Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Run For the Border

Consideration for your fellow man
Wouldn’t hurt anybody, sure fits in with my plan
Over the border, there lies the promised land
So don’t tell anybody what I wanna’ do
If they find out you know that they’ll never let me through
It’s no fun being an illegal alien
It’s no fun being an illegal alien*
- Banks/Collins/Rutherford Illegal Alien

* This is the song lyric I originally chose for this post. In light of recent events, I considered not using it and replacing it with Marin Niemoller's First They Came. I chose to use the original song title and use a paraphrased version of the poem later in the text.

After almost a year of paperwork, application fees, medical exams, and a see-saw of emotions, we have finally been approved for residency status in New Zealand. So, this post was going to be a happy one. Unfortunately, recent events at our southern border caused by our government's heartless and brutal policies have caused my thoughts to take an ugly turn. Few, if any, of my posts have been political; however, I just can't write about my immigration journey without thinking of the journeys taken by others and how they are being portrayed in the news today. I previously wrote about our interactions with a group of Afghan refugees in New Zealand (Link: New Wheels and New Opportunities), but this time it's personal.

I first became an immigrant in 1990, moving from Canada to the United States. I arrived on a student visa, so the transition was relatively easy. I transferred schools, went to grad school, then changed visas when I went to work. Each and every time, there was a finite time window in which I would be considered a "legal" immigrant. I was on a student visa once again for medical school and then I got married and became a Permanent Resident ... yep, I have a Green Card! While I am definitely an immigrant, I am also a Canadian. When I moved from there, culturally it was not that dissimilar to the US. Kinda' like Kiwis and Aussies ... unless you are one of them, they are pretty much indistinguishable. Sweet as, I just pissed off three different nationalities in only two sentences!

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses
Yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless,
Tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.
- Emma Lazarus New Colossus

I always intended to become a US citizen, but now that we are moving to New Zealand, that point is moot. Few of us have done anything to "earn" or "deserve" our citizenship or residency. We simply won the lottery through no effort of our own. Mostly, we are just lucky (or unlucky) to have been born on one side of a border or another. Becoming a US Permanent Resident took several months, about $4K, and the ability to take time off work to attend appointments and interviews. Becoming a New Zealand resident took almost a year, and our total output so far is close to $9K and still climbing. I suppose I could make an argument that I have "earned" my status by passing extensive background checks and spending thousands of dollars in the process, but I can not argue that my pathway has been made much easier by the fact that I am white, male, educated, articulate, and affluent. I know how to navigate the system. While I did not come the the US (or New Zealand) as a refugee, if I had been any combination of female, dark-skinned, poor, and did not speak English, I would be unlikely to be where I am today.

We should treat those who come seeking refuge/asylum with kindness, dignity, and respect. Not because it's right or moral. Not because God, or Jesus, or Allah, or The Great Spaghetti Monster In The Sky commands us to, but because it is who we ought to be. While we have lost our way and it is not who we are today, it is who we used to be, and it is who we should strive to be in the future. I am not advocating for an open border policy. I am saying that we should treat migrants like the desperate human beings they are, and if they don't qualify for amnesty, asylum, or immigration, turn them away. But be nice. "If somebody gets in your face and calls you a cocksucker, I want you to be nice. Ask him to walk. Be nice. If he won't walk, walk him. But be nice. If you can't walk him, one of the others will help you, and you'll both be nice. I want you to be nice until it's time not to be nice."

First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew

Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist

Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.
-Martin Niemoller First They Came

I know from the process of becoming a New Zealand resident how difficult it is to meet criteria. It took months and thousands of dollars, and an incredible effort. I wonder how many of those who advocate for a “merit-based” immigration policy in the US would ever have been allowed in under those conditions. How many have visited a favela outside of Rio, not as a tourist but as the guest of a local, sitting and breaking bread with them as I have. Or how many have seen 14 year-old boys carrying automatic weapons and "guarding" a family business in Honduras as I have. How many have seen crude concrete walls and windowsills topped with broken bottles to help keep out intruders, behind which families barricade themselves after dark? And how many have seen people living in landfill sites, sifting through the day's detritus trying to find something of value that they can then trade for money to buy food.

These are desperate people fleeing desperate situations. The people I met made less than the equivalent of about $10 US per week. Can you imagine what it takes to save enough money for the journey, always afraid that your meager savings will be stolen or extorted from you? They often can't afford to take their entire family. Can you imagine the heartbreak when one parent has to grab their youngest child and flee while leaving the rest of the family behind? Hardship in the journey is not a possibility, but a guarantee. Can you imagine how terrible your life must be to risk rape, robbery, and murder along the way knowing that you might not be granted the asylum you seek? And can you imagine the horror when you finally arrive only to have your child taken from you and sent thousands of miles away from you with no hope of contacting them? These are the people who we see on the news. This is their plight.

I started this post a few months ago as we were going through our own immigration process, was motivated to finish it when we finalized our visa applications for New Zealand, then stalled out as immigration issues came to the foreground in the news. Today is now July 4th ... a day of celebration for the USA's earliest beginnings, and a day when we ponder what it means to be "American". While I moved to the USA 28 years ago, I never became a citizen. At first I was held back by the expense and logistics. Once we knew we would be moving to New Zealand, there was no longer an impetus to complete the process. So, while I have never been an "American", I have lived here and have been steeped in its culture for almost 3 decades. As such, I have a few closing thoughts, both for this blog post and as we prepare to leave to another country.

People who come to our borders seeking asylum, and those who cross the border illegally and then try to obtain legal status are not "jumping the line". Much like the grocery store check-out, there are many lanes that lead to legal immigration. I have known this to be true immigrating to America, as well as New Zealand. We choose the lane that best suits our circumstances and the speed at which our lane moves has no influence on, and is not influenced by, what is happening in the other lanes. On a side note, a curious quirk of the rules means that you must be on American soil to claim asylum. As we turn people aside at the border, never allowing them to meet criteria for entrance, some turn to crossing illegally so that their case can be heard.

Immigrating to another country isn't cheap, nor is it simple or easy. I am not saying that it should be. By necessity, it is an incredibly complex system. Those who profess otherwise either don't understand the system, or they are being purposefully disingenuous. It is a simple thing to be kind, respectful, and understanding. How we treat those less fortunate than we are who turn to us for help says more about us than it does them. The thing that has made the USA attractive to the tired, the poor, and the huddled masses, as well as the world's best and brightest, has been a promise. It is the promise of safety, security, and opportunity. Of late, we haven't lived up to that promise. We are losing out on an entire generation of immigrants ... people who helped to make America great in the first place.

Thank you, and goodnight ...

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Portraits of a Life

I’ve been looking so long at these pictures of you
That I almost believe that they’re real
I’ve been living so long with my pictures of you
That I almost believe that the pictures
Are all I can feel
- The Cure, Pictures of You

The smoldering intensity of Dan Sheehan - March 2018

A long time ago, in a life far, far away I carried a camera fairly frequently. Through high-school and college, I shot a lot of film. In graduate school, my research project relied heavily on underwater photographs. Immediately after leaving grad school, I stopped carrying a camera. Perhaps I was bored with it? Perhaps I couldn’t afford the film and development costs? I’m really not sure, but I didn’t pick up a camera again until I started playing with my wife’s camera at least 20 years later. By that time, technology had passed me by and what little knowledge I retained was pretty much obsolete. I fell into a pattern with my photography that was familiar and comfortable while I learned the mechanics of modern photographic equipment. Most of my photos were outdoors shots where people are secondary to the picture if they were in them at all. As I started getting more comfortable with the camera, I started branching out into “new” areas including street photography and portraiture.

What makes a picture a portrait? We all have dozens of pictures of people on our phones, but we wouldn't call them "portraits", right? I struggle with this. To me, a portrait conveys something about that person's personality. People who don't know the subject can see it, and people who do know them say "Ah, yes. That is SO him/her." I don't like people getting into my personal space, and I definitely don't like getting into theirs. Shooting good portraits requires getting right in and close with people, something I am not comfortable with. I find it easiest to do this with people I know well, and I am amazed at photographers who can shoot great portraits of someone they have just met, or don't know at all. How do they capture an image of a personality when they don't know that personality? I imagine they have to get to know them quickly, or they are just that intuitive about people.

There are no bad pictures;
that’s just how your face looks sometimes.
- Abraham Lincoln

If I were ever asked what kind of photographer I am, my immediate and flippant answer would likely be “a bad one.” If I had to answer seriously, I would probably say that I am a nature photographer, perhaps even a landscape photographer. Hiking, camping, climbing, and wandering the woods and mountains is where I feel most comfortable and where I am most likely to have my camera. Certainly most of my pictures from our year in New Zealand were of those types. I recently had reason to rethink this description of my photography.

A friend from high-school was interested in my old photo negatives. They were just going into the rubbish bin anyway, so I was happy to send them his way. Digitizing and processing the photos I sent to him, Joel breathed new life into old images. As impressed as I was with what he was able to do with 30 year-old negatives, I was equally surprised to see how many of my old photos were portraits. Some of them were posed, but most were candid. Clearly I was much more comfortable invading personal space back then.

Prior to 1989, high-school in Ontario was 5 years ... Grades 9-13. They were transitioning to 4 years (9-12) and eliminating Grade 13, but for my class you could finish in 4 or 5 years. Those of us who stayed for 5 years got two end of year formals (think "Prom") ... one in 1989 and then again in 1990. A curious result of this is that the 1989 formal combined both the Grade 12 and Grade 13 classes that year.

I have no idea who this is, but she is not too pleased ...

Whether it was on the school ski team, or just for fun, we spent a lot of time with boards strapped to our feet ...

Talisman Ski Resort, Dec 1989.

Ski team, apres ski, probably Horseshoe Valley, Jan/Feb 1990.

At the end of the fall rugby season in 1989, we had qualified for the OFSAA (Ontario Federation of Secondary Athletic Associations) provincial championships the next spring, and as a reward/pre-season training opportunity, we spent just under two weeks playing rugby in England and Wales. Each individual player was hosted by a local family, and we trained with / played against local clubs. We also had a chance to explore London, Cardiff, and a couple of castles.

Boys will be boys.

1990 was a busy year ... skiing in the winter, the tour to England and Wales, and the rugby championships in the spring. It was our final (Grade 13) year of highschool, and everyone seemed to have big plans when the summer was over. We had one last opportunity to all be together in June for our Graduation Formal. Held in a hotel in downtown Toronto, we all "pre-loaded" at a friend’s place before heading downtown.

I recently saw some current photos of these guys. The men they have become look much the same as the boys they were.

All of the photos above were shot on film with a manual camera. The camera itself could support an autofocus lens, but I didn't have one until I traded my manual fixed lens for an autofocus zoom much later. It surprises me sometimes how well many of the photos turned out. You would shoot and hope. Often the results weren't developed and printed until several weeks later. It was always a great surprise to find one or two "keepers" from roll of 24 or 36. As I mentioned earlier, not long after these photos were taken, I put down my camera for 20+ years. Once I started shooting in digital, the instant feedback and unlimited memory was a game changer. It does mean that I am a much more lazy, and much less cautious, photographer; but it also allows me to make instant corrections and not lose the moment.

Kari hates when Little H makes faces for the camera. I did, too ... until I decided that if portraiture is about capturing a person's personality, then these are perfect portraits of my goofy daughter.

Shooting portraits of those you know and love is much easier than shooting strangers.

Kids will be kids.

Family ...

... and Friends

So things come full circle. I have been working to improve my ability to shoot portraits and I am drawing inspiration from my past work. As I become more comfortable shooting in tight with family and friends, my next step will be to find that same comfort level with strangers. I just need to tap into that lost confidence and abandon of youth ...

Can a selfie be a portrait ???

Friday, March 23, 2018

Friends in Low Places

Just the good ol’ boys
Never meanin’ no harm
Beats all you ever saw
Been in trouble with the law
Since the day they was born
- Waylon Jennings Theme from ‘The Dukes of Hazzard’

Welcome to Smashville, home of the Predators. Go Leafs Go!

Just before leaving for New Zealand in 2016, I went up to Toronto to catch a hockey game with one of my oldest and closest friends, Dan Sheehan (Link: Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow). It was after the NHL season was over, so we were watching a World Cup game ... and we really couldn’t afford Maple Leafs tickets anyway. Tickets for major market teams in their home rinks are crazy expensive. When Kari and I have previously seen Montreal play in Raleigh, we ran into the same couple from Montreal more than once. It’s cheaper for them to drive to Raleigh, stay in a hotel, and catch a game there than it is for them to go to a game in Montreal. The sad truth is that I have seen more Maple Leafs games in other rinks than I have at their home rink. The most recent game I attended was also an away game, though for different reasons.

Brooks Hooper and I were in the same General Surgery residency program at Washington Hospital Center, but under completely different circumstances. I scrambled in and I was miserable (Link: Physician, Heal Thyself), while Brooks was a prelim with an escape plan. He was moving on to (mostly) bigger things in Urology (I promise to keep the jokes small, tucked away, relatively clean). We didn’t keep up much after I left for my Emergency Medicine training, but years later he interviewed for a job in Myrtle Beach and we rekindled our friendship. He ended up taking a job in Asheville and moving his young family there. Asheville happens to be one of our favorite destinations away from Myrtle Beach, so Kari and I have caught up with Brooks & Cathy more and more over the last several years. Brooks is also a huge hockey fan. He and I often text/PM each other during the games with our own personal commentary. He’s from Nashville and a Predators fan, and it just so happens that Toronto was playing the Preds in Nashville on a weekend we both had off, so we made plans to meet there for the game. Unfortunately, he got the dates screwed up. I would arrive in Nashville a day before the game and a day before him. Once I knew I would be on my own that first night, I decided to bring my camera and spend that extra day taking photos. With that in mind, I spent a little time scouting photo sites online. I also made a list of burger joints, speakeasies, and other food/drink opportunities to explore. When I was scouting photo locations and food options prior to my trip, burgers kept popping up, so I made it my own mini mission to find the perfect burger in Nashville. As luck would have it, I wouldn’t have to look far to start my journey.

Nikon D750 + AF-S 24-120mm f/4G ED VR @ f/5.6, 1/8, 58mm, ISO 400   Photo: RGH

Nikon D750 + AF-S 24-120mm f/4G ED VR @ f/5.6, 1/125, 27mm, ISO 1600   Photo: RGH

Nashville has become a popular destination not just for music fans, but for bachelorette parties, foodies, and others. As such, it was quite difficult to book a hotel room even two months out. I managed to find us a room at the 21c Museum Hotel ... a boutique hotel in the middle of downtown. Yep, it’s spendy, but the location is perfect. The lower level of the hotel is dedicated for art installations, and artwork is spread throughout the rest of the floors. When I was checking in, completely unprompted, the guy at the front desk said, “Be sure to try Gray & Dudley, our restaurant. The burger has won awards.”

Many restaurants claim to have “The Best” or some other award for their burgers, but they can’t all be amazing. Or can they? Let’s face it ... a slab of meat, covered in fresh veggies, stuffed between two pieces of bread is pretty much amazing right out of the gate.

iPhone 7 @ f/1.8, 1/15 , 4mm, ISO 64   Photo: RGH

I ordered my burger, a straight rye, and settled in to wait. The burger came out from the kitchen in reasonable time. The fries were the “skin-on” variety; a particular favorite of mine. On the first bite, they were luke-warm, not very crispy, and way too salty. When dipped in the supplied aioli, however, they were heavenly! The strong garlic flavor of the aioli really cut the sting of the salt. The burger itself was a disappointment. It had so much promise ... just the right amount of the greens, sesame seed bun, a good heft in the hand, and a nice char. Like the fries, it wasn’t very warm, and it was too heavy on the sauces for my palate. I want to taste the burger, not the goo, though I suspect that my Kiwi friends would have been really happy with it (Kiwis love their sauces).

iPhone 7 @ f/1.8, 1/3690, 3.99mm, ISO 20   Photo: RGH

Nikon D750 + AF-S 24-120mm f/4G ED VR @ f/5.6, 1/10, 105mm, ISO 800   Photo: RGH

Nikon D750 + AF-S 24-120mm f/4G ED VR @ f/5.6, 1/25, 98mm, ISO 1250   Photo: RGH

Scouting potential photo locations online before coming to Nashville, I found some great views of the skyline shot from east of the city. It turns out they were taken from the top floor of a hospital parking garage. I figured if the light was right, I would be able to get some great shots as the sun set and cast a glow against the buildings. With that in mind, I Uber’d it out to the site shortly after eating my burger. I got up to the top deck and set in to wait ... all the while expecting hospital security to swing by and ask why I was creeping in the parking garage. The wind was blowing and it was getting cold, but it wasn’t getting dark. I pulled out my phone to double check that I had the time for sunset right and that’s when I realized my mistake. I hadn’t set my watch for the new time zone I was in. I was an hour early! I killed some time by walking around the neighborhood. Have you ever noticed that hospitals often aren’t in the best part of town?

Back in the parking garage and trying to stay out of the cold, I finally gave up and ducked into the hospital. I found a bench looking out over the city and waited for the sun to start going down. The window looked straight out and down a major thoroughfare into the city. I shot the second picture of the three above through that window ... and it turned out to be my favorite of the bunch. Sometimes, it’s good to be lucky. I headed back out to the parking garage to capture a few night shots then caught an Uber back into town.

iPhone 7 @ f/1.8, 1/15, 3.99mm, ISO 200   Photo: RGH

iPhone 7 @ f/1.8, 1/4, 3.99mm, ISO 125   Photo: RGH

My next destination was The Pharmacy Burger Parlor & Beer Garden for another one of Nashville’s “Best” burgers. The restaurant is located in East Nashville and was about 2 miles from my hotel, so I decided to walk. It was an easy enough hike over a bridge spanning the Cumberland River and down past Nissan Stadium. Once I got past the stadium, the neighborhood got decidedly more sketchy. Brooks describes it as “bombed out”. Walking in an unfamiliar city, alone, at night, is a good way to get yourself killed. Fortunately, I made no missteps and had no mishaps or malfeasance come my way.  After I covered about 2/3 of the distance, I turned into a residential neighborhood lined with well kept homes and had a pleasant walk through the crisp night air to my destination. The reviews forwarn that the place is packed and there is always a line, and this night was no exception. I stepped through the doors into a crowd of waiting people. I was only one, though, and when I asked for a seat at the bar they squeezed me in up against a pillar.

The service was fast and friendly. I had but a few sips of a local IPA before my food was set down in front of me. It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t fancy, but it was damned good. The burger patty was a misshapen slab of ground beef (“mince” to you Kiwis), and the first bite was heavenly. Do you remember the 1980’s McDonalds BLT? It came in a special styrofoam container to “keep the hot side hot and the cold side cold”. This one was just like that, but better. The burger itself was properly warm and the veggies, a perfect proportion of lettuce, tomato, pickles, and onion were cold and crispy. This is a plane-jane burger with simple ingredients and no sauces, but it worked.

Nikon D750 + AF-S 24-120mm f/4G ED VR @ f/5.6, 1/125, 44mm, ISO 1600   Photo: RGH

Nikon D750 + AF-S 24-120mm f/4G ED VR @ f/5.6, 1/125, 70mm, ISO 1600   Photo: RGH

Nikon D750 + AF-S 24-120mm f/4G ED VR @ f/5.6, 1/125, 50mm, ISO 1600   Photo: RGH

Nikon D750 + AF-S 24-120mm f/4G ED VR @ f/5.6, 1/25, 40mm, ISO 1600   Photo: RGH

Given the late hour, and sketchy streets I had to traverse back into the city, I chose to Uber it back. My destination was a hidden speak-easy. Alas, it appears to have shut down, or possibly moved. In any event, the building was boarded up, dark, and foreboding so I decided not to get out of the car and just had the driver take me back to the hotel. With that plan shot, I had little choice but to head out and brave Broadway. Nashville and Austin can fight over the title of “Live Music Capital” but being on Broadway seemed no different to me than being on 6th St. Both are places I need never visit again. Noisy, dirty, smelly and full of drunk young women shouting “Woooo!” and drunk young men trying hard not to look too drunk. I wandered the street, shot some photos, then went off-off-off Broadway to find a place more my style since I had plans for the early morning hours.

Nashville   Nikon D750 + AF-S 24-120mm f/4G ED VR @ f/5.6, 1/10, 32mm, ISO 1000   Photo: RGH

Concrete buttress, pedestrian bridge   Nikon D750 + AF-S 24-120mm f/4G ED VR @ f/5.6, 1/15, 55mm, ISO 400   Photo: RGH

Korean War Veterans Blvd bridge   Nikon D750 + AF-S 24-120mm f/4G ED VR @ f/5.6, 1/15, 120mm, ISO 250   Photo: RGH

Being up before the sun in a city like Nashville is an interesting way to start the day. My hotel was just a few blocks away from Broadway and it’s an empty place at 5 am. The previous night’s detritus litters the street, and the only people awake are the trash collectors and construction crews. My plan was to walk through town to a pedestrian bridge that spans the river and capture some early morning skyline photos from across the water. The bridge offers fantastic views of the river and its banks, but I wanted to get down to the waterfront across from the city. Technically, the park was closed until daylight, but there were no gates, and at that hour, no-one around to stop me. Once again, the morning was cold ... 33F/1C. When I got to Riverfront Park, there was frost on the grass and I could see my breath. This latter fact proved to be a problem, fogging up my viewfinder when I was trying to focus the camera. I ended up shooting “blind” more than once.

The John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge was built in 1909 as a vehicular bridge to connect Sparkman St and Shelby Ave. Originally known as the Sparkman St Bridge, it fell into disrepair and was closed to vehicular traffic in 1998. It was set to be demolished, but was refurbished and re-purposed into one of the longest pedestrian bridges in the world. From the bridge looking SE along the river, the Korean Veterans Blvd bridge was built to handle vehicular traffic after the Sparkman St bridge was closed. In the photo above, the “rainbow” reflected in the building windows is the Korean Veterans Blvd bridge. It’s a reminder to me to be aware of my surroundings ... I did not see this reflection until I was done shooting and was walking back over the bridge to the city. I think it would have been a great shot to get when the skies were a little darker.

Nikon D750 + AF-S 24-120mm f/4G ED VR @ f/5.6, 1/6, 24mm, ISO 100   Photo: RGH

Nikon D750 + AF-S 24-120mm f/4G ED VR @ f/5.6, 1/3, 38mm, ISO 400   Photo: RGH

Nikon D750 + AF-S 24-120mm f/4G ED VR @ f/5.6, 1/2, 38mm, ISO 400   Photo: RGH

Nikon D750 + AF-S 24-120mm f/4G ED VR @ f/5.6, 1/2, 30mm, ISO 400   Photo: RGH

Early in the morning, if you’re looking for somewhere to eat, follow the construction crews. They know where to get a hearty breakfast on the cheap. I was cutting through a back street to Broadway and my hotel to find breakfast when my way was blocked by a crowd of hard hats and safety vests. Glancing to my left, I saw a packed diner, so changed my plans and stepped inside. I found a seat a little off by myself, placed my order, and buried my head in my notebook to do some writing. Though the food and coffee were nothing special, it was hot and in generous portions, and the service was fast and friendly without being intrusive.

In short order, the diner emptied out and the staff started cleaning up and eating their own breakfast. The banter and shade were being thrown back and forth, and eventually I got dragged into it. One of the workers asked me to take photos of the others “as evidence”. I told them I never heard nothing, never saw nothing, and in fact was never there. This just got the banter up to a fever pitch. They allowed me to take a few pics inside the diner, though not of them. Afterward, one of the staff told me to follow her. We wound our way through a maze of hallways popping through secret doors into an Italian restaurant, a honky-tonk, and a country karaoke bar. The old building was absolutely amazing inside. From the street, you would never know all these businesses occupy the same space. Thanks to everyone at Sun Diner ... you helped to start my day off right.

Nikon D750 + AF-S 24-120mm f/4G ED VR @ f/5.6, 1/1250, 24mm, ISO 100   Photo: RGH

Nikon D750 + AF-S 24-120mm f/4G ED VR @ f/5.6, 1/100, 50mm, ISO 100   Photo: RGH

Look closely   AF-S 24-120mm f/4G ED VR @ f/10, 1/100, 34mm, ISO 100 // @ f/10, 1/100, 105mm, ISO 100   Photos: RGH

Back out into the sunlight, and a steadily warming day, I headed for an area called The Gulch. Gentrified, with spendy condos and fancy restaurants, its seedy side can still be found if you know where to look. One of the other benefits of being up and about early in the morning is that there’s no one around to tell you “No” or to catch you hopping fences ... not that I would ever do that. Besides, if the fences are already down, I didn’t really “hop” any, right? By this time, the day was getting long and I was getting tired. I had a long trek back to the hotel where I hoped to catch a nap before Brooks would arrive at noon(ish). Unfortunately, he was stuck in traffic and bored, so kept calling/texting me. So much for my old-man nap.

iPhone 7 @ f/1.8, 1/12, 3.99mm, ISO 100 // @ f/1.8, 1/15, 3.99mm, ISO 80   Photos: RGH

Brooks finally made it into town just after lunch time. He hadn’t eaten on the road, so I recruited him for the hamburger odyssey tour. He had wheels, and that allowed us to get a little farther away from the city. We ended up at Rotier’s Restaurant. They are famous for their French Bread Burger, but I was unaware of this. Instead, I ordered a regular burger with all the salads (veggies for you non-Kiwis) and no sauces. Serving burgers with a side of attitude since 1945, this place is a Nashville landmark. The burger was as perfect as would be expected. Nothing fancy, just a damned good burger ... and beer in a can. This latter part would be a theme for the rest of the afternoon drink-up, first at Bourbon St Blues & Boogie Bar in the famous Printer’s Alley, then at Robert’s Western World, an old-school honky-tonk on Broadway where the bartender thanked Brooks for not turning tricks in the restroom to pay for our beer.

I ain’t got nothin’ left
But my boots and my guitar
And I’ll sell my boots
Before I sell this guitar
- the only lines we’ve written to our never-to-be-released hit country and western song

The whole purpose of our trip to Nash-Vegas was to watch the Predators take on the Toronto Maple Leafs. The town was full of blue and white and I fell into a familiar accent and rhythm. As the drinking got deeper, my accent got thicker, helped along by some friendly Canadians (redundant, I know) on barstools beside us. Brooks had managed to score us two tickets on the glass, adjacent to the Predators’ bench. The seating arrangement went like this ... Me, Brooks, P.K. Subban ... and it was as glorious as it sounds. First, though, we needed to get to our hotel and change. The tickets came with access to the Lexus Lounge where we would enjoy free food and liquor for two hours before the game and an hour afterward.

Nikon D750 + AF-S 24-120mm f/4G ED VR @ f/5.6, 1/50, 120mm, ISO 100   Photo: RGH

Nikon D750 + AF-S 24-120mm f/4G ED VR @ f/5.6, 1/80, 120mm, ISO 100   Photo: RGH

AF-S 24-120mm f/4G ED VR @ f/8, 1/13, 66mm, ISO 100 // @ f/8, 1/13, 92mm, ISO 100   Photos: RGH

Nikon D750 + AF-S 24-120mm f/4G ED VR @ f/10, 1/20, 120mm, ISO 100   Photo: RGH

I’m not going to recap the game. I will just say that it was as fast and hard-fought as both Brooks and I hoped it would be. Those guys are big, fast, and just damned good at what they do. Fortunately, the Leafs emerged on the right side of a 5-2 drubbing.

When your team loses, there are consequences ...

iPhone 7 @ f/1.8, 1/4, 3.99mm, ISO 100   Photo: RGH

An amusing end to this tale ...

We’re a little too old to be drinking all day and still be able to hang all night, so we were back in the hotel and asleep some time around 1 am. Brooks forgot to text his wife, Cathy, when we got in and promptly fell asleep. Cathy tried texting him, but he was snoring hard. Worried about him, she checked his find-my-phone function. Well, our hotel was right near the local jail, and Cathy spent the night thinking we were in the lock-up. Brooks dropped me at the airport after breakfast and got on the road to plead his case.

Nikon D750 + AF-S 24-120mm f/4G ED VR @ f/8, 1/15, 38mm, ISO 100   Photo: RGH

He’s in the jailhouse now ...