The Lope: Christmas Leftovers 2008

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Christmas Leftovers 2008

Yule happens, and sometimes it happens so fast and there's so much of it that little bits of Christmas fall through the cracks or big chunks of it are simply too large to deal with at the time because, after all, it's more important to live life than to blog it. Here then, is a last helping of Noel which was originally supposed to post before New Year's Eve but got lost amid publication problems, a stomach flu and time with friends and family.

Above and below, workers apply Christmas decorations in Hutchinson, Kansas, near the fabulous Fox Theatre.

During Thanksgiving at my Mom's house, we saw the Grinch get a wonderfully awful idea. And we all got misty-eyed when the little Dutch girl saw Santa.

I gained a new aesthetic appreciation for my mom's old Hamilton Beach mixer.

We watched Andy Williams in the Macy's Thanksgiving parade on TV.

And three days later we saw the Andy Williams Christmas show in Branson. I'm not really a fan of Branson in general - too much traffic for one thing - but it was fun to see an icon of my youth who can still deliver the entertainment. I highly recommend the show.

There's a huge display of vintage automated Christmas mannequins in Branson at the Trail of Lights, part of the Shepard of the Hills complex. We went through, and I shot some, but I shot so many photos that it'll have to wait for next Christmas season.

The first snow arrived just after. It was enjoyable but not nearly as perfect as a later snow.

On black Friday, I picked up a Canon SX10is to replace my unreliable Sony DSC-H2. I'm still field-testing the new camera, with mixed results. Brief review: 20x lens, fast shutter lag, tilting viewfinder and video during zooming are great, but lens is not threaded for filters, maximum 15 sec shutter speed isn't good for time exposures, slow lens forces slow shutter speeds in dim environments and auto-focus has trouble with subjects that include light sources - like Christmas lights, flashing signs and trains with headlights.

One impetus for buying a camera in the super-zoom category was to maintain a useful focal range and manual control while flying under the anti-DSLR radar held by many venues and artists. This helps when one wants to photograph events like this "Howe Squire and White of Yes" concert in St Louis - the "In The Present" tour. Here, Steve Howe is "Close to the Edge" in dry ice fog. I'll show more of Yes in January; and hey, if anyone can get through to their press agent, I'd like a couple quotes.

While in St Louis, I managed to score a discounted hotel room with this view of the St Louis Arch, and shot much of Route 66 along with some nice neon signs and googie architecture. I also found some Christmas decor.

When the Kansas City Southern Holiday Express rolled fittingly into Noel, Missouri, I had to go see it.

It was fun to catch up with the KCS elves, including Patricia Tamisiea (right) and Shawn Levy in the background.

This was my favorite time exposure of one of the vintage F-9 locomotives that pull the KCS executive train, The Southern Belle.

It was a pleasure to meet photographer J. P. Bell, who preferred to "paint" the locomotives with sequential flashes, much in the manner of O. Winston Link.

By the next night, the call of elvedom was too strong in my blood, and I donned the green once again. My job was to help direct folks leaving the train toward the correct safety hand rail. I learned to vary the basic statement of "please use the yellow handrail" - spoken by me a couple hundred times - to avoid a sort of verbal-repetitive carpel tunnel syndrome. (photo by Shawn Levy)

Ace, of course, did his duty...which was...well, he was there, anyway.

Back in Joplin, Weaselhead helped us put up Mom's Christmas decorations.

On the drive home to Hutchinson, I spotted this huge lighted decoration on the side of the Coleman company in Wichita. Santa is of course waving a Coleman lantern.

On Saturday December 13th geese flew over the moon.

Upon arrival in Hutchinson, I was able to savor the simplicity of one friend's holiday decor.

And bask in the complexity of another's.

Patsy's party was a chance to enjoy old friends.

And make some new ones, like Barbara, one of Ace's readers.

Ace spent part of the soiree in a warm place.

The next weekend, on the 20th, I photographed the Hutchinson Hyde Park Luminaria.

I paid my property tax at the Reno County Courthouse; the woman in front of me could not pay hers and poured out her tale - an earnest one, I believe - to the teller. Her face, as she turned distraught from the line, reminded me of Dorothea Lange photos from the Great Depression. She was scared, and I was sobered by the realization of how many of her there are out there. I count my blessings.

The most ancient reason for the season rolled around - winter solstice - and a friend showed me accouterments of her Yule celebration.

Back in Joplin, Christmas Eve sunset afforded nice color saturation. The white part, below, is the top of my car. When you don't have time to set up the tripod, go for the top of the car, but shut it off and watch for heat distortions.

On Christmas Eve I saw the children of friends watch for Santa's sleigh.

And forget all about the red-clad fat man when presents had been discovered.

I received chocolate-covered potato chips sold only in Ohio around Christmas.

Ace met a new friend - a bear who had a cool flight jacket from MBDA missile defense systems, a defense contractor. A USAF pal of Ace's had met the bear at a conference and thought the two would get along.

And then it was story time.

I went to midnight mass at St Peter's Church in Joplin, Missouri. Funny thing is, I'm not religious in any organized way, but the beauty of people gathering to celebrate something so important to them in an incense-infused ritual is irresistible to me. And it was midnight for gosh sakes! How often do you get to do anything cool in a crowd at midnight that you can actually talk about?

I shot no pictures on Christmas, being incapacitated with a nasty stomach flu that started in the wee hours. I re-worded a number of Christmas carols with phrases pertaining to bodily functions, but I won't poison your mind with them. I didn't even get out early to shop the day after Christmas.

A few days later I recovered and a Japanese restaurant reminded me how easily I am amused by fire. Fire - good.

On December 30th, I savored how we are are constantly reminded of our place in the universe, even in a suburban setting. Just as at the beginning of the month, Venus and the moon had begun to dance, though this is only a trick of perspective from Earth. The next night looked even better.

On the next to the last day of 2008, we visited Waylon's Ku Ku in Miami, Oklahoma, on Route 66. This particular Ku Ku is the last survivor of a chain; I'll try to drop in a picture of the building soon.

Waylon's has a couple of these (probably fiberglass) Ku Ku's hanging around.

Owner Eugene Waylon saw me taking pictures and gave us cool little key chains. I consider mine a last Christmas present of the year.

Main Street in Miami holds the Coleman Theatre Beautiful, as well as some good municipal Christmas decorations.

Back at Mom's place in Joplin, Ace and Santa regard the new key chain. Ace wears a jacket remarkably similar to the one last seen on MBDA bear, who was nowhere to be seen.

I guess it's time to put Weaselhead away for the season.


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