Wednesday, December 24, 2014

What the...DUCK? It's Christmas Decor!

Very near my home there is a small neighborhood. Each year, one of the houses in this neighborhood would decorate for Christmas. Now, they didn't put up the usual decorations, not really no, instead they took white (and by "white" I mean "white only" here, not twinkly, not mixed colors, just simple white) lights and strung them around the bottom of the trees in their front yard. Now, since the neighborhood in question is a bit older (the homes are older) this means that there were a host of tree trunks wrapped in white lights. Driving by, I used to call this area of the neighborhood the "forest of light" on account of all of the white lights and trees wrapped in them around the holiday season.

Fast forward a few years. Somebody across the street moved and new people moved in. They saw the "forest of light" (or whatever they might happen to call it) and decided, heck, why don't we do that too? So, starting a few years ago, they too put up white lights around the bottom of the trees. Yes, it's true. The "forest of light" had grown, actually doubled in size. (As a photographer, all I can say about that is "Woo Hoo!" I mean, more light is good light, right? And entire "forests" of light?!? Oh joy! Sign me up!) By now, you can probably see where this is going. The "forest of light" has crept around the block. People after people, house after house, have started putting up holiday lights. Now, not all of them are white or "forest of light" like, and that's ok. I mean, what better time then to display some creativity than at the holidays with decorations, right?

So, for a while there, I was happy. We had the "blue palace" (all done up in blue lights) and the "blinky bungalow." We had an expanded "forest of light" and, heck, we even had "the guy who couldn't really climb up a ladder but still managed to get half-way up the garage door good on you for trying" corner lot. I must confess, even the "badly decorated" houses started to look...well...pretty decent, on account of the entire neighborhood, the whole little enclave, stringing up something for the holidays. The little neighborhood with its older homes really had some holiday spirit in there and it made me happy.

Then, this year, as I was driving through sometime about mid-November I spotted it. As I turned the corner, expecting to be on the approach for the "forest of light" there it was. Words failed me. This was the strangest decor I had seen all year. Heck, I'll come out and say it. It just made no sense at all. Now, part of me wants to give the guy props for trying. Right? I mean, all things considered, he probably did do better than the guy who can't climb the ladder. But...this? This was....just too odd for words. You see, as I turned the corner and started driving down the street, I happened upon what could only be described as a giant "Christmas duck."

This makes no sense to me. I mean, for starters, what on earth do ducks have to do with Christmas? And then, even if you were to say, really really like ducks, why on earth would you want a two story giant Santa hat wearing Christmas duck on your front lawn? I mean, what's wrong with say a snowflake or a giant Santa? It just boggles my mind. I'm sorry but I just can't wrap my head around this giant Christmas duck. And yet, there it was. Plain as the nose on my face. A giant Christmas duck, propped up on the front lawn, proudly displayed, for all in the little neighborhood of older homes to see.

I decided, right then and there, that I had to do something with this duck. I had to snap a picture because, well, where *else* are you going to come across a giant Christmas duck? If I was surprised to find one, I'm fairly certain, there aren't flocks of them running about this holiday season, so there must not be more than one, right? And, I still don't know what to think about this. I mean, on the one hand, you have to give the guy props for trying. He did, in fact, get up the Christmas decor. It's there for all the world to see. On the other hand though...man...a Christmas duck? What the heck were you thinking, buddy?!?!

So, I not only decided to take a photo of this wondrous creature, but I used my iPhone and made it look like it was all snowing and stuff. I figured I had to do that, because, well, if you happened to have a Christmas duck (and, heck, let's face it, why would you? But, work with me here) you'd probably want said Christmas duck to be all covered in snow, right? I mean, 'tis the season and all. ('Tis the freaking season and all indeed.)

So, now here you have it too. The giant Christmas duck for all to see and enjoy.

As I was driving home the other night, it was starting to get dark and I thought, "Oh no, I'm going to miss seeing the big Christmas duck after the sun sets." But, to my surprise, the giant Christmas duck is not only a giant Christmas duck. No. It's actually a two story, giant, yellow, Santa hat wearing *lighted* Christmas duck. Yes, it's true. Said ducky lights up at night so you can see him. I mean, not that you really *want* to see a giant Christmas duck and all but, heck, if you did, we'd have one here, tucked away in this little neighborhood of older homes, waiting for you to drive by and spot it. Why look! There it is! The giant two-story lighted Christmas duck for all to see and enjoy. Bring the kids!

Wow! Who knew? A giant lit up Christmas duck. All brought to you by the wonders of the iPhone.

I hope y'all have a very Merry Christmas and, it goes without saying really, but...watch out for the giant ducks!

Until next time...

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Top 10 List - Santorini

Town of Firostefani, Santorini, Greece at night with blue domed church
Ok, so I've been back for a while now. Gotten the laundry done, sorted out the oddball pile of mail and whatnot. I figured why not time for my top 10 list, right? So here goes.

Here are the top 10 things I've learned about Santorini, Greece:

10. Santorini is very cosmopolitan. They have many restaurants there including, yes, a Mexican restaurant called "Senor Zorba's." The restaurant was not too far from out hotel and featured a Mexican tile roof with sombrero's hanging around the doorways. The sign for the restaurant also said, "All You Can Eat BBQ." 

9. The Aegean Sea really is that color. I've always heard about "Aegean Blue" and not quite known what to make of it. After having visited, I must confess, it's really a lovely shade of greenish blue.

8. The Cats of Santorini are somewhat famous. There are many loose cats on the island, known as the cats of Santorini, and they are quite popular with the locals. You can photograph them and also buy T-shirts featuring the cats of Santorini. Not as popular as the donkeys but still, you know, quite popular (and probably a lot less smelly too.)

7. The town of Imerovigli is impossible for us to pronounce. I was told, "Just say 'Ima' and mumble and the locals will know what you mean." Of course, this lead to me trying to "get away with" as much as I could after the "Ima" finally settling on asking all of the locals, "Excuse me, do you know the way to Imogen Cunningham?" Most of the time I actually got directions while paying tribute to a great photographer.

6. Cave dwellers share music. Most of Santorini is build around a caldera. It's actually a bunch of small towns dotting the hillsides surrounding the island that's home to the volcano. Because of the slope of the hillside and the nature and number of cave houses, any loud sounds bell their way all the way up the caldera. If you are a "third floor" cave dweller, for example, you might find yourself listening to music from all the way down at the bottom. This works out well (free radio!) until somebody plays something you just don't like. (Ahem, we could have done without the gangsta rap, thank you very much.)

5. Santorini is not just home to resorts. There are several medieval cities there with walls and colored doors. This makes for a photographer's playground, really it does. I started to think that "medieval city" was Greek for "cool photo shoot" after a while. The ancient city I visited was also very interesting to photograph, even if a bit older.

4. Everyone in Santorini, well at least most of the locals anyway, appears to eat Greek yogurt and boiled eggs for breakfast. The yogurt was one of the highlights of the trip for me. I normally don't care for yogurt but decided to take a taste while I was there, since it's local and all. Good move there, let me tell you. It's fabulous! I don't know what the stuff we have that we like to call "Greek Yogurt" actually is, but it doesn't even pass for anything resembling authentic Greek yogurt and Greek yogurt is really very delicious. If you ever find yourself in Greece, honestly, it's a must try. (The boiled eggs? Well, they pretty much taste the same anywhere.)

3. Although surrounded by water, most of the drinking water in Santorini is brought in. Yes, it's true. Even though the local water is potable, it's not too appetizing (was described to me as kind of "sandy") so they boat water in from the mainland. The plumbing in Santorini is not too great either (thanks to tons of old homes on the hillsides) so buyer beware in that regard.

2. The wine in Santorini is wonderful. They grow grapes for wine-making differently there. They actually dig a hole in the ground and wind the vine around itself to make a loop (or circle really.) The grapes then grow down into the hole. Sounds a bit weird but the wine, like most of the southern Mediterranean regions, is wonderful.

And the number one thing I've learned about Santorini on my recent trip was....drum roll, please....

1. The Santorini Donkeys! Santorini originally had donkeys to help people travel from the port, up the hillsides, to the hotels and resorts on the cliffs. They still have donkeys. The people in Santorini love their donkeys. The Santorini Donkey has become a sort of symbol of the island. They love the donkey and have donkey puppets, donkey toys, donkey T-shirts. You get the idea. Long live the Santorini donkeys!

A couple of runner-up choices were:
  • Santorini is also called Thira. It was originally settled by the Romans, with people coming from Venice, which is why it has a Latin style name, even though it's now part of Greece. 
  • Cherry tomatoes and white eggplants are native to the island and quite delicious, in fact, they once tried to open a cherry tomato bottling facility, which is now abandoned but can still be found on the island. 
  • If you spot the word "caldera" in any of the travel brochures, this usually means you will be getting a good view, as it's typically a view of the water or the volcano area in the middle of Santorini (the volcano is actually on a separate island, which I traveled to-you can go there are hike around if you are so-inclined.) 
  • There is also great coffee and wonderful wine in Santorini, much like the rest of southern Europe, and it's quite reasonably priced, although there aren't as many "Starbucks" type places. You can usually find coffee in the restaurants, which they like to call "tavernas" or taverns for us English speaking types. 
  • The food was also wonderful there-we had tomato patty wars going on-stopping at each restaurant to try out the tomato patties to find the best ones. (Our favorites were from Remvi, a restaurant near Fira, but really they were quite good anywhere we tried them.) 

Until next time...

Monday, December 08, 2014

R-I-P Austin

Some sad news to report....my folks have lost their faithful companion, Austin. This actually happened a while ago (back around Halloween, to be precise) but I've been too busy to stop and post anything about it here. Poor Austin had an immune disease and died rather suddenly. He was sick one day and then they pretty much had to put him down the next. He was 12 years old. We all miss him dearly, especially my guy, Chase, who, I'm sure, just can't imagine what has happened to his little buddy. Chase and Austin were, you see, the best of friends. Chase has been a bit lost and confused by Austin just appeared to go "missing" and we try to not use the word "Austin" when he's in earshot, just to keep him from getting excited only to be let down again. It's kind of hard too, when the next closest city is, in fact, named Austin as well. Poor baby Chase and, of course, poor little Austin, may he rest in peace.

Dogs are such wonderful creatures and such divine friends. The greatest of little buddies. It's so sad to see them go. My folks are doing ok, although I can tell they really miss having a dog around the house. They have been taking Chase a lot lately, just so their house is not so empty.

R-I-P little buddy, Austin, you are missed by all.

Until next time...