Sunday, September 03, 2006

The Soldier in the Brick Canyon

This afternoon, after spending the morning with my son, I was driving back to the city (Buffalo) and decided to go home through downtown. While driving downtown I noticed the wall of a relatively tall building in the Washington, Clinton, Ellicott and Eagle block in Buffalo. It had one time been painted white; however neglect over time had resulted in the paint peeling leaving large chunks of exposed bare brick wall. It looked like a good photography opportunity. I always have a camera with me, and although I had spent more of the day away from home than I had planned, I stopped to take pictures.
I was in a parking lot that was surrounded by tall buildings on three sides and standing in the center of the lot was like being in the bottom of a steep walled canyon. While taking photographs I noticed a covered bus stop across the street from the parking lot. There were three men sitting there, two white one black, and by their appearance, demeanor and nature of their belongings it appeared they were homeless. The black man was in a wheelchair. Each was drinking out of cans hidden inside a paper bag. I simply noticed them and immediately returned to my photography. Coincidentally, into the parking lot an old rusty white Ford Ecoline van arrived, drove to the far end of the lot, away from me and parked. Two men exited the van and began walking toward me. The one walking toward me on my right side, was carrying a stack of about ten DVD cases. He wore a black tee shirt with the imprint of some rock band on the front, he had a hunk of face jewelry protruding from just below his lower lip, he wore fingerless gloves, and covering his long greasy dark hair was a black baseball cap. The other guy wore a blue t-shirt and jeans, had a brush cut and was the first to say hello and inquire as to what I was doing. I didn’t perceive it to be a totally friendly or social address, more of the start of an interrogation. He told how he had lived in the tall building to my right, Hotel Lafayette. He appeared to be one of these individuals that talks a great deal, however could never be trusted as to the truth or motive of his conversation. I answered I was just taking pictures for my own benefit. He saw I was not intimidated by their presence. They left, walking toward the Library to return the DVD’s. They walked past the homeless men. I noticed nothing more as I continued to take photographs.

A few minutes later I noticed noise coming from across the street, behind me from the direction of the covered bus stop. Unnoticed by me, the van had left the parking lot and was driving past the homeless men, slowed down and some kind of argument ensued. The van pulled away at an angry pace making lots of engine noise.

One of the men from across the street stumbled over to position himself right close to me in the parking lot. He wore a relatively clean and new Vietnam Veteran’s baseball cap, had a really decayed smile on his unshaven face and carried the odor of beer. He complained to me that the guy in the van had spit on him. I did my best to simultaneously sympathize and ignore the dirty odiferous man. He walked away.

I went about moving my tripod and resetting my camera while photographing the environment that surrounded me.

Leaving the parking lot I asked the black man, wearing an army camouflaged jacket, sweatpants, untied sneakers and sitting in a wheelchair under the covered bus stop whether he would mind if I took his picture. (the one you see above)

At that time the van returns, and empowered by my presence, one of the men runs out toward the slowing Van and exclaims specifically for the van “to get the fuck out of here”!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Spring Has Sprung
Well, it hasn't exactly sprung in to the region. Actually, more like the gradual revelation of the sun after the dissipation of the morning fog is how Spring appeared in Western New York this year. That is not to say there will be no more days of snow before the Memorial Day parades, but I have put the snow blower away for the winter.

It has been the birds; this year in the early morning I have noticed the birds singing and chirping more than previous Spring seasons. Living in the middle of the city, spring is more camouflaged to me than those whose chosen residence allows them to experience a less manufactured environment. Thus, seeing less blatantly the signs of Spring, it could be the bird songs are the most noticeable signs afforded me.

Whatever, Spring is here. It is pleasing and pleasant.

Friday, April 14, 2006

A Springtime Bicycle Ride, East Aurora, NY

The day was sunny, a northeasterly wind and 52 degrees. As I headed down Girard Ave, a very flat, smooth residential street out of the village, I wondered why it felt so easy today. Girard passes the Fisher Price corporate headquarters, I thought about the people laboring at their desks on this beautiful day as I pedaled by. Hi, George! The 10 mph wind was behind me.
After about a mile observing three four way stop signs and quaint village homes I turn south on Seneca Street cowering to the shoulder as inbound village traffic speeds by faster than the 30 mph limit. After half a mile I turn right and retreat to Knox Road. Named after the wealthy Knox family (previous owners of the Buffalo Sabres hockey team), Knox Road runs through, what has recently become, a State Park. On the south side of the road are polo fields that when not hosting polo matches are used by the town recreation for soccer. The old horse farm and stone wall protected Knox Estate stretches the whole distance on the north side. Traveling out of the village in this westerly direction the route is gradually upgrade except for a little depression just before the soccer fields. It seems easy and comfortable, there is little traffic, the shoulder is wide enough and the wind is to my back.

After about three quarters of a mile Knox Road crests and it is generally downhill for another one half mile then a sharp turn to the north and a slight upgrade past Christ The King Seminary on the left side and the open fields of Knox Park on the right. After the decent I gear down to 2:4 and continue my cadence up an incline by the seminary. It's a harder pedal than I expected and am beginning to burn and huff. I am sure a conditioned recreational cyclist would hardly slow down on this slope. In about 200 yards the grade levels off, the seminary disappears behind my left shoulder as the road cuts through a treed landscape in a shallow down slope to the end of Knox and the intercept of Willardshire Road. I continue pedaling down the slope in 2:8 gear.

Heading west on Willardshire the grade is downhill, the road is smooth and a paved shoulder continues. I keep it in 2:8. I could go to 2:9 and keep my cadence, but decide I would rather not. I pass a large wooded and gated estate on the south side of the road. There are large homes, old farm houses on well landscaped lots on both sides of the road. This is easy riding, and really enjoyable. It smells like spring, the ditches alongside the road are full with rapidly moving melted snow. The sun feels so good. The old grass and pressed weeds are still brown but appear to be bulging at the chance to recover from the backbreaking load exerted on them by the winter snows.

An elderly man crosses the road to access his mailbox. He used a cane, a car coming from the other direction made him hurry; he smiled at me as he turned to return across to the security of his driveway. Recumbents bring a smile to everyone. I thought of stopping to photograph him but was enjoying the pedaling so much I remained seated on my EZSport and glided by him with a wave.

Willardshire takes a steep dive down to the Cazanovia Creek gully. The steep descent ends in a very sharp right hand turn toward the newly repaired bridge over the Cazanovia. Before you reach the bridge a returning left turn begins and the up slope gets steep. I am cautious on the descent and restrain the bent to a maximum of 25 mph. Melted snow has washed gravel and small stones over the road surface. The automobile traffic has pushed most of the spring washout off to the side but I concentrate on avoiding the remaining debris. The slope seems long. About half way over the bridge I am slowing significantly. I am down to a 2:3 gear setting then 2:2 finally 2:1. This hurts and I'm discouraged over my need to lose about 70 pounds, but I don't stop, if you call 4 mph not stopping. Stoney Brook Road intersects Willardshire sharper than perpendicularly and is in the middle of the Willardshire slope. I turn left onto Stoney Brook. The topography levels a tad, but my legs are tired and I notice that the road follows the creek back up a long slope. I continue pedaling, I'm not noticing the scenery, I want to get to the top of the slope. Lisa's Greenhouse is on the left side of the road, a steep wooded bank is on the right side, but I'm back down to 2:1 and burning and puffing. I get to the crest of this portion of Stoney Brook. I stop with the excuse of taking a picture.

It had been an easy ride for the first 4 miles until the bridge before Stoney Brook.

After taking a couple shots with my relatively new Canon PowerShot S200 digital camera I thought, good, flat ahead. Then, what's that up ahead? It looms before me, a good drop and a steep climb up to the crest of Stoney Brook and intersecting Quaker Road (Route 20A) to head east, back to East Aurora and into the wind. The ride up to Quaker Road really got to me, I was sucking air. I thought, man do I have a long way to go to make this hill climbing feel easier to me. And most guys wouldn't call these hills. Today was the first time I had ever been in gear 1:1.
Quaker Road is the main ground artery connecting East Aurora with Orchard Park. On this road is all sorts of traffic, a 50 mph speed limit, and no one paying attention to the speed limit. The sides of the road are wide and smooth and the "18 wheelers" seem to respect the white demarcation line separating the shoulder from the main road.

As I turn east on Quaker Road the wind is noticeable. So, I realize that's why Girard, Knox and the majority of Willardshire seemed so comfortable. The slope of Quaker is down for about a quarter mile then it starts up for about 300 yards then down a mile to Cazanovia Creek where it climbs steeply up to the approach into the village of East Aurora. The trucks and autos ignore me as long as I am on my side of the demarcation line, as if I would dare cross the line. I am heading down hill but the wind pushes against me so I never go higher than gear 2:6. I look down and see 15 mph on my Cateye Astrale computer. No matter which way I attack it, if I want to get home, I'm going to have to climb up the other side of the Cazanovia Creek gully.

Rather than going straight ahead on Quaker I select to make a right turn south on Grover Road and proceed to Jewett-Holmwood Road. I am like flowing liquid seeking the path of least resistance. The Cateye computer is reporting not much more than 10 -12 mph on this level portion of Grover. The tree lined road slopes slightly down toward Jewett-Holmwood and I notice the coolness resulting from the tree branch canopy blocking the precious new Spring sun. Now I see 16.5 mph but my cadence is slow and I feel my legs. As the canopy opens up and the sunshine reaches the road I come to the intersection of Grover and Jewett-Holmwood and make the left turn east. It is gradually up hill for about three quarters of a mile then across another Cazanovia Creek bridge. At the bridge Jewett-Holmwood starts a steep quarter mile climbing left hand turn to a plateau. I feel the wind against me as I cross the bridge. My legs are tired before I start the climb. This has been a hard ride for me and I feel discouragement seeping through me with each down twist of the Shimano Grip Shifter. Way too soon I'm at 1:1 and there is no more mechanical relief insight as my legs burn and I huff and puff. I stop.

It was actually a good thing; the fact that I discontinued my pedaling in the middle of this steep climb. Now I will know you really should not do that if you desire to start off again and continue the climb anytime within the next day or so. Starting up again was terrible. I could not engage my shoe cleats into the Shimano PD-M324 pedals, I almost wobbled my way over the white demarcation line as traffic was passing and the stop hadn't relieved the burning in my legs at all. I happened to glance at it and the Cateye recorded a blazing speed of 3 mph as I continued the climb. I reached the top and intercepted Quaker Road again. It was down hill into East Aurora past the Post Office around the traffic circle. The traffic circle spit me out onto Seneca Street right where Knox Road intersects. Remember that enjoyable ride down Knox Road? I continued out Seneca Street to Girard Avenue and made the right turn east. The wind was worse and I managed about 11 to 12 mph in gear 2:5.

Just before I reached home, an elderly couple walking on the sidewalk facing me motioned for me to stop. They were cyclists and enjoyed my recumbent. The gentleman told me of a relative in Arizona that rode bents. We chatted for a moment and he revealed they don't ride outside the village too much anymore. It is a little too hilly for them.

I went on and made the left turn into my driveway on East Fillmore Ave.

Trip total 12.9 miles Average speed 10.9 mph 1hour 10 minutes.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

This image I saw while standing in my front yard at night and looking around the neighborhood. The open windows with the lamps shinning, evidence of life inside, seemed intriguing. In this one, the shadow of the tree just outside the window added to the interest.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Coming out of work at the end of a long week I exited the cubical labyrinth into gray skies and the start of a weekend. I wanted to see something beautiful or unique; as I looked up while getting into my car I saw this view. A unique perspective presented. I snapped a shot with my little Oly Pop (Olympus 580) carried with me always. It's the little things in life that can often make your day.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

So here's the front entrance, just for the record.

What I like about this photograph involves the effective interaction of the lighting and the arches. The snow shovel that I have procrastinated in setting back in the garage and the rough landscaping around the entrance, all the more witness of my lack of a planning and motivation. Says alot about me. Maybe the front enterance of everyone's home says alot about them.

The entrance into my home. Interestingly enough, I never use the front door, always the side. I guess you know you are really comfortable visiting me when you, too enter via the side door.

Maybe I should picture the side door, so here it is...