Motivated Explorer

If you read the last 3 posts about incentives for my Photo Essay in Cuba you will see twists & turns. With departure less than a week away, reflecting on the evolution of my motivation has been clarifying. One year ago at this time I was getting ready for my last remote & retirement. That page of my life has been turned. Now, I am confidently looking forward to first-hand inspiration during a brief immersion into a foreign culture.


If you read the last 3 posts about incentives for my Photo Essay in Cuba you will see twists & turns. With departure less than a week away, reflecting on the evolution of my motivation has been clarifying. One year ago at this time I was getting ready for my last remote & retirement. That page of my life has been turned. Now, I am confidently looking forward to first-hand inspiration during a brief immersion into a foreign culture.

If any one word describes my trip I guess explorer comes the closest.   Although my actual time there will be short I believe the culture of the Cuban people is worth experiencing & attempting to understand. Even though I haven’t yet set foot there, the research & planning has been an enjoyable & valuable learning process.

What something is can sometimes be defined by what it is NOT.

This trip is NOT a job…nobody is paying me. It is NOT a vacation…recreation & relaxations are not goals. I am NOT part of a group…this is an independent excursion. I am NOT a tourist checking items off a list to say, “Been there-done that”. I am NOT trying to be a time traveler stepping into Doc Brown’s DeLorean to return to the 50’s.

At its core, motivation is a desire to do something. Defining general goals early on was helpful. I knew in retirement I wanted to do more photography. I also looked forward to having time to learn new things. And, after a hiatus from the airport, I wanted to visit new places. This trip targets those ambitions.

My curiosity & research identified potential objectives, which became more specifically defined. What I perceived as obstacles melted into logistical challenges. The preparation fueled my enthusiasm while diluting apprehensions.

Groundwork I did in advance of the trip galvanized my efforts to improve & expand my photography skills. Reading books & watching documentaries about Cuba helped satisfy some of my inquisitiveness. Looking at the work of other photographers made me eager to meet the people of Cuba & glance into their lives. The next step, after I pack, is doing it.

I also have secondary incentives. Going somewhere that has been forbidden for most of my life sparks my sense of adventure. I also like rum and must confess, I’m looking forward to the warmth & longer days near the Tropic of Cancer.

Any sojourn will have a few surprises. These are a few I’ve already encountered.

I am flying with Frequent Flyer miles. Two years ago the only way for most US citizens to get there was illegally departing from another country. This is a example of how things have changed. OBTW my AA million miles status got me first and business class seats. Jay got his upgrade!

Since the embargo was an economic action, the Treasury Department not State Department, authorizes trips to Cuba. FYI tourism/vacation is not an acceptable reason. I am traveling for the dual category of people to people & journalism. My permission slip from the treasury was a form letter.

Removing the embargo will take an Act of Congress. Eisenhower began it by restricting arms in 1958 and later he and Kennedy escalated it to include almost all economic, commercial and financial activity.

There are 2 currencies on the island. The CUC is for foreigners & CUP for citizens. The economic embargo prevents the use of US credit cards. Exchanging US dollars for CUC has a 10% tax. Other currencies do not have that tax.

A woman by the name of Celia Sanchez had a dominant role in the revolution and lived in the mountains with Fidel’s armies. I didn’t expect that in a machismo setting.

One disappointing surprise was that the rum distilleries are located on the Western part of the island, which I will not be visiting.

Almost always a disappointment is Verizon. I was told in December I could get an International Plan for use in Cuba. $40 per 100 min. Surprise Surprise I had been given bad info. The only Cuba plan is $2.99 per min or $300 for 100.   Basically 7 times more expensive than the information I was given about 6 weeks ago. I will just deal with a pre-paid card in Cuba. Verizon consistently has given out bad, or at best, confusing/conflicting/inaccurate information.

While I have confidence in my overall plan I know that once I get there it will be necessary to adjust & to some degree & “make it up as I go along.” Having worked on location doing video production for 40 years I am well prepared for not everything going as planned.

My mantra for retirement has been slower & simpler. Island Time should mesh with that attitude just fine. I look forward to taking advantage of opportunities that unfold right in front of me without being overly concerned with a defined schedule. I also anticipate introspective discoveries on this journey.

Cuban history is filled with numerous transitions. With Raul Castro saying he will step down in February of 2018 & the recent death of Fidel, the 14 months in between the exit of the Castro brothers could be significant. Will the world look on this period of time as the epilogue of the Castro’s rule? Might it be the prelude to a new beginning? Will Fidel’s comment that History will absolve him be true? How will new generations define Cuba Libre?

I can’t help but expect that this is a period of time of yet another significant change in the lives and the history of the Cuban people.

Look for my 1st posting in mid February.

Wood Shop vs Photoshop

If I had not had a career in Video/TV Production I would like to have been a carpenter. Retirement offers wood shop time, learning new skills & exploring a different type of creativity. I use re-purposed wood & enjoy the imperfections while incorporating flaws into the design. None of these pieces came from a pattern. I began with an idea & made it up as I went along.


The top of this table is made from 100+ year-old beams from the original cottage on our property. This was my 1st project. The rustic style farm table fit well with my nascent abilities. I have interest & respect for history that dovetails nicely with photography & woodworking. I’m also motivated to learn new techniques in each skill.


Function & form are an important part of pre-pro in woodworking & pre-visualization of photography. This simple form provides 3 separate functions; a holder for the garden hose, an attachment for the clothesline & a perch to hang a flower basket.


Strictly function on this project. The original ramp was rotting. Old sections of dock worked perfectly as planks. I purchased wood for joists & used plenty of stone as foundation. Often while wandering with my camera I will shoot a sign purely as a landmark or reference. Pure function with no creativity serves a purpose.


Strictly form here. I had these 7X7 beams for a long time trying to figure out what to do with them. An earlier bench was a failure but a learning process. When I realized 3 would make a perfect homage to a tripod I knew I was onto something. This is still a work in progress. In photography something may catch my eye but I’m not sure how best to capture it. I examine angles, light, foreground, background & as many perspectives as possible. Inspiration sometimes needs time to germinate.


I can’t provide a 1 to 1 correlation, but the work/thought-flow of both photography & woodworking feed each other. I believe perspective & detailed observation as well as compromise have something to do with it. Along the way you can be surprised. After building this bench/shoe rack I found something good for my bad knees. Getting up from a bench 20 inches off the ground is much easier than the normal chair height of 17 inches.


An advantage to DIY building is you can customize to fit your need. I usually start my day with coffee reading the news on my kindle. I needed a small low table that would fit between the 2 chairs.  A somewhat larger/higher cousin is in the works. My photography subjects satisfy my interests & woodworking to meet my needs.


This was my most ambitious project to date & also the heaviest. We wanted an island in the kitchen. Drawers were not a project I felt I was ready for since they have little room for error.   My wife suggested getting a used cabinet w/drawers at Construction Junction then cover the other 3 sides. Brilliant! The 3 sides are tongue & grove from the original cottage. The oak top & trim is from my grandparents dinning room table.


I liked the idea of a parquet end table but wasn’t sure how to begin. There was a lot of making it up as you go along on this project. It came together nicely as I had hoped. And, I still have 10 fingers! Wood isn’t perfect & neither am I.  Between Wood-shop & Photoshop I am exploring new paths for taking ideas from my head & making them real. A lot of creativity just comes from doing it. Connecting mind, eye & fingers.