Sunday, February 28, 2010

Do You Bleed Green and Gold?

Sometimes I forget that I live in the South.  Yes, Huntsville is a melting pot of engineers and professionals from all over the country. And you can readily find just about anything you'd want right here in the city.  But, you don't have to go very far to be reminded that you're definintely in Alabama.   This past Friday was Tractor Day at one of the local county high schools.  Tractor Day is a really big deal because you get to drive your tractor to school, ride with pride in the all-school tractor parade, and then feast on delicacies like biscuits and gravy.  

This year over 43 tractors showed up for Tractor Day.  And I couldn't help but laugh as I heard this entire spectacle unfold on the radio.  I have a soft spot in my heart for the one kid who couldn't help but take the riding lawn mower to school for Tractor Day.  That's the County version of a poser. Then again, maybe not so much if it was a John Deere.  We can only hope.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Sharp No. 2

People say the strangest things.  And I'm not talking about, "Oh, my kid said..such and such," or any pedestrian, situationally funny phrases.  Do you harbor a really dark, sarcastic sense of humor, but then get surprised when a stranger says something dark and funny to you?

I was sitting at the Huntsville Library, mooching off of the free Wi-Fi to watch an online class.  And yes, it is mooching, because I feel obligated to buy something if I go to a corporate coffee shop to suck up bandwith and not sip espresso.  But, in any event, as I waited for my computer to turn on, I dug through the abyss I call my purse to find a pen with which to take notes.   A kind old gentleman approached me and asked if I had lost my pen.  Well, as a matter of fact, I had.  And before I could get up to mooch one from the reference desk, he was on it.  Like a hound in a badass game of Duck Hunt, he was on the task and scampered back in no time at all with a dull golf pencil from the reference desk.  I thanked him, and then thought to myself, "Eh,  this will work."   I left him with a courteous smile and he turned and left me to my work.  

Just a few steps later he made an about-face, and came walking back. Oh God, I thought.  Is he going to want to read over my shoulder or hang out for a while?  "You know,"  he said as he stuck his pointer finger into the air, "if you were looking for a gun, I wouldn't have been able to help you."  And then he turned around and walked away, presumably to mettle in someone else's affairs for the afternoon. 

Was that supposed to make me feel better?  Random, funny, and dark all in one.   All I know is that he was certainly a man I'd return a pencil to after borrowing it.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Take a Picture, it Lasts Longer

Have you ever heard of Kevin Connolly?   Until I caught a few minutes of the XGames and the mono skiing event, I hadn't.  I can't even say I knew there was such a thing as mono skiing.  But, once I looked up, I coulnd't break my gaze.  Connolly is not your typical ice-luge XGames skier.  As you'll see from the picture, he was born without legs.

The last few heats of skiers flying down the icy mountain luges hadn't been all that exciting, but this guy was.  Connolly raced against 2 other mono skiers, each with their own physical challenge.  Right off the bat, one guy took a huge spill, hit his head and broke a piece of his equipment.  Then it was just Connolly chasing the guy in first place.   He didn't win, but he did capture my attention.  

His name stayed with me, so I looked him up.  He's a champion skier, a world-traveling college graduate, and a photographer.  The more and more I read about him, I saw that there was a common thread woven into all 23 years of his life.  He has always been stared at.  Being frank, I can understand why.   Americans, and humans in general, just aren't good with deformity, or really anything that makes someone or something different than the accepted norm.  But, in his short 23 years, Connolly has accomplished a lot. As I read the online review of his book Double Take,  one thing caught my attention:

Connolly also shares his memories of an important, defining moment: when he decided to use photography to gaze back at the people who stared at him. “Each photo was a miniature catharsis,” he writes, adding, “Finally, I was able to find my own use for that stare, and it felt good.”

What an awesome way to find purpose through the challenges that life throws at you.  It wasn't a matter of ignoring or overcoming the stares.  Of course some were rooted  in pure human curiosity, and I'm sure some were rooted in ignorance and malice.  But through photography he found the wisdom to channel that energy and make it his own.  Wow.

(Photo courtesy of