NOVEMBER 27, 2008
It’s Thanksgiving Day, and after all the cold, windy, rainy weather we’ve had recently, it’s a mild, partly sunny day. Later today I’m planning to cook a turkey breast with an apple/leek stuffing, roasted asparagus, and a mango/cranberry relish (recipes courtesy of the Food Network website). In the meantime, I want to take my new Lensbaby out for a spin. It’s a selective focus lens — great for artistic effects — and it just arrived yesterday. Purchasing it was my guilty pleasure when I attended the PhotoExpo in New York last month.
My plan was to find a diner or coffee shop where someone might be eating a meal alone — I was hoping for something moody and melancholy. Unlike my former home in New Jersey, though, where lots of little places stay open on the holiday — not just the fancy restaurants — I couldn’t find anything in the area that fit the bill. Not even Dunkin Donuts was open. What caught my eye as I drove along was a house in Ocean Park whose yard was filled with Christmas decorations — not in the least melancholy. Assembling one of the figurines was Vangie Wells, who told me she has put up this huge display for three years now. She has been setting up the pieces for a few hours each day for the past month — “one month and two days, to be exact,” she says. It has gotten a little bigger each year, and she’s learned the hard way how to keep the figures secure in place. “The first year our six-foot Santa went rolling down the road at two in the morning when a big wind storm came through,” she chuckles.
What I got a kick out of, besides the gaudy display, was seeing Vangie’s son Vernon, 6. What was he playing with as he kept her company? Every kid’s favorite toy, of course — the box the decorations were stored in. Watching him took me back to my own childhood. The best days on our block were when some family had a new washing machine, or better yet a refrigerator, delivered. There on the curb would be a big, discarded, cardboard box. It was always a challenge to see who would snatch it up first: my friends Janey and Anne and me, or my brother and his friends Jimmy and Gerry. Oh, the hours we’d spend playing in a box like that — one of us on the inside being rolled around Anne’s lawn by the other two, or turning it into a little house where we’d sit and talk or listen to a transistor radio and eat snacks.
I wound up using my regular wide angle lens to shoot the picture in the difficult, backlit scene. I’ll play with the Lensbaby another day.