Fort Portal, monkeys, little birds

Fort Portal, monkeys, little birds

Puttering around western Uganda this week, currently sipping coffee on my balcony near Fort Portal, a charming little city that serves as the capital of the Tororo Kingdom and the gateway to some of Uganda’s most famous wildlife preserves. For today, though, I didn’t venture far: up to the crater lakes that partly ring the city. Not much wildlife this close to the city, unless you count goats and cows. Still, the views were stunning. Continue reading “Fort Portal, monkeys, little birds”

Night garden

Night garden

I considered going in, certain that I would find fairies or gnomes or somesuch, but then I couldn’t be certain of their welcoming me at this late hour, empty-handed as I was, so I went on my way, my thoughts tinged with regret but comforted all the same by the soft glow of the moon and the knowledge that I had done the right thing.

Lake Mburo wanderings

Lake Mburo wanderings

I went to Lake Mburo about a month ago. I’ve shared most of the best pictures somewhere by now—either here or Instagram (or on my own screensaver, which I realize that nobody but me can see but which is somehow satisfying anyway). Here are the last of the ones I wanted to put out, though.

I’m actually heading out on another road trip this weekend, on a loop of southwest Uganda (no gorilla trekking, though—I’ll save that for another trip). But in the meantime, a last look back on my lazy weekend at Lake Mburo National Park.

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The view from the top of Rwakobo Rock is stunning, and the drop-off not as scary as it looks.
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Uganda has a ridiculous number of birds. I forgot the actual statistic, but it’s something like half of all the bird species in Africa. I’m trying to get to know them all. I want to say this one is an African Pied Wagtail, but I could be wrong.
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This, I am pretty sure, is a starling. Starlings tend to have cool names: there is a Splendid Starling and a Superb Starling, but this one is (again, I think) a Rüppell’s Long-Tailed Starling. Bonus point for the umlaut.
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This is not a bird at all.
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A rather majestic cow.
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Mornings were misty when I was there.
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The road is long but inviting.
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It does sometimes feel like walking through a dream. It becomes easy to confuse zebras with unicorns.
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These teenagers just stood in the road, looking all annoyed at us for trying to get through.
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The only reason why they aren’t texting and taking selfies is that they don’t have thumbs.

Babies of Lake Mburo

Babies of Lake Mburo

You don’t go to Lake Mburo National Park because it’s the most exciting park in Uganda—you go there because it’s the closest to downtown Kampala, and because the park is surrounded by cattle-grazing land instead of cultivated farms, meaning that the animals on the park pay zero respect to the official boundaries, which means that you don’t even necessarily need to leave your hotel in order to look at zebras, kudus, or other wild animals.

Because I made it that far, though, I did go into the park, albeit on a very lazy loop that barely scratched the surface of what this park has to offer. Most of the best of my pictures already went up on Instagram, but there were a few others that I liked that I didn’t upload. For example, these pictures of babies (and some mommas, too):

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This baby zebra did a double take when it saw me taking a picture.
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It paused long enough for me to be sure that it was posing.
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This baby waterbuck was either about to have or just waking up from a nap. It didn’t seem to notice me at all.
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Momma waterbuck noticed me, though, and though she didn’t seem afraid, she did keep an eye on me. I took a few pictures of her, too, in case appealing to her vanity would help.
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Mama Warthog was way less chill. One look at me and she sent her piglets scampering to the nearest bush.
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Love the little tails in the air.

Museum day!

Museum day!

The whole purpose of my trip this summer was to visit the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, which for some reason captured my imagination and drew me from East Africa to Western Massachusetts (in a happily roundabout way).

I was not disappointed. The museum is located in North Adams, in the far northwestern corner of the state, which is a lovely little town in and of itself.

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See? It’s lovely.

The museum itself is an enormous old factory, and anyone into post-industrial chic will geek out on the details. In places the building itself is as compelling as the artworks it houses.

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In Julianne Schwartz’s tonal hallway, disembodied voices come at you from all directions as you walk through. Some are singing and some just making sounds, and the whole effect is immersive and enchanting.

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Robert Rauschenberg’s Quake in Paradise (Labyrinth), fitting in beautifully with the space.

I was especially enchanted by the Boiler House, where the old industrial material is being allowed to be rot away through what the literature descibes as “nature’s counterpunch.”

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My favorite thing was an installation by the always-incredible Lauria Anderson, but since it was all virtual reality I didn’t take any pictures of it. Luckily, everything else was pretty awesome, too. Here are some of my favorite pictures that I took today:

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Elizabeth King’s Radical Small, built around doll parts and video installations, was hauntingly beautiful.

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Nick Cave’s Until fills a football field-sized room with tens of thousands of spinners and another assorted items:

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The museum gives a lot of space over to Sol Lewitt. They make a point of telling you in many languages that you should not touch the walls, but the sign that convinced me was the one where they explained that they didn’t want to have to put ropes around the art, so please be cool. I obliged by not touching anything.

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Other artists, whose names I apparently didn’t catch (if you know who they are, do let me know):

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And this one, because no museum is complete without big pink dildos.

Hancock Shaker Village

Hancock Shaker Village

At the far western end of Massachusetts—so far west that it’s basically upstate New York, and thus brushes up against my policy of never going above 96th Street if I can help it—lie the Berkshires, a place I’ve heard of but (obviously) have never visited.

My ostensible goal is to visit the Masschusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, or Mass MOCA as it is called by those-in-the-know, but there is a lot to do in the area so I decided to take some of that in, too. First stop was the Hancock Shaker Village, home (former home?) to a religious community best known for its utopian beliefs and fantastic minimalist style, probably not in that order.

At this point a proper writer would give you a meaningful history of the Shakers and their legacy in this part of the United States, but unfortunately it was about to rain and I wanted to make sure I saw everything before it was too late so I skipped the tour and didn’t read any of the signs. I did take a bunch of pictures, though, my favorites of which I am happy to share here. Continue reading “Hancock Shaker Village”

Battleship Cove

Battleship Cove

The city of Fall River is home to Battleship Cove, which bills itself as the world’s largest collection of World War II-era battleships.

When I was a kid my school took a field trip to an airplane museum in Colorado and there were (at least in my memory) hundreds of airplanes stretched out on the prairie as far as I could see. So I was a bit disappointed that there weren’t hundreds of ships at Battleship Cove, but I guess it makes sense. Ships are much bigger and more expensive than airplanes, and you probably wouldn’t want an armada sitting so close to Rhode Island. The temptation to overpower such a little state might be too tempting.

I was supposed to meet with relatives there so their kids could run around, but kids being kids after I was on the road they called to say that the kids weren’t going to be going anywhere that day. I never found out if they were sick, in trouble, or just didn’t want to. I was already on my way, though, so I went with my camera and took whatever pictures I could. Here are some of my favorites. Continue reading “Battleship Cove”

Cape Cod canal

I’d never been to the village called Onset, but I got invited to go on a cruise of the Cape Cod canal and thought it sounded like fun. The village was charming, and the beach was very inviting. The cruise itself was very mellow. We passed some fabulously wealthy houses and a couple of private islands, and went under all three bridges, a perennial obsession of mine. I continue to play with my lenses and filters, and here are some of the results.

Fourth of July parade

Fourth of July parade

The annual Fourth of July parade on Phillips Road is always sold to me as a Classic Car parade, and it may have been that at one point in time, but it’s actually just people from the neighborhood driving down and flinging candy at whoever is nearby, which is much more fun anyway.

As far as I know, this isn’t an officially sanctioned event. I’m told that about forty years ago some guy strapped some flags onto his car and drove up and down Phillips Road banging on a cowbell. The following year a few others joined him, and since then it has become a neighborhood staple without actually getting much bigger.

It’s a refreshingly sweet and local event, free of politics or commerce or even a grander purpose. The neighbors all come out and stand at the end of their gravel driveways. Some come out when they hear the car horns, others come out a half-hour or so early and set up tables with drinks and snacks. One family turned their driveway into a veritable outdoor restaurant, with a half-dozen tables and a rather elaborate coffee station. Kids gather to strategize about how to get the most candy. If someone brings an airhorn, then they plan out who will get to blow it when.

It starts at 8 am and lasts maybe a half hour. Participation seems to include anybody who can get to the starting line in time.

There are inevitably a few people—renters, tourists, newcomers—who don’t know about the parade and go out for their morning jog, and are surprised (I assume pleasantly) when they get cheered on enthusiastically by the crowds that have mysteriously gathered. Some look confused, but most play along.

These are some of my favorite pictures from this morning. Happy birthday, America.2017.07.04-012017.07.04-022017.07.04-032017.07.04-042017.07.04-052017.07.04-062017.07.04-072017.07.04-082017.07.04-092017.07.04-102017.07.04-112017.07.04-122017.07.04-132017.07.04-142017.07.04-152017.07.04-162017.07.04-172017.07.04-182017.07.04-192017.07.04-202017.07.04-21