Jon Crispin's Notebook

Huntington Library

Posted in Art, Fish, Jon Crispin, museums, Trees, Uncategorized by joncrispin on 17/06/2017


I was back at The Huntington yesterday for my annual visit to the Blue Boy.  It is breathtaking.  It’s quite impossible to look at a reproduction and get any sense of just how amazing this painting is in person.


At the opposite end of the gallery is this painting by Thomas Lawrence which is commonly referred to as “Pinkie”.  I had never really paid much attention to her, but it is pretty easy to get lost in gazing at it.


It was very hot yesterday so I didn’t walk around the gardens for long.  There are lots of ginkgo trees on the grounds.  I grew up with one in my side yard in Meadville and clearly remember climbing it as a boy.  It was the only one I ever saw as a kid, and is still my favorite tree.


As I walked over a little bridge in the Japanese garden, these guys showed up thinking I might feed them.  Sorry I couldn’t oblige.

Willard Suitcases / Madeline C. / Ovid talk

Posted in History, Mental Health, old hotels, old photographs by joncrispin on 23/09/2015

One of the cool things for me about Madeline’s collection is that she had the negatives for many of her photographs.  The museum did a fantastic job in conserving and co-ordinating the negatives with the prints.

When I turned over this particular postcard, I was thrilled to see that she had stayed at the Prince George Hotel in New York City.  I have overnighted there twice, and both were memorable.  The first time I had just turned 16 and I, along with my friends Jeff, Jay, and Dennis drove to the city from Meadville and were there for a few nights.  The other occasion was sometime in the early 1980s.  That one got a bit weird.

Tomorrow I drive to Ovid for my talk at the public library.  Edith B. Ford Library, 7pm.  Hope to see you.  I also expect to be there on Friday at noon for a brown bag lunch.

Willard Suitcases / Fred T / NYSHA presentation / La Repubblica

Posted in Willard Asylum, Willard Suitcases by joncrispin on 09/06/2014

Hi everyone.  Fred T’s suitcase is really interesting.  I have just uploaded it to the site and you should check it out (Click on “The Cases” and then click on Fred T).  It was a great case for a lot of reasons, not the least of which it proves that many residents of Willard were free to walk the grounds and to leave on occasion.

He also clearly had an entrepreneurial spirit.

Fred’s other interest was railroads.  He made a comprehensive list of every train station in the United States.

The stations were alphabetized on these sheets of paper that were then folded into three columns.  On the open one you can see Meadville, PA, which is the town where I grew up.  My parents used to pile my siblings and me into the station wagon and we would go down to watch the evening passenger train go through.

It is poignant to see the dates on Fred’s diary.  It makes his life seem all the more real to me.  Sunday the 11th April, 1926 was a day that Fred wrote about, and now we are able to learn something about his life more than 88 years later .  Amazing

This coming Saturday morning (14 June), Karen Miller and I will be talking about our work with the suitcases at the annual conference of the New York State Historical Association.  It will be held at Marist College in Poughkeepsie.  There is a Saturday only fee of $25.00 to attend, but it would be great to see any of you who could make it.  Karen will be reading some of her poems and I will talk about my work with the cases.

Finally, the Italian site La Repubblica did a very nice spread on the project.  Check it out here.  Thanks Agnese!


Posted in Architecture, Art, Bridges, Buildings, Cities, Family, Jon Crispin, Rivers, Travel, Uncategorized, Water by joncrispin on 19/03/2014

It has been a while since I’ve posted.  I think it was a combination of having the Kickstarter campaign wrap up and feeling a bit of “Kharma Congestion” as my friend Alex would call it.

Last week Cris and I drove to Toronto.  She was presenting at the annual CIES Conference and I was tagging along for fun.

We went out to an amazing South Indian restaurant called Udupi Palace and it was the best.  Cristine’s favorite food in the world is a paper masala dosa, and Udupi has the best ones she has ever found outside of India.  After we ate, we were waiting for a streetcar to take us back downtown and I saw this window display.  Love the hands.

I was very excited to get back to Toronto to be able to see the Thompson Collection of Cornelius Krieghoff paintings at The Art Gallery of Ontario.  Here is a previous post about my relation to him.  The museum has a ton of his work.  I was really jazzed to see so many in one place.

This is a detail from one of his paintings that is a sort of self-portrait of his family (in the sleigh).

I especially liked reading the bottom paragraph here.  It helps to explain where I might get my own disregard for authority.

After Toronto, we drove to Pittsburgh for another of Cris’ conferences.  On the way we had to stop at Niagara Falls.  I hadn’t been on the Canadian side for years, and it was a beautiful day.  (Unlike many, I also really like the American side.)

In Toronto we scored some of these great Roots mittens.  And I bought this hat in the Soviet Union in 1982, a very long time ago.

Next stop was Eddie’s Footlong Hot Dogs on the Lake Road just outside of Meadville.  I grew up eating these and was thrilled to see that they had opened for the season just a few days earlier.  I rarely post pictures of food, but oh man are these good.  Too cold to eat at the picnic tables, but two with the works hit the spot.

We got to Pittsburgh in time for a nice walk along the River.  It is a fantastic city that somehow remains largely intact.  The downtown is full of beautiful buildings that are mostly in good shape, and it seems, just waiting for a revival of sorts.  It is hard to imagine why young artists aren’t flocking here and making it home.  It is such a cheap place to live, with amazing loft spaces right in town, and tons of culture.  And the rivers!

So many beautiful steel bridges.  This one leads to PNC Park, just across the river from downtown.

Here’s a view looking back across the water.

Our hotel was very near to Penn Station and on Sunday morning I took a walk over to check it out.  As a kid I had traveled through it on the train, and the upper floors are now converted to “luxury” apartments.  This is a section of the dome which used to be the main entryway from the street.

It was sad to see the “modern” waiting room like this.

With only two trains a day, and nothing running North/South there isn’t much activity.  And the times aren’t particularly convenient.

Thanks for checking in.  I’ll try to get on a more regular schedule of posting.  Tomorrow Peggy Ross is coming over and we are meeting with my friends at Small Batch Books to start work on the Suitcases book reward.  I’ll keep updating progress on the project, and plan to be back shooting next week.

Meadville, PA

Posted in Family, Plants, Trees by joncrispin on 14/07/2013

I am in Meadville sitting in a Tim Horton’s.  It is the only open café with WIFI and I wanted to do a quick post before I head out of town.

My dad died in 2007 and in memorial to his time teaching at Allegheny College the family decided to plant a tree on the campus.  I wanted to check on it to see how it was faring and was happy to see that it is in good shape.

My sister Karen knows a lot about trees and gardens and she suggested a Winter King.  Here’s a link describing it and it seems an apt choice. (It is cool that the link goes to Penn State’s Extension program as dad got his doctorate in German Literature there.)  I especially like how the bark peels off; it kind of reminds me of a sycamore which is a tree I also like.  I have been thinking about a long post about my dad which I hope to get to in the next few months.  He was a very interesting guy.

Something New

Posted in Baseball, Buildings, Cities, Family, Flowers, Food, Friends, Jon Crispin, Music, Nature, People, Plants, Rivers, Sport, Travel, Water by joncrispin on 01/09/2012






This post is a way to jump-start my brain.  I have been so preoccupied with Peter that it has been difficult to concentrate on anything else.  It feels great to be focusing on photographs again.  None of these pictures seem so interesting on their own, but together reflect what’s been going on for the past month.

Above is Tom Schack’s birthday cake from the now infamous “Schackstock” at Snowzies in Sunderland.  Bands started playing at 1 pm and things shut down at closing time.  His Mom, Dad, and Sister were there as well as lots of his friends.

He is just about the nicest guy in the world, and was really enjoying himself.

This flower starts showing up partway down the drive in early August.

When I was shooting the Tilghman project in August I made sure to visit Miss Pigsley.  She lives down the street from Jennifer, has an air conditioner in her shed and will never be bacon.  I took this for Peter because we are both huge P.G. Wodehouse fans and any stories with Lord Emsworth feature his obsession with “The Empress”.  This pig is magnificent and is very happy to have visitors.  She used to drink massive amounts of Kool-Aid until the vet put her on a diet.

On the Sunday morning before Peter Carroll and I left the island, we went to the church to document a service.  This gentleman was in the pew in front of me.

I have always liked cattails.

When Cris, Pete, and I went to see the Sox in August, the Olympics were going on and this guy was checking out the US Women’s Soccer action.  Technology!

I had a hard time getting the white balance right in this shot.  I walk past this box on my way to shoot the suitcases.  It always reminds me of  this Little Feat song.

Going back to Meadville means more than hot dogs and ice cream but two stops are essential; Eddie’s and Hank’s Frozen Custard.

I have been going to Hank’s since it opened in 1952.

Peter loves it too.

There is only one reason to post this photo.  It might be the only time you can see Red Sox pitcher Clayton Mortensen at bat in an American League Park.  At this point the Sox were up something like 12-1 and I still can’t figure out why Bobby Valentine had him at the plate.  Kind of cool though.

When we were at Pymatuning watching the ducks walk on the fishes backs we met the woman I posted about earlier.  She was wearing this shirt which got us talking.  I’d like to visit sometime.

It is very rare to be in on an historical moment, but I can say I was there when one of my neighborhood friends coined the term “Rat Lake” for the body of water that appeared after the flood control dam was built.

I usually help Thom Kendall out with the photos on media day for the UMASS football team.  The new coach is a really great guy.  This picture pretty much tells you most of what you need to know about Charley Molnar.

The Pearl out on the deck.

Cris and I went to Amherst Coffee today.  I often take a shot of my cappuccino for some reason.

Never one to hide my emotions, I have been mentioning to just about anyone I talk to about my feelings of having Peter off in DC.  So many of you have told me that he will be fine, and I want to thank you all for your support.  One of the best bits of encouragement came from Leamuse in France as a comment on my earlier post.  “Bon courage et bon chance.”  Thank you so much; it really helps.


Posted in Art, Family, History by joncrispin on 30/01/2012

I started playing pinball at  Gabby Avenue News in Meadville when I was in junior high.  Almost every morning before school I would try to get in a few games before dashing off to homeroom.  After that, I played mostly at the College Pizza Villa on North Main Street.  When I got to Wittenberg, I was happy to see that there were 4 or 5 machines in the basement of the student union.  To say the least, I was a regular down there.  With the advent of video games, the popularity of pinball faded, and the machines that were being made were not so interesting to me.  They were way too complicated with multiple levels and lots of ramps and extra bells and whistles.  For me, the heyday of the pins was from the mid 60s to the mid 70s. /  Peter has always been interested in my  younger days and he loves to hear me tell stories about growing up in Meadville.  He especially liked the pinball related anecdotes.  /  Some time ago my brother got a machine for his basement.  It is made by Stern and is the Elvis model.  It is one of the later designs, and initially it didn’t interest me so much.  But whenever we would visit, Pete would head down and spend lots of time playing.  Eventually I became hooked and we now play quite a bit together.  Because of his CP, he plays both flippers with his right hand, and he is amazing good.  /  Union doesn’t regularly have any machines, but during special weekend events they bring in one or two that are set up to play for free.  Cristine and I were visiting him yesterday and he and I went over to Reamer and played this one.  Like the Elvis game, it is of the modern variety with way too much going on, but as you can see in the high score list, I totally killed it.  Score inflation has gotten out of hand though; over a billion points is just wrong.  At some point during my big game, Carlene Carter’s “Every Little Thing” started playing and after we were done, I was surprised to see in the credits that the female voice that pops up on occasion was hers.  Weird, but I went to iTunes today and bought the song.

PNC Park

Posted in Architecture, Baseball, Buildings, Cities, Family, Sport, Travel by joncrispin on 06/08/2011

Peter and I drove to Meadville on Wednesday so that I could be with friends for a few days.  Last night we went down the 79 to Pittsburgh to catch a Bucs game.  As a family, we go to ballparks whenever we get the chance and we’ve been to PNC Park quite alot.  In 2002, Peter and I went to see a game and had almost the exact same seats.   I was shooting with my Widelux at that time and made an image that day that I have always loved.  When I shifted to digital, I stopped using that camera, but have always missed the format.  So now I shoot 2 digital images and stitch them together on the computer.  Pretty much the identical result.  Feels a bit like cheating, but I’m not too bothered. / This is a beautiful ball park.  Situated on the north shore of the river with an amazing view of downtown Pittsburgh, it just can’t be beat (unlike the Pirates who lost 15 – 5).  These seats were $27.oo each, which is an incredible bargain.  My only complaint is that it is almost impossible to find an Iron City Beer in the place.  I had to settle for a 16 oz can of  Yuengling which is arguably a better beer, but doesn’t hold the same cachet for me.

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