by sam on 08/25/2018

For my summer vacation this summer, I opted to go to Alaska. I traveled with G Adventures/Nat Geo, the same venture that I went with to Iceland in 2016 and Peru in 2017. I chose Alaska for a variety of reasons – first, the trip was one that fit into my existing vacation schedule. Second, I have been trying, at least periodically, to go more places within the United States that I wouldn’t ordinarily travel to (see Wyoming in 2015). Lastly, I wanted a trip that was a bit shorter than my normal two weeks, because my brother was coming home for a spell, and I wanted to split my time off so that I would actually get to spend at least a few days with him. So…Alaska.

The trip looped from Anchorage to Homer to Seward to Denali and back to Anchorage. It started a bit rocky, with my flight nearly getting grounded at JFK and ultimately sitting on the tarmac for six hours, thanks to a veritable monsoon in NYC. A few rebookings and many hours later, I landed in Anchorage, missing all of the first day/night activities, but at least not missing the tour, unlike all of the folks who were supposed to be on cruises who missed their boats.

First stop took us to Homer, a cute coastal town, where we were supposed to go on lots of hikes, but due to the typhoon-like weather than apparently followed me from NYC, we instead visited every coffee shop in town, along with the very small, but very cute Pratt Museum, and squeezed in a hike when the weather finally cleared up a bit.

From Homer we circled around to Seward, another coastal town, where we got a private behind-the-scenes tour of the Alaska Sea Life Center (interrupted by an always fun fire alarm!), saw our first puffins, went on a boat tour of the alaskan coast and saw more puffins in the actual wild, together with a pod of orcas, and hiked up to view Exit Glacier, which is much smaller than it was even a few years ago.

From Seward, we had a loooong drive up to Denali, stopping a few times to stretch our legs and take pictures along the way. Our first full day in Denali was a 4 hour one-way bus ride deep into the park to view wildlife and the Alaska range – of course it was cloudy and rainy on the day we were scheduled to do this, so we couldn’t actually see Denali (only 30% of visitors actually ever see the mountain). The next day, when we did some more local hikes, it was (obviously) clear and beautiful.

Last, we headed back to Anchorage where at least some of us had a day to wander around before leaving for the airport, but not before I (or really, our fantastic tour leader) arranged for a local photography guide to take me on the Denali and Parks highways early in the morning so that I could do some landscape photography. As a bonus, we ran into some beavers building a beaver palace, even though they normally only come out in the evening!

families belong together

by sam on 06/30/2018

When someone draws a map of the Americas, they should just put a giant squid over the United States and say “Hark, here there be monsters”

Another day, another reason to protest against this malicious, mendacious, miserable administration. This protest was organized in reaction to the horrible news that the administration had, as a matter of policy, decided to use the separation of parents from children as a punishment and attempt to deter families for the “crime” of seeking refuge and safety in this country and not filling out the proper forms in the correct order (aka, not presenting themselves at the correct checkpoint – checkpoints, mind you, that the administration has deliberately CLOSED in an attempt to block people from seeking entry the proper way in the first place – Trump likes to talk about entrapment? How is that not a trap?).

Our government is causing lasting harm to children in some sort of petty power play against incredibly vulnerable people. Against CHILDREN. These are folks who have traveled hundreds, if not thousands of miles, often over land that is incredibly dangerous, from the only homes they have ever known because of a tiny glimmer of home that it might be just a tiny bit less bad here. We were never great at living up to that promise, but at least we sometimes tried. At least we gave lip service to the ideals embodied in our laws protecting refugees.

But until we can take back at least some control of the government, we as a citizenry can at least stand up and say that while our government does these things, they do them without our consent.

Pictures from the first part of today’s Families Belong Together protest – I only went to Foley Square, because it was REALLY hot, and I didn’t want to end up with heat stroke (which I’ve managed to give myself crossing bridges on super hot days before). But as usual, there appeared to be significantly more people than originally anticipated.

central park in spring

by sam on 06/24/2018

wandered through central park a few times this spring – sometimes just because it was a nice weekend afternoon, sometimes because it’s how I walk home from work. These are from a few of those walks.


by sam on 06/11/2018

As anyone who spends any time looking through my photos can figure out, I’m a sucker for signs, particularly of the old/neon variety. Here are some I’ve shot in my wanderings around town.

The clover delicatessen

The Waverly restaurant

Bigelow drugs – this sign is such a landmark that I got worried for a second when I saw the scaffolding. But when I got closer I saw they had carefully worked to build around the sign while they did whatever facade/renovation work needs doing.

berkshires (and history)

by sam on 05/28/2018

In march, I went up to the Berkshires for a few days for passover, and in addition to cooking (and eating!), I took a walk around town.  I’ve probably posted pictures of some of these local houses before, but they’re just so…photogenic…that it’s hard to resist.

I took a walk up to the Ashley house, which is probably our town’s most historically significant place. Obviously the town and the falls are named after Colonel Ashley, but more importantly, this house was where the abolition of slavery in Massachusetts was born.  Despite Colonel Ashley, not because of him.

Slate’s podcast on The History of American Slavery (premium subscribers only) did an entire episode on Elizabeth Freeman, and wikipedia gives a good breakdown of her life and case. But the short version is that while Elizabeth Freeman (then known as Mum Bett) was a slave in Ashley’s house, she heard all of these ‘revolutionary’ men discussing the declaration of independence and the constitution, and in particular the concept that “all men are created equal”. And so she went to a lawyer in Great Barrington and sued for her own freedom. And won.

There were a few subsequent cases that ultimately abolished slavery in totality in Massachusetts, but they all cite back to Brom & Bett vs. Ashley as the foundational basis for their decisions.

And after the case, Ashley tried to get Freeman to come back and work for wages, and she basically told him to go pound sand – she spend the rest of her life working in “town” for the family of the lawyer who helped free her. The Ashley house is now largely a historical site that explains the history of Elizabeth Freeman.

I just…no

by sam on 05/27/2018

Sometimes you wander around the local Sunday flea market and find some really great jewelry or a fantastic vintage cigarette case.

And sometimes the local serial killer clown decides to rent a booth in order to sell off some of his clutter.


by sam on 05/24/2018

Milk silos on a dairy farm in western massachusetts, vs. water towers on a rooftop in new york city.


by sam on 05/22/2018

Catching up, again, with a backlog of photos. They accumulate in my camera and on my computer and then I get bursts of inspiration to start sorting through everything in order to post.

Part of the NYC that is disappearing, excellent sign for an old school laundromat that isn’t buried in a basement.

marching for our (kids’) lives

by sam on 03/24/2018

Today was the March for Our Lives, organized in the aftermath of the Parkland school shooting, but expanded to encompass so much more than that. For too long, the entire “debate” around gun control, or even the most basic attempts at minimal regulation that couldn’t even be described by any reasonable person as “control”, have been driven by the gun manufacturers’ lobby, otherwise known as the NRA. Having seen attempts to get anything done in the aftermath of myriad shootings get caught up in their rhetoric in the past, I honestly don’t know how this ends, but I’ve never felt this hopeful before. After Sandy Hook, I just felt despair – I remember writing posts on social media practically begging for something to change, and just…knowing that nothing would. But people don’t sit at home and write posts on social media anymore. Well, they do, but those posts are to organize and take to the streets. The biggest march today was in Washington, but as of last count, there were 817!! sister marches around the world.

The New York City march started (as they all do these days) at my front door. So I headed out this morning in my most comfortable shoes and my puffy vest that leaves my arms free to take pictures, and I took a bunch. I wasn’t close enough to the speaker stand to see anything, but I was really impressed that most of the speakers were young people. The two recognizably “adult” people were the librarian from Sandy Hook elementary school who survived the shooting there, and the mother of a shooting victim from NYC. There was also a significant emphasis on black lives matter and the fact that, despite the obvious attention the shootings and schools like sandy hook and parkland receive, black kids are ten times as likely to be victims of gun violence than white kids. That should not be forgotten. It’s also not just about school safety. It’s about life safety.

On another note, from the moment I entered the march, and throughout, there were teams of people trying to register folks to vote, checking to make sure people were registered to vote, reminding people to vote, etc. That is the most important thing right now. Nothing happens if we don’t vote in November.

Anyway, here are the pictures.

random new york city

by sam on 01/28/2018

throughout the year, I took pictures of New York City that never made it into the blog or onto my instagram feed, so I thought I would round up a few of my remaining favorites and just get them online.