Fun-a-Day: Photo caption a day

It's January, which means it's time for Fun-a-Day. I've dabbled with Fun-a-Day in the past and always enjoy the wrap-up show. Last year I wrote zine-related journal entries. Didn't want to just write again this year, but I have no skills in the visual arts so, photo captions! It's still writing, but will get me thinking about images and thinking about documenting events. Looking back at old photos, even a few words on the back can bring the image to life instead of it being a static scene of who knows what. I'd like to get better at documentation of many forms this year so I hope this will be one step in that direction, and in the process I may learn a little about family, friends, and what the heck I've seen on my travels.

I might figure out how to do a photo slideshow as a little website project later this month, but for now, this is just gonna be photos and text.

Jan. 1

This was the first photo I thought of when I came up with this idea. It's a photo of my grandma, Mary Corapi Coursey, on her honeymoon at, where else? Niagara Falls. I should ask my mom or grandpa for the exact year, 1953 maybe? My grandma died almost 10 years ago and when people were going through her stuff, one of my relatives found this photo. My cousin made copies of it for everyone. It's funny how everyday people in old photos like this can totally look like movie stars, but she does. The photo was an uplifting find at a sad time, and now it's neat to see where different relatives feature it in their homes. My grandpa took the photo, I'm assuming. He had one of those cameras with the flash bulbs on them for the longest time. He and my mom still love to take photos. I need to get them up to speed with digital cameras.

(Photo: Richard Coursey)

Jan. 2

To the right, my mom already started a caption on this one: "VA State NALC convention May 85 at VA Beach, having lunch." So that's my mom, Carolyn; me at about 2 years old; and my dad, Joseph. NALC is the National Association of Letter Carriers. My dad was a mailman and was very active in the union. My mom was active in the women's auxiliary. There are numerous photos of conventions and hotels and meetings. We still have a women's auxiliary cookbook and my mom talked about her, and their, work with the union for years and years. Several of my relatives on my mom's side were also mailman, uncles and great uncles. It was a great civil service job after people got out of the military. Both of my parents served in the Air Force and then they settled in Hampton, Virginia. The area has a ton of military from an Air Force and a Naval base. We visited a few years ago and my mom was so excited to get an "I love jet noise" bumper sticker. It's still on her car.

(Photo: ?)

Jan. 3

graduation party

As I was flipping through a photo album, I saw a bunch of graduation photos that looked quite familiar. This is my grandma with my Uncle Rich (next to her on the left), and, I'm guessing, two of his friends. He graduated in 1986. 15 years later, I graduated from the same high school and will post a similar photo tomorrow. My mom and all of her four siblings went to McDowell High School. Her dad went there. My sister and I went there. Looking through old year books, we'd see some of the same teachers from a generation before. Only as I learned about teacher turnover rates, did I come to realize how anomalous this type of multi-generation connection to a school can be. My grandpa also went to one of the (four) elementary schools I attended, Tracy Elementary. The school was rebuilt and the old stone building where it used to reside was torn down, ostensibly to sell the land the school was on. The land, near the busiest tourist site in town, has been vacant for about 10 years. My grandma started working as a lunch lady at the middle school down the street from her house when my Uncle Rich (the youngest) was a kid. She still worked there part time when I was a student there. She was an awesome lunch lady. It was funny attending a school where the teachers knew, and admired, your grandma, and where your mom had psychic scars from teachers who still worked there.

(Photo: Carolyn Owens)

Jan. 4

This is from my high school graduation. No school friends in this photo, nothing to read into there! My sister Monika on the left, me, my mom, my grandma. You can't really see all the other people in blue and white in the background, but they were there. Hundreds of 'em. By the time my sister graduated from McDowell, my grandma had passed away. I also missed my sister's graduation. She graduated from high school the same year I graduated from college. I started working directly after college and couldn't get off of work to go from Philly to Erie for her graduation. At the time I thought "oh, well, I'll DEFINITELY go to her college graduation" as well as, let's be honest, "graduations are so freakin boring." I still feel pretty bad about missing her graduation, even though she never said anything to me about it. It seemed like right out of college I had some work/life balance test and totally failed it. She died during college, so no graduation to attend. We did have a joint graduation celebration, which I also felt bad about. No one has a college graduation party, she should have had the party all to herself! But she insisted. 

(Photo: ? Richard Coursey?)

Jan. 5

And here's a photo from the afterparty for 2005 graduation. From left to right, me, Monika, some girl, Johnny our next door neighbor, Ally our two doors down next door neighbor and Monika's best friend, and some other girl. I hadn't seen this photo till Ally posted it last year for Monika's 25th birthday. It's a great photo and captures a lot about her. The place is Ally's back yard and Monika, Ally, and Johnny sure spent a lot of time hanging out back there. I was 3.5years older so I was not part of that group at all, but it's nice to see Monika yanking me into the picture. Part of the impulse behind this assignment was also knowing that I would be home for a while and have an opportunity to look at photos and maybe ask people about them. Except, even setting up this assignment for myself, I'm still not really doing that. My sister did not shy away from actually completing family history assignments or asking people (well, just about anything) or taking ton of photos and organizing them and sharing them with friends. I am not sure what made her so able to do that and what's still holding me back from it.

(Photo: ? no idea)

Jan. 6

The Gawker "Journalism is not Narcissism" came out just in time to shame me for this me-oriented blog post idea. Awesome. That's not the point of this project, which has other value beyond millennial navel-gazing, but it did nudge me to think of photos beyond my own family. I had dinner with some of my dad's family for the first time, outside of weddings, since I was probably in middle school tonight. (I can date that trip now cause my cousin mentioned Anne Rice, who I was voraciously reading at that time.) So I should post a family photo now, but I was shy and didn't bring that up; maybe tomorrow. Today, the awesomeness of Flickr's Creative Commons. Searching is my go-to place for open-licensed photos. This came up in one of the first few pages of "interesting" photos for Philadelphia. It's the SS United States. This thing has been docked in front of the IKEA on Columbus Blvd for years. The only reason I know that is cause my grandpa told me. My grandpa visited Philly a few years ago and since he has bad knees, we had to drive everywhere. We drove most of Germantown Ave. Drove Passyunk. I wanted to take him along the water and to at least see the Seaport Museum, but you can't even get nearby without paying for parking, so we kept driving down Columbus Blvd and I'm just, here's some stores and he shouts "IS THAT THE SS UNITED STATES???" I don't think I ever even registered that a boat was there. But it was. He checked it out for a bit and told me about how it still holds the record for the fastest transatlantic voyage and how he visited it when he was on the coast on leave after serving in Korea. Later, he sent me a souvenir pamphlet he had sent home to his parents. He opened me up to a whole world of SS United States aficionados who would write about it for PlanPhilly or the Daily News and I would send him article clippings. The writer for PlanPhilly released a book about the ship last year. I sent it to my grandpa and he said it was pretty good and gave it back to me, but noted that the book failed to mention the time period when it was docked and he had the chance to visit it.

(Photo: Bob Jagendorf)

Jan. 7

This is the full picture of my Twitter avatar. My mom and I are at a fondue restaurant in Paris that serves drinks in baby bottles. (Uh, kay?) I was extremely grumpy about this trip. My mom said we had a "once in a lifetime" opportunity to visit Paris because we could stay with Ally, who was studying abroad, and my sister would want us to go for my 25th birthday. I felt super uncomfortable about going on a "European vacation," and with my mom to boot. It just felt like a really upper middle class thing to do and I didn't know how to deal with that. Now I feel bad for being unappreciative to my mom on the trip.

(Photo: Ally Thomas)

Jan. 8

Michael Coursey

On January 6, my Uncle Mike had people over to his house to watch the Browns-Steelers game. Uncle Mike is a Browns fan and my mom and my Uncle Rich are Steelers fans. Apparently the game didn't matter, so everyone just had fun hanging out instead of getting too upset about the game. My mom forgot her camera and so she used my phone to take some photos of folks. She took this really nice shot of Uncle Mike. She also took one of him wearing the Browns dog pound cap she bought him, but he looks much less happy in that photo. Uncle Mike and I also hung out and watched CNN for New Year's Eve, which seems to have become a tradition. It's funny how sibling dynamics continue into adulthood; whenever my mom is around my uncle she just nags him constantly and he just quietly takes her ranting. He was a marine and then a mail carrier, similar to my dad and Uncle Rich who were in the Air Force and then mail carriers. And to other relatives who took the military service --> civil service route.

(Photo: Carolyn Owens)

Jan. 21

So, I really fell off in doing Fun-a-Day. And then I felt guilty about it and afraid to look at my post with so many days empty. But, ok! Back to it. And I will backfill photos. This is an obligatory shot of the snow that fell today. I played around with some photo settings with GIMP and this seemed to be a bit of an improvement. The photo isn't so great, but what I saw when taking the photo is -- an ad for an 2-bedroom apartment at 15th and Mifflin for $1500/mo!!!! I cannot believe that. South Philly is changing, but that much? It's sometimes difficult to know how to talk about my neighborhood honestly, but in a way that makes sense to the person to whom I am speaking. Stuff like "safety" or "what are you neighbors like?" mean drastically different things to different people. Also, yes, affordability. Yee-eesh. The one productive thing I did today did involve price comparisons for my homeowner's insurance, so that felt good. It is strange how just a few weeks after days off for holidays, I often realllllly need the added break of Martin Luther King Day. Then I relax instead of volunteering, which is not cool of me. I wonder if MLK Day has always been a day of action and I just didn't notice it as a kid or if it has taken on that role more recently. Not sure.

(Photo: me)