Jon Crispin's Notebook

California

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I’m sitting at the outside bar at the Long Beach Airport drinking a beer and waiting for my flight back home.

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It has been a pretty quick but lovely trip.

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The above photos are from a nice trip to Olvera Street that we took to eat some great Mexican food and walk around a bit.  Frida Kahlo is everywhere!

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Cris and I always try to go to Huntington Beach.  This day was cool, grey, and rainy.  Lovely.

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I really like wandering on and under the pier.

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It wasn’t very crowded due to the weather.

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A Ruby’s chocolate shake always hits the spot.

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I don’t remember Zoltar from previous years.  He will tell your fortune though.

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I am kind of attracted to photographing weird stuff.

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I wonder how many times the Life Ring has been used.

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The nearest In n Out is about a 30 minute walk from Lynne’s house.  So much to see along the way!

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My brother-in-law John knows so much about LA and it is amazing to spend a day with him cruising around.  This is the Frank Lloyd Wright house in Brentwood.  It is referred to as the Sturges House but is most famous for the fact that Jack Larson the actor who played Jimmy Olsen on the Superman TV show, lived here for many years.  It was to be auctioned a few years ago, but didn’t sell.  It is now abandoned and in rough shape.  Shocking.

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It is in a very quaint and beautiful neighborhood.

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Check out this deck from below.  It is nearly the size of the house which is only 1400 square feet.  I am always saddened and amazed that such an important house can sit abandoned and empty.  Especially in Brentwood!

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John grew up in Palos Verdes, which is to me the most amazing community in the LA area.  It was nice to go there for a coffee before driving back to Tustin.  This fountain is in the center of the little commercial area.

Thanks for following!

 

Willard Suitcases / Charles F. Grave / Ithaca

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I have known for a long time now that Charles F. was buried in Ithaca.

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The photo of his grave is the last image that I need for the book Ilan Stavans and I are doing for SUNY Press.

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Ilan’s essay is beyond amazing, and I am really happy with the section of the book that has the two of us talking about our feelings about Charles and to the contents of his suitcase.  / Searching online I was able to find the location of his grave, but I had no map of the cemetery by which to determine the exact location.  This morning I went to the Ithaca Town Hall where a very nice and helpful person gave me the information that I needed.

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There are two sections of the cemetery that are reserved for the burial of Jewish folks.  When I saw these graves I knew I was getting close.

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Charles is buried at the most Southeastern corner of the cemetery.

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The fact that (by New York State law) I have to obscure the surnames of the patients is really pissing me off these days.  Charles died in 1950 and I think it continues to stigmatize patients to deny who they were.  I hear so regularly from family members seeking information about relatives who lived at Willard, and I feel terrible that I can’t help out.  New York State law supercedes Federal HIPAA laws about what can be revealed to families and other interested parties.  This can only be changed through the legislature, and I am really interested in finding a legislator in Albany to introduce a bill to bring New York State in line with Federal law (the Feds put the cap at 50 years after death, and for New York State the cap is forever).   To cover myself here I put these leaves over his name but IT JUST FEELS SO WRONG.

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Here’s a view from another angle.  Much more pleasing that the previous one showing the buildings in the background.

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Peter Carroll came along to shoot some B-Roll as I worked today.  We are slowly moving ahead with the documentary on the project.  It’s still very early stages, but we are hoping to put up a Kickstarter appeal sometime in the late Summer in order to be able to produce a short piece which we can then preview to funders.

Thanks for following along everyone.  I am posting almost daily to the @willardsuitcases Instagram account, so if you haven’t checked it out, please do.

Willard Suitcases/Charles F/News

 

Willard Suitcases Project

 

Happy New Year everyone.  And as usual, thanks so much for following along.  I wish you all a happy and productive 2019.  For many of us 2018 turned out to be a difficult year, but let’s all be positive and look forward.

I first met Ilan Stavans in the late 90’s when the New York Times hired me to photograph him for this article.  He and I have kept in touch over the years.  I found myself thinking of him while I was photographing Charles F.’s possessions for the Willard Suitcase Project.  There seemed to be a connection and so I was able to help Ilan get access to the New York State Museum storage facility to have a look at what Charles brought with him to Willard.  Ilan was very moved by what he saw and felt, and on the drive home we spoke about a collaboration, although at the time we had no clear idea as to what would develop.

 

Willard Suitcases Project

 

Several months ago we started talking in earnest about what we could each bring to a project about Charles, and it is exciting to be able to say that we have signed a contract with SUNY Press to produce a book.  I’ll have more details soon, but we are both really excited about this.  We are looking at an early 2020 publication date, which will coincide with an exhibit that will travel.

 

Willard Suitcases Project

 

This is just one of many collaborative efforts that has come out of my work with the suitcases, and it is one aspect of the project that makes me especially happy.  It is so nice to have been an inspiration to creative and interesting people and to be a part of their art.

For those of you who are on instagram, I am starting to post suitcase photos @willardsuitcases on what I hope will be a regular basis.  You can also still see my goofy side @jonkcrispin.

Trip to Central New York

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This past Wednesday my pal Craig Williams hired me to take some photographs of the old Lock 52 in Port Byron, NY.  It is now an historic site with a great visitor center (open seasonally).

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The entrance to the site is off the New York State Thruway and is really interesting and well worth a stop if you are driving East.

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These limestone blocks are enormous.

Craig had me photographing some views to match historic photographs of the lock when it was still in use.  We worked for a bit before lunch which was at a really great diner in Port Byron.  I sat facing this flag, which I had seen before but never understood.

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Here is the text from the card above the stars. “This is a police flag.  Each strip on the emblem represents certain respective figures.  The blue center line represents law enforcement, the top black stripes represents the public, the bottom black stripes represents the criminals.”  I hesitate to be negative here, but as someone who is really interested in design as a way of conveying ideas, this seems completely wacky to me. / Great lunch though, fine diner with nice people.

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I am really digging this fish display on the wall above our table.  Award winning!

At lunch Craig mentioned that Brigham Young lived in Port Byron before heading west and that his house was still standing but in rough shape.  Some work was started on a restoration, but due to poor health of the two contractors, it was stopped.

Port Byron Historic Lock #52

The plaque on the door reads “This wood frame house built by James Pine circa 1818 and later occupied by Brigham Young and family.  Young’s first child a girl named Elizabeth, born here September 1825.”  Given the Mormon’s interest in history and genealogy, I was shocked to see this property is such a state of neglect and apparent disinterest by the church.

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A restored tavern is on part of the historic canal site.  These bottles sit atop the bar, which is partly original.  It seems rye whiskey was seriously popular in the 19th century. / After Port Byron I drove down to Ithaca to spend the night with my friends Brad and Tania.

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Their house is filled with great things including tons of Fiestaware.

A trip to Ithaca is never complete without a visit to the Lincoln Street Diner.

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Peter had just received the latest OSMO camera and we got the chance to goof around with it.

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Very cool.

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Lookin’ good Sport!

Thanks for following.  Happy Holidays.

 

 

 

Travel / Willard Suitcases Documentary / St Crispin’s Day

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Yesterday morning I drove out to Ithaca to begin work on the suitcases documentary that I am working on with Peter Carroll and Deborah Hoard.

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After a quick lunch at the Lincoln Street Diner, Peter and I drove up to Willard to shoot some B-roll in the Cemetery.

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It is a special place to visit in so many ways.  When I took this photograph, the smell of mint was intense.  It seemed odd that it was so healthy this late in the year.

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We are in the beginning stages of figuring out how to document my work with the suitcases.  The point of this early filming is to to create a short piece that will help us raise funds.  We will probably run another Kickstarter campaign, which I expect will be up in the early part of next year.

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It was a beautiful day on the lake.  Chilly and breezy, which is to be expected in late October.  I can’t emphasize enough what an amazing spot this is.  The fact that 5,776 former Willard patients are buried here makes for an emotional experience.

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With the help and encouragement of  the wonderful Peggy Ellsworth and Craig Williams, we were given access to the Romulus Historical Society to film the interview today.  It worked out really well (even though the heat is currently off in the building).

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Peter is a genius in setting up lighting for interviews.  This is a frame grab from the video.  I am looking a bit stern in this shot, but I do smile from time to time.  It was a really productive day and I was reminded of how great it is to work with Peter and Deb.

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The historical society has a few suitcases that for some reason never made it into the main collection in Albany.  It was nice to be able to use them in the setup.

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I have driven past this winterized travel trailer on Route 96 repeatedly and finally stopped to take a few photos.  I love how the little wheels are covered too!

Today is St. Crispin’s Day.  I usually try to drink a load of Cognac to assist me in feeling a connection to the French and English soldiers who died at the battle of Agincourt.  If this post is a bit wordy, I’ll blame it on the bottle of Hennessy that seems to be emptying at a rather steady pace.  Check out the amazing Olivier in the 1944 version of  Shakespeare’s Henry V.

Thanks for following. Be well.

 

Symbols

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  Whenever I am here in Nepal I always keep an eye out for bricks, as seeing them makes me think of my good friend Richard Pieper.  Most buildings are adorned with them, and the walls surrounding the Royal Palace are all brick.  On our daily walk to the World Education office we pass by a large section of the Palace wall which is undergoing a post earthquake renovation.  I saw this pile and noticed the markings and didn’t think much of it at the time, but the next day I stopped and took this picture.  It is not at all uncommon to see the swastika used as a symbol in various ways around Nepal.  It got me thinking about how we in the West are so conditioned to see the obvious negative aspects of it.  I went to the wiki page and learned a lot of interesting facts about its history and usage.  I would encourage anyone interested to check it out.  What got to me especially was that under the section of the wiki that showed the varieties of swastikas, the Hakenkreuz (second row, bottom left) gave me a visceral reaction.

We head back to the US on Sunday.  I have managed to pick up a bothersome cold and have been a bit less active than I would like, but Cris’ work ends today and we will have some time to goof around tomorrow and Sunday morning.  Thanks for following.

Boudhanath / Full Moon

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Last night was the full moon and Cris thought it might be a nice idea to go to Boudhanath Stupa and have a stroll around.  We have come here quite often, but always during the day.

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It was a beautiful evening, the temperature was perfect, and the feeling was very peaceful and relaxing.

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This giant prayer wheel spins constantly and is just inside the doors of the little temple on the site.

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The area is really interesting.  One enters the main gate at 6 on a clock face and everyone strolls quietly around in a clockwise direction.  The stupa is on the inside of the clock and  is surrounded on the outside by restaurants, guesthouses, and smaller business enterprises.  Dogs and pigeons are everywhere.

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Nepal is so interesting in terms of religion.  The culture here blends Hinduism and Buddhism in what seems to me a beautiful way.  I have talked to Nepali friends about this and it seems quite natural to them.  If you think about religion in the West, there isn’t so much crossover.  The closest I can think of to this is Unitarianism, which is how I was raised, and seems to encourage people to take the best of all religions and build a personal philosophy around what you find useful.  One year my Sunday School was called “The Church Across the Street” and we spent the entire time visiting just about every church and denomination in Meadville.  I loved the Holy Rollers.

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Because one walks in a circle around the stupa it is easy to just keep going without realizing where you entered, which I eventually figured out is one reason for the visit.  I just had the feeling that it would be possible to walk all evening and not feel the time passing.  It was a lovely experience.

 

Willard / Meadville Trip / Conneaut Lake Park

AMeadville Trip with Peter September 2018

After living in D.C. for the past 5 years, our son Peter has moved home for a bit to take some classes and do GRE prep.  It is nice to have him around.  Soon after he returned to Massachusetts we planned a quick trip to Meadville and Pittsburgh to catch a Pirates game.

Meadville Trip with Peter September 2018

The Willard employee reunion dish-to-pass event was happening on the Saturday that we drove out, so he and I stopped to say hi to old friends.  We had time afterwards to go to the cemetery which is always a very moving experience.

Meadville Trip with Peter September 2018

The sign at the Jewish part of the cemetery is looking a bit run down and could use some help.

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The little stone marker is still there.

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Here is one of the numbered graves in that part of the cemetery.  It makes me so sad that #43 has no name.  The state of New York could remedy this if they cared enough to publish the names of the patients who are buried here.

Meadville Trip with Peter September 2018

Before Peter and I continued on to Meadville, we stopped by the Romulus Historical Society building to see the recent exhibit updates.  It was nice to see Craig Williams and Debbie Nichols who had been a nursing student and then a nurse at Willard.

Meadville Trip with Peter September 2018

Here is Debbie sitting next to her actual uniform.  It is a great little museum and well worth a visit.

Meadville Trip with Peter September 2018

I’ve been stopping at the Angola Rest Area on the New York Thruway for as long as I can remember.  It is so nice to walk over the highway to get to the main building.

Meadville Trip with Peter September 2018

The first stop was a visit to Eddie’s Footlongs on the lake road outside of Meadville.  I had 2 with the works.

Meadville Trip with Peter September 2018

Next stop Hank’s Frozen Custard.  I had 2 here as well.  Chocolate.

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On Sunday morning we got word that the Pirate’s game was cancelled due to rain, so we checked out of the motel and drove to Allegheny College to see the tree we planted in honor of my Dad.

Meadville Trip with Peter September 2018

My sister Karen chose a lovely Winter King, and it is thriving.

Meadville Trip with Peter September 2018

It was a rainy Sunday morning and after breakfast at the Meadville Market House Grill, we drove out  for a last Hank’s and then around Conneaut Lake.  The amusement park was not surprisingly deserted, but it was strange that country music was playing through the loudspeakers.

Meadville Trip with Peter September 2018

There was no one there to yell at us to stay off the rides, so we wandered and took some pictures.

Meadville Trip with Peter September 2018

Ugh, clowns.

Meadville Trip with Peter September 2018

On the left above is the Blue Streak roller coaster.  I was never keen on riding it, but once Judy Jacoby who was my girlfriend for a short time convinced me to go on it.  It was fine.

Meadville Trip with Peter September 2018

It is difficult to know for sure, but I think the park is still open.  But it was a bit eerie to walk around with the music blaring and nobody else there.

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The coaster car is pretty classic.

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A Century Flyer made in Dayton, Ohio.

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Here’s the entry into the first tunnel.

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The master controls. ↑

Meadville Trip with Peter September 2018

Peter and I actually rode the Devil’s Den many years ago.  The “Infamous Gum Wall!! is just that.  People started sticking chewing gum on the wall when the ride slowed down and it became….well infamous.

Cristine and I are off to Nepal on Friday.  I hope to post regularly from Kathmandu.

Cheers everyone and thanks for following.

 

 

 

Willard Suitcases / Charles F. / Update

Willard Suitcases Project

I’ve been busy with the Hope and Feathers exhibit and quite busy with my freelance work, but the suitcases project is never far from my mind.

Willard Suitcases Project

I am working on an interesting collaboration on Charles’ cases and hope to have some exciting news soon.

Willard Suitcases Project

He had an interesting collection of ties.

Willard Suitcases Project

There are quite a few Penny postcards in the collection as well as some interesting hand- written notes.  You can see the New York State Museum’s catalogue number (in pencil) on the upper right side of the white paper.

Thank you all for following this project.  I will be devoting a ton of time to the suitcases later this month as I continue to develop ideas for getting the photos out to a wide audience.  And Peter Carroll, Deb Hoard, and I are beginning to work hard on a preliminary short film which we can send to funders for the larger documentary that we plan to produce.

 

Lock 12, Erie Canal / “Ward’s Island” Derrick Boat Decomissioned (EDITED)

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I got a call yesterday from my friend and sometimes patron Craig Williams.  Craig worked at the New York State Museum and was responsible for getting me access to the Willard Suitcases, as well as work photographing the panels and artifacts from the World Trade Center 9-11 attack, and a ton of other interesting photography projects.

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Craig has been really concerned with a plan that the NY State Canal Corporation has to scrap some historically important canal boats and sink them off the coast of Long Island to creat artificial reefs.  He asked me to meet him at Lock 12 in Tribe’s Hill, NY and take a few photos of one of the boats as it made its way Eastward.

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Above is the derrick boat “Ward’s Island” which is being pushed from Lyons, NY  through the Erie Canal System and down the Hudson to be sunk off the coast of Long Island.

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Craig and fellow supporters of Canal history are waging a bit of a protest in regards to the State’s decision to move ahead with this plan.  On the left is Will Van Dorp who has a great wordpress site having to do with shipping.  Here is a link that talks about the Ward’s Island.  Interestingly enough, the boat was commissioned by the NY State office of Mental Hygiene in 1929 to ferry cars and people from Manhattan to the Ward’s Island asylum.

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After about 10 years downstate, she was sent up to the Canal to begin life as a derrick boat, and was only decomissioned last year.  Here she is in the lock.  Note that this is the stern; she is being pushed backwards through the Canal.

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Here’s a detail of the stern.  She was sitting really high in the water as much of the weight was stripped out before the beginning of the trip.

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It was an incredibly beautiful day at the Lock.  I have felt for a long time that the Canal is a very underutilized feature of New York State.  Destroying a part of its history is probably not a good way to attract positive attention to it.

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Here’s the tug Lucy H pushing her towards Amsterdam.

The next boat scheduled for scrap is the tug “Urger” (Edit; Urger is not meant for scrap.   As of now the State wants to take it out of the water, beach it, and make it into a display at Lock E13. / Also, Will Van Dorp contacted me with a few more links about the Ward’s Island.  Here and here).  Here is a link to the Urger.  Let’s hope it is not too late to save her.

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