Saturday, September 6, 2014

sultry Saturday

sultry Saturday 
at the farmer's market --
in a flowered bib apron 
Homer's wife shows off her 
heirloom Supremo shell beans

The heat index is over 100 F when we visit two Saturday farmer's markets in Carbondale, Illinois. I'm hunting for White Lady peaches, my favorite because they're sweet but low acid, and more delicate in flavor and texture than yellow peaches. Our late-blooming peach tree got hit with a really late frost this year, so no peaches at all in our neck of the woods. In southern Illinois, 300 miles to the south, growers had a good crop of both white and yellow, but it's past the mid-season harvest time for the white peaches. 

Homer has mounds of sweet white corn and his wife has a pink bucket full of heirloom Supremo shell beans with fat white beans inside the long, splotched pink pods. But no white peaches.

And so it goes at both the big and little markets. Henry has a table loaded with blushing yellow peaches in wire-handled half peck boxes, but no white. However, my sister discovers that a little grocery store next to the big farmer's market does have what I'm looking for. While a Muslim lady shops for white eggplant, I purchase a whole box of white peaches (a half bushel, 25 pounds, 83 peaches). Back home, I will slice and freeze most of my "white gold" treasure, saving a couple dozen for fresh eating and sharing with my sons.

After I accomplish my annual White Lady mission, I roam around on my perennial mission, witnessing the wondrous variety of our world. A cornucopia of fruits and vegetables worthy of Edward Weston -- sensuous red, green and yellow peppers overflowing their green plastic cartons, wooden boxes brimming with silver oyster mushrooms, a bushel basket of purple string beans, striped winter squash nestled in each other's curves. 

The farmer's market is more than a gathering place for selling and buying, it's also a place for meeting and greeting.

A plethora of colorful characters, including entertainers -- a harpist, a violin duo, a mandolin and guitar duo, a Renaissance sword duo and a balloon man making cute toys for cute kids.

Vendors each have their their own decor.

Many of these farmers are passionate about organic, sustainable agriculture and the market becomes a forum for making a public statement about their beliefs.

Customers come in all sizes and shapes.

And attire.

After the markets, we go out for lunch at the Longbranch Coffeehouse, a vegetarian restaurant in the restored historic downtown area of Carbondale. Delicious food, delightful decor! John especially enjoys the root beer float, topped not only with ice cream, but whipped cream and candy sprinkles.

I'm still hoping to find locally grown blueberries, so we duck into the corner grocery store. They do have pints of blueberries, but they're imported from Canada. This store's owners may not be totally into Buy Local, but they are definitely passionate about NO GMO.

They also have a sense of humor.

And their clerk has a sense of what's important in life.

As we leave, we pass a pair of headless, naked mannequins embracing in a store window. Another reminder of Edward Weston, who also loved to photograph the voluptuous curves of the unadorned human body.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Labor Day thunderstorm

Labor Day thunderstorm --
bedraggled squirrel resting in the
handicapped parking

Labor Day, a day of rest from work. I wake to the raucous sound of our weather alert radio: Severe Thunderstorm Watch. Sure enough, torrents of wind and rain, hard enough to bring down dead branches. But then the sky clears to a bright end-of-summer blue with a beginning-of-autumn bite in the air. I go early to the indoor pool, figuring most folks will be eager to use their last chance to play outdoors, only to find the high school girl's swim team hard at work, taking up three of the four lap lanes.
          On the way into the Aquatic Center, I spot a wet and muddy fox squirrel resting on the wooden railing next to the blue and white handicapped parking only sign. The bedraggled critter seems immobilized. It doesn't even raise its head when I stop a few feet away to take photos for several minutes. With its tail hanging straight down, the squirrel really does look handicapped. Or maybe it's just keeping the custom of rest on Labor Day.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

you must be crazy

you must be crazy
and go on -- self-portrait of
a graffiti artist

Vancouver, home to Van Arts, a world-class media institute, is also home to some creative graffiti artists. Maybe not yet as famous as Jean-Michel Basquiat or Shepard Fairey, but who knows?

Any flat surface becomes a canvas.

There's another class of wall painters, mural artists, like the ones who painted a mural on a wall that stretches for an entire city block near the YMCA where we're staying. The mural, which depicts the history of Vancouver, is old. Rust stains caused by rain have damaged the paint, bird droppings and ivy vines cover many of the images. But there's a kind of beauty in this aging process. Fauvist colors and curvaceous shapes, worthy of Matisse.

A First Nations man, his face unmarred, looms taller than the totem pole.

Vines covering the turban of a Sikh, one of the many immigrants to Vancouver, seem to bind him to his adopted country.

A black athlete peers through a net of vines.

Eerily, this soldier looks like he's been shot in the head.

Vancouver is also notable for its artistic architecture, like BC Place, the world's largest air-supported domed stadium with its crown of steel cables.

And of course the landmark Canada Place with its white cloth roofs.

No, it's not a structure created by Antonio Gaudi, but a fun house reflection of an apartment building studded with balconies

Skyscraper reflections in the curved windows of an office building.

Surrealist reflections.

Flowering shrubs and pigeons lined up on wires contrast with the Cubist buildings in the background.

And always, the cloud-capped mountains rise above the Tinkertoy works of man.

taking a coffee break

taking a coffee break, 
leaning against a wall, head bowed
over his cell phone

During our walking excursions around Metro Vancouver, we turn off of West Cordova Street, climb a flight of stairs and enter a plaza that leads to the Burrard Inlet waterfront and cruise ship terminal. A woman sits on a large circular fountain, gazing at what looks like a double row of five sailboats lined up at the pier, each one casting a shadow on the adjoining sail. This prominent landmark is the Canada Place, a building whose roof is actually made of white fabric.
          The building next to the Canada Place looks like a cruise ship itself with many decks. I follow the winding walkway around the building and spot a cook taking a break, one foot propped against the wall, head bowed as he texts on his cell phone. He doesn't notice me taking photos, but someone inside the office building does. Pretty soon a security man comes out and tells me I can't take photos of this building. He says the whole plaza area is private. I can't believe they're afraid of someone with a camera when tourists are as thick as fleas. Anyway, I'm certainly not interested in taking photos of people sitting at desks inside a sterile office. But I just smile and walk away.

What I am interested in is people and signs of people. Fast food in Vancouver comes in a red Dim Sum Express truck.

A girl sipping a strawberry smoothie. From the names on her bag of cities around the world, I imagine that she's a world traveler who takes the advice of the signs on the restaurant behind her: Eat well, Live well, Enjoy life.

A man with lots of arm tattoos on a souped up bike with a mysterious flag.

Two ladies on a street corner.

A man sitting on the rim of a circular building smoking a cigarette.

A girl with thigh-high black stockings. 

A girl with headphones leans against a wall covered with graffiti art.

Don't ask, don't tell.

A street performer with an electric guitar.

"I'm homeless. Am a goin' crazy. Need money 4 food & beer." Also, cigarettes, soft drinks & rabbit food for his white bunny.

Have money, crazy about french fries.

Like grandfather, like grandson.

Wheelchair woman, bundled for the rain, waiting for the crosswalk light to change.

That's a woman in a bulky street worker's uniform.

Happiness is walking your dog.

And making a happy face with food at the Spaghetti Factory.