Thursday, September 8, 2016

Dear Jack White, you're irritating.

Written by Uncle George:  May 9th, 1907
Rose before 5:35 am.  Bath.  Breakfast.  Twenty-one meals for $3 and it was good food.  Out about five miles east of Kansas City and made a view of the Big Blue.  Very muddy and sluggish.  

Val:  May 9th, 2013
Accidentally ruined The Boy's Boy Scout shirt.  Ate some chocolate fiber.   Listened to Adam Levine.  Felt sorry for the folks in North Dakota.

The day started out pretty annoying.  Seth was about two minutes from finally finishing that blasted Eagle Scout Boy Scout program.  So it made sense (not) that I should ruin his very expensive uniform and every single patch on it in the wash. Nice.



It didn't have this much bling, but when you have to buy news patches and sew each patch on by hand AND the patches are about as thick as the walls of ancient Troy, you feel irritated.  And when you pull back your hands from your work, your fingers worn to the nub from shoving the needle into those patches, you feel irritated about that, too.

Plus, I had to go to the city.  I am not going to lie. Nobody in KC knows where "Kaw Township" (name circa 1830).  It took about 984 years to track down. Irritating.

In case you are curious, The Big Blue River is in the northeast corner of Kansas City.  North of Independence Avenue, which if you live in the city, you know what I am saying.  It isn't your Big Blue River, Uncle George.

And it is certainly not the best part of town for a missionary to be running around in. Especially a woman.  Alone.  That isn't some--"rich girls use to describe almost everything that's not clad with lily polos and pearls"--statement.  It's just a fact.  By the way, this statement was made by someone who was upset about being judged based on where they reside and how they live.  See the logic? Everyone knows that one mean judgement deserves another.


The real truth I've never said out loud is that "all fat, white middle-aged Midwestern housewives" lives are full of lily polos and pearls.  That, and apparently we think about Jack White.  A lot.  


According to Jack White.



Jack White, the musician, a few years ago said that very thing.  He said that we fatties sit around gossiping about his love life.  

Drats.  Our secret is out.


Jack, you are spot on.  Not only do we spend all our days gossiping about you, but twisting our perfectly manicured fingernails around all those pearls we wear.






"Kaw Township" is quite a place.  I saw a drug deal go down in a pavilion.  There was trash everywhere.  I found a 1970's stereo speaker with a smashed desk.  There was a piece of house siding laying on the ground.  There were blue tarps covering a lot of the roofs.


Actually, I like blue tarps.  I grew up with them all over Alaska.  They are basically the Duct tape of the housing world.  They feel familiar.  And who doesn't like Royal Blue...which actually makes sense in KC.



Royal Blue and The Fat Lady, representing the rest of us.

I didn't dare leave sight of the Mini.  For it's sake, not mine.  There was no fishing for fun, either.  And I saw some fresh graves.  For real.

I am not sure why I felt sorry for the folks of North Dakota May 9th, 2013.  I am a humanitarian, and much like the Indian widows, I guess I feel sorry for Dakotans on a regular basis.  Actually, it is one of two states I have not visited.  I can only guess that they aren't clad with lily polos or pearls and that is why I can't be bothered.


But I bet they have blue tarps.  And no concern for Jack White's love life.  


One more thing.  When I heard that Jack said about what Midwestern women, I wrote him a letter.  You know I did.

It went something like this:

Dear Jack White,
You don't need to worry.  Speaking for all fat, middle-aged housewives in the Midwest, we don't sit around talking about your love life.  Because we don't even know who you are.  Or anything about you.  Except that you are irritating.
Bye Felicia,
Valerie

Well, me and my nubby fingers got to go.  I have 1,000's of calories to consume (man, I hope I don't drop any food on my lily polo).  And Jack White to mock.  Now that I know who he is.

Love,

Muffy

Sunday, July 24, 2016

" Who Needs Hell When You Have Wyoming?"

Dear Uncle George,

I have decided a state is my nemesis.

I don't know Anne Proulx.  Candidly, she sounds kinda of nutty but we should have a conversation.  We seriously have something big in common:  we can't stand Wyoming.

Here she is.  We practically look like twins.


She writes fictional wild-west tales that include Satan in Wyoming.  You know the one, where the Prince of Darkness is moonlighting as an interior designer, brainstorming the look of eternal damnation.

I know what he has gone with...a winter motif.  Lavished in bright red velvet (a given), snow and wind.  Lots of wind.

Having been to Wyoming three disastrous times (not including that one visit to an old boyfriend) I can totally believe it.

And if by chance, you want to visit Hell on earth, I know the port of entry:
Casper (aka The Great Terrible).

The answer is Casper, Alex, for $100.

My last letter to you included the news that I was going to go back to Casper in February 2016 to photograph Martin's Cove for the Church.  I tried to go in 2015, but there was no snow.  No snow.  No story.  No story.  No pictures.

My heart tries to trust in the unseen, so I thought this year, "Man, wouldn't a little snow be great?  Snow to tell the story of the handcart pioneers."

I made plans.  I even bought special snow boots.  Hand warmers.  Gortex.  My first Gortex, ever.  I mean, I am a freaking Alaskan.  How hard could it be?

Don't try to play me, Casper.  I am on to your shifty ways.

Literally, the minute my plane landed in Denver (not kidding--that very minute), it began to snow.

Enter stage left...Blizzard Kayla.



A scheduled trip of three days became a trip of seven days, three of which I spent trapped in my hotel room.  A hotel room in The Great Terrible?  Yeah, it's all that and more.  All that.  The good news is that the local Chinese restaurant was the only place that stayed open, so I feasted on Asian ethnic food that is as good as could be expected in a town that based it's name on a misspelling.

If Anne had been in the state, I am sure she would have invited me over and fed me freshly slain cattle meat.  But obviously she is aware of the hardships of winter in The Great Terrible and has moved to Seattle.  Thanks for nothing, Anne.

Finally, the storm broke.  I was able to drive the 64 treacherous miles to the site.  And as they say in Star Wars, "This is where the fun begins."




It was actually pretty in it's own sort of way.  For about 8 minutes.


Martin's Cove has a long, tender pioneer history that I am not skilled enough to write. However Wikepedia is because, hello, everyone knows what you read there is totally true.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin%27s_Cove

Their story is beyond remarkable.  Catastrophic, actually.  And that was what I was there to photograph.  Catastrophe.  How do you do that?  "Engage wholly."


So I did.  At a cost.  

I feel like that "little snow" was not about me.  It was about the people who lived the story...the pioneers.  And my small photography offering was to help tell their story.

I gave what I could.

I can say that because, at this very moment here in Kansas City, we are in the middle of a "heat dome" (heat wave 110* with index).  And I can feel my frostbite burning in my hands and feet.  

Even with all my Alaskan grit, my winter wear planning, and my fancy 6 hour hand and feet warmers I got frostbite.  Freaking Wyoming wind.

With the combination of the snow storm and the -15*, my body did not have the fortitude to combat wind as well.  


The Great Terrible defeated me those couple days.  Me, as a person.  Not me, as a photographer.  And here is how I know:

 https://history.lds.org/subsection/mormon-handcart-sites?lang=eng

Many of the summer shots are mine.  But those winter shots...those winter shots own part of my soul.  
The actual trail

The missionaries on site make their own period costumes

There is a working ranch.  It is called the Sun Ranch



Missionaries live there year round. 
They are the toughest missionaries.  Ever.

My favorite picture


This is what frost bite in the making looks like  :)

I like a church that wears many hats


I wish I could say that I finished all the photographs I wanted to take but I can't. More snow arrived, and after the interstate reopened, I got the heck out of Dodge, er... I mean Cowtown.  

A big shout out to you, The Great Terrible, because you won.

In the words of some other religion I found on-line:  "There is no place on Earth closer to Hell than Cleveland."  

Whatever, Cleveland.  Have you seen Wyoming's interior design?  Anne and I know a guy... :)

Love,
Valsy