick with my very first impression instead of finding out more about a person before walking past?  Dear teacher, you may have been wrong.

“Judgments prevent us from seeing the good that lies beyond appearances.”      

                                                                             Wayne Dyer

So, I left Charlie on the pier fishing.  I never did find out which grocery stores his family owned, but I did wonder.  The next day, I was having a conversation with my hair stylist and a customer (another stranger) at the salon.  We were talking about where we liked to purchase our groceries and meat.  Was it Walmart or Sam’s, Winn-Dixie, Publix, or elsewhere?  I mentioned a local, small chain of stores and the lady said, Oh, the (blank) used to own those and they were great!  Guess I found my answer about the grocery stores his family owned.  God works in mysterious ways…..Rock on Charlie, Rock on!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

the Bench….

When I set the goal of photographing onehundredstrangers, I thought that it could not be that difficult to complete in a year.  Well, I was wrong.  Also, I thought that the strangers would be just people, not things, or places.  Again, I was wrong.  In this case, a bench that has captured my heart.

a bench that bears your name

Anna and I begin going to Gulf Shores on Thanksgiving weekend in 2016.  We had been before usually during the summer or early fall.  The beach crowd had moved out and it was not as crowded as it is during the spring and summer.  Our intent was to practice our photography skills and explore.  And that we did!

We discovered places we never visited before such as Dauphin Island, Bon Secour, Fort Morgan, just to name a few.  On the road to Fort Morgan, Anna noticed a lone bench just where you begin to see the bay.  The bench sits along the shore overlooking the bay that runs along Fort Morgan Road.  It became one of my favorite places to stop and photograph.  The skyline where it meets the water is breathtaking, no matter what time of year you visit.  We visit this bench every time we are in Fort Morgan.

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Recently, I have been looking through my photographs.  I normally just use on Instagram (@negativenellie2018) or on Facebook; however, my photography club has an art exhibit with the Leeds Arts Council in July, 2018, and I was looking for a photograph which made me feel like it has a meaning or tells a story.  I remembered the bench.

The bench has an engraved plaque on the back gives the who and when but left several questions in my mind.  I needed to know more of this story.

pop pop

“How could I find out more about Pop Pop and Jensen?” I asked myself.  I posted a question on an open forum page called “I Love Fort Morgan” on Facebook.  I received many responses with information about Pop Pop.   The is some of the responses that I received which told me the story of Pop Pop and Jensen:

“That’s Pop Pop’s bench. He was an old timer that lived back behind/beside The Pines. He was always around and always smiling. After he passed they took donations at The Pines to build a bench in honor of him there.” – Alex L.

 “That was one of His main fishing spots.” – Debbie D.

“What a pure hearted gentleman, so kind and sweet ! I didn’t know he had passed, just hadn’t seen him. He was a sunshine in my day, when I was around him! He will be missed and, I know the bench, I will take time out of my busy life, to sit there and chat with him, again!” – Marsha R.

The next response is from his daughter and it really spoke to my heart.

“This is pop pop and my son Jensen, one of my favorite photos. There is nothing this man wouldn’t do for him or for anyone for that matter. Jensen passed from cancer at age 5 in 2010. It nearly killed pop pop. He later died from a heart attack but I have no doubt it was a broken heart. Seeing this post couldn’t have come at a better time for me. I needed this reminder just in this moment. Thank you for inquiring. You can learn more about our family at www.jensensheartofgold.com.”

At one time, I remember telling Anna that I would like a bench right beside Pop Pop when I die.  I wanted to have a reminder of a place that I love and where people can come to enjoy the view, just as I do.  Now, I realize this is not a place for my bench.  This is Pop Pop and Jensen’s special place.  I would be an intruder and a stranger.  I can enjoy this place for the remainder of my life when I visit Fort Morgan and have my photographs to view when I am home and add them to my onehundredstrangers, number 5 and 6.  Pop and Jensen can be remembered as they are fishing and hunting in heaven.

 

 

 

 

 

 

On this day…..

Back when I was a teenager, we had no internet.  Cable TV was new and MTV was my world.  Van Halen to be more specific.  Who does not love David Lee Roth?  His flowing hair, his exceptional body, and of course, the way he does all those moves.  That was the 1980’s! Found this throwback from the internet:

David performing in Florida in 1983 Photograph: Photo credit:  Neal Preston/CORBIS

DLR

I grew up hating to read!  There is no word stronger than the word hate or I would use that.  HATED IT!  But, I discovered, I liked to read the magazines that contained short stories, called True Romance or something similar (holds head down in shame)!  These stories were about hardships, finding love, romance and happily ever afters or not.  I admit they were a little trashy but, they were short and I guess, with my ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) that had yet to be discovered, for another 20 years, they did not drag out some 450 pages.  I think this is why I love photography.  Some instant gratification.  You snap a picture, download the picture, do a little editing and, poof, you have a photograph!

The settings in these stories or some books, which I did read, such as Danielle Steele, the Queen of Romance, were always in great locations.  Locations you could not find in Alabama.  There was nothing much in my town.  Everybody knew everybody and everyone knew everybody’s business.  I lived 5 minutes from downtown Birmingham, but that 5 minutes was a whole adventure away.  These settings were on the coast of North Carolina, New York, Martha’s Vineyard, Maine.  How romantic is it to run hand-in-hand with the love of your life along the sandy beaches of North Carolina with a lighthouse shining brightly in the background, as you smile and giggle with your forever love.  As your long, moonlit hair flows with the wind?  Enough of that! You get the point.  Actually, I think I am envisioning a scene from the movie “Grease” with John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John.

Fast forward to 2017!  I have, since those teenage days, always wanted to visit Maine.  I had envisioned the rocky coast, lighthouses, fishermen, and lobster.  That day arrived in May, 2017.  I was invited to attend new hire orientation with our company, even though I have been with this company for 7 years.  Better late than never, I say.  I did not get to see much of Maine but I did get to see Lincolnville, Camden and a lighthouse.  Below is one picture that popped up on my news feed today and I wanted to share.  It was just as beautiful as I had imaged.  I got to see my first true lighthouse, step into the cold water off the coast of Maine in Lincolnville, ME, met a fisherman for Pennsylvania, had a fresh out of water lobster, saw a street artist etching a rendering of a harbor scene, and meet some wonderful people.  Some loved my Alabama accent, some did not!  I discovered when I say “ice” – it sounds like ass, there is no place called a bent and dent store, and clowns are hysterical when on a rampage terrorizing little kids, but only after the fact.  Not so funny when your children comes home crying from being scared.  I can not make this stuff up!

I hope you enjoy the photograph!  It was a great experience.  I hope to visit Maine again when I have more time to explore and play tourist!

maine

 

 

 

 

Old Shelby Hotel, Revisited

“The Dennemora Hotel was built in 1863 during the height of the Civil War. The two-story hotel was located next to the Shelby Iron Works, which had access to a natural spring, made it a popular tourist destination. During the Civil War, the Iron Works supplied the Confederate navy with pig iron for their ironclad vessels. The hotel was a popular weekend destination for the public, but it was also used by the employees of the Iron Works as a boarding house.”
From Abandoned Southeast at https://abandonedsoutheast.com/2018/02/16/shelby-hotel/

Old Shelby Hotel Revisited 1Old Shelby Hotel Revisited 6Old Shelby Hotel Revisited 5Old Shelby Hotel Revisited 4Old Shelby Hotel Revisited 3Old Shelby Hotel Revisited 2Old Shelby Hotel Revisited 1Red Door

“Working Man”

I get up at seven, yeah,
and I go to work at nine.
I got no time for livin’.
Yes, I’m workin’ all the time.

When you see the opportunity to grab a photograph, you just snap it. While at the garage, I photographed a man’s tools. Excellent!!!

I get up at seven, yeah,

and I go to work at nine.

I got no time for livin’.

Yes, I’m workin’ all the time.

It seems to me

I could live my life

a lot better than I think I am.

I guess that’s why they call me,

they call me the workin’ man.

They call me the workin’ man.

I guess that’s what I am.

I get home at five o’clock,

and I take myself out a nice, cold beer.

Always seem to be wond’rin’

why there’s nothin’ goin’ down here.

It seems to me

I could live my life

a lot better than I think I am.

I guess that’s why they call me,

they call me the workin’ man.

They call me the workin’ man.

I guess that’s what I am.

Well they call me the workin’ man.

I guess that’s what I am

Rush

Old Shelby Hotel

“Everything has beauty, but not everyone can see it.”

Visited an old abandoned hotel in Alabama this past weekend.  Here is the Old Shelby Hotel, in photographs

History of the Old Shelby Hotel

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November 11, 1991

Their first breath and their last
Marks all the memories of the past
That little black line defines a legacy

“Their first breath and their last
Marks all the memories of the past
That little black line defines a legacy
It’s always too soon
It’s always too fast
They’re always too young
It’s always so sad
It ain’t about the numbers
Chiseled in concrete
It’s how they lived their lives

In the dash between”

Songwriters: Preston Brust / Kyle Jacobs

I remember this day so vividly, November 11, 1991, Veteran’s Day.  On this day, I was hooked!

As a child, I grew up listening to a story about a man in the US Air Force and stationed in Italy during WWII.  I do not recall knowing exactly what his role or job was in the Air Force.  There was a dance and some other servicemen were going to attend but he was on duty.  A beautiful, young Italian girl was attending the dance.  He saw the beautiful, young Italian woman and fell madly in love.  He asked the other servicemen to watch her during the dance.  He eventually met and won her heart as he escorted her to school and met her family.  She wore a wedding gown hand sewn by her grandmother which was made of an old parachute with the Priest’s blessing, granted all the off-spring be raised in the Catholic church.  It was such a romantic story that I heard many times.  The photographs were equally romantic and you could see the love in the young soldiers eyes as he gazed at his beautiful Italian bride.  He would, eventually, bring her to America.  The land of hopes and dreams.  She would become an American citizen and live the American dream.

Mom and Dad

In the same conversation, I would hear about a young boy who was lost.  A lost soul who could not find his way in life.  Life was a struggle.  He was in trouble with his parents, his friends, and sometimes the law.  The beautiful Italian woman, who was living the American dream, would chase him throughout town, paying off his debts and making his wrongs, right.  This young man found his purpose in life at age 17.  He was too young to enlist into the US Army, so the beautiful, Italian woman, had to give her permission to send her first born son into the Vietnam War.  The young man rose to the challenge and became an outstanding soldier, as his beautiful mother, sat at home listening to Bobby Vinton sing, “A Coming Home Soldier,” praying for her son to return home, safely.  He returned home to his bride, but begun to struggle with life in America.  He would tell stories of his heroism, without bragging.  He did what any soldier trained to do in those conditions, he took no credit for what he did to save his squad members nor gave details of what he saw in the jungles of Vietnam.   He often predicted that he would not live past the age 60.  He did not live past 60, the Agent Orange used in the war was too powerful and overtook his body, one organ at a time.  He passed away at age 60 in the local Veteran’s hospital.

Ronnie

Both these men were loved beyond measure.  I, often visit their grave sites and the American flags make me extremely proud of the sacrifices made to serve their country.

On Monday, November 11, 1991 was Veteran’s Day.  This Veteran’s Day was unlike the others.  I worked downtown Birmingham and did not know that the Birmingham Veteran’s Day Parade was the largest parade in the nation.  I knew that we had, the previous year, invaded Kuwait in an effort to help them take back their country from Iraq.  It would be my first war to witness.  It was one of many emotions.  I was in my early 20’s and many of my friends went overseas to fight in the Gulf War.  There was many questions, a lot of unknowns and the outcome was uncertain.  I was frightened.

I worked at a mortgage company on 3rd Avenue North and 22nd Street North.  The building was made of tinted windows.  The kind you can see out of but could not see into.  This made for interesting days when people walking by would check their hair, their teeth, their clothes, etc.  Once a gentleman was urinating against the window.  Little did he know that 10 people were watching from the inside of the building.  Maybe he did know and just did not care.  One this day, we watched the parade, as it made it’s way down 22nd Street North, from the windows of the office building.  People lined the street wearing their red, white and blue and waving flags.  Young boys and men would salute the soldiers as they passed by and receive a salute in return.   It was that moment that I understood the complete picture of dedication, commitment and sacrifice.  I understood that our freedom was not free.  It is free because of the men and women who are willing to give all during times of war and peace.

Looking for photography opportunities, an event popped up on my news feed on Facebook with Wreaths Across America at the Alabama National Cemetery in December, 2016.  They lay wreaths on the Veteran’s Graves at the Alabama National Cemetery in Montevallo, AL every Christmas.  I was sure this would be something that I wanted to see and to photograph.  I had never been to the Veteran’s Cemetery and asked a friend if she would tag along.  It was a busy time of year and Marilyn and I knew we had about 30 minutes to photograph the wreaths on the grave sites.  Montevallo is about a 45 minute drive and we rushed to get there and get back before families arrived and holiday preparations.  I only knew one soldier at the cemetery, but was unsure of the cemetery’s layout, I would be difficult to find him his gravestone.  I assumed it was similar to Arlington National Cemetery with the large crosses: however, these are just normal marble markers that gives the soldier’s name, date of birth, date of death, rank and branch of service.  Most had a symbol for their religious affiliation.  There were three sections and the markers were all strategically placed.  It was a beautiful site.  The landscape was immaculate, well-manicured lawn.  The wreaths were laid in an uniform manner.  No soldier forgotten.

waa

We step out of the car and gather our equipment.  Marilyn went straight away and started photographing the wreaths and the monuments.  I stopped to read some of the names and the dates and trying to figure out what I wanted to accomplish with my photographs.  As I walked around, I noticed a grave that was decorated with a Christmas tree and little ornaments and I started photographing all the decorations and was really interested in this grave.  The soldier’s name was listed as Brandon C. Ladner, age 27.  I was deeply intrigued by his back story.  Did he die in war?  Did he die at home in America?  Was he sick?  Was it tragic?  So many questions went through my mind.  It felt like he was really speaking to my heart.  Brandon is someone’s son, someone’s brother, someone’s friend who obviously misses him very much.  Coins were laid across the top of the grave, along with some stones.

What does those mean?  http://mix106radio.com/what-do-the-coins-left-on-military-tombstones-mean/  I felt ashamed that I did not know the answer.  I made a mental note to research the coins and stones when I got home.  That would not be the only research did when I got home.

bl3bl1bl

As I edited this pictures, I knew I needed to know more.  More about Brandon and more about the coins and rocks.  I put my research skills into action.  My first search was Facebook.  I searched his name and found a Facebook page that belonged to Brandon Ladner, US Marine Corps.  I looked at his photos.  His photographs shows a handsome young man, full of life.  His photographs looked like he loved his friends and family, smiling and laughing.  I continued to dig deeper.  I found his obituary and discovered the true tragedy.

  • Brandon had returned from the war
  • He completed 2 tours in Afganistan
  • He was a student at the University of Alabama, Birmingham
  • Brandon suffered from PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Brandon lost his battle with PTSD

“According to a Department of Veterans Affairs study, each day over 20 Veterans take their own lives.”  Misson 22, http://www.mission22.com/resources-2/ has been established to help bring awareness to the war that some Veterans face at home and gives hope.  There website provides resources and funds available to help Veterans, like Brandon.  On this day in 2016, I felt a connection to Brandon C. Ladner.  Although, I did not know him personally,  he remains in my thoughts when I visit the cemetery.  His bravery and memory must remain alive.

In May, 2016, my daughter and I went back to the Alabama National Cemetery for the Memorial Day Ceremony.  The weather was horrible and rain was coming.   This is the day where family and friends can attend a ceremony honoring soldiers.   The event is crowded and we had to park far away from the cemetery.   We start to photograph other soldier’s graves and I started walking toward Brandon’s grave.  As I was about to pay my respects, I notice other people paying their respects to him, as well.  I met his mother, brother and friend.  I will always have a connection to Brandon C. Ladner.  I have learned so much about PTSD, the 22 Mission, the money and the stones and extending my heart to a grieving mother and family.

You can read more about Brandon Ladner in the following publications:

From Motorcycles to Machine Guns: The Very Necessary Story of Sgt. Brandon C. Ladner, USMC by TM Fitzgerald

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/photography/proof/2017/11/a-conflict-photographer-helps-fight-a-war-at-home/

-tina