Saturday, October 30, 2010

Morning at Kittery Point, Maine

This is another image from my trip to the Dover area this past weekend, taken fairly early in the morning, shortly before I surprised Steve Lavigne by showing up on his doorstep with no advance warning. With the help of my TrekPod and my camera's self-timer function, I managed to get myself into one of the three photos I used to create this small panoramic shot of Kittery Point beach in Maine, a place Jeannine and I used to go to sometimes to swim and walk. It was typically not very crowded because it was not, frankly, a great place to swim, but perhaps more to the point, there were not many parking spaces.

But it is a beautiful spot, and even though my panorama-making software once again had a few problems with the moving waves, I like this one -- the colors, lighting and composition appeal to me. -- PL

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Weekend in New Hampshire (and Maine)

This past weekend, my wife went out to Minneapolis to visit a family friend and attend a convention of like-minded bloggers. I would have loved to have gone with her, but in spite of my best efforts, it just didn't work out. So while she was in the midwest having fun, I decided that rather than be miserable and lonely at home, I could be miserable and lonely* somewhere more interesting and potentially distracting in a good way. So I chose to spend those days by myself in the Dover, NH area.
I stayed in Portsmouth, but I made trips to some of our our old haunts, favorite areas on the seacoast as well as Dover itself and the neighboring town of Durham. It was interesting to walk around Dover and see what has changed -- not much, I think. The ice cream parlor that we used to enjoy going to is no longer there, replaced by a nifty little cafe where I ate two of my lunches that weekend, and they were both excellent. I walked over to the good ol' Dover Public Library, which we used quite a bit when we lived there…

… and when I went inside to poke around, I was happy to see that they still had the "magazine swap" shelf that I so enjoyed back in the early 1980's -- it was a great way to recycle your old magazines. (Although i think it may have been called a magazine EXCHANGE back then… but I could be confusing it with a similar thing at the Sharon, CT library some time later.)

Looking around the library, I found Jeannine's latest book, "Borrowed Names", shelved in the poetry for young adults section. That's it, fourth from the left.

Here's a shot of the cover of "Borrowed Names".

(By the way -- and I say this in a completely unbiased way -- it's a great book. Check it out!)

Continuing my stroll around Dover, I took one street that led to this view…

… a bit of interesting scenery I don't recall from our days in Dover. Maybe we never walked up that street.

After a couple of hours of reminiscing, I drove out to Ogunquit, ME, where I walked on part of the fabled "Marginal Way", and I was reminded of why I prefer the coast of Maine to the coast of Cape Cod (well, to be fair, the parts of the coast of Cape Cod that I saw a couple of weeks ago)...

... great rocks! You can't really see it in the photo below, but the stiff breeze was blowing spray off the white-capped waves -- very dramatic!

I did sit down and do a little sketching of some of the rocks, but it was pretty cold and breezy, so I only did one drawing. I have to spend more time up there in the warm parts of the year, I think.

The next day I decided to take a drive up to one of our favorite beaches, Long Sands in York… so named because it's, well, a long, sandy beach. I remembered that the last time we walked on it,  the sand was not very squishy underfoot, but firm… and I started thinking that MAYBE it would be firm enough to support me and my bicycle. So I parked near one end of the beach, carried my bike down the steps to the sand, and started riding. And it was GREAT! I think -- no, I KNOW -- that this was the most fun I had all weekend. I spent probably an hour riding up and down the beach, dodging seagulls and sandpipers, going in and out of the surf, and watching my shadow, cast by the setting sun.

It was almost too picturesque, and shortly made even MORE so by the rising of the moon just off Nubble Point near the lighthouse. I took a few photos of this scene using the zoom lens on my camera (which is why the moon looks so huge, I think), and put them together into this little panorama.

On my last day of this impromptu vacation, I headed up a little further into Maine, to drop in unannounced on Steve Lavigne and his family. I think I surprised the heck out of him, but we had a nice visit. Then I decided to drive back to Dover one last time, because i had a mission there.

You see, on my way up on Friday, I had stopped at a general store called Calef's just outside Dover, and picked up a few postcards which I intended to mail to Jeannine. One of them featured a cool aerial photo of Dover, and I was hoping to see if our old house was, by some chance, included in the image. So I was studying it, and for some reason, I just couldn't figure out exactly from which direction the photo was taken… which was a little odd, because I am pretty familiar with the layout of downtown Dover. So I once again walked around the streets of Dover, trying to pick out significant landmarks and compare them to the tiny images in the postcard, attempting to get my bearings.

And after about ten minutes of this, it hit me -- the photo was REVERSED! I found it kind of surprising that just reversing the image would throw me off so much, but it did. (When I got home, I scanned the postcard, flipped in in Photoshop, and instantly everything fell into place and made sense.) Sadly, our old neighborhood was just out of shot in the postcard's aerial image.

On the drive back home, I decided to take a spin through nearby Durham, NH, and had to stop to take a photo of this fabulous tree, which just at the moment I was driving by happened to be lit up perfectly by the sun. It was simply blazing. -- PL

(*Full disclosure: I was not actually miserable. -- PL)

Saturday, October 23, 2010


(I thought this comment, left on one of my previous posts, deserved a post of its own, with my answer to the question it posed. -- PL)

"mikeandraph87 said…

I noticed this weekend marks 1 years since the TMNT property was sold. How do you feel today compared to a year ago leading up the sale? I'm sure you've progressed well."

I was aware in the back of my mind that it was in October of last year that the sale went through, but I had not remembered it was this weekend. Interesting. The short answer to your question would be something like "I feel pretty good."

Now here's the long answer.

As I recall, back in the months preceding the sale, when we were going through the very complicated process of negotiation and construction of the purchase and sale agreement, I was sort of on "pins and needles", as they say. The likelihood that the sale would actually happen had waxed and waned a few times, but now it seemed that it would in fact transpire and it was a very exciting albeit frustrating time for me, as I could not share this information with anyone outside of a small circle of people actually working on the deal. Unfortunately, that meant I couldn't tell my artist friends at Mirage, which was very hard. I really hated keeping it a secret from them. I was very stressed out, though I knew it was something I needed and wanted to do.

As I have said in previous posts on this blog, I expected a huge sense of relief when the sale was through, and there WAS some sense of that, but not as much as I'd hoped. The large-scale relief was to come later, probably eight months or so later… but it did not come all at once, or neatly. Instead, it came wrapped up in a torrent of feelings which I have been calling my "emotional highside".

A "highside" is a term from motorcycle racing, explained to me once by my friend Dale Quarterley, the great roadracer I sponsored back in the days of "Team Mirage". A highside is a crash in which the rider is thrown off and OVER the motorcycle, as opposed to a "lowside" crash, which is where the bike slides out from UNDER the rider and the rider comes down on the track behind the bike.

If I am remembering Dale's explanation adequately, it goes something like this: Imagine holding a toy motorcycle, with one hand gripping the front wheel and the other hand gripping the rear wheel. Now, while you are holding on to the wheels, you start twisting them -- not turning them on their axles -- but TWISTING them in opposite directions. This action is analogous to what happens on a real motorcycle, especially a road racing motorcycle, as cornering at high speeds -- through the phenomenon of "counter-steering", which is what you do on a two-wheeled vehicle to go around corners fast (countersteering is turning the handlebars in the opposite direction -- for example, turning the handlebars left to go right) -- puts a lot of twisting force into that motorcycle's mostly-rigid frame. As you do this, the frame of the motorcycle, which contains the engine and most of the other running components of the bike, tries to keep everything together by bending ever so slightly, like a huge spring. But the thing is this -- that frame is not really meant to bend TOO much, as rigidity is important in a motorcycle frame to keep everything going forward in a precise and controllable manner. So you develop this immense torquing force which turns the bike into a huge spring… and at a certain point, the spring MUST let go.  Most often, the energy thus built up is released gradually by slowing down, straightening out the bike on a long straightway and so forth.

But sometimes it lets go drastically, violently, due to a combination of circumstances -- a bit too much steering input, a shade too little traction on the racing surface, or just a hair too much throttle from the rider, to name a few -- and in the blink of an eye, all of that immense spring-like force is released, the motorcycle's frame straightens out, and the rider gets flung over the top of the motorcycle. I understand that it is one of the least desirable ways to crash… not least because you are being flung off in FRONT of a motorcycle which may still have great forward momentum, making YOU a potential target as it slides or bounces, riderless and out of control, down the track.

In my case, what I came to realize is that for many years, over essentially the whole course of the TMNT experience, or at least during those twenty-two years when the business side of things went crazy with the mass merchandising success of the TMNT, and I was struggling to cope with that success using not much more than whatever native intelligence and wits I had, not having had any formal training in this kind of stuff (I was just a guy who liked to draw pictures, for cryin' out loud!), I was being "torqued" by it, slowly but surely, over the years. There were a lot of things I felt during that period which I dealt with by just trying NOT to feel them, as I could not really figure out any other way to deal with them.

It wasn't ALL Turtles stuff, of course -- there were other things that factored into it. But the largest share of it came from the TMNT experience and my sense of very often -- TOO often -- being a "square peg in a round hole" during those years.

In a way, it was a "highside in slow motion", if you will, because the real release of all this pent-up energy didn't come until a long time after the sale -- really, within the last four or five months. I am not even sure if this "emotional highside" has ended yet -- I still feel like in some ways I'm like that guy sliding down the race track, leathers being ground away from friction with the track surface, body pummeled by impacts against the pavement. I know that eventually I will come to a stop, and be able to pick myself up. I think I am getting close to that. Maybe I am already starting to stand up. But the thing I keep reminding myself of is this -- the "torquing" took over twenty years, and maybe I shouldn't expect the release, and recovery FROM the release, to happen overnight. -- PL

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Cape clouds

Here's a panoramic image of clouds from our recent visit to Cape Cod. I took the four photos which make up this image from the small balcony off of our room. I find something almost Kirby-esque in these clouds... not sure why, exactly. -- PL

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Flame without fire

Although fall foliage season this year seemed to get off to a slow start, right now it looks like it's really peaking. I took this shot on a bike ride Jeannine and I went on this weekend in Keene, NH.

I love the blazing yellows and oranges of these leaves, as they are lit up by the afternoon sun. -- PL

Friday, October 15, 2010

Back from the Cape

I am back from my first trip ever to Cape Cod… something that probably strikes those who know I have been a resident of Massachusetts for fifty-two of my fifty-six years as somewhat odd. Although my wife has been there a number of times, I just never got around to it. I'm not sure why. Perhaps some of it had to do with the horror stories I'd been told by various friends and family about the awful traffic jams and big crowds of tourists in the summer months.

In any event, this past month Jeannine and I decided to go there together, and I found us an inn in Harwich Port with a room which had a great view of the ocean.

We deliberately did it this month, which is the off-season for the Cape… and it really is. I was somewhat shocked by how many place weren't open. But it was also kind of nice to not have to bump elbows with crowds of vacationers, and just walk into restaurants without making any reservations.

Jeannine really wanted me to get a chance to ride on the bike trails out on the Cape -- she'd done a little of that and thought it was great fun. So we put the bikes in the back of the truck and went to several spots along the Cape Cod National Seashore, including the dunes out in Provincetown.

The rides were fun, but I have to say that I didn't really love the up and down nature of the Provincetown bike paths. These were the ones which I had heard about from other bicyclists as being the most awesome, beautiful paths they'd ever ridden on. The image I'd thus developed in my mind's eye proved to be more interesting than what I actually saw. In fact, there was only one stretch of the path, on the last part of the ride we did out there, coming up to the Visitors' Center, which came close to what I imagined these paths to be. And I will admit, that stretch was spectacular.

But for the rest of it, probably about 75% of the time we could have been riding on almost any bike path in the state, as it wound through fairly dense forest. We did see several lovely ponds (something the Cape has in abundance), and there were some neat views of the sandy dunes with their scrub pine trees and dune grass.

But I think the thing that I liked least was the very hilly nature of these paths. I will concede that we probably got a better aerobic workout than we usually do on the more level bike paths we tend to ride on, but I like the fact that on those more mellow paths you can view the scenery much more easily. On a lot of the sections of the Provincetown paths, we were either struggling to get up hills or careening down them at high speeds, and neither was really conducive to sightseeing.

All that being said, I think I might like to go back there and ride them again now that I know what to expect… and what NOT to expect. And there are a lot more miles of trails to be ridden. We found one section in Harwich, near where we were staying, and rode a good stretch of that, seeing more beautiful ponds and some cranberry bogs along the way. It was more like the paths in this part of the state, which we liked (except we don't have any cranberry bogs out here in western Massachusetts).

We also walked up to the top of the Pilgrim Tower in Provincetown, which got our hearts pumping (600 steps to the top, I think it was).

The views from the top were great -- you could see pretty much all of Provincetown.

We lucked out weather-wise -- I had seen rain predicted for two of our three days there, but each day was beautiful -- sunny and cool, but not cold -- until this morning, when what we were told was a "Nor'Easter" hit the area. We'd heard rain last night, and woke up to some stiff breezes, but it didn't seem very bad, as storms go.

Well… the last walk on the beach we took before jumping in the truck and driving home turned out to be… interesting. We walked first about half a mile down the beach WITH the wind, then turned around and walked back AGAINST the wind… and I'm glad we didn't have to walk much further. I think it was partly that the breeze on the beach was more intense, coming in off the ocean with nothing to break it up. We were definitely leaning into it to get back to the truck. Here's a photo I took during that stroll/slog of a breakwater near our inn, with storm-tossed water... uh... breaking over it.

All in all, it was a fun three days of vacation. I'm glad I finally got to see the Cape, and now I can say that I have been from one end of Massachusetts to the other. It was, of course, great spending this quality time with my wife, and being near the ocean (even though I prefer the more interesting rockier coasts of Maine and New Hampshire) is always a pleasure. We'll probably go back some time in the relatively near future. -- PL

Friday, October 8, 2010

Meleagris gallopavo

I took this photo through our kitchen window shortly after eating breakfast a few weeks ago. Our dog Parker had been barking and huffing and jumping onto and off of the window seat right behind where I sit in the mornings, and after a few minutes of this annoying behavior, I got up to see what he was so exercised about. (Usually, it's boring -- typically just a squirrel trespassing on our lawn.)

But that day it turned out to be a group of a dozen or more wild turkeys -- might it be called a "flock"? -- who'd walked, in their stately, semi-dinosaurian way out of the woods and across our driveway.

I see a lot of these birds in our area, and I've always liked the way they look. The dark sheen of their plumage can give them an almost reptilian aspect, and sometimes they do remind me of miniature T-Rex's in the way they stalk through the underbrush.

And they do fly, as well -- I remember a few years back riding my motorcycle on back roads up near Rowe, MA, and one of these large birds exploded out of the woods on the right side of the road and almost collided with me. It's kind of scary when something with that large a wing span is suddenly heading right at you. Fortunately, that turkey was able to "grab air" quickly and soared over me and the Gold Wing.

One of these days I hope to see a group of wild turkeys when I've got my camera ready and I can get some nice closeup shots with the zoom lens. Until then, I'll have to be satisfied with this one, which is probably the best turkey shot -- or is that shoot? -- of mine to date. -- PL

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Think Pink

At the request of my daughter Emily, I post this message:

This October marks the 25th anniversary of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In honor of this milestone, Organically Grown has created an 100% organic cotton baseball cap embroidered with the color of the month...Pink!

This month reminds us all of the importance of searching for a cure, and doing what we can to support this effort. For every purchase of our Pink Leaf hat, 20% of the proceeds will go to Stand Up to Cancer...Look stylish while making a difference!

According to the Organic Trade Association, over 450 million pounds of pesticides are applied on conventional cotton each year. Seven of the ten pesticides most commonly used on cotton are on the EPA’s list of known, likely, or probable human carcinogens. At Organically Grown, we offer affordable products that are made from 100% organic cotton..grown free of harmful pesticides.

The cure is within our reach. Think Pink with Organically Grown as we join in the fight against breast cancer.


UPDATE 10-08-10: Em posted this in the Comments section, but I thought it should probably go here, too:

"We also have our first men's hat up on our website! Use code OGSS20 for 20% off your order!"

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Serendipity 3

A few weeks ago, Jeannine and I took a drive up to White River Junction, Vermont to visit the Center for Cartoon Studies ( James Sturm, author of several excellent graphic novels (including "Market Day" and "Satchel Page: Striking Out Jim Crow") created this school for comic book creators a few years ago and had invited us to come up and get a closer look at it.

It's quite an amazing place. Modest in size but bursting with ambition, it's the kind of school which I would have loved to attend in my younger days. We toured the main classroom building, which has a great basement studio filled with all the devices necessary to turn the art created by the students into actual printed books. And in another building, CCS has a wonderful reference library overflowing with just about every graphic novel and comics collection you could imagine.

But we started our tour with a short meeting in James' studio, and that's where the real subject of this blog entry begins. During our talk, James pulled out a large hardcover book featuring the work of a cartoonist I'd never heard of before, Denys Wortman, who'd produced many single-panel cartoons in the latter part of the first half of the twentieth century, mostly featuring urban settings and characters. The drawings were quite lovely, with a lot of painterly effects in the ink and crayon (Wortman did a lot of these drawings on coquille board). James also mentioned in passing that there was a connection between Wortman and the famous painter Thomas Hart Benton.

Fast-forward to the following week. Jeannine and I took a trip that I've been wanting to take for a while, since I'd found out that the New Britain Museum of American Art (in New Britain, CT -- website at, to which neither of us had ever been before, was having an extensive show of M.C.Escher prints and drawings.

So we drove down there, and decided to check out the entire museum (which didn't take too long -- it's not that big). I was surprised to see that one of the first galleries contained an exhibit of pulp magazine cover art, including a Virgil Finlay and a J. Allen St. John, among others. (I think this show is up through October of 2010.) We wandered around the galleries, admiring some wonderful landscapes by painters of the Hudson River School.

Then Jeannine stopped and nudged me. "I can't believe it!" she said. I looked at what she was looking at -- a painted portrait of Thomas Hart Benton by Denys Wortman!

And around the corner, in what you might call the museum's "Thomas Hart Benton Room", was a painted portrait of Denys Wortman by Thomas Hart Benton!

I mean, I'd never heard of this guy before we visited the Center for Cartoon Studies a few days earlier… and now this…!

Definitely one for the book of odd coincidences.

If you want to find out more about Denys Wortman, here's a nice site created by his son:

By the way, the Escher show was great, and anyone who admires Escher's work should go to see it. I'd never seen an original Escher print, just reproductions in books and on posters -- I think I had at least one in college -- and they were beautiful. There were also some of the original wood blocks he used to do the woodcuts -- or were they wood engravings? One thing I'd never seen anywhere before was the assortment of preliminary sketches in pencil which Escher used to work out his intricate, mathematically complex images. And there were two very cool three-dimensional pieces, one carved from wood and the other made of sheet tin, which were based on some of Escher's tesselated images. -- PL

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Steve Lavigne Studios

I had the pleasure of a visit from Steve Lavigne today -- he'd come down from Maine to the Northampton area to see his old Mirage pals, and he and I got to do a nice bicycle ride together and catch up on stuff. Steve has been working on various art projects, and one of them involves illustrating children's books, two of which he has completed. He has also produced some very cute plush toys to go with the books, toys based on a couple of the characters in them. When Jeannine and I were in Maine last month, Steve gave me some samples of them, and I took the opportunity of being near the ocean to get these shots of the plush figures -- Twinkle Star the starfish and Squiggles the snail -- with a realistic environment suitable for their aquatic nature.

Steve is hoping to get his website (which I think he said should be and running soon, and he'll be able to post more information about what he's up to when that happens. In the meantime, I can tell you that he will be attending a crafts fair in Newburyport, MA, on October 10 and 11, where he will be selling both children's books he has illustrated, as well as the plush toys shown above, and some t-shirts. (And you might be able to get him to do a quick TMNT head sketch if you ask nicely.)

I asked Steve to say a few words about the books, and this is what he sent me:

"Shine Like a Lighthouse" is the story of little coastal critters that live in the shadow of Nubble Lighthouse in Cape Neddick, ME. We meet Squiggles the snail, Twinkle star and their friends as they play games and become great friends. And when a boats captain gets turned in the wrong direction the friends band together to help. In the second book, "Twinkle Star's Adventure" we join Squiggles and Twinkle Star and the rest of the coastal critters playing in the summer evening. When a shooting star skates by in the night sky Twinkle Star wonders if the shooting star could be a new friend? So Twinkle Star, Squiggles and Big Belly cod go on a great adventure to find the star, and along the way they meet some new friends.

I produced the plush toys because when I started selling the first book a lot of the comments I was hearing were about how cute Squiggles and Twinkle Star are. So I thought that it would be great for little kids to hold on to them when someone reads the book to them."