Thursday, June 30, 2005

'Roo Shooting in Pictures

As I have mentioned before, I am working on a large feature story about my experience shooting kangaroo in Australia. My other mate Luke Simon is a fantastic and talented photographer, and just returned from a shoot (in more ways than one) with these photos...hopefully we can use them with the story.

I seriously cannot stop looking at these...

Here's a 'roo shooter scouting for packs of kangaroo:

The first one of the night:


I cannot remember what sort of bird this is, but they are native to Western Australia, and I don't think they are in the owl family:

bush bird not an owl

Like all too many other species, foxes were introduced into the Australian ecosystem and have run absolutely wild. They hunt and eat all manner of indigenous marsupials and are wreaking their own sort of havoc on the ecosystem. Consequently, it is a perfectly legal activity to just go out into the bush and drill as many foxes as you can. There is a difference between legal and enjoyable in my book, but I understand the reasoning behind it...

dead fox

As a soft inner city kid with a penchant for digital photography and comic book reading, I was totally unprepared for the harsh reality that comes along with killing mammals. I would like to state for the record that this sort of thing is not for me at all, but I do see the value in culling 'roos, hunting, and I definitely eat meat. If you're going to eat meat, you have to be willing to participate and get your hand dirty at least once, and I sure did. I overemotionalized what is a very normal, common thing for any country person that has ever slaughtered a hog or dressed a deer.

But one thing that hit me was the weird, grimly comical faces that the animals could make. I saw sights like the following a lot, and I never got completely used to's silly and scary all at once, and really makes you understnad he power of laughter as a coping mechanism.

If you get queasy easy or get bummed out by pictures of dead animals, don't scroll down. I am building in a bit of space for the fainthearted so you guys can navigate away if necessary....


Monday, June 27, 2005

You Ain't Going Nowhere

A white dude with the blues in the uptight capital of the East Coast has got his work cut out for him. Seeking pleasure in Washington, DC has been like sucking honey from between the fingers of the man's tightly clenched fist. Sometimes you get a taste of the good stuff before you get banged in the teeth, but mostly you don't.

I was running my usual frantic grayish-beige laps around the office, from the printer to the boss's cubicle to the boss's boss's cubicle, quick stop at the toilet bowl and then back to the glowing screen when the message came through:

hey man . cmping this wknd. beach. mybe assateagu.e you down?

It was poorly spelt manna from my man Mike, with heavenly relief in place of missing vowels.

We left DC at dawn on Saturday and fucked right off for the Eastern Shore in the well-worn van of the former Carlsonics, current Nethers. The Eastern Shore is a chain of rural islands off of the coast of Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. Principal industries include agriculture and aquatic harvest of all sorts. I don't know much else about the Eastern Shore, but I do know this: by the time the van crested the giant suspension bridge from the mainland, the Byrds cracking out of the speakers and the wind teasing the brim of my hat, the clenched teeth inside my mind fell right open and whistled along with the radio.

Lest you think otherwise, Mike and I are not what you would call outdoorsmen, at least if the term "outdoorsmen" implies "those who have equipment and foresight in equal amounts." My backpack was a large laundry bag containing a sleeping bag, some shirts, three books, fifteen beers, a Frisbee and an air mattress. No pump for the mattress. Left that one on the coffee table. I carried two gallons of water as well, while Mike struggled with his gear and all the food.

We had to hike four miles south down the beach in the heat of the day--testament to our planning. Beachgoers gawked at us the whole way, packing massive bags rattling with pots and sloshing with liquids, the cooler dribbling onto the sand. We must have looked like we were escaping from somewhere, or like well-packed runaways.

This is all good-natured bitching, though. With copious rests and a couple slugs of water, the hike was exhausting but invigorating.

Once we cleared the public beach, we were in SUV territory. We were ants among industrious rhinoceros beetles, giant metal beasts bristling with antennae and fishing poles, trundling up and down the sand. We cussed them good-naturedly at first, then more vehemently as the laundry bag started cutting off the circulation to our limbs and the sunburn kicked in.

But once we set up camp, I got to thinking about it: each and every one of those campers and SUVS was using the powers of 4-wheel drive for its intended purpose. Most of the trucks had a couple kids or elderly folks inside. I was so used to cussing SUVs in the city that I forgot what they were for...they're for getting out into the wild a bit. And if each of those trucks had two kids inside, and those two kids grow up to have happy memories of camping out with their families, then they are going to have a certain predisposition to preserving nature for their own families. There's nothing wrong with that at all.

We set up camp up among the dunes. Here's a photo of bedtime:

Once we got to camp, all we could do was cool out in the ocean, take a nap and scavenge for firewood. Other folks may have had better wood or bigger fires--but we scavenged ours hard, taking recycling to a true next level--planks washed up by the ocean and bits of a long-busted pier heated up our meal that night.

Here's a shot of Mike checking out the wild ponies of Assateague trying to play like they don't secretly want us to invite them to dinner:


And a close-up of the ponies themselves:


We slept under the stars...I got up for a midnight piddle and the moon was out, bathing everything in a cool and brilliant blue. When I woke up in the morning, I found this little guy hiding out under my bag:


We had coffee on the beach at dawn, hitching a ride back down the beach in a truck. Raindrops started falling as we left the island, but everything cleared up by the time we hit a rural produce stand for summer tomatoes that could have gave Eden's apple a run for its money.

The brilliant thing about hiking and camping is that is so simple, and the rewards are so great. All you have to do is worry about where you're going and how you're going to eat. You already know how you're getting there: on foot. And even if the hike totally sucks, it just makes setting up camp into such a pleasure.

Once you get there, you've got to set up, maybe make a fire, then go to bed early. Those acts in and of themselves are pleasurable, but all that nothing time in between is just gravy. There are no bosses to please, calls to make, or people to impress. Your tasks are obvious and fairly simple. There's no way you can even look good while you camp, so that's a load off right there. All you can do is lay back under the stars, unclench your mind and realize that you ain't going nowhere.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Another Grim Look at the Australian Food Chain

This picture is from my mate Jamie, a man with a keen eye for the inherent savagery in Australian fauna...see the photo below, then a detail for the close-up...



For more involved pictures of a different python weating a wallaby, click here.

Monday, June 20, 2005

The Land Beyond Had Leaked Through A Hole In Vicksburg, Mississippi

I wrote here about my connection to the land beyond several months ago, much to the hooting derision of several readers. The fact is, I really truly believe that there is a land beyond our own..or at least other heavily populated planes of existence.

It's not even that huge or radical a belief for me...I believe in this land beyond like we all believe that concrete is hard or water is something we would rather not spill on our laps.

Maybe those analogies don't work so well. That realm is a place beyond places, but may be right here. It could well be that a cosmic superhighway runs right through your shower and there's a cosmic truck stop in your nostrils every time you turn over to turn the hot water up. I'm not sure.

My understanding of the land beyond actually comes less from repeated experience like hard concrete or a cold and soaking lap, and more from several extended glimpses, when I drove straight through a tunnel into that other realm. Many of you people may be skeptical, thinking and/or blogging "That's it, Jeff has succumbed to the pressure," but really, it's not that hard to believe. Wipe that sneer off your face with this little napkin:

Do you belive in manta rays? In tiny aquatic creatures whose entire societies thrive and crumble in that space surrounding the mouthparts of certain lobsters? Do you think that stromatolites are real?

Stromatolites are ancient communities of bacteria that secrete a hard, rocky coating around themselves. They were on earth long before fish sprouted legs and decided to have a look at land, quietly gobbling up the earh's methane-rich atmosphere and farting out oxygen in prodigious quantities. I have seen stromatolites in person, and you will have seen a photo once you scroll down a bit:


Do you believe in them now?

Here is some further evidence of the land beyond:


This is not a snap of that land, but rather of the earthly evidence that comes from that world protruding into our own. The membrane between the land beyond and our planet seems to be much thinner and more permeable in rural communities in America's deep South. That same membrane is thickest in the areas surrounding shopping malls outside of American cities. Ceiling fan wholesalers are soul-proof, and pawn shops doubly so.

Many years ago, a tiny hole opened up in the thin membrane that seperates the land beyond from the earth we all occupy. This tiny hole poured the contents of that land and all its mystical, egalitarian glory into the Reverend Dennis' fertile brain as it grew up in Vicksburg, Mississippi. The invisible contents of that realm sloshed through his brain, filling the soft crevasses in his brain, dribbling down his spine and tingling their way through to his able fingers. And when the time was right, that invisible sauce from the world beyond our own shook hands with the Reverend's personality and drove him to make a palace. You can learn more about the history of his art here, and see detailed photos of the property here.

This link will take you to an enlarged version of the panorama above...

Thursday, June 16, 2005

White People Can So Have The Blues

You may have noticed my rather severe absence from this blog...I'd like to thank the more patient, faithful, or habitually ingrained readers among you who check in on a daily to semi-daily basis...yes, eventually I will be back in full effect, but it's slow coming.

Between the inevitable feelings of fucked-updedness that come from having a girlfriend leave the hemisphere and an absolute sledgehammer monsoon of work-related stress, I haven't had the energy or desire to blog regularly. Nobody wants to read about an artsy-fartsy guy missing his lady and it's way way too easy to commit professional suicide with a blog. Better to just shut up and lay still, I guessed.

Looking back on the past month or two, both in real life, and my blog posts, I can only deduce this: I must have immersed myself in so much blues that I actually caught them. Look at it this way: cooks eat well. Investment bankers get paid well. Even submarine captains get a little wet sometimes. So there's no way I could go on a Southern blues odyssey and not pick up my own case of the screamin' and cryin'.

I can only hope that I have also gotten funkier, or more soulful. Some days it is all I can do not to pick up a tin cup and a guitar and hit the streets.

Then I look around me. A very good friend of mine lost her sister in a horrible automotive accident perpetuated by a driver on crack a year or so ago. I hear tales of gangbangers, teenage dope dealers and unrepentant dog-fuckers (more on that later) from my man Clarence, and I perk up and smile. I'm fairly healthy. I am not my good friend, and I don't have an illicit attraction to dogs, nor am I a dog owned by a perverse owner.

I just got the blues is all. Right now life is subjecting me to tremendous heat and pressure, and as a result I'm getting harder and tougher. Shinier, too. What's been getting me out of bed at the moment is the thought that all these ambiguous life pains are making me into a glitterier, more beautifully brilliant specimen...all I got to do is get on through in the meantime.

Future posts will be more substantive, I swear. For now, I'm off to practice the harmonica...

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Colleen Curran Reads in DC

So this blog has been real, real quiet lately. All I can say at the moment is that a bunch of heavy stuff has been happening that has almost totally eclipsed my time.

But I have to come out of hiding for this announcement:

Colleen Curran will be reading from her debut novel "Whores On The Hill" tonight, June 8, at 7:30 p.m. The address is 3040 M Street, NW.

You may be asking "but who is Colleen Curran?"

Good question. To me, she is a former editor, back when I freelanced for My first freelance photography job was her first freelance/intern writing job. Neither of us knew what we were doing and couldn't admit it to each other for an hour or two. On the way home from the story, we finally made each other laugh a bit and admitted we were in over our heads.

Afterwards, Colleen came into my crumbling ghetto house and listened to one of my rambling diatribes about how to write for the web...something that I recognize as totally made up when I look at it in hindsight.

To the rest of the world, she is the author of "Whores On The Hill," a book that I have not read but tha Boston Globe calls

"an honest, poignant, beautifully written story about teenage sex, from a young woman's point of view...The book is raw and explicit, but it has a kind of sweetness, too, as the girls, innocent in so many ways, struggle toward adulthood."

I'll be in attendance...hope you DC readers are, too.