Dave's Journal, October 2012


We're back from possibly the best vacation we ever had ! We are also totally exhausted . . . a full report about it after a few days of sleep . . . . Over on the right is the view from our hotel room in Paris. It looks like a painting, but it is a jpg right out of the camera.

Chris kept up a really great day-to-day travelog while we were there:

Chris's Travel Log

Aside: I told Chris that I would not read her travelog until we got home, maybe even wait until I wrote my own, but I jumped the gun and read it this morning. Do yourself a very indulgent favor and read her log . . . it is wonderful !


On the left there is the morning view from our window in Montepulciano.

I have never seen light like we saw in Paris and Montepulciano. It wrapped around everything but was never flat or boring. I understand why painters loved to work in these places.


At the other end of the beauty spectrum . . . . there is Rome. Here is Mike looking out our apartment window at the (18 hour long) daily rush hour.

Truth be told, it was very cool to hang out that window and watch the parade go by. We did a lot of that. But Rome is a good last spot to visit on your vacation, as it makes you want to go home as soon as possible !

It's going to take me a week to sort through my pictures and notes on the trip, but I did make some progress and started a web page about it: Europe 2012

Throwing all my journal writing the last few days into the vacation trip report page. Too many pictures to sort through - for some stupid reason, I usually fired the Nikon in a 3 frame burst, which means I have 3X more pictures than I really need ! . . . dumb idea.


I've been mentally and spiritually still in Italy for the last few days here at home. It's been raining and chilly and I've stayed in the basement typing, editing, watching old movies.

Sadly, the sun came out today and the weather was so fine, I had to "come home", open the shed, mow the lawn, turn the compost pile. Acually it was good. I love outside, especially doing yard work and gardening, even if it is Autumn or Spring cleanup.

Welcome home, kiddo.


At last I am finished with my Eurotrip web page and all the picture pages it links to ! Note the new links on that page to my Youtube videos (the watertaxi in Venice and driving in the streets of Montepulciano).

One final note here. As my writing skills are so excellent, it is hard for me to be humble about them. I am . . . what can I say . . a very very good writer of stuff. But, if I may speak candidly, if you want to read some supremely great stuff about our Euro2012 trip, you will have to back up and read (if you haven't already done so) Chris's travel log. Actually, even if you have read it ("readed it"? "have readen it"?), you should indulge yourself and read it again.

Well, now, where to go from here ? Autumn cleanup - leaves, compost, prep the generator, snowblower, store the lawn mower, put the snow shovels in the breezeway. Yesterday, I pumped the pond way down, and waiting to move my 2 fish to a safe haven for the winter (like the basement of that house in Concord that JB stores his pond fish in). Move firewood into the garage for winter. Have the driveway seal coated (overdue). Yikes, is that the asparagus I smell burning in the pot upstairs .................. ?

Yep, that was it.

A Better Person

Well, for one reason or another, while we were in Italy, I swore a blood oath to become a better person for the rest of my life. Most probably the strong influence was that I spent those days in the company of 3 wonderful people, and wipe that smirk off your face because I am being sincere at the moment.

My theory on this is that it is genetically programmed in us guys that we age into grumpy, sarcastic, cynical (if it's not spelled that way, it should be) , snarky old men. Sorry to say that I have been the best (or you probably would say the worst) of the lot, probably because what I do I do to extremes, and who I am I am excessively. We wake up every day with more crooked fingers and new aches and spasms (I remember my mother explaining this to me years ago) so the day starts off starting off not good because we remember when we bounced out of bed like a boy and ran ( ran ?) downstairs to that cup of coffee. . . . well that's why we get grumpy.

It takes me a minute every morning, sitting on the edge of the bed, to wake up to the fact that (even with aches and pains and crooked fingers) I am being given the gift of another day.

I promised myself on this trip that I would hang onto that morning thought all day long, from now on. I promise to try real hard to do that.

Lexie Reflecting

Raking leaves. Took a break. Made a picture of Lexie. Not much else going on. Though yesterday I drained the pond and gave my last 4 fish to JB. Don't know what I'll do with it comes Spring.


Well . . . I am pretty burned out with editing vacation pictures and neglecting my journal pages here.

It's a beautiful autumn day here, cool, breezy (sp?), dry air, sun and clouds rolling by. Picked Chris and Mike up at the airport (they did a 2-day trip to Chicago). Nice drive. Deb came along too.

Someone asked me to post the pictures I took of the narrow streets and alleys in Italy, and so I went an extra mile and pulled those together and posted them:
Dave's back alley photos

Tomorrow I promise to get outside and do something at least a little productive.

We are hoping on Tuesday (?) to visit my cousins Joanne and Feruccio who just moved to Massachusetts. And also I have it in the back of my mind to write a new "What if . . . " story, as suggested a few weeks back by my cousin Pete F.


The smart people up here don't start their Autumn cleanup until late November, which is when all the leaves (should be "leafs") have fallen and settled down just before snowfall.

Me? I started last week, mostly as my daily "get outside in the fresh air" program. So I worked about 3 hours today raking, mowing, mulching, dumping, composting and it's obvious now why smart people don't do this until next month . . . the trees are dumping leaves faster than you can clean them up and of course the wind is re-distributing them randomly over the neighborhood, so why would you, you idiot, be doing this today?

So I stopped doing that and came inside and starting thinking about what the next thing is that I should start doing. So I called Chaibo (the local cafe') and we agreed that I would swap out one of my pictures for one I took in Paris (it really printed up nicely).

Today's work of art . . . dead leaves from the yard . . .


Nicer Me

Adoring fans have commented how much they . . . um . . . adore (I guess is the right word) the new, kinder, nicer me. Since returning from our Euro2012 tour, I have been (ask around, if you must) a nicer person, in real life and on the internet (to a lesser degree, perhaps).

Ask Debbie. Ask Lexie. Ask Abbey. I am nicer. I sparkle. I glow. I even sometimes have thought of smiling.

But . . . but . . . what now? . . . there's a hole in the universe isn't there? . . . something is missing . . . something has been misplaced . . . there is an unbalance . . . the scales are tipping one way more than the other . . . there is a loss of cynicism of skepticism of sarcasm . . . there is an overweight of warmth and charm and compassion.

Or is there? Or has someone stepped in to fill the void? Has a hero come forward to carry the torch for the "Brotherhood of Ism's" (sarcasm, skepticism, cynicism).

Methinks the hero has stepped forward . . . thinks me that I've found his website . . . says I 'tis here that he writes his words: Mike's web page

The torch is in your hands, Good Fellow . . . carry it on . . . carry it on while I keep my promise to be a nicer person.

jpg #4

People without addictions won't quite bond with me on this topic but a few weeks before we took off for Europe, I sold two lenses to cover up the expense of buying . . . for the 4th time in my life . . . a Nikkor 24mm/f2.8 lens. Yeh, I said it right . . . I've bought and sold this lens 3 times before. This one is #4.

Sadly, I did not find one at the right price before we travelled, but last week I found a bargain in excellent condition and I jumped on it. . . . and I love the thing (based on the first 12 pictures that I made with it today).

It's a 1980 vintage manual focus beauty, so it takes time to make a picture, which is good. It is attached here to my Nikon D5100 digital baby that went to Europe, and the two of them play very well together, once you turn off all the automated silliness they built into the camera. . . . like having the best of both worlds, and at bargain basement prices ! !

Boston Friday

When I drive&train into Boston, it is typically a Friday, because Deb works a long day, so I have time to wander about in no rush to be anywhere.

Today I did just that. Ferruccio and Joanne could not join me today, so I wandered alone, and decided to walk some streets I never walked before. It was a good 2 hour walk on a very nice day, but I did wish I had some company.

I love Boston more every time I go there. It is the best city I have ever been to, yet San Fransisco is right there next to Boston. (Hate to say this because it's so expensive to be there, but Paris is a really beautiful big city as well.)



Hey, Mike . . . I finally got to walk over that kinky bridge ! !



Storm Sandy is on its way here, so we gave the generator a test run and got 8 gallons of gas for it and moved firewood into the garage. We learned a few storms back that staying warm is very very important and without electricity that is a big problem, which is why we got the generator and had the house wired for it. The fireplace is for . . . what do you say . . . ambiance. . . . allowing you to feel that everything (at least in your parlor) is okay .

And earlier this year we had the chimney repaired so the fireplace is safe to fire up, and it is running now and has not yet burned the roof off (which is good).

My back is stiff from moving firewood so at the moment I have a cane with me at all times, just in case that lightning bolt hits my lower back, you know?

Old Lenses and New Cameras

A lot of people don't quite get this, but old lenses (manual focus, film camera lenses from the 1970's - 1990's) can be retrofitted to work perfectly on new digital cameras. AND . . . that is a very smart option, because these lenses are very inexpensive on the used market, and the modifications are not expensive either. As an example, you can drop $1500 on a new digital 24mm lens or you can drop $180 on a used film camera 24mm lens and have it modified for $165 to work perfectly with your new digital camera. That saves you about . . . $1155, if I did the math right.

Well . . . now you know, I guess . . .

Brooklyn Bridge Live

For all you NYC watchers . . . a livecam overlooking the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges. . .


(Thanks, Mike !)

How about Times Square ?

Earthcam at Times Square

The Storm that Wasn't

We prep'd very well for the impact of the storm Sandy, and happily, by the time it got to us, it was just moderately strong winds and rain. Last year's October snow storm was much much more damaging. So, we are well, and ready for the next one.

It's been raining for days and will continue and that makes for boring hours for me at times (can't spend all day reading or internet surfing, you know).

But happily the SocSec people have set out a new task for me today. Without any cover letter or explanation, they just sent me a photocopy of the letter they sent me on Dec 12, 2011. It is literally a photocopy; that's it. This totally ignores the fact that on Jan 4, 2012 I hand delivered to them a package (¼ " thick) that shows how ridiculous this letter is; and it ignores our subsequent phone call and the follow-up letter I sent them in March 2012 that, until now, made this problem disappear.

My guess is that they misplaced the January package but cannot admit to doing that so they have decided to start the game all over again. So, today, I get to make another copy of the package and call them and personally hand it to someone at their office and write yet another follow-up letter stating that I did so.

Rosso Di Montepulciano

Well . . . back in Montepulciano (. . . sigh . . . ), we got upscale and bought a case of Cantina del Redi wine, to be sent back home, and right there is a glass (um, now just a half glass) of the stuff, Rosso Di Montepulciano.
Actually, we got a half case of that and a half case of the uppity-upscale Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano (which I haven't tasted yet).

At the moment, all is well, thank you.

Cash Flow

Mike (no more than twice a year) is kinda funny:

Cash Flow


Fall cleanup is a pain, and after a windstorm, it is even more so. Dave started raking early today, thinking to himself "After a windstorm, Fall cleanup is a real pain". The leaves were soaked and heavy, and a barrel full of them weighs a ton ("This barrel weighs a ton ! ", he said), and he raked up 5 barrelsworth and set them all by the curb for trash pickup. "Okay, I'm bored now", he said, and went inside for more coffee and a shower. Since he was going to the Worcester Art Museum later, he thought "Better comb my hair today".

Deb came back after her doctor checkup and now on her way to work. They kissed and hugged, and Dave handed her a PB&J on lightly toasted white bread, cut diagonally, in a brown bag for lunch ( "Don't forget to put the bag in the recycle bin at work, honey." . . . . "Maybe I'll bring it home and we can use it a few more times, honey." . . . . "Good idea. Bye Bye honey" . . . "Bye bye honey"), and she backed out of the driveway without crashing into anything (though she did run over 2 squirrels, Dave's rake, a flock of crows and the mailman's foot). The air was cool and windy, the sky was a turmoil of tumbling clouds. Dave thought to himself . . . "Hmmm, the air is cool and windy and look at the sky, it's a turmoil of tumbling clouds".

Dave noted to himself how sometimes his thinking spreads uncontrollably across the boundaries of truth and myth. He attributes this to having read (a few years ago) "One Hundred Years of Solitude". He stared into the mirror, combing his hair . . . the phone rang . . . it was Obama . . . "Dave, cancel the Art Museum, I need you down here now. My helicopter should have landed in your yard just now." . . . "Yes Mr. President, there it is. Just let me comb my hair first, okay?")

Japanese Prints from 200 Years Ago

jpg To be honest, Japanese prints never quite clicked with me; I don't understand their flat perspectives and the total apparent ignorance of the subtlties of light in the open air (those European guys wrote the book on that topic) . The one thing that draws me back, however, are the compositions . . . the structures of lines and shapes and colors are wonderful. So it's always been clear to me that Japanese artists knew what they were doing, but why? why? did they ignore so many other things about what we (us western hemisphere people) think of as "good art".

The Worcester Art Museum has on display 8 original prints from a legendary Japanese artist, Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849), and today was the day that I decided was the day that I would stand face to face with my ignorance of this stuff and . . . . learn (if I could). So I paid my $12 senior admittance fee (my hearing aids, gray hair and cracked facial skin meant she did not ask for "proof of old age"), and the lady slapped a "WAM" tag on my shirt and I stumbled about stupidly trying to read the stupid museum floor plan map, which, in my opinion, is more cryptic than the 8 Japanese prints I came to look at.

Well . . . I am smarter tonight than I was this morning. I understand (actually I re-understand for the 100th time in my life) that people from different cultures and different times see things differently and they also create things differently. I almost want to say that, when you see something you don't like, that is right there in front of you the door to making your world larger. It's really your decision if you open the door and walk through it or if you stay inside that little room of your own present perceptions of the world around you.

Okay, so do I now love ancient Japanes prints? To tell the truth . . . not any more than I did before, but I understand now what they considered "important" in an image, and how they decided to portray that when they made prints and paintings.

I also realize that those wood block prints cannot be as subtle as brushed paint pictures. I never thought of that before, but now it's obvious. So they cannot capture the subtle way light does things to leaves and clouds, etc. Now I get it !

My world (the little art & photo museum inside my head) is bigger now. Is it better? I don't know. I still like European art more than I like Asian art, but I have this little room in my head where I go now to interpret Asian art. It's different, you know?

Exiting The Art Museum

Not a lot of people are going to understand this.

On my way out of the art museum today, was a side door labeled something or other about photographs from the 1960's. I walked past (passed?) it, then walked back, looked in, then walked inside. It was room of the iconic photos of the late 1950's through the very early 1970's.

I got about 1/2 way through the pictures and had to leave the room. The 1960's were horrible years for this country, filled with Vietnam atrocities and homeland asassinations, riots, police abuse. Couldn't take it, so I walked out.

Elevator Music

When I look at the collection of my photographs, I think "elevator music". You know, it's pleasant, sometimes very pleasant, never exciting, never edgy.

Worse is the fact that people encourage me to keep making elevator music, when I want to make jazz.

Don't get me wrong, I love it when someone loves a picture of mine. I feel like I created something nice, you know. But people seem to like, in my opinion, the most boring (but pleasantly pretty) pictures that I make.

No one pushes me to be more edgy. People like "calendar" pictures and "postcard" pictures.

This is hard for me to deal with, because in my head I say "Why does anyone need another pretty picture of something that's been done to death a million times over?"

And when I am making my next image, I ask myself "Why does anyone need to see this again? Don't you have anything better to say? Even if no one gets its at the moment, can't you make anything new to show them?"

Page written by Dave Leo