Visiting Home: Omaha

Instagram understandably gets a pretty bad rap for poor file quality, but to me there is an intriguing side.  It’s simple system of organizing chronologically makes it a perfect time capsule for ongoing visual reportage.  And if that weren’t enough, it’s inherent idealized aesthetic makes collecting “perfect little specimens” of an experience effortless. This is especially interesting to me when I return to Omaha, because I always want to capture “home” perfectly, but in the end I know that is an impossible goal. Over time Instagrams start to become memories that precede the actual events they represent. I enjoy playing in this space creatively and visually. I think Instagrams are best viewed on the tiny screen of a smart phone device, which can be held ever so tenderly in the palm of your hand like a butterfly. Here are a few snaps from my recent visit home.

Running Notes: Omaha Half Marathon

Omaha half marathon

Elizabeth and me right before the Omaha Half 9/18/16

I just completed my second Half Marathon on September 18.  This was a big event for me on a personal level because it took place in my hometown, Omaha, NE and my bff from junior high and I ran it together.  I finished with a PR that I’m very pleased with.  I started as a brand new runner on June 30, 2015. I’m enjoying tracking my progress and challenging myself to keep improving. In addition to continuing my training for various upcoming half marathons, I’m also working towards a goal of reaching 1,000 road and trail miles for 2016.  As of today, I’m at 788 miles, none of which were run on a treadmill.  Here’s a break down of all my races so far.

September 4 – Champions 5k – 30:50 9:56/mi
November 26 – 120th Annual YMCA Turkey Trot 8k – 53:04 10:41/mi
December 13 – Freezer 5k – 28:42 9:14/mi

January 9 – Winter Warrior 4 person Half Marathon Relay (3.3 miles) – 9:33/mi
May 29 – Buffalo Half Marathon – 02:13:19 10:11/mi
June 11 – Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure 5k – 26:47 8:36/mi
June 23 – J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge 3.5 miles – 30:35 8:44/mi
September 18 – Omaha Half Marathon – 02:02:21 9:20/mi

Thinking of Dad

Father’s Day was Sunday and I spent much of the day traveling home from Morganton, North Carolina where two friends were married over the weekend. Reunions took place and numerous introductions marked the occasion of their wedding. We managed to stretch the merriment out over several days, by spending some time in Asheville walking around, shopping and seeing the sights.

One of the many shops we visited was Paul Taylor Custom Sandals and Belts, where they’ve been crafting beautiful sandals, belts and other leather goods by hand since 1965. They sell their goods to the many tourists who frequent the Haywood Street area of Downtown Asheville. I was reminded of my father as soon as I approached the shop window. Paul Taylor’s also features the largest collection of vintage sterling silver and solid brass belt buckles in the country. I’ve always associated these belt buckles with the many timeless old men I’ve encountered throughout my life who never quite grew up to be cowboys. My father was one of those old men. He was born and raised on a tobacco farm in Kentucky. He moved to Omaha to work as a draftsman for a cabinet maker, but eventually ended up employed in various jobs over the years at auto parts stores in the area. He did this for the rest of his working life until retirement.

There were many things about my father that never changed; like the flat top buzz cut he sported long after his days as an enlisted man in the Marines. I remember him as somewhat tall and alarmingly thin, slightly hunched and always smoking. He usually wore jeans and a button down shirt tucked in and cinched tight with an old leather belt featuring one of his prized belt buckles.

I have no clear memory of my father as a young man. He was 43 when I was born. By the time I was able to comprehend the complexities of age, he was approaching 50. Even in his early 50s, years of heavy smoking and under eating gave him the appearance of an elderly man. As children, my sisters and I were accustomed to correcting friends who assumed he was our grandfather.

Throughout his life, my father was a man of few words. Chain-smoking was his only apparent vice. He spent long weekends reading cheap science fiction. This is where he seemed to find the most happiness. He worked hard at his job. At home he relaxed in front of the television set. His heroes were, Clint Eastwood, Ronald Reagan and God.

After his death, there were small squabbles among the sisters over his possessions. Nothing had any real value beyond whatever importance we may have assigned, each in our own way, to the objects as tokens of love from our father. As the only sister living away from Omaha, I settled on three small items that were easy to pack and take on an airplane. Each object I chose came from one of his numerous collections. Each of his collections was made up of small treasures that, at one time or another had tickled his quiet heart in some way. A pearl handled pocket knife from his knife collection was my first choice. Next I selected a Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western from his assortment of DVDs. And finally, as if he were there to see, I grabbed one of his many belt buckles, this particular one fashioned in the shape of a locomotive. I wanted to remember the love of trains I shared with my father when I was very small.

Walking into Paul Taylor’s around Father’s day was fortuitous for me. I’ve been thinking about Dad a lot lately.

The Prodigal Horse Returns to Buffalo

“A little nonsense now and then, is cherished by the wisest men.” – Roald Dahl

This post is a follow up to “Hey Mr. Talisman” published on July 8, 2012

AL IS BACK!  As promised, the head of house keeping at Magnolia Hotel in Omaha packaged him up and sent him on his way.  He arrived at my door safe and sound inside a Priority Mail shipping box on Friday afternoon.  I opened the box as soon as I got home from work.  Just for fun, I photographed Al sitting with some other toys I have around the apartment as if they were his welcoming committee.

The doll in the picture was a gift from a childhood friend after her trip to Mexico when we were around twelve years old.  I don’t have a lot of mementos from my childhood, but this doll is an important one.  The frog is one of many of its ilk that subtly adorn my apartment.  My mother collected frog figurines all her life and still does.  It’s a tradition she continued after her mother and now, in varying degrees and not always voluntarily, my three sisters and I collect them as well.  This sock frog is a favorite.  Al’s story has me playfully imagining his adventures between Omaha and Buffalo since I left him behind.  I enjoy being playful, even in adulthood, and I thank my lucky stars for the playful people in my life.

After going through the experience of very nearly losing Al and ultimately getting him back, I decided to do a little research on his origins.  It turns out he was hand made in Germany by Volker and Sabine Senger who have been lovingly turning out sweet little animal toys like Al since 1985.  They say this of their mission in toy making:

“We want our toy animals to create a bond with the child, so that they
can take on the role of a trusted companion, offering security and
helping development. We are delighted to know that children become
more creative through play with a small number of carefully selected toys.

We are also pleased that our animals can put a smile on the face of many adults, spiriting them back into childhood.”

You can read more about Senger Animal Dolls here:

Hey Mr. Talisman

A few years ago, on a trip around Upstate New York I had the pleasure of meeting a well known contemporary  American philosopher, writer and translator.  The encounter was brief and far more memorable for me than for him, I’m sure.  There were many more introductions and mini adventures on that trip, including stopping at a charming toy store in Woodstock where, for the purpose of research for a photo project, I acquired this vintage looking toy horse.  I jokingly named the horse after the philosopher who, for the sake of this post, I’ll simply call Al.

Al 2011, Hipstamatic

Al 2011, Hipstamatic

Over time, for various reasons, the horse has become a kind of “protector” to me.  He usually sits on a chair in the bedroom as part of the decor.  From time to time I pick him up in an attempt to channel warmth and luck from this object I’ve assigned the role of Talisman to.  Recently, at the very last second as we were heading out the door for Omaha, I grabbed him up and stuffed him in my bag.  Going home can be a mixed bag of pleasure and pain and I wanted a good luck charm for the trip.  If such things are possible, then little Al did his job, because for the most part, it was a wonderful visit home.

Al sat silently in the hotel room for the duration of the trip.  In the back of my mind, I imagined him sweetly sending strength to me as we enjoyed our time around the city I love and I quietly confronted feelings of homesickness and loss.  At one point I moved him to the chair in front of a writing desk in the room.  When it came time to pack up and go, the chair had been pushed under the desk and Al was out of sight.  I neglected to include him among the clothes, shoes, and hair products in my bag.  We rushed off to Caffeine Dreams for a spontaneous last cup of coffee with those who could make it, and Al was left behind.  The airport was next, and unbeknownst to me, Al remained there in room 233 at the Magnolia Hotel all alone.  I didn’t unpack right away so it wasn’t until a couple of days after our return to Buffalo that I discovered his absence.  I felt silly and devastated all at once.  It was just a silly object after all, but my heart pined away.

I called the hotel and after 2 full days of nerve racking back and forth while the head of housekeeping was on vacation, Al was finally  found!  I made the arrangements and if all goes well, he’ll be back safely in my hands sometime next week.  This whole experience is strangely tied to a photographic project I’m working on now that’s inspired by the loss of a favorite toy when I was a child.  Back then I imagined the lost toy coming to life and having adventures in the real world.  I wonder, as I laugh a little at the thought, if Al will return with any insights into the mystery that is Omaha, NE, my home.


Instagram Interrupted My Omaha Dream

I was very disappointed when Instagram went down (Crashed) during my trip to Omaha.  It happened right after the fireworks display at my aunt’s 90th birthday party.  Omaha is such a great city and I was really looking forward to trying to capture, as closely as possible, something resembling the  romanticized images of my home town that appear sometimes in my dreams.  I often joke to my friends in Buffalo that Omaha is a perfect, wonderful, far off land that they should visit as soon as possible.  Here are 4 more shots I was able to take prior to and immediately following the crash, before heading back to Buffalo.  Venues pictured include, Film Streams, Homer’s Records, Fireworks at Ponca Hills FarmCaffeine Dreams.

Dreams pass into the reality of action. From the actions stems the dream again; and this interdependence produces the highest form of living.
– Anais Nin

At Film Streams, Omaha, 2012

At Film Streams, Omaha, 2012

Homer's Records, Omaha, 2012

Homer’s Records, Omaha, 2012

Fireworks for Ann, 2012

Fireworks for Ann, 2012

Caffeine Dreams, Omaha, 2012

Caffeine Dreams, Omaha, 2012

Omaha: Home

I had a wonderful time back home in Omaha for a long weekend that started on Thursday.  It was magical for a number of reasons – not including the usual.  Sometimes the unexpected is the biggest gift of all.  A highlight was the occasion of my Great Aunt Ann’s 90th birthday which was marked by a fabulous party and fireworks show at Ponca Hills Farm.  I captured this Instagram shot shortly before the great Netflix, Pinterest, Instagram crash of 2012.

Omaha Sprouts

I sent my niece, Aydan in Omaha this not so typical postcard from Uncommon Goods.  It’s a postgarden. – “You just pop open your card, water the base, and sprinkle its packet over the diorama. In just a few days, you’ll have unruly sprouts of “Lepidium sativum” (that’s watercress) furling through the paper arches of your mini botanical garden.”

Below are some pictures of the postgarden from and some that Aydan sent me to show me how her postgarden is is coming along.  Her mother sent the last image when Aydan was away.  It’s growing very fast.