Friday, March 27, 2015

Been Around In and Out of Baltimore Over 6 Decades

Over 6 decades ago, I was born in Baltimore - at Church Home & Hospital. The first time I remember being in Baltimore was when I was 6-yrs-old. My grandmother had insisted on buying my cousin Bonnie and I - the two oldest grandchildren and same age - most of our first grade school supplies (I can smell that school-required, shoulder strapped, new book bag now). Our families lived out in the southeast suburbs of Baltimore City, Grandmom Crews knew Baltimore well, and she took us all over town on public transportation. Though our families had available cars and willing drivers, Grandmom did not drive a car, and she wanted it to be all her's and Bonnie's and mine day together. So it ended up being the time I talked about forever as the one great day when I rode in a streetcar (trolley), a bus, and a trackless trolley. The track-bound, steel-wheeled streetcars were powered by connections to overhead electric lines, and so were the asphalt riding, rubber tired trackless trollies, and of course the bus had those large rubber tires too and was powered by a regular gas engine. I only recall: seeing several trackless trollies and climbing aboard one (never saw them again); that we rode on a transit bus, too; then riding a regular trolley over the scary fun streetcar bridge back across Bear Creek into Sparrows Point, where my grandparents lived. With buses and streetcars being everyday suburban sights to us in them 1950s. Just now coming back to me is vague visual recall of the thick crowds of shoppers where we went - all dressed up in their best clothes - and the busy beepin', backed up at red lights, street traffic. Baltimore was thriving gloriously.

My next time memories of being in Baltimore City are from the early 1960s, when my father drove me, my sister and cousin Bonnie to a Rolling Stones Show at the Baltimore Civic Center (Royal Farms Arena). I attended most Rock and Roll shows of the 1960s at the Civic Center. Saw the Yardbirds three times, the Animals once, the Who, and others, but not the Beatles. Dad and Mom were sure puzzled when I turned down their offer of a ticket to the see the Beatles, but all those extremely loudly screaming girls would have been too much for me, and that screams factor eventually caused the Beatles to stop playing live concerts. Yep, I sure did disappoint Dad and Mom standing there in our living room with two Beatles tickets. So my mother ended up going with my sister, and that is a far better memory for me. Knowing that Mom got to be with those crazy kids of that day, and be happily immersed there in that substantially historic time. Photos of the event show a lot of parents there with their daughters. Parents looking all kinds of startled, some stupefied, with most being outright delighted by it all.

One Saturday, in the mid 1960s, I decided to take a bus from the southeast suburbs into Baltimore City to go shopping on the Howard Street Corridor. Two of my neighborhood friends came along - three guys maturing one step up. One friend was my age and the other was a few years younger. The younger one only went into town with us once or twice, but my same aged neighbor Austin and I ended up going downtown Baltimore on many a school year Saturday and summer day.

We became part of the teenage "Mods" scene there. Grooved deep into the Blues Rock based music. Shopped at the famous department stores on Howard St. and off to explore smaller retail establishments on the side streets on up to famously-still-hip Read Street. Ate in the Howard Street Corridor's two Gino's Hamburger places and at Read's Drug Store lunch counters. We saw several of the last of the local Beatniks. Discovered Sherman's Bookstore, which is long gone but still fondly recalled by many who went there. Abe Sherman was famous as a long time Baltimorean with a crusty personality who sold the best newspapers from around the world, he had great magazines (no smut), good books for sale, could converse well with any business person or well respected writer or photographer or local cop or anyone of any age. To us teenagers, he was an old guy who knew what to sell to young people. He carried the Village Voice Newspaper, sold Baltimore's first Rock Band posters and buttons with hip & cool 1960s sayings on them, was first to offer 1960's Rock and Roll magazines with more to them than teeny bopper band pics and stories about band member's fave colors, etc.. I, along with Austin and our Mod friends, also spent time and money in the best records stores, including massively album stocked (but thankfully hardly any boring pop music) General Music across from the Civic Center, went for guitars, harmonicas and other musical gear at Ted's Music Store, which is world famous among many musicians - especially classical musicians from Peabody Institute there across from Ted's, and us Mods were regulars at the Bluesette teen nightclub at 2439 N. Charles St..

In November of 1968, I moved to Northern Maine - where I became a very successful Bear Hunting Guide and Country Girls' Delight. Living and working at my uncle's Katahdin Lodge & Camps of Patten, Maine. A year later, I entered the U.S. Army and was trained as a photographer then assigned to Okinawa as a Public Information Office Photographer. During the 1970s, I took my military discharge, came back to the Baltimore area, moved back to Maine twice, lived in Myrtle Beach, Key West, and back to the Baltimore suburbs. In 1973-74, I was on the Blast Furnace Labor Gang at Bethlehem Steel in Sparrows Point, Md.. I would not trade that heavy experience in the steel mills for any other work experience, because going up against the deadly danger, tremendous heat and hard physical labor was a challenge I felt good meeting. Like some guys love playing tackle football. And being from a family of many steel workers, I just had to know what it was about. But, I'd had enough of the mill dirt - where nothing green grows and no women were to be seen and enjoyed. One summer-of-'73 morning, I was on my way to go for a, neighbor mailman recommend, job as a Dundalk postal carrier, by taking a Civil Service Exam at the Main Post Office in Baltimore, when a man late for work and driving a big fat 1966 Pontiac Bonneville ran a red light - right there in sight of the Main Post Office - and slammed into me on my 3-month-old Yamaha 650 Motorcycle. There began lumbar spine injuries that kept me from seeking postal employment and have worsened ever since. I do deal with some degree of pain everyday, but, then, many, many people have far more debilitating medical problems. At its worst, mine temporarily cripples me with severe sciatica for a few days, weeks, and one time (in 1980) for months. During half of the 1980s, after finally having to have lower back surgery at the Philadelphia VA Hospital, I lived a really good life in West Chester, Pennsylvania. Would have stayed longer, if my lumbar spine injuries had not gotten in the way of securing another good job there. I had been an unarmed security guard at Southeast National Bank, until the sinking economy caused the bank to eliminate that job. Centrally located, that bank work gave me introductions to many new friends and valuable acquaintances. And I nearly got a stock photography business going in that superb small town. Until dogged depression dragged me down into near-nothingness. 

I came back to the Greater Baltimore Metropolitan Area, worked again as a security guard, suffered two more severe medical episodes caused by re-injuring my spine, then had to go on a Non-Service Connected Disability Pension from the Department of Veterans Affairs. A pay rate designed solely for a vet's basic survival. Not accepting that dismal fate, I had to do more than sit around, so I began taking photography and writing classes at Dundalk Community College. That school has a nationally respected photography section. My years there were when my work was pre-digital, and we developed our negatives and printed our photos in "wet labs." I became an acknowledged ace at camera work plus black & white then color printing. And the people working in the writing and computer labs really added to my abilities to do all that I do today. My Internet published stock photography portfolio is expansive and very popular - including over 8,000 images on Flickr with over 1,800,000 hits on them. I have quite a lot of my writings all over the World Wide Web and those works are read by tens-of-thousands of folks.

In December 2014, I moved into a high rise apartment building for low to moderate income senior citizens - located between Baltimore's Inner Harbor and Camden Yards. I plan on being here from 1 to 10 years. It puts me right where I wanna be - where I'm doing a lot of photography and writing. Most advantages of all, I can easily walk to photograph lots of Charm City happenings and also set up a photograph vendor spot where there are plenty of potential buyers enjoying time in my home town. Much of the photography work is on my already solid stock of soon-to-be-published photos and videos of Baltimore being itself. Its healthy, happy, active, attractive, successful, growing self. 

A serious problem I have is caused by me not following certain instructions given to all DCC Photography Students. That is: people all have a right side brain and left side brain. One side handles the creative part of us that does our photography, and the other side handles the business side of our lives; we students were taught to use both sides of our brains and not became photographers who give it all away. I had to give some of it away to be of any solid value to society, and to promote my work. Unfortunately for me, I get sick to my soul if not regularly working and can't help but continue giving 99.99% of my work away. But 'I'm running on empty' and have been for years. I shall continue to work on my online published portfolio, just could somebody out there help me establish a self-sustaining, professional level photography entity out of my hard work, natural talents and well honed skills? Ever since going digital, I haven't been able to afford professional photography equipment. Achievement of my full potential requires the greater creative control of higher quality images produced by pro-level gear.

Something for certain, you will be able to see online the work that I continue to put out, if you help me in any way. My 21st Century photography covers the southeast areas of Baltimore City and County from Fort McHenry around downtown on to Fells Point through Dundalk out to Fort Howard on the Chesapeake Bay. I also write about those communities - together they are my home - I write about my life and some of the local histories I've lived, plus I write, work & fight for the rights of America's Military Veterans. All of which I will continue doing for the rest of my life.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

My YouTube Channel

My YouTube channel has a lot of video I shot in Baltimore. And I skillfully edit each video. My main goal is to always show what ever it is in ways that make you feel as close to being there as a video can do for you. There are videos of people participating in and enjoying public events, and there are videos of Baltimore scenes as seen if you were spending 5 to 29 minutes there. You can view them all right here:


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

My Photography Portfolio on Flickr

As of today - March 25, 2015 - I have over 8,000 photos and video clips on Flickr - that have received more than 1,800,000 views. There are a lot of Baltimore shots there, and I'll be posting more of them. They are all well edited and custom tweaked by me. See them here