Back to New Orleans …

A few weeks ago I went back to New Orleans to visit my son Jack, who is teaching high school in the city for two years with Teach For America. I had been there briefly last year, helping him with the move down. I wasn’t there long enough to see too much, but it was enough to fall in love with the French Quarter and Magazine Street and to feel the heat and humidity that everyone talks about.

Well this time Jack was able to serve as tour guide, take me to some great restaurants and nightclubs, to lead me on walking tours of his neighborhood (Bywater) and Marigny, and speak in depth about his experiences in New Orleans. We rented bicycles, strolled through the new park along the river, listened to some amazing live music, drank some cold ones, watched the Seahawks from a nola sports bar, just generally hung out together.

I have wanted to write about my time there, this time, and to illustrate with some of the photos I took. I feel like I had a very powerful experience, but I just cannot seem to articulate it, or make a coherent statement about all of the emotions coursing through me. And then I came across this passage in Chris Rose’s wonderful, powerful book 1 Dead In The Attic: I’m not going to try to lay down in words the lure of this place. Every great writer in the land, from Faulkner to Twain to Rice to Ford, has tried to do it and fallen short. It is impossible to capture the essence, tolerance, and spirit of south Louisiana in words and to try is to roll down a road of cliches, bouncing over beignets and beads and brass bands and it just is what it is. It is home.”

I must admit that reading that passage made me feel a lot better. But I still want to post a few of my favorite photos. And by the way, among many other attractions, the World War II museum is a must see. Fantastic, powerful, moving, educational.

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But you can’t visit New Orleans without considering Katrina, or what some locals call The Thing. I asked my son if he would drive me down through the lower 9th Ward and show me what it looks like now. I could tell he was uncomfortable doing so. Disaster tourism, etc. But he did. And he was really uncomfortable when I asked him to stop so I could take some photos, but he did. And after my visit, and after reading 1 Dead In The Attic, and after watching Spike Lee’s 4 hour documentary about The Thing, I realized that it was the most moving part of my visit there. That, and watching my son teach a couple of his classes.

Stairway to nowhere
Stairway to nowhere

It is absolutely maddening and disgraceful and heartbreaking and shameful and unforgivable what the city experienced.

Katrina Memorial in the lower 9th Ward
Katrina Memorial in the lower 9th Ward

But then there is Brad Pitt’s Make It Right. An ecologist, architecture enthusiast, and part-time New Orleans resident, Mr. Pitt has assembled a team of architects and builders and helped finance the effort to build new, weather resistant, alternative energy powered homes where a few years ago, there was just mud and rubble. “I”ll tell you, every time I drive over the Claiborne bridge, no matter what frustration I might be dealing with at the moment, I get this well of pride when I see this little oasis of color and the solar panels,” Mr. Pitt is quoted as saying. Residents get to choose the colors and exterior amenities, and so the bright colors of the city live on with a modern flavor.

Make It Right homes
Make It Right homes

And finally there are the “X Codes”, a form of shorthand that FEMA crews spray painted on houses and buildings immediately after the storm, after searching for survivors and casualties. Even 10 years later, some residents have left the X Codes on the wall, perhaps as a badge of honor, perhaps as a way of saying “I am a survivor” or “Let’s not forget what happened in 2005”. The 4 quadrants identify the name of the crew, the date, the hazards within the house, and the number of survivors or fatalities found inside. I even found one X Code that had been permanently recreated as a metal sculpture and mounted directly over the original spray painting (see photo).

 

Bywater X Code
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Wolf Creek Golf Club

the 11th hole
the 11th hole

With all of the golf courses I have photographed or played in my life, I am frequently asked which is my favorite. My favorite course to play is Wing Point, my home course on Bainbridge Island, but my favorite course to photograph is unquestionably Wolf Creek, in Mesquite, Nevada.

If you were to build a golf course on Mars or the Moon or Afghanistan, what would it look like? Probably something like Wolf Creek. With it’s barren, rugged canyons surrounded by red mountains, dramatic elevation changes, rocky outcroppings, strategic water hazards, and lush green fairways, it is a visually stunning but challenging test. Wolf Creek opened in 2000 and has received many awards, including Golf Digest’s Fan’s Choice award as the #1 course to play in the U.S. The fact that someone could look at this piece of property and think “this looks like a good place to build a golf course” shows imagination, courage, and foresight. And at 7018 yards, a slope of 154, and a rating of 75.4, it’s a monster.

Mesquite, Nevada is nestled in the Virgin River Valley near the edge of the Nevada/Arizona/Utah border. A town of approximately 18,000, it’s 80 miles north of Las Vegas, and 35  miles from St. George, Utah. There are a number of other outstanding courses in the area, as well as Zion National Park.

the 12th hole
the 12th hole
the 14th hole
the 14th hole
the 1st hole
the 1st hole
the 18th hole
the 18th hole
the 15th hole
the 15th hole
the 9th hole
the 9th hole

 

 

 

On meeting Jack Nicklaus …

A few weeks ago, Jack Nicklaus came out to the American Lake Veterans Golf Course for the “grand opening” ceremonies of the new nine he designed (pro-bono), even though the course won’t really open for a while yet. His appearance in the Seattle Tacoma area coincided with the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay, and he had a number of events to attend I am sure, so the three and a half hours he spent at ALVGC were just another indication of his generosity and warm feelings to our veterans. For those three and a half hours he never stopped smiling, or signing autographs, or posing for photos with fans. He never grew impatient even though seemingly everyone wanted a piece of him. Ah, the life of being a legend.

For me, it was an absolutely surreal experience, to be in the presence of a man that I have idolized virtually my entire life. For a golf crazy man like me, to meet the greatest golfer in the history of the game just didn’t seem real. But it was really him! The voice that we all know so well, the familiar mannerisms, and when he hit the ceremonial first shot, the swing that won eighteen majors.

Perhaps the most indelible impression I have of him is just the kindness with which he looked at everyone. It was as though he knows that he was bestowed with incredible talents, but that through hard work, perseverance, determination, good fortune, good parents and mentors, a fantastic choice of Barbara to marry, good values, and so on down the line, he made the most of what he was given. And now he and Barbara are giving back in a huge way. Yes he has had some heartbreak along the way, both personally and professionally, but in so many ways he has had a magical life in the greatest game. His kind eyes seem to express a humility that he was somehow chosen to play this role, but that it could have been any of us instead.

I have spent more than a few hours thinking about that kind face, and the paradox of the killer instinct he showed in golf tournaments, the steely gaze he always seemed to have when competing, the incredible will to win. How can those two things co-exist?

Mr. Nicklaus, thank you for the photo with me, for your immeasurable gifts to the game of golf, for donating your design services to ALVGC, for showing the way …10th from fairway First Shot Jack + Trophy JackNicklaus.RS.-2938 Kathy and Jack 1

Sweet, small scale solution to detached housing

Chico Ext 4Chico Ext 6Bainbridge Island’s Wenzlau Architects is doing exemplary work creating, among other things, moderate density, relatively affordable housing. One such project coming to maturation is Chico Beach Village. Seven 2 and 3 bedroom homes ranging from approximately 1600-1700 square feet are clustered on an acre of waterfront property on Puget Sound’s Dyes inlet, near Silverdale, Washington. A collaboration between The Cottage Company and Wenzlau Architects, and built by Fairbank Construction Company, Chico Beach Cottages is the first Built Green 5-Star and Energy Star Certified community as certified by the Kitsap Home Builders Association.

When you look over Wenzlau Architects’ website and particularly their multi-family projects, some words and phrases keep appearing, like low-impact, sustainable, ecological, moderate density, common spaces for developing a sense of community, courtyards, open spaces, sense of place, small scale solutions to detached housing, and energy efficient. As a Bainbridge Island resident for 24 years, I view Charlie Wenzlau’s work as having had a totally positive effect on my community, as showing the way on how to build forward thinking, energy efficient, aesthetically beautiful mini-communities. He minimizes the presence of cars, hiding garages behind the courtyards. And as you can see by these photos, the network of paths create a gentle flow amongst the maturing landscape. Well done, Charlie.Chico Ext 7Chico KitchenChico Living Room

Progress at American Lake Veterans Golf Course new nine

I have previously written and posted about the new nine holes under construction at American Lake Veterans Golf Course, down in Lakewood, Washington. The course is primarily for veterans, and particularly injured veterans, to enjoy golf and all of it’s benefits. The course is entirely run by volunteers, and is a truly inspiring place to visit. Jack Nicklaus donated the design of the new nine, but $5,000,000 was needed to be raised from private donors in order to acquire the land and construct the course, and this goal has mostly been met.  My photographic efforts have been made with the idea of helping the fundraising. As you can tell from these progress photos, they are close to being able to seed, and things are progressing nicely. For me personally, it has been fascinating to observe how a course is constructed. It’s no wonder they cost so much to build! I think you can also see that the new nine is going to be a beautiful test, with numerous old oak and fir trees, elevation changes, bunkers, and some fairly narrow fairways. So cool! More fundraising is needed, so if you are so inclined, please help: http://veterangolf.org … Also, here is an article about Jack Nicklaus’ efforts, and love for this project.DSC02083 DSC02069 DSC02059 DSC02035DSC02029DSC02051

Homage to timberframe construction

Timberframe construction, or post and beam, is a traditional, even ancient, method of building with heavy, squared off and carefully fitted and joined timbers, secured with large wooden pegs. It is derived from making things out of logs and tree trunks, before the advent of high tech saws, and has been used for literally thousands of years in some parts of the world — a half timbered building was discovered in the ruins of Vesuvius. The North Church in Boston, built in 1723 and made famous in the legend of Paul Revere, has held strong for three centuries.

With the arrival of industrial mills and thus “dimensional” lumber, timberframe construction lost favor and light frame or stick building became prevalent. But in the 1970’s the timberframe tradition began to be revived and today there are a number of companies carrying on the practice, although with modern improvements in insulation, design, and more.

The “topping out” ceremony is a builders rite, with a bough or small tree attached to the peak of the timberframe. The master carpenter would give a speech, make a toast, and break the glass. Additionally, carpenters would frequently carve their initials in hidden spots, not to be discovered until the carver was long gone.

The photos illustrating this post depict a masterful piece of timberframe design and construction. Kudos to Peter Stoner Architects, and to the joiners and carpenters and stone masons, and to the home owners. This is definitely one of my all time favorite projects I have ever photographed.Art Barn 3Art Barn 8Art Barn 4100K8137Living RoomKitchen 1

the French Quarter

02 03  In July I drove down to New Orleans with my son Jack, who was moving there to teach high school, having just graduated from the University of Washington. It was my first visit, and being a photographer, of course I absolutely fell in love with New Orleans in general, and the French Quarter in particular. For someone with an unquenchable desire to shoot buildings and architecture, the Quarter represents Disneyland on steroids, the most colorful residential district imaginable, with seemingly every possible combination of colors represented.

Most of the buildings in the Quarter (or Vieux Carre, meaning “old square” in English) date to the late 1700’s or early 1800’s, a period of Spanish rule in that part of the country, and before the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. The architectural style of most of the buildings is Spanish colonial.

In 1815 Andrew Jackson led the Battle of New Orleans, emerged victorious, and went on to be elected President. Jackson Square is one of the major landmarks of New Orleans and the Quarter.

The French Quarter is a rich melting pot of cultural, religious, culinary, artistic, and linguistic influences. The list of musicians and writers who have come from NOLA includes Jelly Roll Morton, Al Hirt, Louis Armstrong, William Faulkner, Sherwood Anderson, Tennessee Williams, and Truman Capote, to name just a few. At different times, different ethnic groups have had major influence, including Italians, Irish, French, Spanish, Cuban, German, 070605and French Creoles. Later the Quarter was host to a vibrant bohemian artistic community, the low rents, the exotic, risque, and raucous entertainments, the bars and restaurants and galleries and street musicians and live music all attractive to the free spirits who moved into the neighborhood. Even today, the French Quarter is one of the few places in America where possession and consumption of alcohol in open containers on the street is permitted. Walk the streets and you will encounter street performers, musicians, fortune tellers, tarot card readers, caricaturists, painters, numerous foreign languages, and great food everywhere. And btw, it’s pronounced like “nawlins”.