Coyote Mercury

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush

Tag: old photo friday (page 1 of 4)

Old Photo Friday (Bataan, Philippines: 1982)

Friendship Tower of Bagac, Bataan, Philippines. 1982.

I found this while flipping through the old photo albums. It’s a picture of the Friendship Tower of Bagac in Bagac, Bataan, Philippines. It was dedicated in 1975 as a monument to peace and friendship between the Philippines and Japan.

I took the picture in spring 1982 with my old Kodak 110 Instamatic. I took three pictures of it and as soon as they came back, I taped them together to make this collage in an attempt to capture the whole thing. Not bad for an eleven-year-old.

We moved to Subic Bay Naval Base in the Philippines in 1979. In that time and place World War II was still close at hand. Only thirty-four years had passed, which to an eight-year-old represented several lifetimes but now doesn’t seem like much time at all. About the same as the span of years stretching from this moment back to ’82.

Physically, World War II was everywhere: relics, monuments and blood dried into the soil. In those years after Vietnam, I’m sure it was the war people on base preferred to remember. To a child, though, it existed in a dream world between heroic fantasy and rusted reality.

The fantasy came from books and stories seasoned with a little bit of Dungeons & Dragons-inspired battle romance. We read the books, enacted our war games wearing camouflage and rank insignia we’d pinched from our dads, and fought each other with mangos, avocados and guavas plucked from trees.

Despite the games, though, there was also the undeniable reality of the whole thing lingering in the air and throughout the jungle we were all strictly forbidden to enter. I remember one day hiking with my scout troop on Grande Island, a small resort—formerly a fort—island in the mouth of Subic Bay. We found an overgrown bunker facing toward the sparkling South China Sea complete with a gun emplacement rusted orange and ruined by years left to the rainy season’s whims. Had anyone fought there? Had anyone died?

Along the trail of the Bataan Death March. 1982

These were questions that rattled through my mind when I participated in the annual reenactment of the Bataan Death March by scout troops from throughout Southeast Asia. My troop participated each year, and I was as excited as could be in 1982, when I was old enough for several grueling days of hiking.

The real Bataan Death March occurred in 1942 when Japanese forces captured over 70,000 Filipino and American soldiers after the Battle of Bataan and marched them to prison camps. Along that route, thousands were killed or died of starvation and disease.

Forty years later, we camped on the beach, played D&D in our tents and each morning after breakfast, we were bused to wherever we’d left off the previous day to trace the route of the death march. I remember it as exhausting and yet throughout, I had the awareness that this was nothing next to what those victims and survivors of the real Bataan Death March endured.

Somewhere along those dusty Philippine roads my fascination with war turned to recoiling as I realized it was one thing to reenact battles with my friends, but quite another to walk endless miles along a trail of brutality, hopelessness and murder. I think it was then that the idea of war began to move from fantasy to nightmare as we walked through Bataan imagining the sheer horror of the reality our reenactment was meant to remember.

It was quite a walk for an eleven-year-old with a vivid imagination, but I think I learned more about the cost of war than I ever did from books or school.

Along the trail of the Bataan Death March. 1982

There’s another Old Photo Friday from 2006 featuring a picture from the Bataan Death March.

Old Photo Friday

Narragansett Bay from Middletown, RI. April 1988.

This is looking west over Narragansett Bay from Middletown or Portsmouth, Rhode Island in April 1988 just months before we moved to Texas. I was in the car with a couple of friends and we pulled over so I could get a shot of the light bursting through that hole in the clouds. We called it “God light” because it reminded us of the scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail in which God commands Arthur to seek the grail.

I had just gotten my first real camera, a Pentax K1000, the previous Christmas and so I was learning the habit of carrying it nearly everywhere I went, searching for the photographic holy grail of being in the perfect place when the light hits just right. It would be years before I began to understand that the real wonder was not so much in the picture, but in the way that being open to finding those pictures helps me better see and know the world around me.

As with all the photos on the blog, click to enlarge and view it at a higher resolution.

Old Photo Friday

Mt Etna, Sicily, Italy; Early '80's

One of the few things I’ve invented in the blog world is Old Photo Friday. Maybe I invented it, I don’t know. I’ve never seen anyone else do it, but perhaps I only discovered it in the way that Columbus discovered America.

I did Old Photo Friday fairly regularly from June 2006 to June 2007 and then stopped. I guess I got tired of it, but lately I’ve been missing those weekly explorations of old photographs.

With thoughts of Columbus and worlds old and new, I found this shot of Mt. Etna I took with my old Kodak 110 Instamatic. We lived in Italy from 1982 until 1985 and during that time, I visited Sicily twice. Once with my family and once with my Boy Scout troop (395, the best alive). This is from the Boy Scout trip, which I’m guessing was either in ’83 or ’84, in which we went camping on the lower slopes of the volcano.

We took the train down from Naples and crossed the straits to Sicily on the ferry, which was all very exciting, though being inside the train cars in the cavernous hold of the ferry wasn’t my favorite part of the trip.

Etna was erupting at the time, but it’s a big mountain so we were safe enough, though occasionally we felt a rumble and some of the guys claimed to have seen a small explosion near the summit, but even that didn’t seem like too a big a deal since our school was on the slopes of La Solfatara, a mostly-dormant volcano that frequently spewed foul-smelling clouds of sulfur into the air so the whole area would smell like rotten eggs and farts.

Mt Etna didn’t smell bad, and it was a good place to camp and hike and explore. We were especially interested in the shrines set up along the trails with their votive candles, old photographs of people taken when they were young and piles of Lira, sacrifices, we imagined, so the dead would have some change to buy Cokes in Heaven.

Old Photo Friday

In June of ’01, we found ourselves driving from Maine to Montreal. We needed a break and so stopped at the Ben & Jerry’s factory in Waterbury, Vermont. I paid my respects to the dead in the flavor graveyard behind the factory.

Old Photo Friday

Before we moved in.

Old Photo Friday

When you’re at the beach it’s all so clear, but later, looking back it fades and blurs and starts to feel more like the lazy aimlessness you felt while there.

Sometimes photography yields happy accidents like this random shot made with a junky underwater throwaway camera. I find this blurred and washed out image far more satisfying than whatever I was actually trying to do.

This is the beach outside our hotel in Cancun. We were there in Jan ’98 for our honeymoon. The water was rough, black flags and all, so the calm Carribean seemed more Pacific to me.

We stayed in Cancun a few days drinking gringo drinks from coconuts before renting a car and breaking out for Yucatan. We visited Tulum, stayed a few days in Merida where we went to Uxmal (I posted a picture of some of the ruins here) and the Puuc Hills before returning via Chitzen Itza.

Old Photo Friday

I got this shot of Honolulu, looking out towards Diamond Head in July of ’79. During that summer, we moved from Washington, DC to Subic Bay Naval Base in The Philippines, but the journey was as exciting as the destination since we had a three-day layover in Hawaii.

I was between 2nd and 3rd grade, but all through 2nd grade we had studied Hawaii. I learned all about the various islands, King Kamehameha, the attack on Pearl Harbor, the humu­humu­nuku­nuku­āpuaʻa, and had even tried poi. We were in Arizona visting my grandparents when we found out that we were going to get to go to Hawaii.

I was very young, but I remember it all very clearly. I think it was the combination of spending a year studying it before actually getting to go that had the effect of searing it all into my mind. Unfortunately, I was recovering from chicken pox and had some kind of infection on my foor that prevented me from getting to go to the beach, but we saw quite a bit of Oahu anyway.

Old Photo Friday

I’ve been meaning to get back into Old Photo Fridays, but since we had the floors done, we haven’t got eveything put back and the old photos aren’t too accessible. And then, the screensaver served this one up, which is only a year old, but old enough, I guess.

I took it from the back of the boat on the morning we cruised up the Canyon of the Eagles. The view is looking downriver, below the canyon, looking towards Lake Buchanan, all glass early in the day.

It was a quick snap off the back, but I really like the flat colors and that bird who just happened to fly into the picture while obeying the rule of thirds. Smart bird.

I wrote two posts about that trip with more pictures. They’re here and here.

Old Photo Friday

Sometimes the sunsets around here make me think of Jupiter, and I wonder what it would be like to live on a moon orbiting a gas giant.

I took a color photography class as an undergrad in ’92. This was in that box. I’m sure I made the image during that semester, probably in Round Rock. It could be anywhere, but the houses in the background feel like Round Rock to me.

The print was too big for the scanner so it’s cropped a bit from the original, in which the tree isn’t quite as centered.

Old Photo Friday

One of my favorite central Texas hikes is the Good Water Trail that follows Lake Georgetown west as it turns into the North Fork of the San Gabriel River. My dad and I hiked the whole thing in the summer of 2002. It’s not too long, but it made for a good, hot and exhausting day.

This is a picture of the springs, the good water, I suppose.

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