Almost half a century ago, when my brother and I were little, my father would pack us up early on a Saturday mornings and take us out to diners for breakfast. Next stop would usually be the stereotypical Chinese laundry, where he would drop off his dress shirts, one wrapped around all the others to make a big bundle ball stuffed full of shirts.
He’d make one of us go in and drop off the ball of shirts and pick up his freshly pressed shirts, neatly folded around a piece of cardboard, held together with a band of paper. Those shirts would be stacked and wrapped in brown paper and the paper parcel would then be tied with string.
After that we’d either go shoot pool, assuming we were tall enough to look over the table or go play baseball or football together. The whole time I remember enjoying my brother, but for some reason he remembers it as being teased and tortured. I sort of remember my dad constantly trying to keep the peace between us as we three combined and competed in every way, as we do.
Flash forward fifty years, and the three of us, now two grown men and one really old one… decide to travel together to a nephew’s wedding in Port Stanley, Ontario, Canada. Of course the trip started out with my dad picking me up in his car and we were to meet my brother at the airport. Before we got to the airport, I had to drop off my shirts at the laundry. I would have taken my dad out to shoot some pool or play some ball but we were on the clock and had to run.
The Sarasota Airport was no different from any other airport on this day. Lots of people standing around, facing different directions, wearing different shoes on their different sized feet, submitting to flying helplessly and re-breathing each others air, while trapped for hours together, in a long metal tube, hurdling forward, up in the sky.
We flew from Sarasota to Charlotte and Charlotte to Detroit. We rented a car in Detroit and drove up to Canada. We stopped at a diner for dinner along the way and my dad tried to keep the peace between the writer, photographer brother and the scientist, doctor brother.
Eventually we made it to Port Stanley late that night and settled in. I woke up early to wander around and get some pictures, though the weather was very overcast. I had read somewhere that those dreary days could make for some good shots, so I tried to get a few. We didn’t have to be dressed for the wedding till later that day, so I walked, I wandered and I shot.
Up the street from the lodge we stayed in, was a cute gift shop. Actually, there were many of these shops all around town, selling the weirdest stuff. Talk about a store full of impulsive who-knows-what’s with not a necessity in sight. If I had more money with me, I would have bought the place out.
Up the street from the gift shop was a theater that funded itself from the proceeds earned by its gift shop filled with needless things made by poor people from around the planet. I could have easily bought that place out as well. My favorite was this basket of chrome balls. What they are for, I couldn’t tell you, but I had to have them and did not know why.
Down the road from that gift shop was the main harbor letting out to the north shore of Lake Erie. I tried to grab a rainy day shot and realized that the same shot could have been taken a hundred years ago.
Walking back to the lodge, I caught a flower drinking from itself. A massive field of thorny green flourished with a moist red blossom drenched in rain juice.
Bushels of purple hung from the street lamps begging to be collected by my eye.
That’s when I found the magic hidden street. It looked like it just opened up for me and had I not been there at that exact moment it would have not been there. One dead-end dog legged street that started out with some kind of barn home out front.
Just one odd shop on the street selling baggies full of different flavored granola and pressed bars of sesame seeds held together with honey. I walked in and spoke with the lady behind the counter about her bizarre crunchy candies.
The man in the store asked me to take some pictures of his house as he wanted to use the photos to give to an artist to make a painting of it. He lived on the magic street around the corner.
I continued my rainy day stroll and found other colors masquerading as flowers, just coming out to quench their thirst.
Later that day we went to the wedding and that of course is a whole other story. The next day we got up early and headed back to Detroit to start the long voyage home. We had left early with anticipation of delays at the border, delays at the rental car, delays going through baggage and security, delays because of the weather… and there were none. Not one single delay.
This just meant I had extra time to stroll through the airport and find my masterpiece. I guess as a writer photographer, one wonders when their masterpiece will come out. Will it be by skill? By chance or luck? What will be the piece they become most well-known for? What will be their Mona Lisa or Whistlers Mother? That’s when I saw her sitting at one of the gates studying.
Not quite a Mona Lisa or Whistler’s Mother. She was more like an Amish amazon, reading barefooted from a loose leaf binder by a window. I marveled about how so many different people of different sizes, shapes and feet are always in airports. I thought that there was something significant about this shot but just didn’t know what. For no reason at all, I took it and just love it.
Perhaps the unspoken dynamic of the old world meeting the new in black and white. The anti-modern world Amish traveling by plane, not just buggy. The loose leaf binder instead of a lap top. The timeless flip-flopped feet of a young woman from any world.
As I sat with my brother and father at our final gate, waiting to board, I wished I could get one more shot in before I would be forced to put the camera away. I watched and looked. I tried to see all that was obvious and all that goes unnoticed. And right in front of us sat a woman who seemed like she was unable to turn around.
The backs of some people’s heads are way more interesting than their fronts sometimes. Another shot I took and love but don’t know why.