Category Archives: Photography

On The Road Again with Ricochet

A few days back, I found myself on a short bus tour through Indiana and Michigan with my friends in the country band, Ricochet. (Prior stories about them are here, here, and here).  My high school buddies Greg Cook (pictured just below, after a show, in the decidedly unglamorous dressing room of the “8 Seconds” honky-tonk in Indianapolis), and Heath Wright (pictured onstage below and previously pictured here) let me tag along, take a few pictures and get another little glimpse of their music-biz life.

Late Friday night – after a show in Indianapolis and after a 3am stop at an Indiana Waffle House – the Ricochet tour bus was rolling north and Justin Spears had his guitar out, playing and singing whatever came to mind.  As we all settled in to debrief on the Waffle House antics, Justin started to play Bob Seger’s “Turn the Page” –a song about musicians on the road in a tour bus in the Midwest.  (“Here I am, on the road again.  Here I am, up on the stage….”).   And of course, everyone (singers, technicians, bus driver and one visiting lawyer) joined in.  If you’ve ever watched that scene in the movie “Almost Famous” where they all sing “Tiny Dancer”on the band’s tour bus — this was one of those moments.  Or a least it looked that way to an outsider.

Being on the road with Ricochet brings no shortage of such sights.  There’s always an afternoon “sound check” — a low-key mini-concert to an empty room (see the picture below of Heath), done to check and fine tune the zillion knobs and settings on all the monitors and speakers and amps.

There’s often a pre-show “meet and greet” with fans.  On Friday night, for example, the parents of a 14-yr-old girl had driven her 2 hours to see the show, not realizing it was in a no-kids-allowed country nightclub.  So the whole band gave the girl and her parents a short private concert on the band bus before the show (see the first two pictures below).

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There always seems to be a tattered, run-down dressing room, usually with bright lights around a mirror, and with graffiti and stickers and posters from the bands who have been there before.  That’s where I took those close-up pictures of Greg.  They barely use the dressing rooms — this group doesn’t do much pre-show primping.  Fifteen minutes before showtime, they’re probably still in shorts and tennis shoes (except for Heath, who goes full-time in full-cowboy).

After the show there’s usually an autograph signing session, where sweet, proper grandmothers and local good ol’ boys line up with drunken barflies (and everything in between), all patiently waiting their turns for an autograph or a picture, and a couple of seconds’ brush with the evening’s visiting C&W celebrities.  The young ladies in the big picture below had lined up for a picture, apparently after purchasing some Ricochet merchandise; “Sweet Tea” is the name of Ricochet’s newest song.  Notice the Ricochet (temporary?!) tatoo on the woman’s left arm.

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Saturday’s show in Tecumseh, Michigan was completely different – a very civilized “Center for the Arts” theater and a room full of mostly gray-haired fans (who, curiously, gave a standing ovation only for the Ricochet drummer’s hiphop/rap medley).

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I should thank all the members of Ricochet for tolerating me again.  Some of them exited the bus in the middle of the night to head for Oklahoma, so I didn’t get to say a proper “goodbye” and “thank you.”

For the second year in a row, I got to have a simultaneous mini-reunion with my two college roomates – Ricochet member Greg Cook, and Dondi Cupp (now a Michigander, living in Ann Arbor – not too far from Tecumseh).  That’s Dondi in the white shirt with blue print, obviously posing with the band (and above in another picture with Greg and me).

Fall Leaves in the Upper Rio Grande

Ever wonder where the Rio Grande got its start?

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If you follow the Rio Grande upstream about as far as it goes — to where the Rio Grande is still a rio muy pequeño — you’ll wind up a little west of Creede, Colorado.   Fortunately, most Colorado tourists have overlooked this area because it’s a long way from major airports and ski resorts, but there’s a loyal Texas and Oklahoma crowd that usually arrive in RVs for riverside camping, or in 4-wheel-drive vehicles for exploring the mountains.

It’s a great place year-around, but — until last week — I’d never been there for the real “peak” color of the aspen leaves in the fall.  They’re beautiful, but they’re quick!  In the space of a week, lots of the aspen leaves went from green to gone.  Fortunately, I got a few pictures before they all disappeared.

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If you want to see several more fall leaves shots, OR if that slideshow above doesn’t work on your browser or device, click here to see them on a different page.

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Pine beetles are a constant scourge in Colorado, and a few years back a wave came through and killed a bunch of trees.  The locals call it “Beetle Kill.”  The bugs eat the mature evergreens but don’t touch the aspen.  Lots of the pictures have at least a few obvious dead trees.  The shots below are of areas where the evergreens are essentially wiped out.  It looks as though the aspen will quickly take over the open space.

 

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Wow (Big Thriller)

A late-summer trip to Lake Tenkiller (in eastern Oklahoma) yielded lots of fun, and at least one decent picture.  Hopefully the picture explains the odd title above (Wow – Big Thriller).  Those are my nieces:  Caitlin on the left (falling off); Grace on the right (screaming).  Thanks to the Simon clan at Pine Cove Marina for loaning us the boat!

OverCapitalized

It’s hard to take pictures in Washington D.C. that don’t look just like the zillion images you’ve seen all your life.  And you spend a disheartening amount of time waiting for a little gust of wind so the flags will look better flying in the breeze.  

It’s a tough time to get excited about Washington D.C.  Washington is nothing if it isn’t a big symbol – full of smaller big symbols – of the federal government.  A very big federal government.  I suspect D.C. tourism rises and falls a little with the approval ratings of the President and Congress – making this a fairly uninspiring time to visit the capital.

Even so, walking among the monuments and museums and memorials and government buildings, it’s hard not to be impressed.  I remember my first trip to D.C. many years ago:  what struck me was that it was full of American castles.  I’d grown up thinking that the U.S. – unlike England or France or Germany – didn’t have castles, but there they were in D.C., one huge, lavish government “castle” after the next.

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 I went to a seminar in Washington a few days back.  I got there a little early and stayed a little late so I could walk around the “mall” and take a few pictures.  Several of the pictures you see are of the Capitol just at sunrise (thus the pretty light).  There are a couple of shots – with the Washington Monument and reflecting pool – taken about 15 minutes apart, from the Lincoln Memorial.  One of those was taken as a nasty storm blew in, trapping me (and about 400 others) inside the Memorial watching the downpour.  A couple of shots (those from up high, and including the one of National Park Ranger Julia Clebsch) are from the clock tower of the Old Post Office.

That picture with the Capitol building in the distant, lower right and with the relief sculpture up close is at the Ulysses Grant Memorial, which is at a very prominent spot between the Capitol Building and the Washington Monument.  It was striking to realize that it’s a tribute to General Grant (as opposed to “President” Grant).  It’s a war momument:  He’s on a horse, dressed as a Union general, and flanked on all sides by dramatic sculptures of Union soldiers on the attack.  As a de facto Southerner, somehow that ongoing granite-and-bronze celebration is a little unsettling (To be clear, though:  I’d never suggest it be removed.  It’s real history.).  It reminded me of my lifelong observation that many Americans have been much quicker to embrace our former foes from international wars and conflicts than their fellow citizens from opposite sides of the Mason-Dixon.

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Friday Night Heroes

 In a small town like Vian, Oklahoma, no tradition is stronger.  Nothing brings the community together – and nothing brings the community to life – like a high school football game.

I’ve never worn a pair of shoulder pads or a pair of cleats.  Even so, Friday night football was a big focus of my high school experience long ago in Vian (just like Saturday football was a centerpiece of college life at OU).  I got to see a Vian football game last Friday night.  I was glad to see that very little had changed in the past 30 years.

I went to Friday’s game to watch #40 Rowdy Simon (Sr., FB/LB) and #5 Rylee Simon (Soph., LB/QB).  Their dad, my cousin Joe Paul Simon, was a Vian football hero back in the 1980s (much like his dad had been in the 1960s).  It’s no surprise that Rowdy and Rylee are following in those cleated footsteps.

As the pictures show, Senior fullback Rowdy had some big runs (one TD scored and a second TD called back).  Sophomore Rylee is the backup quarterback.  But both of them are also starting linebackers (Rylee in the middle; Rowdy outside):  Imagine what a great experience it must be to stand out there shoulder-to-shoulder with your brother.  Then try to imagine how excited their Dad gets.

The 2012 Vian Wolverines are (again) ranked in the top handful of teams in Oklahoma in 2A football.  Friday night they made short work of Class 3A Spiro — scoring 55 points while holding Spiro scoreless until the last seconds of the game.  Keep an eye on the Wolverines this season.

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In high school in the 1980s, I took football pictures for the yearbook and newspaper — standing on the sidelines in my band uniform and trading the camera for a trumpet at halftime.  But that was 30 years ago, so my football photography skills are now a little rusty.  Friday night, I could barely get my camera to my eye before a young Wolverine would dash right past me on the way to the goal line.  And I’d forgotten how to shoot with both eyes open, so I was nearly flattened more than once by players barreling across the sideline while I had my eye in the viewfinder (one diving Spiro tackler actually kicked me in the shin). 

That mischievous-looking ballboy (below) in the black #1 jersey is River Simon — Rowdy and Rylee’s younger brother.  Rest assured that River will be taking the field for Vian High in the years ahead. 

 

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One more thing:  I researched it, and it turns out that Rowdy, Rylee, River and their little sister Rebel are not actually my “second cousins,” as I’d always thought.  They’re my “first cousins once removed” because our connection is via my grandparents and they’re from a different generation.  But in Sequoyah County, no one says “first cousin once removed,” so I’ll pretend they’re second cousins.