While I was in Chicago in early January, I made a whole bunch of photographs along the Chicago River on the north end of the Loop. I shot a Minolta Maxxum 5 with a 35-70mm f/4 Maxxum AF Zoom lens. I shot some Kodak Ultramax 400 and some Fujifilm Fujicolor 200, and as I share the images I’m not going to bother telling you which photos were shot on which film. I can’t tell which photos came from which roll just by looking at these scans; can you?
I hadn’t been to Metamora since the late 1980s, and even then, my memory of the place was poor. So I was curious to see it again in early November when the various Indiana byway organizations, including the Historic Michigan Road Association, met there for our biennial conference. Metamora is a very small Indiana town, population less than 200 — but it is well known as a tourist destination for its shops and restaurants. It stands along three one-time major transportation corridors: the Brookville Road, the Whitewater Canal, and the Whitewater Valley Railroad.
I was testing a new-to-me old SLR, a Pentax ME SE, with my 50mm f/1.7 SMC Pentax-M lens. I’ll write a proper review of the camera after I’ve put a few more rolls through it. On this day, I shot Kodak Max 400 at EI 200. The camera’s meter seemed to be reading about a stop of overexposure, but the film’s wide latitude covered for it.
While we were in New York I couldn’t figure out how I felt about visiting the new World Trade Center and the neighboring memorial. Ambivalence gave way to curiosity, which yielded to revulsion. Then ambivalence returned and stayed. But visiting the site was on the must-do list for Margaret’s teenagers, who accompanied us. So off we went.
I took just a few photos, and only these two are worth a darn. Above is the new World Trade Center, and below is the waterfall in the north pool of the memorial site directly to the south.
These photos offer no connection to the place. This could be any tall building; this could be any man-made waterfall. I think it’s because I didn’t want to be connected to this place. And the memorial felt sterile to me.
We walked from there a couple blocks to St. Paul’s Chapel. Margaret knew only that it was a 1766 church among the lower Manhattan skyscrapers, and that therefore she wanted to see it. We didn’t know its special, critical connection to the aftermath of 9/11.
We learned that for eight months St. Paul’s Chapel was an aid and comfort station for everyone working the recovery. The building was open around the clock; volunteers fed and prayed with the workers and various doctors came to tend to their medical needs. Musicians even came to play for everyone.
Despite being so close to the collapsed towers, St. Paul’s survived without even a broken window.
Even though this is still a functioning church with services every Sunday, memorial panels full of photographs line the north wall inside. I wasn’t prepared for that. I had hoped to get away from my feelings about 9/11 by just enjoying and photographing the architecture here. The only photos I took of the memorials are two photos of patches from police and fire forces around the world. They were sent here in a show of solidarity and mourning for their injured and dead comrades.
The rest of my photographs were typical-of-me architecture shots, trying to record a solid sense of this building. Back in Indiana there are no buildings from 1766. It was a great joy to experience this one.
It is a lovely church, perfectly maintained in every detail.
We stepped out back and found a graveyard. In New York as in Indiana, churches used to bury their dead out back. It was surreal to see these very old gravestones amid the towering buildings all around. It was even more surreal to learn that in 1766, St. Paul’s Chapel was the tallest building in the city. I loved imagining a time when that would have been true. Apparently, the church was surrounded by orchards!
St. Paul’s Chapel is a stunning building. But I recognized that because I couldn’t escape 9/11 here, I wasn’t connecting to it in the ways I normally would. And then I came upon the bell.
It was a gift from the city of London to the city of New York after the attack, a symbol of friendship and solidarity across the oceans. This is where it all connected for me: this tragedy had worldwide reach, and it affected everyone who heard of it. There’s no shame that my feelings about 9/11 remain unsettled, uncertain. I cried here for a minute, quietly.
I shot my Canon S95 raw, which meant a lot of post-processing in Photoshop when I got home. It takes a little time to tweak each photograph for its best look. It gave me time to process not only my feelings about our visit to these sites but also more of my feelings about 9/11 itself. While processing photos, I slowly reviewed the day and thought about each scene, including those I didn’t photograph. That time and space to think, alone in my quiet home office, let me find a little more peace.
One photograph I didn’t take was of one of the pews. A few years ago St. Paul’s removed most of its pews, replacing them with individual chairs arranged in a U. But a couple pews remained in the back. In this church so perfectly maintained, the pews were gashed and gouged and chewed up — by the heavy shoes and gear of the recovery workers who rested on them. These pews remain as a memorial.
It was emotionally difficult to follow the news stories of the recovery work in the months following the attack. I dealt with it by dissociating from it. But seeing those gouged pews made those people and their experiences real. And so I don’t need a photograph of those pews; I’ll never forget them.
Canon PowerShot S95, shot raw, processed in Photoshop.
Whenever we visit Kentucky, we are frequently struck by how many very old homes still stand. Here in Indiana, buildings from before about 1850 are rare. Not so in Kentucky — we’ve seen homes built in the late 1700s there.
The South Hill neighborhood in Lexington is just southwest of downtown. You can see the city’s tallest building, Lexington Financial Center, from all over the neighborhood — indeed, from many places in the city.
South Hill’s homes were built from the early 1800s through the early 1900s, and are a mix of architectural styles. Here are a few of the homes.
While Margaret and I were in Kentucky a few weekends ago, we visited four distilleries. Two were in Lexington, and the other two were in nearby Frankfort. We’ve been on enough distillery tours now that there’s little new for us to learn about the whiskey-making process. We just want to cut right to the tasting at the end! Fortunately, during COVID, many distilleries are dispensing with their tours in favor of quick tastings, either outside or in a very well ventilated space. That’s just fine for us!
The first distillery was Bluegrass Distillers in Lexington’s Fayette Park neighborhood. They started with a tasting, and then walked us quickly through their small facility. Their most interesting spirit is a bourbon distilled from blue corn.
Our next stop was at Castle and Key Distillery near Frankfort. They were open only for walks around the grounds, although you could buy flights of their product to sample while you were there. They distill gin and vodka in addition to bourbon and rye. We sipped every spirit they offered and thought their Autumn 2019 gin was the most delicious. This site was originally the Old Taylor Distillery, and its sign still hangs over the main door.
Next we visited the Glenns Creek Distillery, which is on the original site of the Old Crow Distillery. If you ever visit, do not let your map application take you down Hanly Lane to get there, as we did. The last segment of it is barely one lane wide with a steep dropoff on one side. It is a butt-puckering, white-knuckle drive. When we left we went the other way — and within a half mile passed Castle and Key, on a wide and safe state highway. Had we only known!
Where Castle and Key was polished and shiny, Glenns Creek was, well, decrepit and dumpy. But we had the best experience of our weekend there. They offered only a tasting, but the fellow who led it was fun and entertaining. He is also one of the distillery’s owners. He grew up in Panama, played professional basketball for a while (including a stint with the Indiana Pacers), and has turned to distilling later in his life. His stories were incredible. So was their OCD #5 bourbon.
Finally, we returned to Lexington to visit the James E. Pepper Distillery. This is an old name in distilleries, but it is only recently reopened after a 50-year hiatus. Really, this is a new distillery with an old name. It looks like they are only now beginning to sell whiskeys they distill on site; previously, they sold whiskeys they bought from other distilleries (mostly the giant MGP in Indiana). Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
More than just the cherry trees were in bloom during our visit to Lexington Cemetery. Given that these trees’ flowers probably lasted only a couple weeks, our visit could not have been more fortunately timed.