Searching for Omar

Join me in a journey to the past—a hunt to solve some family mysteries.

Lough Erne.jpgLough Erne looking east from its western edge near where it changes to the River Erne. Some of you may know what a rare thing it is to have such beautiful weather in northwest Ireland. It seemed an existential metaphor, adding to the mystery of discovery.


(Caveat lector: This is a long post with many images and of course is mainly for the benefit of family and friends.)

It’s a complicated story that I found the Irish relatives so late in my life. I love my late father, but he was a bit of a scoundrel and my prodigal return to Eire was due in part to his life-long predisposition for dissembling. But that’s a story for another time.

He emigrated to the States from Ireland in 1951. And of his seven siblings, only Aunt Carmel now remains. Emigration can rip extended families apart; it can dim collective memories and render mute the narrative songs that span generations. Happily, there is still a large contingent of Dublin cousins who, along with my aunt, welcomed us with open arms and we quickly set about mending the family web.

Before leaving for the reunion we had already decided that we would take a side trip to Northern Ireland to track down another part of my family history. But it was the non-Irish side of the family, my English grandparents on my mother’s side, who had retired from London to an area near Belleek in County Fermanagh soon after World War II.

And we had clues! My mother had given me several small photo albums over the years. It was the style of the times to have these small albums as photography hobbyists were ubiquitous in the time between the wars. Maybe the cryptic hints in one of these albums would be enough to help us find that part of the family history. One possible tip in the album was the name Magheramenagh, but we had no idea what that meant. We found a map in a Dublin bookstore, and set out without a time table, which was just fine—we figured on just going to see what could be found.

Inherited clues.jpg


More clues.jpgFrom the top: My grandfather’s small photo album from 1948; inside the front cover; and a picture of the retirement cottage “Omar” with “A view from the lounge.” (Magheramenagh is pronounced Mah’-hera-me’-nah.)

My grandfather’s name was Oscar Marvyn Reed. He went by the self styled near-acronym Omar—and Omar was the name he gave to their little retirement cottage.

So a few days after all the meet and greets of long lost cousins, we rented a car and three of us set out from our cousin’s house in southwest Dublin—our two older kids decided to hang out in town with their first cousins twice removed.

The map was an ordinance survey map—similar to the USGS topo maps here in the States—and had quite a bit of detail. The clues in the photobook took us northwest, to the western edge of Ulster.

The map.jpgAnd there on the map was that lyrical name Magheramenagh and another clue—it was a castle “(in ruins).” You can find it at 97.7 x 59.2. The cottage Omar must be nearby.

There is a larger rendition of the map found here.

We rolled into Belleek and the first logical stop was the Visitors’ Centre. There we found Michelle. We showed her the album and explained our quest. It’s a sleeply little town and slow moving. The area is a mecca for salmon fishing and Belleek is world famous for the ezquisite and beautiful Parian China still hand-crafted by local artisans. Its lacework and paper thin brilliantly translucent designs are beautiful.

Michelle was excited on our behalf, but could not recognize any of the pictures. She directed us to the nearby hotel where we booked to spend the night. Meanwhile, she said she would make some inquiries on our behalf. Shortly after settling in and trying to decide what to do next, she appeared and told us that her parents would be happy to help us and act as our guides.

A new friend - Version 3.png

Our guides.jpgMichele at the visitors’ centre and her parents, Vincent and Rosemary.


And now.jpg
Then and now; the pottery works on the River Erne in Belleek in 1948 and at present.

Michele’s parents, Vincent and Rosemary, picked us up from the hotel and first showed us the Castle Magheramenagh. They dropped us off to explore the grounds and went off to arrange the rest of our discovery. They knew of my grandfather’s cottage, though it now had a different name, and knew the current occupants.



Through the wall.jpg

In Ruins.jpg

Erne View.jpgFrom the top: It was an impressive residence in 1897; the castle wall in ruins—the arched gate, now filled in, was the entrance and exit for horse-drawn carriages; our entry point, through a caretaker’s cottage that was built into the wall; and pictures of the ruins showing a brilliant day beyond.

Vincent and Rosemary gathered us up and said the current owners would be delighted to meet us.

Getting close.jpg

We were getting close. A tiny unused cottage marks the corner of the drive to the cottage Omar. As it turns out, Helen and Frank O’Shea lived in that abandoned cottage before buying the Omar from my grandmother a year after my grandather’s death in 1963.

A final look at

Helen and Frank.jpg

The hearth.jpg



Grandparents.jpgFrom the top: We found it! Thanks to Vincent and Rosemary. Omar is now known as Erne View; Helen and Frank; the hearth now; and Omar and Kathleen next to that same hearth.

They were delightful. We spent a lovely hour with Helen and Frank and then came the gifts. Helen disappeared for a moment and then came bearing two treasures found: a framed photograph of my aunt Joan left in the attic and a drawing of the cottage Omar my mother had made as a young woman that was then made into a Christmas card.

Treasure found.jpg

More treasure.jpg

We weren’t done; we had a further surprise. Vincent asked a question that I had not even considered. He heard that my grandfather had died in Belleek which then led to my grandmother selling and then returning to her family in England. “Was your grandfather Catholic or Church of Ireland?” He was not Catholic I replied. “Well, I may know where he’s buried. Let’s go find out.”

Slawin parish.jpg

The grave.jpg

OMAR (1).jpgFrom the top: The Church of Ireland chapel in Slawin parish, just across the Lough from Omar; my grandfather’s grave; the headstone reads OMAR In loving memory of Oscar Marvyn Reed who died 22nd June 1962 Aged 75 years.

OMAR.jpgOmar in 1953 next to the River Erne in Belleek

I offer again my sincere thanks to Michelle McCauley, Vincent and Rosemary McCauley and to Helen and Frank O’Shea.

If you made it this far—congratulations! I hope you enjoyed the journey with me and to the family mystery solved through help from new friends lovingly offered.


Well, plus a couple of non-landscapes.






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To All the Birds I’ve Loved…

Grey-headed Kingfisher Halcyon leucocephala

A post previously put up in October of 2008 on Open Salon.


Caveat lector
This is a long post of mostly photographs with some notes and comments along the way.

I’m not a terrific bird photographer, it wouldn’t take you long to find others who are spectacular at this craft. I’m an ok bird photographer. But I love birds.

It is, however, extraordinarily difficult to photograph birds, and I’ve given a couple of examples below. I think in part it’s because they seem to move about in a different sense of time than we do. That is understandable somewhat when you consider how short their lives are compared to how we occupy our own time.

There are many things, really, that don’t match up with our sense of time. I remember being enthralled with images and presentations that skewed that sense for me. Movies like Koyaanisqatsi, or in some of Spielberg’s large scale backdrops that show dark clouds moving rapidly in the background while normal time sequences go on in the foreground. And consider this: Most of us think of the glass in our windows, indeed it’s true for any glass, as a solid. It’s not. Glass is a liquid; it just operates in a different time scale than what we can perceive. That window pane will be slightly thicker at the bottom in a generation or two because even glass in it’s own slow way is subject to the laws of gravity.

So birds move in a way that is on the other end of that spectrum from glass. Their movements are fast in a manner required to preserve their short lives for as long as possible. Which results, at least for me in my meager talents, in an exponentially greater number of shots that are filled with blurry lines than the ones that are merely decent.

The little gem at the top, the Gray-headed Kingfisher is one that demonstrates that spread of success (or failure). I have hundreds of him, and a half-dozen that I like. He’s small, only about 6 inches from tip of bill to end of tail, but what a handsome fellow. He knows I’m there and there is bright intelligence in that eye as he assesses the threat.

Now for some more. I hope you enjoy the compendium. (It really does represent a fraction of total shots to get these—and there are a couple of repeats from previous posts of mine—the Rainbow Lorikeet and Flamingos have been part of some previous blogs.)

Double Wattled Cassowary Casuarius casuarius

Even with a fast lens—taken wide open at f/1.8—this guy was difficult to capture. It didn’t help that he was in a cloistered area surrounded by tall bamboo and the light was not optimal. The shallow depth of field, necessitated by the light, means that only part of his beak and the “casque”—the keratin extension of his bill on top of his head—were in focus. You can see below, he proves my point about the difficulty of photographing birds.



Harpy Eagle Harpia harpyja 

This beauty is a very large bird. It’s extraordinary that his habitat means that he has to maneuver between the trees in a rain forest as he seeks his usual tree-dwelling prey; monkeys, coatis and sloths. His wingspan is enormous, as you can see in in this not very good shot from this set of photos of mine which makes his agility all the more amazing. Note also, in one of the shots above how large his talons are. There is no measurement of scale in the shot, but trust me, those claws and talons are enormous. The talons are about 5 inches/13 cm long—longer even than a Grizzly Bear’s.

King Vulture Sarcoramphus papa

This could be a good ad for Visine™—maybe not. This photo demonstrates a curious phenomena. All of these birds are in enclosed spaces, many behind some sort of screen or fence. If you use a shallow depth of field, and just focus on your subject you can minimize the fence or barrier and still come out with an ok shot. (And you have a good lens—this shot used the estimable Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 VR with a 1.7x teleconverter resulting in this being at 340mm, f/4.8, 1/60 second. I used a monopod too to stabilize the cam and lens.)

Guira Cuckoo Guira guira

This cuckoo varietal is a favorite of our own dear tequilaanddonuts. I think she likes him because of his punk hair-do. The Guira is a non-parasitical cuckoo.


Racket-tailed Roller (with molted, missing rackets) Coracias spatulatus

There’s something about seeing light blue in a bird that is pleasing, and this little gem is a perfect example. His normal habitat is the southern half of Africa. The following shows him with his rackets intact.


Bald Eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus

Most eagles, as you can see here and above in the Harpy too, seem to me to have a look of being permanently pissed off.

Victoria Crowned Pigeon Goura victoria

This little lady is huge—one of the largest in the pigeon family and about as big as a healthy sized chicken–about 29 inches/74cm long and almost 6 lbs. I think she’s perfectly named. It’s extraordinarily difficult to get a shot of the Victoria without some of her headdress in blurry motion—she’s a jerky bird. You can see the details in this larger version of a lucky shot.

Black Swan Cygnus atratus

These are stately beauties, but watch your step. If you get too close you may be chased; they’re very territorial.

Saddle-billed Stork Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis

Relative to another post of mine, the Saddle-billed Stork is represented in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs.

Chestnut-breasted Malkoha Phænicophæus curviostris Look at that! Two ligatures in the same word!

Remember back to the 50s and early 60s when it was all the rage to get an alarm clock or wrist watch with pale green radioactive luminescence? The Malkoha has the same kind of bill. The slightest bit of direct sunlight on its bill blows it out in digital photographs—it has that same pale luminescent quality as those watches. I’m not sure though if it glows in the night—probably not.

White-crested Laughing Thrush Garrulax leucolophus

I love the name of this beauty. I’ve seen him several times, but never heard a peep out of him.

Mandarin Duck Aix galericulata

He just knows he’s special.


Rainbow Lorikeet Trichoglossus haematodus

Unbelievable colors!



Caribbean Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber

all images copyright © 2006, 2007, 2008 · all rights reserved

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Shooting Sarah Palin

It’s just a metaphor

NB: This was originally posted to Open Salon in December of 2009. I was on assignment from Legacy Books to shoot the event in appreciation and thanks for the bookstore hosting a prior book signing and promotion event for my own book, Dallas Iconography. Legacy then was granted permission to use my photos for their own promotional purposes. Some of the text tense isn’t relevant as Legacy closed within a year of the event described. A sad loss for the community, it was an exceptional place.

Also, the title is a common reference for photographers on a gig. I saw no one who wished her harm, and I certainly didn’t either in spite of my personal thoughts about her—which were not part of the work that I was doing on site.

Legacy Books is the largest independent book store in the country. It’s a mecca for the local bibliophiles. A sleek and modern masterpiece of layout and design, the store seems to welcome you to spend your time in guilt-free leisure.

Café Carina is inside the store, a coffee and espresso and sandwich bar with free Wi-Fi and a fully tricked out demonstration kitchen—a demo kitchen!  Legacy brings in a lot of cookbook authors who display their finesse and allows them to prove their books. You can browse, have a sandwich in the cafe and then browse some more. It will take some time—and that’s ok, you have time.

Legacy Book Store9:20 am, about 2 hours before SP arrived.

But it’s not just the store that makes this a wonderful destination, it’s really about the people that work there. When was the last time you went into a major chain big book box and felt like you’d found a long lost friend in one of the attending staff members? From Teri Tanner, the on-site managing partner, to the part time student stocking the shelves, the employees are proud to be on an exceptional team. They make the store an oasis of culture. Ask any employee what they’re currently reading. It won’t be a manga graphic novel—probably.

I was delighted when my publisher said that I was scheduled to have a book signing at the store. I was not disappointed—it was a great experience. I didn’t sell many books, but it was fun to be there. They invited me to come back just before Christmas to do another signing.

as you walk in
That’s my book! The one with the red pegasus on the cover—Dallas Iconography.

* * * * *

This past Friday, December 4, a juggernaut rolled into town. I didn’t see the bus—it was abandoned I think in favor of a string of SUVs. The bus is a myth of sorts anyway since it’s been leaked that Sarah doesn’t actually travel on the bus, instead opting to jet around on a medium sized chartered plane. Her support staff are on the bus. See our own LuluandPhoebe’s exposé on the bus/jet hoax here.

Sarah Palin and her entourage descended upon the cozy comfort of überconservative Collin County. I had asked the folks at Legacy Books at my own signing if they wanted a photographer “on staff” to shoot the event. I offered a no-fee license for them to use the images in print or online media in exchange for attribution. They said yes!

This was not to be a political event for me. Since I was going to be wearing a store badge that would grant me better access than even the print, photo and video journalists that flocked to the store, I had to present a detached professional mien. I came to neither bury Sarah nor praise her—I was a face obscured by a camera—a glass and metal proboscis in khaki pants.

Security was tight. They had the head of the Plano SWAT force in plain clothes standing next to the signing table. There were other ex-military folk at strategic locations. I was scrutinized with hard stares. Luckily, I had an orange ribbon around my neck with an attached name tag. I was in like Flint and beyond the barriers. I was spun around once by one of the security people, a woman who looked like she could beat me up in a nanosecond. “Are you a journalist? You’re going to have to move back on the other side of the chain…oh, sorry, you’re with the store. Never mind.”

It was a fun gig. I didn’t have to subscribe to the running commentary in the crowd waiting to see her, nor refute anything. But I do have some thoughts that have coalesced in the intervening days since the event. These are somewhat random:

  • I don’t think the event was for Sarah to connect with her fans as much as it was for her fans to connect with her. It might be a minor point, but that’s the impression I got. That is, the people were ushered by the table very rapidly. The music was amped up enough to drown out most conversations (the music was themed for the event—Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” and the like).
  • “Hi,” “What’s your name?” and “Thanks” seemed to be about the extent of the chitchat from Sarah at the table. And even though the fans were rushed through, they didn’t seem to mind. They got their 15 seconds next to their own personal rock star.
  • Sarah did not respond in any way to the constant refrain of “If you run in 2012, you got my vote.”
  • There was a dais, a platform, outside the front door of the store set up with a microphone with speakers nearby in case Sarah wanted to make some comments to the crowd. She chose not to. In fact, she made no general public statement and was not available at all to any of the journalists present. Reporters were not allowed to ask questions and were kept away from the signing desk. There was one reporter I talked to who was very frustrated. She was from Agence France-Presse working on another story in Colorado. She asked the AFP if she should attend the booksigning here and they gave her a go-ahead. She left with nothing more than interviews with store personnel and some patrons.
  • Sarah signed about 1300 books. 1000 tickets were sold for the event. If you didn’t have a ticket—the cost of which was the same as the book—you couldn’t get in line. The ticket got you a book and a place in line, there wasn’t any additional charge.
  • She usually asked for the name of the patron, which led to some confusion. While she was furiously signing the books handed to her and then pushing the book to another handler, she never wrote anything but her own name. People wanted “their signed copy,” but there was no “their” there. The signed books were shuttled to a pile that the customer had to walk to. This was done to keep the line moving—and it had to move since there was a three hour allotment for those 1000 customers.
  • I saw one black gentleman in line. I don’t remember seeing any other minorities present. It was not a diverse group, the color spectrum was almost completely homogenous.
  • Patrons had to drop all personal items, bags, coats and jackets and anything carried into the store at a bag drop. They were instructed to not take photos and to keep the line moving. Some customers ignored the camera injunction once they got through the line and some distance away on their way out, but even that made the handlers antsy.
  • You could not bring your own copy of Going Rogue to be signed. You could only get one or two books for yourself purchased from the book store.
  • Palin’s mother and father, Chuck and Sally Heath, and her Aunt Katie attended. Todd and 20-month-old Trig were standing in the background for most of the three hours. Trig appeared to want to be elsewhere and was often seen to be struggling to get out of Todd’s arms.
  • Sally Heath, Sarah’s mother, admitted that she had not yet read the book. “No one’s even given me a copy to read on the bus,” she said. (See LuluandPhoebe’s link above for info on the bus hoax.)
  • Sarah was very gracious. She looked everyone in the eye. She smiled at every person that came by. Everyone felt like they had a personal connection to her in the less than 15 seconds allotted to each.
  • She seemed a bit tired, though that did not diminish her high wattage smile. Her eyes were a bit bloodshot. (I was using several very good lenses. You can see a 100% crop— full actual size—here.)
  • Most of the event centered around people having a good time. There were only a few negative comments about “the other side.” Except for the live broadcasting conservative Christian radio talk show host going on and on about “the haters” (libruls), there really was only a couple of instances when people were not concentrating on their love of Sarah.
  • People waited in freezing weather for hours upon hours. Just before Sarah arrived, a group of VIPs were escorted to the head of the line. They did not wait out in the cold. Several reporters were seen talking to the them. I asked one of them later what the criteria was for being a VIP and he mentioned that one gentleman was involved in the Bush Library, about to begin construction on the SMU campus in Dallas. It appears that the VIPs had some sort of connection to the party apparatchik. The person the reporter talked to declined to say who pulled strings for him.
  • Everyone—I mean everyone—when leaving the signing table had a big, big smile on their face. The people at the signing loved Sarah and it was obvious they had a great time.

* * * * *

Okay, I took photos. I’ll present some of them here. Probably more than you want to see, surely more than you need to see. I’ll leave it up to you to interpret what they mean and keep my captions to a minimum. Let me mention again that the regular staff at Legacy are an amazing group of caring and kind people. If you’re anywhere in the DFW area, you should hajj your way over there.

David Lutz, 24, on the right with his father said “She’s just so real. You don’t have to peel back layer after layer to understand what she’s saying.” David was first in line having staked out his position at 10 pm the evening before—13 hours before Sarah showed up.

5:41 am

The kids didn’t want to be there. It was about 28°F too.

Having fun!

Still cold, less grumpy, still sleepy.

One of the few proactive “antis.”

Homemade fleece burkha.

Really, a delightful person. Her giggle reminded me a bit of Tequila and Donuts (yes, I’ve met the Divine Ms D).

Dawn finally came. Still having fun in the freezing temperature.

Some were ready for the wait to be over.

Mike Gallagher, the aforementioned radio talk show host and sometimes substitute for Hannity on Fox, live broadcasting the event and author of Surrounded by Idiots: Fighting Liberal Lunacy in America.

Written under “For Sarah” is “”

Wearing most of a fox probably scored some points.

Yay! The doors are open! Oh wait, it’s still two hours before she shows up. You know those Disney rides where the attendants open up a section of the serpentine line to give you the illusion of movement? Actually, it was still freezing cold outside. Everyone was so happy to get warm. They only let in a few hundred at a time though.

This was the “holding area” for people wanting to use the restroom. The signing took place on the second floor and the restrooms were on the first floor. They had bathroom passes (!) so they could get back in line on the top floor.

The scene of the signing. The chain barrier in the foreground right is where the photographers and videographers had to set up. The barrier to your left of the desk is where I was able to stand.

One of SP's fansMargaret Hill, 88 year old former pastor from Lucas, Texas. “I love Sarah Palin, I watch her all the time,” she said. “I think she talks a lot of good sense.”

Hill with Dallas Morning News Metro columnist James Ragland.

Finally, Sarah arrived.

SP at Legacy Books, Frisco/Plano TXShe was wearing her trademark red, a kimono top with long sleeves and enormous open cuffs.

SP at Legacy Books, Frisco/Plano TXShe engaged.

Margaret Hill was among the first to greet Sarah—after the VIP line went through first. No, the VIPs did not have to wait outside in the cold.

Part of the Palin entourage included a photographer. She was using a wide angle lens that included both Sarah and the patron. The customers were given a card with a web address to see the pictures, with the option to purchase and the funds going to The card included this caption: “Thanks for going rogue with me today! Let’s stay in touch and stand up for our nation together.”

SP at Legacy Books, Frisco/Plano TXTodd was there, as was Trig.

One mother, Stephanie Shaffer of Midlothian brought her son, pictured above, and placed him on the signing table. Truett, 21 months, was wearing a shirt that read, “Don’t blame me: I can’t vote till 2025.” It was the most time that Sarah spent with any of the patrons and mentioned that their boys should get together and play. That was arranged, and it happened right in front of the photographer’s pen. The cacophony of shutter releases was startling. Shaffer was delighted. “I’ve got butterflies.

Sarah Palin look-alike

Sarah Palin look-alikeA Sarah Palin look-alike, Marilyn Phillips drove up from Glen Rose, about 100 miles southwest of Plano. She brought along her 8-week-old grandson Tripp. She even researched what kind of glasses Sarah wears and bought her own Japanese designer Kazuo Kawasaki frames. They go for about $400 without the lenses.

BumpitA friend mentioned that she’s probablly using a Bumpit™.

Sarah’s Aunt Katie was there too.


* * * * *


Thanks to Teri, Kyle, Jeremy, Becky, Robin and all the Legacy Books staff for welcoming me into the store and making me feel like part of the team.





all images copyright © 2009 by barry b. doyle • all rights reserved


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The Sunday Tao of Popper

After triangulating the backyard cicada locations and then taking the morning dirtbath ablutions, it’s time for the first afternoon nap under the living room AC vent.

A progression:

Oh wait, sneeze coming…

larger view

And then, when it gets too chilly for the under-the-AC-vent-nap, it’s time to move to the microfiber-blanket-on-top-of-a-pillow-next-to-the-windowsill-nap in case a bird comes to rest in the dwarf yaupon just outside the window. In which case, I’ll open one eye to keep track of yet another bird that belongs to me.

sunday afternoon nap
larger view

As any good supermodel knows, it’s best to completely ignore the photographer.

Have a lovely Sunday friends, from the two of us.


all photos copyright © 2011 by barry b. doyle · all rights reserved

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A Personal Hajj to Beauty

This was previously published on the now defunct site Open Salon as a digital distribution for the holidays. I also privately published the booklet shown at the bottom of this post, about 100 copies, to send to friends and those that requested a copy. It was a nice thing that the stock was quickly depleted.

I hope you did have holidays filled with hope and love and best wishes for the new year.


Pinky Troll and me on a personal quest

Happy holidays to friends and visitors. If you’ve noticed the date of my last post you’ll have figured out I’ve been absent for a while. There were some things I needed to take care of and they all seem to have worked out, at least for now. This coming year will be one that will present many transitions and it might be interesting to document some of those—we’ll see how things develop. At any rate, I might have to spend less time here. Life intrudes, but it’s nothing more than what happens to all of us—I still treasure my friends.

It’s not that I haven’t been busy, quite the opposite, but the right side of the brain has had to take a back seat lately. That changed when I tried to figure out if I was going to do anything about making a Christmas card and/or project for friends. I plunged in during the Thanksgiving weekend, though it took more time and effort that I had planned—which always seems to be the case.

Here’s the card, featuring our dear Popper. The quote on the left is a riff on The Holstee Manifesto and refers to Popper’s delight in attacking a catnip-laden mouse—hence her drug-enhanced eyes. Of course there’s no need for additives to follow the abridged or original manifesto.


It shows the cover, inside and back. On the back I’ve explained the source of the colophon I designed back when I was considering publishing my own book. Luckily, I got picked up by a real live publishing house, but that meant they had their own publisher’s mark so mine was set aside.

The poem was found in the margins of a manuscript in the Monastery of St. Paul in Corinth, Austria. It was written in Irish, probably by an Irish monk sometime during the ninth century. Pangur Bán means “white cat.”

It’s a bit hard to read the text in the above image, so I’ll transcribe.

Pangur Bán
I and Pangur Bán, my cat,
‘Tis a like task we are at;
Hunting mice is his delight,
Hunting words I sit all night.

Better far than praise of men
‘Tis to sit with book and pen;
Pangur bears me no ill will;
He, too, plies his simple skill.

‘Tis a merry thing to see
At our task how glad are we,
When at home we sit and find
Entertainment to our mind.

Oftentimes a mouse will stray
Into the hero Pangur’s way;
Oftentimes my keen thought set
Takes a meaning in its net.

‘Gainst the wall he sets his eye
Full and fierce and sharp and sly;
‘Gainst the wall of knowledge I
All my little wisdom try.

When a mouse darts from its den.
O how glad is Pangur then!
O what gladness do I prove
When I solve the doubts I love!

So in peace our tasks we ply,
Pangur Bán, my cat and I;
In our arts we find our bliss,
I have mine, and he has his.

Practice every day has made
Pangur perfect in his trade;
I get wisdom day and night,
Turning Darkness into light.

Making a card has been enough for me in years past. It represents more work than purchasing a bunch of pre-made cards or duplicating the dreaded Christmas letter, but there had been something percolating in my brain for a while and I decided to do something more.

I wrote a book—I made a book. Actually, it’s a 20-page booklet. And unfortunately, since the production and distribution costs were coming out of my own pocket, it’s a limited run. Quite limited. In fact, there are only 60 in the world.

The books were a little under a sawbuck each, but that wasn’t the only costs associated. In order to protect it in mailing I purchased a box of stay flat cardboard mailers (wholesale) that guaranteed that it would not bend or fold and damage the contents—about $0.50 each. Then, because the sturdy envelope wouldn’t bend, the law of unintended consequences took hold. It had to be mailed as a package instead of an envelope, which added an additional $0.40 or so to each to make the postage a what-was-I-thinking-of $2.22 each just for stamps. And yes, the USPS didn’t have to foresight to make a $2.22 stamp just for me. So, not counting my labor (of love) that run of 60 turned out to be north of $12 or so each, which is a lot to spend on a vanity production. No matter, I can be vain.

Which led to a painful process. Triage. Who gets a book? I’m sorry that everyone I know and like and love couldn’t get one, but it just wasn’t feasible. I did send out twice as many Holstee Popper cards, but I quickly ran out of the booklets. And they weren’t just sent to my non mutual spousal friends, there were some bridal business associates that had to be included on the list.

I don’t think we had this much of a problem when we constructed our wedding invitation list 30 years ago.

So as a poor substitute, I’m recreating the booklet here with a link at the end for a PDF download, that is, if anyone’s interested.

So here commences A Personal Hajj to Beauty, a limited edition vanity press production. It was actually produced and printed by Apple—or its assigned third-party printer—via Aperture, the photo management application I use to store and manage my photos. It was easy enough to do, but since I’m a page layout artist from way back in the Aldus PageMaker days, I lamented the fine tuning and lack of feature set that a real page layout program provides. I had to invent a workaround, for example, to get the Drop Cap on the first page. The quality of what you see here is less than what you would see with the booklet in hand or in the PDF since they are exported from the application as a PDF then converted to jpegs.

Many of the images will be familiar to frequent visitors to this blog, but it’s the first time they’ve been collated in such a fashion.

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Front Cover

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Title Page

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Page 2, verso or the left hand of the spread that includes the next image

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Page 3, recto or the right hand of the spread that includes the former image. Typical for the following separated pairs.

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Page 4

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Page 5—There is an additional nearly subliminal enjoyment of this photograph for me. First, I owned a 1964 356C Porsche for a while, and I loved it. I was very sad to see it go. Second, as noted in the text, the film Giant, starring Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean, was filmed in and around Marfa in 1956. James Dean later died in his own Porsche, a Spyder, the precursor to the one that I later owned. That I happened upon this Porsche parked on the main street of Marfa seemed just too serendipitous to me at the time and even now.

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Back Cover

all photos copyright © 2009, 2010 or 2011 by barry b. doyle · all rights reserved

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Hooking up with Tequila

Or, Tequila, Trolls and Barry-Bothering

Dear friend Deven (aka Tequila and Donuts) has just lost her mom. It’s a terrible loss—Betty was beloved by thousands through Deven’s posts at the now defunct site Open Salon with stories that left people rolling on the floor. Antics, conversations, meals out on the town, movie night at the care center all added up to an endearing love shared between the two told through the wicked wit of the scribe. I’m sorry for your loss Deven, as are the untold number who loved you both.

The following is a post on Open Salon from October of 2008 following a get together the bride and I had with Deven and her late husband Dan in Dallas.

I'm gonna poke you
“I’m gonna poke you!”

So the bride and I arranged to meet and have dinner with Mr. and Mrs. Tequila and Donuts as they were in town escaping creditors and family in the PNW.

The myth exploded or what? The first of our group to meet and greet and eat with The Divine Miss D was leaving me with some trepidation. Some reputations preceded, and I just wasn’t sure what to expect. I was not disappointed, but wondered if our waiter Santiago had a hole in his shirt pocket and misplaced some blotter acid in my drinking water.

What follows is, more or less, what happened:

We get to the restaurant just about spot on time, go in and ask for a table. Chuy’s is like Chili’s used to be, but not as desperate. Clearly a funky eatery, but not without it’s manufactured charm.

Umm...E buddy...


Once we get settled, we order up some drinks and wait, Pacifico for me and just water for the bride. It had been planned that I would wear my Hockey Night in Canada jersey so that we could find each other, but we had no idea what the Divine Double D or Mr. T&D really looked like–all the stuff on the interwebs could have been an elaborate ruse.

As we waited and sipped our drinks, we anxiously watched as people came and went. We would get kind of excited when we spotted someone who looked like they knew their way around a place serving fried and greasy food, only to be disappointed again and again.

An hour passes. We look at each other and get ready to leave.

That’s when an odd looking man came in. He was wearing what must have been the typical uniform for Ralph Kramden on bowling night, but with a sombrero with little dangly things. He pushed past the hostess, saw my shirt and rushed up to me.

“You bbd?” he asked.

“Yeah,” I replied, slightly taken aback.

Pulling up a chair and sitting down, the stranger said “I’m a clever guy.”

(I probably look like a deer in the headlights, but it comes to me that I remember something T&D said about how he refers to himself.)

It’s hard to describe exactly what he looks like, or even who he may resemble. But I can say with certainty that he looks exactly like all his pictures. Except…except that he’s huge. Not just “big” or “plus sized.” He’s Sasquatch tall and proportioned with about the same amount of stubble if Sasquatch had attempted to shave with a dull axe.

He then ordered 3 beers, telling the waiter to “make it snappy, food-boy.”

“Do you like to bowl,” said Eve. She had seen the embroidered 7 and 10 pin split on the back of his shirt.

“Oh, I’m no bowler,” he said. He then throws back his head and laughs long and hard. But not a ‘ha-ha funny’ laugh. More of a ‘I’m over/under medicated’ laugh. The beers arrive and he quickly drinks two of them before saying anything else.

As he grabbed the third beer, he looks around suspiciously and says, “Sure, you can travel in Dallas, just don’t drink the water.” He laughs again and empties the bottle. “More!” he bellows to the shaken waiter, our own dear gay Santiago.

“Never drink the water here,” he began, popping a single eye nearly out of his face as he looks at the bride and her choice of beverage.

“The city has only one water-treatment facility over in South Dallas where they do experiments on the locals. They call it a treatment plant, but it’s really just a line of rope with some aquarium filter bags attached with duct tape strung across the river there, just near the main water pumps. They say it takes the crawdad and catfish piss out, but I don’t believe them.”

We spend the next 20 minutes or so like this. He’s drinking beer and telling us how every male Seattlean has to eat his own weight in salmon before he is considered a man. The bride and I sit there wondering what the hell we’ve gotten ourselves into.

That’s when an honest-to-god diva walks in with an entourage. Oddly, she carrried what appeared to be a donut-shaped pinata. After her came three bikini clad young men, each sporting a pair of Uggs proudly twirling to show off their ass-tats, pausing once in a while to wiggle said asses.

Turning toward our table, she glares for a momnent before yelling “NUMBER ONE!” Striding up, she begins planting big wet sloppy kisses everyone. “I’m Deven! And these are my concubines! I’ve decided that I firmly believe in polyandry from now on!” She glares at the first one daring him to say anything.

“Concubines?” asks Eve.

“Yeah,” she explains, “in Seattle you can wed up to 5 people so you have a full “team.” 2 forwards, a center, 2 guards and a “coach.” ”

(I’m desperately thinking “WTF?”)

More beer is ordered. Great steaming piles of enchiladas on immense platters are brought to our table as Mr. T&D, Mrs. T&D and her entourage begin feasting and singing Broadway show tunes. I must admit, she has a beautiful singing voice. Her rendition of “Voulez-Vous” from Abba/Mamma Mia left everyone in slack-jawed.

The gratuitous décolletage shot hidden from Mr. T&D’s view by the menu

Without any warning, Tequila jumps up on the table and hangs the donut pinata from a light fixture. She explains that it’s a traditional Washingtonian activity at Tex-Mex restaurants.

Mr. T&D glares at me and says “The addition of rules of engagement at restaurants in the Seattle area has ruined all spontaneity,” and then throws an an empenada from the next table at the donut hanging above our heads. Tequila and her concubines give a shout of approval and join in. The air is filled with bits of the piñata and the innards of the empenadas until finally the Donut bursts open, spilling out hundreds of stale ‘tim-bits.’ As one, our table-mates let out a yelp of “EH!” and eat the doughnut holes.

Mr. T&D then gets up and says he has to visit the “Little Cabellero Room” and dashes off towards the restrooms.

Then, again without warning, Mrs. T&D jumps up from the table and goes over to the hostess. The bride and I can’t hear what she says to her, but she suddenly takes off her clothes, revealing a diamond encrusted air pump Victoria Secrets Wonder Bra. She runs from the restaurant, followed closely by her three other spouses. She gives us a wave through the window and disappears from sight.

My bride and I just sit and stare at the table, covered in ruins. Another 30 minutes pass before I decide to get up and check the bathroom for Mr. T&D. All I find is his bowling outfit and an empty bottle of hair dye underneath a forced-open window. He, too had left.

The waiter then brings us a $500 bill for the beer, food and damages. We reluctantly pay it after the the manager threatens to call the police.

Still dazed, we head for home.

NB: the subtitle is a reference to the practice of “chicken-bothering.” T&D carries around a couple of fake chickens in her car, a hen and rooster, and on the off chance see sees some loose or feral chickens, she plants the fakes and films the ensuing mayhem: