Monday, December 8, 2008

Running of the Tumbleweeds!

It's a cold, windy, and dusty day here in Lubbock, Texas. Most people stay in their homes on nasty days like this one, but not me. I went out to film the west Texas treasures stirred awake by the winter wind: the tumbleweed! I took this video from the cab of my truck outside a car dealership just down the road from the house. I couldn't believe all the tumbleweeds that had collected on the west facing fence. For those of you who have never seen a tumbleweed, I hope you enjoy my little video.

After shooting the video I checked out the overrun fence for myself all the while taking pictures like a gawking tourist. I wasn't the only one outside taking pictures of these marvlous things, for right there next to me a woman shooting the action with her own digicam. I said "howdy" to her with a big smile and thought to myself, "I'm glad I'm not the only moron out here taking pictures of these things." She was so thrilled to see the tumbleweed mound, saying, "I'm from Houston and I've never seen a tumbleweed before. This is great!" I agreed, not having seen any tumbleweeds for almost 5 years myself.

We took turns taking pictures of each other standing in front of the tumbleweed pile. The picture below should give you some idea just how many tumbleweeds had blown from the fields.

The running of the tumbleweeds is just one of the many things I love about my native land: Texas.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Thrifty Finds a Camera

I went to the thrift store for the first time since I've been back in Lubbock, and it was awesome! I love thrift stores, especially the ones that sell a bunch of random things people don't want anymore.

Thrift stores in Japan were anything but thrifty. Most of the ones I went into only sold used clothes, I mean "vintage" clothes, at astronomical prices. I once saw a worn out pair of Converse All-Stars selling for 8,000 yen ($80); the new ones: 4,000 yen ($40). Go figure.

But there I was, wandering the isles of the great American thrift store, trying on polyester sport coats and plaid breeches with no intentions of buying. I try on the most outlandish garments in sight attempting to try on the past; older fashions, a different way of life. Usually the old-times constrict and itch.

Finding nothing worth $5 on the racks I ventured into the rest of the store and looked at the unwanted artifacts of years past. White plastic TVs, plastic woodgrain VCRs, and mobile phones the size of footballs sent out their rescue cries. Other peices of the past just sat lifelessly on the shelf waiting for the dumpster to ease their rejection pains.

Walking slowly to consider each object, I stopped in front of purse sized, duck-vomit green leather case. I knew there was a camera inside, probably an old winder-upper. I never expected what I saw inside: a 1957 Keystone Capri K57 8mm Cinemaster II movie camera.

"Wow!," I thought, "This things gotta be worth more than the $9.99 tag." Along with the camera was the tattered original instruction manual and a mail in waranty postcard. The action on the reels still worked so I bought it. I'm sure 8mm film is next to impossible to get these days, but what the heck.

The camera has three Bausch & Lomb lenses to shoot through: a 9mm f/1.8 wide-angle, a 12.7mm f/1.8, and a 25mm f/1.8 telephoto. An exposer ring helps the user control the shot with 5 simple settings like, "hazy sun," "cloudy dull," and "bright sun" to name a few. In 1957 this camera must've been the bees knees.

With my new old movie camera in hand, all I have to do now is find some 8mm film (tough), a place to develop it (hard), and way to watch my movie (don't even know where to start). Sounds expensive but it's worth a shot, at least once. Maybe I should go back and buy a polyester jacket to complete the look.

If anyone has any information about purchasing or developing 8mm film I'd love to hear from you. Here's the wind-up... Action!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Sunflower Scandle

This past growing season my family raised a crop of sunflowers at our farm near Olton, Texas. The beautiful, and highly alergetic, flowers are more than just eye candy- they're a cashcrop. We grew the sunflowers mainly because sunflowers are a low-maintenance crop. Sunflowers, if I understand them correctly (though we never talked much), are in the weed family, and if there's one thing our dry dirt farm knows how to grow, it's weeds.

We contracted 130 acres of sunflowers to a panhandle company called High Plains Oil Seed at the to-good-to-be-true price of 28.95 cents per pound. After harvesting, our crop was valued around $14,000. We thought we had a hell of a deal, and so did a lot of other farmers, until...

High Plains Oil Seed didn't honor their contracts, leaving a lot of sunflower farmers penniless and faced with unpayable water, land, and fertilizer bills. Outraged, the farmers hired a laywer and threatened to sue High Plains Oil Seed for the contracted price. The company's response was the same as the farmers: we're broke. Not only was High Plains Oil Seed not willing to honor their contract of 28.95 cents/lb., they said the sunflowers would only be released from the worthless contract if the farmers did not sue. About this time the irrigation bill comes in the mail and my family is forced to take out a loan (against the farm land) to pay it.

Eventually High Plains Oil Seed released our sunflowers. The seeds are now sitting in a barn on the south side of Olton; and their current market value: 14.2 cents/lb., about $7,000; nowhere close to the originally contracted price.

It's hard being a farmer these days, just like it's always been. It's hard enough suffering nature's unpredictable whims and the high cost of diesel and electricity used to run equipment and sprinklers, without being financially crippled by a crooked company who doesn't honor their contracts. And if you think my family has it bad, imagine the farmer who contracted 1,000 acres with the High Plain Oil Seed comany- imagine the financial blackhole he's in.

The woes of small farmers continue to ring over the flat Texas plains, and sunflowers don't look so cute to me anymore.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Cold Air, Hot Engines

85 mph is freezing on a screaming motorcycle. But my god, it's awesome to roll the throttle and feel the beast surge forward faster and faster. The Virago could accelerate forever, pulling up its wheels and taking off with one sharp flick of my wrist. The engine blows and blasts fire like a contained volcano warming my thighs with its fire-breath. A Dragon that lets me believe I control its raw power.

Hands frozen. Tinseled chin-whiskers grow brittle and blow away as filings. Chapped lips crack out a insane smile; a hedonistic revel. Pure Being at 5000 revolutions per minute: outrunning the speed of life down a backroad. Raaaaeeeeiieooouuaaaaw-----

Grey Wolf and I burned down the road out of Lubbock and swung into a small canyon on the outskirts of Slaton, Texas. Down the winding asphalt into a canyon floor. The trees had shed their leaves as our spirits quickened. All is right in the jungle.

Grey Wolf and his '00 Yamaha 1100cc V-Star Classic

the Man on his '95 Yamaha 1100cc Virago