Author: Joe Wilcox

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The Cats of University Heights: Ozzie

I met the seventy-third Alabama Street kitty, Ozzie, with his sister Delilah, while they were leash-walked by their friendly owners, on Sept. 5, 2021. I used iPhone XS to capture the Featured Image. Vitals:  f/1.8, ISO 25, 1/305 sec, 26mm; 9:25 a.m. PDT.

About a dozen other cats live on the same block—that I am aware. Some are yet to be photographed and, thus, are not profiled in the series.

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The Cats of University Heights: Delilah

Where do all these Alabama animals come from? Meet Delilah, the seventy-second kitty profiled from the street since the series started in October 2016. I happened upon a friendly couple leash-walking Delilah and her brother Ozzie on Sept. 5, 2021. Across the way lives Samba, who gets similarly supervised jaunts.

I used iPhone XS to capture the Featured Image. Vitals: f/2.4, ISO 16, 1/266 sec, 52mm; 9:24 a.m. PDT.

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Bouncy Ball

I made two meaningless discoveries along Alabama Street between Madison and Mission, today: The hanging kiddie swing is gone; a child’s ball remains, but the bouncy wasn’t there yesterday. Earlier this month, toys disappeared from the front yard of the house where once lived black kitty Petri and his owner; last week a “For Rent” sign hung from the fence. So I strongly suspected that the family had moved on. Confirmed.

The ball lay on the grassy knoll between sidewalk and street before the property where once resided Giotto and where I more recently photographed Sundown. All three animals are profiled in my “Cats of University Heights” series.

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Patriotic Motif or Something Else?

During the same walk that I photographed Crepe Myrtle blossoms, on Aug. 25, 2021, a seemingly patriotic-painted utility box caught my attention at 54th and El Cajon Blvd. While I used iPhone XS to make several shots, a gentlemen coming down the sidewalk asked about my interest in the thing—surprised and maybe a bit amused. Easy explanation: Walking home from the dentist, I saw something interesting.

As I separated from him at brisk pace, because my wife waited for me several blocks farther along, he politely yelled: “Welcome to my neighborhood!” I turned back and thanked him with wave and smile. If only more people in San Diego were so friendly.

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Your Art is Garbage

Honestly, if not for the storytelling value, you would not be looking at the homage to narcissism that is the Featured Image. While walking in the San Diego neighborhood of University Heights on Sept. 6, 2021, my wife spotted something in the middle of the intersection at Georgia and Meade. She fetched what turned out to be a mounted print laying face down on the asphalt. Somewhat shocked by the strangeness of the find, she set the abandoned art against a utility poll, pulled out iPhone XS, and snapped a photo. Vitals: f/1.8, ISO 25, 1/530 sec, 26mm; 6:13 p.m. PDT.

I find the thing to be rather repulsive. Near as I can understand from standard web searching, the print is “Armed Forces” from the Hat Series by Chinese painter Yue Minjun. His works depict himself—so, yeah, he is each of the seven smiling weirdos that you see. There’s something oh-so unsettling and insanely appropriate about his style at a time when social media and smartphones propagate narcissists like mold in the damp walls of a leaky house.

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Kitty is Missing!

I am sentimental abut the animals appearing in my “Cats of University Heights” series and feel fondness for their owners when privileged enough to meet them. Two days ago, after photographing the Alfa Romeo parked on Lincoln, I walked by a house where lives a handsome Tuxedo who was profiled in September 2019. Where’s Kitty? I asked myself, strangely not seeing him sunning on the sidewalk or sleeping on his couch on the porch. This afternoon, I ambled past and saw something startling where he might normally be: On a box a homemade sign stating that “Kitty is missing! Have you seen him?” Oh, how I wish.

His owner is a delightful woman in her Seventies who lives in the house her grandmother bought about a hundred years ago. Generational homes are an increasing rarity—as are people who grew up in the neighborhood. She used to play in the canyons and graduated from San Diego High School. The lady is a gem and kitty was her treasure. I will update this post after speaking with her sometime soon. She’s in my heart tonight.

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The Cats of University Heights: Cookie

A backlog of kitties—three from Alabama Street—must wait, as this striking shorthair leaps to the front of the waiting queue. My wife and I spotted the black and white late morning today; he (or she) joins just five beasties seen along Mission Cliff Drive (in this instance near Park Blvd): Aylin, CupcakeFraidy, Starlet, and Tabby.

I shot three portraits before an approaching dog walker scared off the cat. The Featured Image and companion are the first and last taken—using Leica Q2. Vitals, aperture manually set for both: f/5.6, ISO 100, 1/400 sec, 28mm; 10:57 a.m. PDT. The other is same but 1/800 sec, one-minute later. I am surprised to discover that among the 427 previous profiles, no beastie is called Cookie. It’s a nickname now—chocolate with white filling. Yum!

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Alfa Romeo Spider

No one would call me a car guy. Still, I’m a sucker for classic, European vehicular styling—like that seen in the Featured Image and its companions. Today, while walking through University Heights to the Vermont Street Bridge that leads to shopping plaza The Hub in Hillcrest, I passed by my first-ever sighting of an Alfa Romeo sportster. If online image search steered me down the right road, this model is the Spider—and I am unable to pin down year of release. What a beauty she is (my blog, my pronoun choice).

The car was parked on Lincoln at Maryland, near where I photographed a Hummer in February 2021. Coincidentally, or not, both vehicles were outside the same home—just on different streets (it’s a corner property).

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A Macro Moment with Leica Q2

The days are plenty when I consider trading in Leica Q2. Being beholden to a fixed-focal-length lens—even as magnificent as the camera’s 28mm f/1.7 Summilux—is a tradeoff when I can’t get close enough to a subject. But versatility abounds, holding me to the all-in-one shooter—like precise manual focus or Macro mode, which I used to capture the Featured Image. Vitals, aperture manually set: f/4, ISO 100, 1/640 sec, 28mm; 1:16 p.m. PDT.

One of our car‘s windshield wipers broke, so today we drove to the auto-mechanic in San Diego’s Normal Heights neighborhood. The plan: Annie would drive home to University Heights, while I would walk for some extra exercise. I passed by the richly-pigmented orange and yellow flowers about a half block from the service station. The cropped photo is from a single shot taken. Anticipating the light breeze, I held my breath and waited for several seconds of stillness to click the shutter. During post-production, I throttled back the contrast and pulled out the highlights.

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The Cats of University Heights: Grit

When first seeing this Tortoiseshell, I thought perhaps Dancer reappeared after long absence. But when the cat changed hiding spots, I could see that she is another kitty—and one quite timid by comparison. She might even be feral.

The Featured Image is the best of a half-dozen shots, all taken with iPhone XS on March 16, 2021. Vitals: f/2.4, ISO 16, 1/235 sec, 52mm; 11:46 a.m. PDT. The fearful feline earns nickname Grit, because I had to use it. I misidentified Burglar as two separate cats and the new Grit replaces the other in the series‘ queue.

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You Can’t Call 911

This payphone is one of many things out of place along University Avenue in downtown Hillcrest. At my request, today, Annie dropped me in the San Diego neighborhood when she went out on an errand. I walked home, for a change in scenery. Eh, what a change.

As I stood at the stoplight, waiting to cross Sixth Avenue, something tumbled end over end over University and landed in the gutter across the way. Then a skinny, shirtless, suntanned dude strutted across the street—haughty and boisterous. He picked up what looked like a metal pipe or handle and began twirling it combat-style. I pushed the walk button to cross University rather than Sixth.

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We Voted Today

My wife and I dropped off our ballots at Garfield Elementary, which is located in San Diego’s North Park neighborhood. Crossing the parking lot, we saw three people, presumably all poll workers, sitting in folding chairs under an awning outside the school entrance. We had forgotten about masks, which the trio suddenly pulled out and put on before walking inside. Then a brave one came out to meet Annie and I, holding in outstretched arms a yellow canvas sack that blocked the woman from the two pariahs—meaning us. We dropped in our mail-in ballots, and she rushed away. Gosh, I sure hope that wasn’t the trash liner.

Californians are being asked whether or not they want to remove the governor. Unfortunately, opponents and proponents have framed the recall election in terms of Gavin Newsom vs front-runner Larry Elder, which distracts from the reason for everyone going to the polls. The special election is absolutely about Newsom vs Newsom, whether or not he should stay in office or be replaced. Nothing more matters. The answer is Yes or No.