Central Havana, first random note


I spent six days in Central Havana this month. There are countless thoughts rambling around in my head about it – and almost none are yet sorted into anything coherent.

I think I’ll just post randomly about it as I work my way through the ideas. And images. I took 3,500 photographs there. It was a photo trip, a group of people passionate about photography.

Central Havana is astounding. Crowded, fragrant, hot, humid, colorful. Surprises lie behind the doors, beyond the shabby facades. Cubans are complicated, smart, literate, accomplished, and infinitely resourceful. Material goods may be in short supply, but life is rich. Much of it is lived outdoors, out loud.

They buy their food, fresh, down the street at a corner each morning. It’s a Monsanto-free zone, is Cuba, organic everything except I suppose imported things.

I intend, I very much want, to return.


Jury Duty

Lindsey-Flanigan Courthouse

Courthouse in Springtime

I received a summons to jury duty in the mail on April Fool’s Day. Four weeks later I reported to the courthouse as directed. I’ve been summoned a few times over the years, but until this year I had only served on one jury. That was a civil case, long ago. Now, I was at the courthouse where they handle the criminal cases. It’s new – opened in 2010 – and not lavish, but pleasant and modern.

I served on a jury this time – a case in county court, where the misdemeanors go. The trial didn’t take long. We heard the evidence the first day, and returned the next day for the court’s instructions, counsel’s closing arguments, and jury deliberations.

As I rode the light rail train home after the first day, I realized that I really had not yet decided how I would vote during deliberations. Not making up your mind until it’s over: that’s a standard instruction from the judge to the jury. I heard it many times when I tried cases as a lawyer, and always wondered if any jurors did keep an open mind.

Our jury deliberations were animated but civil. Everyone participated fully, and we all wanted to render a verdict in accordance with the evidence, the law and the judge’s instructions. After it was over, I was comfortable that we did that.

The weather on Day One was rainy, but the next day we were back to late April glorious happy Denver spring. Good photo opps on the walk to the courthouse.

Android Abstracts


Recipe for fun: Send a dozen or so photographers to the supermarket on a Sunday morning – with no tripods or cameras. Turn them loose to roam the store for a couple of hours, taking long-exposure photos with their mobile phones, to create art photos.

Jeff Johnson of Soul Images Gallery was the Chief Instigator. I always have fun and learn things when he’s instigating. Just saying. Teri Virbickis called it iPhonography. I have a Nexus 5, and haven’t coined a clever term for the Android version.

Whatever you call it, I agree with Teri: this is a new obsession. I intend to keep on swooping my phone around and then peering at the screen to see what I got. The whole batch of my keepers from Sunday is on Zenfolio.


Guard Dog


S/he was alert and vocal as we walked by.

So we decided not to open the gate and break into the house after all. [/joke]

But, if we’d had any such evil intentions? We’d have abandoned them in the face of that ferocious cuteness.



Blossoming tree; 7th Avenue at Santa Fe, Denver; 04/04/2015; Sony a6000; 55-200mm lens at 139mm; f5.6, ISO 200, 1/4000.

It’s a gray Tuesday, unusually for Denver. Last Saturday was typical: brilliant sun, blue skies, mild temps.

Denver has received my usual April benediction and forgiveness for the winter just past.

Blood Moon

Blood Moon - Lunar Eclipse

Woke up at 5:40 this morning, stumbled around, got the coffee started, opened the shades on the lanai facing west. The moon looked interesting. Then turned on teevee and the weather lady said it’s a lunar eclipse, the “blood moon” and it’s peaked with a few minutes left. Grabbed a jacket and my camera, went out on the fire escape and got a few grainy handheld shots. My camera was in M, I was in jammies, not yet caffeinated, cold, and barely awake – and it was dark. Under the circs I’m happy we can tell it’s the moon. Graininess and all. Nikon D7100, Tamron 16-300 lens, 1/4 sec, f 6.3, ISO 5000, manual focus.

Denver icons


The Brown Palace Hotel in the foreground. In the background: the Wells Fargo Center aka the Cash Register Building. Recently I’ve been shooting this scene with different cameras at different times, from about the same location.

This one is old style. Film. Shot with a Nikon EM + crummy old Tokina lens, on C-41, converted to grainy B&W in Photoshop.

Film day, snow day, work day

1-reflect1 I’ve been on eBay again, looking at old Nikon lenses to use with my D7100.  I always browse the old film camera category, because people will sell an old SLR with its lens(es) in a single deal. I’ve acquired a few good old prime lenses for a bargain price that way, and in the past I donated the unwanted sad old cameras to Goodwill. But this time around I’m paying attention to the cameras too. I bought some film and I’m shooting with a few old SLRs – all Nikons so far – in the bundles I bought. A few days ago I took light rail downtown to my job on a day that started clear – see the first photo, above –  and as predicted went all snowy. I took along a Nikon EM with a crummy old 35-70mm Hanimex Tokina [oops, a mistake in the original edit] lens (don’t ask, long story, bad choice of lens), shooting Fujifilm Superia X-TRA 400. When I went to lunch, the snow had started: 1-snowfall17th1 By quitting time, I was happy to be riding light rail and not having to drive home. 1-snowstreet1 Or to bike home. 1-coldride

Not critical work


I love the innernets. Today I researched an old Promaster brand zoom lens – once bundled with Nikon “amateur” level SLR film cameras and now often found for sale, cheap. As often happens, I found a discussion on point, on a photography forum, with only a few conflicting details (it’s definitely manufactured by Tamron vs. it’s for sure a Tokina lens).

And then I found this, from a guy who started a discussion by asking about that lens. He thanked the others for the information and said, about the lens:

it will not be used for critical work, just for snapshots and holiday memories

Just snapshots and holiday memories.

Oh, dude. Really?

The photo above is a crop of a picture I took back in the 80’s or 90’s, of my aunt, clowning around at Christmastime with a row of stuffed animals on the hearth. She adored her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, and loved making a big fuss over them at Christmas especially.

I won’t put her face on the Internet today. She’s now the prisoner of a vicious disease (Parkinson’s) and not in good physical or mental condition. So bad that she’s incapable of consenting to my posting an identifiable image. It’s beyond sad. The energetic, smiling woman in that picture is only a memory now.

I don’t remember what camera I used to take that photo. It was probably some decent point and shoot with 35mm film. I’m glad it came out pretty well.

But, if I’d had a top of the line, revered, camera and lens, to take that photo? It would have been worth it.


Grandmother’s vase. Unless it isn’t.


This little blue opalescent vase sat on the windowsill above the sink at grandmother’s house.

It’s a Fenton piece, probably from the 1940’s, just 4 inches tall, and not valuable.

It reminds me of childhood summers in a small town. The sound of a screen door slapping closed, the welcome shade of a big pecan tree in the back yard, a wavery old lady’s voice humming a tune as she washed dishes at the sink. High-ceilinged rooms and old-fashioned furniture. A big old clawfoot bath tub, an old bathroom sink with separate hot and cold taps.

I’m not sure this is the exact vase from my (step)grandmother’s house. I went in search of more like it, and found them. They were, I think, individually hand made – not machine made although manufactured in commercial quantities. I shopped for Fenton vases in antique shops and flea markets for a few years, and I found there were slight variations between pieces when compared side by side. I think I sent the original little vase to a relative and kept the closest copy.

But it’s possible I didn’t send it off. I just can’t remember. And I’m enjoying the small mystery – is it the one I knew as a kid, or one just like it?

Kodak Holiday

Kodak Brownie Holiday camera and box

Yesterday I took this camera out to a photo meetup. The rules were, to bring an item and photograph it, then post the photo without a caption so that the photo itself tells a story.

This Brownie Holiday was my first camera ever, a gift for my 6th birthday. I’ve bought, sold, lost, and given away a ton of cameras in my lifetime, but always kept this one.

Yesterday morning when I took it out of its box, I slid the catches down and opened it. That’s when I learned it still has film in it!  I have no idea how old that film is, no memory of the last time I used the camera as a kid. Obviously I ruined some of the film by opening the camera. After I closed it again, I rolled the film past exposure 5 and left it on exposure 6. Research on the 127 film indicates that there are 8 exposures on the roll.

At the meetup, I asked about it, and was advised to take the film to Englewood Camera, and that because it’s black and white it may well still be good.

I’ll take three more exposures first. I’m still deciding what they will be. I’m trying to keep my expectations low, to be prepared for the film being ruined.


Wallet propped on closed door

My father was a carpenter and cabinet maker. Among other things. He started life on a farm and never really got over wanting to be a farmer, but his life didn’t go that way.

When I was a kid he started his own business, doing custom finish trim and cabinetry in nice homes. It was (saw)dusty work, often in sweltering weather, Daddy and his small crew. He’d come home from work, step into the utility room from the garage, and change from his dirty overalls into a t-shirt and cotton trousers, then head straight through the house to take a shower. He was fastidious, my dad.

He died suddenly, too young, of a heart attack, when I was just out of college. Many years later, after my stepmother died, I came into possession of his wallet.

Today I went out on a photo meetup shoot. The rules were to bring an object and take a picture of it, then post it without any caption or comment so that the photo would tell the story.

I decided to take along my first camera. When I reached in my memory box for the camera, my hand touched the wallet. I was a little late to the meetup because I stood there going through the cards, slips of paper, and photos he carried. In the wallet that he pulled out of his pocket on that long ago Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving, not knowing he would never touch it again.

My dad’s wallet smells a bit of sawdust. The photo insert sleeves are scratched and rubbed. He probably carried the wallet for years. The leather is smooth, with the feel that new leather can’t match.

As we walked around old downtown Littleton this morning, I wasn’t sure if I’d pull out the wallet for a photo. I’d brought other things along to shoot. Coming out of an alley, I turned a corner and my eye was caught by the turquoise garage door and trim of a small building on a side street. Then I saw the sign on the glass door: Custom Woodworking and Cabinetry.

I propped the wallet on the door of the woodworking shop and snapped a few photos. It felt peaceful and exactly right.

The Esperson Buildings

Esperson Buildings Entrance 1970's black and white photo by Suzanne Saunders

A long time ago, in Houston, I was a young woman fresh out of college, with a BA in History and no desire to teach school or to pursue a graduate degree in History. In that place and time, teaching and grad school were pretty much the usual options for young women with history degrees.

I had to earn a living to support myself. I’d always liked researching things in the library, and thought that I might like being a lawyer if it involved looking things up in books. I didn’t know any lawyers, so I figured I might as well work for some and see what it was all about.

I got a job as a legal secretary. My first job was with a downmarket small law office, in a small building out on the Southwest Freeway. Where one day a few months into my job, I took a call and found myself being recruited.

Thank goodness. It led to a job as a legal secretary in a really good firm, downtown, in the Esperson Building. Well, technically there are two Esperson Buildings, Mellie and Neils. I don’t remember the name of  the one we were in, but it was a wonderful old office building. With character. The firm was on one of the lower floors, with huge arched windows.

I found this picture that I took in the 1970’s. I worked for that firm for 6 years. When I left I had been promoted to be the firm’s first paralegal,  earned my law degree (night classes), and passed the Texas Bar exam. I moved to Colorado, to take another bar exam and go to work for the Public Defender’s Office.

I’m glad the Esperson Buildings still stand.


Habits. I have lots of bad ones. I used to have a blogging habit but I lost it over the winter.

Before I rush off to face the day, after remembering to do my stretches now that I’m old enough to *need* them every day, I’ll share this “Headnote of the Day” from the legal publishing empire, West:

Where defendant had argued that commission of the crime in the manner asserted by the State would have been foolish, prosecutor was properly permitted to argue that it is nowhere written that a criminal has to be smart.

Marshall v. State, 438 N.E.2d 986 (1982

Could this be the rebirth of my blogging habit?


January 20:
Sitting on the sofa
Puppy on my lap

Just me at home with him
watching the sleek new HDTV
with count-the-wrinkles resolution

Sun pouring onto us this morning
and the Rockies in the distance

From somewhere
was it dusty country Oklahoma
nearly 60 years ago

From somewhere
was it sultry 60’s Houston
middle school in a buckle of the Bible belt district

From somewhere
surely the place – as Molly Ivins said –
that I realized they were lying about race
and wondered what else they lied about too

From somewhere
was it my early 20’s working learning
law school at night
Or my late 20’s moving up to Colorado
standing up in court
conferring in the jails
with clients in assorted shades

From somewhere
it was my personal soundtrack in college: Aretha’s LPs

From somewhere
it was eighth grade class where we read
the United States Constitution aloud, every last word –
and discussed it

From somewhere
it was the place in my heart
those complicated chambers belonging to my father
whose journey ended too soon long ago

From somewhere
came a lump into my throat this morning

It only went away when Aretha started singing
it dissolved into tears down my face

So-called real life

Maybe I’ve run out of things to write about? Or at least things to blog about?

Nah. I refuse to entertain the idea.

But it has been awhile since I posted anything. Since I just had to share what’s on my tiny mind with all of you out there on the innernets.

And I’m not entirely sure why.

Mostly I think it’s because of my so-called real life away from this keyboard. I endured a few weeks of energy-sucking, body-dragging and mind-impairing sickness, and recovery therefrom. Respiratory virus followed by sinus infection, all accompanied and survived by an annoying cough. Something like my normal energy level returned after New Year’s, and I’ve been playing catch-up since then. With work and also at home.

No worries, it hasn’t been all work and no play. I’ve been updating my television situation here at the condo. This time of year it’s so cold here that I stay indoors and watch a lot of TV, and anyone who watches much TV has known for a long time about the change next month to digital over-the-air signals.

On Saturday, I donated to Goodwill the 8 year old 27″ flat screen Sony CRT, in all its hulking wonder, thanks to a neighbor who helped me hoist it into the back of my car. Yesterday, I brought home from Costco a sleek new 37″ Vizio LCD HDTV. I easily set it up in the living room, hooked up to my trusty old digital cable (SD) box and also to the building rooftop master TV antenna. For more than week now, my little bedroom 20″ LCD TV has had a digital converter box buddy by its side, because it’s 4 or 5 years old and needs the box to get the digital over the air signals through the building antenna system. Soon I will have cable service added in the bedroom and upgraded in the living room to HDTV with DVR.

Of course the only part of all that hoo-hah that was at all necessary, was the converter box for the little bedroom TV. The other upgrades were just because I wanted to. And had accumulated the cash to do it.

The over-the-air HDTV programming I’m watching on the new big TV? Just amazed me. I got it working just in time for the AFC championship game. Wowzer. And more importantly, I have HDTV here in time for tomorrow’s inauguration of our next President. I plan to watch that here at home and go downtown afterwards.

Today, it’s unseasonably warm here. Not a time to pound a keyboard indoors. My wonderful dog needs a walk and so do I. Back to real life, the parts of it that don’t happen at the iMac.

The old me is fine, thanks.

OK, people, I read or hear one more iteration of “New Year, New You” and I throw a hissy fit. The world has been warned.

They can keep whatever “new” version of me it is that they want to sell me. In a package of makeup, or a new outfit, or “body-firming” undies, or some other product.

I’ve spent several decades working with, and on, the old me. And she’s just fine, ticking over pretty well, and not in need of being traded in on a new me. Sure, regular maintenance is important, and the occasional major tune-up, plus paint and buffing, but the old me isn’t going out on the lot with the other trade-ins just yet.

If you understand what I’m saying here and feel the same way about the old you, I think you will enjoy this piece just out in The New Yorker.

Unless you traded your funny bone to the devil for a pair of  lifetime-guaranteed-firm thighs. In which case I fear you may post it on the front of your fridge. As an action plan. Which would frighten me very much, so please take it down if I’m going to come over to your house. Thanks.

Full text below the fold in case the link goes kaput.

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Freecharge at the Denver airport

Denver International Airport (DEN) has several banks of charging stations for electronic devices (phones, notebooks, laptops, PDAs, cameras, whatever) located on the concourses (as opposed to the Main Terminal Building).  They are marked with “FreeCharge” signs. There’s no cost for their use. Here are a couple of pictures.



Details of where to find them:

A Gates aka A Concourse or Concourse A, 2 locations:

  • East side, between Gates A44 and A46.
  • West side, between Gate A38 and the center core.

B Gates aka B Concourse or Concourse B, 4 locations:

  • East side, between Gates B56 and B58
  • East side, between Gates B45 and B47
  • West side, near Gate B38
  • West side, between Gates B25 and B27

C Gates, aka C Concourse or Concourse C, 2 locations:

  • East side, near Gate C44
  • West side, exact info to be provided later or just look for it.

Also in the C Gates area, at some of the Southwest Airlines gates on the East side, there are small freestanding counter-height tables – some with stools, some not – with electric outlets which are available at no cost.

(This just updates some information I posted several months ago, minus irrelevant blather.)

Dog in the moment

Cold and snow have come at last.

Jasper loves to run and romp in the snow. He plays with it, he plays in it.

At my end of the leash, load of dull thoughts: iffy status of Thailand trip, things that must be done today, things I’d like to do instead, tomorrow’s schedule, state of health, unresolved issues of all kinds, memories, hopes.

At Jasper’s end of the leash, just the moment. Curiosity. Joy. Sniff the snow, sniff the grass, run leaping fast across the snow on the lawn, stop and sniff, look back to mom, run faster mom, let’s go down that way, stop to look at man walking on sidewalk, shake off snow, see man with dog and run toward them half block away hitting end of leash fast, come on mom, now stop to sniff again, look back at mom, run fast up all those steps to the front door. Stop wait for mom.

Wonder if I’m at the end of a leash held by something too big for my little mind to encompass. Wonder if I can let go and be just in the moment, safe on the leash.


Just passed the 50,000 word count for my NaNo Novel. This has been a 12,600 word count day. I am pooped and my throat is still sore, but I am a winner. A NaNoWriMo winner.

A week early no less.

Thanks to all of you for all the moral support. It has meant a lot to me.

Oh, about the novel? It’s a first draft, it’s a lot of dreck and I will probably write a few thousand more words this week to wrap up the story a little better than I did tonight. But all that is beside the point, which was to write 50,000 pages of a first draft novel starting November 1, and ending no later than midnight November 30.


Forty thousand words.

Just now I paused in my work on my NaNo Novel to note that I’ve passed the 40K mark in the word count.

I have felt like cr*p since about bedtime on Friday and didn’t write at all yesterday although I’d planned a couple of serious writing sessions, one here at home and the other at the weekly write-in group at the Highlands Ranch Tattered Cover store. I’d not even worried about not writing Friday as I was running around taking care of things in advance of yesterday.

So instead? I slept very little Friday night, by yesterday morning had sore throat and other ugly symptoms. 

Thank goodness for Mucinex, antihistamines, hot coffee, chocolate treats, hot tea, Advil, my warm puppy, my comfy new supportive Travel Sox, snuggly Hanes sweatshirts, and all the other things that have supported me through the last 24 hours. I still feel crummy but I’ve been sitting here writing for 45 minutes and am determined to keep at it all day long. Not one long session but a series of them, broken up by such mundane daily things as showering, doing laundry, walking the dog, and eating.

But I just passed the Forty Thousand Word mark. With a goal of writing Fifty Thousand by midnight on November 30.

Dayum. I just might DO this, huh?

UPDATE: I finally quit writing about 2:30 p.m. with a total word count of 47,854. After dinner? Maybe I’ll just polish this puppy off by passing 50,000 words. The story won’t be all wrapped up neatly but honestly, this NaNoWriMo thing isn’t about that, at least not to me, this time.

Seventy-five percent

It’s not over till the NaNoWriMo word count validator says I have written 50,000 words, or midnight on November 30, whichever comes first.

But I’m pleased to note that my current word count is 37,644. Which is 75.2% of 50,000.

My first draft novel is a mish-mash of dreck with a few decent scenes, and not something I really want to discuss in detail. Not right now. Maybe not ever. But I will say that the word output speeded up yesterday when I killed off a main character in a random street crime. In a medium sized midwestern US city in 1939, which I learned while writing it has more shock value than, say, such a random crime on the streets of almost any American city in 2008.

Hmm, is that the finish line I can see out there in the distance?