Happy Birthday to the Athlete and the Intellectual

Today is my father’s birthday and I want to wish him the best day ever.  He deserves it.  My father is an educator, an athlete, a coach and a leader.  He is the rare man who loves the White Sox and Puccini and I will never forget him going from sitting in front of the game on television to lying in the middle of the living room floor with his headphones on, listening to his favorite opera, La Boheme.

For much of his adult life he made a teacher’s wage.  He was a high school history teacher, a football coach, an assistant principal and an athletic director.  I used to beg my mother to stay up on Friday nights to watch him on Channel 50 ( a local NW Indiana station in the 70’s) to watch his high school sports commentary with his friend Les Milby.  He looked so important in his orange Channel 50 jacket, discussing scores and plays.  I was so proud thinking “That’s my dad.”  Now that I shoot sports I think I needed to find a way to keep his passion for the sidelines alive.

Everyone seemed to know and like him.  We couldn’t go anywhere without someone yelling “John!  John Tennant!”  Students, parents, business leaders, Northwest Indiana residents of all types would locate and shake my father’s hand no matter where we were.  They still do.  I’ll never forget being in a boat, in the middle of a lake and seeing a man on a pier at least 500 feet away yelling “John!  John Tennant!”  It made me realize what a good dad I had.

On his summer break, his love for history and travel took us to all corners of the country  and despite my childhood boredom at too many battlefields to remember, I thank him for expanding my horizons with so little pay.   Sometime in the late 70’s early 80’s I took the photo above of his hands driving us somewhere across the country.  Sometimes he even let me grab the wheel for a moment.   When I started to swerve away from the road, he gently guided me back. Those hands say everything to me.   Loyalty, balance, and discipline.  These are his mantras.  Thank you dad for helping me to keep my hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.   Have a very Happy Birthday, I love you.

James’ Friday Night

Spent some time walking around North Tacoma on Friday evening near my friend’s home. I saw families in their yards, mothers with strollers, and kids on skateboards. Then I saw James. James had a long board and a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. “I’m gonna do it”, he said to his brother Nick. “Call 911 if you need to.”

James told me he hadn’t been on his skateboard in 10 years. “I’m old. This skateboard is older than these young punks out here, but I’m gonna show them.” And he did- kind of.

Outside is America

Driving my way across the country from Chicago to Seattle – shooting what I can out the window without killing myself.  Here are some photos from Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana.

As I drive, I am already missing some of my favorite people and photographers. Tamara Bell , Rob Hart, Joel Lerner, Jason Brown, Allison Williams , Frank Polich, Chuck Cherney, Heather Eidson, Shauna Bittle, Scott Strazzante, Chris LaFortune,, Warren Winter, Brian Valentin, Geoff Scheerer, Jon Langham, and Andy Lavalley Thank you for all you have done to help me in my journey. Thank you most of all for your friendship.

Independence Day

One of the main reasons I have always loved Bruce Springsteen is that he had a conflict between romanticizing/loving home and needing to leave it behind.  I left home and moved to Chicago about 15 years ago, but I have always needed to keep it near.  My parents and many of the neighbors I grew up with have remained in my old neighborhood in Northwest Indiana.  Nick was one of them.  He and his wife Linda live across the street from my parents and their daughter Julie was one of my best childhood friends.

Nick was like a Springsteen song to me. He was a hard working man who was employed at Inland Steel – a tough guy who cried like a baby when his only son left to join the military.  My parents were teachers in an area of Indiana where most of my friend’s parents worked in the mills.  Nick personified some of  Springsteen’s songs when I saw him get up everyday and go to work in a dangerous place in order to raise his 3 children.  He built the home you see in the picture, collected his retirement and bought a few old cars to fix up.

When I come home for holidays, I watch him work tirelessly in his yard, and I see his pride and love for what he built with his own hands.  He doesn’t need anything else – he doesn’t need fancy vacations, 4 star restaurants, or a more exclusive, desirable address.  I envy him sometimes.

Today while I was getting ready to leave for my new, more desirable address thinking about how I could almost just stay in my old neighborhood, live next door to my parents and be happy, I saw Nick outside.  He said,  “What are you doing Suz, why are you going?  I guess it’s just your generation and I don’t get it.”

Sometimes I don’t either.

A Facebook Free Reunion

When I was young, one of my best friends was Allen.  Everyone always laughs at me for talking about the “good old days” in the 70’s.  But this truly was a time where kids ran free throughout the neighborhood, knocked on doors and said ” Can so and so come out and play?”

Allen was the boy who came over to talk to me, protect me, and promise me things like a praying mantis on my birthday.   He lived in the house kitty -corner from my back yard and he used to call me Seuss.  He would also call me out to play by yelling “Ooee Ooee Sooey Sooey!”  (ewwy ewwy sewwy sewwy)    I always wondered where the boys like Allen went – the kind that were like your best friend in childhood.

My mother ran into him in my hometown the other day.  He’s a carpenter  just like his father.  He came over to visit and we posed for this photo in the place in my backyard where we used to meet to play.  When I told a friend I reunited with my play buddy, they asked “On Facebook?”

I told her, “No, the old fashioned way – like in reality.” All I have to say is that facebook would have destroyed this very real moment and I think we should all have more of them.