TRAVEL, WRITING

How Are Your Holidays, So Far?

Travel There:  A Special Year Ahead

We’ve been a lot of places together this year.  As the year began I was still telling you all about our wonderful adventures in Egypt.  I shared some advice about cruising and then went on a short cruise of our own.  In August I finally wrapped up the series on Egypt and moved on from our Cheapie Birthday Cruise to the wonderful surprise of our trip to Club Med Punta Cana.  Along the way, I returned to my Travel Bug Tales and took you along on a Caribbean holiday from my younger days.  We’ve also been walking down memory lane with photography and scrapbooking.  

Why Do I Do This?

There’s been a lot of blogging this year, but that hasn’t been all I’ve been up to.  I also began sharing posts from our Spot On Images blog and some memories about my parents’ home, which is on the market, but that’s just another way for me to let people know what I’m up to.  I really don’t spend all my time traveling and writing about traveling.

I say that, because from time to time folks quiz me about blogging.  They’ve heard there’s lot of money to be made in it and they’re wondering how I’m doing.  Well, if income is the goal, this blog is a complete flop.  I don’t make one red cent from it.  If I say nice things about a destination, then I mean them sincerely and because no one pays me, I can tell you honestly when things disappoint me.  If you click on a link, there is no pay-per-click arrangement.  I’m just sharing the information in case you’re interested in finding out more.  You won’t find an advertisement anywhere on my pages.  In fact, I pay a premium to have a site without ads.

Now, people do hire me to build websites for them and to blog for them.  When they do that, I make money, but I use the information they give me and write with their voice.  I’m fortunate almost all my clients have been people I can heartily endorse, so writing about them is a pleasure, but you’re not going to find me endorsing them here and making a buck off of it.  This blog is a labor of love.

My sweet husband thinks I’m nuts to spend so much time writing words for a few hundred people or so – especially when there is no monetary benefit to it.  He still doesn’t understand that even if no one was reading, I’d still be spending my time writing.  Like John Keats, I can say, “I should write from the mere yearning and fondness I have for the Beautiful even if my night’s labours should be burnt every morning and no eye ever shine upon them.”

Taking a Blogging Breath

I’m about to embark on the pleasure of sharing my most recent travels with you, but I’m saving it until after the first of the year.  We just got back from Cancun and I can’t wait to tell you about Chichen Itza.  Before the year is over, I’ll be heading to the southern part of Texas for some time with family and friends.  You’ll hear about that, too.  I’ll also be continuing the series on photos and scrapbooking.  Travel Bug Tales will return and we’ll go to… Well, someplace magical.  I’ll leave it at at that – but you’ve got other things on your mid right now.

The coming year is going to be very special, because Bill and I are celebrating a landmark anniversary – our 25th in May.  We have a humdinger of a trip lined up in June to mark this milestone event.  I’m bubbling over with excitement, but like the upcoming series for Travel Bug Tales, I’ll keep you in suspense a little while longer.

I’m taking this little break from traveling to remind you of all the places we have been together this year and to thank you for taking this journey with me.  A few of you actually leave a comment from time to time, but I also hear from so many of you through other communications that you are out there, taking my trips with me, sharing my memories and enjoying the ride.

Thank you so much.  You mean so much to me.  While I’d write, even without an audience, it’s so much more fun to write when I’ve got you on my mind.  As I shuffle through my memories I think, this friend will remember this adventure, that cousin will enjoy that series of mishaps and my blogging friend over in England will get a kick out of this.

Enjoy your holiday celebrations.  You’ll be busy and so will I.  I’ll see you right here next year!

ART, Photography, Real Estate Photographry, TRAVEL

Hello to Real Photography

Bill and his camera at Stone Mountain. I took it with my disposable!

TRAVEL HERE: MARRYING INTO BETTER PHOTOS

I rarely run short of reasons to be glad I married Bill.  I may, at the same time, be so mad at him I can barely breathe, but the mad times come less frequently as we near our 25th wedding anniversary and when they do, they are short-lived.  He really is a wonderful man and he’s so darned handsome.  He’s also an amazing photographer, just ask any Spot On Images customer.

The 35mm vs The Disposable

By the time I met Bill, the Instamatic’s days were over and done with.  The digital camera was breaking into the market, but they were pretty expensive, so this working girl couldn’t afford one.  Most people were using some form of a 35mm, but not me.  I had a hard time finding film for my Instamatic, but I had discovered the disposable camera and that worked well enough for me.

Enter Bill with his fancy Canon Rebel.  By then he was already pretty darned good at photography.  He’d had some lessons and was fairly serious about the medium.  My disposable cameras probably made him a little crazy, but he was trying to romance me, so he left me to my point and shoot bliss.

Well he almost left me alone.  He gently began to introduce me to 35mm.  Not only did he think disposable cameras were a waste of money, he rightly pointed out the poor quality of the results and coerced me into giving his camera a try.  I guess here’s as good a place as any to admit he not only introduced me to 35mm photography, he also made me learn how to use a mouse and had me sign up for my first personal email address.  In other words, he brought me into the 20th Century, which was already on it’s way out.

Where’s the Auto Button?

His first attempts at turning me into a real photographer were not so good.  He was all about F-stops and exposure.  All he could get me to do was use the Auto Button.  Twenty-five years later, I’m still all about the Auto Button, but I do appreciate what he is able to do with a camera.

About this time he also decided to get a camcorder.   Video cameras were this huge thing you had to carry around on your shoulder and there was no sound.  Over time the cameras shrank and they figured out how to include sound.  Bill entered the market when Hi8 was all the rage.  If he had thought it was tough getting me to use a 35mm still camera, he quickly realized that was nothing compared to getting me to hold the camcorder.

That sneaky guy bought the camcorder into time capture his proposal – quite a treasure.  His plan was to get me up to speed on the 35mm, so he could be the videographer.  What happened was he ended up being the primary cameraman, regardless of the media, and I filled in when he forced me to.  Thanks to him we have a marvelous record of our early years together – yeah Mr. Bill!

There’s more to tell you about our photographic history together, so come on back next week!

DESTINATIONS, International, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

On My Way Home

TRAVEL BUG TALES: THE RETURN

Some folks might wonder if I ever spoke to my friends again, but dumping them was never on my agenda.  By breakfast the next morning everything was fine.  Frances even managed to make it to breakfast on time.

Going Home

At Customs our coconut rum friends discovered you could only take a certain amount of the elixir home with you, so they passed out bottles to whoever would take one.  I did.  I was scrutinized a little more carefully for the departure than I was for the entry.  Our flight stopped at some Florida airport for us to go through customs.  Then it was Houston Hobby and finally Love Field.

My dad was there to pick us up and I was rarely so glad to see him.  I loved him to death, but he was dad and I expected to always be able to see him.  After the disappointing week I’d had, he was especially good to see.  I can’t remember that he ever disappointed me, though I certainly managed to disappoint him often enough.

Dad asked if we were hungry and even though we weren’t particularly so, everyone agreed a Jack-in-the-Box taco would hit the spot.  It was one of my favorite meals ever.  All week long we’d dined on seafood, steaks and conch balls, but Jack-in-the-Box tacos meant I was home.

Staying Home

My next big adventure would be moving into the apartment with Debbie and Kathi.  That’s when the next section of my scrapbook begins. It’s called Wild in the Woods.  “Wild in the Woods” is the name of a song sung by my favorite local artist, Robert Lee Kolb.  His band was called the Local Heroes.  It is a fit title for the next years of my life.  I was wild and I was in the woods.

My gig at Sears ended after two years and I moved up to Little Rock, Arkansas for a job that I was only able to tolerate for about six months.  When I moved back to Dallas I moved in with my parents.  Debbie and Kathi had new roommates and new lives.  We were still buddies and I spent a lot of time in trouble for coming home late when we all went out together, but that’s another story for another time.

There was a very pivotal day in my life, that looked pretty ordinary at the start.  I was working at a bank and was a little at loose ends with my free time.  The wildness had been leeched out of me for a season and I wanted to avoid getting on that merry-go-round again.  So, I took at part-time job at Lord & Taylor’s to make a little money while I was staying out of trouble.  My first day on the job I met two very important people.  One was Deb Shera, who would turn out to be the very best friend anyone could have anywhere in the world.

After work I went to a party.  I’d been guilted into it by my old college friend Debbie, not to be confused with Deb, but I’ll admit it is confusing.  I’d plugged into a Singles Group at a local church and they were going bowling that evening.  Debbie wanted me to go to a party.  She was still looking for a love connection.  I was too, but I thought I would be more likely to find it with the church group than at some party with a bunch of people I had no personal connection to.  She pulled the ultimate threat on me, “If you were really my friend, you would…”  So I reluctantly went to the party.

The next album in my collection is called, “The Lost Years.”  The other person I met that fateful day would be the primary author of those days.  Come back next week and we’ll talk about him.

Photography, TRAVEL

Developing Memories

assorted color photo lot
Photo by Rodolfo Clix on Pexels.com

TRAVEL HERE: THE OTHER PART OF ANALOG

While digital photography is here to stay, there are reasons I remember analog fondly.  Last week, though I moaned about the quality of analog snapshots, I found a number of reasons for enjoying photography the old fashioned way.  Whether you think taking pictures in analog was a blessing or a curse, let’s move on to the next part of the equation, getting the pictures developed.

Film Processing

Analog film came in different lengths.  A roll or cartridge of film could have anywhere from 12 to 36 shots on it.  When traveling, I always bought the 36 shot length, but when I was around home I switched to 12, so I could finish up the roll faster.  During some periods of my life, I was so boring it could take years to finish up 12 pictures.  One thing is for sure, you’d never just go ahead and develop an unfinished roll of film.  That would have been some kind of sacrilege.

So, whether I was finally through with a boring roll of film or had handfuls of rolls from a trip, when it was time to take them for processing, I first had to decide where to take them.  This is not unlike having photos developed today.  Sure you can share them indefinitely without printing them, but if you are a scrapbooker like me, you gotta print them.  (Yes, I know you can make online scrapbooks, but that’s not the same thing.)

Some people mailed off their rolls of film.  They’d boast of saving money or assure me that was the way to get the best quality processing, but that just didn’t work for me. I didn’t want to keep up with where to send them or store a stack of their envelopes or pay the postage, especially when I could drop them off around the corner and then go back by and pick them up later.

Used to be “later” was later than it is now.  One-hour photo processing has been the norm for so long, that most of us don’t remember a time when it wasn’t, but yes, you used to have to wait days to get back the photos you dropped off.  They were probably sending my photos to the same place they would have gone to had I been able to wrap my mind around mailing them, but whatever the case,  an hour or a week, the anticipation was part of the fun.

The Reveal

When you casually check out your phone to see the picture you just took, you can’t begin to imagine how much fun it was to wait.  I’ve already said not being able to immediately see the photos took some of the anxiety out of it.  Instead of anxiety, you had anticipation and lots of it.  You had to get home from vacation and unpack your bags.  Then you had to find time to drop off the film and time to go pick it up.  Then you got the envelope with your photos.

There was a time when I couldn’t even wait to get out to my car to look. I’d rip open the envelopes the second I got them and started looking at the pictures.  I’d go through the pictures two or three times before I could stand to put them away and go on with my business.  Many places would give you a refund for any picture you didn’t like, but it was only a few cents per picture and I thought even my worst picture was worth an ounce of gold.

Having to wait to see your pictures might seem like an inconvenience to many, but it was really just part of the fun.  Come back next week and we’ll share another stroll down the photographic memory lane.

 

Accommodations, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, International, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL

Frances is Found

TRAVEL BUG TALES: AN ANTI-CLIMATIC REUNION

So the phone rings and it’s Frances.  She was so nonchalant you would have thought she was calling from the lobby.  She’d gotten word in town that someone was missing out at the resort and she figured out it was her.  She was headed back now and we were to be sure the boat didn’t leave with out her.  We were taking a sail on a catamaran and having lunch on a deserted island.

Best Activity of the Trip

Yep, Frances is the one adjusting her sunglasses.  She sashayed into the resort and onto the boat like she’d been with us all the time.  Most of us know that feeling of never having wanted to see someone quite so much and also wanting to kill them at the same time.

The catamaran sail was lovely.  The water was beautiful and the weather perfect.  We sailed to an abandoned beach and hung out on the sand while locals barbecued fish for us.  I avoided baby oil and there wasn’t much wind.  The meal was good and soon we were headed back to the resort.

A little change in itinerary would have improved my opinion of this trip.  The first night should have been the Live Show, with dancers, swords and flame.  That would have gotten us off on the right foot.  Then we should have taken the catamaran and had our picnic.  What a great introduction to the Bahamas!  My salt water showers would have been much more bearable.

Farewell Party

I have no idea whether our final evening was an official event or just something cooked up among us.  The bar was serving conch balls for appetizers and we never made it to the buffet.

And remember the all-inclusive thing?  Well, all that was included on that evening was the first drink.  Even though we were in the bar for hours on end, we could never get a second one.  Instead we made trips out to the pool and communed with the coconut rum crowd or poured our coins in the Heineken beer vending machines.  The rumor existed that someone in the crowd had found a machine that would dispense the beer without the coin, but I can’t say for sure.

I was ready to go.  Though we’d all come to the party together, when I’d finally had enough, both Frances and Debbie were missing.  Someone invited me out for a walk on the beach, but fresh air was not what they wanted.  No love connection was made.

Instead, I went to my room, but I couldn’t get in.  Someone else had made a love connection and they were using the chain lock to keep me out.  Now I was just mad.  This had been no tropical paradise for me and I just wanted to go to to bed, which was currently being used by someone else.

While $219 hadn’t been a lot of money, even in those days, I felt as if it were money down the drain – money I could have used for something else.  I even resented the quarters I’d put into the slot machine.  Someone offered me the opportunity to sleep on their couch, but I wanted my pjs and my toothbrush and I wanted to take out my contacts.

There had been fun moments, but they’d all been overshadowed by disappointment.  The memory of the night at the local club had been compromised by the trick the limo drivers pulled on us.  The sandy beach experience had sidelined me.  The casino had been a bore.  My almost love connection had been washed out by a storm.  The delicious planter-punch-drenched meal was marred by my friend’s disappearance, that went on for entirely too long.  The only really entertaining time had been the sail and picnic, but just a few hours later I was sitting alone fighting tears.

I went back to my room and banged on the door.  I negotiated a pass-through to our room’s balcony.  Soon my friend and her latest romantic interest joined me there – as if I wanted their company.  Then my other roommate showed up.  I’ll leave the identities vague to protect the guilty.  Thank goodness we were leaving the next day.  I couldn’t wait to get out of there.

I’ll head home next week.  Don’t miss the flight!  I’ll see you then.

 

Photography, TRAVEL

Living the Instamatic Lifestyle

TRAVEL HERE: ACCUSTOMED TO MEDIOCRITY

My parents gave me my first camera, a Kodak Instamatic, for my 16th birthday.  Until then, I’d never been on the business end of a camera and I have the pictures to prove it.  None of them were selfies though, because if you’d have taken a picture at arm’s length, all you have gotten was your nose.

Flash!  You’re in the Picture

The Kodak Instamatic had a real innovation, the flash cube.  Up until then most amateurs made do with an old fashioned flash attachment, which used a single-use flash bulb.  So a flashcube which attached directly to the camera and was good for four photos was a great innovation.  Eventually, you could buy a flash bar with even more bulbs, but that was later.

The flash, cube, bar or bulb was quite irritating.  It made a loud pop and then a bright white light would blind everyone in your picture, leaving them with spots hampering their vision.  That’s the reason why so many people in old pictures have their eyes closed.  As soon as the flash went off the shutter opened, but not before most of us closed our eyes.

You might think with all that noise and brightness, the flashes would light up the pictures, but you’d be wrong.  In the finished photo, the items closest to the camera were too bright and behind that it was all darkness.   The results were pretty pitiful – usually a bunch of over-exposed faces with their eyes closed.  Combined with the expense of the film, it really didn’t make a lot of sense to take pictures when a flash was required, so most of us didn’t.

Accustomed to Mediocrity 

I’ll just say it.  My Instamatic photos weren’t all that great, but then again, neither were anyone else’s.  Oh, there were serious photographers using 35mm cameras, but they weren’t the norm.  A lot of folks were so dissatisfied with the whole snapshot thing they had their photos developed into slides.  Perhaps you have a grandfather or great-grandfather who turned off the lights and bored you to death with their slides.  The processing quality was better, but there were also a lot of bad slides, because your average guy was a pretty bad photographer.

My Instamatic was my only camera for years, but I really only pulled it out when I traveled alone and that was usually for church trips.  The rest of the time my dad was in charge of family photography.  For years he used a Brownie Hawkeye, which was actually a pretty good camera.  Then he moved into Polaroid, which was definitely a step in the wrong direction.

I guess I’m telling you all of this as a form of apology for all the bad pictures I took, but they didn’t bother me, because everyone else’s pictures were almost as bad as mine.  The mediocrity of the pictures actually added to the fun of photography.  Few of us really bothered with setting up a shot properly.  You just whipped your camera up to your face and snapped.  Sometimes you would get lucky.  Sometimes you wouldn’t.

Lucky or not, at the time the picture was taken, you took it and forgot it, because you wouldn’t see it until you developed the film.  There was no stopping the action to oooh and aaah or moan and groan.  You didn’t have to share it on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.  You didn’t have to text it to anyone.

What you did have to do was carry film with you and a few flashes, just in case.  This was perhaps the worst part of analog photography.  You could almost guarantee that should a really unique photo opportunity arise, you would usually miss it, because you just ran out of film.  Now all you have to do is be sure your phone is charged.

Well, I have run out of words for today, so we’ll move on to the introduction of 35mm to my life. Come back next week and we’ll chat some more about the good old days before digital photography.

 

Accommodations, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, International, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL

Frances is Lost

beach birds calm clouds
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

TRAVEL BUG TALES: WHAT DO WE DO NOW?

When Frances didn’t return to the hotel the evening after her boat ride, we were concerned but we still thought she’d show up, eventually.  We took a survey among our fellow travelers and the consensus was we were worry warts.  Frances had made a love connection and we’d hear from her soon.

The Day After

Well, she didn’t come home that evening and if she was having a good time, well then, that was OK, but geez, couldn’t she send a smoke signal or something.  This is where the whole cellphone thing comes in handy, but it wasn’t a thing yet.  Back in our day, people not only didn’t have cellphones.  Sometimes they didn’t have phones at all.  It wasn’t inconceivable the casino dealer didn’t have a phone.  He’d called her the other day, but it could have been from a pay phone.  We didn’t even know his name.

Debbie and I decided to stay around the resort, so we’d know whether she showed up or not.  We refused to stay in our room by the phone, but we wanted to be reachable.  There was a low buzz filtering through the resort.  Someone was missing.  Damn kids, some would say, so irresponsible.  Oh my goodness, others would say, and encourage us to contact her parents.

Contact her parents!  That’s the absolute, very absolute last thing we wanted to do.  We talked about it and decided it didn’t make any sense.  Frances was going to show up and then we’d all feel very silly – but what if she didn’t?  What if she was at a hospital somewhere, in need of her asthma machine?  Never, ever, never do this to your friends – ever!!!

By the end of the day we talked to the Adventure Tour people.  We didn’t want to alarm them, but we’d lost Frances.  They didn’t seem all that worried.  They did a lot of these college tours and someone was always disappearing, but they always showed up, just in time to catch the plane.

I’m pretty sure this is the evening we discovered two things, coconut rum and that a store across the street had Dr Pepper, along with other American things.  We borrowed big plastic iced tea glasses from the buffet, filled them up with chipped ice and poured the coconut rum over the ice.  The first time we may have sprinkled a little Coke over the concoction, but we soon dispensed with that altogether, sitting in the dark around the pool enjoying the smooth liquor.

There was no pretending now.  We were worried sick about Frances and we began to wonder why we’d waited so long to sound the alarm.  We’d be on TV.  People would stick their microphones in our faces and ask us why we hadn’t notified the authorities immediately.  Heck, we didn’t even know who the authorities were.  Adventure Tours was in charge of everything and they’d blown us off.

Debbie and I both still felt she’d show up, but we were also worried sick she wouldn’t.  If you drink enough coconut rum, you will go to sleep, even if your friend is missing.  The next morning the phone rang.  Who was calling?  Come back next week and find out.

ART, Libraries, TRAVEL

From Pressed Flowers to Photo Albums

TRAVEL HERE: PRESERVING MEMORIES, NOW AND THEN

open book on book
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I’ve just finished up a season of scrapbooking.  I was way behind and am almost all caught up.  As my scrapbooking shelves fill up with my latest creations, I couldn’t help but think about the way things used to be.

Photo Albums Grow Up

Before there were photo albums, there were scrapbooks.  The earliest scrapbooks were actually just books that did second duty for memorabilia.  Someone would press a flower into a book or lodge a letter in between the pages and often that book was the Bible.  Or people would keep journals and insert various drawings or keepsakes among the pages.  The earliest official scrapbooks seem to date back to the late 1700’s and the hobby is still popular today.

antique camera classic lens
Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

Photography had a huge effect on scrapbooking.  When cameras first became available to the general public, photographs had great value.  Many people with a camera would do their own photo processing, turning a spot in their home into a photo lab.  Cameras were expensive, film was expensive and processing was expensive, so the results had gravitas.  People understood the fragile nature of photographs and they liked to share their work with others.  Those were the days of leather photo albums with black pages and little black photo corners that had to be stuck down with rubber cement.  If your family had any of those, hold on to them.  Great effort was made to use the proper materials for preserving the photographs.

Improvements were made to photography, which was both a good thing and a bad one.  Cameras, film and processing all got more affordable.  With more snapshots being made and shared, the photos didn’t seem quite so valuable.  People would just toss them in a drawer or a shoe box.  I recall wonderful times with my family, because of these drawers and shoe boxes.  The conversation would come around to some long dead relative and then someone would say, “I think I have a picture of them.”  I can’t tell you how happy that would make me.  Black and white photos would be spilled out on a table or the floor.  The next few minutes or hours are among my favorite childhood memories.

collection of gray scale photos
Photo by Fancycrave.com on Pexels.com

When I started high school, my mom invested in a large scrapbook for me and I dutifully documented the high points of my year.  The book was filled primarily with memorabilia.  Photography was in the Polaroid stage and photos, quite frankly, were awful.  It was great fun to take the pictures and show them around, but like the snapshots from your Instamatic camera they didn’t seem as valuable as those early photographs processed in someone’s dark room.

Then came the adhesive photo album.  Oh my!  How many dozens of those did you buy?  The adhesive albums were cheap, they were easy and they were a lot better than tossing the photos in a drawer.  At least, that’s the way it seemed in the beginning.  Most people used the sticky-paged albums exclusively for photos, but I was always a scrapbooker – even when I didn’t know exactly what that was.  I’d intermingle my memorabilia among my photos and often write out narratives to be included in the pages.

Scrapbooking Becomes a Thing

A company called Creative Memories set out to change the face of scrapbooking.  Plenty of people were still throwing photos in a drawer, but there were also people like me who had stacks of adhesive photo albums which were slowly ruining my photographs and memorabilia.  When I was introduced to Creative Memories I felt as if someone had come up with these wonderful products for me personally.  My next thought was that everyone in the world should be getting their valuable images and memorabilia into a photo-safe album.  It is no wonder that I became a consultant for Creative Memories.

That’s not the end of the story though, so come back next week and we’ll continue to talk about the evolution of photography and scrapbooking.