A Hearty Chuckle

Chuuuu! Chuuu!

The whistle blew as he sat on the steps of his porch and paused his thoughts as the train whizzed by on the railroad tracks that ran from east to west right next to his house. Nuzzling his head between Jerry’s arm and body wrestled Spot, the family’s red, brown dog with a white spot right between his eyes. He stared across the way at his aunt and uncle’s house that sat just beyond the end of his yard.

“I was always a pensive guy. Always deep in thought,” he began as he looked off to his left and scratched his salt and pepper hair. “Probably because I’m the middle child,” he stated. Large came along shortly after his oldest brother was born, taking the all the praise and glory for himself. This fame, however, was short-lived as his youngest brother came along soon after. “That’s maybe why I’m so reserved. My time of fame came and went very quickly,” he said with a deep chuckle.

Looking down at his hands, he fiddled with his fingers as he became lost in his own thoughts. “Spot, he always made me feel special,” he began. As his smile grew, he continued, “I’d be sitting on that porch staring off into the vast nothing and he’d nuzzle his head right here,” he said as he pointed to the negative space between his arm and his body. “All he’d do is sit with me while I got lost in my own thoughts.”

He hiked up his khaki pants as he bent over placing his hand in a parallel position just about a foot and a half above the ground. “He was a mutt, but he was just about this big,” he said. With another hearty chuckle, he put his hand on his forehead saying, “I remember the four of us, my brothers, my dog and I, had wild imaginations, oh gosh,” he began. In between his laughter he described pretending to be surfing in the mud after it would rain.

“My mother would be furious,” he said. “She would yell and yell, at all of us.” Pointing his finger and pushing his glasses down to the tip of his nose, he looked out the top of his glasses saying sternly, “’Look at you. Look at all of you! Look at all that MUD!’ she would say.” He slapped his knee a few times and laughed a chest-heaving laugh once more. After catching his breath, he smiled nostalgically off into the distance.

“She is definitely one of the most influential individuals in my life,” he whispered.

Arching his back and rubbing his plaid covered stomach, he began, “Oh her cooking. To die for.” He looked down at his hands again and raised them to chest level. Placing them about 6 inches apart, he continued, “She’d make a stack of pancakes this big. Then she’d expect me to eat that, toast, bacon, and eggs all by myself for breakfast.” Shaking his head with a grin he said, “How could anyone refuse that? Well that or story time.”

Raising his hands to his face as if he was cradling a book, he closed his eyes and inhaled deeply with a smile saying, “We loved the smell of new books.”

His mother would read to them every night before they went to bed. In their humble abode they had two books: the Bible and 50 Famous Fairy Tales. “That was it,” he said. “And it was all we needed.” She was “keen on education” and wanted nothing short of everything for her sons. “She didn’t go far in school,” he began, “but she wanted us to have everything she couldn’t give us…” After pausing he finished, “but there was nothing else we could have asked for,” he finished, as he got lost in his thoughts once more.

“My uncle,” he said with a sigh, “he was another huge part of my childhood.” He paused for a moment, a moment most needed. “He was the father I never had but always wanted. I didn’t need a blood father. I had him.”

With a quiet chuckle, he raised his head saying, “He taught me how to drive you know. Picked me up from school and all he said was to get in the car.” Large got into the pick up truck after school that day and his uncle drove him down the dirt road to his farm. “He got out of the pick up and jingled a pair of keys in his hand.” Gesturing to his right, “All he said was,” he paused to clear his throat and lower his voice a few octaves, ‘You know how to drive right?’ and all I could do was nod profusely.”

He stalled the small grey car in the dirt driveway that afternoon. After the car had been used for a few months the car stopped working. Storming into his aunt and uncle’s house that afternoon, he yelled at them that the car was a piece of…well it didn’t work. “My aunt yelled at me that day. Told me I was unappreciative. And that not every kid gets a car from his uncle.” Shaking his head, a feeling of disappointment glazed over him as he went back into deep thought. “She was right. My uncle, all he did was calm my aunt down.”

Tears welled up in his eyes as he excused himself. Placing his hand over his eyes, he apologized for his emotions and took a few deep breaths. “He was a great man. When you lose someone, they never really leave.” He sighed. “They still live in each of us.”

He looked off to the side once more, “I always think of him when I think about how I’m behaving. I think of how calm he is and how patient he was.” He looked up with a lighter expression saying, “He’s still with me,” he said as he went back once more into deep thought.

This pensive man is known by his editor to be a “low maintenance” as he “does his job well.” Cathy McLain describes Large as being “soft-spoken” and “easy to get along with,” traits Large himself would attribute to his being the middle child and his short time of fame during his childhood.

Gracious in every way, Large would deny any of these statements made by his editor, claiming he is simply a “hard worker” and nothing more. Though he packs a hearty, chest-raising laugh, one would never hear such a deep chuckle unless they took time to ask about those rainy days spent playing in the mud, the half foot tall stack of pancakes his mother made, or his uncle’s quiet, yet humorous nature.

His mother, his uncle, his childhood, even his dog, he claims has brought him to be the man he is today. One might give a hearty chuckle and add his mother’s famous peach cobbler to that list.

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The Ultimate Cure

“Marco! Where are you guys?” yelled my sister Delainy, as she felt her way around the pool.

“Polo,” we whispered back between giggles, avoiding her.

“Babe, come inside! Its time to….”

“MAAARRCCCOOOOOOO,” she shouted louder and longer.  We kept up the shouting match for another minute, in hopes that we wouldn’t have to stop playing.

CLAP! CLAP! CLAP!

“I said come EAT!”  yelled my grandma as she stomped her left foot on her pebbled ground.  Immediately we all sank to the bottom where the silent buzz of the pool cleaner was all that could be heard.  We could see her standing at the edge of the pool dressed in her usual floral shirt and pink elastic-waisted pants.  But it didn’t matter if we could see her or if she was yelling outside of the water because all we heard was her muffled voice.

As our time underwater ran out we all popped our heads out of the water one by one, each met with the streamline spray of the hose.  “I said come eat,” my grandma said with her eyebrows furrowed.  The seven of us cousins looked at each other and then at her with disappointed eyes.  “I made saim…” she began with a blank look on her face.  But before she could finish, we all pushed each other out of the way so we could get in the house.

We sat around that round wooden table, a small blue pillow for each of us to sit on, seven bowls of saimin in front of us, and Full House playing on the television.  Slowly we each finish slurping up the last of the soup and found our spots on the couch or floor, each curled up in a blanket.  Through our half opened eyes, we watch as she walked around the table gathering our dishes and napkins, picking up our wet towels so she could hang them on the line outside.  Then she made her way around the living room kissing each of our chlorine-drenched heads good night.

Saimin.  It’s been a staple food for me since I was a baby.  In a sense, saimin held its own category in my personal food pyramid.  When I was sick, my grandma would give me saimin instead of chicken noodle soup.  In fact, chicken noodle soup was just unheard of at her house.  After school, we’d be doing homework in her living room and while we worked on our assignments she’d be making saimin for our after school snack.  One could admit, the word “hunger” was another taboo in her house.

Being so far from home, having the same or similar comforts has proven quite important.  I found one of these comforts on a shelf in Costco: a 48 pack of Top Ramen.  Knowing its numerous health hazards, I have refrained from eating it daily, and have taken to leaning on its comforts on a more as needed basis.

College has transformed saimin from being just some tasty noodles and soup loaded with sodium and carbohydrates to a day of fun, followed by a warm, comforting meal, ending with the thought of a loving good night kiss from my grandma, my best friend.

Saimin reminds me of the “sick couch” we used to have in our house.  It was a dark green with colorful stitching running down its cushions.  That couch, which anyone in my family who was sick would lay on all day, is most likely the reason for my allergies today, but it was just another comfort we had growing up.

Some could argue that Saimin is an Asian instant soup with noodles that you can cook on the stove or in the microwave in about five minutes.  Some will describe saimin as having different flavors like beef, chicken, shrimp and original.  They would say beef has a slightly more hearty flavor, its soup having a brown hue.  The chicken flavor is lighter flavor and more of a tan tinge.  The shrimp flavored noodles are in fact slightly fishier, though there is no evidence of fish in its seasoning.  Original is probably the plainest flavor of the four, and yet it still holds so much delicious artificial flavor in it.

While accurate, this description lacks the most essential part, the way it makes the consumer feel.  Every time I finish a hot bowl of saimin, it musters up a warm feeling of satisfaction in me as I sit back and smile.  It creates that comfortable food coma that simply makes me close my eyes and grin.  As my eyes are closed, I remember the pool, the “sick couch”, the blue pillows, the blankets, her pink pants.  I remember it all. And I smile in bliss as I am able to relax once again.

Saimin offers me a sense of delight that no other food could.  My childhood has provided me with a food that will never grow old, or out of style.  Together they bring me peace of mind and the satisfaction I need to cure not only any health issue I may encounter but also my moments of being homesick.  Saimin is in fact, the ultimate cure for any ailment.

Popo & Goong Goong (Grandma & Grandpa)

Popo & Goong Goong
(Grandma & Grandpa)

Territory Wars

Its always an interesting morning when you realize new homeless have moved in.  Or maybe they’ve just moved spots.  But the fun begins when then they get into territorial wars over it.

At about 9:10 in the morning, I found myself walking to work on 10th focusing on putting one foot in front of the other as mornings are not my best time of day.  Right foot, left foot, right foot, left foot.  I soon realized my footsteps were in sync with my morning playlist on my phone.

Up ahead, I saw two men flailing their arms at each other.  With a huff, I flicked my hood on and looked down.  As I walked closer I realized they were trying to get my attention.  Yanking out one of my earbuds, I decided to go with a simple, “What?”

“Well who was here first?” the shorter one asked.

I looked back and forth between two of them and immediately realized what was going on.  They were arguing over who’s corner this would be.

With a smile I replied, “You’re both new.  Find a new post. This belongs to the bearded man with almost black fingers who always asks for coins.”

Slightly wide-eyed and surprised, the two men looked at each other, looked at their hands, looked at me and finally decided to depart in opposite directions.

Good Morning Seattle

How exposed is it?

“It makes me so upset to hear people don’t know that film photography still exists,” says Mary Callahan.  The retired woman rapped, once again, on the door of The Photo Center Northwest on 12th Ave.

Upon entering, she greeted the woman at the front desk and waved to me as she walked away.

Hanging from the walls that lead to the back are black-and-white pictures.  Ahead, Mary glanced up and gestured to the stool by the back desk.  A former student of the photo center, she was now a volunteer who helped with the dark room activities every Tuesday.

“Its such a shame,” she began as she walked to the dark room, “how people don’t know things exist because they simply don’t open their eyes.”

She shared about an article in The Columbian written by Tom Vogt, “Photographer’s parting shots of Mount St. Helen’s lives on.”

“I read the article,” began Mary, “because it dealt with film photography.  New images were found of Mount St. Helens from film discovered in a deceased photographer’s film bag.”  She began explaining somewhat what she could remember from the story.

“Basically, the assistant of photographer Reid Blackburn found a film canister with film from the blast of Mount St. Helens,” she said.  Throwing her hands in the air, she declared, “and some head photographer of the newspaper or whatever had no idea people still developed black-and-white film!”

Upon telling the story of the Mount St. Helens film to the facilities manager at the photo center, Julia Pulliam, she chuckled and wiped her wispy bangs away from her eyes.  “That doesn’t totally surprise me,” she said.  “There are a lot of people out there who have no idea film photography exists.  They think it died along with the dinosaurs.”

Though the practice itself may not be completely extinct, its supplies seem to be a little more scarce than they once were.   The famous Fujifilm made the transition from film to digital in 2000, but didn’t completely stop their film production.  Kodak also went digital around 2000 as digital proved new and innovative.

Today, the chemicals used at the photography center come from EcoPro, a company that supplies odorless chemicals or chemicals with minimal odor.  Julia also listed Ilford Chemistry and Artista Chemistry as other companies that provide the chemicals necessary for film development.

For the paper used to print the photographs, Juila mentioned Ilford being an excellent source and Glazer’s Camera, a local company many film photographers in Seattle use.

Glazer’s Camera, Artista, and Free Style are some companies that still produce film for the cameras.

Michael, an employee of 18 years at Glazer’s Cameras, said their sales have been pretty steady in the yeas he’s been working there.  “But then again, our audience is a very specific one.  We provide supplies they have trouble finding else where so our sales wouldn’t deplete anyways.”

The employee explained that their buyers are generally school art departments, photo developing facilities, photographers and photography students.  Because of this, their number of customers tends to remain consistent.

“If you ask me,” he continued, “film photography is making a sort of a come back.  People enjoy the hands-on idea of it.  They enjoy the aesthetic sense.”

For Larry Kull, a photography supplies distributer here in Washington, the black-and-white film photography is a strong market because it targets a specific group of individuals.  “People enjoy the old-fashion experience of film photography,” he said.

From a distributer’s stand point, Larry’s 32 year old business, Kull Photography, has noticed a decrease in sales as digital photography became popular over last 10-12 years.  Larry claims, “The thought of rolling film, shooting a roll, and developing the pictures just seemed less appealing for a good majority of the population.”

Julia claims, “Film photography is getting popular again because of this whole hipster movement.  They love it. They love being what they think is original.  Maybe being original these days means bringing back the oldies,” she finished with a shrug of her shoulders.

Black-and-white Photography may not be quite as extinct as some may think.  At one point in time film photography may have been endangered, but with the help of the its hands on feel and oldies appeal, film photography has been making a slight come-back in the past few  years after almost a decade of being unpopular.

Gallery

Photos from the Photo Center Northwest

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