Archive for the Martha Category

Compare and contrast

Posted in California, lexington, luttrell, Martha, Mary Margaret on August 2, 2007 by lenscapremoved

I was able to spend tonight with a very good friend of mine who I haven’t seen nearly enough this summer. Allie and I went to a concert together (TV on the Radio) in Cincinnati and got to spend the entire evening together. We chatted about our trips this summer and I got to hear more about her internship and many jobs.

She was talking about how glad she was to be home when she finally got back and I told her I basically spend all of my time wishing I was back in California with Martha and the Pacific. We both agreed that it had more to do with how I stayed rather than who had a better time. Our trips to California were very different. Allie’s was really more of a vacation where as I really felt like I was living there for the summer. I wasn’t a typical tourist, unless of course you’re talking about when we were in Sequoia or Death Valley. Then yeah, we were tourists. But most of the time I felt like I was a member of the community.

In about five hours I’m heading to Louisville to start what will actually be a vacation for me. I’m going with Mary Margaret’s family to Michigan for a week. I’m looking forward to that and already thanking her family for inviting me. Don’t expect much of a travel blog next week. I’m taking a break from this blogging business for a while. It’s too stressful to think this hard about everything this much.

Yeah yeah, I know. I still need to give my final insight on the trip.

I’ll keep the blog updating with interesting sights and what not.


It’s how you deal with it

Posted in California, Hess, lexington, Martha, Mary Margaret, Matthews, road trip, Smiley, Snappers on July 24, 2007 by lenscapremoved

I’m not sure that Ed, Elliott and Keith would agree with me on this but since I’ve been home I’ve felt like I was one of the celebrities that we were accused of taking photos of this summer. Every time I have been spotted for the first time it comes with points of fingers, shouts and commotion. This kind of attention doesn’t interest me at all and honestly the reactions are quite surprising, despite happening over and over. The reuniting of friends and family has been as overwhelming as I would have expected if I had gone abroad for a semester. I’m sorry to be a bummer to all of this, but I feel like if I had just gone to Middlesboro for the summer and holed up for the same amount of time that it would be less climactic.

I hate to even write this blog post because I feel like this will surely come across as ungrateful but I’m nearly certain it’s an abstract road trip and transcendental appearance of Southern California that brings attention to the four of us, not what we’ve gotten out of it. Take any four students and 10,000 miles and I believe you would have a good story. But for every story I have to tell I feel an underlying moral that I learned, some of which I told you about after only two weeks on the road. One of my good friends from home said “I’m sure you feel different” and I told him this summer has changed my life. When asked how, I can’t figure out how, or even why. And not being able to assess it immediately kind of angers me at first, but it’s just too hard to take in all of it at once.
The stats are out and it’s eight thumbs up for this trip’s impact on our lives (despite only seeing five).

I was talking to Elliott about telling stories. People ask to hear about it, and it’s hard to think of anything specific. We both agree that we are more likely to tell stories if we’re just sitting around talking. It’s simple things that remind me of stories. For the first few days I was home I couldn’t stop talking about Martha and her house. I was afraid I was talking about California so much it would be tiring to my family. I was also afraid of seeming ungrateful to be home. I’m starting to figure out it’s OK to miss Ventura, and that liking some parts of it more than home is OK because there are some things about Kentucky that I like more than California. Nowhere is perfect.

My grandfather is doing much better. I don’t want to spill too much about that. I feel like it played such a part in my summer and leaving Ventura that I may do a blog about it. But I do want those of you who have been asking to know he’s much better.

I really need a tripod. This picture only shows you that I in-fact did see fireworks. I probably couldn’t have done much more though since my neighborhood isn’t exactly the most beautiful street in Lexington. More like one of the biggest eye sores in town.

I was finally able to see Mary Margaret last Friday. She met me at my house in Lexington, which sits behind the Red Mile racetrack, and I told her had she gotten there just a bit sooner, fireworks would have gone off right as I kissed her for the first time since I left (there must have been some kind of festival there this weekend, as they shot-off fireworks twice that weekend). My weekend with her went really well. The only thing I really want to tell about it is that the same guy that threw a going-away party that I met her at was throwing another one (officially) before he went back home to London. So Mary Margaret and I were at the same house we were the night we “met”. Ed was there with Alice and Keith was there with Chris Miles…no they’re not partners but Chris was more than excited to see Keith. It was kind of sad that Elliott wasn’t there but he was tying loose ends. I hope all went well for him.

I’ve been back I’ve noticed that I’ve missed out on the bonding that happened between my friends back here in Lexington. I don’t even mind it. My trip was nothing but perfect and one of the best summers I’ll ever be able to enjoy. Two summers ago I went to Spain, Italy, France and Hawaii all in a few months. This summer still beats those two trips. When I left, I was going with three guys who were more like coworkers than anything. Now I feel like we’re carrying something together. This is as best as I can even think to put together how I feel about this. I feel like this year is going to be different for a lot of reasons. I’m interested to see how previous friendships change and three of my new ones keep developing.

I guess you’re noticing this blog post isn’t going anywhere. I’m feeling it too. I thought by now I would have my final post about California up, or at least my recap of the trip. But I’m still not ready. I have one sentence typed of it, and it’s more of a fragment than anything.

It was like home

Posted in Martha, Ventura on July 17, 2007 by lenscapremoved

Photos by Keith

The last day we spent in Ventura we had a job to do. It was one that had been hanging around for a while.
I’m not talking about anything as binding as making the book we set out to make in the beginning of the summer. This job was a bit more of the type of work I’m used to than that, and more rewarding.

Of course, Elliott wanted to jump onto the top of the house so that he could cut the limbs. While he probably would have made it, I’m not sure the chunk he would have taken out of the shingles would have helped the house sell any faster. We finally leaned a ladder over onto the house.

Herald Leader photographer David Stephenson told me one time if the Herald Leader ever fired him, he would take up landscaping. He said it’s just like photography. You think about something, work hard to get the look you want and in the end you can step back and see what you’ve created. I agree with that comparison. So what better than to combine the two in this blog?

One day Dave gave us a reciprocating saw and told us to take it to Martha. We were like, “What could Martha possibly want to do with this thing?” We found out it was what she wanted us to do. Now, I’m not complaining at all. It was nice to have something we could help Martha with, because the whole time we were there she did nothing but give. Martha, if you’re reading this (and I know you are), thanks for everything.

Elliott may have not been the best candidate to put on the roof, he was the best to put in the trash can to squish the limbs. If you’re a quick one, you’ll realize that even though the top pic says photos by Keith that Keith is in this picture. And if you’ve kept up with the blog, you know Ed was gone by this point, so that really only leaves one person to have taken this photo. No! Not Martha!

trees4.jpg    trees.jpg

It doesn’t revolve around you

Posted in California, Hess, Highway 101, lexington, Martha, Ventura on July 16, 2007 by lenscapremoved

The feeling isn’t anything but overwhelming.

I’ve been thinking about everything all at once. In a day and a half Elliott and I drove across the entire country. In 31 hours, we saw the Pacific for the last time this summer and crossed from California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and into Kentucky.

If you read our plans, we had planned on stopping in Flagstaff to spend the night. We got to Flagstaff and I asked Elliott if he wanted to stop. He said no. “Let’s just go on to Lexington” We did.

Living out of a car for that long wasn’t as much of a challenge as we thought it to be. We didn’t’ stop for more than 15 minutes, and most stops averaged about 5 minutes.  So all of our trash built up because Elliott and I really could care less about cleanliness. Our last good meal was the morning we left. The LaBelles and all the members of 237 Pomo went out to eat together for breakfast and Elliott and I were on the 101 by 11 AM. That was the only meal we would have that day since our only attempt at food would be to stop at a Dairy Queen which was so full of Western-rednecks that you couldn’t turn without hitting a shoeless kid in the face with your hip bone or backing into a bra-less mother who was chasing five kids around the Route 66 bumper sticker caddy. We opted to buy snacks (since this DQ was combined with a gas station/general store) and keep going. I had no idea the Snickers bar and bag of chips would be my last for the day.

Somewhere around this part of the trip marks the beginning of a horrible stomach ache for me. I wasn’t feeling so great after only eating beef jerkey and the junk from the first stop. The next morning’s McDonalds catered to my hunger but came along with a bit of a side effect. Symptoms included more nausea and constant word vomitting which mostly pieced together as complaining. Elliott diagnosed it as the whines and I treated it with biting my tongue for as much as possible, at least until someone new called. Then a new symptom came about when I began regurgitating the situation to my new listener.

Martha gave her estimate of how long it would take for us to hit I-40. Looking at a map it didn’t seem like it could possibly take that long. But it did. I shouldn’t have been surprised when she was right. She was always right. But after hitting I-40 we saw a sign that said Wilmington, North Carolina, 2500 miles. We weren’t heading to Wilmington, but it was a bit of a realization of how far we were about to drive because from Ventura to Lexington is about 2200 miles.

Every time I go anywhere I have a tendency to push the limits, or at least that’s what my parents keep telling me. If driving across the country in a day and half doesn’t emphasize that I’m not sure what I would have to tell you to get me to believe it. I didn’t tell my mom what we had done until I was about an hour away from Louisville.

The entire time I had sent vague text messages like, “Slept in New Mexico last night. We’re past Amarillo right now.” Now, I did sleep in New Mexico at about 85-87 mph and we had made it through Amarillo. Heck we were in Oklahoma when I sent that text. But she called me and we chatted a bit. She asked where I was, and I gave another bland answer, something like, “Um, well we’re actually past St. Louis.” This was way farther than we should have been. In reality if we had gone by the planned route we would have been at the end of I-40 in Oklahoma, or about 5 hours from St. Louis when we would stop that night. After a bit more interrogation I told mom what was going on. To my surprise she was more excited that she was going to see me than she was mad. I guess love conquers anger sometimes.

Now I don’t have much to show you as far pictures on the way back. The only pictures I shot were somewhere in Arizona. Elliott was on the phone with intern Britney and I had been watching this beautiful sunset for about 10 minutes in the mirrors. As we topped the hill (yeah they have hills in Arizona!) the road took a beautiful light and reflected the sun and the scene coming through my shaky sideview mirror was amazing. I knew this was my last chance to take the picture I had been debating on, and honestly the best spot I had found. I was riding in the left lane and knew I had a car riding my tail but slammed on the brakes and went into the median. Rocks bounced around and tired skidded to a stop as I was already reaching for my camera and Elliott kept talking as if nothing was going on.

I only shot about 17-20 frames of this, but love two of the pictures. They’re simple yes, but the clouds were amazing. This was the sunset I wish we had gotten in Ventura. We never saw it, but I’ll take this one as a bit of a replacement.

This isn’t a great picture. I just like it because it means something to me. If you remember from earlier in the trip when I was beating myself up over my bad pictures, I was saying that the harder you work for a picture the more it means to you. Well I didn’t work too hard for this but it’s a memory to me.

The same sun that set behind us would be rising in a few hours in front. Elliott traded off with me a few hours after I shot this photo and he drove through the night. I took back over somewhere in Texas only to watch another beautiful sun peaking over the horizon. For two hours it was a spectacular view. If you ever get the chance to drive across the country I beg of you to plan your trip so that you can drive through the night just once. It’s a very powerful feeling to see the sun go down and know you’ve been pushing on the whole time it was lighting the rest of the world when it gets back around to you. I can’t think of a bigger way to realize the world doesn’t revolve around you. But when I was driving and seeing it peek back up over Texas at 5 AM, I felt like it was rising for me.

Left and Leaving

Posted in California, Martha on July 13, 2007 by lenscapremoved

After breakfast with the LaBelle family and Martha tomorrow we head back to Kentucky.

I’m emotionless. I’m not excited. Not Lonesome. Not upset. I’m as blank and empty as I think I could be.
All I feel is nothing.  


Posted in California, Martha on July 12, 2007 by lenscapremoved

This has been my family since the beginning of June. I’m going to miss them over the next few weeks as I go back to Middlesboro, but I’ll be reunited with three of them a bit sooner than the pretty lady in the cowboy hat.

One person has made Ventura, California my home for an entire summer. I’ve been staying at a five star homestead, complete with the following:
* complimentary breakfast
* lunch and dinner
* bedroom (shared by Ed)
* living area complete with recorded Planet Earths
* wireless
* excellent patio
* pool, hot tub (with abusable hours)
* parking
* laundry
* separate bathroom from our host
* BBQ grill at my disposal and complete kitchen
* flower garden to provide excellent nature pictures for our spare time
* complimentary wine
* garage for camping equipment storage
* occasional dessert (not to be confused with the desert that surrounds most of the beautiful California you’ve seen via this blog) from our host’s cousin. If you’re ever in Ojai, I recommend swinging by El Camino (it’s one of the many roads with a huge freaking tree taking an entire lane up) and seeing if Penny has anything cooked up. You won’t regret it.
* our personal concierge, in the sense that we had access to someone who has lived in this area for most of her life and has helped us with advice on everything including parking at this concert we’re going to tonight, roads to avoid and things to try.

If you’ve had your coffee today (Red Bulls, energy pills and yoga are interchangable with coffee I guess), you’ve probably realized that this is more than you get at any hotel. The most important part of where I’ve been staying can’t be crammed into a little bullet so the following ramblings will have to do. But more significant than anything I’ve mentioned, because honestly you could probably get a little less than half of these down at the Crown Plaza if you paid enough, I’ve had someone that I’ve come to love and, like I said before, will miss more than the entire state of California.

Martha and her cat Pug. Every evening the light comes through Martha’s house perfectly to light up her face to make beautiful portraits like this one. I love her house. If I won the lottery today, I’d be buying her house next week. Or at least as soon as I could get my lump sum.

Martha Jansz took us in without knowing anything about us. It wasn’t until after I had already sent her an email about Dave that I found out she didn’t even know Dave. She took more of a chance on us than we did with this stock photo company (which I’ll be honest didn’t bring in any money for us). Martha has opened up her home to us and honestly made me feel like I’m at home when I’m here. From the first day she’s said to make ourselves as if we were home. We joked and said, “We appreciate and respect you too much to do that.” So she said, “Well OK, pretend I’m your grandmother and treat my house like you would hers.” When we were in Death Valley, sweating through everything we had, all I kept hearing from the backseat and occasionally said myself was, “I just can’t wait to get back to Martha’s.” This is home out here.

This house has been our refuge. When we didn’t want to do anything but lounge around and eat frozen food, we came here. After a long morning or night of shooting it’s always been nice to come back here and crash in our own little areas we’ve claimed (which if you’ve been reading Ed’s chair has been heavily competed for by Keith and Elliott since Ed’s departure). I know I keep saying this, but it’s because it’s just how I feel. I’ll miss being in the comfort of this home more than I will this state.

When Dave started talking about bringing us out here he talked about renting a big house and all of us living together. It wasn’t too long before the price of housing in Southern California quickly changed our plans and we weren’t given much choice but to look elsewhere. Dave stays with one of his Western student’s mother (you know Penny) and that’s how we were arranged to stay with Martha.

At first, it didn’t sound like a comfortable situation, mostly because we didn’t know the loving lady we would be staying with. All we knew was she lived alone and had an upstairs. Well, the first part was true but we didn’t find out she lived in a one story until we got here (which doesn’t matter at all since we’ve taken over an entire end of the house, but does suffice an example of how uninformed we were).

This is the first time I realized the excellent light that pours through the house. Unfortunately for this photo I caught it just a little bit too late. But this is our area. I’m sitting on the love-seat. I’ve basically claimed it for me and my giant computer. This isn’t where Ed usually sat, but he joined every now and then to watch Planet Earth or any other show about some poor helpless animal being shredded to bits to feed the predator’s family.

Martha is a witty and loving person to be around. Her personality has clicked so well with ours that being with her is more important than actually doing anything for the past few days. We’ve all made promises of a visit next summer if she’s still in Ventura. For her sake, I hope she’s not; I want her house to sell. When it does, she plans to move to Arkansas until she is able to move to Canada with her daughter. After she is comfortable in Canada we’ve all told her to get ready for another visit from us. As Keith goes into the real world and the rest go on to do whatever, it may be hard to go together, but I feel like in our own time, we’ll all be able to reunite with Martha, no matter where that is.

I already can’t wait to see her again.

Disclaimer: In the main photo you may have noticed Martha is wearing a cowboy hat and holding a beer can. Truth be told, the hat isn’t Martha’s and neither is the beer can. Martha in fact doesn’t own any hat of that sort (to my knowledge) and doesn’t drink anything besides hot tea. Despite Elliott being above me in the photo, he is still several inches shorter and hasn’t grown any since reaching the Golden State. Also, Ed may have a fantastic patchy beard in this photo, but I hear it’s gone and he is actually a good looking guy.

Getting an EDucation

Posted in California, Kernel, Martha, Matthews, Snappers, Yosemite on July 10, 2007 by Keith Smiley

Keith posted this, or at least he’s putting his name on it as if he posted it.

Brad and Ed left early this morning, so early that normal college students were still awake from the night before. Brad came back in an empty car as Ed boarded what was probably an empty plane for the 5:30 a.m. flight from Oxnard to Los Angeles International Airport.

That was about 12 hours ago. Now I feel like I’m just waiting to leave California.

Ed checks to see if fire is hot during the cookout Saturday night.

It’s not that I can’t survive without Ed — I think I can — but his leaving mixes up the entire situation. All my memories of California involve the four of us exploring the state. Now that Ed is gone, I feel like the rest of us need to go so we don’t leave him out of any memories.

More feats of strength: Elliott braces himself as Ed punches through a thick, solid piece of… rotten bark.

I’m not going to lie: Ed’s departure has benefited me, at least in the seating department. Right now I’m sitting in “his” chair and throughly enjoying it; this seat is much more comfortable than sitting at the table. And earlier today I slid the seat back in Brad’s car, giving myself leg room for the first time.
UPDATE: Elliott is sitting in “Ed’s chair.” This begins a feud that probably won’t be resolved before we leave. If you think Elliott should go find his own seat and let me sit in Ed’s chair, post a comment. Think of it as signing a petition for a good cause, without the signature or good cause.

What I’ll miss the most, though, is Ed’s beard, which he decided not to shave until he got home. While he might have won the Patchy Beard Contest early on, it filled in nicely while we were in California:


Nah, I’m just kidding. The snappers are fake, remember? It looks more like this:

There will probably never be another Patchy Beard Contest because Ed has already taken the title for life.

We’re going to be in California for the rest of the week, and there’s nothing stopping me from staying even longer. I don’t have any commitments that require me to be back anytime soon, so I’ll probably take a less direct route back than Brad and Elliott and visit some other friends who are also living out west this summer. But I think I’ll still leave Ventura at the same time; after spending all my time around here with the same people, I think it’ll be too odd to stick around when all the others leave.


I don’t know what we’re doing tomorrow (Wednesday). We don’t really have anything planned, and I really feel like we shouldn’t do anything. It’s not just guilt either; it’s like we’re running at partial strength and just can’t enjoy things as much without one of our cohorts.

More than likely, we’ll run some errands, start planning routes, pack a few bags, that sort of thing. The kind of things you do when you know the adventure is just about done.