Not Big on Beale Street

Memphis 11-23-2015Our family generally headed north to St. Louis instead of south to Memphis, but I suggested that Curator Jessica fly out of Memphis on the chance that I might drive home to Florida for Thanksgiving towing a ski boat for Kid Adam. I haven’t had a chance to check out the boat’s motor and make the trailer roadworthy, so I’m sticking to Cape for Turkey Day.

About the only thing I remember about Memphis is that Dad always warned me not to honk my horn in that town because the noise ordinances were so strict the cops would ticket you for being overly horny.

Mud Island was closed

Memphis 11-23-2015I had hoped to show Miz Jessica Mud Island, but it was closed for the season. We didn’t have a lot of time before her plane left, and we were already down in the Beale Street area, so we elected to park at the Beale Street Landing and walk up to the street known for the Blues and W.C. Handy for a quick bite to eat and to soak up the ambiance.

Let me say I was less than impressed. She and I split a sampler platter that contained some onion rings that were so tough you couldn’t bite your way through them; nachos consisting of a few dry threads of pulled pork BBQ glued to taco chips with plastic cheese, and two nondescript chicken wings.

I had REAL barbecue at the Dixie Pig in Blytheville the next day. Instead of Beale Street onions that could be used for shoe leather, The Pig made theirs with Texas sweet onions that were tender and as sweet as eating an apple.

I felt like a rube

Memphis 11-23-2015I don’t like places like Disney World because they have no soul. I feel the same way about modern Key West. I preferred it when it was a scruffy Navy town with pawn shops every other door and full of disreputable types who had let social gravity sweep them to the southernmost part of the continental U.S.

I know I didn’t give Beale Street enough time, but walking around there made me feel like a rube. I don’t like feeling like a rube.

Reflecting on the Real World

Memphis 11-23-2015I felt much more at home when we hit our parking lot just as the sun was going down and the Mighty Muddy Mississippi River was reflecting in a window. Ahhh, back to the Real World.

It’s that time of year again

Buy From Amazon.com to Support Ken SteinhoffEverybody is getting all excited about Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Overspend Wednesday (I made that one up), so I’m going to join the din.

If you are going to shop Amazon anyway, please go to my blog and click on the big red ‘Click Here’ button at the top left of the page (or, this one). That’ll take you directly to Amazon with a code embedded. If you buy something, I’ll make from four to seven percent of your purchase price without it costing you anything.

Think of it as being your painless Christmas present to me.

Cuban Boatlift Part 1

Cuban Boatlift - Key WestRoad Warriorette Jan and Son Matt nagged at me this morning to dig out some of my Cuban Boatlift photos to go along with the big news that President Obama was going to thaw the Cold War that had been going on since about 1959 or thereabouts.

I protested that I hadn’t even THOUGHT about dipping into my Florida years, but they were persuasive. After about nine boxes, I hit one containing outtakes from the month (minus one day) I spent in Key West watching a flood of people who would change the face of Florida and parts of the United States.

Palm Beach Post May 6

The Post's Cuban Boatlift coverage 05-06-1980I’ll go into more detail and publish more photos after I’ve had a chance to see what I can find. To be honest, my stomach has been a bit iffy today, and I haven’t felt like spending time in front of the scanner.

We sent a team to Mariel Harbor

The Post's Cuban Boatlift coverage 05-06-1980We sent ¬†photographer George Millener and reporter Edgar Sanchez down to Key West to try to talk their way onto a boat going over to pick up relatives. The word was that it didn’t take long to make the 180-mile round trip. They made a quick call saying they were getting ready to depart and that they’d check in as soon as they got back.

We didn’t hear from that day, nor the next. I was director of photography and was working on a project that was going to take me all over the state, so I decided to use that leeway to check on our team since I needed to go to Key West at some point anyway.

As soon as I hit U.S. 1 south of Miami, I was in a convoy of trailered boats. Every boat that wasn’t on a trailer heading south was parked on the roadside with a For Sale sign on it.

At the Key West city marina, boats were being launched two abreast as quickly as inexperienced mariners could back the trailers up. I saw at least one Cadillac go in up to the windows when the driver backed up too far.

I called the office and said this was a bigger story than the wires were reporting and that I needed a reporter to back me up.

Dick Donovan

The Post's Cuban Boatlift coverage 05-06-1980They couldn’t have sent a better guy: Dick Donovan was an old-time Chicago cop reporter who had a reputation for getting to the meat of a story. He would stand next to you, then, just before he asked the zinger question that was going to get the subject to react, he’d give you an elbow in the ribs to tell you to get ready.

I’ll go into more detail about the photo at the top left, but I’ll just say that this was the only time I saw Dick with tears in his eyes.

I had to walk away

It didn’t produce as many memorable photos as I would have liked, but it made some memories I’ll never forget.

I was photographing a little boy about the age of Son Matt playing with a little plastic truck just like Matt had at home. Suddenly I realized what a big change was happening in that boy’s life and wondered what the future held for him. I had to walk away for a few minutes.

A little Cuban nun who might have been stacked 4’8″ at best, put her hand on my shoulder and said in broken English, “I’ve been watching you. You don’t just take pictures. You have a big heart.”

That comment meant more to me than any award I ever won.