A year-end five-by-five... by Josh Trudell

Five things I’m looking forward to in 2015:

1) The Trip. Instead of a focused photography trip this year, I’m putting all my time off from the Day Job into one massive journey with the Fabulous SuperWife: Three weeks in Australia – with a soupcon of Hong Kong at the end before we fly home.

This is a trip we’ve been looking forward to for several years – mostly by hoarding our frequent-flyer miles like Scrooge McDuck’s gold vault. But we will officially NOT be flying cattle class on any leg of the trip (he says, knock wood).

The highlights will include most of a week on a scuba cruise at the Great Barrier Reef, a week exploring Sydney and some time in Daintree National Forest.  I can’t wait to see it and shoot it all.

2) Do more model photography. I’m hoping to branch out this year and experiment with some model photography. I’m still ironing out what shape that is going to take, but I’ve got some ideas kicking around. I’m hoping to flesh them out in the first half of 2015.

3) Seeing the new exhibit of my photography (and all the other photographers) at San Antonio City Hall. This will be the first time that I haven’t been hands-on involved with putting up pieces, which is both a relief and makes me slightly anxious about how it will turn out. I should find out in the next week or two.

4) Seeing the Red Sox reboot and rebound next season. I’d still like to see an ace at the top of the rotation – paging Mr. Zimmermann, paging Mr. Jordan Zimmermann, you’re wanted at 4 Yawkey Way – but I always enjoy watching a good offense, and this one looks pretty promising on paper.

5) Watching the Marvel Universe continue to grow and evolve. More Avengers?!? The return/reboot of Daredevil?!? ANT-MAN!?! The golden age of comic-book based media continues to grow and evolve, and it seems to be only getting better.

And there’s the little matter of a certain lightsaber-swinging sequel coming to theaters next December…


Five things I liked about 2014:

1) My week in Glacier National Park was fantastic. Seeing and shooting the mountains, rivers and lakes was a great experience with some wonderful people. I can’t recommend James Kay Photography enough for their guidance and help with everything on the trip  - like when my tripod broke on the first afternoon shooting.

I’m already looking forward to going back to Glacier – hopefully this time with better weather.

2) Spending an excellent 40th birthday with my wife and mom at Disney World. Disney wasn’t my first choice – I had some dreams of an African safari, I admit. But being able to spend a week with family – and introducing Mom to the wonders of the Magic Kingdom  - was worth a lot more.

3) Being from New England and now living in Texas, it occasionally strikes me how few of New England’s highlights I saw while growing up there. We checked one of those off the list this past year, though, with a few days at Acadia National Park. I hope it’s not the only time we visit – it’s a place with a lot to offer.

4) Speaking of Maine – meeting Stephen King was a big checkmark on ye olde bucket list. This Constant Reader remains, as ever, a big fan.

5) My circle of connections continued to grow. Thanks to everyone who supported my work this past year, by sharing a story, by liking my Facebook page, by suggesting an idea, or by joining me on Twitter. It was a fun year – here’s to a great 2015.

Playing a home-and-home by Josh Trudell

You can't go home again. - Thomas Wolfe Who says you can't go home? - Jon Bon Jovi

After moving thousands of miles from where I grew up, I've found home has several meanings.

There's the home where I live now. There's home in the sense of the region I grew up in.

And then there's the actual home I grew up in - a cabin deep in the woods of northern New Hampshire. Only one or two of my oldest friends have ever seen that house - we moved when I was 12, and the memory most of my high school friends have of my house is the place we moved to (which hosted a tremendous high school graduation party, but that's a story for another day).

This house was our first home. My father, uncles and grandfather carved a road into the woods and built all the homes on it (except for the newest one, which my aunt lives in). My mother and father built this house when they were young - my dad laughs as he builds in yellowed Kodachromes.

I'm home this week - visiting my mother, and helping my sister with her wedding plans. She's getting married tomorrow, and the chaos has been, well, chaotic. But it's (mostly) been the happy kind of chaos.

I escaped for a bit yesterday afternoon and drove out to the old house, along winding gravel roads and through thick pine forests. The trees looked bigger and the road smaller than I remembered them.

I've still got family on this road, but that house - sold, then abandoned - is going to rack and ruin. Some holes in the roof are covered with blue and gray tarpaulin - others sag open, filled with leaves and pine needles.

A family of satellite dishes is aging in the front yard - two small ones, and one big, black pterodactyl - all postdating our time there. Some goober cut down the giant pine tree in the back yard that I used for a rope swing, dropping the top of the tree on the barn and crushing the side where Mom raised rabbits and pigs. The side that held cows and horses is still standing, but time and weather have taken their toll on the glass.

(I still remember my dad climbing that tree to hang the rope - now I can imagine him ripping into the joker who misplaced the tree's landing spot. "Pretty friggin' poor," he'd say.)

Old nails still jut out of a beam in a shed where I'd hang a punching bag after watching one of the Rocky movies on one of our three channels. A section of wall on the front porch is still scarred from where I was careless with the front porch swing while daydreaming of Prydain or Narnia.

Inside, ticks scurry about, looking for legs to latch onto. (There was an Army-style scrubdown after we got back to the "new" house.) The bookshelves in my old bedroom are empty, with only dust where my pre-teenager baseball cards, books and music once were.

The strongest memories are around the kitchen island - made by my dad, a thick block of wood, dark with oil and Crisco before people worried about cholesterol and grooved from mom's kitchen knife peeling vegetables she just picked out of her garden (with my help).

The wall where I raced Tyco cars with my uncle - the hallway where dad and I would wrestle - the fireplace mom and dad built with granite rocks and concrete...it's been 25 years since I've been in this house, but every piece still holds a story.



Trains keep a-rollin' by Josh Trudell

Deep thoughts for a moment…

As life progresses, some patterns seem to appear. Every few months or few years, some subject or person will pop up again that I haven’t thought about or talked to in what seems like forever.

One of those things for me is trains.

It’s funny – railroads are a relative cipher on the American landscape compared to their heyday, but the romantic nature remains. While planes have replaced them for long-distance passenger travel, air travel doesn’t have the visual impact of the passing countryside and the steaming locomotive.

That impact is still felt, too. When I was a rookie reporter, my first big writing project was about trains. I got more feedback from that piece than for anything else I’ve ever written or designed.

Afterward, I was happy to put my notes away and concentrate on new stories, but the subject kept coming back to me.

My father-in-law, who I met just after finishing the train project, is a railroad enthusiast. On a couple of trips back to New England, I’ve taken the train from Boston to his house. When driving to Phoenix from San Antonio, the road ran next to the railroad for miles.

It’s been enough to keep railroads on the periphery of my world.

Over the weekend, I took a train trip from Cedar Park to Burnet. The Hill Country Flyer is a nice little scenic rail trip meant for tourists and people of a certain generation remembering their youth.

While the number of memories floating around the car was perhaps not unexpected, what struck me was the number of adults waving at the train and urging their children to cheer as it passed by.

These adults have lived almost their entire lives with planes and cars as the primary forms of transportation in this country, yet trains still have a nostalgic grip on them, fueled by memories from parents and grandparents.

One grandmother I met this weekend talked about going to the depot after her chores were done and watching the trains come in on Saturday nights with her mother. “That was exciting!” she said, looking for a moment like that young girl.

It still is, and hopefully always will be.

Photography: While I enjoyed the train trip, I'm kind of disappointed in the resulting photos. I may need a dedicated photo project to really get myself back in gear.

Game of Thrones premiere: I'm happy with it, but I hope all the set up they did pays off with more action soon. It seemed as if the whole episode was catching up with everyone. I've read the books, so I know it's a set-up to awesome, but they need to make with the pay-offs to keep the newbies involved.

Opening day: Is this week! Bring on the baseball!

Movie watch: We've started catching up on the Avengers-related movies, starting with Capt. America. The sound on the blu-ray is fantastic. Next up: Iron Man.