JOHN GLENN

“February made me shiver, with every paper I’d deliver….

Bad news upon the doorstep, I couldn’t take one more step”.

Long before I became a teenager, I was a foot soldier in Roy Thompson’s press empire (later Lord Thompson of Fleet!) as a young paper delivery boy. Neither rain, sleet or snow (or the occasional dog bite!) kept little Billy from faithfully delivering the news on the doorsteps of his expectant and often demanding customers. Back then there was no “Daily Show” but people sure wanted their daily news and for the most part it wasn’t all that good.

During that time, America had sunk into a funk starting with the stalemate in Korea (a prime example of what happens when you don’t “win” wars!!), choosing the wrong side in the Suez Crisis (the first of many mistakes in the Middle East!), stumbling through both the Hungarian and Cuban revolutions and obviously loosing the space race. I say “obviously” because the US space program was an ad hoc amalgam of inter service rivalry with the Army’s Redstone rocket  competing with the Navy’s Vanguard rocket. The only thing they had in common was their fiery explosions of failure on the launch pad, the news and pictures of which I dropped on my customers’ doorsteps with depressing regularity. Meanwhile the Soviets had launched Sputnik and were the first to reach the moon with their Luna 2 program and capped it all off with Yuri Gagarin’s orbiting of the earth.  At the near apogee of Cold War tension it was clear that the Russian big idea was winning out over the West’s. And as Russia’s “Wild Duck” was about to shake hands with the Big Dipper, Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper were probably holding hands when they crashed and burned at Clear Lake, Iowa. Hell, couldn’t we keep anything airborne!! Clearly not just the music had been dead for some time.

Then came the Bay of Pigs fiasco and America’s humiliation was complete. Several months later a young, tax slashing  new President would in no uncertain terms commit America to landing not a robot, not a monkey, but a living, breathing man on the moon within a decade. How unrealistic, totally unbelievable!! Was he smoking something other than cigars??

A few months later a man destined to become America’s last national hero would be squeezed into the Mercury capsule and  successfully blasted into space. With three circumnavigations of the planet, John Glenn, a fighter pilot in the 40s, a test pilot in the 50s and now America’s first astronaut in the 60s, had put his country back in the race!! Within the next decade earth’s celestial hostage would become America’s new Romper Room. Only the construction of the Panama Canal in modern peacetime and the Manhattan Project in war were comparable in scope to America’s successful lunar Apollo program.

But that was then. Since 1972 no one has returned. Think of that! Nearly as much time has passed since the last moon landing as existed between the Wright brothers first  flimsy flight and John Glenn’s launch into history. Now when Americans heading to the International Space Station must hitch a ride on Russian rockets, the poor suffering American taxpayer might reasonably ask what return he has had from several hundreds of billions of dollars flowing into NASA over the past several decades. Apparently not much.

Of course the detour into advocacy of  shaky climate change orthodoxy hasn’t helped (and against which 72 NASA  astronauts and scientist have rebelled in an open letter to their presidentially appointed director). Neither has the new NASA priority of Islamic outreach. Not much bang for the buck there if you’ll excuse a pun.

john-glen-1 LIFE-SIZED MOCK-UP OF THE MERCURY SPLASHDOWN, GRAND TURK 

So it was that I was thinking of John Glenn when I took the above photo two weeks ago on Grand Turk Island in the Caribbean. Not much happens on Grand Turk. But when it does, it stays on Grand Turk. Forever apparently.  So it was with John Glenn’s sensational return to earth off the shores of Grand Turk in 1962.

What struck me the most was the diminutive, claustrophobic size of the Mercury capsule. I’ve done night dives in the Pacific and, I’ve squirmed through the Chu Chi tunnels in Vietnam. I think I can handle tight, dark spaces better than most. But I can’t understand how someone could have climbed into that tiny capsule with no chance of escape and risk immolation in yet another American rocket launch failure.  John Glenn, you were a better man than I.       Ave Atque Vale!

 

john-glen-parade-1COCOA BEACH PARADE

Knowing what we do now, riding in an open cavalcade with JFK is another risk I would want to avoid!! 54 years later they’re united again.

Hail and Farewell, the both of you!! You did us proud!!

 

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PEARL HARBOR ANNIVERSARY

Today is the 75th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack. One of the signal events of World War II if not the last century.

The following images were taken several years ago and are a token tribute to my cousin,  Lt. Commander Bruce Reck. After the war a dedicated Scoutmaster and one heck of a nice guy. It wasn’t until much later in my life that I learned of his military service.

During World War II Bruce served on the USS Vega, the USS Wichita, the USS Wasp, the USS Axulite, the USS Kingfisher and the USS Enterprise. Stationed in Pearl Harbor on that fateful day, he took part as a diver in rescue and salvage operations in the aftermath of the attack. During the course of his naval service he received 14 medals including the Bronze Star and the Medal of Commendation for Valor.  He died in Erie, Pennsylvania in 1995. Ave Atque Vale!!

memorial-1USS ARIZONA MEMORIAL

inside-memorial-1INSIDE THE MEMORIAL

arizona-victims-1USS ARIZONA SHIPMATES WHO PERISHED ON DECEMBER 7, 1941

interred-1SUBSEQUENT INTERMENTS

The US National Parks Service allows those who survived the raid to have their ashes taken down to be buried alongside the remains of their former shipmates within the Arizona’s sunken hull.

arizona-gun-turret-1ARIZONA GUN TURRET

Like a proud, indomitable warrior, one lone gunless turret stands guard over the remains of its sunken mother ship which still oozes a couple of gallons of oil daily, like some gigantic wounded beast that hasn’t entirely bled out.

punch-bowl-cemetery-1“PUNCHBOWL” CEMETERY, OAHU, HAWAII

Three men, Ronald Endicott (18), Clifford Olds (20) and Louis Costin (21) on board the West Virginia at the time of the attack,  survived for 16 days, desperately banging on the ship’s sunken  hull for a rescue which never came. Men on the surface did their utmost to avoid guard duty on the crippled ship so as not to hear the constant, macabre noise. There was nothing anyone could do. Cut a hole and risk flooding the compartment or use a torch and cause an explosion. Gradually the banging became less loud, less insistent. Then eventually it stopped.  Six months later when the ship was finally surfaced, their remains were gathered and buried in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, in the volcanic crater the locals call the Punchbowl, where the majority of the Pearl Harbor victims were buried.  The date on their tombstones was backdated to December 7 to jive with the official navy story that the men had died at their battle stations so as to save the their families from the searing pain of the awful truth.

In Louis Costin’s locker they retrieved a watch which was destined to be a Christmas gift for his mother. Broken and waterlogged it was eventually sent home, where his mother had it repaired and wore it daily until her death in 1985 at the age of 92, thankfully never knowing the true story of her son’s gruesome, lingering death.

Like William Tecumseh Sherman said, “War is Hell!”

 

 

 

 

 

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CARIBBEAN BIRDS

A recent trip to the Caribbean allowed me the chance to put my new travel sized three hundred mm f4 lens to the test. Although not as versatile and fast as the f2.8, with patience some decent shots can be obtained. Not a birding trip per se, however I was able to capture some of the island mainstays.

frigate-bird-1FRIGATE BIRD

male-frigate-bird-1MALE FRIGATE BIRD

northern-gannet-1MASKED BOOBIE

tobacco-dove-1COMMON GROUND DOVE 

Or Tobacco Dove as it is known here in the Bahamas.

banaquit-1BANANAQUIT

yellow-throated-warbler-1YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER 

An unexpected treat I spotted from a beach bar on Turks and Caicos.

ruddy-turnstone-1RUDDY TURNSTONE

black-bellied-plover-1BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER

mockingbird-1GREY KINGBIRD

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TRIBUTE TO GAUDI

No trip to Barcelona is complete without visiting the architectural legacy of the city’s most famous genius, Antoni Gaudi (1852 – 1926).

Gaudí’s work was influenced by his passions in life: architecture, nature, and religion. Gaudí considered every detail of his creations and integrated into his architecture such crafts as ceramics, stainded glass, wrought ironwork forging, and carpentry. He also introduced new techniques in the treatment of materials, such as trencadís which used waste ceramic pieces.

Hemingway said of his response to viewing a Brughel for the first time that it was like a sudden blow to the solar plexus. My response to Gaudi’s architecture was a similar experience,  simultaneously both visceral and staggering, a shock to the senses.

sagrada-familia-1LA SAGRADA FAMILIA

The cathedral that is Gaudi’s masterpiece in Barcelona. Started in 1920, set on fire in the Spanish civil war, and scheduled for completion within the next decade, almost a century after Gaudi’s premature accidental death in 1926 after being hit by a street tram. With nearly 3 million visitors each year, this is Spain’s biggest tourist attraction. Make sure you get your tickets at least a day in advance.

sagrada-familia-2-1 LA SAGRADA FAMILIA REAR

sagrada-familia-3-1 LA SAGRADA FAMILIA FRONT

gaudi-park-1 PARK GUELL

The park was built between 1900 and 1914 and was officially opened as a public park in 1926. In 1984 UNESCO declared the park a World Heritage Site. Güell and Gaudí conceived this park, situated within a natural park. They imagined an organized grouping of high-quality homes, decked out with all the latest technological advancements to ensure maximum comfort, finished off with an artistic touch of pure fantasy.

gaudi-park-2-1

 

gaudi-park-3-1 FAIRY TALE DWELLING, PARK GUELL

gaudi-barcelona-1 CASA BATLLO

Casa Batlló is the result of a total restoration in 1904 of an old conventional house built in 1877.  Gaudí used for it the typical constructive elements of the Modernisme (Catalan Art Nouveau) that include ceramics, stone, and forged iron.  Even though it was highly criticized by the city during construction due to its radical design that broke all the bylaws of the city, in 1906 the Barcelona City Council awarded it the recognition of being one of the three best buildings of the year.

episcopal-palace-1EPISCOPAL PALACE, ASTORGA, PROVINCE OF LEON

The Episcopal Palace in Astorga is only one of three Gaudi buildings erected outside of his native Catalonia.

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CARIBBEAN REPTILES

A few shots of some of the locals encountered on a recent trip to the Caribbean.

green-head-1GREEN MONSTER

I was working the back water of Saint Maarten when this delightful creature popped out of the grass and nearly frightened me to death!!

green-iguana-1

 

blue-taile-lizard-1BLUE-TAILED LIZARD, HALF MOON CAY, BAHAMAS

 

blue-taile-lizard-1

 

san-juan-iguana-1IGUANA, PUERTO RICO

 

 

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ELTON JOHN DOES THE COMPOSTELLA

 “Daniel is leaving tonight on a plane”

coast-of-galicia-1CROSSING GALICIAN COASTLINE AT SUNSET

I can see the red tail-lights heading off for SPAIN!”

vinyard-pano-1-copyBIERZO VINEYARD

“They say Spain is pretty, though I’ve never been”

sierra-1-copy

 “Daniel says it’s the best place, he’s ever seen!”

feet-1

“Do you still feel the pain of  scars that won’t heal?”

guide-dog-1

 “Your eyes have died, but you see more than I”

sky-star-1

“Daniel you’re a star, in the face of the sky!!”

sierra-1

“Oh and I can see Daniel waving goodbye!”

marilyn-1MARILYN, EROTIC MUSEUM, BARCELONA

“God it looks like Daniel, ….. must be the clouds in my eyes!”

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LONDON MISCELLANY

 Some odd shots from my recent London visit.

london-wheel-1LONDON EYE

city-at-night-1THE “CITY” AT NIGHT 

shit-house-to-penthouse-1SHIT HOUSE TO PENTHOUSE

Frenetic construction activity near the Olympic Park as builders try to cope with housing demand.

soup-kitchen-1SOUP KITCHEN FOR THE JEWISH POOR, BRUNE STREET,  SPITALSFIELD

 Not much left of the old East End, but a few relics such as this still remain.

the-ten-bells-1THE TEN BELLS, COMMERCIAL STREET, SPITALSFIELD

Jack the Ripper’s favourite pub! Stalked several of his victims from these premises.

old-lady-of-threadneedle-street-1ROYAL  EXCHANGE

dirty-dicks-1DIRTY DICK’S PUB, LIVERPOOL STREET

Right across from the Liverpool Street station. One of my favourites back in the day when it proudly really lived up to its name as the dirtiest pub in London. Now terribly up market and yuppified.  

bow-canal-1HERTFORD UNION CANAL, BOW, EAST LONDON

 

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HMS BELFAST

 Remembrance Day, 2016.

hms-belfast-pool-london-1POOL OF LONDON

The indomitable HMS BELFAST rides at anchor in the Pool of London with Tower Bridge in the background.  The Belfast has been a must see tourist attraction for several decades now.

hms-belfast-1HMS BELFAST

The Belfast’s mighty guns fired on the SCHARNHORST and provided naval bombardment to cover the landing of elements of the First Canadian Army on Juno Beach, Normandy. 5,000 Canadians died in the successful two month Normandy campaign.

 

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LONDON BRIDGES

 A recent visit to London allowed the opportunity to explore a few of London’s bridges.

millenium-bridge-1MILLENIUM BRIDGE WITH ST. PAUL’S IN BACKGROUND

 

millenium-bridge-2-1MILLENIUM BRIDGE

millenium-bridge-globe-theatre-1 MILLENIUM BRIDGE AT LOW TIDE WITH GLOBE THEATRE IN BACKGROUND

london-bridge-alcove-1LONDON BRIDGE ALCOVE, VICTORIA PARK

Not all of the old London Bridge fell down! The last remaining remnants are two stone alcoves  located in Victoria Park, East London in 1860. Formerly the haunt of thieves and brigands during the bridge’s life, one came in very handy during a brief rain storm. Strangely enough, felt right at home.

bow-heritage-trail-1HISTORICAL MARKER

roman-bridge-over-the-thames-1ROMAN BRIDGE OVER THE THAMES, LONDON MUSEUM

The Romans were the first to bridge the Thames. Subsequent “LONDON” bridges have been raised at this very site. 

cannon-street-bridge-1CANNON STREET BRIDGE AT LOW TIDE

Remarkable blend of the old and new with remnants of old wooden wharf structures in the foreground and the stunning architecture of the “Shard” in the background.

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INCA TRAIL TREK

My new photobook, INCA TRAIL TREK,  is now available for preview.

inca-trail-book-cover

An initial preview is available here.

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