Monday, June 24, 2019

Southern Sojourn

If only they had stopped there.     Photo: © Stan Banos

Determined to make the trip down South we couldn't make the year before, it started (for me) at home in NYC visiting my 92 year old mother. I've written enough about what I think of current NY, and my philosophy that I didn't leave NY, as much as NY left me. Sadly, two more of my personal remaining vestiges have now departed: Two Boots Pizza in The West Village (which I happily ran to for shelter and a slice in a sudden downpour, only to discover it shuttered) and The Great Jones Cafe, home to my Cajun Martinis and blackened catfish, sigh... Williamsburg is now completely gentrified, any mix and friction between old and new confined to memory only. I also ventured to my old teacher stomping grounds in Harlem; where Whites once feared to roam, they now walk about and live there quite comfortably. For new and "exciting," we are presently treated to... Vessel, a monumental monument of monumentous proportions that affords the monied elite who live around it the grand view of watching the minions below them walk endlessly about within its circle going nowhere. Perhaps a more appropriate name would have been... Metaphor.

Photo: © Stan Banos

Next stop, Washington DC- was about to take AMTRACK ($125) down when a good friend told me about Megabus ($25). Met The Wife there and looking back, wished we had stayed a day or two longer, but we were anxious to get the road trip underway. 

Side of MLK Monument.    Photo: © Stan Banos

I must admit we didn't plan quite as well as we should have when it came to what route we were taking and what exactly we planned to do and see. I had become somewhat spoiled and complacent to detailed advanced planning when it came to our previous road trips- in The Southwest even on major interstates, one can still be surrounded by the grandest of scenery and unexpected visual delights. I slowly discovered such would not be the case in The South, where Interstates are surrounded by generically interchangeable trees and scenery (as in most of the country)- the only break being the (very) occasional Stars and Bars Confederate Flag, flying proud, high atop some very visible and unapproachable vantage point like the giant FUCK YOU! it is obviously meant to be. Who is responsible for their presence I don't rightly know, but it is, without doubt, quite the surreal experience upon first seeing. I had fully expected to see many more "home grown" Confederate flags and Trump signs for decent photo ops but the few I saw were not very photo conducive. Also noticeably sparse in number- religiously oriented road signs; alas, another huge disappointment...

That said (and how much is genuine and how much simple artifice- I don't know) the people down South are, as a whole, incredibly polite and friendly. One of the main goals of this trip however was for Lisa ("The Wife") to meet some relatives she had only recently discovered. That occurred in the little (and I do mean little) town of Washington, Georgia which has a lovely town square (complete with requisite Confederate soldier monument), a newly restored hotel, and directly opposite that was... Cade's Home Cooking- Soul Food at it's ever lovin' best! I'm betting there's quite a few of these quaint, old towns throughout The South, but without the proper research, there's no way of telling if the small town you're exiting to explore from the interstate has one of these vintage "Historical Town Districts" at the end of the usual array of modern strip mall emporiums- or not!

Titanic Museum, TN       Photo: © Stan Banos

Along the way from DC to New Orleans, we made a number of stops, one of which was at Pigeon Forge, TN- kinda like Vegas (sans gambling) and Six Flags rolled into one and home to a variety of tourist hot spots like: Dollywood, Wonderworks and the Titanic Museum. I also feel compelled to mention that one of the more memorable (and repeated) sights was that of seeing people just barely squeezing themselves into and out of their vehicles. And I'm certainly not talking the small foreign compacts of yesteryear, these were huge, modern pick ups and SUV's that could hardly accommodate their XXXL passengers! Oh, and how do you keep a red state red? 2.31 gas!

Atmore, AL   Photo: © Stan Banos

Sevierville, TN       Photo: © Stan Banos

In Birmingham, AL we stopped to visit The 16th St Baptist Church where four young girls were killed by a KKK placed bomb, before making our way to Montgomery and The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, or as some are prone to call it- The Lynching Museum. I remember a "discussion" concerning lynching on Petapixel (the penultimate site for intellectual discourse) where most Whites insisted that lynching was an equal opportunity employer back in the day. And while, yes, it did happen to people of all races, colors and creeds- they were in absolute ignorance and denial that it was disproportionately used upon Blacks, not only as a form of mob "justice," but as a form of abject terrorism (Black bodies were often additionally burned, dismembered, and cut into souvenirs). The Memorial pays homage to those facts in a very convincing manner- by documenting the names of the victims while gradually forcing you to raise your head to view them as you make your way through the memorial- just as you would have had to raise your head to view the hanging body...

Footprints from monument to Montgomery bus boycott. Photo: © Stan Banos

I wish that was the sole, enduring memory I have of Montgomery- but the following morning I awoke with over a a dozen Bedbug bites (tired and hard pressed to find accommodations that day, we didn't inspect the premises properly). Next morning, they weren't all that hard to find as we decontaminated our clothes and luggage with the all-natural bug spray The Wife cleverly brought, demanded our money back and emailed the Montgomery Dept of Health- who I have yet to hear back from...

I hadn't been to New Orleans since the late seventies when I'd board a Greyhound bus from NY for a day and a half, take pictures all throughout Fat Tuesday, and then reboard the bus the very same night for a day and a half trip back... cause that's the kinda thing you can get away with in your twenties. This time, after doing the usual tourist trap scenario through the French Quarter, we were much more interested in exploring what the hell happened during Katrina and its aftermath, how it happened, and where. So we went on a "Katrina Tour" which doesn't actually go through the Lower Ninth Ward (to avoid blatant exploitation) on a Grayline bus tour with the most knowledgeable Bruce Nolan who was a Times-Picayune journalist during the man made disaster. 

Close up of 9th Ward retaining wall.    Photo: © Stan Banos

The first thing I quickly realized is that the flood walls are not very imposing by any stretch of the imagination. I was expecting formidable Trumpian sized border wall massiveness, but they're actually surprisingly close to the ground-  far from the reassurance one would want from the power of mother nature and the ensuing rise in sea level thanks to climate change! Some are built on levees for additional buttressing and height, but even they buckled, crumbled and collapsed due to the shit poor construction via The Army Corps of Engineers- as a result, 80% of the city flooded, 1,800 people died and it took a full week before the cavalry started to limp on in...

The following day we visited the headquarters of which gave us a brief but informative orientation to The Lower Ninth Ward, and off we went. Haven't been to Detroit, but this is somewhat what I imagine it to be (albeit on a much grander scale), this section of New Orleans is the least rebuilt, with vacant lots surrounding a  minor sprinkling of the most modest of new homes. This poorest, mostly African-American neighborhood was the hardest hit by flooding in the entire city (surprise!).  

There's a wall atop that levee- somewhere...        Photo: © Stan Banos

New Orleans' architecture, music, food and culture are truly unique throughout the world- as are its people. It was heartening to hear from a young Black employee at our hotel that Whites and Blacks seem to have drawn closer since Katrina- at least they are conversing and socializing more than before. It is truly a a jewel amongst the homogeneity that can describe many an American city.

What kind of city is New Orleans? When we arrived at the airport for our departing flight back home, try as I might, I couldn't find any trace of Alaska Airlines. Finally, I noticed a distinguished looking airport employee, an African American gentleman a few years my senior. "Excuse me, could you tell me where Alaska Airlines is?" He looked me straight in the eye, furrowed his brow, and with the most bemused expression possible, replied, "Alaska Airlines!?" (Pause.) "In this airport???" Awww, shit- how in hell did I ever manage to fuck this up so completely!?! "It's right over there," pointing the way with the wryest of smiles. "You just keep being you," I managed to blurt out- how many others had he so bedeviled and thoroughly amused?

A truly unique city.

A pair of very buxom fellows.      Mobile, AL   Photo: © Stan Banos

Mobile, AL   Photo: © Stan Banos

Friday, June 21, 2019

Post Mortem Rejection

I tend to periodically report on my perennial and rather pristine record of competition rejections. And manage I did to get rejected yet several more times ie- FIVE (5) times!!! while on holiday- gotta admit, there’s a certain indomitable consistency in being rejected both at home and on the road... Why do I put myself through this (the possibility for repeated rejection, or writing about it)- does it matter? I suppose to let off steam, and perhaps garner some small semblance of revelatory knowledge as to why...

1) Der Greif- Now if ever there was a competition specifically made just for moi, a competition tailor made for: explicit, "mature audience," forbidden nature type photography. Finally, a place I can show my Nekid City photos, right? R-I-G-H-T!?!?!?

Well, as soon as I anxiously edited my photos (no longer have folder of photos sent- so take your pick), a little itty-bitty bell went off upside my head- these guys seem dead set on making a Tres SERIOUS Artistic Statement on- The Forbidden. Any spark of... levity may well be- VERBOTEN! Sure 'nough, Next...

2) Bokeh, Bokeh- No set theme here; I decided to send what I considered a half dozen strong, coherent street portraits of solitary individuals. Apparently they didn't think so...

Photo: © Stan Banos

Photo: © Stan Banos

Photo: © Stan Banos

Photo: © Stan Banos

Photo: © Stan Banos

Photo: © Stan Banos

3) I submitted two photos to the SF Street Photo Competition- the first, to the best Analog Photo category; the second, to the best Street Photo in SF category (there were like 5 different categories in all). I don't think competitions in general look favorably on one photo submissions- I think they want you to "prove" yourself with a series (and more $$$), even if they're only choosing one shot. And I'm gonna say this, and I don't care what anyone thinks- after looking at the work of some of the twenty yr old judges in this comp, the one thing that immediately came to mind was... 

They're judging my work... Really??? Now I certainly got nothing against the young-uns- but if you're gonna sit in judgement of other people's work... then there should be a certain amount of sophistication, maturity and accomplishment to your own!

Photo: © Stan Banos

Photo: © Stan Banos

4) I also submitted the same color photo above to the Lens Culture Street comp simply because... you could submit one photo for free (I've given them enough of my money; see first reason directly above). PS: Also I've pretty much made myself persona non grata at LC for what I've told them directly in previous comps.

5) Finally, I submitted a photo to a domesticated animal competition at Lenscratch. Aline Smithson (who runs said blog but was not judging it) was kind enough to email me (before judging) saying how much she liked said photo- we both knew it was going nowhere...

Photo: © Stan Banos

Wednesday, June 19, 2019


This is the very l-a-s-t thing I ever thought I would tell anyone about, let alone write about... Even though we all know it can happen to anyone- there's still a certain amount of shame, humiliation and embarrassment associated with it. And having gone this many years avoiding the situation, I thought myself invulnerable! There just had to be something wrong with those people it happened to...

Yeah, I (as in we) finally succumbed-  we got the dreaded (yes, I hesitate even now) bedbugs! I know, I know... that initial wave of disbelief and disgust, the very thought of those creepy crawlies going about your bodies in the dead of dark and having their way with you. Not fun. And honestly, the thing I'm most amazed about to this day- is that we went this long without being compromised...

They are a problem in every major city, the most expensive of hotels are not immune and your personal cleanliness is not at question- you can unknowingly become a carrier almost anywhere or anytime, either with their eggs or live (or dormant) adults. They can hide and fit just about anywhere (and I do mean a-n-y-w-h-e-r-e)- to this day I have no idea where they came from, but the list is pretty much limited to... most anywhere I go on any given day. I live in a city where homelessness is rampant, I sit in the same seats they also occupy in city buses and trains, there's not a day when I don't pass discarded mattresses and other furniture on city sidewalks, and I can only echo what one person stated in the NY Times about his queasiness when sitting at your neighborhood theater- something we often do!

That said, I first started getting bit a few weeks upon returning from our abbreviated vacation last year. At first, I naturally thought mosquitoes, but I always eventually hear them. Fleas? Our cat's don't have 'em! Spiders? Blood sucking spiders? Hhmmm...what else is left? AWW, SHIT!!! Bedbugs!!!!!

We checked the mattress, linens, pillows, etc- Nothing, nada, zip... And still, I kept getting bit! Didn't touch the vegetarian wife even once, but juicy, meat eating me kept getting bit- and they itch like a Son-of-a-Bitch!!! Didn't see 'em, didn't feel 'em, but... kept getting bit all the same! WTF!!!!!!!!!!

One weekend, after doing some serious online research, we went to town with a fine tooth comb. The wife (amateur, forensic sleuth she imagines herself to be) discovered two in a bedside picture frame- and we fucking freaked!!! What the fuck do we do now!?!?!? We'll have to fumigate, eradicate, evacuate!!! If they're in a goddamn picture frame, they must be... everywhere!!!

After the initial PANIC! we regained our composure and steeled ourselves to see just how bad it was; magnifying glass and flashlights in hand, we turned the bed frame over- a half dozen in the tightest of wee cracks in the corners of our bed frame! And we kept looking: books, magazines, lamps, adjacent furniture, more picture frames, cat beds... Amazingly, that was it, at least- that's all we could find. We sprayed the picture frames, bed frame and adjacent furniture with alcohol and natural (essential oils) bedbug spray, caulked up the cracks between floor and wall, laid out traps, and finally-  bite free... for two weeks.

Someone either hatched or revived, escaped and was hungry- what now? New bed? Fumigation? Institutionalization!?!?!? I voted new bed- but what if the "new guys" came not from the confines of the bed frame innards we couldn't reach, but from somewhere close by? Again, The Wife sprung into action: got a giant white plastic tarp, (and after checking the mattress, linens and pillows to make sure they were 100% bed bug free) wrapped up the bed frame in thick plastic tighter than, well, a bed bug- and then secured each and every gap with a coupla miles of masking tape. No one, no matter how small, was gonna sneak outta this plastic coffin! And if I did get bit again, they'd be coming from beyond the bed...

That was several months ago. Is it over? Yes, for now- fact is, we could get re-infested at any given time. And, truth be told, we were kinda lucky- they weren't crawling about by the hundreds or thousands as in many a bed bug horror story/video out there where they've just simply taken over; we're pretty clean to begin with, we didn't have to undertake extreme measures. But we're armed and ready for them next time- and relaxing at the local bijou will never be quite the fuckin' same...

Monday, May 27, 2019

If I Just Happen To Die...

"Accidentally" in the near future, ask San Francisco's duly elected officials at City Hall (to whom this email was sent) to send flowers.

Let's review...

It's been a week since I've notified you that:

1)  Verizon applied for and was granted permission to install 4G technology throughout San Francisco.

2)  PG&E specifically verified that they are installing 5G technology- on behalf of Verizon.

3)  Verizon denies that PG&E is, in fact, doing that- even though simple visual observation confirms that these small cell towers are obvious 5G technology.

4)  One of the above is obviously lying.

5)  Elected government officials at San Francisco City Hall have been notified of said illegality, and have yet to... so much as raise an eyebrow or offer even the most cursory of responses...

I'm sure if I was to sabotage any of these illegally installed devices, I would be sitting (un)comfortably in jail quicker than it took to write this email (either one of 'em).

So, the question remains...
How can Verizon apply for and receive permission to install 4G technology in the city of San Francisco, while PG&E installs 5G technology on their behalf?
Stanley Banos

Friday, May 24, 2019

RIP San Francisco

Photos: © Stan Banos

Well, yeah, it ain't nothing I don't already know... I came here close to twenty years ago escaping a city where gentrification was metastasizing at an unprecedented rate. And I suppose this at least feels worse because San Francisco is considerably smaller than NYC, and makes all these changes seem that much more concentrated- though make no mistake... the rampant, unfettered capitalism that has been unleashed upon this town by Big Tech has wrecked more havoc than any long awaited Mega-Quake imaginable. At least the latter stands the chance of having people actually work together for the common goal of mutual survival.

I've now watched Big Tech divide this town into The Premier Have and Have Not Megalopolis. They ignore the displacement, ignore the rampant homelessness (unless to whiningly complain about the abomination they've helped exacerbate), ignore everything negative they've helped create and foster, because in truth- their life, their reality, their very raison d'ĂȘtre is... online. They couldn't care less about this town- or any other. Real life communities are expendable, they are merely a physical space upon which to set down their laptops to enter and inhabit their true home world. 

Many a Baby Boomer is a Denier, but even denial assumes a certain modicum of... affirmation- Generation Tech is purposely and resolutely incognizant. Of course, none of this would be possible if it wasn't for the real world dollars that allow them to turn their backs on real world problems. This is not to say that there aren't those that strive to use tech to help solve a myriad of problems throughout our world right now, and well into the future. There are always the noble few. But neither can one ignore the very real and present damage they are imparting en masse on those not quite as: young, fortunate, educated or well financed as they. 

Be on vacation (the one I've been denied 2X running) next coupla weeks- see ya's mid June!

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Dan Burn-Forti

Photos: © Dan Burn-Forti

Had a lot of fun looking through Dan Burn-Forti's work- funny, beautiful, insightful photographs that made me feel like a little kid discovering the world anew! And what better recommendation of anyone's photographs can that be? Enjoy...

One helluva time picking only two pictures out of his myriad of winners!

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

If This Doesn't Scare The Bejesus Outta Ya...

Carbon dioxide levels in the Earth’s atmosphere have soared to a new high, one never before been seen in human history, researchers announced as temperatures near the Arctic circle rose into the 80s... Not just in recorded history, not just since the invention of agriculture 10,000 years ago... since before modern humans existed millions of years ago. 

If... you (like me) are dug in on the other side of 50 and therefore immune from the very worst of the imminent, world wide catastrophe you and I have helped set in motion and bequeathed our future generations! Yes, sir- WE got away with it! We took whatever We wanted, abused whatever WE wanted- whenever WE wanted. And now, all the young-uns we spawned all down the line get stuck paying the tab. Suckers don't stand a chance, half of 'em are still in denial- MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

  Before The Flood  provides a pretty thorough, accurate and entertaining look at our coming apocalypse- available on Netflix...