Thursday, September 29, 2011

Simply, The Wedge!

Robert Bemus
I know less than almost nothing about the sort of surfing that Robert writes about in "Simply, The Wedge."  But I have seen a LOAD of photographs of it, and my sense is that Robert Bemus is among the premier surfing photographers on Planet Earth.

But not only that, his last post here was one of the most popular stories ever to appear on this blog.  He has a sparkling wit and an unusual writing style that you'll find to be ever so refreshing.

This story and its amazing photos aptly illustrate a strange and wonderful obsession with conquering the biggest and wildest waves in the WORLD!

Robert writes:   Warning: The following pictorial contains scenes of extreme vacuousness and surfboard gore. People with IQs over about 40 should consult a doctor, shrink, priest, rabbi, imam, shaman, surf dude, etc, before viewing this material.

Enjoy the entertainment that follows, and please leave a comment at the bottom of this post, if you enjoyed this Tale of Relentless Pursuit.


Thanks for stopping here to see the latest post. I'd love to know what you think of the "Relentless Pursuit" series. Please leave me a comment below or email me with your suggestions on what you'd like to see on this blog. Also, PLEASE click the green SU icon at the bottom of this post to recommend the blog to Stumble Upon members. It will dramatically increase the "exposure" of our authors' work.

If you have a story to post on this theme, contact me. And be sure to take a look at my Photography site. I'd love to hear from you! Also, consider forwarding the link to "Relentless" to your friends and family. Thanks again!


Simply, the Wedge -  by Robert Bemus

Located on the southeast corner of the Balboa peninsula, the Wedge produces some of the largest and most powerful waves in Orange County, CA. For the sake of brevity, I will just say that it is now ridden by all types of surfers – body surfers, ‘boogie’ boarders, stand up surfers, etc. – but it started out primarily as a body surfing spot.

Large ocean swells generated either from storms south of the equator or hurricanes off the coast of Mexico march northward and explode upon this little corner of man-made jetty and sand.  When that wave breaks, all that water and kinetic energy have nowhere to go except back to sea. When that sea-bound wave meets the next incoming wave, the combined energy of both waves creates a pitching, frothing horseshoe-shaped mountain of water.

Heroes are applauded, bones and boards broken, egos smashed and occasionally a person is killed.

The Wedge generally breaks from late spring to early fall.

The best time to photograph it is in the afternoon as the sun is behind you. It’s a good idea to cover your camera with a towel or plastic because of all the spray and moisture in the air.

Here are a few of my shots taken in 2010 or before.

Wedge Example

 A very small wave for Wedge standards but you can see that horseshoe effect created when the side wave meets the incoming wave.


Water Over the Jetty
Wedge Spectators
These three shots were taken 7/25/09 on one of the largest recent swells. As I recall, this swell originated off of New Zealand or the Pitcairn Islands—somewhere south of the Equator.  Note the size of the boat compared to the wave. If the waves are breaking over the jetty that means it’s huge.

Whenever there is a large swell, it is a well publicized event and people flock to see the action. It’s kind of like NASCAR for the beautiful people. If you should be so fortunate to be in Newport Beach when the Wedge is breaking, good luck finding a parking space. These shots, by the way, were taken from the bluff in Corona Del Mar.

Body-Boarder Aerial

Here’s a body-boarder (also called ‘sponger’ or ‘booger’) doing an aerial on a small Wedge wave.  Although body-boarding is a skill that is more readily developed than standup surfing or even bodysurfing, it takes very good timing and a lot of courage to perform a maneuver like this.

He Left His Head
If there is ever a photo contest with a monthly theme of ‘I left my head,’ this will be my entry. This is what happens on a booger’s failed aerial attempt. His friends re-attached his head with some wetsuit glue and duct tape. He is now left-handed and drives his car in reverse all the time but other than that, fully recovered.

Drunk and Hummingbird

This guy was too drunk to walk so he went for a swim at the Wedge. Don’t know if he took his pants off or if they were removed by a wave (a wave with a sense of humor, Robert?). 

Any of youse photographers reading this, have you ever entered a photo contest where you just knew your image would win First Place? Me neither. But I really liked this hummingbird shot and showcased it here to clone out the young an’s (   .)  I imagine since the guy was drunk and disorderly in public he was probably taken straight to the hoosegow (i.e. "jail"). Nothing like a buck naked ride in the back of an air conditioned police car to sober you up.

Not that I have any experience in that.

One more comment about this shot. Taken late afternoon: great front-lit lighting. Be glad I used the hummingbird clone stamp.

Shoulder Hopping
This wave belonged to the standup surfer. The booger is doing here what we call ‘shoulder hopping.’ It’s annoying when someone shoulder hops you on a small day. It’s dangerous on days like this. Some of the largest waves I have witnessed on this day (8/25/10) at the Wedge.

Surfboard Carnage

Gene Pool
“Just when I thought you couldn't possibly be any dumber, you go and do something like this... and totally redeem yourself!” (Harry Dunne, Dumb and Dumber, 1994)
I’m not sure what these guys were trying to accomplish here. I was disappointed that the wave that wiped them out wasn’t a lot larger. They lived and are now potential donors to the gene pool.

Shot From Water
I shot this in 2008 on a small (by Wedge standards) 4-6 foot day. My camera was in my watertight aluminum housing which was attached to my wrist with a nylon leash. I nearly had my hand ripped off when I went under a wave and since then have remained on the beach to photograph the place.

Beauty and Bravado
This shot shows the beauty and power of the Wedge and the absolute bravado it takes to ride there.

Thank you for looking!!

For video footage of the Wedge, just Google ‘YouTube wedge.’

  All photographs by Robert Bemus

Robert Bemus' Biographical Sketch:

In October, 2003, Robert was taking a Journalism class at a local college when a reporter from the Orange County Register gave a lecture on photo journalism. He went out the next day and purchased a Canon Rebel DSLR. He forgot to go back to the class and has been taking photographs ever since. He has received various awards on website contests such as and His work has been published on and he recently won the Surfline Photo Challenge for November, 2010.

He has a BA in English from Cal State University, Long Beach, has five grown children and currently works for a large cellular service provider. He spends most of his free time either surfing or photographing surfers.

You can see more of Robert's photography work at his website.


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*** This Blog Needs Your Story! *** { I'm Serious!} If you have a story to post on this theme, contact me, please! We have only one possible story on tap. Give your imagination a stretch--your story can be about any sort of Relentless Pursuit, fact, fiction, poignant, or humorous. I'd love to hear from you and work with you on your story! And we need to keep this theme going! And if you have a few moments, please stop by my web site and have a look around.
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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Fish Tales - Part 1

Bob Cammarata

A frequent contributor to this blog, Bob Cammarata is a consummate Adventurer, superb wildlife photographer, and a just-plain-wonderful story teller.  So it isn't surprising at all that he can also weave a fascinating "Fish Tale!"  Here he takes you on a harrowing journey that you won't want to miss.  There are some good lessons to learn for anyone planning to emulate the guys in "A River Runs Through It!"  Last weekend I met a woman who had broken her leg in two places when she lost her footing on some slippery river rocks while fly fishing!  Enjoy this quick read and Bob's gorgeous photography as you find out how he lived to tell the story!

Here are links to Bob's previous Tales of Relentless Pursuit:  On Snake Mountain , Next Stop Oz , and When Mother Nature Lends a Hand .


Thanks for stopping here to view the latest post.  What do you think of the "Relentless Pursuit" series?  Please leave a comment below or email me with your suggestions on what you'd like to see on this blog.

Also, I'd very much appreciate a click on the green SU icon at the bottom of this post, to recommend the blog to Stumble Upon members. It will dramatically increase the "exposure" of our authors' work.
If you have a story to post on this theme, contact me.  And be sure to take a look at my Photography Site.  Also consider forwarding the link to "Relentless" to your friends and family.  Thanks again!
  Michelle Alton


“It has always been my private conviction that any man who pits his intelligence against a fish and loses, has it coming”.

  John Steinbeck

It’s the narrowest of bridges which separates pastime from obsession. More often than not, only the clinically trained mind can accurately discern between the two. Since my passion for nature photography originally emanated from sport fishing, it’s easy for me to draw parallels between the two.

Both involve acquired species knowledge, the incessant accumulation of expensive tools and gadgets, endless experimentation, travels to exotic locales, and a LOT of patience infused with just the right splinter of luck. Of course, both obsessions are awash with those harrowed tales of misfortune, and of missed opportunities from “…The Ones that Got Away”. So therein lies the fuel for obsession.

As the true sportsman of those earlier years, I vowed to release all of my catches to fight another day so whenever I ventured afield armed with rod and reel, a trusty pocket Instamatic camera always traveled with me so I could document the trophy fish I was releasing. (…mainly to prove to my buddies that I wasn’t just telling fish stories.)

Later, as my angling success and photography improved, I was invited to lecture at local fishing clubs and other public gatherings. To augment my slide shows with a few action sequences, that cheap point-and-shoot camera eventually mutated into a comprehensive 35 mm arsenal…complete with several motor-driven film bodies, a half-dozen lenses, teleconverters, filters, flash units, a compact tripod, and various remote triggering devices. The full pack weighed in excess of 25 lbs. and was carried on my back while wading in slippery streams or negotiating treacherous river rapids.

As one might imagine, working in and around water and slippery rocks with expensive (and heavy) photographic equipment suggested obvious challenges, so preparatory measures had to be implemented. Each photographic component was individually wrapped in a soft felt bag, then double-sealed in a  gallon-sized  Zip-Loc plastic bag. This inexpensive waterproofing system, although quite effective, made shooting “on the fly” literally impossible since it required several minutes of set-up time to find dry ground, pull everything out, then unwrap and assemble the necessary equipment for the intended shot.

But having the ability to “get in the shot” and shoot action sequences while in the field made the extra work worthwhile.

Landing a Small-Mouthed Bass

As all fishermen (and photographers) know, the last thing we want to have happened is to find ourselves lacking requisite tools in situations which cannot be duplicated. This thought was foremost in my mind early one warm summer day as I assembled my gear before venturing south toward the rivers of central Virginia. My goal was to accumulate a few action photos for an up-coming presentation on river smallmouth bass fishing, which was to be held at my local chapter of Trout Unlimited. It was crucial to avoid being many miles from home and find myself saying, “…Boy, I really wish I’d brought my (whatever) for this!”


My river of choice that day was the Rapidan. A large tributary of the Rappahannock, the meandering Rapidan River is characterized by sporadic, raging rapids and an intermittent succession of long, boulder-strewn pools. It’s a large river, by eastern standards, and impossible to wade except during the driest months of late summer. Fortunately for me, the East was experiencing a severe drought that year so the usual strong currents of the rapids were reduced to ankle-deep trickles, which were a cinch to navigate. Despite the drought, the crystal clear pools were still too deep to  wade effectively so I was forced to remain close to the banks where I could safely walk along in waist-deep water, casting into the depths in search of my bronze-backed quarry.

A Hefty Bass
The day was progressing as expected. The wading was relatively easy, a few nice smallmouth bass had succumbed to my presentations and I was successful in getting my photos. My heavy pack was burdensome, but as mentioned before,  it was satisfying knowing that the proper tools were there when needed.

Around mid-day, I found myself half-way through a particularly long pool when I noticed that the water on my side of the riverbank was getting progressively deeper. It soon became apparent that I could wade no further upriver without the bottom of my back-pack getting wet, so I was forced to temporarily abandon the river.

This scenario had happened before, and it was usually an easy chore to climb the riverbank into the woods and walk around the deep stretch until the water was once again, shallow enough to return. …Not this time!

Here on the  Rapidan, the riverbank was a high, near-vertical expanse of slippery red clay.

Those who are familiar with river fishing on foot are aware that wet, felt soles and clay don’t "play well" together. My initial attempt at scaling the slippery slope while holding a fishing rod and wearing the heavy pack was deemed a crusade in futility. It was as if I were running in place but getting nowhere so I opted for an alternate strategy.

I removed the pack and jammed it safely into the only dry spot I could find in the crotch of a large sycamore growing along the river’s edge. The plan was to attempt to scale the muddy clay bank without being weighed down by the pack or the fishing gear. Once into the woods, I could pull the gear up the bank with a piece of rope I had stashed. (I told you that I packed everything.)

Tying one end of the rope to my belt loop, and using the trunk of the big tree as a starting point, I scurried northward toward the top of the slippery bluff. With my hands and feet working in unison, I somehow made it to the top on the very first attempt. I grabbed onto a sapling for support and noticed that the spot I’d chosen to climb out was covered in briars.

As I held on there assessing the situation, my felt-soled wading boots, now covered in mud, lost what little grip there was. I landed on my chest but somehow managed to turn over and began sliding on my butt back down toward the river, plunging vociferously into the water. When I regained my composure, I noticed that my cap had decided not to make the trip. It was waiting for me at the top of the bluff…left dangling there swinging in the breeze like some bizarre trophy amidst the prickly briars which had callously plucked it from my head.

My long time fixation never to abandon a fallen soldier was put to the ultimate test when repeated attempts to reclaim the hill were met with disastrous results…especially since now, I was soaking wet! It wasn’t long after I was completely covered in slick red mud that I decided to give up on trying to climb out of the river or re-claim the cap. My only viable option was to back-track a quarter-mile downriver where the water was shallow enough to cross to the other side.

After cleaning off as much of the slick mud as possible, I re-donned the pack, grabbed the fishing gear and began the arduous trek downriver. It was nearly an hour before I could see that the river was beginning to shallow. Eventually, I arrived at a location where I could clearly see the bottom all the way to the other side and decided that this was likely the best place to cross. The clear water was waist-high as I began the journey toward the middle of the pool and became even shallower as I progressed further.

Yeah…this was a smart move. This would be a breeze!

I was almost to the other shore when the water began to get progressively deeper. With the end so clearly in sight, it was too late to turn back. I had to keep pushing forward.
I removed the pack and balanced it on top of my head. With one hand supporting the pack and the other controlling my wading staff, I gripped my fishing rod firmly in my teeth and began inching forward.

The depth of the gin-clear water was deceptive to the eye and before long, I was in up to my chest. I figured,  “No problem! … I can do this!” When the level of the water reached my neck and began lapping at my chin I began to worry a little but, as the level seemed to be stabilizing at that depth, I pushed forward. “…This is good!…I can do this!”

The end was so close I could almost taste it.  I stood on my toes to squeeze out a few more precious inches and stepped forward…but this time, the bottom was no longer there to meet me!

I plunged under water and came up sputtering and thrashing. My arms were flailing as I gripped the backpack and attempted to swim those precious few more yards toward the shallows. Finally, the bottom was there to meet my feet and I dragged myself out of the water and onto the safety of dry ground. During the melee, I’d dropped my fishing rod but knew it could be easily retrieved later. My primary concern was for my delicate camera equipment, so I immediately pulled everything out and assessed the damages.

Miraculously,  everything survived! The Zip-Loc bags held out the water and everything inside was bone-dry. For that I was relieved but there still remained the task of retrieving the fishing rod which rested on the bottom in nearly seven feet of water. One deep breath and a dive later, I was back at the shore repacking everything for the journey back to the car.

That fateful summer day on the Rapidan River in central Virginia is a reminiscence to be treasured. Times spent in relentless pursuit of what we love is what keeps us going. We should be truly thankful for the experiences and lessons we learn along the way.
(I’m just thankful that I learned how to swim!)

  All photographs by Bob Cammarata

Bonus Photos:
(Note: Some of these were scanned from old Kodachrome slides and are nearly 25 years old.)

Crankbait Bass

Day's End

Flyrod Bluegill

At Streamside

Flyrodding the Susquehanna

Leaping Shad

Fall Fishing on Meadow Run
Water Works

Bob Cammarata's Bio Sketch:

I am a Maryland photographer who specializes in nature in all its forms.

For as long as I can remember, my love for the outdoors has inspired me to capture nature's beauty and intrigue. My primary interests photographically involve traveling the country and getting up close and personal with subjects in nature. My travels have taken me to every corner of the U.S. and parts of Canada but in today’s economy, it’s becoming evermore difficult to plan a road trip unless it’s all downhill!
I prefer to shoot in full-manual 100% of the time because I believe that it affords the ultimate in control and accurately represents the challenges and rewards that this great art has to offer.

I’m an active member of and a regular contributor to their Forums and Newsletters. My photos have been published in business brochures and on Bugguide and other popular wildlife sites and many have been sold as fine art prints.

Lately though, I do this for fun. 

I believe photography to be the therapy which keeps one sane in a crazy world.

Feel free to visit my website at

Please Note:

*** This Blog Needs Your Story! *** If you have a story to post on this theme, contact me, please!  We have no stories on tap at this moment.

Stretch your imagination a little--your story can be about any sort of Relentless Pursuit--fact, fiction, poignant, humorous, or even harrowing!  I'd love to work with you on your story!  It would be wonderful if we could keep this theme going indefinitely!  Or suggest a new theme!  There have been some truly fabulous posts over the last several months. Why not add yours to the anthology?

My sincere thanks to you for stopping by.

Michelle Alton


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Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Red Scent - by Joe DiGilio

Joe Digilio

"The Red Scent" is the third installment of Joe DiGilio's "Rainbow" triology that includes "The Green Light" and "The Blue Ladies."  In fact, it is actually the sequel to "The Blue Ladies,"and you should really read that one before you continue.

Joe claims that his stories are fiction, but I have just a little shadow of doubt about that., and so will you!  Either way,Joe weaves the plot with such aplomb that  I predict that you will NOT want this story to end!  See how the latest Relentless Pursuit winds down.

If you enjoy this new story, please leave a comment for its author below or email me.  He really appreciates your feedback as do I!


Thanks for stopping here to see the latest post. I'd love to know what you think of the "Relentless Pursuit" series. Please leave  a comment below or email me with your suggestions on what you'd like to see on this blog.

Also, I'd very much appreciate a click on  the green SU icon at the bottom of this post to recommend the blog to Stumble Upon members. It will dramatically increase the "exposure" of our authors' work.

If you have a story to post on this theme, contact me. And be sure to take a look at my Photography site. I'd love to hear from you! Also, consider forwarding the link to "Relentless" to your friends and family. Thanks again! 
  Michelle Alton


The Red Scent By Joe DiGilio

Bald-Headed Mannequins are Comical

It has been 2 years since poor Lenore lost her head for me.  Since then I’ve noticed a change in the look of mannequins in the show windows of Midtown Manhattan boutiques.  They are almost exclusively faceless or headless. The few shops that still use figures with heads and faces use very old ones whose expressions are almost comical.   Is it the intention of designers to minimize distraction from the product on display, or could it be Lenore’s courage ignited some kind of revolution in the ranks of the bewitched.  I find myself entertaining these thoughts as I walk back and forth from Penn Station to my office on West 46th Street.


Lately I’ve focused my camera and attention on people walking the streets of Manhattan, tourists and other commuters mostly.  My targets are random and my intention is to be unobtrusive.  Lots of people walk around New York City with cameras hanging around their necks so my doing so doesn’t really distinguish me from the masses.  I maneuver through the crowd looking for interesting faces and “get ups” or find a post where I can blend in with the surroundings and catch passersby unaware.

I was doing my sidewalk photographer thing late one summer afternoon when, through the crowd, I noticed an attractive, shapely, dark haired woman approaching.  I had just moved from shade to bright sunlight at the intersection of 34th Street and 7th Avenue.  Once you cross this street you are back in shade again so I never make adjustments for that short span.  She was too close anyway; I just looked at her and smiled.  Our eyes met, hers narrowed into a frosty glare.  There was no trace of a smile as we drew closer.  Her gaze made me feel uncomfortable and I looked aside.  As we passed I detected a delightful fragrance.  I inhaled deeply; was that her scent or another’s carried my way on the gentle summer afternoon breeze?  I didn’t look back.  The memory of the scent lingered. On the train home I thought about her but I couldn’t make a connection.  No matter, the chance of encountering her again in Manhattan was remote.

About a week later, I was walking through the Fashion District when I spotted the woman’s icy stare through the crowd.   I didn’t think she saw me.  I tried to get a picture but I couldn’t get a clear shot and avoid her eyes at the same time.  I continued on my way and came upon a photo shoot at the next corner.  A tall, dark Asian model wearing blue spiked heels and a 1940’s hair style was posing for a couple of photographers so I stopped to steal a few pictures.
The 7th Avenue Strut
While I was framing a shot I heard the distinctive click of high heels approaching from behind.  Soon the sound was accompanied by a heady bouquet of perfume.  It filled my senses and I wondered if the woman wearing it was as exotic as the fragrance she wore.  I continued to shoot not wanting to appear aroused or anxious but my curiosity got the better of me.   I came up for air and a peek; it was "Frosty", the mystery woman.  She was lovely indeed, wearing a smile and a sultry black clinging dress, slit up the side to mid-thigh, stiletto heels, and a knowing kind of smile.
Blue Spikes

“Are you a professional photographer?”
“No, I’m an amateur.”
“Are you any good?”
“I do alright.”
“I’ll bet you do.  I collect photographers.  Do you have a portfolio or a website I could look at?”
“Why don’t you give me your information and I’ll check you out.  If I like what I see I’ll be in touch.  How does that sound?”
“That sounds good.”  I handed her my card.
“My name is Joe, what’s yours?”
“I’m L. W. Craft.  You can call me Crafty; nice to meet you Joe.”  She shook my hand and moved very close to me.  Her perfume was intoxicating. “I have a good feeling about you.”  And she handed me her card,  L. W. Craft  Modeling  Agency.
We made small talk for a few minutes and I took a couple more pictures of the leggy Asian beauty.  I sure liked the unique smell of the perfume Crafty was wearing.  I inhaled deeply before excusing myself. I had to catch a train.
My cell phone rang at 10 AM the next morning.
“Good Morning Joe.  This is Crafty, remember me?”
“Good Morning; sure I remember you. “
“I checked out your website and I was very impressed.  Have you ever shot any fashion models?”
“No, not really, I haven’t.”
“Oh, well would you like to give it a try?”
“Sure I would!”
“Come to my studio at 5 PM and we’ll talk.”
“See you then.”

The rest of the morning and afternoon crawled by.  For a while all I could think of was having the chance to take some pictures professionally.  Then the little voice in my head called me back to Earth and reality.

 I arrived at Crafty’s studio at 5PM sharp.  It was on 37th Street, off 7th Avenue in the heart of the garment district.  The door to her loft displayed the security sticker of Jewelers Protection Services, a former employer of mine that was bought by a company that was bought by a company more than 20 years ago.  Her suite was cool, clean, well lit, and freshly painted.  There were a couple of mannequins in the corner, camera equipment and studio lights were set up.  It looked like a professional operation.  Because it’s my business I always take notice of alarm systems.  This one was an antique.  Most likely it hadn’t worked for years.  She greeted me at the door wearing a tight black skirt, heals and a revealing white blouse.

“Hi Joe, glad you could make it.  I’d planned to have a beautiful, young model here for you to photograph but she called about 15 minutes ago and told me something came up and she couldn’t make it.  Say, I noticed some images of mannequins in your gallery and I have a couple here at the studio.  I know it’s not the same but would you mind photographing them?”
“No, not at all.”

Lenore and Irene:  The Blue Ladies
These mannequins had heads and faces. I was sure I heard Crafty whispering under her breath as she dressed them for the shoot.  That made me thinks of sweet Lenore and her sister Irene and wonder what ever had become of them.  I shot the pictures and told her I’d e-mail the images to her in the morning.

“I’m hungry Joe; would you care have dinner with me?”
“Thanks Crafty but I already have dinner plans. Perhaps another time.”
“How about a glass of wine then?”
“I’ll take a rain check.  I never drink on an empty stomach.”

“Joe, you’re hurting my feelings,” she said pretending to be heartbroken as she put her arm around my shoulder and drew me close.  That’s when my sinuses filled with the scent of her fragrance.  It was like she had just put it on.  I think I got a little weak in the knees.  I needed air.
“I can’t remember the last time a man turned me down twice in the same day.  I won’t bite you Joey.“

“Don’t take it personally Crafty.  You are a very attractive woman and I’d love to have dinner and a drink with you some night, just not tonight.  I have plans this evening.  I really have to run now and catch a train.  I’ll be in touch.  Good night.”

I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.  Once outside I took a couple of deep breaths.  The fresh air helped but that scent lingered in my head.   Crafty’s perfume was overpowering and so was she.  I told myself, “This woman is DANGEROUS Joe; keep your guard up.  You know what they say, when it’s too good to be true it usually is.”  I felt a headache coming on and wondered if I had overdosed on perfume.

Lenore in Shadow
 I fell into a deep sleep on the train ride home to Bethpage.  I dreamt of Lenore and her predawn winter morning whispers to me from the boutique show room window on 6th Avenue two years earlier.  I dreamt about her warning me to stay away, her fear of Lotta’s wrath, and I felt guilty for not having helped her get free.  Then I was awakened by the conductor’s announcement; “Next stop Bethpage.”  My head was stuffy; a trace of fragrance still lingered.

After dinner that night I downloaded the images of the mannequins I had taken at Crafty’s loft earlier. As I reviewed the images I noticed one of the mannequins wasn’t in focus in any of the shots in which it appeared.  Close examination made it appear to be some kind of double exposure. Closer examination revealed that the blurred images resembled Lenore.

I edited the images and sent all but the imperfect ones to Crafty for her approval.
It was a cool summer night; perfect for sleeping with the windows open but I didn’t sleep well; I had too much on my mind.  I had to find out; I had to know.  What if the L in L.W. Craft stood for Lotta?   What if Lenore was a prisoner in that loft?

I packed a small black duffle bag with dark clothing and a few hand tools and caught the 4:30 AM train.  It was still dark when we arrived at Penn Station.  I went directly to Crafty’s building at the corner of 7th Avenue and 37th Street.  Her second floor windows were dark.  There was some kind of work being done on the façade of the building; a scaffold had been constructed on the 37th street side of the building to protect pedestrians from being struck by falling debris. There was no sign of activity except for the lobby attendant going about his business.

The Scaffold on the Corner of 7th Avenue and 37th Street

Joe Watched and Waited from the Coffee Shop Across the Street

I went to the coffee shop across the street and sat at a table with a view so I could keep the place under surveillance while I drank coffee and ate breakfast.  After two hours and 5 cups of rich Colombian I was pretty jittery and my bladder was about to burst.  I knew if I got up to relieve myself I’d miss something but a man has to do what a man has to do.  Sure enough when I returned to my table the second floor lights were on.  I needed to know if Crafty slept there or not.  So I crossed the street to see what I might be able to glean from the lobby attendant. I was greeted immediately by a friendly face and a wide smile when I walked up to his station.

“Good morning sir, may I help you?”
“Yes, thanks; can you tell me what time L.W. Craft gets in?”
“Sure, she arrived just a few minutes ago; gets in about 7:45 every morning.”
“Will you be going up?  I’ll announce you.”
“Not just now; I’m going to take care of some other business I have in the neighborhood.  I’ll come back later.”

That was easy; now I knew she didn’t sleep there.  Crafty called me at 10 AM.  She said she liked the images I sent her and wanted to meet with me at 6PM to discuss a project she had in mind.  I agreed enthusiastically but I had no intention to keep that appointment; I had other plans.  Later that afternoon I called Crafty and cancelled our appointment due to a family emergency.  She was sympathetic, understanding and she agreed to meet with me the same time the following evening.

It Wasn't Hard to Climb the Scaffold
At about 9 PM I changed into my dark clothing and made my way to the Garment District.  Crafty’s lights were still on so I walked around to get a good feel for the block at that time of night and see who was around.  Crafty’s lights on the second floor went out at 9:45 PM.   I waited 10 minutes then made my way to the scaffold along the 37th Street side of the building.  The street was dark and deserted.  I wouldn’t have a better opportunity than this so up I went.  It was easier to climb than I thought it would be.   Once on top of the scaffold I made my way to Crafty’s windows.  I opened my bag, laid out my tools and got ready to go to work.  Then I remembered a lesson I had learned long ago from an old safe and loft man; “Always try to open the door or window first, don’t assume it’s locked”.

Well what do you know, the window was unlocked.  Once inside I moved to a shadow and gave my eyes a chance to adjust and my pulse time to time to slow down.  Once I was composed and sure I was alone I went directly to the naked mannequins facing the wall in the corner.   I turned around the one I thought resembled Lenore in the images I shot the night before.

  "Oh Joe is it really you?   Is this some kind of cruel dream or the answer to my prayers?”
“It’s me Lenore; how do I get you and your friend, or is that Irene, out of here?”
“She isn’t my friend Joe and she isn’t my sister.  She is just a mannequin.  Irene was destroyed by Lotta.  She beheaded her in a rage thinking she was me.  She was mad because Irene told her I revealed her secret to you.  I have been pretending to be Irene ever since.  Freeing me will be risky but I think we can pull it off if you are willing.”

“I’m here aren’t I?”

Lenore briefed me at length about L.W. Craft, Lotta Witch Craft, and how she operated.  She explained that her hatred for photographers stems from her envy of their skill. She lures them to her loft using an enchanting Red Scent that makes her irresistible to men.  I had some firsthand knowledge of that already.  After she has her way with them she turns them into mannequins using the same special vintage wine she used to enslave Lenore and her sister.

“Can the spell on you be broken Lenore?”

“Yes it can. I overheard Lotta tell one of her cronies which spell she used and how to break it.  It’s just like in the fairy tales Joe the spell is broken by the kiss of someone who truly cares.”
I moved to kiss her but she stopped me with an urgent, “No!  Not now, I want revenge.  I want to destroy Lotta.  I know how but I need your help.  Will you please help me Joe?” For the next couple of hours we formulated our plan of attack.   Then I left the same way I had come, leaving everything as I had found it.

Fashion District News Stand
While on my way to meet with Crafty the next day I stopped at Duane Reade and picked up a small jar of Vicks Vaporub.  Lenore told me placing a bit of that in each nostril would inhibit the potency of the Red Scent.

When I arrived at her building I was greeted and announced by the same happy fellow I had seen the day before.  Crafty met me at the door.  She was dressed casually but her eyes and hair were made up for an evening out.   She welcomed me with a two handed shake that sandwiched my right hand between hers.  Her nails were long and she gently raked them across both sides of my hand as they parted.

“Glad you could make it today Joe.  I hope all is well with the family.”

“All is well thanks Crafty.”

We discussed her project and my involvement and the generous amount of money I would make.  Then she offered me a contract for my signature.

“I’ll look this over later. Right now I’m hungry, how about you Crafty?”

“Well I’m really not dressed for it. I’d have to freshen up a bit first.”

When she returned a short time later she was wearing that simple, black, form fitting dress; the kind that accentuates a woman’s figure and never wrinkles.  The package looked good but there was a very dangerous woman inside. She stopped, whirled around giving me a 360 degree view.  Then she invaded my personal space and said in a sultry voice, “How do I look Joe?”

With my best “play dumb” response I answered, “You look real good Crafty.” What an understatement that was. Still standing close in that same sultry voice she said, “Are you still hungry?  Do you want to go out, or should we just relax and order in?”

“I’d like to go out;” she moved closer.  I could barely detect the Red Scent; the Vicks was working but I had to pretend to feel something so I blinked my eyes a few times shook my head a little and took an awkward step back. “Whoops almost lost my balance.  Guess I need some food.  Where would you like to go?”

 “I like Tony’s off Broadway on 43rd Street.  Do you know the place?”
“I sure do; let’s go.”

After dinner she asked me to walk back to the studio with her so she could fetch something.  I agreed knowing what was coming next.  She hugged my arm the whole way; I needed more Vicks.  Once we got upstairs she excused herself and went to the powder room.  I immediately went to the corner where Lenore was and kissed her like someone who cares.  Instantly she became flesh and bone.   We smiled briefly but our work was far from done.  I put more Vicks up my nose and got ready for action.

When she returned she had changed into her casual clothing again.  As she crossed the room I noticed her blouse was unbuttoned and she wasn’t wearing a bra.  She hung her arms around my neck and peered into my eyes.  I was sure she had the Red Scent on though I couldn’t smell anything but Vicks.  I pretended to get a bit weak in the knees and she moved in for the kill.  She kissed me aggressively moving her firm breasts across my chest.  Lenore told me how she had seen men respond at this stage of the game so I played the role.  While kissing her I pulled her closer with one arm, grasped her firm butt with my free hand and squeezed one cheek hard enough to make her yelp and break the hold.

“Hey! That hurt. Take it easy Joe.”
“Sorry, guess I got carried away.  You are a very exciting woman.”

“Mmmmm yea, how about some wine?  It will make you feel romantic and bring your more gentle side into focus.  I have something very special for you that I only bring out on occasions like this.”
She poured two glasses full; Lenore told me Lotta never drinks the wine she just watches as her victims drink and turn to chalk.  We toasted but before I could put the glass to my lips Lenore pounced on Lotta and applied a choke hold from behind, just as I had demonstrated the night before on the mannequin in the corner when we planned our attack.  Lotta dropped her glass and squirmed but the hold had been applied well and she wasn’t going anywhere.  When she gasped for air I poured the contents of my glass into her mouth.  I grabbed her head and held her mouth shut while Lenore released her hold.  A look of horror shot across her face.  She spat and coughed to no avail.  The wine worked quickly.  She stood transfixed at her image in the large studio mirror.  Lenore stepped before her, enraged.

“Remember me Bitch?  That was my sister Irene you beheaded, not me.  Now it’s your turn.  Look at yourself.  Watch me strip you of your clothing.  Watch yourself turn to stone. Watch as I avenge my sister and all the others you enslaved.  Do you like what you see?”

Lenore’s anger turned to tears.  She cried on my shoulder as we watched Lotta become a lifeless chalk figure of a woman.

“Put some clothes on Lenore; we have to get out of here.  You know, I think she is still dangerous.  It would be a mistake to leave her like this. Let’s wait until she hardens well then smash her into a million pieces and scatter her around the city.”

“That’s a wonderful idea Joe.  How do you like it, Lotta piñata?”
So we waited a while and when we thought she was well cured Lenore hit her right leg with a chair just below the knee.  We took turns whacking her with everything we could find until there was nothing but small pieces remaining.  Then we put the pieces into a couple of plastic trash bags, hailed a cab and delivered her piece by piece to trash baskets throughout Manhattan.

Lenore went home to her parents.  She told them some fantastic tale about drugs, bikers and a lost love that was easier to believe than what had actually happened.  I went back to my street photography, my New York job, and writing my short stories.

The Red Scent (from a Google Search)

- 30 -
  All photographs by Joe DiGilio


Please Note:

*** This Blog Needs Your Story! *** I'm Serious!} If you have a story to post on this theme, contact me
, please! We have only a single story on tap at this writing.

Give your imagination a stretch--your story can be about any sort of Relentless Pursuit, fact, fiction, poignant, humorous, or even harrowing!  I'd love to hear from you and to work with you on your story! We need to keep this theme going! There have been some truly fabulous posts over the last several months.  Why not yours?

My sincere thanks for stopping by.
Michelle Alton


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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Elk are Beautiful...From a Distance

Greg Gaskin
Greg and his brother, Jack are two of the most "stand up" people, I've ever come to know. Actually I know them only through online interactions among fellow photographers, but suffice it to say that both are the sort of men you'd like to have in your inner circle.

So it's wonderful to read a story that veritably bubbles with the warmth of brotherly love and respect.

This is a humorous but nevertheless harrowing story of a dangerous sort of Relentless Pursuit in Yellowstone National Park.  Happily Greg and Jack both lived to tell about it, and will be on their way back to the Park in the next few days to gather some more memories. I cannot wait to hear their tales and see their photos.

Thanks for stopping here to see the latest post. I'd love to know what you think of the "Relentless Pursuit" series. Please leave  a comment below or email me with your suggestions on what you'd like to see on this blog.

Also, I'd very much appreciate a click on  the green SU icon at the bottom of this post to recommend the blog to Stumble Upon members. It will dramatically increase the "exposure" of our authors' work.

If you have a story to post on this theme, contact me. And be sure to take a look at my Photography site. I'd love to hear from you! Also, consider forwarding the link to "Relentless" to your friends and family. Thanks again!
  Michelle Alton


Yellowstone Magic

Elk are Beautiful...From a Distance!
(Click on photos to see them enlarged.)

"A brother shares childhood memories and grown-up dreams." ~Author Unknown

"Our brothers and sisters are there with us from the dawn of our personal stories to the inevitable dusk." ~Susan Scarf Merrell

"A brother is a friend given by Nature." ~Jean Baptiste Legouve

I have two siblings, my brother Jack and sister Joy. Growing up, I was close to both of them but as adults we all wound up in different states and like so many other families have not had enough contact over the years. For a couple of years Jack and I had kicked around the idea of doing some photo trips together. Finally we settled on a Yellowstone road trip and scheduled it for September 2007.

Yellowstone National Park Map
Jack flew into Detroit and the next morning we were on our way across the very heartland of America. By the way, traveling across the great heartland isn't what it is cracked up to be. After looking at millions of acres of cornfields on a road (I 80) with no turns and few bends, one tends to get a little mental. We drove a lot of hours that first day and ended up somewhere in South Dakota. The next day we visited Mount Rushmore and Devil’s tower and then headed off to stay the night in Cody, Wyoming before the final push to our journey’s purpose: Yellowstone.

In the interest of conciseness I will not go into 99.99% of what we experienced in the park, though I could go on ad infinitum speaking of the wonders of Yellowstone. Just thirty minutes after getting inside the park I turned to Jack and said, "If I don't see another thing worth photographing, this trip would still have been worth it." The days in Yellowstone were full of the wonders of nature. Of all the places I have ever visited Yellowstone is clearly the finest. To put that in its proper perspective, I have visited 33 of the 50 States, British Columbia, Ontario, Jamaica, Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Guam, the Philippines, Hong Kong, and Australia. Oh, and I also lived in Hawaii for three years.

One of the other unexpected experiences we encountered in Yellowstone was the amazingly large number of "brain damaged" people in the park. Oh, I am not just being rude-- let me cite some examples: We saw numerous people go past the sign that said "Don't go past this point, danger of falling." The ranger said every year somebody falls to their death there. We witnessed someone try to hand-feed an Elk and another person actually tried to pet one. A side note here, Jack yelled "Stop the car!" and then jumped out. He wanted to get a picture in case the Elk killed that person with the petting fixation. Fortunately for her, but unfortunately for Jack, when the Elk started to buck up she figured out it was a bad idea.

The queen of all the crazy people was encountered when we stopped to ask what everybody was looking at up the hill. Her Majesty told us there was a black bear with cubs and the crowd was running to catch up with her. These types of people will come into play later in this tale. a FOX!

As luck would have it, one morning we set off along the Madison River traveling east from the Town of West Yellowstone, Montana, and THERE he was, the biggest, most beautiful Elk you could ever ask to see. This was our second big Elk in two days; clearly luck was on our side. Since it was the beginning of the rut season, he was keeping his females all close together for the inevitable prize that awaited him in just a few short weeks.  Of course this also means that he was a little on the testy side.

Okay let's be honest, he was close to being insane. Because he was so wound up he moved around a whole lot which made photography much better. At first there was only one other person taking pictures and he had some long glass (i.e, a long telephoto lens) so everything was working out just perfect but as time went on more and more people stopped with point-and-shoot or cell phone cameras, trying to get close enough for a clear shot.

After trying to warn them a couple of times to back off, I turned to Jack and said, "I'm done here, these idiots are going to get killed." He agreed and said he was going to walk to the east to get a couple of shots of something else. I then watched the crowd push the Elk further and further down the road by continuing to crowd him. While waiting for Jack to finish I kept an eye on what was transpiring between the Elk and the crazy people. They were about a quarter of a mile down the road when the Elk turned towards them (everybody froze) and then turned again and charged down to 30 feet from where I was standing. There were some small trees between the Elk and myself but I knew I was too close so I took a couple quick shots.

I started up to the road to get behind a car. As I reached the car he (Mr. Elk) moveed toward the small trees and then began walking straight for me.

Lurking among the Trees

I motioned to the driver to stay put and urged, "Please don't pull away!" After placing the tripod down I took a picture of the Elk walking right towards the car, and as you can tell by the photo below he looked a little deranged.

Just as I hit the shutter the car pulled away! I couldn't believe it. Do I not speak clearly? Maybe the driver didn't speak English; perhaps he always wanted to see somebody get gored to death and could not pass on this golden opportunity. Whatever the reason I knew I was in trouble.

My first thought was "Why couldn't this happen to Jack" and before you say something like "Why would you want your brother gored?" let me explain that thought. When they created the Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, and the National Geographic Channel, Jack was their target audience. He is obsessed with wildlife and has a great deal of knowledge about animal behavior and would have known what to do in this situation. I, on the other hand, didn't have the slightest clue what to do. Okay I admit there were several times as kids I would have liked to see him gored but those days are well in the past now.

My first thought was the natural instinct to run for some cover. I quickly calculated that the odds of my success with this plan were about one hundred billion-to-one. Thought number two was the same as thought number one, but took into account that the sight of my fat butt trying to run away carrying my tripod and camera would be so funny the Elk would laugh himself to death.

I figured this plan’s chances for success might be as high as 50-50. Having no real clue as to what to do I stood straight up and said aloud "Oh sh#t, this is going to hurt!" With that the Elk turned to his left and just walked off.

Just Walking Off to the Left
I was in the midst of thanking the very God I pray to for sparing my worthless life, when Jack walked up laughing and exclaimed, "You might as well have been standing there naked. I was sure I was going to inherit your photo gear!"

The lessons learned from this are three fold:
    • First:  You must be prepared for the unexpected as something like a herd of stupid people can cause an unanticipated problem.
    • Second:   Carry bear spray with you at all times. Would it work on an Elk if needed? Beats me, but it would have been something in the line of a defense.
    • The third and perhaps most important lesson is: I need to remove Jack from my will to eliminate any excuses in case I need him to save me on one of our future trips.
Brother, Jack
  All photographs by Greg Gaskin


Greg's Biographical Sketch:

I was born (1957) in Brooklyn New York and lived there until the age of eight when the family moved to the Hamlet of Islip on Long Island's south shore.
For the past 29 years I have lived in southeast Michigan and have spent the past twenty years residing in Wyandotte, Michigan with my wife Rita.

Photography is my drug of choice (although coffee is a close second). I will photograph anything that I find interesting and I am attempting to photograph every lighthouse (116) in the State of Michigan over the next five years.

I retire in March of 2012 and I am presently in the process of opening a photography business with my niece Marybeth who is a graduate of the College for Creative Studies.

You can view more of Greg's work on his website.


Please Note:

*** This Blog Needs Your Story! *** { I'm Serious!} If you have a story to post on this theme, contact me, please! We have only a single story on tap at this writing.
Give your imagination a stretch--your story can be about any sort of Relentless Pursuit, fact, fiction, poignant, humorous, or even harrowing!  I'd love to hear from you and work with you on your story! We need to keep this theme going! We've had some truly fabulous posts over the last several months.  Why not yours?

Thanks for stopping by.
Michelle Alton


[Click on the green SU icon below to recommend this blog to Stumble Upon Members]