Fascinated by tourist icons.

I marvel at how intact and untagged so many things are in the northeast. I think I am drawn to photograph images like the one above because things like this really don't survive long in our locale. Outside of the wealthy and secure neighborhoods people need to chain their stuff up in order to keep it and anything that is quaint or curious or just generally available is stolen, vandalized, smashed or covered with painted gang signs.  The two towns I visited on this trip, Lake George and Saratoga Springs, were largely devoid of a kind of human driven entropy that seems more or less rampant in bigger cities.

It's interesting to think about why people photograph certain objects. I can't recall seeing one of these coin operated, binocular telescopes anywhere in my travels across Texas, although I have to assume they exist in some nook or cranny. So they are, to me, an oddity. I remember in my youth seeing these near most big natural attractions but they seem only to have been preserved in unique spots and in unique slots of time.

The implicit intent of our visit to Prospect Mountain, near Lake George in New York, was to see the scenery. The glorious, technicolor trees and the blue waters of the lake. But when I got there I was most interested in the telescopes. I shot lots of angles and lots of different magnifications of the units as I found them. To me, they represent a time in our national past --- the 1950's and 1960's --- when car travel for vacations swelled and families became captive to a national movement: "To see the USA in a Chevrolet." 

While getting anywhere in Texas is a feat of travel endurance and rewards speed and persistence, travel in the middle of New York state seems to have been a different sort of experience. One combining frequent scenic overlooks followed by Howard Johnson's restaurants and Holiday Inns. Until recently Texas had always been a poor state and travel meant one rest stop with chancy toilets every 250 miles or so (with a view of flat, hot land and blowing tumbleweeds) bookmarked by a dusty, independent version of a Motel 6, with a tired and shopworn Denny's diner next door. The Texas Whataburger chain was a sign that a town located off I-10 had made it.

But I am assuming that to a person who grew up in the northeastern part of the United States the experiences might be flipped. The desolation of Texas' open spaces might seem fantastic and unreal while the rawness of the food and accommodations might seem adventurous.

When I think of travel I think of the book, On The Road, by Jack Kerouac. The descriptions of various regions always served to remind the reader that wealth and middle class opportunity in the 1950's flowed from New York City and trickled into the south diminished by an evaporation that left the furthest points south in the deepest poverty.

When I see a coin operated telescope I am reminded of the saying among cultural anthropologists who say that there are only two places that have no trash and litter. At one end of the spectrum are areas of extreme poverty where every paper scrap or piece of trash is collected and used for something. Even if it is just gum wrappers to keep open fires going for boiling water. At the other end of the spectrum there is no trash or litter because people are wealthy enough to pay others to perform constant and strict maintenance. It is only the places in the middle that deal with litter. And the area around Saratoga Springs and Lake George was more or less pristine...

A poor family from a different region might see the unattended, coin operated telescope as something that could be wrenched from its moors and sold as scrap metal while a family from a wealthier cohort ignores the object completely because it is part of a constant landscape in which public objects are immune from a certain cultural entropy, one driven by the idea of deprivation.

As a Texan for most of my life I can only say that I love it that objects like this continue to exist, undamaged, as a marker of a time and space that is removed for most of us now. It's a reminder of an age of innocence. It is visual time travel. Like the old American sedans in Cuba.

It's so different to travel on a family vacation to a wealthy, established town in a community with history. I become like every other proud father visiting his kid's college town. Carrying a camera to record all the things that are novel and different with little regard for making art or presenting the visual material in some personal style. Just recording the things that stick out and make this newly discovered locale unique in my catalog of places. And in a year and a half I'll have finished paying for an undergraduate adventure at a private college and we'll collectively move on to the next stage.

I'm back home and trying hard to settle back into this different culture. Everything here is both new and worn at the same time. Pre-fab, tilt wall America. Young people in a hurry. Pretensions of hipness mired in a culture of discount ethos. I guess that's the thing I photograph when I'm seriously working on my own photographs. Every place is still as different as it is the same.

Home from a mini-vacation. The smaller camera and zoom lens was just right.

 I went to New York State last Thursday and now I am back in Austin. And I'm asking myself, "why?" We spent most of our time in Saratoga Springs, luxuriating in the cool, Fall weather and getting to wear sweaters and jackets that normally only see use in January and February here in Austin, Texas. And then there is the appeal of a relatively small town with very little traffic. You can actually park in the a free parking garage in the middle of their downtown ---- in the middle of the weekend!!! Amazing for a boy from the boom town...

Our main mission was to visit our son at college. It was Skidmore's Family Celebration Weekend. Belinda and I say through a class offered to parents, showered our kid with time, money and affection, and generally soaked in the atmosphere of being back on a campus.

The food in Saratoga Springs was uniformly good. They now have a decent Mexican food restaurant for homesick Texans called, Cantina. It's right on Broadway. They've got their soft, corn tortillas down perfectly and their instincts for seasoning and spicing were spot on. Steaks at Max London's,just down the street, were also superb.

This year we added a run up to Lake George while the kid stayed on campus to study. Right now, this instant, the color of the trees is turning and the skyline heading up the highway is a riot of color. We parked in town and climbed Prospector's Peak and were rewarded with spectacular views of the lake and the cascade of technicolor trees marching down majestic hillsides to meet it.

In a previous blog post I wrote that I had decided to take a specific camera but, of course, as we were leaving the house at 5 a.m. on Thursday morning I changed my mind and substituted. The camera I ended up taking was the Sony a6300 along with the 18-105mm f4.0G lens. This combination was smaller and lighter than the ones I had previously selected and, I decided to just go and be a proud parent instead of a compulsive photo-junky. It was a wise decision as I found the a6300 and lens to be the perfect travel companion for a long weekend mini-vacation like this one.

Here's a random selection of images I made this last weekend. I'm happy I went. It's an area I'd like to explore more. And sometime I would like to go, spend a few days around the area, and then hop on the train to Montreal. Could be a fun adventure. But I think I'll wait till next Fall for that...