The Cat Lady Returns
Saturday, September 09, 2006
30 years ago, when we lived in a townhouse on Springer Avenue in Burnaby, our neighbour was a cat lady. She was a from Checkoslovakia. We were sure her husband (who would sneak bottles of wine into the house every day) was an alcoholic to escape his wife's madness for cats. After all, she baby talked to her couple of cats but shouted at him for this and that. We had a cat. We didn't talk to him much. We were ignorant of why cats spray and I vented my anger on the poor cat every time he would do something in our living room.
Now my wife Rosemary, baby talks to her cat Toby and my cat Plata. I am jealous. I just wish she would baby talk to me.
Our present cats are replacements to Polilla and Mosca who had a heart seizure on our bed while Rosemary was watching Hitchcock's Vertigo
. I broke my spade burying him in the garden. I found Plata (her name was Cash so Plata is Argentine slang for cash) at the SPCA and brought her home. She looks like a miniature snow leopard to me. The quickest cure to the sorrow of a dead cat is an instant new one. But Polilla (moth), my white cat, did not take kindly to competition from another female. A few months later I found Polilla outside eviscerated by a Racoon. It was not a pretty sight. I broke another spade burying her. Niño, came as a replacement for Polilla but had a short life with us. He died of cancer. I had spotted Toby, who has perfect markings, at the SPCA when I brought Plata home. I returned and he was still there. Nobody wants a 14 year old cat. I came home empty handed. I returned with Rebecca (a mistake) who told me that unless we brought Toby home he was going to end his days in the cage. So Toby came home, even though his records warned us of his preference for jumping on horizontal surfaces in the house. His records did not tell us that also would push stuff from night tables (like the phone) to get us out of bed to feed him.
We have a harmonious household with two cats who love the garden. They sleep with us. Toby only drinks water from the bathroom sink tap. He insists on finishing my bowl of ice cream. Plata likes to walk around the block with us and with Rebecca and Lauren. People stare at us and look at my seriously when I tell them that Plata is a dog that just happens to be cat-like. Plata has a little orange cat who comes to visit her but Toby chases him away.
My oldest daughter bought me a heavy duty spade which I hope not to have to use to bury a cat for a long time.
Werner Herzog & The Italians
Friday, September 08, 2006
Werner Herzog (left) photographed in March 1996 at the now vanished Das Goethe-Institut, Vancouver
Incredible as it might sound the largest cultural presence in Vancouver is that of Italy through its wonderful Istituto Italiano di Cultura
. You would think perhaps that it would be the Americans or even the English. I have gone to many fine concerts, lectures and exhibitions hosted by the Italians. I feel indebted to them for so much pleasure. My fave was when they brought Vittorio Gassman (upper right).Instituto Italiano
Dana Before & During - Plus Triscuits For Kate
Thursday, September 07, 2006
In September 1985, Vancouver Magazine
editor Malcolm Parry assigned me to take pictures of 4 young women and one man who were interviewed by writer Les Wiseman on how they stayed thin and what were their diets. Four of the women made it to the October article called Hold It Right There
. These were model Kate Davitt (in red), Pappas fur heiress Daphne Pappas, aerobics instructor Dana Zalko and Olympic Gym fitness instructor and bodybuilder Carla Temple (with Greek columns). Parry told me, "The less they wear the better." I told Zalko that Temple, her main competitor, was taking it all off so Zalko complied. I told Temple that Zalko was going to pose nude so she agreed, too. Model Davitt had no problem but Pappas and Temple's paramour, Mike Hamill, objected. Parry dropped Hamill (but seen here, top right) from the lineup and when the magazine considered how much money Pappas Furs spent in advertising with the magazine I was told to photograph Daphne Pappas
with a fur coat. A few years later I was assigned to photograph a very pregnant Dana Zalko. We tried the diet photo but it was obvious that the same angle was not going to work so we did something else. Here you can see the rejected pose. Kate Davitt was a pleasure to photograph and I will never forget her daily regimen. For breakfast she sipped tea. For lunch and dinner she had Triscuits, cheese and apples. Nobody ever figured out (since it didn't run) that my photo of Mike Hamill was a rip off of George Hurrell's Johny Weismuller.
As a post script I read recently in the Vancouver Sun
that the CBC was selling its Burnaby warehouse. I remember that warehouse fondly. Editor Parry, art director Chris Dahl, and writer Les Wiseman, all helped me man handle the "Greek" columns into a truck from there.
Seance - Neil Wedman
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
This group photo of Vancouver artists appeared in the Globe & Mail on May 15, 1999. From left to right you have:
Neil Wedman, Landon McKenzie(bottom left), Lawrence Yuxweluptun( middle top) Lucy Hogg (middle top right), Phillippe Raphanel (bottom right) and Renée van Halm.
Grant Simmons of DISC would drum scan my transparencies and he would send them (including this one) to the Globe photo desk with his high speed cable. At the time all I knew how to do was send emails! The reason this photograph (taken at Emily Carr Institute of Art & Design) is here now is that I need an excuse to also show Neil Wedman's Seance, 1990
a pencil sketch for his Equinox Gallery show Seance
in 1992. The lovely sketch is in my living room to the left of my computer monitor. I see it every day and I have to smile.
Blaze In September
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Mrs Young bought our house in 1954. I can see her going to local nurseries and buying plants to stock her garden. She had a heart attack in our kitchen in 1985 but survived; sold her house and moved to Ontario. Rosemary and I inherited her garden and for many years we tried to respect her choice of plants. We imagined that she was somehow a ghost in our garden. Whenever I would tell Harry Nomura (back in 1986 I thought I could afford a gardener) to do this, or that he would question me with a, "Mrs Young usually wanted me to do it this way."
Little by little her presence became less so and we started putting in our own plants. In 1954 Mrs Young did not have the choice of species rhododendrons with fragrant flowers (except for the lovely Rhododendron luteum
she planted and I so love) so she planted what was hot then. And hot pinks and reds were hot. We have a few of those left. I removed most of her hybrid teas except for white Rosa 'Honour', I just can't pull the plug on her.
I now understand that all this had to be and that we lived the transition that was Mrs. Young's garden which we then had to make our own. In our back lane garden Mrs Young planted four climbing Rosa
'Blaze'. In 1954 it was one of the few disease free red climbers in the market. Blaze is supposed to be moderately fragrant. In our garden it isn't. I replaced three of the four Blaze with Rosa
'Madame Hardy', Rosa
'Climbing Ophelia', Rosa 'Charles de Mills', and Rosa 'Ayreshire Queen'. All of them are very fragrant and people who walk their dogs on our lane often comment on it.
Today I looked into the lane and few of my roses were in bloom, with the heat and the drought. But not Blaze. She was in bloom. It seems that for now she gets another reprieve. Mrs Young must be smiling somewhere.
Dal Richards, Woody & Woodie
Monday, September 04, 2006
Rebecca is sad because she starts school tomorrow. PNE's waning days and the beginning of school seem to go hand in hand. I read a few weeks ago that Dal Richards was going to play at the PNE. I run into Mr. Richards (88) all the time (even at the opera) and he is always exquisitely dressed. He may be as elegant as Arthur Erickson (83). When I photographed Mr. Richards in December of 97, I asked him if the sax was his only instrument. He was delighted I had asked and he proudly showed me his clarinet.
It didn't take me long today to go from Dal Richard's clarinet, to Woody Herman, who played one and from there to another woodie, the 48-year-old roller coaster at the PNE.
Sunday, September 03, 2006
A few days ago my friend Paul Leisz and I were playing the horse name game. I thought I was ahead until Paul said, "Hopalong Cassidy's horse?" I just could not remember. I had to do, what all do, now, in the 21st century. I Googled Hopalong Cassidy.
I can safely say that the United States is here to stay because Americans have a language with the advantage that any word can be converted into a transitive verb. In Spanish we have many limitations. The verb roer
(what a rodent does, chew or gnaw) in Spanish cannot be conjugated in the present tense, first person since, "I gnaw," would make me a rat or a mouse which I am not. So the Real Academia Española
calls this a deffective verb, a verbo defectivo
. It is almost impossible to translate into Spanish, "I was rear ended."
I think about Americans with affection. I had contact with them at an early age even though I was in Argentina. Consider that back in 1952 I was wearing a Hopalong Cassidy costume that had been given to me as a birthday gift, complete with the awesome cap gun. The happy young lady on the far right is Susan Stone. Her father was the general manager for General Motors in Latin America. Susan Stone often sent her father's Cadillac to pick me up at home so that we could play in her garden. My street friends could not figure out what Susan saw in me and neither did I. At 10 I was too naive to realize the benefits I had in going to an American school. It was at Susan's that I first saw a documentary showing oil derricks in Texas. I saw it on my first ever TV set. In 1952 I had never held a phone in my hand. This was something I was not to do until 1955 in Mexico.
While I feel Argentine in some deep corner of my heart, and I speak Spanish, sometimes with a Mexican accent, I have an intellectual attachment to the idea that I am a Canadian. I love my "new" country even though I have been here 30 years. Only recently did I stop feeling like a tourist in Vancouver.
I cringe when I read about Bush's latest utterings and I grieve for their lonely role as the world's policemen. Back in 1952 men were good if they wore white hats and they were bad if they wore a black one. The exception to the rule was William Boyd on Topper. Inside my Argentine being I must share some allegiance and love for all things Americans. I thought about all this while watching on Thursday the exquisite 1958 Western No Name on the Bullet
with Audie Murphy. He wore a black hat but his attitude was certainly that of a man with a gray one. He was an American I can understand, accept, love and almost like.