Swimming The Tango
Saturday, August 19, 2006
My mother could do the back stroke so beautifully that it seemed that she was swimming in the air. I never saw a ripple or the beginning of a splash. In the days before passengers entered airplanes in portable tunnels we would go the airport and would always know when my mother was coming down the airplane ramp because she had such beautiful legs. My mother often told me how well my father danced the tango and how when she and my father danced, people in Buenos Aires would stop to stare. I never saw my mother tango but I am sure it was no different from her swimming. She told me that one day I was going to dance the tango as well as my father and looking at my feet she described them as swimmer's feet. She was wrong (even though I inherited her beautiful legs). I swim without much style and my tango dancing is efficient at best.
Some years ago I was invited for empanadas salteñas
at my half brother's mother's house. This was the only time I met her. I asked her if she had ever danced the tango with my father. She told me that she was unaware that my father could dance but asserted that my father George swam very well and had taught her to swim. Alas I never saw my father swim!
Rebecca shows a promising start in the family business. She has very nice, long and slim legs. She dances ballet with grace and loves to do the back stroke. When I see her swim it I recognize my mother.
Judge Me Not For I Am A Teapot - A Tempest In A Storm
Friday, August 18, 2006
|Tempest Storm second from left|
The Vancouver Rose Society has asked me to judge a competition of rose photographs this fall. They instructed me me to submit a photo of myself. Here you see me with Rosa
'Eglantyne'. Being asked to be a judge is one of the pitfalls of being a photographer although sometimes, as I will relate below, it can be a decided pleasure. I hate rose slides and the prospect of being invited to someone's home to view 100 slides of roses is my theological proof for the existence of hell. For the Vancouver Rose Society I will have to judge prints. Perhaps it will not be as bad.
Some years ago, photographer and custom photographic printer, Trevor Martin and I were asked to judge a photography contest at Vancouver's St George's private school. We silently looked at each other and we made three piles. On one pile we put the cat photos. On the second we relegated all the sunset pictures. We then only judged the photos that made the third pile!
But it was in 1983 when I really cashed in. I was asked to judge the Golden G-String competition in Las Vegas for what was the first ever stripper's convention. As a judge I was given an unlimited bar tab even though I only drank soda water. One of my fellow judges was a Las Vegas mafioso whose underarm bulge made me lean in the direction of my other fellow judge, who was the legendary burlesque queen, Tempest Storm (above, second from left). I was so in awe that I had few words with her and concentrated on judging the performances. When we declared our very own Tarren from Vancouver the winner, the hood gave me a look that suggested I make myself scarce. I did. But I will never forget the pleasure of being able to take photographs backstage. I remember, specially, the poised Laura Faye (right) who hailed from Peoria. She was a readhead, 23 and had danced since she was 19.
My grandmother often repeated, "Judge me not for I am a teapot," when I was critical but I never asked her where she had learned the expression. I wonder what she would have said about judging photos of roses?
Thursday, August 17, 2006
Rebecca is 9 today. When I photographed her by the Asian elephant in the Morelia zoo, a few days back, I was thinking for how long Rebecca will be interested in cuddly toys such as George the monkey. I would have been around 8 when I converted a crate in my Buenos Aires back garden into a car. I put a plank over one end. A broom stick with a paper plate was the steering wheel and two bricks propped over another brick became the gas pedals and the brake. I drove Fangio's races with great excitement. One day the car stopped being one and reverted back to the crate. I tried hard but the crate refused to become a car. Sometime in 1949 Robby Miranda ( distant cousin from Manila) moved with his family ( here with his mother Fermina now 94) to Buenos Aires. I remember vividly the first time I ever saw him. The door of my front garden opened and, with a big smile on his face, Robby ran in. He was two years older. He had experienced war under the Japanese in the Philippines so he taught me with toy soldiers how to "play war". We used firecrackers to make explosions. It was lots of fun. I counted the days when Robby would come to the house. He liked to come on Tuesdays as our housekeeper Mercedes made the best milanesas (breaded veal cutlets) in the world. Or I would go to his house in Belgrano and play there. One day Robby lost interest and I was never able to play toy soldiers with him again.
A couple of days ago we stopped in Houston on our way back to Vancouver to see Tia Fermina who is my favourite aunt and is a bundle of energy at 94. Robby was there (here with Tia Fermina) and I mentioned the toy soldiers. It was Robby who got tired of my complaining that I would never be a photographer in Mexico because I didn't have the proper equipment. One day he took me to a photo store and plunked an American Express card on the counter (at the time he was selling those new-fangled French Tefal frying pans) and asked me, "What do you need?" I am a photographer only because of Robby's help and faith.
Today, Rebecca is 9. Will she keep her interest in George and Chippy (the Canadian beaver, made in Indonesia that she bought in Sanborn's in Morelia)? Or will she grow up?
I Missed You
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
All vacations must end, and on our last day in Morelia our depression was intensified when the very pleasant security people of the local airport (as opposed to the almost all surly Americans) told Rosemary that she could not board the plane with her Chocolate Carlos V
bars (they instructed her to put them into the luggage) as they could possibly be plastique and explosive that is a phenol derivative from aspirin. Our depression lifted when we drove into Canada Customs at Blaine. While Mexico might have friendly people and ancient church doors where I can pose Rebecca, I like the "almost certainty" of Canadian life. I like the steady 110 volts and the unwavering 60 cycles; I don't fear cops, and most of us have to pay taxes. As soon as we were in Canada we wondered what the unpredictable Lauren (Rebecca's 4-year-old sister) would say upon seeing her sister back. Lauren said, "I missed you," and gave Rebecca a hug and a kiss. It's nice to be back in Canada.
Sip Swallow And King James
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
This morning we leave Morelia for Houston. We are sad that our stay in Michoacán seemed so short. One comfort is that a plane trip always gives one the opportunity to read. A highbrow is the kind of person who looks at a sausage and thinks of Picasso.
Sir Allan Patrick Herbert
In 1965 I was earning one dollar a month as a conscript in the Argentine Navy. When my father George W. Hayward collapsed and died of a heart attack in Buenos Aires, he had enough cash in his pocket so that I was able to pay for a cheap funeral at the Chacarita cemetery. He bequeathed me:
1. A King James Bible with its front title page torn so that only half of his signature showed.
2. Sip! Swallow!
a 1938 Doubleday edition of essays by English author and Punch contributor A.P. Herbert.
Those books were the only intimate and tangible remembrance of my father that remained with me. Books have been very important to me since. I was saddened in 1968 when in a house move, a box containing Sip! Swallow! disappeared. It was then that acquiring books became a passion.
Last September I went to New Westminster in a mist-of-rain morning that made the going the more depressing. I find New Westminster gray. Robert Blackwood, purveyor of fine used books at Booktown on Columbia Street, says I have it all reversed. He gets the blues when he drives to Vancouver. In New Westminster he always makes me smile. He is a droll and funny man. My spirits picked up when he placed a 1938 Doubleday edition of Sip! Swallow! in my hands. It was exactly as I remembered it down to the Hindu snake charmer and his cobra on the cover!
I realized that all the good fun I have been having of late in buying books started as a result of an event in March 1999. That’s when Celia Duthie filed for bankruptcy and the 10-store chain was reduced to one. Getting a book in 1999 was simple. If you lived in Vancouver you went to a Duthie’s. If they didn’t have the book you wanted, your order took a month. Celia Duthie’s on-line virtual bookstore, Literascape, as pioneering as it was in Canada then, came too late.
In February 1987 I was biding my time in a fogged in Terrace, B.C. I had gone there to teach a weekend photography course. The fog was so thick that my flights out weren’t landing. With time to kill I browsed in the local bookstores. They lacked the Duthie Books inventories and only offered cheap paperbacks and used books. But gems could be found and I found two. One was Bunny Yeager’s Art of Glamour Photography
and the other a very funny I Owe Russia $1200
by Bob Hope. I paid $6 for both. Not long after I got to photograph Bob Hope who was delighted to autograph my find.
It was in 1995 that two Victoria database analysts working on contract for the BC government came up with an idea that would crystallize as an on-line bookstore offering 40 million plus titles. Keith Waters and Rick Pura (and their spouses) launched, in May 1996, Advanced Book Exchange, better known as Abebooks. With two web sites in English, one in French and one in German they list more than 60 million used, out-of–print and rare books. This makes them the largest source of books in the world and they represent over 10,000 booksellers around the globe. Abebooks offers an ancillary service in that the prices of their books, their condition of wear described in great detail, reflect an accurate world-pricing for any book you can think of. You can think of them as an at-home book appraiser. My 1984 British first edition of William Gibson’s Neuromancer
is listed at upwards of $1500 US while I Owe Russia $1200 will only fetch me $1.00. The Bunny Yeager book is now worth $50 US. A first edition of the Reverend Joseph Pemberton’s 1908 Roses – Their History and Development
brings over $100 US. I paid $40 for it at McLeod’s Books in Vancouver.
Just about any other book I may want I can surely find at Abebooks. But there is more to just finding a book. The process is part of the fun.
And that process has become more fun as I have had to change my book purchasing habits. Chapter’s satisfies my ever-frequent cravings for good new novels at reasonable prices. All I have to do is remember the book reviews from the New York Times and soon enough many show up as remainders for under $10.
At Booktown I have the most fun. I also even get a cup of tea if I call ahead. When I have a hunch that a pristine first edition might be an investment, Blackwood will wade through his sources and find the right first edition for me. Because Blackwood (his curriculum is impressive, suffice to say that he was CBC Radio executive for 25 years and is in the board of many national arts organizations) has a fondness for good mystery books he has found me books by difficult authors like Charles Palliser and Arthur W. Upfield. Booktown has over 45,000 book titles in 60 sections labeled and alphabetized by author shelves with more books in countless storage areas. But Blackwood will tell you that he does not specialize in anything and that the largest part of Booktown is finding books he doesn’t have on his shelves.
I left Booktown with my treasured Sip! Swallow! and a smile. Blackwood (as much of a highbrow as my father ever was), who thinks of Picasso in every hot dog he never eats, confessed he liked it. He had told me, “After having lived with your book for some 48 hours I liked it well enough to get my own.”
Blue Tortillas, Black Rock & Captured Spirits
Monday, August 14, 2006
cementerio de piedras/
It was around 4pm on 20 February, 1943 when Paricutín volcano rumbled and was born in Dionisio Pulido´s corn field near the town of San Juan Parangaricutiro. Twenty four hours later the volcano was 7 metres tall. A week later it was 50 metres. In 1955 it reached its final height of 600. Of the town of Parangaricutiro only the towers of its church and the main altar survived. The rest of the church (the roof caved in and burned) and the town were buried in lava. A new San Juan was built and it is called Nuevo San Juan Parangaricutiro
. Paricutín is surrounded by more than 2000 squat old volcanic cones. They and Paricutín will never likely erupt again. While the area is an intense volcanic zone, the craters are called monogenetic. They have a first and only phase and they die so that the volcanos are never big. But it is possible that at any time Paricutín could have some live competition.
Thirty two years ago, Rosemary, Ale and I departed from the little nearby town of Angahuan on horseback with a guide. We reached the buried church of San Juan. I barely had time to take some pictures (above & right) when a terrible rain unleashed on us. Our guide handed us three ponchos and when we returned to Angahuan our clothes were of multiple colour. The ponchos had run!
Today, it would seem that nothing has changed much. Access to the buried church and the volcano is still on horseback. One has the option of walking, but in the dry season the volcanic ash is very deep and in the rainy season (now) the ash is sticky mud. We went on horseback again. Rebecca's horse was called Chiquito
, Rosemary rode on Sansu
and my matungo
(nag) was Cantarito
. Florencio, our guide, made sure we were safe and when we climbed to the church, through the intense lava fields on foot, he made sure we didn't fall. The only change was a welcome one. We were greeted by a mouthwatering smell that came from a small collection of huts (right next to the edge of the lava field and very close to the church). Under the huts Purépecha
Indian women, dressed in brilliant huipiles
prepared the best flor the calabaza
(pumpkin flower) quezadillas I have ever had in my life. The handmade tortillas were an intense blue from the just picked blue corn of the area. Hector and his wife Cass, Ilse and her husband Andrew (Ale's godfather and my friend of 40 years), Rosemary and Rebecca and I ate until we were more than satisfied. Five minutes after Florencio led us back to Angahuan it poured so intensely that the dirt roads of the town became rivers. When we finally arrived to Uruapan there was no electricity. In fact the storm was so large that even Morelia suffered Uruapan's fate.
When Florencio found out that I had been to the church all those years ago, he told me in his accented Spanish ( he speaks a Purépecha dialect), " You may have walked through the spirits of your wife, your daughter and yourself which have remained here all those years. Paricutín no suelta
(does not let go)."
Rebecca & The Local Flora
Sunday, August 13, 2006
Morelia and its environs has been a botanical revelation for us. The frustration is that when we ask the name of a plant they give us the local ones which are not always correct. We have admired three oleanders growing together. One of them is the usual green one, a second one has gold edged leaves and the third is a startling yellow/gold. I asked the hotel gardener for their name and I was told it was a laurel. While the leaf may look like a laurel, I learned a long time ago as a boy scout, that every part of an oleander is deadly. In the evening and early in the morning the hotel swirls with the scent of the brugmansia or datura, which is sometimes called Angel´s Trumpet. The gardener told me it was a "florifundio"
. He was close, but not correct. When I first saw this magical (some say it is poisonous, others that it is psychedelic) plant it was in 1990 in the Lima garden of Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa. It was he who told me it was a floripondio
. I have a brugmansia in my garden (it goes inside for our Vancouver winters). It is an exotic pink but I heve never seen the double form (there are three in the hotel) before. Now Rebecca keeps pointing at plants and asks me if they are poisonous.
I have seen blue agaves growing next to red adobe walls of Michoacan towns. I have photographed Rebecca next to many of them. Would you be able to guess that this picture is of Rebecca in Queen Elizabeth Park in Vancouver?