Category Archives: Travel

One Second Everyday – January to March 2014

Some folks know that I’ve been doing the One Second Everyday thing since last year, as I bother them with recording my short films at different times. Anyway, here is my compilation of seconds for January, February, and March 2014, which includes two trips to New Orleans, a conference in St. Louis, some motorcycle riding, and a lot of cold, cold winter.

If you haven’t heard about One Second Everyday, it is a app you can load on your smartphone of choice that allows you to grab a second of video everyday and easily construct a movie of it. It is a great way to track where you’ve gone and what you’ve experienced over period of time.

7th Annual Memphis Walk

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On Saturday, October 19th, Richie, Robert, and I completed our 7th annual Memphis Walk, where we start at the cobblestones in downtown Memphis, at the Mississippi River, at sunrise and walk in a general direction (usually east-ish) until sunset.

The day started off cloudy, cool, and a bit rainy, and it stayed cool and cloudy most of the day. By the afternoon, the sun started to break through the clouds, and we finally started warming up a bit.

This year, our route took us from South Main to Germantown, largely following Barron St., which turns into Rhodes, which turns into Quince. We ended up on Poplar Pike, entering Germantown. Highlights included the (finally open, maybe) Beale Street Landing, safety warnings from firemen near Foote Homes, walking through Orange Mound on Barron Ave., crossing the MUS campus, and finally leaving Memphis.

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Beale Street Landing has been under construction since at least our 2008 walk, and it seemed that they would never finish the project. In fact, they haven’t, as half of the site is still construction. Why it has taken 5 years to get this far and still not be finished is a mystery to me. The whole project smells like a boondoggle, but the views from the grass top of the main building are impressive.

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Beale Street Landing is supposed to be a dock for passenger riverboats that travel up and down the Mississippi, but the use of the structure is very light right now.

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We traversed some old downtown underpasses on our way to our traditional coffee spot on South Main, Bluff City Coffee.

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We turned east after the Tennessee Brewery, ever the eyesore with enormous potential.

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The vacant lot beside Ernestine and Hazel’s is now partially an art installation, with a grassy yard in the back that, strangely, meets the original tile floor.

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Walking down Mississippi Boulevard near Foote Homes, a fireman called out to us and asked us what we were doing there. Apparently, he thought we were lost tourists, wandering through a bad neighborhood. After showing off their bulletproof wall in front of the fire station, he (perhaps only half-jokingly) asked us to write our social security numbers on our forearms for identification. We ignored him and strolled on.

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Within a few blocks on or just off Peabody Ave., you can find older Victorian-style homes in various states of decay near stately homes only slightly newer but in much better shape.

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While not as interesting as Summer Avenue, Lamar Avenue always holds lots of interesting sights, such as the old Lamar Theater, which appears to have a newly painted sign.

We discovered a cool entrance from Lamar to Glenview Park, under the railroad tracks.

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To me, Barron Ave. was a real surprise. For all of the time I’ve been in Memphis, I’ve never traveled down the street, with runs through the southern part of the Orange Mound neighborhood. We ended up walking the length of the street, as far east as Ridgeway, watching the city transition from a troubled, working-class neighborhood to East Memphis homes and finally ending up at high-end, exclusive private schools, a real contrast.

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When Neil’s in Midtown Memphis burned down a couple of years ago, we wondered where he relocated. We found his new building by accident at Quince at I-240.

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I had never been on the Memphis University School (MUS) campus, so we strolled across it. The athletic fields reminded me of Rhodes College.

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Balconies without doors or windows to access them, anyone? Another example of East Memphis architecture run amok.

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By the time we reached the Germantown city limits on Poplar Pike, we had walked about 18.5 miles.

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6th Annual Memphis Walk

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Robert Bell, Richie Trenthem, and I completed our 6th Annual Memphis Walk on December 15th, 2012. As in previous years (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011), we met at the cobblestones of the Mississippi River in downtown Memphis at sunrise and started walking in a general direction. This year, we kept an almost due-east track, ending up at Wolfchase Galleria and catching a bus for the trip back downtown.

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It is getting a little harder to find an original route when we head east, and we tried to stay on different streets from previous walks while trying to take in a new perspective when traveling over streets we often see while driving.

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Some highlights:

  • While crossing Danny Thomas near Jefferson, we used a pedestrian crosswalk that was open on one end but barricaded and locked on the other end. We were able to get over the barricade and make it through, but it wasn’t clear why it was closed off in the first place or why there wasn’t a sign warning pedestrians not to try to use that bridge.CameraZOOM-20121215071704952
  • We discovered the stone marker for Edison Park, a city park that was decades ago essentially taken over by the Edison Park Apartments, near Danny Thomas and Jefferson. I never realized that there was originally a park dedicated to Thomas Edison there, due to the fact that he lived in Memphis in 1865-1866 as a telegraph operator. Nothing really remains of the park today, except for the marker, because it was turned into a parking garage for the nearby apartments.CameraZOOM-20121215080227400
  • We walked through the area south of Poplar Ave., near Cleveland St., that was demolished to make way for a shopping center development, featuring a Target, that never happened, probably use to the Great Recession of 2008. The area is marked off with fencing that is full of holes and seems ready for a grand building project, like the Mall of Memphis area. Instead of heavy construction, it has the feel of a park the public isn’t allowed to enter, a pleasant, empty area, with trees and grass, bisected by city streets, covering 4 or 5 blocks.CameraZOOM-20121215121435330
  • We walked the northwestern regions of Shelby Farms park, finding a pleasant lake behind trees, hidden from the I-240 and I-40 interchange. The entire area is crossed by bicycle trails, but we didn’t see anyone else, as we walked from the Greenline through the woods to Summer Ave.

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The total mileage on the walk was 20 miles, but despite some on-and-on rain, the weather was warm and pleasant, especially for December. I’m already looking forward to next year’s walk.

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View all photos of the 2012 Memphis Walk here.

 

Scenes from Sicily, Diciassette – Ridge Above Valle de Bove

While I was listening to Italian language lessons before going to Sicily in July, I found myself wondering about the number 17, or in Italian, diciassette. Specifically, I was curious why, at 17, the structure of how you say the number flips, where you say the 10 part first, and then you say the number part. For 11 to 16, you say the 10 part (dieci) and then the number added to ten to make the number you are trying to convey. So, undici for 11; literally, one (uno) + ten (dieci). Then, dodici for 12 (due + dieci). Followed by tredici for 13 (tre + dieci). When you get to 17, you flip it, so that you say the 10 part first, and then the 7.

Why is this interesting? Well, languages similar to Italian do it earlier in the series of numbers, or at least they do it in a different place. Spanish, which is closely related to Italian, makes this change at 16, not 17. French makes the change at 17, the same as Italian, but English, we do it at 13. Portuguese changes at 16, but this could be because of its close proximity to Spanish. Dutch and German, each closely related to English, also makes their changes at 13. None of this seems to affect the major Eastern European languages, like Polish, Czech, and Russian, who simply start at 11 to say the first digit and then the ten’s digit. Perhaps most interesting is that Latin, the parent language to Italian, French, and Spanish, makes the change at 18, going from sedecim (16) to septendecim (17) to duodeviginti (18) to undeviginti (19).

Anyway, this topic was still going through my mind while I made my way down Mount Etna, passing this scene at top of the Valle de Bove among the wispy clouds at about 8,500 feet, far away from any other people, hoping my feet didn’t slip or the hillside didn’t give way and kill me with a 1,500 foot tumble down into the valley floor below. I stopped to snap this shot right when I started to notice living things appearing among the volcanic stones. After such a bleak landscape for several hours, any color was a real treat.

Other pictures from our July 2012 Sicily trip are available here.

Scenes from Sicily, Sedici – Tusa Autostrada

On the north coast of Sicily, just to the east of Cefalu near Tusa, we stopped by the ruins of Halaesa, which are perched on a prominent hill above the Tusa River and this beautiful example of the Italian interstate road system, which they call the autostrada. Between Messina and Palermo, the autostrada plunged into hills like a needle and thread through cloth. Tunnels run into the multiple kilometers, and the whole thing seems relatively space-age and strikingly beautiful. Due to the higher cost of construction, this stretch of Sicilian autostrada is a toll road, but it was cheaper than other similar autostrada we took in northern Italy in 2009.

More photos from our July 2012 trip to Sicily are available here.

Scenes from Sicily, Quindici – Salina’s Pollara Arch

This is a massive sea arch near Pollara on the island of Salina, off the north coast of Sicily. By luck, if you squint, you can see the island of Stromboli through the arch. Laura and family took us out on their boat for a circumnavigation of Salina, and this point is on the far side of the island, opposite of Santa Marina, where the ferry docks and where we spent most of our time.

This picture was taken from the water, floating above an ancient, collapsed caldera. Salina has two old volcanos on it, and this was a third. As you can see, it is a very beautiful place. Many thanks to Laura for making it possible for us to see it.

More photos from our July trip to Sicily and Salina are available here.

Scenes from Sicily, Quattordici – Enna at Sunset

This is one of my favorite photos from the Sicily trip. In it, you can see the northern section of the central Sicilian town of Enna in the foreground, with rolling hills and a sunset, dreamy and faded in the western sky.

We ended up in Enna by accident. We couldn’t decide where to stay when heading toward Syracusa from the western side of the island, and Enna opened up a possibility because there was a hostel there with an opening and a pretty cheap rate for a quick overnight stay. A week before we were set to arrive, however, the booking agency emailed to let us know the hostel was overbooked, so they moved our reservation to the much fancier Hotel Sicilia Enna and paid the difference.

Thus began a fortuitous evening where we arrived at the Castello di Lombardia just at sunset and were able to enjoy scenes like the photo above, ate dinner in a tiny little traditional restaurant (Grotta Assurra) run by a cute and caring elderly couple (he cooked and she took our order – there were only 5 or so tables in the whole place, and only 2 were occupied), and observed modern teenage life on a Friday evening, when kids come from surrounding towns to hang out in the same square, giggle at one another, and stare at little screens in the dark.

It is worth noting that, historically speaking, Enna could be considered a metaphor for all of Sicily, in that it is old and has been conquered a lot. People have lived on the 2800 foot high, mostly sheer, hill since at least the 14th century BC. Occupying such a prominent position over the surrounding countryside, while only being a day’s journey from each of the 3 major coasts, made Enna a popular target, and it was captured by the Sicani, then the Siculi, then the Greeks, then the Carthaginians, then the Romans, then by the Byzantines, Islamic forces, Normans, and on and on. Many of the captures involved treachery rather than military might, and the town has been known by other names, such a Henna and Castrogiovanni, at least until Mussolini gave it the current name.

More photos of our July 2012 trip to Sicily are available here.

Scenes from Sicily, Tredici – Erice Behind Us

This is a photo of me and Kath with the mountaintop fortress/town of Erice behind us. It was taken by Iolanda, proprietress of Al Frantoio (“The Crusher,” in English), the B&B we stayed in in Valderice, a larger town just down the hill from Erice. For some reason, this one of the only pictures we have of Erice high up on the hill, though we have quite a few looking down on surrounding towns.

We really enjoyed our stay at Al Frantoio. If you find yourself in northwest Sicily and would like to stay somewhere that is very comfortable and convenient to many sights, all combined with gracious hospitality and sea views, consider booking some nights at Al Frantoio. Their website is http://www.alfrantoiovalderice.it

Scenes from Sicily, Dodici – Little House Island

One of our favorite Sicilian towns is Santo Stefano di Camastra, located on the Tyrrhenian Sea, on the north coast of the island. We stopped on the main street (SS113) through town, having read that a good selection of pottery is available, at reasonable prices. Well, some of the pottery was interesting, but as we turned the corner and entered the back streets, especially those that shoot off of Via Vittorio Emanuele, we really started to get a sense of quiet town life.

Sitting in the main square, watching old women in twos and threes heading into Mass, listening to the old men swap stories under the olive trees by the Societa Operaia, and following the young families with babies in carriages strolling slowly down Via Roma at sunset, all of things dug deeper into authenticity than we had experienced up to that point. There was something ageless about it all, balanced, and hopefully sustainable.

Another interesting thing we discovered in Santo Stefano di Camastra that kept reappearing throughout the rest of the trip is the little island of a house, sandwiched between streets. This photo of Kath in front of one of these house (who knows how old it is?) reminds me of our many walks winding through town, moving through an ancient grid while noticing as many as 13 wifi access points at a time coming up on my phone (all, unfortunately, password protected). The juxtaposition of modernity with an a pattern of life from antiquity, meshed, kept me thinking about the place for days after we headed down the road.

More photos from the July 2012 Sicily trip are here.

Scenes from Sicily, Undici – Palermo Graffiti

While on our steamy walk around a sweltering Palermo, Kath and I kept seeing interesting, surreal (and maybe Cubist?) graffiti in various places. I’m used to the Banksy-like stuff that you find in most larger cities these days, but this was something altogether different and exciting. I couldn’t stop looking at it, and now that I’m home with photos of it, I’m still drawn to it. And a lot of it was big, taking up an entire wall.

Apparently, Palermo has a pretty strong underground art movement. Maybe it is only fitting, then, that the word graffiti actually comes from the Italian word graffiato, which is to scratch or scribble.

More pictures from the Sicily trip can be seen here.

Scenes from Sicily, Dieci – Blessed Salemi

Before heading out to see the ruins of Gibellina (and what could be called the ruins of Gibellina Nuova), Kath and stopped in nearby Salemi, an administrative center in the western part of the province of Trapani, about 45 miles southwest of Palermo. This photo shows the view from the municipal traffic circle up to the castle at the top of the hill, where Garibaldi announced the annexation of Sicily to the Kingdom of Italy in 1860. For a short period, Salemi was the capital of Sicily, at least until Garibaldi moved on to complete his conquest of the rest of the island.

We were only in Salemi for a couple of hours, but the more I read about the place, the more interesting I find it. For example, I’m sure, at some future post, I will talk about the decrepit outdoor elevator system we saw there (which you can partially see from Google Street View). However, I just found out about a real bargain, which I love to pass along when I find them.

Anyone for a 1 Euro house in Italy? For the last few years, Salemi has been getting a little bit of press for a scheme to sell houses in the historic town center for only 1 Euro each. Sound like a sweet deal? Well, there is only a bit of a catch. The area of town where the houses are available was wrecked by the 1968 earthquake that decimated the region (and flattened nearby Gibellina). So, while you are only laying out 1 Euro for the deed, you are also required to promise to restore the structure to local, modern building codes. And, even for the homes with the least amount of damage, the cost for these renovations would be at least 100,000 Euro.

More pics from the trip are available here.

Scenes from Sicily, Nove – Erice Church Window

The first thing we saw when entering the hilltop, medieval town of Erice, located in northwest Sicily, was the Chiesa Madre (Mother Church) and its accompanying, separate bell tower. Above the entrance to the church is a beautiful window, done in the rose window style. According to the date on the window, it is only about 60 years old (650 years younger than the church).

To get this picture, we went up in the bell tower (which was originally a “vendetta tower” and begun a couple of years before the church). I stuck my camera out one of the openings in the ancient stairwell and zoomed as far as I would dare with one hand.

I love the easy way Italians, and especially Sicilians, mix old and new cultural items. I’m sure there was some debate over the design of the art to be added to such a cultural treasure, but when it was time to add it, everything fit like a glove. You see this over and over again in Sicily: respect for antiquity but the aversion to treat it as something totally of the past. I guess when you are surrounded by structures and detritus of a dozen civilizations that cross a few millennia, all of it is something more than just a background set to your life that you aren’t allowed to touch. They aren’t afraid to be wrong, and more often than not, their changes are something more than right.

More pictures of the trip can be seen here.