Monday, December 1, 2008

"A word fitly spoken
is like apples of gold
in settings of silver."
- Proverbs 25:11

A couple of weeks ago, I suggested to my fiancĂ©e, Esther Aldrich, that we visit with her 86-year old father and her stepmother for the purpose of my asking John Florczak for his daughter's hand in marriage and obtain his and Lori's blessings for Esther and I. Esther's response to my suggestion was – at once - unfeigned surprise that I would think to extend her Dad that simple courtesy - and delight for my having thought to honor John in that way.

For my part, I was rather taken aback by the big ado made over my respectful gesture toward John – but impressed, too, over how my thinking to pay him the respect due all fathers made such a monumental impact upon Esther.

Yesterday, Esther and I drove to John and Lori's and, after exchanging pleasantries, I asked John for Esther's hand in marriage and for his blessings upon it. I did so with an economy of words and flourishes – but what I may have lacked in grace or polish, I am sure I more than made up in sincerity. Apparently sincerity is something John values greatly, for he was immediately overcome by my gesture and, rising from his chair, placed his hands upon our heads, gave each one a kiss and pronounced his blessing.

Esther and I left John and Lori not long afterward, but we agreed that a wonderful memory was made during our short visit. “You made his day! “ Esther said, and I have supposed that she's right.

Showing respect to one another is a compliment that we do not soon forget. Yesterday's episode reminded me of that simple fact. “Little things” do indeed mean a lot.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

"Happiness is not having what you want.
Happiness is ... wanting what you already have."

That's been said - many different times in many different ways and by many different people - and the sentiment is certainly true enough, particularly among those for whom the biblical truth: "Don't collect for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But collect for yourselves treasures in heaven ..." (Mt. 6: 19, 20) - is settled firmly in our hearts.

I recall hearing an excellent sermon delivered
some years ago by the famed Moody Church (Chicago) pastor, Erwin Lutzer, during which he recalled the many, many funeral services he'd officiated over the years, "and I don't remember - no, not once - seeing a U-Haul hitched up to the funeral hearse." Alas, those people who live their lives as though they'll be able to take all their accumulated earthly possessions with them when their life on earth is over are without number! Sad.

Anyway, I am the youngest of four boys in the Velez clan (my sister Elsa is the youngest of the lot), raised by a full-time Mom (Elsa) and her brown-boot Army career husband (Luis) - which is to say that, the Velez children didn't own many, shall we say, luxuries. Mom, who was a whiz at stretching pennies, nickels, dimes and an occasional dollar - just didn't have the financial resources to allow

the material wants of her children to cause her any great anxiety - nor would she have gone that route at any rate. I don't know that a more happy giver than Mom has ever walked the planet (let's leave Jesus out of this; that's simply not fair), but she wasn't into spoiling her children that way. Mom did the very best she could with the limited budget she had to work with. She did good. That was good enough for us.

I didn't own a bicycle until 1977, when I purchased the Schwinn "Suburban" five-speed that you see pictured above; just like the one I'd always wanted (except these were three-speeds back when I coveted the bike. Oh, and I don't think they were called "Suburban" when I was a kid. Maybe. But I doubt it.). I made these pictures only this past weekend. You'll notice the word "Chicago" beneath the Schwinn emblem. Yep! Still made in the good old USA back then. Ironically enough, I put together the "Dislocated Workers Program" for members of a United Auto Workers local union (can't remember which "local" union just now) back in 1980 when Schwinn's Chicago operations were moved to Taiwan and workers at the Chi-town facility were put out of work. But, hey, America had to protect itself from the "damn unions" that were responsible for stifling our "competitive advantage" against our "global trading partners." Incredibly, untold number of Americans still buy into that capitalistic deception to this very day! But --- don't get me started.

See the black Wilson A-2000 relic pictured above? That mitt was a gorgeous "Cubbie Blue" color when I first bought it in 1972 (Take note of the "Made in USA" circular emblem embossed upon it. You'll have to strain your eyes a bit to see it, but it's there. See it?). I slept with, oiled and spit on that mitt and shaped and molded it with tender loving care until it felt "just right." God, I loved the smell of that glove - just like I loved the smell of everything associated with baseball!

I played prairie ball, semi-pro level baseball, 12-inch softball with that now-legendary mitt through the years - hundreds and hundreds of games worth! - and its original color, beyond beautiful, did over the years turn into something like a sickly shade of green and, when it threatened to turn into some other shade of something, I decided to dye the mitt black. During that time, too, despite my wholehearted devotion to my mitt's upkeep, its leather lacing tore a couple of times. I would immediately head out to Sportmart and buy a lacing kit in order to "make it new" again. Throw it away? Perish the thought! Man, I loved that glove! Still do. We made hundreds of dazzling plays together (and some not-so-good, but those were my fault). Wilson and me. We were good!

Guess what. I paid $9.99 for that "professional-quality" A-2000 in '72. I remember - vividly - the claim Wilson spokespeople made when they decided to move their operations to Japan. To paraphrase the corporate thieves, it went something like this: "The savings this necessary shift will mean for American consumers at the market place will be realized within two-three years." Right. Try buying a "pro-quality" A-2000 today. If you find one for less than $380.00, let me know. I won't hold my breath. My friends, we're being lied to. We've always been lied to.

But I digress.

I remember my first mitt - a first baseman's mitt, it was. Mom got it for me with a few books of S&H green stamps (I told you, she was a whiz!). How I wish I still had that mitt! Unfortunately, my father liked to travel light. Real light. When our family moved from Lebanon, Missouri to Chicago back in '65, a few articles dad deemed to be "necessary losses" stayed behind. My extensive collection of baseball cards, which would have fetched me thousands of dollars today became my buddies' treasure. My first baseman's mitt also stayed behind. (I'm not likely to get any sympathy from my siblings. We all left pieces of our lives behind in Lebanon.) Do you remember the scene in the movie "Castaway" when, after finally escaping the tiny island that had held him captive on the raft he'd made, Tom Hanks' character woke up from his slumber to find his beloved volleyball - "Wilson" - gone? Remember his anguish? Well, I know a little about that. How I hated the thought of Chicago!

Some time after the Velezs settled in Chicago, I saw the Beach Boys, clad in their signature white, wide black-striped, short sleeved shirts. The Wilson brothers, along with singer (cousin) Mike Love and lead guitarist Alan Jardine were performing "Dance, Dance, Dance" in the popular Dick Clark's "American Bandstand." I saw Brian Wilson faking it on a white Fender Precision bass and, well, that was it! I fell in love with the deep sound of the electric bass (I'd never actually seen an electric bass guitar before; the Rock 'N Roll music I was brought up with almost always featured the Double-Bass, or, the "Upright."). The sight and sound of that white Fender Precision was a revelation! I had to have one!

There was one minor hitch. Over the years Dad - whose love of music was second to none - had made real financial sacrifices of buying guitars for my brothers, an accordion, a clarinet and a violin. None of my siblings had even hinted at wanting to play such instruments as Dad had picked out for them, mind you. I have supposed that where my oldest brother was concerned, Dad's expectation that Alvar would end up becoming something resembling a guitarist was not without merit. I mean, Alvar lived and breathed music. He won vocal competitions throughout his Lebanon High School years to the point of monotony. He listened - 24/7 - to Elvis, Elvis, Elvis - with a bit of Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison and Ricky Nelson thrown into that mix from time to time.

Well, Dad had this notion that Alvar just might become the Puerto Rican version of Chet Atkins or Duanne Eddy (in retrospect, a slight snicker should not be thought by my readers to be an over-the-top response to such a notion. I mean, like 90% of the masses, my oldest brother simply didn't want to have to work at learning an instrument.). And so Dad bought "The Fortunate Son" a jaw-dropping kind of beautiful cherry sunburst Gibson Les Paul! (A Gibson Les Paul, people!) Before that, he'd purchased Alvar an arched-top, f-hole Silvertone acoustic. Both guitars were marked for to be nothing more than wall decorations - strategically placed between the suitable-for-framing, 8x10 black-and-white photographs commonly featured in the monthly Hit-Parade and other teen magazines of the early 60s era; pictures of Elvis (but of course) and Roy Orbison, Ricky Nelson, Jackie Wilson, Bobby Rydell, Dion and others. Hiram? He never expressed an interest - nor asked for - his guitar ... or violin. Hermes? As a chick magnet, Hermes' pursuits had little to do with music during this particular point in time, although, some time later, he fell in love with drums (which Hiram bought for him). Dad, however, more or less (actually, "more") brought his budding musical endeavor to a grinding halt with his continual tamtrums whenever my brother had pounded on his drum kit for more than five minutes. Elsita? Nope. No, thank you. No clarinet for me! But - thank you. Thank you very much.

And so when Mom, having had her fill of my shameless, infantile whining and begging, asked me to take up my demands for an electric bass guitar with Dad, I felt utterly defeated. I'd counted on Mom to plant seeds in Dad's heart during the many weeks I'd badgered her. Like I said, Mom was never one to be easily swayed by her children's whims. But, lo and behold! One fine day, out of the clear blue, I happened to be within earshot of my parents, who were enjoying music in the living room (Dad was forever playing music on his stereo), and overheard Mom standing in the gap for me with Dad! She pleaded my case as best she could, although in the end her valiant effort proved unavailing. Dad was done with the purchase of musical instruments ... and that was that! Still, Mom's heroic deed was never forgotten - and always appreciated.

Within a year or so of saving nickels and dimes from my paper route and working at the "Economy Dinette" down the street, I'd saved enough money ($90 if my memory serves, but it doesn't always) to buy a white, Made in Japan, "Kingston" short-scale bass guitar
(let us not lose sight of the reality that this was 1967; Made in Japan was synonymous with "junk"). I later sold the bass for a fraction of what I paid for it in order to upgrade to a semi-hollow body Hagstrom, which I then traded even-up for a Rickenbacker bass (that was ruined by a friend to whom I'd loaned it). In the by and by
I became the manager/bassist for a very popular Chicago band called Junction (brother Alvar, he of the coffer full of vocal contest awards, was the band's lead singer). I used a Gibson "Ripper" bass early on with Junction, then switched to a gorgeous, walnut "S. D. Curlee" that I eventually gave away to a missionary/musician from Africa who'd announced during a Faith Tabernacle worship service that he desperately needed a Bass guitar and, well, if anyone in attendance that morning was moved by the Lord to donate a bass for his missionary cause, it would be greatly appreciated. Aaaaaaaaaaaaargh! Bye, bye, S. D. Curlee!

On May 12, 1979 I purchased the Peavey "Rudy Sarzo" Signature model pictured here. It's the only bass (my electric bass arsenal numbers six these days; love them all!) I've given a name to: "Red." It somehow felt right. Appropriate. Am I making sense? As you can see from the images I made of Red only last week, the bass is, nearly thirty years on, in impeccable condition. It was, as I remember it, the first electric bass to offer passive/active electronics. Red has a beautiful voice and looks every bit as good today as when first I brought it home.

I remember the one and only time my Dad came to see and hear Junction. How can I forget? That was the only time in my life that Dad ever showed genuine emotion and pride where I was concerned. Dad was impressed with the band's performance in general (I put a lot of stock in his opinion. The man knew his music!) and, in particular, was awed at the skill level I had attained as a bassist and performer. Now he wanted me to know that he was "so sorry" that the one child he'd refused to buy an instrument for had become an accomplished musician; in fact, the only one in the family. For my part, I never held that against Dad. In my inward parts, I supposed that my high level of commitment to my instrument was a result of my desire to show Dad that I'd been serious about my music from the start. No hard feelings, Dad. Rest in peace.

What is more, having to work hard to obtain those things I dreamed of as a kid gave me a larger-than-life appreciation for my "toys." I've enjoyed them to no end through the years - and am happy knowing that I still want them!

And that's what happiness is!

Friday, September 26, 2008


Across the fields of yesterday
He sometimes comes to me
A little lad just back from play
The lad I used to be.

- Thomas S. Jones, Jr. (1882 - ?)

Melissa recently recalled that she was eleven years old when our family last went "apple-pickin'." (Yep! That's "Half-Pint" below in a picture I made during that apple-pickin' adventure in 1992.) "Eleven!" I thought. My, how the years go by. Tempus Fugit, goes the refrain, although Mark Twain took issue with that observation. "Time does not fly," he insisted. "We fly. Time stays." Just like that, Clemens dealt a serious blow to the pearl we've romanticized for these many, many years!
"My step was swift and my heart was high" ("Lakefront Winter" - Al Giddons) when Melissa was eleven (sixteen years ago). Alas, "what shadows we are!" (Edmund Burke) Anyhow, the little lass in my daughter (at present a beautiful twenty-seven year young lady) was overcome with a hankerin' for to go apple pickin' and, well, what's a Dad to do? And so, last Sunday (September 21) Esther, Grace and I made the drive to Kuiper's Family Farm (Maple Park, IL) and there met up with Melissa and Steve. Apple-pickin' we will go!

Half-Pint had her heart set on Gala apples, but they'd been picked clean, and so the lot of us had to settle for Fujis. Not that it mattered much to me; I was along - as usual - for the picture-making opportunities, which, as it turned out, were plentiful. Life is good and worth the living!

Our party was missing good friends Dave and Ann-Marie, whose schedule did not allow for joining us on this fun outing. Too bad. So sad. However, I told Esther I would certainly be game to go back for a second go-around (hint.). I mean, there was a good number of excellent photo-ops en route to Kuiper's that I was unable to exploit due to time constraints. Weathered Barns. Rusty tractors. Lots of photogenic stuff! One such item I could not resist after our apple pickin' adventure had ended was this old Botanic Volkswagen (below), strategically parked in the front yard of some incredibly creative homeowner(s) house!

It's always a good time - making memories! And isn't picture-making grand? My brothers, sister and I can count the pictures taken in the days of our youth with our fingers, whereas my own children have been photographed hundreds of times, beginning - literally - the moment they were born! It was a simple task, therefore, finding "Li'l Melissa's" apple-pickin' picture (above) and offer my blog visitors the interesting then-and-now effect. "Across the fields of yesterday ... " Making memories. Do it. Every chance you get! You'll be glad you did.

Images by Orlando: (* Click on images to enlarge)

1. Melissa as a child
2. ... and as a woman
3. Grace, Melissa and Steve prepare to begin their "Corn Maze" adventure
4. Melissa - frolicking through the apple orchard (Steve's not quite so animated, but, hey ...)
5. The Three Faces of Eve:Grace, Melissa and my Belle, Esther.("Did God really say ...?")
6. Esther and yours truly (Quick! Give me back my camera!)
7. Grace picks a winner!
8. Steve ponders his own selection
. Hmmmm.
9. Juicy Fujis (Boy! I love my Tamron 90mm f/2.8 macro lens!)
10, 11, 12. The Botanic Volkswagen!

Monday, September 1, 2008

"Better than counting your years ...
is making your years count!"

After a twenty-eight year tenure (January, 1980 - August 28, 2008) as Signode/ ITW's maintenance supervisor, brother Hiram (above, with wife Maria) decided to call it a day and enjoy the fruits of his labor as he enters the winter of his years.

My brother has always loved to travel (Greece, Spain, Italy, Mexico, Argentina and Hawaii are counted among his jaunts.) - and I have supposed that, good Lord willing and Jesus tarries, more travel for Hiram and Maria (also retired) in the not-too-distant future is in the offing .

Hiram also enjoys daily jogging and walks with Maria, fishing, playing the guitar, gardening, photography, feeding birds and the like. He's also an excellent cook.

In short, it would seem my older brother's varied interests will serve to make retirement anything but boring.

The Velezs held an intimate gathering, with brothers, sister, nephews and nieces enjoying fellowship, good food and refreshments in the "4133" backyard to help usher in Hiram's retirement in style. Our wish for Hiram and Maria is that it would please the Lord to grant them a good number of years ahead, during which they will be given to enjoy the abundant life which is promised those who love Him (I'm not here referring to abundance as the world has translated it, but, rather, in that manner that the spiritually discerning rightly understand "abundance" to be).

Top: Heidi, Jessie, Jennie, Luis (Don't ask me to smile! Don't! I don't Wanna!)
Next: Esther (my belle), Meralda ("I'm not 60 yet!"), Melissa ("Half-Pint")
Next: Melissa, Acacia (Casey)
Next: Steve and Half-Pint ("Melissa")
Next: Jennie (Almost in the family, but can Luis seal the deal???)
Next: Mike and Elsa (Elsita)
Next: Heidi and Peter (Iron Man)
Next: Hiram and Melissa ("Hey, where's 'Pa'?")
Next: Jessie, Jennie, Luis (Jumping Jehoshaphat, he's smiling!)
Next: Hiram (The Free Man) and Maria
Next: Steve, Heidi, Mike, Elsa, Esther, Robert Downey Jr.

Next: Maria (with the real love of her life!)
Last, but not least: Hermes and Meralda
("I tell ya, I'm not!")

All our best to Hiram and Maria!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Me & My Uncle
"The Party's Over"

My nephew Mario (below left), a talented singer/songwriter/guitarist, aspires to stardom in the Country music field. The young man, 25, has written a number of songs that I am persuaded would make their way into the Country music charts if only these were given the same kind of airplay afforded the established names in Country music. The odds of that happening are of course slim indeed. As my brothers are quick to point out, the music field is littered with aspiring artists who, despite being devoted to their trade and relentless in their pursuit of stardom, will nonetheless be met in the by and by with the reality that "Life is what happens to us while we are out making other plans" (John Lennon). In the meantime, the sands of time spill onward for us all. In only a moment we grow old, the catchy songs we wrote during our glory days suddenly sound rather dated and out of season; the tides of life have seemingly swept our dreams away.

How does one ward off the disillusionment that threatens to overwhelm at times such as these?

Well, a good place to start is by subscribing early in life to the reality that God is in control of our lives (William Ernest Henley's pompous assertion [Invictus] notwithstanding) - and grow in the faith that "in all things God works for the good of those who love him ..." (Romans 8:28) Then, too, consider Robert Hasting's observation (The Station): it's not our arrival at any particular station in life that really matters, but, rather, the appreciation of all experiences that come to us along the journey. Finally, knowing that only those things we do along our earthly pilgrimage that echo in eternity really matter cannot fail to put life in proper perspective for any right-thinking person. Then we may say - as Robert Kinkaid said to Francesca Johnson (The Bridges of Madison County): "The old dreams were good dreams. They didn't work out, but I'm glad I had 'em."

I was in a very popular 80s band, Junction, for a number of years. We had a legion of fans, all of whom were convinced we could/would hit "the bigs." That never happened - but I for one had a great time of it as manager/bassist/singer of the band. My dream of "hitting the bigs" was not realized, but I'm glad I dreamed it.

Mario and I have worked in tandem as Me & My Uncle (a label derived from the title of a Grateful Dead song) for five years. For my part, I entered into our musical association with the objective of simply helping the young man find his niche, lay down catchy bass lines for a CD Mario aimed to make of his original songs and help him kick start a music career. We fiddled with the project for some time, but the finished product was never arrived at. Somewhere along the way, Pinocchio's Pizzeria & Lounge (Glenview, IL) put the project on hold. The kid decided he needed "performing experience" and shifted his musical focus from writing/recording to playing "a few " gigs at the joint.

As I warned my nephew from the start, Pinocchio's soon became a Thursday night hangout, a place where friends and family would join the club's small number of regulars on Thursday nights to eat, drink, make merry and to cheer us on now and again. The drinks, which the lovely, ever-smiling Tanya graciously poured in timely fashion for my nephew and I were on the house - and the two if us walked away with $50 spending money in our pockets at the end of each 1 1/2 hour show. While such enticements might prove unavailing to a youthful fifty-nine year old who's been 'round the music barn more than a few times (that would be me!), the same inducements were too strong for the starry-eyed young man to bear. And so it was that Me & My Uncle wound up dropping anchor at Pinocchio's.

Finally, eight months and 36 performances later, the experiment ran its course with Mario acknowledging, at last, that The Party's Over."

Me & My Uncle's swan song at Pinocchio's (8/28) was memorable in every way! In addition to a good number of Pinocchio's patrons being on hand, our friends, family and Esther made it all the more special. The icing on that cake was having my son Emilio (above) on hand to perform his song, Dear Michelle. Emilio finger-picked the tune on guitar the Thursday before; this time he would add his voice to the song - and nail it, he did! Jake Goodman, a young man skilled at playing multiple instruments (Mario brought Jake on board after our second Pinocchio's show) closed out the Me & My Uncle show with an impressive set. Do look Jake up; the "25 year old kid" will not fail to impress.).

Mario was gracious to present "My Uncle" (or, "Tio") with an incredible oil painting-like digital reproduction of a picture (above) made some weeks ago by my brother, Hermes, who also made the other pictures on this post. Great kid! Great times.

But -
the party's over.

An old Chinese proverb teaches that
"The best way to make your dream come true is to simply - wake up!" While Pinocchio's provided an ego stroke, free drinks and spending money - it also proved to be Mario's albatross in that it caused him to forget that there is much work to be done in the real world if he hopes to have a chance at realizing stardom. There is that CD that is yet begging for to be made. A web site complete with bio, gigging schedules and YouTube-type videos would be a plus. He is in dire need of new songs - not simply as add-ons to his existing repertoire - but to prove to himself that he is still capable of writing; that his talent hasn't dried up. The party's end will provide the kid with ample time to attend to those necessary tasks.

One of the obvious benefits
Me & My Uncle provided me with was, in the first place, the golden opportunity to work off fifteen years (!) of rust on my electric bass. I've been rejuvenated to the highest degree where music is concerned. Me & My Uncle's respite will provide me with time as well; time in which to dust off a number of my old, dated originals and record them on CD. That's something I've wanted to do for time out of mind in order to give my children to know that their Old Man had some measure of musical talent which has been passed on to them.

I'm looking forward to the challenge of making something new out of music that was conceived in my mind in the 70s and 80s.

Listen to the warm,


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

"God saw all that he had made, and it was very good." - Genesis 1:31

What my son Emilio (right) knows about God is what I have taught him. That is to say, he knows something about God - but has not yet come to know Him experientially. I have prayed - and will continue to pray - that in God's perfect time, Emilio will be drawn into a personal relationship with Him; that he would come to know His peace that transcends all understanding, that other-worldly peace that is one of God's precious gifts to any who will open their hearts to Him and who, with childlike faith, humbly allow Jesus to begin his good work in their lives. "Then (they) will know the truth, and the truth will set (them) free!" - John 8:32

There have been some encouraging hints that God is indeed calling out to my son. Only last week, he and I drove to the Best Western hotel in Evanston and and there picked up his cousin Matthew for a visit to The Chicago Botanic Garden. Not wishing to drive my companions mad (my picture-making efforts move at a snail's pace!) the plan called for Matthew and Emilio, equipped with digital cameras, to roam about the Garden on their own while I - ever so slowly - tended to my own picture-making devices.

When the two young men caught up with me later that day, Emilio took note of the tiny, colorful flower that I was in the process of photographing (above). Shaking his head in a genuine show of awesome wonder, my son remarked, "And to think there are people that actually believe something like this just happens!"

Indeed. The world is chock full of people that, though sensing in their inward parts that "some 'Higher Power'" is responsible for the wonders round about them, yet cannot bring themselves to equate their vague notions of this "Higher Power" with the God of the Bible.

"For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools ..." - Romans 1: 20-22

Someone has rightly observed, "No man is so deceived as by himself." Scripture is quite right (of course!): "The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.'" - Psalm 14:1

Anyway, as I always tell my kids after having made some practical application(s) from God's Word: "That's my sermon for the day!"

Emilio is scheduled to leave for New York this coming Sunday, and I'm happy to say, the young man has had a great time of it during our twelve days. If I were a betting man, I'd venture to say that the highlight of Emilio's visit was his musical performance of his original composition,
"Dear Michelle" at Pinocchio's (Glenview), where "Me & My Uncle" were performing last Thursday (then again, Emilio always treasures his "hang out" time with his older brother, Jonathan --- and spending time with Melissa, Steve, Esther and Grace.

That's Emilio (below), a smile playing on his face for his growing conviction that his opponent - one of the Bristol Renaissance Faire's performers -
will not be able to thwart his steady march toward a checkmate (no, really - the kid's good! He won. He did!). My other cast of featured characters, beauties all, are Esther, above, Melissa, below, and Grace, way-y-y-y down yonder!)

In addition to all the many activities father and son engage in during Emilio's visits (he still lives in New York with his mother) - one in particular has become a tradition: "Emilio photo-shoots." Stay tuned. You're sure to see more images of my son in future editions of this blog.

Making memories ... that's always a good thing.

Where was your blessing today?

Listen to the warm,


Sunday, August 24, 2008

Bristol Renaissance Faire & The Chicago Botanic Garden

The Bristol Renaissance Faire, located off I-94 at the Wisconsin border, is touted in the Faire's own publication as "Big, bold and unabashedly brazen;" a place that "takes us back to a time when knights were noble, maids were merry and turkey legs were titanic."

2008 marked the 21st year of operations for the Faire, which runs every weekend from July 5 through Labor Day. Cameras in hand, my fiancee Esther, son Emilio and I made a whole day of it at the Faire on Sunday, August 17 (my daughter Melissa and son-in-law Steve joined us round about mid-day). I made the images posted here with my Sony A-700 DSLR and the legendary (and upgraded in '07) Tamron 90mm f/2.8 macro lens. I used my trusty Minolta Maxxum 7 film camera (Remember those? Alas, they've gone the way of the buffalo for no reason other than man's bent toward instant gratification!) on a good number of other images I made that day (Tegan, a.k.a. "Flower" [top] and Jenn, a.k.a. "The Autumn Fairy" [second from top]). I'll post those in the near future after I transfer the images to CD format.

Bristol Renaissance Faire must be counted among this photographer's dream venues. There, Shutterbugs are afforded the golden opportunity at making portraits of an incredibly colorful cast of characters, most of whom do not seek recompense (fairies, for example, are not allowed to interact with visitors) and, as for the rest of the Faire's stable of performers, well, I take care to carry a supply of $1 bills and pop two-here, two-there to those characters with "tip bags" - literally peanuts in exchange for the images captured!). The bottom line is that photogs may cash in (pardon the pun!) on amazing portraits of stunning characters dressed in late 1570s/1600s linen - all of whom are gracious to strike excellent poses for you (as my pictures attest) ...

... which is precisely why I had to go back for seconds! "Gay Day" (August 24) does absolutely nothing for me, and so Esther, her daughter Grace, Emilio and I opted to visit there the day before the gay extravaganza in order to add to the number of images I hope to post on my yet-to-be-established photography web site. (Hint: Steve, my son-in-law, is director of communications/creative arts for the Covenant Church group, which makes him eminently qualified to assist me with my web site!)

My photographers' paradise would raise eyebrows, of course, if The Chicago Botanic Garden (of which I'm a member) were not a vital part of it ("Garden." "Paradise." Obvious, isn't it?) . Those of you who have walked about the Garden hardly need for me to expound upon its grandeur (and I'm not sufficiently skilled with words to do it justice; you must simply see the Garden first-hand - 'nuff said!) The four images I posted here were made last week. Lord willing and Jesus tarries, you may expect to see more of these in the coming days - before the North winds usher in the autumn, with its own distinctive magic in its keeping!

I conclude with a prayer for my visitor(s); one that that great apostle (John) used as his greeting to his dear friend, Gaius - " ... that you may enjoy good health and that all will go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well."
(3 John 1:2)

Those sentiments cover your physical, material and spiritual well-being. The Holy Spirit. He never fails to cover all bases! Isn't God AWESOME?

"Listen to the warm!"