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Not too long ago I decided to do some miscellaneous Facebook surfing by lurking on a group that has been set up for alumni of my old high school. Part of the reason was to keep my mind off my continuing job hunt and the latest political news. (I remember that was the night when new White House communications direction Anthony Scaramucci went off the profanity-laden deep end. Scaramucci was fired soon after that incident—after he had spent only 10 days working at his new job.)

While I was lurking on that high school alumni group on Facebook and scrolling through old posts that one recent night, I learned that my former music teacher, Tim Landers, had died last year of complications stemming from a liver transplant. He was either 63 or 64 (I was only able to figure out his age because he wrote this Facebook post on October 14, 2013 where he said that he was 61 so I did the math and, no, I don’t know the date of his birthday so I have no idea if he managed to celebrate his latest birthday before his death or not). In the comments section someone posted a video of a song that he wrote and sang about Ocean City, Maryland. I watched the video and I kind of liked the laid-back vibe of the song. It’s the quintessential summer song that’s perfect to listen to if you’re on a beach anywhere in the world. Here’s the video below, titled “It’s a Shore Thing.”

If you like “It’s a Shore Thing,” you can download it for 99 cents from CDBaby, Amazon, Google Play, or iTunes.

I also found another video he did as part of a trio known as The Landers and Heinz Project. It was a live performance of another song he wrote as he and his partners were playing on a local radio station in Ocean City. The song is called “Scotch and Soda” and it is just as laid-back as the other song. (Tim Landers is the guy in the glasses and mustache playing his guitar and singing.)

If you like “Scotch and Soda,”  you can download it for 99 cents from CDBaby or iTunes.

Anyone who has been reading this blog on a regular basis would know that I don’t have too many fond memories of my old high school. In fact, last summer I went back to my old school for the first time in many years just so I could photograph my hand giving the middle finger to that school. I was on my way to the latest Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School event in Baltimore (link is NSFW) when I did this. Yes, I took advantage of the longer days so I could check out my old school quickly before driving on to Baltimore.

While I was mostly miserable in the five years I attended that huge school complex known as the Old Mill Educational Complex (one year in Old Mill Middle School-North and four years in Old Mill Senior High), there were a few teachers there who provided a few bright spots in what was otherwise a miserable existence. Like I wrote in last year’s post where I included that picture of my hand giving the finger:

Why was this school so bad? While there were plenty of teachers at the school complex who were dedicated at their jobs, it was the attitude of the administration that considered athletics more important than academics.

Among those teachers who were dedicated at their jobs was Tim Landers, who taught music (mainly guitar). I took four semesters of guitar class with him until I had exhausted all of the guitar classes that my high school offered. The one thing I never realized about him until after I learned about his death and I started reading his Facebook postings is that he was only 9 or 10 years older than me. (I know it sounds kind of strange but it wasn’t that unusual to have a teacher who was close in age to the students he/she taught in my high school. When I was a senior I had an English teacher who had only received her teaching degree the year before and she was just five years older than me.) Mr. Landers bore a slight resemblance to Mr. Van Driessen from the Beavis and Butt-Head cartoon series, more in terms of temperament than his looks. (He didn’t have a beard and he wore his long hair in the feathered style that was very popular back in the 1970s.) Here’s a photo of him I scanned from my sophomore high school yearbook.

Looking at his personal Facebook page, I found that he was a spiritual person like Mr. Van Driessen with the big difference being that he expressed himself as a devout Christian while Mr. Van Driessen was more into New Age spirituality. But he definitely shared Mr. Van Driessen’s hippie vibe in terms of his outlook on life and the funky clothes he wore to school. The main difference was that Mr. Landers was far less of a pushover than Mr. Van Driessen. He was the kind of person who was willing to help you unless you crossed him. If you did anything to push his buttons, he would not hesitate to send you to the principal’s office or to even fail you for not doing the required coursework.

Here’s one example of Mr. Landers not being a stereotypical pushover hippie. I remember it was the end of the semester when we not only took our final exams but we also were given an evaluation form where we could write about what we liked or didn’t liked about the class. Unlike the final exams, we were not required to write our names. The idea was that we could freely give our opinions without repercussions.

So we turned in our exams and the evaluation forms then returned to our seats while waiting for the bell that would signal the end of the class. Mr. Landers happened to glance through some of the exams and evaluations at his desk until he came upon an evaluation form where, according to Mr. Landers, someone had written “Mr. Landers can do something to himself.” (Given the fact that I saw that Mr. Landers was visibly angry at the time, I suspected that the wording was stronger than what he indicated—somewhere along the lines of “Mr. Landers can go fuck himself.”) By that point it was almost the end of the class but Mr. Landers was determined to get to the bottom of who wrote that evaluation form. He said that he would read what we wrote on the evaluation forms out loud and if he came upon something that one of us recognized that he/she wrote, that person was to go up to the class and pick up that form then bring it back to his/her seat. Mr. Landers came upon my form (where I basically wrote that I wished he hadn’t done so many classical guitar songs because I prefer rock guitar) so I picked mine up. It wasn’t until Mr. Landers came to the last of the evaluation forms that a boy in the class confessed that it was he who wrote that nasty message on the evaluation form.

At that point the bell rang, we returned our evaluation forms to the teacher’s desk before we headed to the next class, and Mr. Landers escorted that boy to the principal’s office. (I’ve long since forgotten who the boy was or even what he looked like—other than he was a white kid with dark hair—mainly because I wasn’t friends with him.)

Fortunately I got along pretty well with Mr. Landers and I enjoyed his classes. I think he had a high opinion of me as a student. I managed to get him to sign my yearbook only once, which was during my sophomore year (the same yearbook where I posted that photo of him).  His signed it “Kim, Take care of yourself and be good. I’m sure you will. Love, Tim Landers.”

I remember that Mr. Landers’ real ambition was to be a rock musician and he only got into teaching to pay the bills. He turned out to be one of the many talented musicians who never quite made it to the big time and it was not due to a lack of trying. He would spend evenings, weekends, and school breaks writing new music and recording demos that he would try to shop around to various agents and record companies. (I remember the times when he would occasionally play one of his demo songs in class.) I remember that he was a big Beatles fan and he used to drop tidbits about the band and their music because he was such a fan. In fact I remember one of the first songs he taught the class in Guitar I was “Let It Be.”

I loved his wacky sense of humor and his vast knowledge of famous guitarists like Jimi Hendrix. I still remember the time when it was the last class before Thanksgiving break and he played Arlo Guthrie’s classic “Alice’s Restaurant” song and we laughed at some of the humor. (It was the first time I had ever heard that song. Up until that time the only Arlo Guthrie song I knew was “The City of New Orleans” and that was because it was a hit on the radio and my father had purchased that song on a 45 r.p.m. record.) He also introduced us to the original soundtrack to the Broadway show Grease as he brought the album to class one day and he played it for us. (This was about a year before the movie version came out with John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John.)

I still remember the year when Frank Zappa came out with his disco parody hit “Dancin’ Fool,” which was played quite a bit at the major rock stations in my area. Mr. Landers brought in a couple of Zappa records where he not only showed us what a gifted guitar player Zappa was but he introduced us to an another disco parody that Zappa did just a few years before “Dancin’ Fool,” which was called “Disco Boy.” The lyrics to that one was even more hilarious than the “Dancin’ Fool” lyrics.

Despite the fact that he loved The Beatles and other rock bands of the 1960’s, he was a traditional music teacher in many ways. He was adamant that we learned how to read music, which was a skill that many of his favorite 1960s bands, including his beloved Beatles, didn’t have. Thanks to him, I learned the mnemonic method of music reading where I learned the lines of EGBDF as Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge while the spaces between the lines spelled out the word FACE.

He was also adamant that we learned how to do chord building, which I quickly learned was not my strongest suit. Chord building involved learning the music notes that make up a certain chord and it involved a lot of memorization (which we later had to regurgitate on the final exam). The only reason why I still know that a D chord is made up of the notes D, F#, and A is because I made up my own mnemonic sentence that went “Dick Fucks Sharp Asses.” (I didn’t dare share that secret with Mr. Landers.)

During the time that I was taking those guitar lessons from Mr. Landers, Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” was frequently played on the local rock radio station for many years after it was first released back in 1971 and it would go on to become one of the biggest rock hits of the 1970s. Many people were turned on by Jimmy Page’s exquisite guitar playing throughout that song. Naturally many of Mr. Landers’ guitar students, myself included, wanted to learn how to play that song. Mr. Landers was frequently inundated with numerous requests that he teach us this song. Some kids wanted to go from a relatively easy song like “Let It Be” straight into “Stairway to Heaven” while they were in the first few weeks of Guitar I.

Eventually Mr. Landers relented sometime around Guitar III or Guitar IV and he handed out mimeographed copies of “Stairway to Heaven.” That was when we got a dose of reality about how complex that song really is as we struggled with the various chord formations. From that time on the students in the advanced guitar classes stopped wanting to learn how to play “Stairway to Heaven,” while I’m sure that the students in Guitar I were probably still begging Mr. Landers to teach them how to play that song while they were learning how to play their first chords.

There was only one time I felt Mr. Landers was wrong about something. It was when punk rock became a huge such deal in the UK that the US media started doing stories about this new phenomenon. I was intrigued by the music so I purchased The Sex Pistols’ debut album. I found that record to be a revelation in that it was so unlike the heavy metal and disco music that was prevalent on the radio at that time. A few weeks after I purchased Never Mind the Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols, Mr. Landers openly disdained punk rock in class and he felt that all of the punk bands consisted of untalented musicians who were destined to not last very long. A few other students piped up talking about how they disliked punk rock as well. I disagreed with Mr. Landers’ low opinion of punk but I kept my mouth shut because he was one of those people whom you could never provide a contrary opinion once he made up his mind strongly about something because he never attempted to listen to the other side. (In addition, I was having a hard enough time constantly trying to avoid being someone’s bully target and I didn’t want other kids to pick on me because I owned a Sex Pistols album. I pretty much listened to my punk rock records on the down low until college when finally I met other punk rock fans and I felt comfortable enough to admit that I liked punk as well.)

Okay, Mr. Landers was right about The Sex Pistols being a short-lived phenomenon because they disbanded soon after they hit the big time but he was wrong about punk rock’s longevity because there were other punk bands (such as The Clash) who had longer careers and who released albums that are now considered rock classics right alongside albums like Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. What’s more, The Sex Pistols, The Clash, and other punk bands have been inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which definitely proves how wrong Mr. Landers was about his assessment of punk rock.

Mr. Landers also formed the school’s official folk rock group known only as the Old Mill Folk Rock Band. (Yeah, I know it sounds original. LOL!) The group performed at school assemblies. Each year they would go into a local recording studio to make an EP record, which consisted of four songs (which were all covers of the big hits of that era). Once the record was printed, the members would sell copies of that record among the student body. I wanted to join that band as a guitarist but competition was intense. (I had a few friends who were in that band.) While I was an okay guitarist, there were other students who were far more talented than me and I was too intimidated to every try out.

I didn’t know much about his personal life aside from a few times that he mentioned that he had a wife when I took my first guitar class with him. By the time I took my second or third guitar class he briefly mentioned that he was separated from his wife a couple of times. Then he briefly mentioned that he was divorced once or twice by the time I took my last guitar class with him. (He never mentioned why he got a divorce nor did he ever say anything nasty about his ex-wife during any of classes I took with him. He also never mentioned having any children from that marriage.) When I saw his Facebook page for the first time and he listed his marital status as “single,” I thought that my memories were wrong. But then I read an interview he gave with a local newspaper (which I’ll get to in the next two paragraphs) and he briefly mentioned “my wife at that time.” I guess he must’ve gotten married sometime in his early 20’s and it only lasted just a few years until the two of them decided to go their separate ways. It’s very likely that, by the time he created his own Facebook page, he probably felt that he had been divorced for so many years that he might as well list his marital status as “single.”

I looked on his personal Facebook page and searched his name on Google after I learned about his death and I found that he later transferred to a different high school as a music teacher before leaving the teaching field entirely in order to work as a full-time musician and songwriter. (Of course all this happened years after I graduated from high school and moved out of Glen Burnie.) He had a professional Facebook page focusing on his music career but it hadn’t been updated since 2013. At one point he had his own website, which basically had a short biography and dates of upcoming performances, which I was able to access thanks to the Internet Archive. (The last update was done after his death, which announced that he was deceased.) He even wrote a Christian musical called Walk With God, whose official website can only now be accessed through the Internet Archive.

I saw on his personal Facebook page that he had adopted a Golden Retriever puppy just a couple of years before his death. He frequently posted pictures of that dog and it was obvious that he loved his dog. I only hope that this dog found a new loving forever home after his owner died.

Recently I came across this extensive interview Mr. Landers did with a local Ocean City publication called The Coconut Times in 2014 where I was not only able to catch up on whatever became of him after I left school but I even learned about his early life before he became my music teacher. This interview is so extensive that it’s divided into Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. It’s really quite a fascinating read that I would highly recommend to anyone regardless of whether you actually knew him personally (like I did) or not. I learned that he grew up in Baltimore (in the same neighborhood where the since-demolished Memorial Stadium was located) in a very large extended family that included numerous aunts, uncles, and cousins. Many of his relatives were singers and musicians and he even had a cousin who was a singer whose main rival was Patsy Cline. He landed his first job at 12 helping out in a local music store where he met professional musicians who played with the big acts like Buddy Holly.

Mr. Landers totally opened up about his life in that interview, including admitting that he was diagnosed with Hepatitis C in the 1990’s due to a tainted blood transfusion he received in the early 1970’s. (Which probably explains why he underwent a liver transplant in the first place.) He also mentioned that, when he was 21, his father took him to a bar so he could have his first legal alcoholic beverage while engaging in some father and son talk. His father would suddenly die of a heart attack just nine months later. (Reading that interview and seeing his old Facebook posts, it seems like longevity wasn’t exactly a family trait. Not only did his father pass away at 45, he had a brother who died in a car accident at 52, and a cousin who also died an untimely death as a result of being exposed to Agent Orange while serving in the Vietnam War. And that’s not to mention Mr. Landers’ own death while he was in his early 60’s.)

Amid the bad times there were plenty of good memories as well. He mentioned in the interview that he had recently ate lunch with a member of Pink Floyd whom he did not identify. (I can safely say that it wasn’t with Syd Barrett or Rick Wright since they were both dead by 2014, when the interview took place.) He also mentioned meeting many famous musicians, such as the band Danny and the Juniors, who is best known for the big 1950’s hit “At the Hop.”

As I read that extensive interview, I realized that Mr. Landers lived a very interesting and fascinating life and I found myself wishing he had written a book or even started a blog about his memories. That 2014 interview is about as close as we’ll ever get to an autobiography and I’m glad that it exists. (You can read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.)

As I look over that three-part interview and those Facebook posts, I have to admit that the saddest thing about his death is that it seemed like Mr. Landers was at a point in his life where he was basically content with the things that was going on in his life over the last two or three years before he died. He had a thriving music career despite never becoming a major recording artist who sells millions of copies of his music. He was spending his summers in Ocean City where he was doing gigs at various bars and nightclubs throughout the Delmarva region. The rest of the year he was in Nashville where he was recording music and meeting people in the music industry. He had even contributed a song to this independent movie called Patapsco Valley that, as far as I can tell, only exists as a location camera test on Vimeo. (That is his song, “The River,” playing in the background of that video.) He had a dog whom he seemed to have loved very much. He achieved a point in his life where he was basically happy and content then he dies while he was in his early 60s. Yet there are a lot of loathsome people who are still alive and kicking and many of them are older than he was when he died. (I don’t want to elaborate on this any further or else this post will veer into something that would be as inappropriate as President Trump’s recent notorious speech at the Boy Scout Jamboree.)

I had pretty much cut myself off from most of the people I knew back in high school mainly because I wanted to protect myself from reliving any painful memories. (I went to my five-year reunion and that was enough for me.) I have to admit that Mr. Landers is one of the few people from my old high school I wished I had a chance to re-connect with before he died. I would’ve loved to have visited him in Ocean City (where, in his remaining years, he had spent his summers while living in Nashville the rest of the year) and I definitely would’ve brought my guitar with me so we could’ve done a jam session or two. Ironically I used to go to Ocean City with my then-husband, his sister, her son, and an invited guest (some years it was a friend of my nephew’s while other years it was a friend of my sister-in-law’s) for a week-long family vacation every year until 2011 (just a few months before my husband left me). If I had known that Tim Landers was there, I definitely would’ve made the time to look him up in the phone book so I could contact him about possibly visiting him with my guitar in hand. Oh well. It’s my loss and I have to deal with it.

I still have those mimeographed ditto sheets of guitar chords and song lyrics that Mr. Landers handed out in class stashed away in folders. They have survived various moves over the years. Writing this post has inspired me to pull out those old ditto sheets, take a look at them, pull out my guitar, and start playing it using those old sheets from years ago.

R.I.P. Mr. Landers.

I was a Girl Scout when I was a child. The official handbook for Junior Girl Scouts (which is the level I was at when this story began) had a list of badges that each Junior Girl Scout could earn. I saw one badge that intrigued me. It was called “My Camera” and it dealt with photography.

Up to that point I hadn’t taken any photographs but I was the subject of a lot of pictures that were taken by my relatives (mostly by my mother although my father took pictures from time to time as well). I looked at the requirements and they sounded interesting to me.

I convinced my parents that I wanted to pursue this badge so they bought me my first camera, which was a Kodak Pocket Instamatic. This camera used film cartridges that dropped into the back of the camera. If I wanted to take indoor pictures I had to put a little flash cube in the top slot.

Unlike digital photography where I can take a huge amount of photographs as long as I have adequate disk space, film photography was way more limited. The film cartridge for this camera came in either 12 exposure or 24 exposure with the latter being way more expensive. I remember my parents started me off with just 12 exposure, which is why I don’t have super extensive photos of any of the events I covered in order to get my Girl Scout badge.

Basically I took enough photos that I earned this badge, which I still have to this day.

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In order to earn the “My Camera” badge I had to photograph a couple of events and put them in a picture album. My parents bought me my first album that was titled “Brag Book” and had this pretty peacock design on the cover.

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I wrote my name in as neat cursive as I possibly could write along with 1972, the year I took all of these photos in this album.

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Now on to the photos themselves. The first event I shot for this album was for the birthday party of Diane, my youngest cousin on my mother’s side of the family who was celebrating her sixth birthday. The original caption of the next photo reads “First view of the house.” (There’s also a portion of my own thumb covering the camera lens on the right side of the picture, which is a dead giveaway that I was a photography newbie.)

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Caption of the next photograph: “The Birthday Girl Diane Lipp.”

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Caption of next photo: “Birthday Girl with the presents.”

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Original caption: “Opening the presents.” Diane’s older sister, Eileen, looks on while Diane opens her presents.

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Original caption: “Looking at the presents.” The blonde woman holding a book on the left is my mother while my cousin (and Diane’s oldest sister) Bernie looks at the pages. Diane is seated on the right with her back to me. Strangely my mother was the only adult I actually photographed at that birthday party despite the fact that my father, grandmother, and my aunt and uncle (Diane’s parents) were also present. (Of course I was dealing with the fact that, unlike today’s digital cameras, I had a limited amount of exposures I could make with film so I had to be very picky as to what pictures I would take.)

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Original caption: “The guests at the party.” This is a group photo of Diane and her sisters (my cousins). Diane is seated at the head of the table. Standing from left to right are Debbie, Bernie, and Eileen.

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Original caption: “The birthday cake.” My cousin Debbie’s back partially obscures the cake, which was a homemade chocolate frosted cake that had Diane’s name and the number 6 spelled out in M&M’s while a small train held the birthday candles.

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Original caption: “Blowing out the candles.”

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Original caption: “My cousin Debbie at the party.” And she’s sucking on a lemon as well.

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Original caption: “The cat with the party girls Bernie [located on the right], Debbie [holding the cat in her arms], Eileen [holding a doll on the left], and Diane [second from the left].”

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Original caption: “Pussy Cat behind a chair.” (Yes, my cousins actually named the family cat “Pussy Cat.”)

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The next few photos are of another event that also took place in the same home where my cousins grew up. Diane’s birthday is in January so, based on the clothes that the girls wore in the next few photos, I have to guess that these were taken sometime between May and August. The original caption of the next photo reads “Another view of the house.”

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Original caption: “Debbie holding Pussy Cat.”

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Original caption: “Debbie, Diane [holding the cat] and the cat named Pussy Cat.”

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Original caption: “Debbie [seated at the left holding Pussy Cat in her lap], Eileen [lying in the entrance to a tent that was erected in the backyard], and Diane at the tent.”

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I’m going to pause right here and provide one of those “Where are they now?” updates. Pussy Cat has crossed that Rainbow Bridge to wherever pets go in the afterlife a long time ago. My aunt and uncle (my cousins’ parents) are both dead. So are my father and grandmother. My mother is still alive while dealing with multiple sclerosis. As for my cousins, the birthday girl, Diane, now works for the Social Security Administration. She’s married with two sons, the younger of whom have just started his freshman year of college. Eileen is a schoolteacher. She’s married with a teenage stepson. She also has two grown sons from a previous marriage. Debbie works in security at NASA Kennedy Space Flight Center in Florida. She’s divorced and the mother of two grown daughters. Bernie is a physical therapist. She’s married with four children with the younger two still living at home and attending high school. (Her two older children have moved out on their own.)

The next few pictures are of a different event. Sue was a cousin on my father’s side of the family and I remember she was my father’s first cousin (which makes her my first cousin once-removed). We were invited to a party held at her house to celebrate the baptism of her first child, who was less than a month old at the time. (For some reason we were only invited to the party but not to the baptism itself. I suspect it’s because of the fact that my Protestant father was married to my Roman Catholic mother and I was being raised as a Catholic so there was some kind of organized religion bullshit going on. I’ll admit that I’m not much of a fan of organized religion and if it weren’t for the fact that I am currently a member of a Unitarian Universalist congregation that has no creed or dogma, I wouldn’t even bother with organized religion at all, but I digress.)

The original caption to the next photograph reads “First view of Sue’s house.”

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Original caption: “The guests at the baptism party.” Unfortunately I took a photo of everyone’s backs while they were getting food so I really can’t tell you who was who. But you can at least get a good look of some of the early 1970’s hairstyles and fashions.

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Original caption: “Grandmom at the table.” My late grandmother was my father’s mother and she’s the only relative whose photo I took whom I could identify. (Unfortunately I have no idea as to the identity of that girl who’s to the left of my grandmother.)

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Original caption: “The guests at the kitchen.” Unfortunately I can’t identify any of the people in that photograph (and the fact that the picture is a bit on the blurry side doesn’t help at all).

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My parents lost contact with my father’s cousin Sue after that baptism party so I have no idea whatever became of her (or if she’s even still alive now). Nor do I know whatever became of that baby whose baptism party we attended. My grandmother has since passed away.

The last pictures in this photo album are of the annual family week-long vacation in Ocean City, Maryland. This was an era when the beach was dotted with small cottage-like apartment buildings that had anywhere from 6-24 rooms in each building. Starting in the late 1970s developers began building these huge condominiums which obliterated the beachfront views of the smaller apartment buildings. In a lot of cases these older buildings were torn down in order to make room for these larger condos. The original caption in the next photo reads “Mom and Dad” and, yes, they are my parents.

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Original caption: “Last year’s apartment.” This shows the place where my family stayed on the previous year’s trip (in 1971).

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Original caption: “This year’s apartment.” You can get a sense as to what the architecture was like in Ocean City before all of these huge condos were built.

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Original caption: “Peir [sic] 78.” I think Pier 78 was the building in the background. I don’t remember why I decided to take that picture since I don’t recall my family ever staying in that building. I also don’t recognize the woman sitting on the blanket in the foreground either. (She was probably a stranger.)

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Original caption: “Cathy and Smiley.” I remember my parents got me a Smiley pillow for either my birthday or Christmas (both are just 10 days apart from each other) the previous year. This was at the height of the Smiley Face craze of the 1970’s when there were all kinds of products featuring the Smiley Face. I remember I brought that pillow with me to Ocean City. That trip to Ocean City was one of those years when we shared an apartment with my aunt, uncle, and four cousins (whose pictures I posted earlier in this post). A friend of my aunt’s (whose name I’ve since forgotten) was also staying in Ocean City with her family at the same time so she dropped by the apartment with her toddler daughter named Cathy. I remember Cathy took a liking to my Smiley pillow so much that she carried it around with her everywhere she walked in that apartment and I decided to take that picture. I think the girl in the background may be my cousin Eileen but I don’t know for sure because this photo is a bit on the blurry side and the colors have become faded with age.

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I never saw Cathy or her mother again after that photo so I don’t know what became of either of them. My father passed away in 2000. Like I wrote earlier, my mother is still alive and well despite having to deal with multiple sclerosis.

Here’s the back of the Brag Book. Note the name “Japan” printed in gold on the lover right hand corner. Japan was the nation that many companies frequently went to when they wanted to manufacture cheap goods at a fraction of the cost of manufacturing these same goods in the United States. Japan has since been overtaken by China, India, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and many other Third World countries as the place to go to manufacture goods as cheaply as possible so Japan is no longer synonymous with cheaply made imports.

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So now you know how I began as a photographer. Here’s another look at the “My Camera” badge, which I’m still proud of to this day because it ranks as my earliest accomplishments that I did because I wanted to, not because my parents/teachers/other adults told me that I had to do.

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I looked up the “My Camera” Girl Scout badge for Junior Girl Scouts online and I found that it has sine been replaced with one in Digital Photography including a completely redesigned badge. I suppose it was inevitable given the great strides in photography in the years since I started taking pictures with the Kodak Pocket Instamatic camera on film. At least today’s Girl Scouts still have the opportunity to earn a badge by trying their hand at photography, which is a good thing. I know that if it weren’t for the “My Camera” badge from a long time ago, I don’t know if I would have discovered how much I love photography and my life would’ve been way different (and so would the content of this blog).

Previous in This Series

Part 1 (Artomatic 2007)

Last week I mentioned that I’ve been going through some old files on my computer hard drive and I found the original rough drafts of my old Artomatic blog posts from previous years. (There was a time when Artomatic gave everyone who participated their own blogging account. For Artomatic this year, I had to step up and volunteer to be a blogger before I received my own blogging account.) It’s pretty appropriate to share some of these posts here since Artomatic is going on until next month.

While I visited a few previous Artomatics, the first time I actually participated was in 2007. I enjoyed that experience so much that when Artomatic was announced again in 2008, I jumped at the chance to participate in it again.

2008 was a momentous year for me for reasons other than Artomatic. I was born with a dislocated left hip and, as some old baby photos have documented, I was placed in a body cast for several months. My left hip joints snapped into place, the cast was removed, and I learned how to walk like an average child soon afterwards. I sprained the same left hip in a roller skating accident when I was 12 but I managed to recuperate and I walked like a regular person again. All that changed by late 2007 when I began to walk with a limp. As time went on, I had a harder time walking and by the time of Artomatic 2008, I had to use a cane to get around.

Despite my hip problems, I wanted to participate in Artomatic and I did so. That year I decided to focus mostly on photography, with the exception of this Peep Floyd diorama that I originally did for The Washington Post‘s annual Peeps diorama contest but it failed to make even Honorable Mention. Here is the original online catalogue that I put up to promote my exhibition space.

Peep Floyd

Unicorn

Little Chapel in Day

Little Chapel at Night

Guitar Heroes

Honda Asimo Robot

Toyota Partner Robot

Tai-Shan

Pink Flamingoes

Naked Mole Rats

$900 Pez Dispensers

American Girl Dolls

White Bridge at Cypress Gardens

Find the Swimming Alligator

R2-D2 Mailbox

Shalom Y'all

Unicyclist

Ninth Life Store Sign

Ellowyne Wilde Doll in Front of U.S. Capitol

Legal Cubans

Sunset Over Assawoman Bay

Blythe Doll in Cherry Blossom Tree

Cosplay Contest, 2008 Cherry Blossom Festival, Washington, DC

Volks Dollfie Dream and Testudo

Volks Dollfie Dream Doll in Cherry Blossom Tree

Volks Dollfie Dream Doll Peeking From Cherry Blossom Tree

Tiny Dolls in Forsythia Bushes

Cypress Gardens, Charleston, South Carolina, 2008

Cypress Gardens, Charleston, South Carolina, 2008

Cypress Gardens, Charleston, South Carolina, 2008

Where is the Alligator? Cypress Gardens, Charleston, South Carolina 2008

Soom Mini-Gem Uyoo in Cherry Blossom Tree

Worshipping the Goddess

Here are just a few selected posts I made in my Artomatic account’s blog that year as archived on my hard drive. (That blog has long since been deleted since Artomatic tends to totally revamp its website whenever a new Artomatic event is announced.)

I’m Participating in Artomatic 2008, March 27, 2008

I’ve finally finished with registration. This year I’m going to emphasize my photography more mainly because I’ve been more successful at that than doing strictly drawing and painting.

Now my next task is to sift through my vast trove of digital photos to pick out the right ones to display. I am quite a shutterbug. I’m glad for the invention of digital cameras because I still remember the pain of running out of film and I had to choose between shelling out more money for film (then have to shell out more money to get them processed) or quit my picture taking for the day. I have a monumental task ahead of me so I’m going to sign off now.

Latest Stuff About Me, April 18, 2008

Last Saturday I went to the Artomatic orientation where I picked out my site. I’ll be located on the 7th floor, NE Quadrant, Area C4. I know it sounds like gobbledygook now but I’m sure it’ll become more apparent once the show opens and the maps/brochures are printed. For the time being, I’ll just say that my wall space is located right next to the men’s restroom on the 7th floor.

My Exhibit for This Year, May 8, 2008

I know that some of you who are familiar with my exhibit at last year’s Artomatic will be wondering if I’m doing anything different. Well, the answer is yes. I’m going to describe the difference between this year’s exhibit and last year’s.

Last year I had a variety of different media ranging from digital photographs to drawings to paintings. I even had a couple of dolls I customized myself that were on display in small glass cases that were mounted on the wall.

This year I’m focusing exclusively on digital photographs. That’s mainly because I wanted artwork that was more transportable than my larger art pieces. All of my photographs are either 8″ x 10″ or 5″ x 7″. Keeping the photos at those two sizes made frame shopping really easy for me since those two are standard sizes. On top of that, I’ve had people tell me that my biggest strength is in photography so I decided to highlight that some more.

The biggest challenge I had was whittling down the hundreds of digital photographs that I have on my hard disk to just 32 photos. (Sixteen of them are 8″ x 10″ while the rest are 5″ x 7″.) Then I had the additional challenge of printing since, as experienced digital photographers and computer graphics artists know, what is seen on the computer screen doesn’t mean that the print version will turn out the same. But I managed to get everything done in time for the opening tomorrow night.

I’m also pricing my photos at $10 for the 8″ x 10″ and $6 for the 5″ x 7″. I know my pricing methods may become controversial but there’s a method to my madness. If you’ve been reading a newspaper or watching any of the cable news channel, you’ll know that this country is in an economic crisis due to rising gas costs, higher food prices, and the subprime mortgage crisis. I really don’t think that people are in the mood to shell out $100 or higher for a piece of art no matter how much they love it because of the economy.

I also had an epiphany around the end of last year’s Artomatic. I got someone who wanted to buy one of my drawings but she wanted to know how much it would cost if I would remove it from the frame. Since I didn’t have any other serious buyers of my artwork last year, I told her that I would take $25 off my drawing. So I sold it to her and took home an empty frame.

This year I scoured the local big box retailers looking for the lowest frame prices. A.C. Moore had the best prices with many frames being sold for $3 and $4 and with some going for as low as $2. What’s more, the frames still looked pretty decent despite the low prices. Then I went to Staples where I bought a pack of satin-finish photographic paper for $35. I calculated each sheet as costing around sixty cents per sheet, which isn’t bad.

I even have a catchy ad phrase that I put on a sign in my area: “Affordable Artwork for Uncertain Economic Times”.

What’s more, since I have my photos on a hard drive, I can easily print multiple copies so if one person buys one of my photos and someone else wants that same photo, I can print and frame another copy and sell it to that other person.

I will have a small table next to my photos where I will have a guestbook for you to sign and a digital frame that will rotate digital photos of some of my other works of art like my drawings, paintings, sculptures, and crafts. I purchased this digital frame at Target and I love it because I can display more of my art than the space that’s alloted to me.

I will also have a diorama displayed on that table called Peep Floyd. I originally created this diorama for The Washington Post’s second annual Peeps contest but it didn’t make the final cut among the judges. I was disappointed but my husband was even more heartbroken than I was. (He felt that I was robbed.) So I decided to give my little diorama a second chance by displaying it with my artwork. I’m even putting it up for sale for only $5 (which is about how much money I spent making it in the first place). What’s even amusing is that there will be a display of the winning Peeps dioramas on the 10th floor while my display will be on the 7th floor. So if people decided to start on the first floor and work their way up, chances are that they will see my own diorama first before they see the winners on the 10th floor. Ha! Ha! Ha!

Last year I printed three photo zines that I sold on the honor system where people can put money in a box if they wanted one or more of my zines. I did it mainly as a promotional item, even if it was a pain to print multiple copies for the duration of Artomatic. (The fact that I was using a 10-year-old Epson color printer didn’t help matters much.) I thought that I would get some sort of opportunities from the zines after Artomatic in the long run so I toughed out the time spent printing, collating, and stapling the zines. I also gritted my teeth as I spent lots of money on printer ink since those zines did use up tons of ink. Even though the zines sold pretty well (some people did leave money in the box), nothing ever came of those zines after Artomatic ended. No one contacted me saying, “Hey I liked your zines and photos and I want to do some work with you.”

Basically it really wasn’t worth the time or money spent making and distributing the zines so I’m not going to do any more this year. I know that some of you will be disappointed but that’s the way things go.

The biggest change from last year to this year is myself. Yes, I am a year older but my health has gone down a bit. I have an old injury in my left hip that was repaired a long time ago but I’ve now developed osteoarthritis in it. Last year I was able to walk normally most of the time (although I did limp if I overextended myself by doing too much walking or other physical work). This year I’m walking with a limp and I use a walking stick whenever I have to walk around outside for any great distances. I’ve consulted an orthopedic specialist and he’s recommending that I undergo a hip replacement, especially since my left leg is now a little bit shorter than my right leg, thanks to the osteoarthritis.

But, before I undergo the surgery, I have to lose weight and do exercises to strengthen my hip. As a result, I’m still able to participate in Artomatic since I won’t be able to undergo the surgery until July at the earliest.

Having osteoarthritis is a bit of a bummer. I get more physically tired than before, partially because of having to take prescription version of ibuprofen (which has drowsiness as a side effect) and partially because it’s just more physically taxing to limp around. My current condition was a major factor in my decision to focus on smaller photographs than my larger canvases since the photos are easier to cart around than a big canvas. Since I decided to eliminate the zines, I will find Artomatic less taxing than last year.

I will be at the opening tomorrow night with my husband. This weekend I will be working as a vendor at the Greenbelt Green Man Festival in Greenbelt, Maryland. I will have a packed schedule.

I’m Doing Pretty Well at Artomatic This Year, May 26, 2008

So far I had someone who wanted six copies of my “Shalom Y’all” photo because she wanted to give them away to her Jewish friends. I also have one other person who may be potentially interested in purchasing something from me but I haven’t heard back from him.

So far I took part in a drawing workshop on Opening Night and I’ve also worked one shift so far. (It happened to be on the same night as the “Meet the Artists Night” so I couldn’t be at my area, with the exception of a brief break that I took around 8 p.m.) Right now I’m typing this entry from a hotel room in Charleston, South Carolina but I intend to participate in more Artomatic events once I return.

I happened to be in Charleston at the same time as their annual Piccolo Spoleto Festival—an art-filled festival that includes special exhibitions at area art galleries, special theatre shows, special musical concerts, and a crafts fair. I intend to check out the crafts fair at least. I also intend to visit the City Market, which is filled with stalls of people hawking food items and various types of crafts. It’s also where a local African-American group of people known as the Gullahs sell their speciality craft–making baskets, vases, flowers, and other items out of sweetgrass.

Well, anyway, see ya later!

My Artomatic Videos, June 2, 2008

This year I’ve been doing more at Artomatic than just showing my artwork and attending a few events. I’ve also been taking photographs and shooting video. I haven’t decided what I’ll do with the photos yet but I’ve already edited and uploaded three short video clips on my YouTube account.

All three videos are of the firedancing troupe known as Flights of Fire. I shot this during the second hour of their show on May 16. (I missed the first hour because I was finishing up the last hour of my own volunteer shift during that time.) I was pretty exhausted after working my five-hour volunteer shift so I basically went outside, sat down, and unwind a bit by watching the group perform the rest of their show. I happened to have my videocamera with me so I filmed them as they did their various fire tricks to some lively dance music.

This first clip is a general highlights reel as I focused on the troupe’s most spectacular firedancing tricks:

The second clip is a very sexy and erotic routine that is performed in its entirety:

The third clip is the grand finale that is also performed in its entirety. Imagine a bunch of people dancing and swinging flaming torches at the same time and you’ll get something like this:

Two More Artomatic Videos For You to View, June 5, 2008

I shot two more videos at Artomatic that I’ve uploaded to my YouTube account. The first one is the Peeps artist reception that was held on May 31, 2008.

The second one is the first-ever Artomatic 500 cardboard car race, which is just as hilarious as it sounds.

Enjoy!

A Posting From Artomatic, June 13, 2008

I’ve just finished the third required volunteer shift over an hour ago and I’m waiting for this workshop on “Urban R & D: Developing a Community Research and Design Lab” to begin in a few minutes. Actually volunteering wasn’t too bad despite my totally arthritic hip (which has given me a bad limp in recent months and has definitely put a crimp on my mobility) because I was given desk jobs. (I worked the front desk on the first floor the first two times and I worked the fourth floor this final time today.)

Last night I attended the Artists’ Social. I met someone whom I had volunteered with on a previous shift and I also met up with other people whom I had met at other Artomatic events. What was cool was that I sold two of my photographs to someone who loved by two robot photos (one of the Toyota Partner Robot and the other of the Honda Asimo—both taken at a Japanese cultural festival at the Kennedy Center a few months ago).

I’m looking forward to attending Artomatic tomorrow night–they are having the first-ever Art in Fashion show, which is supposed to have fire as the theme. From the way this event is being hyped, it sounds like Project Runway on steroids.

Well, anyway, I gotta wrap this entry up and head off to tonight’s workshop.

More Artomatic Videos, June 21, 2008

I shot and posted a few more videos at Artomatic before it ended last Sunday but I’ve only gotten around to blogging about it now.

First is a video of my own exhibit, which was displayed on the 7th floor next to the men’s bathroom.

Next is a video of a couple of interactive exhibits that were done by other artists.

I previously videotaped the Peeps artist reception where I spoke with prolific Peeps diorama artist Carl Cordell. At the time he was working on a fourth diorama, “The Day The Earth Stood Peeped”, that wasn’t ready in time for the reception. I kept on going to the Peeps area for the next few weeks but the diorama didn’t make its appearance until last Saturday, the day before the last day of Artomatic. I made a short video highlighting that diorama.

I did a three-part video about the Art in Fashion show, which was the closing event of Artomatic. (It was held the night before Artomatic’s final day.) It highlighted fashions created by fashion designers in the Baltimore-Washington, DC area. I had fun attending this because I’m such a fan of Project Runway and I had never seen a fashion show in person before.

After the fashion show ended, there was a big party that included all kinds of activities. I videotaped some of it but I was running out of battery power by that point so I didn’t film as much as I wanted to. But it should give you an idea of what it was like. (Some parts of this video are definitely NSFW because it includes scenes of body painting on partially or fully nude bodies.)

Well, anyway, that’s it for the Artomatic videos.

Visiting the Artomatic Site for the Last Time, June 21, 2008

I had successfully sold yet another photo to someone and he and I agreed to meet at the Artomatic site today. After the transaction was made and he took his newly-purchased photo with him, I took down my exhibit. I felt wistful as I did it but, as the old saying goes, all good things must come to an end.

Goodbye For Now, June 23, 2008

Now that Artomatic is over and I’ve picked up my artwork from the site, it’s time for me to say goodbye to this blog until the next time I decide to participate in an Artomatic.

Three months after I wrote that last farewell Artomatic post, I underwent a hip replacement followed by physical therapy that lasted until well into 2009. In early 2011 I suffered two falls within a week that knocked my hip replacement out of alignment so I had to undergo hip revision surgery followed by more physical therapy. Right now my hip is doing fine. <knock wood!>

Next in This Series

Part 3 (Artomatic 2009)
Part 4 (Artomatic 2012)

This year is the fifth anniversary of this blog. For the first year I was unsure about how many photos I could actually upload because of the free WordPress.com blogging account has a space limit. So I kept photo uploads limited to just my arts and crafts along with any photographs that I actually exhibited in a show. Over time I learned such things as graphic optimization so I was able to upload more photos that way than I thought I could. So for the rest of the year I’m going to devote Throwback Thursday to photos from previous blog entries (along with links to the original posts) that I should’ve uploaded five years earlier but I didn’t.

In late June 2010 my then-husband and I went to our annual trip to Ocean City, Maryland. We usually went with his sister and any other friend and/or relative who wanted to tag along. (We originally started with the two of us, his sister, her teenaged son, and one of his friends. Once the son grew up and joined the U.S. Navy, one of my sister-in-law’s friends would join us. Although there was one year or two when it was just the three of us.) That year I thought it would just be the two of us because his sister’s son was preparing to get married just two or three weeks later and his mother was busy with helping out with the long-distance wedding preparations. (She lived in Pennsylvania while the wedding was taking place in Connecticut, where her son was stationed.) I was surprised when I learned that she was going to take a break from the wedding preparations to go down to the beach with us. In fact, I would later hear her brag to other relatives about how she managed to make time to go to Ocean City with us despite her son’s wedding taking place so soon afterwards.

It turned out that I wrote just two blog posts on that trip. One was on June 28, 2010. Here are the photos I took on June 28-29.

Some of what one can ride on one of the carousels instead of horses on the Boardwalk.

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Some paintings.

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The Boardwalk after sunset.

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A local sand sculptor who, for many seasons, have done sand sculptures based on the life of Jesus and various scenes from the Bible.

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The other post I wrote about that trip was on June 30, 2010. Here are the rest of the photos I took between June 30-July 2.

The Boardwalk in daytime.

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Some surfers trying to catch the perfect wave.

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Ocean City Firefighters 9/11 Memorial.

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Wall paintings based on old photographs and postcards of Ocean City circa 1890-1920.

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An unusual store clerk. LOL! (The dog belonged to the owner of the jewelry shop.)

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A young couple rests on the Boardwalk benches with their latest oversized winnings from the various midway games.

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A coin-operated kiddie dolphin ride.

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The Fenwick Island Lighthouse located just over the border from Ocean City into Fenwick Island, Delaware.

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A stone marker marks the state border between Maryland and Delaware.

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For the last three or four of my annual trips to Ocean City (before my divorce), my husband, sister-in-law, and I would go to the Angler Restaurant for dinner at a certain time because that time had this bargain: You get a free half-hour boat trip when you eat dinner there. So we would arrive in time to eat dinner then we would board a boat where I would take some really cool sunset photos.

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Just a few hours before we had to check out of our condo on July 2, I went down to the beach for a last early morning walk along the shoreline.

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Early morning seashell hunting is a really big thing in Ocean City.

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It was also during this trip that I saw street performers on the Boardwalk who portrayed living statues. I shot this short video so you’ll know exactly what I mean. (I have to admit that they were a hoot!)

Legal Cubans Photojewelry

It’s a necklace. It’s a pin. It’s BOTH!!! The photos are based on the ones that I actually took myself using my digital camera. I edited each photo in Photoshop, printed it out on Shrinky Dinks that are especially made for ink jet printers, cutted out the image, punched a hole on top of the image, baked the item for 3 minutes (when it shrinked to 1/3 of its original size), sealed the printed item in an acrylic varnish, placed a necklace loop on top, then glued a pin backing on the back. Regardless of whether you decide to wear it as a necklace or as a pin, it’s the ultimate in wearable art!

This particular image is based on my own photograph of a Legal Cubans sign outside a cigar store that I shot in Ocean City, Maryland in 2006.

Approximate size is about 2 inches x 2 inches (5 cm x 5 cm). There is a necklace loop at the top so you can add your favorite chain and a pin backing in case you want to wear it as a brooch. This item is currenly on sale in my Etsy store right here.

Tomorrow is the day that I’m getting a second opinion regarding my hip. I’ll admit that I’m nervous about it and I’m hoping for the best.

The weather last weekend—with those record high temperatures of 100-105 degrees—was unbearable enough but it’s especially agonizing when you have an injury of some kind. I’m grateful that I had air conditioning even though the high heat really pushed the air conditioning to the max.

I’ve been slowly playing around with my new smartphone. Last night I downloaded a free app that got it to recognize those square codes that are popping up in print everywhere. Here’s a photo of one that I took when I was in Ocean City a few weeks ago.

Carousel Entrance, The Boardwalk, Ocean City, Maryland

So I ran that new free app and put my photo of that code up to the camera that’s in my smartphone. For those of you without a smartphone, I’ll explain what it did next. It brought up this URL: http://vimeo.com/oceancityevents/trimpers I hit the "Go" button in the app and it took me to this page that includes a short video explaining the 1902 carousel that’s still running at Trimpers Amusements in Ocean City.

I was sad and horrified over what happened in Norway last weekend. The fact that a right-wing Norwegian did it is so reminiscent of the time when Timothy McVeigh did that horrible bombing in Oklahoma City. I really feel sorry for the victims and their families. I’m also fuming over what Glenn Beck said on his radio show. He compared the youth camp where the gunman killed so many people to a Hitler Youth camp. Can you believe it? It’s like he’s blaming the victims or something. I’m glad that he isn’t on television any more and he has to confine his hate to his radio show and his new online subscription video web service.

I’m still bracing myself for economic calamity over the fact that there are people in this country who are willing to let the United States go into default to score cheap political points and they place a higher value on making sure that President Obama fails over the long-term economic health of the United States. They also don’t seem to care that if the U.S. defaults, it’ll take down the economies of numerous other nations with it. Haven’t they learned from history? When the Great Depression hit, not only did the U.S. economy went south but it took down the economies of many other nations in Europe with it. This led to the rise of the fascists in Italy and the Nazis in Germany, which led to World War II and the Holocaust.

Or do the Tea Partiers want to see a rise in fascism all over the world? If that’s the case, they’d better be careful of what they wish for.

I’ll just end this entry with a video of a song by Amy Winehouse, who passed away this past weekend at 27. In a way I’m not shocked that she died because she had a very public struggle with drugs and alcohol. I saw paparazzi photos of her at her worst that reminded me of the mentally ill homeless hanging around in the streets of downtown Washington, DC. It’s a shame because she was a very talented singer who could’ve have had a long and prosperous career had she been able to keep her personal demons in check.

I attended the Planned Parenthood fundraiser in Baltimore on June 17, 2011 when I briefly met the MC, Misty Barfly, at that event. I sought her out during one of her breaks because she mentioned onstage that she came from nearby Glen Burnie and I lived there myself from the time I was 5 until I left home to attend my sophomore year at the University of Maryland at College Park when I was 19. After I graduated from College Park, I moved back to Glen Burnie and I lived there for 10 months until I left home for good when I got married.

When I told Misty Barfly that I also came from Glen Burnie, she referred to it as a "hellhole" and I agreed with her sentiment. I grew up in the sourthernmost part of town (which bordered on Severn) and there was no bus service. If you wanted to go somewhere (like to a store or a library), you had to get in a car and drive at least 5 miles. It really sucked as a child because there was really no place within walking distance. It didn’t help that there were no playgrounds available until I was well into the upper grades in elementary school and even then you had to walk at least 15 minutes to get to the nearest one. My mother, who grew up in Baltimore City, said that she loved the idea of living in a place with no bus service (the nearest bus stop was 3 miles away) because she just didn’t want to deal with the kind of people she encountered in Baltimore and my neither of my parents didn’t really consider the impact living in a neighborhood with few recreation resources and no public transportation would have on kids like me. For many years our neighborhood had problems with vandalism (kids would place firecrackers in mailboxes or soap up a neighbor’s windows) because they had nothing else to do for entertainment. I saw kids who turned to drugs and alcohol because they had nothing better to do since everything was at least 3 miles away.

On top of that Glen Burnie was a town that was (and still is) full of shopping malls, shopping centers, and car dealerships. (In fact, Glen Burnie has been called "The Car Dealership Capital of Maryland" because there are so many car dealerships of all kinds—including an Oldmobile dealer that also sold a few Rolls Royces.)

And then there was my school days. I had problems with kids threatening to beat me up and calling me "mentally retarded" for reasons that even I cannot fathom. I grew up in a majority white area and I’m white myself. I’m living proof that if white kids can’t find minorities to harrass and beat up, they’ll get creative and turn to other white kids who are somehow "inferior" for whatever reason.

The high school I attended—Old Mill Senior High School—really sucked for me because that school placed a really high priority on its athletes at the expense of everything thing else—including academics. The principal used to get on the PA system and announce with pride whenever the football or basketball team did well but didn’t feel the same sort of pride for the latest accomplishments of—let’s say—the Chess Club. I still have memories of how the school administration reacted with shock when a guy who was a year ahead of me was accepted to Cornell University because Old Mill basically had pretty low expectations for us kids, with the exception of sports. (Ironically, no Old Mill star athelete have ever made it to the NBA or the NFL. Heck, I don’t even know of any Old Mill athletes who made it to the Olympics or World Cup Soccer either.)

Of course, some of the kids continued to peg me with the "mentally retarded" reputation that I never deserved. (I was NEVER in Special Education and I am a college graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism.) In fact, the main reason I was dateless was because most of the boys didn’t want to be seen dating a "mentally retarded" girl like me. I didn’t attend my junior or senior proms because no boy wanted to date me for that reason.

(In case you were wondering, my parents didn’t seem care that I was dateless in high school. My mother, who married my father at 19 and had me at 21, strongly discouraged me from dating because she was afraid that I would marry soon after high school graduation like she did. In addition, she came close to eloping with a previous boyfriend when she was 16 but decided against it at the last minute and she was afraid that I would do the same if I even dated any guys. Heck, they didn’t even care that I had few friends at all. I still have memories of the numerous times my mother would tell me that having lots of nice things is better than having lots of friends—even though the Roman Catholic faith she raised me in would preach that excessive materialism is wrong and sinful. I was pretty confused growing up with two conflicting sets of ideas and morals—one espoused by my parents and the other espoused by the Roman Catholic Church they raised me in.)

This "mentally retarded" reputation even followed me to my freshman year at Anne Arundel Community College when many of my fellow Old Mill graduates—especially the ones who were the cheerleaders—talked to me in a way like I was still inferior. Ironically, I made new friends from people who never attended Old Mill and my first boyfriend also never set foot in my high school. One of the reasons why I ended up transferring to College Park a year early was because I really couldn’t stand it anymore with the disrespect I felt from the former Old Mill jocks and cheerleaders. It was only after I attended the University of Maryland that I finally started to thrive socially since very few of the students there knew me from my days at Old Mill.

The only high school reunion I ever attended was my five-year and I really didn’t enjoy it very much. I saw people there who used to be rude to me and they pretty much ignored me. Sure it was nice meeting up with the few people I was friends with but we didn’t get a chance to exchange addresses or phone numbers so we never contacted each other. I’ve skipped all of my other high school reunions since.

I have pretty much severed all of my ties to my former schoolmates from Old Mill. I have a Facebook page but it’s under my married name, which makes it more difficult for a former high school enemy to find me. I also have not sought out any old schoolmates via Facebook or any other social media.

A few days ago, when I was checking out the Boardwalk in Ocean City, I had an unwanted encounter from my past. I came to the Boardwalk after a major rainstorm and it was drizzling while I walked around. On top of that, I needed to get back to my condo in time for dinner. I decided to head for a soda machine to buy myself a Diet Pepsi before I returned to my car and made the 100+ block drive to the condo that was located in the northermost part of Ocean City.

So some woman suddenly approached me and asked me if I was this certain person and she used my former name. I looked at her and I didn’t recognize her at all. She had red hair and the only classmate I remembered who had red hair was this girl who I never want to hear from again. It’s possible that she may have dyed her hair red. In any case, I didn’t recognize her face. She was accompanied by a guy who looked like he was in his late teens and I assumed that he was either her son or nephew.

I was in a quandry because I was afraid that this woman was either 1) she was one of the former cheerleaders who used to harass me and call me "mentally retarded" or 2) the red headed classmate whom I don’t want to hear from again. I was also in a hurry to get back to the condo since my husband and sister-in-law were going to serve dinner and they were waiting for me to arrive.

I decided to make things easy on myself and I basically said "No." The woman apologized and said "You look like someone I went to school with." With that, her and the teenaged boy walked away.

I know some of you will think that I was foolish to pass up a chance to reconnect with someone from my past. But I really didn’t want to risk it. If she had been one of the cheerleaders who called me "mentally retarded", I had visions of her talking to me about the good times she had when she used to diss me and taunt me. I really didn’t want that.

I was also afraid that she may be the red headed classmate whom I don’t want to hear from again. Why? Well, here’s a story about that girl, whom I’ll refer to only by her first initial—"D". D was a girl in the same year as I was and I saw her around in the hallway. I never shared any classes with her other than Homeroom. In fact, I only got to know D because she was a friend of a friend of mine. I happened to sit at the same cafeteria table during my senior year with my friends and D sat there too.

D and I started to talk and she seemed like a really nice girl. One day, she asked me for my phone number and I gave it to her. I didn’t think anything of it. I thought she was a nice girl to talk to. When I got home from school, she called me that night. She started to talk about the same things we talked about during lunch and she started to make this one-sided conversation without letting me get a word in edgewise. The conversation lasted about 15 minutes and I thought that she was just testing out the number I gave her.

The next day I sat next to her and things went on as usual. That night she called me again and she started to talk about the same things we talked about during lunch and she started to make this one-sided conversation without letting me get a word in edgewise. From time to time D would say that she only called to see how I was doing then she didn’t let me answer her question because she kept on yakking.

From then on she would call me every single night, including weekends. Those phone calls were always all about her and her latest dramas regarding her family and the various boys she dated. She repeated everything she spoke about during lunch and she rarely let me get a word in edgewise.

She called on the only phone we had in the house. This was in the days before cell phones, answering machines, and Caller ID. Back then when the phone rang, you usually had to pick it up no matter what because you didn’t want to miss any calls that were important. Also, each family had one phone. I didn’t know any kid who had his/her own separate phone line. If someone was calling on a regular basis, the kid’s parents would know.

My parents knew that D was calling me excessively. In fact, I told them that she was a nuisance. Yet they made me take every single call that she made.They told me that I had to learn how to be considerate for others.

On the rare occasions when I was bold enough to be assertive and tell D that I was too busy to talk to her (especially if I was in the middle of doing homework), my parents would chide me for being rude. They also took me to task if I asked her to stop calling me so much or if I asked her to please keep the phone call short or to even tell her that she had already told me about it at lunch. It seemed like they took her side and they didn’t care about why I didn’t like her calling me every single day.

She became more and more like The Friend From Hell as the school year went on. When her birthday rolled around, she told me to mark the date of her birthday in my datebook. At first I thought she was planning a party and she was going to invite me to it. But then she told me that she wanted me to give her a birthday present. That’s right, she demanded a birthday present from me. Never mind the fact that she never asked me when my birthday was nor did she get me a birthday present. Yet she wanted me to give her a birthday present and she would even call me on the phone to remind me to give her a present.

It turned out that I had purchased a record that I was disappointed in so I gave that record to her as her birthday gift. It not only shut her up but I got rid of an unwanted album. To this day, D is the only friend who ever demanded a birthday present from me.

What was even galling was this one incident that convinced me that she was no real friend. I had received a notice that I was getting two awards at the special Senior Awards Ceremony. That night D called and I immediately blurted out that I was getting two awards this Saturday. D responded "Well that’s nice. Good-bye." Then she hung up.

I was really hurt because I listened patiently all those times she poured her guts out about the guys she wanted to marry yet she brushed me off when I wanted to share an achievement with her. I even told my parents about this because I wanted them to know what kind of girl she really was.

Even after high school graduation, she continued to call me all through the summer every single day. My parents still made me take those calls even though they KNEW about how she acted towards me regarding the Senior Awards Ceremony. There were times when I thought that they seemed to care more about her than about me.

The phone calls began to taper off when I started my freshman year at Anne Arundel Community College. I began a serious relationship with my first boyfriend. I told her about him and she stopped calling me for a while. I guess she didn’t like hearing about how happy I was that I had a boyfriend. Which sucks when I think back about all those times I listened to her when she talked incessantly about some guy she liked or the latest guy she was in a relationship with yet she wasn’t willing to do the same for me.

She would call every now and then so it wasn’t so bad. But then the daily phone calls started up again in late spring after I had mentioned that my boyfriend had dumped me so she began to resume calling me every single night. She was now talking about this great guy she had met, they were dating really seriously, and he had asked her to marry him. I became really annoyed about her calling me every single night and relaying the details of her relationship.

D and her guy got married quickly after she told me that she was pregnant then she began to devote her daily phone calls to telling me details about being blissfully married and how she couldn’t wait to become a mother. At that point, I stopped caring for D as a friend because she seemed to care about only herself and I felt that she was using me as a sounding board instead of a person with feelings.

I also began to make preparations to transferring to the University of Maryland. That summer I worked the night shift as a telephone interviewer. When D found out, she simply shifted her daily phone calls from the evenings to the afternoons. My grandmother, who lived with my family, insisted that I take her calls, just like my parents did.

Before I left for College Park in the fall, I told D that I didn’t have a new phone number available to give to her, which was the truth. She told me to give her a call when I got the new number but I never did. I was able to finally escape from D’s frequent phone calls for good.

The following spring, D called my parents and left a message for me, which they gave to me when I was home for spring break. The message said that D had given birth to a baby girl and she left her phone number. When I returned to school, the first thing I did was to trash that message. I haven’t heard from D since and I never want to hear from her again.

Now you understand why I lied to that woman on the Boardwalk.

Yesterday was my last full day in Ocean City, Maryland and I was determined to make the most of it. It was also one of the few days that had no rain in the forecast and it was sunny and hot all day long. That morning I finally was able to do the one thing that I couldn’t do earlier either because of my back problems or the weather or both—go for an early morning stroll along the beach. Aside from a few early-morning swimmers and angler fisherman, the beach was mostly clear, as you can see in this photo below.

Beach, Ocean City, Maryland

After my brief stroll, I returned to the condo for some breakfast. After that my husband, sister-in-law, and I decided to make a last visit to The Bookend Cafe where we had some drinks, browsed the gifts and books sold there, and did some web surfing using the cafe’s free wi-fi. On the way back from the cafe, we stopped off at the same Fenwick Island lighthouse that I took a nighttime photo of just a few days ago. Here is what the lighthouse looks like in daylight.

Fenwick Island Lighthouse in Daytime
Top of Fenwick Island Lighthouse

After lunch we spent some time in the afternoon at the beach where we took a few last dips in the ocean then did some final book reading on the beach. Then we changed out of our swimsuits and headed to the Boardwalk for one final time. Unlike the last time I went to the Boardwalk, the day was much brighter and I was able to do some more walking than I was before since I didn’t have to worry about raindrops. Here’s a photo I took of the landmark Esskay Clock. When I used to go to Ocean City as a child with my extended family (including my cousins), we kids used to be instructed to wait by that clock if we somehow became separated. I remembered when I did just that one crowded night when I got separated by my family and they were all happy that when they found me at the clock.

Esskay Clock, Boardwalk, Ocean City, Maryland

Next to the Esskay Clock is a newer Boardwalk landmark. This is the Firefighters Memorial and it was erected to honor the firefighters who perished in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.

Firefighters Memorial, The Boardwalk, Ocean City, Maryland

Here’s a different kind of landmark. For many years a sculptor and minister Randy Hofman has been creating these gigantic sand sculptures based on events in the Bible. They are really a sight to behold.

Giant Sand Sculptures, Ocean City, Maryland
Giant Sand Sculptures, Ocean City, Maryland
Giant Sand Sculptures, Ocean City, Maryland
Giant Sand Sculptures, Ocean City, Maryland
Giant Sand Sculptures, Ocean City, Maryland

If you want to see more of Randy Hofman’s work, check out his website right here.

The Boardwalk have long been home to would-be artists and musicians who try to ply their trade among the vacation-goers. Sometimes you’ll see someone who is both an artist and a musician, like the guy in the photo below.

Artist and Musician, The Boardwalk, Ocean City, Maryland

After walking around on the Boardwalk, we headed to the Angler restaurant to take advantage of its dinner and sunset cruise. We ate a wonderful dinner in the restaurant then we went out on the dock in the back of the restaurant where we boarded a boat. I took a whole bunch of sunset photos. Here’s one of the sunset over the Route 50 bridge that leads into Ocean City.

Sunset Over Route 50 Bridge, Ocean City, Maryland

Here’s another sunset photo, this one over Assateague Island.

Assateague Island at Sunset

And here’s sunset over West Ocean City, Maryland.

Sunset Over West Ocean City, Maryland

And here are a few sunset photos of the Boardwalk, where you can see the bright lights from far away.

Sunset Over the Boardwalk, Ocean City, Maryland
Sunset Over the Boardwalk, Ocean City, Maryland
Sunset Over the Boardwalk, Ocean City, Maryland

In this photo, you can see the kites that are located right outside The Kite Loft. The kites are flown day and night during the summer.

Kites Flying at Sunset, Ocean City, Maryland

Towards the end of the boat trip, things took a really dramatic turn. Our boat got word of another boat that had literally run aground and the boat I was on decided to go over to see if it could offer some help. By the time we arrived, the Coast Guard had already arrived to offer aid to the boat. I managed to take a few photos of that ship that ran aground but it was really dark and my camera had a hard time picking up the image so the next two photos are blurry. Here is the white boat that’s stuck among the rocks.

Boat Ran Aground

The blue lights in this photo are the ones from the Coast Guard boat.

Boat Ran Aground

Yesterday was another one of those days that started off nice and hot before it turned into yet another thunderstorm. My husband, sister-in-law, and myself all went down to the beach while it was still hot and sunny. I managed to stay in the shallow end of the ocean again before returning to my chair to read a few chapters from my book, then returning to the ocean for one last swim. I read some more from my book and I thought about going back in the ocean until I saw some nasty clouds come in. The lifeguards then closed the beach because of reports of lightning further south.

The rain came in really hard then it tapered off to a drizzle. At one point I decided to do some driving around Ocean City, which I hadn’t been able to do earlier in the trip because of the huge mass of people who came for the Fourth of July. (Most of the crowds left after July 4, which made the trip more pleasant.) I made a brief stop by the Boardwalk but I ended up cutting the trip short because it started to drizzle again. I took a few photos before I called it quits for the day.

The Boardwalk, Ocean City, Maryland
The Boardwalk, Ocean City, Maryland
Shark, The Boardwalk, Ocean City, Maryland
Pirate Skull, The Boardwalk, Ocean City, Maryland

Here’s a mix of the old and the new. This plaque describes a carousel that has been running continuosuly in Ocean City since 1902 with a newer sign underneath it that contains one of those smartphone codes that probably provides more information about the carousel. (I don’t know for sure since I currently don’t own a smartphone.)

Carousel Entrance, The Boardwalk, Ocean City, Maryland

Here is the carousel itself. All of the animals were hardcarved and each one is a work of art.

Carousel, Ocean City, Maryland

Not only does this carousel have the traditional horses but it also has a variety of other animals that people can choose to ride, such as this rooster.

Carousel, Ocean City, Maryland

Here’s a claw machine that’s offering prizes based on the very popular video game Angry Birds. (Yes, I have a copy of it on my iPod Touch and I was addicted to it for a while until I hit a level that—no matter how hard I try—I can’t seem to master.)

Angry Birds Claw Machine Prizes, Ocean City, Maryland

I know I ended the last entry about my trip on a melancholy note. Well yesterday was a bit better. My back didn’t hurt as much, which was good. I still have ear wax in my right ear but I can hear a bit better than yesterday.

My husband, sister-in-law, and I spent the Fourth of July close to the condo. We didn’t drive anywhere because there was a lot of traffic on the road. In fact, the public parking outside our condo was filled iup by 9:30 a.m. and there were a lot of cars going up and down that street in a vain attempt to find parking.

We hung around the condo then walked over to the beach late afternoon. My husband had a perfect solution for my problems with sitting in beach chairs with seats slung too close to the sand. He picked up one of the heavy patio chairs from the balcony and hauled it to the beach. It worked perfectly for me. I was able to get up and down from the chair without a hitch.

I still stayed close to the shallow end of the ocean because I didn’t want any waves to knock me off my feet with the bad back. I was okay overall. We hung around the beach until some nasty clouds came in and the temperature got considerably cooler. Amazingly my back didn’t feel worse, which is usually the case when rain is going to come.

We ate dinner at the condo, which was when it rained very hard outside for quite a while. We had originally planned on going towards the park on 125th Street to see the fireworks but we decided to stay indoors and watch the live broadcast of the annual Concert on the Mall and Fireworks from Washington, DC on television instead. After the DC fireworks ended at 9:30 p.m., we began to hear loud noises from outside. I investigated and saw that the fireworks from the park were going on. They started a half-an-hour later than originally scheduled (probably because of the storm). What was cool was that I got a great view of the fireworks from the second floor balcony area of the condo where I’m currently staying so I didn’t have to walk down to the park. I alerted my husband and sister-in-law and we all watched the fireworks from the condo. I took a few photos of the fireworks although, to be honest, they really don’t do them justice. They were much more impressive in real life.

Fireworks, Ocean City, Maryland, July 4, 2011
Fireworks, Ocean City, Maryland, July 4, 2011
Fireworks, Ocean City, Maryland, July 4, 2011
Fireworks, Ocean City, Maryland, July 4, 2011
Fireworks, Ocean City, Maryland, July 4, 2011
Fireworks, Ocean City, Maryland, July 4, 2011

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