Month: May 2015

Eagle Creek, gem of the Columbia River Gorge

I have hiked and run the Eagle Creek Trail on the Columbia River Gorge more than a dozen times over several decades. It is still inspiring after all of these years. The creek was the lowest I had ever seen it, when I hiked and ran it on May 30, due to historic low snowpack on Mt Hood and at higher elevations. There were also vastly larger crowds now too, loving it to death. Hundreds of cars were parked illegally on side roads. Hope a fire truck does not have to respond to an emergency call.


Suitcase display, Auschwitz Birkenau Memorial Museum

Today I wanted to show a picture that for me demonstrates why I believe that war is not an answer. It is during war when the worst happens. It is under the cover and guise of war, when “things” go wrong. It is in the name of patriotism and country or religion and ethnicity, when humans can operate outside the bounds of civilization. The death camp of Auschwitz, near Krakow, Poland, is a good place to contemplate why peace matters.

I visited here in July 2000, working on a project documenting sites related to Nazi crimes committed during World War II, when the world was truly at war. These exhibits, at the main camp of Auschwitz (Auschwitz 1), were extremely hard. These are suitcases of likely Jewish prisoners who were murdered here. They were stacked as a display, behind a glass case.

You can see more of my documentary work on German camps on my web site.

Click on the photograph to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.

Honoring the fallen at Fort Vancouver

Memorial Day, a day that was first dedicated to the fallen Civil War dead as Decoration Day in 1868, morphed over the decades to honoring all fallen soldiers after World War I. It has been a while since I attended a Memorial Day event (I have done many Veterans Day activities). So I went to beautiful and the historic Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, where hundreds of veterans, their families, and supporters gathered to pay tribute to fallen service personnel on May 25.

I am not a veteran. I do have veterans in my family history. And I know enough about history to know the world is a dangerous place without someone protecting the welfare of folks back home. That would be people like me. I have visited too many battlefields on the planet to not take a long view of what history bitterly teaches us all.

So I think it is important to honor the fallen, and also to honor the individual stories. So I will always honor the ritual, the memories, and emotions. The messaging at such events, by the dignitaries chosen to make meaning of an event, is where issues can arise for me.  So on that note, I will call it good and wish the folks well who were close to those who sacrificed and, as Abraham Lincoln said, gave their full measure of devotion for the country.

Strawberry fields for picking

Paying tribute to The Beatles and picking fresh Shuksan strawberries makes for a nice combo. I visited Kruger’s Farm this weekend on Sauvie Island, near Portland. The owners told me this has been the earliest harvest they can ever remember. Definitely another signal of climate change in the Northwest.

A final takeaway I always get from u-pick experiences is how hard manual farm labor is. Imagine doing this for 12 hours a day? It is always important to make the connection between the food you put on your plate and the field it came from.

Google Street View tells a story of Detroit’s struggles


Last night, I discovered a story how Google Street View can be used to tell the story of cities, including the agony of my home city, Detroit. I wish I had discovered this earlier, because it is a great tool to document change, despite the weirdness of Google’s spy cam on all of us, in our neighborhoods. I decided to use the time machine portal to see how the former home of my Michigan relatives fared between 2007 and 2013. So this is a very personal issue for me.

What I found was not surprising, and I had reported on this on an earlier post. What I discovered today was a more rich visual tale of the decay that really is the story of Detroit’s ills over the past six years (2007-’13). I think this kind of storytelling should be used in the face chirpy “Detroit on the rebound” news coverage that some want to promote that seeks to ignore the full story.

About a month ago, I published a blog about my reaction to seeing parts of Detroit that had fallen into disturbing decay, complete with ravaged neighborhoods, arson-torched homes, and the collapse of communities. This sparked a bit of a backlash by a group of current and former Detroit area advocates (all white, like me by the way) who rushed to Detroit’s defense and said negative storytelling ignores the “good people” and “good stories” and tales of the recovery. I then reviewed the data, and think rose-colored perspectives can be naive at best given the indicators of crime, poverty, employment, population health, and more. I do think balance is critical, but you cannot ignore what you see, particularly with tools like Google Street View, and in the work of recent documentary photographers.

This is an American story and an American tragedy, with many villains, many victims, and a still uncertain future. Recovery will take decades. Right now many people are struggling, and many people have just walked away–like my relatives did decades ago. Many in leadership positions in our country  would prefer to have our country spend tens of billions to preserve our strategic priorities in foreign lands and willfully ignore a once great city that is, by all definitions, an “African American” community that many in this country care very little about.

I talked about this with an old public health classmate of mine and how young Americans go overseas to address global issues of poverty and development. He wryly commented, maybe some new grads can work on “third world” issues in our country. I think he is right.

Meeker and the Utes’ last gasp

The story of Meeker, Colorado, where a white agent working as a missionary and Indian agent and 10 white men were killed by the Utes in 1879, is captured in Dee Brown’s epic Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. Ultimately U.S. cavalry forces defeated one of the last remaining bands of unconquered Native Americans in the central west, leading to their expulsion from their homeland to the barren, hot scrub of eastern Utah, where they remain today on a mostly impoverished reservation. When I stopped here two years ago, during the Memorial Day weekend in 2013, I found an older historic marker referencing the “massacre” and a newer interpretive sign noting the expulsion of the Utes from their ancestral land. The story of the West and its settlement remains constantly in flux.

Click on each photo to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.

Welcome to Alaska

This is an oldie, and a goodie. I converted this to black and white. Every May I grow very nostalgic about Alaska and the amazing memories that it seared into my soul. Thanks, Alaska. Still loving and missing you very much.

For those who have not driven to Alaska, this is the entrance sign to Tok. I took this photo 11 years ago, and I do not know if it is still hanging. Things can take a beating in the winter there. (Click on the photograph to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)

Sunday morning ride, goggles and all

Sometimes, I think we try to turn our dogs into what they are not. But they generally go “along for the ride.” (Sorry, could not resist.)

Click on the photo to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.

Monument to the Fallen and Murdered in the East, Warsaw

In Warsaw, ghosts of World War II are all around. In July 2000, I found this one, Monument to the Fallen and Murdered in the East. It honors victims of Soviet atrocities to Polish prisoners who died in captivity in camps in the former U.S. S.R. during that insane war that only ended 70 years ago today. Seems like an appropriate day to honor the memory of ghosts. (Click on the photo to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)