Media needs to side with what’s right, not with what sells

by Lana Levy LanaScarlett215807

We started this blog to highlight the positive things we captured on our travels, but travels are not always on the road, in the air or on the sea. Nowadays, you travel to places far beyond your home through places like social media.

We watched a video this morning that showed a young man trying to point out to a well-known Fox News reporter that the story is not about the riots in Baltimore, but about the thousands of people taking part in non-violent demonstrations that are not being publicized. The story is not just about a young man who died from a broken back after being in police custody, but about all that led to the man being arrested in the first place.

It is about a community in America suffering from poverty, with no way out.  It is about human rights being trampled by big banks and corporate greed. It is about families who have been forced into poverty so others can capture more wealth than they can possibly spend on themselves…stupid rich as the recent commercials portray. It’s about children with no place to play like children should play and instead becoming indoctrinated into gangs…

The list is long, and until we start listening to the folks who know and want to tell the story, we are not going to be able to “fix” it. Fox News didn’t want that story. All this reporter wanted was to talk about the riots that occurred in one part of a troubled city.

I praise those who continue to call the news media out for their cover-ups and sensationalism. Let’s change the line “if it doesn’t bleed it doesn’t lead” to “feed the need with a responsible lead” and start some healing in this country we call great.


Mail Pouch Barns: Icons of West Virginia and Pennsylvania

MailPouchBarnWVALeft659FMail Pouch Barn West Virginia

Mail Pouch Barn, Jane Lew, West Virginia

Capturing photos of mail pouch barns was high on my barn photography bucket list. The barns haveone or more sides painted from 1890 to 1992 with a barn advertisement for the West Virginia Mail Pouch chewing tobacco company (Bloch Brothers Tobacco Company), based in Wheeling, West Virginia. At the height of the program in the early 1960s, there were about 20,000 Mail Pouch barns spread across 22 states.” (Sources cited at Wikipedia).

We could only hit two states in November, 2014 for mail pouch barn photos on our cross-country drive from Boise, ID to my brother’s house in Boxford, MA.  Most of the trip was spent outrunning winter storms.

We stumbled across our first Mail Pouch barn while exploring Jane Lew, West Virginia. Beyond the town, north of Elk City Road, the giant antique was surrounded by a moody, heavy sky that threatened rain.

I knocked on the door of the home in front of the barn, and a smiling old gentleman said “sure thing!” when I asked if I could photograph the icon in his back yard.

It was a classic, just like the town and folks themselves. We ate an early dinner at the Robin’s Nest in Jane Lew as the clouds thickened and darkened.

There was a bunch of locals eating leisurely inside. An older, farmer-looking guy — coveralls and grizzled beard — sat at a table next to us and his farmer friend came in and joined him shortly after. Soon a third, then a fourth arrived to join them.

One had been married 48 years and another 53 years, and they told the jokes and laughing heartily. Each ordered separately. One was telling about the barber in another town and the 50 cent haircut when he was nicked by the shave and bleeding. His shirt was a mess and by the time he left the barber, covered in blood he said, “That’s what you get when you go to a non-union barber.”

One of the other guys told a story about telling his barber to “cut a little bit here, and weave down this way, then angle up that way a little short here, a little long there.” The barber said, “I don’t know if I can do that,” and the guy said, “That’s what you did a few weeks ago!”

Lana said they “reminded me of my dad and the jokes he had.” That was our local flavor among the truck drivers and the pleasant waitresses and their West Virginia accents. It was a really good meal, we had a good time. Ken had all you can eat spaghetti. One dish and a salad took care of him. Lana had hot roast beef sandwich.

We saw two beautiful male ring-necked pheasants on the road to the Fox barn, a Mail Pouch barn in Sugar Grove, Penn. The writing is almost illegible on its nearly hidden walls, yet it maintains a kind of shabby dignity:

Mail pouch barn Fox

The Fox Mail Pouch Barn, Sugar Grove, Penn.

Probably my favorite Mail Pouch barn is located near Kirby, Penn. outside of Waynesburg in Greene County. I love how the wording on the barn follows the curves of the drooping barn:

Mail Pouch Barn No Tub

Mail Pouch Barn, Kirby, Penn.

Another favorite is near Mt. Morris, Penn. It’s easy to see the earlier painting (ghost painting) of when the barn had been a mail pouch barn and, before that, had advertised Coca-Cola.

Mail Pouch Barn Mt. Morris PA

Mail Pouch Barn, Mt. Morris, Penn.

The next barn, near Rogersville, Penn.,  was so situated that it could have made several different photos. To its left, a small ancient wood garage held a 1960s era pickup, but it was so overgrown it wouldn’t have helped the image. But the little barn to the right of this one adds a bit of flavor to the image:


Mail Pouch Barn, Rogersville, Penn.

All of these barn photographs, and many others, can be found on my web page, Icons: Old Barns of the East. It’s a photographic companion site to my original barn photo documentary site Disappearing Legacy: Old barns of the West. Images from both collections are available for purchase from the web pages. Both sites contain a beautiful collection of classic barns that may not survive much longer. In fact, some of them have collapsed or disappeared since they’ve been photographed.

Eagles in the Gorge

By Lana Levy

Staying focused on the good things people do, instead of the mountains of devious, hurtful things that make all the headlines, requires a good deal of patience and determination. On a trip to the Columbia River Gorge recently, I was reminded of a very important tool to keep that determination in focus…

Ken and I BaldEagleColRivGorge9268were camped in a commercial RV campground in our little travel trailer on the Washington side of the gorge. This became our home away from home while we devoured the beauty of the area. Almost as soon as we got set up for our stay, Ken’s eyes were taken skyward where he spotted two Bald Eagles soaring above. It wasn’t long before we were able to see they had their nest in a tree directly across the street from our picnic table.

Each morning we heard the cry of one bird to the other before their hunting expedition began. We had the joy of seeing them in flight or on their nest every day. Looking back on that joyous experience, I remember a time when I thought I would never be so lucky as to see a Bald Eagle in its natural habitat.

I have seen many over the last several years, but it never gets old. Every time I see one of these majestic birds, I am reminded of the natural beauty we all have access to and often don’t take the time to enjoy. Perhaps that is why it is easier for folks to be disgruntled, disappointed and unhappy.

Again, I go about my days on this planet seeing the joyful things around me in nature and the people I meet. Finding that joy keeps me the happiest.

Finding the positive in everyday situations

by Ken and Lana Levy

Life these days is a bombardment of negative stimuli. Facebook and TV news are in your face with more negative venom than anyone should stomach.

Sometimes, we forget that it’s not all horror and deception, cynicism and narrow-mindedness out there. At least we don’t think so, at least at the grassroots level, so we hit the road to find out.

We’re sharing our “findings” with you, and we think you’ll be delighted.

The odyssey began in November, 2014 with a visit to my brother after he’d had a serious health issue. With this first post, Easter Sunday 2015, Lana and I have traveled through 20 states in five months.

We started with a 17-state, cross-country trek from Boise, Idaho to Boxford, Massachusetts. We spent a good part of the November trip dodging snow storms and cold fronts, when the huge storms hit the Great Lakes communities with record snow and icy cold winds.

Dodging weather patterns – both ways – forced us to drive several hundred miles out of our way, although we would have taken a southerly route regardless. Still, we drove more than 6,800 miles round trip in under 3-1/2 weeks.

We saw the simple poverty of mining towns in West Virginia and the sometimes-opulent lifestyles in some of the wealthier communities in the country. We traveled small highways that took us through jagged-mountain red-rock cliffs and ate Maine lobster in Boston’s North End. We tried legendary barbecue at Arthur Bryant’s in Kansas City and tried to sleep in the back of the truck at a gas station with an all-night Wendy’s in Scranton, PA.

This is the beginning of a traveling log of how we saw folks turn their lives into positive experiences in whatever they do, wherever we went. It’s  a journey through experiences, rather than time…

The Journey Begins

It starts with a friendly and happy waitress working in a Greek coffee shop in Auburn, Mass. Cindy is a compact middle-aged woman with the most sinFeatured imagecere and happy smile on her face that she shares with everyone who walks in, friend or stranger.

We were certainly strangers, walking in from a pouring rain more than 2,000 miles from home. We could feel her joyous energy as she welcomed us and bustled off to bring us hot coffee.

She said they pay her to serve people and she loves it.

Oh, for the world to reach this level of enjoyment. Cindy understood that each day, each encounter is to be savored and enjoyed, and shared for its goodness.

She loved sharing that goodness with little intimate looks into her life. She told some customers she felt like Mrs. Potato Head in the mornings: she has to put on her eyes, her ears and her teeth before she can start her day.

“We can make the whole world a loving place by just being ourselves, one at a time, and treating everyone like family,” Cindy said. Her eyes watered with the simple happy joy she shared and instilled in everyone she met.

She was attentive and delightfully friendly as she served us. I ordered the Hungry Man Omelet with sausage, bacon, onions, peppers and cheese, eaten the normal way. I hate eggs, and my favorite Crab & Mushroom Omelet – hold the eggs – is how I normally eat them. But I decided  to go out on a rope with this one, with a side of bacon.

I was not disappointed. Nor was Lana, who had the Scrambled Egg Special, served with bacon and stuffed French toast.

Breakfast was especially good that day.

More to come…