Friday, November 30, 2007

Our Godchild

We are now officially godparents. We spent Thanksgiving in Guatemala this year for our godchild Aracely's baptism. It was great to see Humberto, Paulina, and the girls (Vanesa, Paola, Yasmin, Yoselin, and 2 1/2 year old Aracely), as well as their cousins Rocio, Luis, Josue, Neli, Julisse, Wilson, Alex, Pamela, and all the rest. Aracely looked precious in her lacy white dress and hat, frilly socks, and white patent leather shoes. She is such a sweetheart! We are so honored that Paulina and Humberto chose us for this role.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

In Memory of Ernest C. Withers

We got an email from Andy this morning saying that Dr. Ernest C. Withers, renowned photographer of the Civil Rights Movement and the music scene in Memphis, had passed away while we were in Bhutan. We had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Withers in August of 2006. The world has lost a brilliant and talented artist and a very sweet and friendly man. We offer our sincere condolences to his family and friends.

Our friend Frank Brown (who passed away in August of 2005) had been B.B. King's bus driver for 20 years. We only knew Frank for a year and a half, but he became one of our very best friends, and it was truly a blessing to have him in our lives. During our friendship with Frank, we became familiar with a photograph of B.B. King, his band, and crew on Beale Street in front of their brand new tour bus in the 1950's. We saw the photo in several books, and when we showed it to Frank, he got excited and pointed himself out. We learned that the photographer was named Ernest C. Withers.

Dr. Withers in his Beale St. studio

A year after Frank's passing, we were in Memphis for a Tom Waits concert. Our stay was very brief, and about an hour before we had to hit the road for Nashville, we talked to a lady at the Center for Southern Folklore and she told us the location of Dr. Withers' studio at 333 Beale St. We wanted to purchase a copy of the bus photograph, and thought it would be very interesting to meet Dr. Withers if at all possible. We went to the studio and it was locked up, but there was a business card taped to the window. I called the cell phone number with a sinking feeling in my stomach. We had to leave soon and this didn't seem promising.

Craig and I with Dr. Withers in his Beale St. studio

Dr. Withers answered the phone and was quite pleasant and friendly. I explained about Frank and that we were heading out of town very soon. He said that he would be at the studio in 10 minutes, and lo oand behold, he pulled up in his car just a few minutes later. He unlocked the studio and brought us inside. It was a treasure trove - a museum with the look of a rummage sale. Photos were piled up everywhere, and each one was incredibly significant. He rifled through the piles looking for a copy of the bus photo. He didn't find one, but we enjoyed seeing the large black and white prints of Martin Luther King, key event sin the Civil Rights Movement, music icons such as Elvis Presley, B.B. King, Rufus Thomas, Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin, Johnny was amazing. He said that he could get a copy of the photo printed up and mailed to us within a couple of days, and we said that was great; the only condition being that he promised to sign it. We paid him for the photo and he said he was uneasy to accept our money without having something tangible to hand to us. This was a testament to his integrity. He wrote up a detailed receipt and promised to send the photo out soon.

Dr. Withers and Craig with the bus photo

He paged through his book "The Memphis Blues Again: Six Decades of Memphis Music Photographs" and told us anecdotes about each photo. We enjoyed it so much! The time flew, and we got the feeling he would have continued talking with us for hours if we didn't have to set off for Nashville. Our meeting with him was totally unexpected, and is an experience we will forever cherish. Less than a week later, the signed photo showed up on our doorstep. It is proudly displayed in our dining room.

Rest in Peace, Dr. Withers, and thank you for being so kind to us.

Memorial contributions can be made to the Ernest C. Withers Sr. Historical Photographic Foundation, P.O. Box 152, Memphis, TN 38101, for the preservation and restoration of his works.

obituary from the Memphis Commercial Appeal
obituary from the New York Times

Ernest C. Withers Building, 333 Beale St., Memphis TN

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Trusted Adventures

Trusted Adventures, an alliance of like-minded ecotourism companies (whose members include Myths and Mountains and Wildland Adventures, who planned our Bhutan/India and Africa trips, respectively) has added some of our posts to their blog!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Additional Photos from Bhutan and India

Mt Everest from the flight from Delhi->Kathmandu->Paro

National Museum in Paro

Paro Dzong

"Bhutanese Ghostbusters" - The Lama (center) practicing for Shelmakha Festival

Acrobatic dancing at the Shelmakha Festival

Dancers at Shelmakha Festival

"Apple" (right) and a friend in Shelmakha

108 chortens built by Queen Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck

Dechen, the 13-month old daughter of the gift shop clerk at Hotel YT in Punakha

Chhendebji Chorten (a Nepalese-style stupa)

Detail of exquisite painting at Trongsa Dzong

Monks practicing for a festival at the dzong in Bumthang

Dorji incognito

Monkey, 11 km from Lingmethang

View of the Taj from our room at the Oberoi Amarvilas

Interior, Itimad-ud-daulah

Agra Fort

Taj Mahal

Sunset at the Taj Mahal

Sunset at the Taj Mahal

Koranic verses inlaid around the entrance gate to the Taj Mahal (each Arabic letter is its own single piece of black marble)

Mughal emeralds at Kohinoor Jewelers

Fatehpur Sikri