Sábado De Gloria
Saturday, April 07, 2007
As I sat in the front pew of St Helen's Anglican Church with Abraham Jedediah Rogatnick yesterday evening I had thoughts of my grandmother Lolita and how she directed the Good Friday activities at home in Buenos Aires when I was a boy.
I had called Abraham in the morning to tell him that an unusual version of Mozart's Requiem was being Performed at St Helen's. The Vancouver Voices Quartet and Vancouver Chamber Players were performing the Requiem with only four voices and accompanied by a string quartet.
Many if not most of the patrons seemed to be parishioners of St Helen's (named after Constantine the Great's saintly mother). And there we were, a Catholic and a Jew sitting there discussing how three of the four singers had faulty Latin diction.
Perhaps my grandmother would have been shocked at it all or perhaps her anti-semitic stance was only Spanish 19th century upbringing. On Good Fridays I was not allowed to turn on the radio and sometime around 3 pm we would kneel on the living room floor in our Coghlan home and she would take us through the stations of the cross in Latin. I distinctly remember her telling me how the evil Jews had crucified Him. When describing people's faces she would sometimes say, "She has the map of Jerusalem on her face." Or she would switch to her alternate, "He is one of Jesus' countrymen."
But she never ever uttered a critical word about my best friend who lived across the street on Melián 2779. He was Mario Hertzberg. He, Miguelito (I have long forgotten his Calabarian surname) and I were inseperable and we were known as the inglesito (the english boy) el tano (the Italian) and el judío (the Jew).
Mario had two brothers but he once showed me the photograph of a third who looked much the same as he did except he was fatter and wore glasses. "That was my older brother but he died at a place called Auschwitz."
At age 8 I did not have enough curiousity to pursue the subject any further.
One day Mario and I went to see a Tarzan movie at the Saturday series sponsored by our local Capucine monks who were building a very large new church next door to the little community center and movie house. They charged us a token fee but we knew our money was going to a good cause. As we left after the show we were approached by a chubby Capucine who asked us our names. He asked me to what church I went to. When he questioned Mario, Mario replied, "I don't go to church I am a Jew." I will never forget the Capucine's smile as he placed his hand on Mario's arm and told us, "We share the same God and that is what is important." I thought about that for the rest of the day but I never confronted my grandmother with what to me was a clear difference of opinion.
I lost track of Mario Hertzberg when I was 20 but when I am with Abraham, even though he is 85, I find in his warm companionship, traces of that boyhood friendship that I miss but that somehow have come back.
It is appropriate that I write of this today. In Spanish, we call today Sábado de Gloria
. It is an important day in Catholic liturgy as Catholics meditate on Easter Sunday. Easter Sunday is the most important feast day of them all. If the Man does not come back from the grave tomorrow it is all words and nothing more.
In my own little way I discovered last night as Abraham and I heard the lyrics:tuba mirum spagens sonum
(the trumpet will send its wondrous sound)
of a friendship reborn.
Michael Dibdin/Aurelio Zen - Requiescat in Pace
Friday, April 06, 2007
Michael John Dibdin, novelist, born March 21 1947; died March 30 2007.
I would have never known except for my tenacious information freak friend Mark Budgen
who found out from a Guardian podcast. Budgen is one of those eccentric Englishmen who somehow jumped from LP records, bypassing the tape and CD era, straight into the iPod.
I met Michael Dibdin three times. The second time I traveled to Seattle to interview him for Celia Duthie's wondrous little gem, The Reader
. He opened the door of his modest house while a woman next door eyed me while weeding, She was Dibdin's wife, ( his third and last), crime writer Kathrine Beck. They each wrote in their respective house but I didn't dare ask about their sleeping arrangement. Mark Budgen's contribution to my false, based in fear, diplomacy would have been, "Good for you, Alex." Budgen is an expert on living the life of two simultaneous households.
If I were to cite my favourite mystery book of all the ones I have ever read (I am having a hard time not considering our very own Canadian J. Robert Janes's excellent St-Cyr/Kohler mysteries) it would be Dibdin's definitive Venice based 1994 mystery novel Dead Lagoon
. I will re-publish below my review that appeared that year in The Reader
The Dead Lagoon
An Aurelio Zen Mystery by Michael Dibdin
Harper Collins Publisher Ltd, Toronto, 297 Pages, $25.00
Reviewed by Alex Waterhouse-Hayward
After finishing the Dead Lagoon , Aurelio Zen fans might think that Aurelio is in State Railways car compartment on his way home to Rome to his dotty mother Giustiniana. They might further think that he will try to patch up his eroding relationship with the fiery tempered Tania. They would we wrong - Aurelio Zen is actually living quietly in a modest house in the Wallingford neighbourhood of Seattle, with his friend Kathrine(crime writer K.K. Beck) and her extensive collection of Agatha Christie hardbacks. At least that's what I thought when Michael Dibdin opened the door on a morning in late February, 1995 puffing one of Aurelio's "camelshit Nazionali
." Alas, I found out they were Marlboro Lights
when we were sipping our strong expressos - not even Aurelio's usual caffé corretto
with the added shot of grapa.
What had led me to that pleasant morning with Dibdin? ("His expression is stern, almost saturnine, yet his manner is courteous and respectful, " a description of Aurelio Zen in the Dead Lagoon
fits Dibdin admirably,)in my search for Reginald Hill, Colin Dexter and Paco Ignacio Taibo II novels, my requests for new inspector Morses. Belascoarán Shynes and Dalziel and Pascoes at Duthie's, The Mystery Merchant Bookstore and Granville Books were frequently answered with a persistent, "No, but have you tried Dibdin's Aurelio Zen?"
Nine books later I am a fan. Michael Dibdin's ouput is divided into what he calls his "stand-alone novels", Dirty Tricks, The Last Sherlock Holmes Novel where Holmes, Moriarty and Jack the Ripper develop a very intimate relationship), The Tryst, A Rich Full Death, The Dying of the Light
and the four Aurelio Zen novels: Ratking, Vendetta, Cabal and Dead Lagoon
. The hero is a Venetian-born plainclothes Vice-Questore of the elite Criminalpol squad of the Interior Ministry in Rome. He attempts to solve crimes in a world of police corruption and ineptness, a serpentine bureaucracy not all independent from the mafiosi. In Dead Lagoon
Aurelio returns to his origins, a wintry Venice, to seek a solution to the kidnapping and disappearance of wealthy American industrialist. Not since Ian McEwan's The Comfort of Strangers
have I read such a vivid description of Venice. But this is a bleak Venice powdered by snow, enveloped by fog and with an ever diminishing population, A shadowy Venice that turns into a ghost town in the evenings. Aurelio Zen has almost forgotten his roots as Dibdin describes: When he awoke again the room was filled with an astringent brilliance which made him blink, an abrasive slapping of wavelets andthe edgy scent which had surprised him the moment he stepped out of the train. He had forgotten even the most obvious things about the place, like the pervasive risky odour of the sea.
Little is known of Aurelio's off hour tastes and diversions, and Dibdin the writer will rarely volunteer much personal information, he does not much approve of policemen like PD James'Inspector Dalgliesh moonlighting as a published poet. Dibdin likes to keep bothhis and Aurelio's life private. But I was able to extract a bit about both, I asked about Aurelio's views on grappa; Dibdin's answer: "Like all Italians, he would regard any commercial grappa as second-rate by definition. The only good stuff comes from some private connection with a winemaker who distills their own. But I think he would not despise Nardini's Reserva
(as he would Grappa Giulia
) which is the most commonly available brand), and in a pinch he would drink anything."
Dibdin has lived outside his native England more than he has in. At various stages of his life he has resided in Ireland, Scotland, Italy (he taught English in Perugia for four years) and has spent five years in Canada, Edmonton and Vancouver. Dibdin, born in 1947, might just have been another hippie who haunted Kitsilano in the late 60s, not by his direct admission, but I quote: "I lived in many houses -we moved every month or so, it seems now - mostly in Kitsilano. I wrote a whole novel while there. It has never been published. But it was a very important period of my life, and opened my eyes to the possibilities of life in ways I have subsequently exploited in the published books. I also taught a course in philosophy for Vancouver Free University, made money writing essays for students at UBC and Simon Simon Fraser and was an avid reader of the Georgia Straight
. It was my second adolescence - much better than my first!"
Although Dibdin does not share Jonathan Raban's love for Schubert and prefers Mozart, he does dine once a month with that other British expatriate and Seattle resident. "We swap anecdotes and theories about Seattle and the Northwest, about which we disagree; Kathrine is fourth-generation Seattle and gives me a very different take on the place from Raban's 'city of immgigrants.'"
While in Seattle Dibdin has written one of his stan-alone novels Dark Spectre
, a police procedural set in Seattle - to be published in England in June and in Canada next January. The big news for Aurelio Zen fans is that Dibdin has sold three of the Zen books to the BBC. Julian Mitchell, who wrote the successful screenplays for the Inspector Morse series, is working on Dead Lagoon
and if all goes well Aurelio Zen will hit our screens by summer of 1996.
For those who can't wait until the next Aurelio Zen - "It will be set in Naples, with an opera buffa quality(I hope!)" - there are two options. One is to try Aurelio's recipe on page 132 of Dead Lagoon
for spaghetti Aglio, olio e peperoncino on a potential loved one and immediately raise the temperature of your relationship. (Dibdin stresses that no cheese is used for Aurelio's recipe.) The other is to look for Dibdin's only published short story. GQ commissioned him to write a story based on his experiences during a trip to Argentina. A Death in the Family
involves Jorge Luis Borges, a fiendish young girl, and the disappeared of Argentina's dirty war. Although it has been widely translated in Europe and in the East, Ellery Queen Magazine
found it too depressing to publish it in the US. Where can this story be found? "The short story was in GQ in 1990. August, I think. It is also in the anthology Best Short Stories of 1991 Heinemann, London 1991."
Having established a connection between this Argentine reviewer's fondness for Borges and Dibdin's only published short story I decided to enquire about my favourite Mexican crime writer Paco Ignacio Taibo II. Surprise! "Kathrine and I met in Gijón, Spain, where we were both attending a mystery writers' conference , Semana Negra organized by Paco Taibo. And please don't call her my companion in crime." Alex Waterhouse-Hayward, having run out of Colin Dexter, Reginald Hill, Paco Ignacio Taibo II and Michael Dibdin is currently reading the crime novels of that eminent Newyorican, Jerome Charyn
.Michael Dibdin and a Venetian gondola
Trout Stanley, Jonathon Young & The Well Traveled Trout
Thursday, April 05, 2007
I had dinner at Rebbeca's last night and her mother Hilary told us how her husband (and Rebecca's father) Bruce had cooked the trout. Rebecca said it was very good and by the time her mother had arrived she and her father had eaten it all. I mentioned that the fish was a WTT. Rebecca asked me what that meant and I said it was a well traveled trout.
It all started last Thursday afternoon when the interim arts Straight arts editor Brian Lynch emailed me with the query to photograph actor Jonathon Young (and have results by that Monday). Jonathon Young plays the title role in this interesting Claudia Day play that is a Ruby Slippers production being staged at Performance Works beginning this Saturday at 8pm.
Young finally got back to me and he was going to show up at my Studio (last Saturday at one) which was his rehearsal lunch break. Meanwhile my Rosemary called around looking for a fresh trout that would fit my 8½ by 12 inch flat bed scanner. She found one on Granville Island. I paid $3.84 for it.
While Jonathon Young was himself when he came into my studio he was Trout Stanley (in the play he does not know why his parents gave him the name) he was in character when he faced my camera. There wasn't much for me to do except to click the shutter to the man I will discover this coming Saturday night. Lois Anderson is also in the cast. This pair has to be one of them most talented actors in town and Rosemay and I look forward to this play set in Tumbler Ridge. For me that is an added interest as I taught a weekend photography workshop for the Outreach Prgram of Emily Carr there and my students were already citing how the bottom was falling out in the coal mining town. Our provincial government had signed a contract to sell coal to Japan (for steel production)at a price that became well under the world price. The contract could not be modified so the town was on its way to go the way of Cassiar
After shooting Young (both Rebecca and Lauren were there as we had gone directly to the studio from Rebecca's jazz class at Arts Umbrella on Granville Island), Rebecca demanded to see the trout. At home I carefully unwrapped it and Rebecca picked it up and opened his/her mouth. She asked if it was a he? I told her I did not know. Several times on Saturday that trout paraded around the house in Rebecca's hands.
I scanned the trout and that evening at dinner, Rebecca placed the trout in front of her mother. I will never understand Rebecca's ability to pick up lizards, snakes, insects, spiders and now fish with an impunity that I find amazing.
Vimy, Pierre Berton & The Re-Education of An "American"
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
One chill Easter dawn in 1917, a blizzard blowing in their faces, the four divisions of the Canadian Corps in France went over the top of a muddy scarp knows as Vimy Ridge. Within hours, they held in their grasp what had eluded both British and French armies in over two years of fighting: they had seized the best-defended German bastion on the Western Front.
Even though I arrived with my wife and two daughters in 1975 I did not read a Canadian book until 1986. It was Pierre Berton's Vimy
. My ignorance about Canada was appalling because I had mostly received an American based education in American schools in Argentina, Mexico and the US. World War I had not been won until the American Doughboys fought at Chateau-Thierry. And, of course, in WWII the Russians had not existed. John Hodiak had singlehandedly won it in William Wellman's 1950 Battleground
So Pierre Berton's account of the Canadian involvement at Vimy Ridge that Easter of 1917 was shocking to me. It was then when I attempted to modify my American education. I have become proudly (almost fiercely ) Canadian and it was with lots of satisfaction that I was able to photograph my enlightener at the Meridien Hotel on October of 1984. I told Berton my story and with a warm smile on his face he said, "That should teach you."
Chester Johnson Is A Cowboy
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
The 1987 Equity profile on BC Hyro's new boss, Chester Johnson had the above title as the lead to the story. The writer, Judy Lees had discovered that the urbane Johnson had a secret life as a rancher and loved horses. I was dispatched to find a location in Southlands that would serve as a backdrop for the photograph. When I found this old truck I was very happy. I then made an appointment with Mr. Johnson. The day of the shoot I was on the lookout for him. A beautiful maroon Maserati Quattroporte arrived and from it emerged Johnson, a most handsome man in one of the most beautiful suits I had ever seen. He asked me where the changing room was. I directed him to a nearby shack. In a few minutes the cowboy emerged. Through the years I got to photograph him again, particularly when he worked as head of the airport authority.
By then he had sold his Maserati and bought a Jaguar convertible. He took me for a spin and told me, "I do miss that Quattroporte on some days."
Today I wonder if any local executive would have Johnson's sense of humour or understand the power and value of a distinct image. Will the Chester Johnson and Jack Munro brand of executives ever come back? In the early 90s during the annual report boom I had some spare change and bought myself a maroon Maserati (alas the two-door version, the Biturbo, that was a poor cousin) and lived to regret my folly.
Juliette, Dal Richards, Jack Munro & Double Chins
Monday, April 02, 2007
In February 1981 the singer Juliette was taping a variety show at the CBC in Vancouver. She interrupted the proceedings with a mighty, "Stop. Everything." There was quiet in the cavernous Studio 40. From the stage platform she shouted, "You, the photographer, down there. You are never to shoot me from the floor. I don't want my double chin to show!" I tried to sink further into the floor, but I did not succeed.
Sometime on a Sunday in 2000 I got off the Granville bus in front of the Commodore Ball Room. Even though it was early in the afternoon there was a lineup. At the end of the long line on my right, the guest list-line, there was a tall man in a red V-necked sweater. It was Jack Munro, former president of the International Woodworkers of America. In the shorter line on the left, for those with tickets, I spotted the immaculately dressed woman with a blond '60-era bouffant hairdo. It was Juliette.
I went up to her and asked her how it was that she was lined up for Dal Richards' afternoon tea dance series and nobody had whisked her in on a red carpet. If you consider that Juliette started her career at age 14., back in the 40s, as Dal Richard's "canary" with his big band on the Panorama Roof of the Hotel Vancouver, you should think she would be treated like royalty. "That's Vancouver for you. I just didn't want to miss today's show celebrating Mart Kennedy's 90th birthday," she explained. Mart Kennedy preceded Dal Richards with his Western Gentleman at the Hotel Vancouver in the 30s.
In a phone call to Dal Richards (right), he informed me that 100 Walk of Fame members were let into the Commodore simply by identifying themselves. Juliette chose to stand in line.
I asked Juliette if she had seen Munro in line. She peeked in his direction and said, "That communist."
In April 1984 I photographed Jack Munro in the offices of the now-defunct Vancouver business magazine, Equity
, where I had set up a portable studio. Munro had been interviewed by Doug Collins for an article that stressed Munro's busy schedule and "many hats."
I was to photograph him with a hard hat, a ball cap, a top hat, a Chinese coolie hat and for the cover in a First World War helmet. With the helmet's chin strap firmly attached to the second part of his double chin, Munro looked rediculous. "Are you sure you want to do this?" I asked him. "I don't give a flying f---, just get it over with," he answered.
Before leaving Juliette, I reminded her of her direct involvement in that most embarrasing moment of my photographic career. With a smile she said, "I hope you have learned your lesson." She then added, "Vancouver's best photographer is that tall man from the Vancouver Sun
. He stands up on a chair to photograph us women."As I left I told her, "I'll be sure to let Malcolm Parry know."
Sunday, April 01, 2007
It was Tuesday, November 19, 1996, and I was waiting in the lobby of the Alexis Hotel in Seattle. A tall, wiry man with a buzz cut and a moustache, Harris tweed jacket, pullover, white shirt, and no tie came up to me and said, "Hi I am James Ellroy; call me Dog." "I'll call you Dog if you call me lad," I replied.
And that's how it was.
Note: My favourite Ellroy character, from the crime novelist's Los Angeles Quartet (LA Confidential is the better known volume), is Captain Dudley Smith, and he calls everybody lad.