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I was there about a week before Hope and I went to Fort Pike, so I couldn't help but compare them. Gaines is in much better condition than Pike, which is not surprising, because Louisiana really doesn't have their shit together when it comes to parks and historic sites.

Apparently this is where Admiral David Farragut said the famous line "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!", during the Battle of Mobile Bay, in the Civil War. I thought it was odd that they would put it on all their signage and pamphlets, since Farragut was a Union admiral. But you know, we're all the same country now, so kudos to Alabama for refusing to give in to that stupid us vs. them grudge-holding mentality that is one of my least favorite things about the south.

Fort Gaines

Fort Gaines

Fort Gaines

Fort Gaines

Fort Gaines
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...is where I spent my holidays. When Granny died in April, Mom decided she wanted to spend the first Christmas without her away from home. She and Phil have been going there for weekends for a few years now, but I've never been. Anyway, they rented a house that was like 3 minutes walk to the Gulf of Mexico, it was nice. It's not warm this time of year of course, but I don't mind the cold. And I like beach towns in the off season, although Mom says it's pretty quiet even in summer. It doesn't have any major touristy draws, it mostly attracts people who either have a boat or just want to spend time near the ocean. Mom and Phil closed on a condo while we were there, so maybe I'll see more of it. It's not too bad of a drive, we left at 10:30 and got there about 4:00.

I shot some film, but these are just digital shots.

Dauphin Island Cemetery

I found this at one of the cemeteries on the island, propped against a tree.

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I found this beach out at the end of the island, it had a lot of tree trunks with the roots exposed. I think Hurricane Ivan probably eroded that end of the island and pushed the beach up into what had been a stand of trees. Barrier islands are pretty unstable and really don't last any time at all, in geological terms.

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Audubon bird trail

There's an Audubon bird trail that leads to a little lake. Apparently Dauphin Island is the only place in Alabama that John James Audubon drew birds, although he drew them all over south Louisiana.

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Driftwood macro.

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New Year's Day was our last full day, we had incredible skies. You can see some of the natural gas platforms in the distance. At night they're lit up and actually look quite pretty. Anyway, as long as they're not oil--no tar balls washing up on the beach.
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I was in Laguna Beach, CA from Thursday to Monday for my aunt's wedding. We stayed in the same hotel where the wedding was, and the beach was at the end of the street and down a staircase. It was great to be back in California again. I mean sure, SoCal isn't "my" California, and it's full of douchey people, but it's pretty. I got to see the Pacific Ocean and eat In N' Out Burger (animal style, of course), and I think the hottest it got the entire time was maybe 77 degrees. (It's been over 90 for weeks running in Louisiana.) It was nice to be reminded that there are places in the world where summer isn't fucking awful. Oh, and I didn't see a single mosquito.

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It was overcast in the mornings when I was on the beach, and the sea and sky were all different shades of the same blue-gray color. I never enjoyed swimming in the ocean--saltwater irritates my skin--but I always liked to sit and watch/listen to it, and walk along the surfline. And the Gulf of Mexico is not a substitute. Maybe Florida has crystal clear water and pristine white sand beaches; but in Louisiana the water is brown and gunky from leaky deepwater oil-drilling platforms, and the beaches are strewn with garbage from lazy Cajun slobs. They love to run their pissflaps about how this is GAWD'S COUNTRY, then throw trash all over it in the same breath.

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This my uncle (my aunt's older brother, not the guy she married) at the rehearsal dinner, which was at the Mexican restaurant across the street from the hotel. They had a tequila list longer than most restaurants' wine lists, and I talked Mom into doing a couple shots of aƱejo with me. I also got her addicted to mojitos, she drank 3 the first night and never stopped drinking them the entire trip.

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Yes, that is my aunt and her now-husband's dog in the wedding ceremony, wearing a tiny tuxedo with a boutonniere. In fact, it was a casual wedding, and he was the only member of the wedding party dressed formally.

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The day after the wedding we drove to Long Beach and had brunch aboard the Queen Mary. It was like having mimosas on the Titanic, but without the pesky iceberg.

I got to eat a lot of seafood during the trip. Not that Louisiana is short on seafood, but it's hard to get anything that isn't Cajun. Don't get me wrong, I like Cajun food, but sometimes I miss the kind of seafood I grew up eating. I had calamari, lobster mac & cheese and lobster ravioli, seared ahi tuna (raw on the inside, just how I like it), snow crab legs, smoked salmon... the hotel restaurant even had swordfish, although I didn't order it. I haven't seen swordfish on a restaurant menu since I was a kid, I think we overfished it.

As I was sitting in the Dallas airport waiting for my connecting flight, it suddenly occurred to me that I only saw like 2 black people the entire time I was in Orange County. Granted, OC is the whitest part of California, but still. People say the south is more racist, and maybe it's true that white people from the south are more likely to be racist. But there are also a lot more black people in the south, and less self-segregation between black and white here. I see a lot more interracial couples in Louisiana than I ever did in California, for instance. It's real easy to be smug about how not-racist you are when you never work with, date, or interact with black people.
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Read it and bask in my awesomeness.

Last weekend was the first of what I hope will be an annual road trip for my meetup group, to Mississippi. (It won't always be in MS, though. The plan is for north Louisiana, the Galveston/Beaumont area of Texas, and possibly Arkansas.) We spent Saturday in Canton and Sunday in McComb. I don't have any photos developed yet; I'm going to use the rest of the rolls at Laos New Year in Lanexang Village this weekend.

Canton is really beautiful. The downtown is arranged around a square containing the Madison County Courthouse, a very Classical white-columned building with a distinctive dome. Quite a few movies have been filmed in Canton, mostly because of the courthouse. It's like the go-to town in Mississippi for whenever producers want a really southern old-timey looking courthouse. It was the courthouse in A Time to Kill--or, as I think of it: You can Be a Racist or a Vigilante, Take Your Pick.

The buildings in the streets around the square are really old (at least to my California frame of reference), a lot of them painted bright colors and with original details like stamped ceilings or little petal-shaped windows. Canton has a ginormous antiques festival twice a year, so there are a lot of year-round antique stores. I bought a pair of opera glasses at one, which should look nifty next to my absinthe spoons. BELL EPOQUE YO.

We also went to the cemetery that was the original cemetery of the town, and it's next to the old Madison County Jail, which was being fixed up by the local historical society.

On the way to McComb, we stopped at a charming store called Dirt Cheap in Brookhaven. Hope goes there whenever she goes to The Dinner Bell (of which more later). It's like a Dollar General, but not QUITE as clean or charming. However, they did have Kodak film and disposable cameras for $3. Which for some reason rang up as "health & beauty items". I haven't done any disposable distortion in a while, so I stocked up. (In the same section we also found dirt cheap condoms, next to dirt cheap pregnancy tests. Probably if you use the former, you find yourself in need of the latter.)

McComb is near the Louisiana border, on the Bogue Chitto River. It's actually where my father was born, but his family moved to North Platte, Nebraska when he was very young and he and his siblings thought of themselves as midwesterners, not southerners. I'd never been to the town. We didn't get any photos of the town, but we drove through a fair bit of it. There's a lot of suburban sprawl around the edges--the town isn't big, but it's the only town of ANY size in Pike County (weird to be dealing with counties again, rather than parishes), so they have a lot of the businesses that serve the whole county. But looking at the old center of the town, I could imagine how it must have looked when my father was a child. It was pretty hilly, which I wasn't expecting. I guess whenever I think of MS, I think of the delta, which is as low and flat as south Louisiana. It was nice, I miss hills.

We spent the morning trying to find the damn river (Hope's GPS is easily confused), also stopping to photograph another cemetery we came across. But we mostly stopped in the town in the first place to eat lunch at The Dinner Bell. It's a round table restaurant in a converted private house: you sit at a table topped with a giant lazy susan with a dozen other people, the servers bring out dish after dish of southern home cooking, and everyone helps themselves. Fried chicken, ham, potato salad, turnip greens, butter beans, sweet potatoes, macaroni cheese, and the best fried eggplant I've had IN MY LIFE. Hope sometimes drives all the way from Baton Rouge just to eat lunch there.

This trip made me realize how truly awful Louisiana drivers are. I drove hundreds of miles in MS, and not once did I see someone hanging out in the passing lane mile after mile, going half the posted speed limit. I see that literally every day in LA.
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I feel like 2011--my first complete year in Louisiana--was a pretty good year for me. I still feel positive about my decision to move down here, and the Lomography meetup group has been going well. We picked up another member--our first male member--last month. He's been living and working in South Korea for the past few years, and he made a Shaun of the Dead reference like 10 minutes after we met, so I think we're going to get along.

I don't know if I mentioned it, but I got a Christmas bonus (a week's wages--gross, not net) and told that I'm getting a raise. I bought myself a Nook Tablet today, as a post-holiday reward to myself. I'm still going to get most of my reading material from the library, but I can see buying new releases that have waiting lists, or obscure titles that can't be obtained through interlibrary loan. Plus there's magazines, music, games, movies, TV, web browsing.

Jamie and Greg went back to Los Angeles today, and Rian returned to Chicago on Tuesday. I have tomorrow off, then it's back to the grind. But I have the next meetup--in Morgan City this time--next weekend, and Hope and I have discussed doing a Lomography road trip in March. I was thinking either north Louisiana, the Galveston/Beaumont area of Texas, or Mississippi. And by a weird coincidence, she mentioned a restaurant in McComb, MS. That's the town that my father's family was originally from, although he mostly grew up in North Platte, NE. So it's probably going to be Mississippi this time, although I'd like to do more in the future.

One thing I'd like to do different in 2012 is that I'd like to do something for Mardi Gras. I didn't last year, and I kind of felt like I wasted being in south Louisiana. I think I'll probably go see the Krewe of Muses parade in New Orleans. That's an all-female krewe that rolls through uptown the Thursday before Fat Tuesday. Since it's all women, and not in the French Quarter, and not on Mardi Gras the actual day, there's a minimum of the obnoxious shenanigans I associate with Mardi Gras in New Orleans going on: namely, drunk college girls flashing their tits and drunker frat rats trying to date rape anything with boobs.
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I got back from Los Angeles on Tuesday, the day before my birthday. I had an amazing time. I didn't get to see the Pacific Ocean, because we'd planned to go on Sunday and it rained BUCKETS that day--don't ever let anyone tell you it never rains in SoCal. But I got to do a ton of other awesome things, and I had some AMAZING food. Saturday I had In-N-Out Burger, went on a helicopter tour of the city, and went to the Lomography store. It was like the mothership was calling me home! Although actually there aren't any cameras I particularly want right now, so I made it out with just some film and a keychain.

Monday was The Cure at the Pantages Theater, which was sort of the actual reason for my trip. Like, I can't even put into words what it meant to me to see them again. One of Jamie's friends that had dinner with us before the show and sat across the aisle from us was like, are you a big fan? And I blurted out I PROBABLY WOULD HAVE KILLED MYSELF AS A TEENAGER IF IT WEREN'T FOR THEIR MUSIC. So yeah, big fan.

But before that I drove Jamie to work in her Mini Cooper, then drove myself to Japantown. Driving in Los Angeles was a new experience for me, but it was mid-day and probably the time when traffic is the least hair-raising it gets in L.A. I have now been to all 3 officially recognized Japantowns in the country: San Francisco, San Jose, and Los Angeles. I had a White Peach Calpico and stocked up on stationery at the Kinokuniya Bookstore. Then Jamie and I had lunch, she went back to work and I went for a stroll through the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. I wasn't looking for anyone famous, but I did stumble across the Fairbanks' mausoleum.


672042-R1-02-18A, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

This is the view from Jamie and Greg's window. They live in Lincoln Heights, which I really liked. It seems like a real neighborhood, without the plasticness I tend to attribute to Los Angeles. You can see the Hollywood sign and Dodger Stadium from their house.



672042-R1-04-16A, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

I took this in the helicopter.



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Flying past the Hollywood sign.


I shot 2 more rolls, but one is 120 and will have to be sent out to Dwayne's, and one isn't quite finished. I'll finish it when I go to New Orleans next Saturday--it's supposed to storm like crazy tomorrow (the rain must have followed me), so I've re-scheduled the November Lomography meetup for the first weekend in December.
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I'm flying to Los Angeles tomorrow for a few days to visit my sister. I'm really excited to be back in California again for a while, even if it's Los Angeles and not the Bay Area.

The main point of the trip is to see The Cure at the Pantages Theater--Jamie's office is basically above it. However, there are a few other things I want to do, namely: see the Pacific Ocean, go to the Lomography Gallery Store, and eat at In-N-Out Burger. I'd also like to eat somewhere I can get calamari, which seems to be an unknown food in Louisiana. You can get all kinds of good ethnic food here, but I sorely miss non-Cajun seafood. I haven't had a bowl of clam chowder since I left California.

Jamie texted me last night asking if I was scared of helicopters, so she clearly has other plans as well.

As to the all-important question of which cameras to bring: I haven't shot 120 in a while and I have several rolls just gathering dust, so I think definitely the Diana F+. For 35mm, either the Holga 135 or the Lomo LC-A+. I don't want to mess with a bunch of knobs and dials if I'm street-shooting, so no range finders. The Land camera is really heavy and initially I was thinking I wasn't going to bring it. But you know, I didn't buy it just to have it sit around the house and occasionally shoot a photo in the backyard. So I think I'll bring it, too.
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