Month: September 2015

A garden in the rough, and I mean rough

The urban gardening scene in Detroit has been making waves for a while, far beyond the city. It has been written up in thoughtful tomes about the city–books by good authors describing the challenges of a city that painfully downsized in the last 40 years. I met a Detroiter, an African-American musician, who talked a fair bit about them too, positively and with a smile of pride. The Kellogg Foundation has made a passionate effort to improve healthy food access as well, funding gardens as a way to promote health and community.

I am glad these are happening, here and everywhere. As to whether a once and still industrial city can be transformed into an urban gardening hub in the 21st century, I find that about impossible to imagine without some corporate-run farm scheme. What I do imagine are local efforts by residents to promote community pride and good food. Gardens will never restore Detroit to its former status, and they will not create a middle class that is disappearing. They do represent a good thing, that diamond in the rough, and hope is always a good thing.

For more on Detroit’s illustrious urban garden history that precedes all urban gardening movements by a century, read up on Mayor Pingree’s Patches (great story, and history is now repeating itself).

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


AK Steel Ashland Works plant, form and function

The AK Steel company’s Ashland Works plant includes a pig iron blast furnace and oxygen furnace. It stands on the banks of the Ohio River in the small industry town. As you drive by the industrial facility on Highway 23, one cannot help but stop and be amazed by the facility’s purely utilitarian function and form. (Click on the photo to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)

It’s not the destination, it’s the journey that matters

I will be taking a road trip in a week. The destination is probably where most people in my country last would want to be traveling. But I always seems to find unexpected treasures when I pick a new place, and have a purpose, and find wonderful, beautiful things in places overlooked or shunned. Hoping your journey leads to new discoveries for you.

Honoring those who work for a living

I have been fortunate to see how many people work around the world. I have seen flower pickers running at breakneck speed in the pre-dawn hours to their jobs in greenhouses around Kenya’s Lake Naivasha. I have met Mexican migrant farm workers in central Washington state, who pick all of the apples, cherries, and other fruits and vegetables we eat around the country. I have met the men who do the hard labor building roads and buildings in Vietnam. And there are so many more. The work I have seen humbles me in its physical intensity and also brute reality. But people have to work, to make better lives for themselves and their families. So, today, on Labor Day, a moment to honor those who have to use their bodies to eek out a living, where ever they call home.

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

In the long shadow of Evel Knievel, daredevils still risk it all

Every modern motorcyle and extreme sports daredevil since the 1960s and  1970s stands in the long shadow of stunt rider Evel Knievel. The Butte, Montana, native and international showman built a legacy of thrilling audiences with death-defying leaps on his motorcyle over long distances. From the grisly televised crash at Caesar’s Palace in December 1967 to jumping 15 buses in Wembley Stadium in London in May 1975, Knievel conquered the public’s imagination. He had spectacular failures and reportedly broke more than 400 bones in his battered body over his long years as a showman extraordinaire and one-of-a-kind daredevil.

The Sports Illustrated cover shows Evel Knievel in his purest form, decked out in his all-American jump suit (great photo).

The Sports Illustrated cover shows Evel Knievel in his purest form, decked out in his all-American jump suit (great photo).

Knievel completely invented himself, his persona, and his brand of entertainment from the ground up, with his imagination knowing no boundaries. His first recorded jump, according to the new documentary on his life called Being Evel, was over two cougars and a box of rattle snakes in Moses Lake, Washington, and he crashed open the box of snakes who got away. He then built up his reputation the hard way, show after show, and also crash after crash. His greatest media stunt, and failure too, was attempting to jump in a specialized vehicle over the Snake River Canyon on Sept. 8, 1974, with him crashing yet again in the canyon floor. But he got back up and kept at it.

As a kid, I likely fell under the Kneivel spell, and saw him many times on TV, on lunch boxes, and on tabloid newspaper covers. He made more than half a dozen appearances on ABC’s Wide World of Sports in the 1970s, when I was growing up. He personified a type of fearless recklessness that excites nearly every young boy, and inspires a few to try such feats later in life. The current climate of Red Bull fueled stunts, jumping from outer space to leaping from cliff faces in wing suits, owes it all to him. Knievel proved you can become a legend if you are willing to put it all on the line and entertain the masses while doing it. Knievel died in 2007 at 69 years of age, a badass to the end, being totally himself.

The photos above were taken at the Omak Stampede in August 2013. I took these shots during practice for a great half-time event at the stampede later that night. Three daredevils, whose names I now cannot find, put on a show with multiple leaps on their dirt bikes and four wheeler. The best rider did a back flip during the show on his bike and totally nailed the landing. They had all of their gear in trailers they hauled by trucks, a bit like Knievel. All three of these guys were accompanied by a trio of totally beautiful women, who stood proudly by their sides. In that way, nothing has changed since Knievel’s day. The daredevil is made of different stuff, and it is the stuff that still appeals to women who like dangerous men. As Knievel may or may not have said, “bones heal, pain is temporary, [and] chicks dig scars… .”