—  Ken and Vesta  —

Wedding and Portrait Photography

541 773-3373

Untitled photo
A Wonderful Dream.

My friend Gayle and I stole twenty-five million dollars last night. But we made a stupid mistake.

It started three days ago. Vesta got sick. She could function almost okay during the day, but nights were not so good. Then Yesterday, I got sick too and last night really sucked.

I blame Maria, cuz she got sick first and I think we caught it from her, cuz she went on our Facebook pages when she was sick, then when we went on, the sick germs jumped right out of our computers and got us.

We spent yesterday in bed watching The Vikings on Amazon Prime. The Vikings were not good guys, they robbed, raped and pillaged just for fun. They were pretty tough though. But by the time 10:00 rolled around, we were a bit tired of all the killing, so we tried to get some sleep.

I woke up about every fifteen minutes or so to blow my nose and to swallow a little cool water, cuz my throat was raw. And every hour on the hour, I had to get up and change out of my sweat soaked tee shirt and then try to fall back into the black hole of dreamless sleep.

Around 2:00, I woke with gremlins banging hammers inside my head. It hurt so bad, I started to think those Viking criminals who were allowed to choose their own method of execution and picked beheading, might’ve had those same gremlins hammering around inside their heads too.

I stumbled into the bathroom, gobbled down three aspirin, changed my tee shirt, went back to bed, praying for that black hole and as I fell into it, Gayle came. She came in black and white, like she did on the night she died, a couple decades ago, to tell me she was alright and that everything was going to be okay.

This time though, she wasn’t stopping by on her way to see the angels. She was back to help me steal millions from the Bank of America.

And we did it, I don’t exactly know how, it was a dream after all. But after we got the cash, I was supposed to lead the cops on a wild goose chase, while Gayle deposited the money in the bank, because that was the last place they’d ever look for it.

A pretty good plan, for a dream. But the bank cameras took our pictures taking the money out of the vault and they were all over television, so when we went back to the bank to withdraw our illegally gotten gains, after I eluded the cops on my wild goose ball chase, the teller recognized us and pushed that big red button that calls the law and in no time the bank was surrounded.

The cops broke down the door, guns blazing, but I don’t know what happened, cuz I woke up.

You know, they say every cloud has a silver lining. I might have been sick as a dog last night and bordering on delirium, but I got to see Gayle again and that made this whole being sick thing worth it a hundred times over.

Untitled photo
Untitled photo
Untitled photo
Dark Harbor.

I made this photograph two years ago in San Francisco. Vesta and I had taken a week of to relax in the City by the Bay and to photograph it. We did that, because we’d lived in Paris for a year and though we took tons of photos, they were all of us and our kids. Oh, we photographed the Eifel Tower a few times, but the people and the city, not so much.

And we didn’t want to find ourselves living in Mexico in a few years and looking back and saying we lived only a couple hours from the second most photographical city on Earth and we didn’t photograph it.

Because we’d lived in the most photographical city in the world and we’d made that mistake and we’re not completely stupid, we can learn from our mistakes.

Anyway, I took this photograph of the Franciscan Crab Restaurant in Fisherman's Wharf about an hour before dawn a year ago today.

Untitled photo
Untitled photo
Watchful Crow.

The crows came with Wyatt, when he showed up at our front door. We heard the knocking as I was getting ready to get in the shower, so Vesta answered as I looked out the window, wearing less clothes then I like when I’m in the living room and we have a stranger on the porch.

He was a big man, wearing a cowboy hat, a work shirt, boots and Levi’s. He looked like he’d just come off a hard days work on a construction site. He badly needed a shower. He had muscles like the Hulk. And he was crying.

I heard him say he’d been walking all night, his feet were covered in blisters and he couldn’t go any further. So as Vesta led him to the patio table we have by our front door, I went to the bedroom and got dressed.

By the time I got back, Wyatt had his head down in folded arms on the table, still crying as Vesta was gently pulling information out of him as a murder of crows flew overhead, sounding eerie as all get out with their cawing.

He said he was a Paiute and when he was a child on the reservation, he’d throw rocks at them, but it didn’t do any good, they never flew away, because they weren’t afraid. He said four or more were a bad sign and there were a lot more than four on the telephone poles and in the trees and on the cars out front and flying overhead.

Vesta asked him were he was going and did he know anybody we could call to help him and he said he was looking for his brother. He knew the address. It was only a block away. He’d gotten himself on the right street, but he’d gone as far as he could.

I left him with Vesta and started down the street as the crows followed me. Why I don’t know. A couple landing on a car, like they were waiting for me as I walking on by on the sidewalk. Some were on the wires above, so I looked up and photographed one. Then I remembered that Alfred Hitchcock move, “The Birds” and I moved along. Best not to piss them off, I thought.

Wyatt’s brother did indeed live at the address. He was a normal sized version of his giant of a brother and he came with me. When we got back to our house, Vesta and his brother help him up and his brother led him home. Wyatt could barely walk and seeing the two of them slowly move on down the street was enough to make you cry.

Untitled photo
Watchful Crow.

The crows came with Wyatt, when he showed up at our front door. We heard the knocking as I was getting ready to get in the shower, so Vesta answered as I looked out the window, wearing less clothes then I like when I’m in the living room and we have a stranger on the porch.

He was a big man, wearing a cowboy hat, a work shirt, boots and Levi’s. He looked like he’d just come off a hard days work on a construction site. He badly needed a shower. He had muscles like the Hulk. And he was crying.

I heard him say he’d been walking all night, his feet were covered in blisters and he couldn’t go any further. So as Vesta led him to the patio table we have by our front door, I went to the bedroom and got dressed.

By the time I got back, Wyatt had his head down in folded arms on the table, still crying as Vesta was gently pulling information out of him as a murder of crows flew overhead, sounding eerie as all get out with their cawing.

He said he was a Paiute and when he was a child on the reservation, he’d throw rocks at them, but it didn’t do any good, they never flew away, because they weren’t afraid. He said four or more were a bad sign and there were a lot more than four on the telephone poles and in the trees and on the cars out front and flying overhead.

Vesta asked him were he was going and did he know anybody we could call to help him and he said he was looking for his brother. He knew the address. It was only a block away. He’d gotten himself on the right street, but he’d gone as far as he could.

I left him with Vesta and started down the street as the crows followed me. Why I don’t know. A couple landing on a car, like they were waiting for me as I walking on by on the sidewalk. Some were on the wires above, so I looked up and photographed one. Then I remembered that Alfred Hitchcock move, “The Birds” and I moved along. Best not to piss them off, I thought.

Wyatt’s brother did indeed live at the address. He was a normal sized version of his giant of a brother and he came with me. When we got back to our house, Vesta and his brother help him up and his brother led him home. Wyatt could barely walk and seeing the two of them slowly move on down the street was enough to make you cry.

Untitled photo
An open message to the Hot, Young Hooker Girls on Facebook.

Because I’m a writer and I actually have a few fans who like what I write and because they tell their friends about my work (or at least I hope they do), my page is public and I accept all friend invitations.

Because the more people who buy my books the happier I am. I think that’s how it works anyway.

Then there’s our photography, Vesta’s and mine, I like to think some people like our photographic work as well, so that’s another reason my page is public and that I accept all friend invitations.

And lately some pretty hot young hotties have friended me. Then a few weeks or a month later, after I friend one, I get a message from her telling me she’s got photos for me to look at that FB won’t let her post—and then I just scratch my head, cuz I know they’ve got no clothes on in these photos.

And some of these girls can be pretty crafty. They’ll send me a message (I get and respond to a lot of FB messages) saying they like my work and I respond with a thank you. Then they’ll respond that they’d like to get together for a private chat—and then I check out they’re FB page and find out that they’re young and hot and I scratch my head with both hands.

Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against hot young girls. And I certainly respect hookers, it’s a hard way to make a living. But come on, hot young hooker girls, if you took all the trouble to make a Facebook page, do a little research. Just five minutes on my page should tell you you’re wasting your time.

Still, I welcome your friendship and I will never, ever report you, cuz no one likes a snitch. And besides, I’m all about selling my work and even hot, young hooker girls might appreciate a good story. And some of you might even want your photo taken.

So, hot, young hooker girls, if you want to buy one or two of my thrillers, I love you. And if you want Vesta or me to take your picture, I love you. But if you want me for some other kind of business, well call _______. You can fill the blank. I had a name there, but Vesta made me delete it.

Untitled photo
Shoe Tree.

There used to be this great shoe tree we saw every time we headed north out of Reno on 395 toward Susanville. We oftentimes stopped and photographed it. We’d photographed it so much, that we had to start thinking of different ways to pose it and this in one of them.

It was kinda far from Reno, but the kids made their way there to toss their shoes on it. Probably kids from Susanville too. A lotta kids made their way there, we know, cuz there were a lotta shoes on that tree.

One time we even saw a bride and her groom there. She was tossing up her heels. She was still in her wedding dress and we would have photographed her, but it was just after sunrise, they looked like they’d been partying hardy all night long and they just mighta been too drunk to be on the road.

But we’re not cops and there were other people with them, so we assumed one of them was sober enough to drive. Anyway, she didn’t like her heels, said they hurt her feet and she was never gonna wear a pair again.

However, I’m thinking just maybe, after she sobered up, she mighta thought tying those heels together that she got married in and tossing ‘em high up into that tree, might not have been such a good idea.

PS. Sadly the tree got sick and the people who monitor such things cut it down. And we and whole lotta other people miss it.

Untitled photo
A Cold Tree.

Vesta and I came to Reno for a year. We’d visited our friends, Mike and Maggie, here several times, always in the summer and, because we’re not too bright, we assumed it’s always summer here. How wrong we were! And that first winter was a killer, but not to worry, we were gonna move when the year was up anyway.

But we didn’t.

We made so many friends here in the first year, that we decided to stay one more. Then we started doing wedding Photography and we booked up a year in advance, so we had to stay one more. And that happened again and again and again, up to eight times. And now I think we’re going on the ninth time, or maybe it’s the tenth.

It’s a gosh darned good thing we really like it here. Even though sometimes in the winter it gets awful cold.

Untitled photo
Alex and Dylan.

Here are Alex and Dylan, who are engaged. They’re getting married next year in Newport Beach, which for those of you who don’t know, is in Southern California. However, they’re doing their wedding a little differently than usual. They’re getting married on the beach on a Thursday, with twenty or so family and friends, then having the reception on Saturday with a bazillion guests.

I learned this from them, before I knew their names. Usually, actually always, Vesta tells me who we’re photographing, so I don’t screw up and have to admit that I don’t know who I’m talking too.

Like I did this evening. We were half way through the shoot, when I wanted to ask Alex something and realized I hadn’t learned her name. So I told her I forgot to get their names and Alex told me hers and Dylan told me his.

Then I told them Bob Dylan’s new record (actually a big CD set, 14th of his Bootleg Series) was coming out on November 2nd and that I could hardly wait. I don’t listen to Dylan much anymore, but I once wrote a review of “Blood on the Tracks” and I called it the best record ever recorded and I still believe that.

And this 14th set in his bootleg series, called, “More Blood, More Tracks” is a whole bunch of hours of him in the studio recording that record.

“But Ken’s going to have to wait to listen to the record, till we get back from the Queen movie,” Vesta said, “which also comes out on November 2nd.

Now it’s up in the air who’s been waiting longer, me for “More Blood, More Tracks,” or Vesta for the stupid Queen movie.

And for reasons I can’t understand, she not only has to see it on the day it comes out, SHE WANTS TO GO AN HOUR EARLY, so we can be right up front and guaranteed to see the first showing. CAN YOU IMAGINE, I’m gonna have friends all over the world, who have heard and commented on the record, while I’m watching Queen.

Okay, okay, I’m a big fan of Queen too and I’ll enjoy the movie. But I coulda seen it on the 3rd. Maybe I’ll smuggle my phone into the theater and listen to Dylan on Spotify, while I watch Queen tear down the house.

Anyway, “Congratulations Alex and Dylan. I’m horribly sorry I didn’t get your names in my pea brain before we met.”

Untitled photo
Dustin and Kevin.

Here are Dustin and Kevin, who are Engaged to be Married. They were going to have their ceremony on the roof of the Nevada Museum of Art. It’s a great place for a wedding and we know that first hand, because Vesta and I have been to a couple Yelp parties there.

But just before this photograph was taken, Vesta asked him about the venue and Dustin said they had to find a new one, because the museum cancelled them.

“What did you say to them, Dustin?” Vesta said and three of us started laughing as Dustin protested, saying, it wasn’t his fault.

And it wasn’t. The museum decided to have some sort of special museum event on Dustin and Kevin’s day, but still he’d booked it and they unbooked it.

We met Dustin several years ago at a coffeeshop and we learned right away that he says what he thinks and if you don’t like it, “Tough shit.” Which makes him a lotta fun to be around, unless you’re an asshole, cuz if you are, you might not like him very much, cuz he’s got a great wit and he’ll use it to let you know, you’re not only an asshole, but you’re the biggest one to ever come down the pike.

So it was easy for us to think that perhaps someone at the museum mighta said an asshole thing to Dustin and got unloaded on. But that didn’t happen, well it might’ve happened after the museum folks told him about their special museum event on his and Kevin’s day.

They used to have comedy nights at Tronix (which was the greatest pub on Earth, but it’s gone now) and when Dustin was on stage, look out. He was funny as all get out, but if he was roasting you, YIKES!

I asked him if he was going to give the officiant at his wedding a hard time and he said, “What do you think?” Then he smiled and said, “Of course I am.”

So we can hardly wait, because this is gonna be the wedding of the decade in this town. And it’s gonna be a lotta fun too.

Untitled photo
Curious Zebra.

Vesta and I went on a photo safari with our friends Mike and Maggie a few years back and on that trip, we met these guys. It’s hard to believe you can wake up in a modern, cosmopolitan city like Johannesburg and a short couple hours later be out in the bush with zebras like these, not to mention lions and tigers and bears.

Okay, no tigers and bears, but lions galore. And if you get outta the car and wander around and they’re hungry, you could maybe get eater. Really, eaten, almost just down the road from malls and restaurants and grocery stores and suburbs.

And that is really super cool and it beats all the heck outta Disneyland.

When we were in our early twenties, Vesta and I went on a photo safari in Kenya and one early morning back then, we found ourselves surrounded by a sea of elephants. Hundreds of them. We stayed in our car as they moved on by, some stopping to look in the window as we photographed them with wide angle lenses. It was a sight to behold, one that’ll live with us always. Buy sadly, it has to live in memory, because the slides we took have been lost over the years.

We used to bore family and friends with them when they came over. We’d set up a screen, bring out our carousels and let the slide projector automatically show them in living color and glorious black and white. But after they’d seen them a couple times, they’d either grown when we wanted to show a slideshow or they’d just stop coming over.

Except for Vesta’s dad. He’d just smile and calmly re-enjoy Kenya in our living room, again and again and again.

But somehow, over the years, probably in one of the times when we sold everything we had and moved far away, we lost those carousels. But we still have the photos from our South African safari.

And though we enjoyed the heck out of our South Africa trip a decade and a half later, we saw far fewer elephants than we did in Kenya. And, sadly, if we’d’ve gone to Kenya then, it would’ve been the same. Time, poachers and the encroachment of man have vastly diminished these great herds.

The South Africans now cull the herds. It’s for their own good, they say. It is not, I say. But nobody listens to me, least of all the South African government. And, I’m afraid, if it weren’t for the fact that these African governments hadn’t woken up and realized without elephants and lions and zebras, like the ones in this photograph, the tourists would stop coming,

It’s true, without tourists the wildlife in their countries would have gone the way of our buffalo, cougars and wild horses. And that’s got me to thinking, our next faraway vacation should be another photo safari, because not only would we get great photographs, but we’d be doing our bit to help preserve the African wildlife that’s still here.

Maybe you should go too. Maybe we should all go together. That would be great.

Untitled photo
Dead Ringer on Display.

I posted a color version of this photograph three years ago or so, back when I changed the cover of DEAD RINGER, because I came across an image by Elena Vizerskaya, who I believe is the greatest digital artist on Earth. Her image, the one on the billboard in this photograph, captured the story so well that I knew I had to change the cover.

If you’re not familiar with Elena’s work, you can google her.

Anyway, as I was going through my older photos, looking for a few for this project, because Vesta and I are three hundred miles away from home and we’re gonna be for a few days, I came across this one and it just begged to be converted into black and white.

Really, it did. I was rapidly clicking through photos and when I clicked on this one, it shouted, “Stop, look at me. Stop right now.” So I stopped. And then it shouted, “For the love of all that’s holy, pick me.”

So I did.

Untitled photo

Dead Ringer Writer.

Untitled photo
Devon and Bob.

If I’ve told Devon once, I’ve told him a thousand times, not to let Bob out. Not under any circumstances. No matter what he says, no matter what he promises. But somehow, while Vesta and I were out getting pizza, Bob convinced young Devon that roaming around MidTown and scaring people half to death was more fun that playing on his iPad.

When we came home, they were gone. It took us an hour or so to find them. Apparently they’d been having more fun than a young lad and a dead guy should be allowed to have.

Ah, well, maybe they did frighten a few women and children, but there was no harm done. I don’t think so anyway.

Then the next morning I got up right around 5:00, like usual. And, like usual, I stumbled out into the kitchen. Usually, I run water into the kettle and while it’s heating, I put coffee into the press. Then I wait, till just before the H2O boils and I pour it into the press. I fill the press twice, so that I get a full thermos. Then I take a cup to my computer and write till 7:00 or so, when Vesta gets up.

But not this morning.

I got into the kitchen and right off the bat, I saw that the thermos had its lid screwed on tight. I didn’t do that. I get everything ready to go the night before, press with it’s pushy downy top next to it. Thermos with it’s top next to it. Kettle next to the faucet. It’s like my silly morning ritual.

I picked up the thermos. It was full. I took the lid off, steam came out. The coffee was hot.

How?

I went into the bedroom. Vesta was dead to the world. I know I didn’t do it. Did she get up in the middle of the night?

Or is Bob, just a little more then he seems.

Untitled photo
Two of my very favorite people. Christmas vacation is over and Devon goes home tomorrow, so we decided to spend the day taking pictures.

On another Note: When you gotta go, you gotta go and people should respect that.

Vesta and I were just talking about this old guy who cut in front of us in the check out line at the Goodwill awhile back.

He told the cashier he had to go and that he needed to use the restroom.

And she told him customers were not allowed to use their restrooms.

“I gotta go BAAAAAD,” he said.

“I’m sorry, I can’t help you.”

So he cut loose right there. Foul smelling diarrhea. He was wearing shorts that went to his knees and obviously no underwear. Or maybe he was wearing boxers. I don’t know. But what I do know is that sprayed the floor.

“Sorry,” he said.

“Are you nuts!” Vesta said to the cashier.

“Store policy,” the cashier said.

Vesta tossed the books she was going to buy on the counter. “We’re outta here.” She said to the cashier. “Have fun with that.” She was talking about the diarrhea covered floor.

The old guy followed us out.

“Guess you showed her,” I said.

“Didn’t mean too,” he said.

So, I’ll say again, “When you gotta go, you gotta go and people should respect that.”

Untitled photo

The Killing of a Gay Man or Why Rod Stewart's Song Means so Much to Me.

This is a photograph I made a couple years ago at Burning Man. If you don’t know about Burning Man, you should Google it. Anyway, the reason Vesta and I like going out to the Playa in September is because you can be whoever you want for a week. You can dress however you want. Do whatever you want, as long as you don’t hurt anyone.

If you look carefully at this photograph, you can see a couple people doing what they want sorta in public. I didn’t know they were doing it until after I made the photograph, when people cheered afterwards and they took a bow. And I didn’t think I caught them in the act, because I was photographing the Art Car, which is what they call vehicles like this at Burning Man.

Vesta and I don’t dress up at Burning Man, but even so, we love being there, among people who can express themselves so freely, if only for a week.

When I was young, I used to go out to my dad’s one stop on Pico Boulevard in Los Angeles and hang out and when I got fired from the gas company (yeah, I was a gasman for a few months) he gave me a job.

A one-stop in those days was a place where record stores could buy all their records at one stop, instead of going to various record distributors. The local record distributors in L.A. weren’t too fond of Saturn (the name of my dad’s one-stop), because he was their competition. In fact, they didn’t like him so much that they wouldn’t sell him any records, but the record business was a cutthroat business and other distributors in other cities were glad to cut Jack Douglas deals, till finally the ones in L.A. buckled and sold to him directly.

They did that, because he became the largest buyer and seller of phonograph records west of the Mississippi.

And my dad was probably the largest buyer of R&B in America. He bought R&B records from all over the country and shipped all over the country. He probably shoulda been born black, because he certainly was a member of the community. Every black man who came into his place was a friend and a whole heck of a lot more black people came in than white people.

And in those days African American transvestites would stroll Pico Boulevard dressed to kill. And they’d often stop in to shoot the shit with Jack over a Schlitz as my dad had a fridge filled to the brim with his favorite beer, free for anyone on the street who wanted to come and talk.

And my dad shunned Barney’s Beanery, because of their offensive sign and the gay people in L.A. knew that about him.

He treated everybody the same. He didn’t judge. And this was a time in America when being black was hard. Being gay was harder. Being black and gay at the same time was harder still. And being a black trans who flaunted it was an almost impossible bridge to cross and my dad sorta admired those who did.

After I graduated from high school and the service and North American Aviation and the Gas Company, I went to work for my dad. Which was also after Watts, and just before the murders of MLK and RFK. Being black in America was still hard, but not as hard as it had been. Being gay, well being gay was actually against the law in a lotta states, so it was still as hard as it had ever been.

The transvestites were still haunting Pico flaunting their outrageous outfits with their bright smiles and they still stopped by and were still welcomed by dad and now me and everybody who worked at Saturn, including the illegals who worked there, who, by the way, got paid the same as anybody else who worked at Saturn.

After a year there, Dub and I came out with Great White Wonder, the first rock bootleg and my life changed. Everybody wanted our records and Dub and I had a good run, right up until we split up. Dub kept all the old customers and I had to find new ones to survive. And one of the ones I found, or rather found me, was one of those cops who used to come into Saturn and drink with my dad and sometimes with the black record store owners and sometimes with a black trans.

Richard seemed like an okay guy for a cop. He never had a bad word for anybody. You’d never know the deep seething hatred he must’ve had for those men who dressed in women’s clothes.

For me, Richard turned into a pretty cool guy, because while the record companies were trying to enlist the aid of the cops and the FBI to find me and put me out of business, Richard turned into my biggest customer, buying thousands of records. Go figure.

But even though I thought Richard was a cool guy, he wasn’t cool at all. He had a darkside, very dark. He’d troll for gay men, pretending to be gay himself as he looked for marks. When he found one he thought had money, he’d pick him up, go to his place, pull his gun and rob the poor guy.

But one day, one of his marks put up a fight and Richard shot and killed him. Then he went through the house, took what he wanted, then calmly drove away, like he’d done nothing wrong. But the next door neighbor heard the shots and she wrote down Richard’s license number, then called the cops.

Later that evening his wife called my dad. He called me. And we met at her house. The cops had already been there and had arrested one of their own for murder. Because as unpopular as gay people were among the LAPD, shooting and killing them was still against the law.

We spent the evening with her as she was distraught as all get out. She didn’t know about her husband rolling gays, but she knew he hated them. She’d found the gun he’d killed the guy with in the towel closet. Though the cops had searched the place and found the stuff he’d stolen from the guy he’d killed, they hadn’t found the gun.

She wanted us to take it. We would not. What happened to it I don’t know. I do know I never saw Richard again, because he went to jail.

But can you imagine hating a class of people so much you’d be okay with killing them? Anyway, eventually Vesta and I moved away from America and while we were gone Barney Frank got elected to congress and when we got back Barack Obama got elected to the presidency and Tronix became the Greatest Pub on Earth and we thought all that hate had gone away.

Oh if only it were so.


Untitled photo
The Prettiest Girl in the Caribbean Names a Boat.

We were driving through Clearwater Beach on the Florida’s Gulf side, looking for a motel for the night, because we’d been on the road for hours and there was no way we were gonna make Key West, without whichever one of us was driving falling asleep at the wheel and killing us both.

It was late in September in 1992. It was getting dark and we found a motel near a Mexican restaurant, which was good, because we’d been in search of the perfect fajita on this driving trip around America.

But Vesta wanted to take a walk before dinner, so we did and we passed a movie theater and they were showing a movie called Captain Ron, with Kurt Russell, Martin Short and Mary Kay Place, two actors we really liked and one we used to like a lot when she was in a television show called “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.”

So, even though we were tired as old horses, we went into the theater, got a couple movie hotdogs and Cokes instead of fajitas and margaritas, went in to see the film and our lives changed forever.

We were mesmerized by the movie and halfway through it, as the nice family is sailing through a storm with crazy Captain Ron at the helm and armed guerrillas on board and it looks like they might sink and all die, Vesta poked me and said, “We gotta get a sailboat.”

And that’s all we talked about all the way to Key West and all through the week we were there and all the way back to Huntington Beach in California, where we lived. But there was one little problem. We’d never sailed a boat before, had never even been on a sailboat and we recognized that could be an impediment to our sailing in the Caribbean dream.

But that problem was soon solved when we saw an ad in the back of a sailing magazine. This guy had a hundred and twenty-five foot, gaff rigged schooner and and was looking for a couple passengers who wanted to spend three years sailing around the world with him and his wife. We didn’t know what gaff rigged meant or what a schooner was, but it sure sounded like something we wanted to do

He was in Kentucky, so we drove to Kentucky and met Ben and Janice. Ben was a doctor who’d escaped from East Germany on the a coal barge, which he’d converted into said gaff rigged schooner. They seemed like nice people, so two months later we met them in New Zealand and they still seemed like nice people.

However, I’m sure if Ben took one of those DNA tests it would come back that he was from the same gene pool as Adolf Hitler, but we didn’t find that out till we were at sea. He became so bossy and went so nuts that we jumped ship in New Caledonia. We spent a month there, then caught a small boat to Vanuatu, where we spent a couple weeks, then we flew to New Zealand and lived there for a year.

But all the time, we still dreamed of sailing the Caribbean, lazing on sunny days, reading mystery thrillers and horror stories and me writing my own, while Vesta did absolutely nothing at all except have the time of her life.

But we still had that same stupid impediment. We didn’t know how to sail. We’d learned not a thing with Benjamin Hitler. But we didn’t let that stop us. After we got back to America, we flew to Tortola in the British Virgin Islands and bought Charley Morgan’s sixty foot race boat. It was old and tired and had seen a lotta better days.

We hired someone to help us get it down to Trinidad and spent a year making it ready for us to sail and when the boat was finally ready to go, we hired a girl from Womanship, an organization of women sailors who were supposed to be the best at teaching the craft, but we got the slowest, neediest woman on Earth. All she wanted to do was drink diet coke and order us around.

Fortunately, our Trinidadian friend Gary was with us and despite her, the three of us sorta figured out this sailing business, So we let her go when we got back up to the Virgins without a tip or a kiss goodbye,

And then the three of us, with this giant boat, really did have the time of our lives and by the time we got back down to Trinidad, we were sailors three.

----

PS. About this photo. When we bought Charley Morgan’s boat, it was named “Cayenne.” And though that was a good name, we wanted something which would really make her ours. And we thought and talked and argued for months, when finally one day, when we were almost finished with the refit, Vesta shouted up from below, “I’ve Got it!”

And when the prettiest girl in the Caribbean, came up with the smile on her face you can see in this photograph I knew she did.

“What?” I said right after I took the photo.

“We can name her after our record.” She laughed. “Great White Wonder.”

I laughed too. “It’s perfect.”

Untitled photo

GWW is Finally Finished.

Untitled photo

Stairway to the Top Deck.

Untitled photo
Steel and Glass.

This photograph is part of the Vancouver Seawall, which goes on along the sea for twenty-eight kilometers. It’s quite a walk as it wends its way between the sea and Stanly Park. We did not walk the whole way or even a fraction of the way, but we walked the Coal Harbour Promenade part of it, where you can see oodles and oodles of waterfront apartments like this one, reaching for the sky with their ocean views.

We’ve been to Vancouver three times. The first when we were in our early twenties and we flew. The other two times we drove. The first driving trip didn’t work out so well for us. We spent a couple days in the city, then headed out for Alaska.

But about five hundred miles north of Vancouver, just outside of a place called Fort Saint John, God put black ice on the road. We slid in it and rolled our brand new Mitsubishi Montero. And I mean brand new. We bought it and then we hit the road. The car was like three weeks old and there was no way on God’s green Earth the insurance people could depreciate it. They had to give us a brand new one, cuz ours was totaled.

Anyway, we were belted in and the car was built Japanese tough. So our only injuries were the bruises caused by the seatbelts, which were easy to get our of. And once out of them, it was easier for me to get outta the car, cuz it was on it’s side and I was on top, so my door opened to the sky, Vesta’s to the ground. So if I’d been killed, she’d been kinda screwed.

But I wasn’t dead and I managed to get out and help her out. And when we got out, it was cold. Cold enough so you could freeze and die if you didn’t have the right clothes and we didn’t have the right clothes, because we were from California, where it never gets that cold. However, the first car to come along gave us a lift back to Fort Saint John, so we lived and learned to love Canadians, because everybody was so helpful.

The next time we went, we drove again and this time Vancouver was our destination. And it’s just a great place to go. The city is fabulous. The people are great and they have clean public restrooms everywhere. It’s like going a foreign country and you don’t have to get on a plane.

Really, you could believe you were in Australia or New Zealand or even England. Well, not England. Okay, maybe even England if you’re imagination’s good enough.

Untitled photo
Laura and Jade.

“You can fly if you want,” Laura said, “but we’re driving.”

“We don’t do so well on icy roads,” Vesta said. “We’ve had two accidents, one really bad.”

“It hardly ever snows in April,” Laura said. “At least the way we go.”

And we probably shoulda listened more carefully when Laura said, “Hardly ever.” And we for sure shoulda asked what way they go, because there are a lotta ways to get from Reno, Nevada to Minot, North Dakota.

But we didn’t listen and we didn’t ask. I suppose because we like being on the road so much. Any excuse for a road trip and we’re up for it. Heck, my friend Trevor once called from England and said he and his lovely wife Heather were coming to the States and wanted to know if we’d pick them up at the airport.

“Where you landing?” I said.

“Sarasota,” he said.

“Heck, that’s only three thousand miles away,” I said. “What time’s the plane get in.” And we met them a week later and had a wonderful time with them in Florida. And when they flew back to England, we drove back to California, taking pictures along the way.

Any excuse for a road trip.

Back to Laura and her beau Jade. We met them when we did their engagement shoot up at Sand Harbor, which is on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe. It’s a gorgeous place. If you ever get a chance to go, you should, because it’s stunning.

Halfway through the shoot, Laura said, “Your card says, ‘Have Cameras, Will Travel,’ we’re getting married in North Dakota. Will you go?”

Any excuse for a road trip and that was a good one.

Three or four months later we had coffee with them at Starbucks and that’s when Vesta told them we don’t do icy roads so well. But since being on the road anywhere is just about the best place we could ever be, we decided to chance it.

And a blizzard found us in Custer, South Dakota. We hunkered down in a Motel 8 for three days, glued to the weather reports on TV and trudging through the snow a couple times a day to just about the worst country and western bar-slash-restaurant in America.

But it was the only one open, cuz of the blizzard, and the hardy folk in Custer seemed to love the fair and we said we did too, cuz we knew they’d’ve killed us if we’d’a said any different, because we weren’t from there and they all knew it. It was that kinda place.

But we’re fun people and they kinda warmed up to us by day three, even though we were from California.

And when the blizzard passed and the news said it was safe to drive, we left and we were on icy roads all the way up to Minot. Real icy roads. It’s lucky we got there alive. But somehow we arrived safe and sound in time to photograph their wedding and the above black and white picture is our favorite photograph of them on their special day.

And since we didn’t have another wedding for a couple weeks, we hung around afterwards for a few days, till it was bright and sunny and all the snow had melted away. And we went a different way back, taking pictures along the way.

And we enjoyed the heck outta the drive, all thoughts of snow and tough country and western bars with bad food out of our minds.

Any excuse for a road trip.

Untitled photo

Ofelia and Tron with Hearts.

A St. Martin Cop Car or You Know, They’re Not White.

Hurricane season in the Caribbean is from the beginning of June to the end of November. And they affect the southern island of Grenada all the way up north to that really big one called North America. And they go from east to west or southeast to northwest.

But that’s more a guideline than a rule, because in reality, they can come whenever they want and go wherever they want. But for the most part, they like to stay within their guidelines, though a backwards one at the end of November called Lenny one year, came from Jamaica to the French islands which was west to east and it almost got us.

Anyway, we like the French side of Saint Martin a whole lot and we tried to get there by the beginning of every December, because it’s a great place to spend Christmas. And we’d often pull up anchor and sail around to the Dutch side, because we had a lot of friends, who braved the hurricanes and lived on their boats there year round. And they had great bars there and a Mexican Restaurant called “Ricks” we liked a lot.

And when you sail from island nation to island nation and even the islands which are part of the United States, England, France and Holland, you have to check in with customs and we usually do, but not on the French side of St. Martin, because the Dutch are such sticklers for regulations and the French, not so much.

When you leave the Dutch side to sail around to the French side, a couple hours of sailing, the Dutch want you come ashore and go through the formalities of checking out, an hour of our time, and when you get to Marigot Bay, Marigot is the capital of the French side and also the largest city, you’re supposed to check in. And when you go back to the Dutch side, maybe after lunch, you’re supposed to check out, then check in again with the Dutch, when you get to Simpson Bay, where we liked to anchor.

So you can see what a hassle this was for us and we solved the problem by never checking in on the French side, because though brave as all get out, the gendarmes were generally pretty laid back. We once stayed put in Marigot Bay for three months and every Sunday they’d come out and tell us we should check in and we always told ‘em we would get right on it. They knew we weren’t gonna and we knew they knew and they knew we knew they knew. But they were always laid back and cool about it.

One Sunday, before all the Haitian bodies washed ashore, when Tiffany was visiting, we were wandering around town and we saw this police car parked behind the police station, which I think is a pretty good representation of how laid back the gendarmes were.

A couple days after Tiffany flew back to America, Vesta wanted to eat at Rick’s, so we sailed back to the Dutch side, had their nachos for lunch, which is a feast, went back to our boat and heard the Dutch Coast Guard cutter "Puma" radio that they’d found a body in Marigot Bay. I guess they must have motored over for lunch. Soon after sailboats got on the radio, saying they had a body off their port or starboard side.

Men, women, children, babies. But not the cowardly captain or crew, they got in their dingy and abandoned ship, leaving their cargo of Haitian refugees to die when their overloaded boat started sinking.

We spent the afternoon listening to the radioman on "Puma" telling of body after body and how they were pulling them out of the water. It was horrifying and I wrote about it at the time, thinking the sailing magazine I wrote for would never publish it, but they did.

A year later, when Lenny, the backwards hurricane, was headed for us, we sought safety in the Saints, a group of small French islands south of Guadeloupe, thinking we’d be safe there, but the gendarmes came out and told us if we didn’t move, we’d die and that we should go to Guadeloupe.

We told them we didn’t think we could get in there, because we drew twelve feet and the channel around the entrance to the bay was only ten. They told us it had been dredged and if we stayed between the buoys, we’d be safe. And although we were in whiteout conditions, because of the hurricane, we managed to follow a French boat on in and as you can tell by reading this, we didn’t die. So I guess you could say those French gendarmes sorta saved our lives.

We spent two terrifying days listening to the radio, hearing Mayday after Mayday. And one of those Maydays came from a small sailboat. This guy said he’d lost his mast in the storm, was helpless and needed help.

A French voice came on the radio and said they were sorry, but there were no assets available, they were all busy helping others. Then that radioman we’d heard on the radio a year ago, came on and said, “This is the Netherlands Coast Vessel “Puma.” We are only twenty-two feet, but we’ll go.

And they motored out into waves bigger than their boat and they found that man and they saved him. Those same brave sailors who’d pulled those dead families from the sea a year ago.

The bodies of those men, women, children and babies, who were fleeing one of the most despotic governments on Earth. Maybe they might not have tried, if they’d known if they did make it to America, they’d be sent back and slaughtered by their government as an example for others who might think about making the trip. But they believed in the hope and promise of America.

Presidents from Carter to Bush 41 sent them back to be murdered. During his campaign, Clinton promised he wouldn’t do that, but he was lying, he sent ‘em back too. So did Bush 43. I don’t know what Obama did, probably the same, but I hope not.

Anyway, after the hurricane gave us a near miss, we went ashore and had lunch in one of those outdoor cafes that make everyone who ever eats in one want to move to France, where we ran into a couple we thought were friends.

Of course, we talked about the hurricane and I brought up the brave guys on “Puma,” and then I told them about the Haitian bodies they’d pulled out of the water. And, I said what I said above, that even if they’d’ve made it, they’d’ve been sent back.

“As they should’ve been.” My friend who is no longer my friend said. “We don’t need anymore of them in America.”

“Them?” Vesta said.

“Foreigners,” my friend, who is no longer my friend said.

“They were women and children and babies,” Vesta said.

“But they’re not obeying our laws,” my no longer friend said.

“Say what you mean,” I said.

But he couldn’t tell me what he really meant, however his wife could and she did. She said, “You know, they’re not white.”

And now, all these years later, I’m wondering if anything has really changed. Because right now, as I’m writing this, women and children and babies are fleeing terrifying gangs and governments, coming to America looking for safety and we’re not gonna let them in, because, you know, “They’re not white.”

Powered by SmugMug Owner Log In