Pictures Of 2011

Last year was something of an off year for me, photography-wise. I took a lot of pictures, but nowhere near as many as I’ve taken in some previous years. And a big bunch of photos, some of my favorites, were lost to a computer crash. But life goes on, and here are some of the best of the rest. Like in last year’s post, they’re presented here in chronological order, to the best of my knowledge. As usual, a click on the thumbnail will yield you a larger view in a new tab.

These are our dogs, Molly on the left and Daisy on the right. I would invite you to examine some of the details of this photograph. Specifically, the white thing on Molly’s ear. That’s a bandage. The other detail worth noting is the muzzle over Daisy’s snout. A day or so before this picture was taken, in an unfortunately not-too-uncommon incident, Daisy was playing evil-stepsister and said mouth met said ear, resulting in some muzzle-time for Daisy.

Anyway, the ear healed up, the muzzle was put away, and they got along OK … until the next time they didn’t get along. I try to tell them they’re best friends, but they don’t listen.

March 22, spring came early to St. Louis. It was a beautiful, sunny day, with a bright blue sky, and the buds starting to pop out on the trees, like on this, our ornamental Japanese apple tree. On the right, our magnolia was starting to bloom. It was the kind of day you wait for for months as you struggle to survive through the long St. Louis winter. Weeks and weeks of gray, cold and short days, and then all of a sudden, spring springs upon you.

And then, just when you’re starting to enjoy it … back comes winter. Just three days after those two pictures were taken, these two were. The winter of 2010-11 was a busy snow year for the Midwest and St. Louis, and the snow didn’t confine itself to January and February. This late-March snow melted within a day, but it was still enough to drive us all back into our caves for a while.

2010 also brought some truly terrifying weather; there were quite a few days and nights that we spent warily watching the TV meteorologists, worried about tornadoes or other strong storms. Fortunately we escaped all of the really serious stuff.

One Friday in May, my office took an afternoon cruise on the Mississippi River, an outing we indulge in every few years. St. Louisans will recognize this hulk: it’s what was left of the old Admiral excursion boat, which operated on the St. Louis riverfront for decades. In its later years, the steam engines were removed and it was made into a permanently moored entertainment venue and, at the end, a casino. But it couldn’t really compete with the bigger land-based casinos, and it closed in 2010. In early 2011, the latest owners started the process of scrapping it. They couldn’t move it to a scrapyard immediately, because, with persistent high water it wouldn’t fit under the bridges. By the time this picture was taken, they had removed the top deck and everything of value on the inside. On July 19, the water had finally dropped enough and it was floated out of the downtown area for the last time and dismantled.

Our second son, Mike, graduated from Webster Groves High School on May 21. Thanks to thunderstorm warning, though, the ceremony had to be moved into the gym from its regular outdoor venue. No matter, though; everyone made it across the stage, and at the end of the night, the caps flew.

For Memorial Day weekend, we went to Jean’s family’s vacation house in Michigan City, Ind. Three days we were there, and not a drop of sunlight did we see. Plenty of raindrops though, and lots and lots of this chill fog that hovered, seemingly the entire weekend. There is a horizon somewhere in this picture, but good luck finding it. Dreary as this photo looks, it makes a great desktop picture.

June 3 was my mom’s 86th birthday. After they had lunch at her nursing home, my dad took her into the living room and played a quick “Happy Birthday” for her on the piano there. So quick, by the time I thought to pull out my iPhone and snap a picture, he had already finished. That would also account for the blurriness of the picture, which is too bad, because I suppose it’s the last picture taken of her; she passed away six weeks later, at the end of a long struggle with Alzheimer’s. Manor Grove Nursing Home, though, where she spent the last three years of her life, was a great place and they took care of her well.

One of the best things about my job is the location. From my office window, I can look out and see the Gateway Arch, the Mississippi River and, on those Thursdays when I’m there early, some amazing sunrises. I can also witness all of the events that take place on and around the Arch grounds. In late June, St. Louis hosted “Marine Week,” in which the U.S. Marines showed off some of their toys. There were a lot of exhibits around downtown, and, on the riverfront, several air shows throughout the week. This twin-rotor helicopter—I believe it’s an Osprey—is one of the strangest craft they had on display; the rotors can actually tilt forward, I guess for faster flying.

This represents another “last.” That’s me on the left, with my son Andrew, his teammate Grant, and Grant’s dad Scott. Scott and I coached the Mustangs for the last four seasons, often with help from other dads, but mostly it was just the two of us. We had some good years and some fair years. In 2010 we probably lost more than we won, but I honestly don’t know because it wasn’t really about winning for us; it was more about having fun and playing the game well. Fortunately, Scott and I were pretty much exactly the same wavelength with that philosophy, and I think both players and coaches enjoyed it. This picture was taken after the final game for the Mustangs; the Webster Groves Baseball League ends after eighth grade, after which the boys either go on to play in high school or get out of baseball.

August gave us a chance to blow off a little steam, at the wedding of Jean’s niece Emily in Naperville, Ill. I can’t begin to describe what’s going on in this picture, and I’m not even going to try. And I’m certainly not going to name names. Anyway, it was a great time, one last blast before the school year started.

Yes, the school year. For all three boys, 2011 brought a new school. Andrew went to Webster High School, Mike started at Southeast Missouri State University, and Jim, shown here, transferred to Elmhurst College in suburban Chicago. Elmhurst is a member of the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin, just like North Central College, down the road, where Jean and I met more than 30 years ago. Colleges, at least private colleges, have changed since we were at NCC; Jim’s dorm is a brand-new, LEED-certified building, and he’s with two other guys in a suite that seems like it has more square footage than our house.

I drove him up to Elmhurst the last weekend of August to begin the school year. After spending a great night in Sleepy Hollow with brother-and-sister-in-law Dave and Nancy, I drove back to St. Louis the next day, but along the way made a stop I’d always wanted to check out: Starved Rock State Park, on the Illinois River. First I checked out Starved Rock Lock, where this picture was taken, and then I drove across the river to the park, where I hiked around for probably two hours before hitting the road for the last four hours of the drive. It’s a beautiful park and a great place to hike, but it made for a loooonnnnng day.

This is Daisy, doing what she does best: stealing things and running away with them.

September took me to New Orleans for work, my first trip to the Big Easy in about 10 years, I think. The reason was the “Smart Rivers” conference, a get-together of techie-types from around the world focused on using technology to improve waterway cargo transportation. It was an interesting conference, but for me, the best part was being in Nola again. French Quarter, Bourbon Street, Mother’s Restaurant, Cafe do Monde, and of course that great big river they have down there. I’m used to seeing towboats and barges in the river, so when I see one of these huge cargo ships going by, I just watch in awe.

Part of the trip included a trip upriver, toward Baton Rouge, to tour a grain elevator. Unlike the ones around the Midwest, which unload grain from rail cars or trucks and load it into barges, this facility can unload barges, store it, grade it, and then load it into ships. It was a fascinating tour. For those who like a little geometry with their photography, I present this picture.

October. In October, I went home. I didn’t know it until I got there, but my home is in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Everywhere else, I’m just visiting.

In the middle of the month, we took a four-night trip to Santa Fe with our friends Anne and Paul. We’d also gone there two years ago and had a great time, but the place didn’t grab me like it did this year. This time, by the time I came back to our rental house from my 7,500-foot-altitude run the first day, I knew that I was eventually going to live in Santa Fe. Maybe not right away, but I’m going to be back there.

During our stay, we shopped in town a bit, took a drive up to Abiqui to see part of Georgia O’Keefe’s Ghost Ranch, and then on up to Chama, where we got to see the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad come in to town. I got in some great runs on the trails in the Santa Fe National Forest, and in the evenings we hung out and watched the Cardinals win the National League Pennant and soaked in the hot tub. I had to force myself to get on the plane to come back to St. Louis.

It was shortly after this trip that I suffered a hard-drive crash that cost me almost all of the photos from the trip. The only remnants I have are the couple of dozen or so that I managed to upload to Facebook; it’s from that bunch that I uploaded these. It hurt to lose those pictures, but I know I’ll be back there to take more. Just have to finish up a few things here first.

Each December, we take a picture of the boys—My Three Sons, as it were—in front of the Christmas tree, usually for use on our Christmas card. It’s nobody’s favorite Christmas tradition, let me tell you. This is one of the outtakes from this year’s session.

So there you have it, another year in the books. Now, let’s get busy on 2012!

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