Photography Places


I renewed my Botanical Garden subscription as a Christmas Present to myself. I wasn’t going to renew it; I had planned on trying new walks next year. But the Botanical is a place of sanctuary for me — especially in the winter when I can have the place to myself.

Yesterday, though, there were dozens of parents and grandparents out with children to see the train show. I grabbed a few photos, though not many. The room was crowded, the lighting not great, and I didn’t want to block people from the displays.

I did want, so much, to get a picture of a grandfather showing his grandson the model trains. He would point at one coming around a corner or a building, and the child would stand their bug eyed with wonder; the image of the two of them, heads close together, was a visual joy. I only caught them indirectly, though, when taking pictures of the entire display. Like the natives who believe you steal a person’s soul when you take their photo, you do take something when you intrude on an intimate scene, camera ready to selfishly rip it away.

Instead, I’ll get my photos of small trains and fluffy cotton hills and tell you about the grandfather and the grandson. And the asshole.

Christmas model trains

The room was crowded, and the adults who came to see the show stood back from the table so that those with kids could get a better view. There was one woman, though, part of a an older couple, who seemed less interested in seeing the show and more interested in ensuring others did not.

She planted herself along the edge of the table and moved down the side, brushing children out of the way, complaining about how warm the room was, how tacky the display was and responding indifferently when her husband pointed out some novelty or other. She stepped into the way when people were taking pictures, and had a face like Jim Carrey’s Mr. Grinch–but less green. Which was too bad, in a way, as at least a green face would have added some touch of holiday spirit.

the train 2

She wasn’t the only person not interested in the display and along for the ride. But where others were patient indulgence, she moved and acted as if the room, and the people in it, were responsible for her present state of misery.

I remember being concerned that she would ruin the show for others, because people like her can. But I could see, across the display from her that when she passed, people would fill in the space left in her wake, children close to table, parents bent down (just to help the children, you understand), smiling adults in the back (discovering that there’s also a train running along the back, among the Christmas flowers — just for them).

trains are for boys, eh?

After the show, I walked around the grounds. It was a nice day yesterday — warm enough for Spring, though with dead things. There wasn’t much to photograph other than the greenhouse flowers and an oddity now and again.

A young couple was at the main pond and the man was breaking up chunks of ice with his foot and they were tossing them out onto the ice. I stopped to watch because they were having such fun. However, my presence made them hesitate and I could see they were wondering if I was going to get upset at them for tossing the ice about. I imagine if I had been an asshole, like the woman at the train show, I would have puckered up and looked on them with disapproval and ruined what was nothing more than an a moment to have a bit of winter fun.

Instead I called out to them to never mind me, and to continue; after all, it was only ice and they weren’t hurting anything. I eventually walked over to chat with them and watched as they had fun with the ice. They even offered me a chunk if I wanted to try it, which was nice of them.

ice on ice

Yesterday was a good day to walk about the Gardens–few distractions. I spent the time thinking about the lessons I’ve learned from this year that I want to take into 2006. During my musings, I found I could reduce them all to a simple two-part philosophy.

The first part is: The world is full of assholes.


This is a very important philosophy to have. The world is full of assholes. Contrary to how we may feel at times, we’re not asshole magnets and they’re not gathered solely around us–assholes are everywhere. As such, we’re never going to be free from them. We therefore have only one recourse and that’s accept that assholes are an inevitable fact of life.

You better not shout, you better not cry, you better not pout–I’m telling you why…because the world is full of assholes.

The lover that has left us is an asshole. The boss who has fired us is an asshole. The middle aged white guy who holds a technical conference and doesn’t invite women? Asshole, big time.


The politician who doesn’t vote the way we want is an asshole; the crooked judge, the bad cop, the robber, the killer, the racist, bigot, sexist, and molester–all assholes. But so is the clerk at the store who crushes our eggs, or the dog owner who doesn’t use a pooper scooper; not to mention the person who innocently takes the parking space we wanted.

That woman at the train show: asshole. Me at the pond–not an asshole. Yesterday.

Keep the world is full of assholes firmly in your mind. If every job we lose we tear ourselves up with insecurity over the rejection, we’ll die young. If, in the loneliness of our beds, late at night, we lay sleeplessly, listening to echos of “if only, if only”, we’ll go mad. We are not walking around with a cosmic “kick me” sign pasted to our butts. Or if we are, we’re all wearing the same sign.


What do you do with an asshole? You catch them, you cure them, you cage them. You make them clean up, grow up, shut up. You stay and fight, or you walk away. Most of the time, all you have to do is give them a few minutes. Whatever you do, you take away their power.

touched by light

At the train show, the people had two choices in how to react to the lady who was an asshole: they could have focused on her behavior, or they could focus on the show. If they had focused on her behavior, the show would have been ruined. As it was, she was nothing more than a minor nuisance, perhaps even someone to pity.

But enough about her: look at that train coming around! Can you hear the whistle?

the train

We seldom have an opportunity to change people. We seldom have an opportunity to agree on what needs to be changed. I may think a person is being an asshole because they see everything around them as a marketing opportunity; they may think I’m an asshole, because why should I care what they think?

If a person does act like an asshole, though, we can remember the people at the train show and the older lady who probably is not a very happy person. Whatever influence she had, she lost immediately because the people around her were just too busy having fun.


The world is full of assholes. What a philosophy to experience at a Christmas train show. What a philosophy to take into a new year! Isn’t this the season of good will to all? Where is the ’seeing good’ in humanity in a statement such as this?

You probably think I’m an asshole for saying making this statement, and this leads me to the second part of my philosophy; the part which adds, I think, both perspective and hope:

The world is full of assholes, and sometimes I’m one of them.

The world is full of assholes, and sometimes I’m one of them. Does a woman’s philosophy have to get more complicated than that? I don’t think so.

Whatever your religious belief or lack of one, Merry Christmas, assholes. You make my world a better place.

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