Archive for January, 2011

Behave Yourself…………

Jan. 28th 2011

Now Junior, behave yourself………”

The above  is a line from a little known John Lennon song.

I feel the need to remind people to act kinder towards each other.

Is it me, or are my fellow Americans getting crusty and sharp around the edges?

A-case-in-point. I went into a coffee shop. I park legally in front of the coffee shop. A well-dressed, middle age woman barks at me…”Jesus! Who do YOU think you are, blocking me?”

First there was no blockage…………possible in her arteries if she keeps up the anger. She could well maneuver her car out of the space where she was legally parked. The “Jesus” line was uncalled for.

I asked her  if she was having a ” religious moment?”

This made her slam her car door and “blow dirt” as she hit the gas peddle and sped away in a huffy, pissy-pants mood. 

The same day the following happens. I have one item to check out at  Costco……..a warehouse store that sells boxes of oranges…………876,987 to the box. It is all about bulk and quantity at Costco. I hold a small coffee cake in my hands. I politely ask the couple in front of me if’s alright if I check out ahead of them with my one item. They had a basket gushing with goods. The gentleman snapped at me, “Wait your turn, Buddy!”

Buddy? I though Buddy is a name one gives to a Beagle, as in DOG………..

Why the short fuses? Why the rudeness? What is the genesis of flaring tempers?

 Are we moving too fast? Not concerned about others? Snapping at small things like parking spaces and places in line? What happens when something critical happens? A full throttle,  tongue lashing, meltdown?

Oh, civility!  Where have ye gone?

Brendan Ben Feeney

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Six Billy Elliots!

Jan. 22nd 2011


Count them. Six! 

There were six young male dancers playing the demanding part of Billy Elliot on Broadway. All were middle-school/early high school age.

It was a privilege to attend the show before it ended its long run on Broadway. I was able to briefly chat with the cast and crew after the performance the week of the Blizzard of 2010. Sir Elton John wrote a brilliant musical score to accompany this  theatrical performance.

As noted in a past Blog-O-Sphere post, I posed the question, “Where will our next generation of artists come from if we are not promoting the arts in American public schools?” 

 It is sad to report, the ability to crank out a dry formula, 5-paragraph essay or answer with precision a multiple choice question is far more important and valued  these days by many school administrators and curriculum coordinators. I place value on children and young adults to learn necessary academic skills to compete in our complex work world. I  also value allowing public school children to leap with WILD ABANDON across a public school gymnasium floor. If the gym floor creeks and is in disrepair–fix it. To me, a  gym floor is a learning environment. So too is a stage.  Chorus risers are a landscape of learning. A bandstand? One learns from music. Art is education. Education should be an art. The arts should be part of all public education. Some do not see what I see.

The actor/dancer who played the part of Billy Elliot the day I attended the musical on Broadway had to have been 14 or 15 years of age. He was classically trained in song, dance, and acting. Yet, it was his dancing that captivated the audience.

Theater etiquette teaches one not to clap during a performance.  It breaks the flow of a performance and often breaks the concentration of performers.

Rule broken.

When the musical called for Billy to dance in a fit of rage, one could feel his anger by watching his dance movements.  When Billy and his friend danced during a  mischievous scene, audience members truly sensed childhood innocence with a twist of “we-better-not-get-caught!”

When the infamous ballet dream sequence began, with muted lighting, stage fog,  ethereal flying and spinning…………I HAD to clap—and cry.

Why tears?

Because I was watching art. I  was touched by pure performance art. Think for a moment. It was a young dancer and a mature dancer moving with grace and synchronicity that caused tears of joy. Art moves the soul. Does an multiple choice question move the soul?

Back in the day, when I attended a very hip, progressive, Harvard School of Education supported, public elementary school, folk dancing was gutted from the curriculum. It was replaced with videotaping us walk across a balance beam. This was when video cameras were the size of Alaska and used reel-to-reel tape. Folk dancing caused “too many snickers.” It went the way of the Pony Express.

 I believe folk dancing is part of our American heritage, just the way  basketball is part of our American heritage. Dancing and basketball  involve movement, coordination, quick turns, agility,  spins, and concentration. You work up a sweat participating in both activities. Ah! That is why men folk dancers have a towel hanging from their belts!

Who now knows how to Do-si-Do? What about  dancing a Left Hand Star? Wow, does that look so cool when done correctly? Even when messed up, a Left Hand Star  still is cool to watch or dance. Dust off out your barn dance dictionaries.  Who knows what the term “chekessia” means? Is it a  cheese from Wisconson? A chess move? Something from the Soviet Era? What? Work with me people.

Back in elementary school I was in the mood to swing a partner. I wanted to promenade. Hell, I would have Do si Do’ed with the best of  ’em, yet  I was denied the opportunity to dance the visually appealing  Left Hand Star. Could I have been the  Billy Elliot of Hamilton Elementary School?

 I do not live in the past. I use to, but no more.

What a shame to see dance, visual art, and music programs gutted and disintegrate from public schools.

When the casting call goes out for the next Billy Elliot-like musical, will they find an American you boy to dance, act, and sing, the part…………or will we in-source what we no longer have in America–a strong arts infrastructure.

We all pay taxes for public schools. Even if you send your child or children to private schools, a hefty portion of your property taxes goes towards public education. Now is the time to ask your  school committee members, precinct captains, alder-persons, city councilpersons, school principal, school  curriculum coordinator, school board, PTA or PTO president, or school district school superintendent, “Have you seen Billy Elliot, either the movie or the Broadway play? If yes, does your school have a program that would produce the NEXT Billy Elliot?

“If not, why not?”

Promenade. Now circle to the left, now circle to the right. Bow to your partner.  

I felt real good typing these last fifteen words.

Brendan Ben Feeney

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“That’s Funny…..”

Jan. 19th 2011

Have you had a “that’s funny moment” lately?

If not, you should.

A “that’s funny moment” is a phrase I coined. It is when one is engaged in conversation, listening,  or or during a question and answer session following a talk. A “that’s funny moment’ IS  funny–yet NOT a  belly-buster, side-splitting, roll-on-the ground, wet-your-pants, combustible fit of uncontrollable laughter. These moments are subtle.

For example, my father was at the hospital the other day. A nurse enters the waiting room. She calls out…”Sister Brendan Feeney?   Sister Brendan Feeney?”

No reply.

I look at Dad. Dad looks at me. 

His medical chart was written with the title “Sr.” before Brendan.

Dad says, “I’m Brendan Feeney, Senior”

The nurse replied. “Oh, we were expecting a nun!”

I was giving a lecture at an elementary school. When it came to discussing taking photographs of famous people, the topic of First Ladies came up.  I asked the young students if anyone knew the name of one of our nation’s first, First Ladies. She was known for being an elegant hostess and brought grace to the White House. She liked to entertain. 

One student physically jumped up and exclaimed…………..”Dolly Parton?”

It was a”that’s funny moment.”  I gently redirected the answer. “Could it possible be  Dolly Madison?”

 Its gets stranger.

Another youngster in the crowd pipes up and says……….”Oh, she’s the First Lady who bakes those dry cakes mommy puts in my lunch.”  

That’s funny.

I was at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, chaperoning a group of young artist, dancers, and performers around the grounds with a guide from this famous dance complex in Becket, Massachusetts. Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival is on the National Register of Historic Places. A staff member pointed out a very large rock located behind the dining hall. Ted Shawn’s Men Dancer’s built the dining rom in the 1930s.  This “rock”  is the  the metaphoric “pillow” where Jacob rested; a biblical reference.

To get to Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, one must drive up a winding scenic route called “Jacob’s Ladder.”  Many famous dancers have scattered their ashes around the base of this famous rock outcropping.

When it came to questions, one young artist, about 12-years-old asked, “Isn’t it  rather hard sleeping on that rock? ”

Savor nuggets of humor. We tend to run and race.  We tend to not be skilled listeners as in past generations.  Enjoy a “that’s funny moment.” It will make you smile. The world will seems less serious–even for a fleeting moment.

Brendan Ben Feeney

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King………or Queen…….or Twin?

Jan. 15th 2011

I awake to news radio.

This morning,  a new radio commercial helps wake me from slumber.  It was a  radio advertisement for a ski resort in Maine inviting skiers and snowboarders to spend Martin Luther King Day on the slopes! 

Say what?

Ski ………………..on the Martin Luther King, Jr. national holiday?

 Have we negated the fact it took massive lobbying  efforts to have state governments and the federal government pass legislation to make Dr. King’s birthday a national holiday?

One must remember Dr. King had an FBI file thick as a phone book, was arrested more than once for his civil disobedient acts, spoke and preached  under the fear of constant threats, was called names, made the world aware that America was a segregated nation, marched, stood up–and sat down when sitting was called for.

Have we  forgotten the message of Dr. King’s “A Letter from a Birmingham Jail?

Is Reverend King’s police mug shots from  his arrests in the South not indelibly etched in our nation’s collective memory?

Later I  bring the newspaper into the house from being tossed into a snowbank.  I read the wet newspaper and  sip coffee. 

Say what?  

A  Martin Luther King Day mattress sale?


I begin to think. (I think a lot.)

Water cannons.

German shepherd police dogs unleashed on unarmed protesters.

Crossing the bridge at Selma.

Tear gas and night sticks.

A drinking fountain for whites. A drinking fountain people of color.

 Freedom Summer. Buses torched. The smell of violence in the air. 

SING!  We Shall Overcome.      Ain’ t Nobody Gonna Turn Me ’round.

“The only chain that a man can stand …is the chain of hand in hand. Keep your eyes on the prize and hold on….. keep your eye on the prize, hold on.”

No service at Woolworth lunch counters. Scalding hot coffee poured on sit-in  protesters. The contents of sugar bowls dumped into protester’s hair.

 Humiliation. Racial slurs.  Back of the bus.

Scrubbing toilets. Pushing tight interior metal mesh doors of public elevators. Washing floors on tired knees. Lifting luggage onto trains.

Expected to say….”Yes, madam. Yes, sir…………… then be called “boy” in return.

 Literacy tests.

Poll taxes.

“Oh, we have no jobs for your kind………..”

“The apartment was JUST rented!”

 “I’ve been to the mountain top!”

“Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, we are free at last……”

I stand quoted. Dr. King’s dream is NOT to be reduced to a good night’s sleep.  What he did to move us forward as a nation was  NOT for a ride up a ski gondola or to sleep in a state of complacency.  

I’m tempted to attend the matress sale just to watch the sales clerk, on commission, become excited when I order twelve expensive mattresses.

As my credit card is about to scan…………… I call OFF the sale.


What? No matching pillow cases?  No bed skirts? No coverlets?  Why is this store open? Is today not a national holiday? >>>>>>>>>>>>>I  ask too many hard questions for 12 soft beds.

I hold up the line. I begin reading aloud some of the most eloquent words penned in American history. Read Reverend Kings  early sermons as a young preacher when he was supporting a  young family. Research and read his later political writings and speeches.

Inspiring work. 

Dr. King did note write in soundbites. His word are crisp and filled with energy and action. Dr. King had a vision of an  America he could see the distance–yet his vision was not being experienced by ALL Americans.

Quote me. “America is a work in progress. We are still a comparatively young nation. We have come far. Dr. King would be proud, yet his work and vision is still  unfinished and not yet complete. ” BBF

Monday, I plan to  honor the memory of Dr. King’s life and legacy.

Shop if you so choose. Work on your winter tan on the ski slope. The choice is yours. 

 I cannot let this day pass without writing about the radio commercial I awoke to and the print advertisement I read this morning.

Let’s continue to work towards Dr. King’s vision of America; an America rooted in equality, hope, opportunity, discrimination-free, and all the “‘isms” that cast a negative light on our brilliant nation are eradicated.

Thank you Stevie Wonder for penning a song that gets me up dancing and feeling ebullient when I listen to it. “Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday to You. Happy birthday. Happy birthday to you, Martin Luther King.”

Brendan Ben Feeney

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If a Snow Flake Falls….

Jan. 6th 2011

If a snowflake falls in Manhattan, will anyone notice?

Yes. Definitely,  yes.

The following is a stream-of-consciousness post based on a photographic adventure in Manhattan during “The Blizzard of 2010.” These are fast fleeting impressions of New York City and Stamford, Connecticut. USA.


Three people are conversing about John Lennon while walking on East 46th Street. My ears pick up the conversation. We pass quickly.  What if………

Three children are laughing, catching snowflakes. Mouths wide open. The scene occurs outside The Museum of Modern Art. Parents are busy  hailing a yellow cab. They fail to  notice what I see.

Shooting photographs out the window of a moving  public bus. 5th Avenue. Lots of red. An ocean of yellow taxi cabs. Christmas lights in store windows. Photogenic.

Matzo ball soup.  Fried chicken. Mashed potatoes with gravy on the side. Steamed vegetables. Cheesecake for dessert. I’m at Juniors in Times Square.  Convivial diners seated to the right and left of me. A lady dining  to my left is named Dorothy. She is from Kansas. Toto stolen away, riding in a wicker bicycle basket crosses my mind. Movie scenes stick like gum to one’s shoe.

Standing in the middle of Times Square at 1:00 PM. The world’s most famous intersection is closing to traffic. Impending New Years Eve celebration. I leave Dodge City as rowdy cowboys head into town.  The end of the trail. One big drunk about to go down. I snap pictures. Scurry.  

Employing Germ-lish (German mixed with English).  Instructing an Austrian family how to procure 1/2 price Broadway theater tickets.

The NYPD patrolling an intersection near Madison Avenue. Semi automatic machine guns swinging at their side. They stand tall. Imposing. Crisp blue uniforms. Combat helmets. I feel safe. What happened to my pre 9/11 world?

An eclectic conversation with a young art student/museum guard at the Guggenheim. We  dream up a new fashion trend after looking at a Dutch Master painting. We discuss our target market. Laughter. He wants me to see a band. Chase the dragon. Tired. Pass the offers.

Changing camera lenses on the street. Snug tight to a snowbank. An art and a science. Do not drop. Do not block the sidewalk narrowed to a footpath due to blizzard. Do not. Do not.

Meeting a husband  and wife photographer team at the MOMA.  Taking a group portrait. Great light. Eclectic buildings create a stunning backdrop. Say fromage!

A bicycle buried in snow. Handlebars.  A basket. The seat exposed. That’s it. Who owns it? Where are they?

Discovering a neighborhood pizza shop near 7th Avenue. 14 tables. Television broadcasts news of the storm. Uber hype. Sounds like we are all going to die. Pizza crust not burned. Amen.  Soft crust. Snow still falls. The earth is still in motion.

Being the only passenger on a bus traveling down 5thAvenue.  Chatting with the driver. I’m in the front passenger seat. I lean forward. She is happy. I am happy. Happy is a good place to be. She’s a native New Yorker. We inch along in stall-and-crawl traffic. Snow  falling rapidly. Windshield wipers have difficulty keeping pace. I offer a tip. She refuses. Ethics. Ethical. We will never meet again.

Oops. Ran out of business cards. A  print shop on 5th Avenue. My cards are are ready the next day. Outstanding service. New York aims to please. I say thank you.   

Chase. Professional employees.  Service with a smile, and a business suit.

Non-butterfly bow ties sold at J-Press on Madison Avenue. Preppy. Laser beam power shopping. A wool scarf with school colors. A blue and green bow tie. James. Deep greens and blues are the colors I also choose.

The Edward Hopper exhibition at the Whitney Museum. I see a banner from a bus. Hit the STOP buzzer.  Hopper’s filling station painting. The only thing left from this Truro, Massachusetts, Cape Cod scene is the pole from the gas station. I pass this pole daily in summer. I think of a solitary Mr. Hopper, laconic, in a corner, looking at the floor as a summer party hops.

NY City youth enjoying their city. I jump  into their  conversation like double dutch. Sbarro on 574 5th Avenue. They bantering about a camera.  We let a  2010 phrase rip…”Don’t touch my junk” in the context of messing with camera equipment.  Laughter. Content of one’s character. MLK.

Slush. Crosswalks flooded. Puddles. I want to jump and splash. I fail to do so.

Fur coats. Lots of them.  Let me wear “your” hair. See how it feels. Poor animals. Death attributed to outdated style and vanity.

Grand Central Station.  Thank you Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis, Carly Simon, and other philantropists  for saving this magnificent structure from the wrecking ball. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

I’m asked in a coat check line…………..”Aren’t you ………………….” Amazed.  I tend to blend into mauve walls and hotel lobbies.

Breakfast with Russ and Eugenia. Eggs. The 16th floor private dining room. We linger. Talk. Time moves slow. We are off the Merry-Go-‘Round.

Marriott, Stamford, Connecticut. Comfortable beds. Great driving service. Thanks, Omar.

Photographing WPA murals. Poverty inspires grand art. Sad, yet often true.

Hordes of people photographing  The Starry Night at the MOMA. Glad Vincent did not live to see this bastardization.  Anger. I leave the gallery fuming. Fuming.

The Kiss. A movie by Andy Warhol. Watched it 4 times. Screen tests. A symphony  of visual images. Silent. I view  the video to the left.  Passion. Sex. Head thrown back in ecstasy. Light. Shadows. Black. White. Eyes moving yet not looking. Art. Pure art.

Boots. A hip trend. Boots everywhere. Buckles near the top of boots. Leather boots. Rubber boots. Boots. More boots.

A crappy $12 hamburger. Fries extra. The burger was naked on the plate. I negate the fries. Order a beer. Leave a weak tip.

Billy Elliot, The Musical  on Broadway. Dancer/actor playing the part of Billy talented beyond belief. Cast perfectly for the part. What a dancer! Impeccable lighting. The Swan Lake duet scene. Flawless. The letter scene/song.  Cried.

Train rides to and from Stamford, Ct. People buried in electronic readers/books.  Newspapers are dying a slow, painful death.  I think of father and how he read The Boston Globe to work on the train, the later on a bus. Sadness. 

A bottomless cup of coffee at the cafe on the 5th floor of the MOMA. Waiters dressed in black. Spiffy. Polished. A kind waiter from Austria. A dining manager from California. Motion in motion.

 Engaging conversation with a family from Germany visiting the Guggenheim museum. I sign one of my post cards. They choose Boston Bridges. The gentleman wear a sweater. Snow flake motif. How apropos. Blizzard gear.

What. No  2X  T-shirts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art? Man does not live on endive, Tick-Tacs,  and water. I will be a size Medium in my next life. Or during my third incarnation.

The Amtrak Acela  has comfortable seats. Curtains too. Choo choo. Love the sound of a mournful train whistle.

Michael. Your artwork for Amtrak is riveting. Bold. Love your work.

 A nirvana moment. Swimming pool at the Marriott all to myself.  A loud, pushy  family enters with plastic toys and balls.  I exit the pool as if  a piece of poo floats on the surface. Tranquility gone. Game over. Back to my room. Read. Edit.

Click. Jump. Turn. Higher. Higher! Click. Work it! ….”I can’t.”…. Work it. “I’m cold!” Work it.  Snap rapid fire. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. Jump. extend your legs. Extend your arms. Fingers and wrists. Bread and butter. Play or pay?

I find no apples in The Big Apple.

Chestnuts really smoke up an intersection.Mr. Stinky pants. Street vendor stands are unsanitary. Like William Butler Yeats, I “……..horsemen—pass by.”

Lindy’s  cheesecake. Snow is blowing. Childhood revisited. I banter with the waitstaff. Photograph time. Potato salad is on house. They cook a foot long hot dog me.  Snap. Snap, Click. Click. 

 I love New York. Trite marketing moniker, yet true.

 A wonderful world-class city.

I will return.

Doug and Company, I will see you on Central Park West later this month. Thank your patrons for hosting the upcoming party.

Sing! “New York, New York ….what a wonderful town!” Frank Sinatra’s voice resonated in the air. I glad I heard you sing, before you passed.

Brendan Ben Feeney

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The Blizzard of 2010–Part I.

Jan. 2nd 2011

 Christmas night, I  headed to Marriott Hotel in Stamford, Connecticut for a week of photographic work and culture in New York City.

There was a rumor snow was in the forecast, yet being a native New Englander, snow in New England,  is like sand & sun is to Jamaica.  Sounds like an old SAT exam analogy question; confusing and convoluted.

As I boarded the Excela Train from Boston to Stamford, Connecticut,  one could sense snow was in the air, yet it hesitated to tumble from the sky.  Anticipation or hesitation? I am uncertain.

As I stood in the Amtrak station thoughts turned to Michael Schwab, a fellow artist. He designed the graphics for Amtrak. I reveled in seeing Michael’s, larger-than-life work displayed in Penn Station, featured on the Amtrak Website, and on the walls of the Stamford Commuter Rail Station. Michael’s studio is north of San Francisco. Seeing his work made me hum California Dreaming by the Mamas and the Papas. 

 I read  (War and Peace——-No. MAD magazine, The Wall Street Journal, and Swan by Mary Oliver ) on the train ride from Boston to Stamford. I slept the final leg of the journey.

Three cheers to Omar, from the Stamford Marriott, for arranging transportation to the hotel when I arrived in Connecticut. I was met on time, checked into the Marriott, worked on my camera equipment for about an hour, then called it a night.

Technically, it was still Christmas. Santa had come and was headed back to the North Pole. I am not a gambling man, yet I bet Mrs. Clause was glad Santa and his smelly reindeer were out-of- her-hair for a few days.  A  jolly weight-challenged man who perpetually wears  a red power suit, surrounded by fawning elves, 24/7 would drive me to drinking spiked eggnog STAT. Hope you enjoyed the silence, Mrs. Clause.

There is a highway close to the hotel. The front desk crew assigned me a quiet room far from the highway, yet I awoke around 2 Am to the sound of sanders and snowplows.  Snow was falling. Strike  that. Snow was blowing sideways. Ta da. The Blizzard of 2010 was at my doorstep. And, New York was not prepared to deal with impending mess.

What did I do at 2 AM?

I took out one of my Cannon cameras with a high power zoom, shut off  all lights, adjusted my light meter, and shot images of the blizzard unfolding outside my hotel window from the 11th floor. Snap. Snap. I then crawled back into into bed and drift off to sleep for the second time.

6:00 AM my wake up call stuns me from hibernation. Time to travel into NYC, yet the hotel front desk staff informed me trains to New York City will run on a  weekend schedule–all week long due to the BLIZZARD.

The “B” word!

Not “snow storm.”

A BLIZZARD; with a capital “B.”

I made  adjustments to my work and leisue schedules, then  headed into the city.  Snow was whipping and swirling like miniature twisters.

I like snow. In the past I LOVED snow. Funny. The older one gets, love turns to like.

 While in New York City I visited the Museum of Modern Art twice. The Andy Warhol Motion Picture exhibition on the 6th floor gallery is riveting. The human piano human installation art piece on the MOMA’s1st floor is profound.  It’s far more engaging than a performance artist  I viewed, at different art venue— nude, covered head-to-toe in honey, moving about in a plexi-glass chamber- with live bees buzzing around her.

 Art is many things to many people. I enjoy art-on-the edge, but what distracted me when observing “Honey Woman” was the thought ………”Does she have a Epipen handy?”

 Thank you to all I worked with this week under trying circumstances. You met the BBF challenge.  During the week I shot outside  and indoor photographic work. I conducted  street photography.      What blizzard!         What snow!    What whipping wind!

Thank you to the native Connecticut and New Yorker citizens  who provided  directions. I appreciate all who drove me around in the snow. Hats-off to the train conductors and train staff who had to listen to heaps of B’ing and M’ing  by  passengers who were late. 

Late for what?


Life is not an appointment.

Thank you to  the bus driver whom I had the most delightful conversation while traveling down 5th Avenue at the zenith of the blizzard. I was her ONLY rider. She refused a HUGE tip. Ethics live in NYC. So do kind bus drivers.

This post is a warm up. No pun intended. My next post will be a stream of consciousness piece about the Blizzard of 2010 in New York City. Little stories about people, places, things, and special moments I encountered on my work/holiday in Connecticut and New York City.

New Year’s Eve has come and gone. I hope the crystal ball in Times Square did not bonk you on the head. Better yet, I hope your head does not feel like a shattered crystal ball due to post New Year’s Eve indulgence. 

“Say CHEESE”………

The shutter clicks……….the flash goes off.

“Man, it is too early in the morning for photographs. Enough already, BBF!!!!”

Brendan Ben Feeney

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