Luís Miranda - The Best Uncle I Ever Had
Saturday, April 21, 2007
Luis Miranda was born in Manila and he was my grandfather Tirso de Irureta Goyena's first cousin. He was also related to him in some other way.
Ever since I first saw him in 1952 when Tío Luís moved with his family from Manila to Buenos Aires he was my favourite uncle even though he was always trying to make me eat. By the time we followed him to Mexico City and when I got married to Rosemary the nagging of not having eaten enough was transfered to her. In Mexico City as a young boy I loved going to Tío Luís's because he had a complete collection of Life Magazine
from Pearl Harbour to Victory in the Pacific Day. I loved looking at the Sherman tank ads that boasted they had Buick Dynaflow transmissions. Tio Luis loved to tell me how Spanish galleons had sailed from Manila to Acapulco and transfered their cargo to move to Veracruz and from there to the magical city of Seville. It was Tío Luís who kept my Spanish in check as he spoke the most beautiful turn of the (20th) century Spanish which had been spoken in Manila. With my grandfather Tirso dead (I never met him) he was the only link to him besides my grandmother.
But Tío Luís is in today's blog for one important reason. He would be proud of me. In all the years that I knew Tío Luís I never understood why he liked opera and particularly the British variety. He often spoke of the Mikado and sang Madame Butterfly in the shower. He never tried to convince me about opera. Did he know I would go crazy for it someday? I was charmed by his opinion that going to the beach was over rated, "I hate going there as sand gets into my shoes."
In his day Handel operas were rarely staged. Abraham, Graham and John are coming for lunch today. We will then retire to the living room to listen to the Met live broadcast of the 3½ hour-long Julio Cesare. Wouldn't Tío Luís have been delighted?
In the picture here, he is with Rebecca's mother, my daughter Hilary when she was a few months old. Rebecca and Lauren will be with us today. I'll keep cool and like Tío Luís I will not proseltyze. But then Rebecca at 9 is smarter than her grandfather. She has seen Monteverdi's Orfeo and a Madame Butterfly rehearsal. Wouldn't Tío Luís have been proud of her?
John Cotton - Actor - Sailor - Hypnotist - Etc & The Can-can
Friday, April 20, 2007
Today's blog could go in many directions but I will start it with Rebecca practicing a simple version of Offenbach's Can-can on our living room Chickering. Every time she plays it I remember the best can-can I ever saw. It was in Studio 40 at the CBC some 29 years ago.
Leon Bibb was taping an extended show on the origins of the blues and jazz. The segment with the Can-can was performed in beautifully staged New Orlean bordello. The dancers were my favourite CBC jazz dancers including Viktoria Langton
and Jackie Coleman.
I was taking the stills and looking at my contact sheets I notice that during idle moments my camera was either trained on Langton or on Coleman. But I did take some pictures of a distinguished looking gentleman with all white hair who was supposed to be one of the patrons of the establishment.
His name is John Cotton and we have been friends of sorts since. Circumstances get us together every once in a while. He is one of those persons that I often see walking on the Granville Street Bridge. Perhaps it has to do with his white hair. One of the last times I saw him he wanted to deal with my migraines by hypnotizing me. Somehow I declined his offer and my migraines have diminished with age.
Cotton called the other day to tell me about a PBS special on Patagonia. It ocurred to me that he would provide fine company for my friends Graham Walker and Abraham Rogatnick. We are having lunch at home tomorrow and then we will retire to the living room to hear the live radio broacast from the Met of Handel's Julio Cesare
. I think that the four of us will have a great time.
Looking at those negatives of so long ago I spotted a very special one that I had forgotten I had taken. The bearded man on the right is cameraman Mike Varga. And yes he had much more hair then!
Thursday, April 19, 2007
I was born on August 31, 1942 in Sanatorio Anchorena in Buenos Aires. My birth was recorded by a photographer with magnesium flash powder. The burst of light made me decide then and there that one day I would be a photographer.
The above statement is false except for the fact that I was born in the mentioned hospital on that date in Buenos Aires. My birth certificate states I was born April 18, 1943.
Yesterday was my birthday but nobody called. Birth spoons, particularly those made and engraved by Mappin & Webb
(which in 1942 and in 1943 had a Buenos Aires store) are supposed to be accurate. The clock is set for 2:50. My mother told me I was born early in the morning and further added that the proof that I had been born on a Monday was the fact I was a pain in the neck. The date is August 31, 1942. The spoon is the only "document" I have with a record of my true birthday.
For all of my life I have celebrated August 31, 1942 but I have to be ready to respond to customs and border bureaucrats with the other one.
I hate all my birthdays. The official one does save me from embarrasment as it helps me to remember that today is Rosemary's. My mother always invited my school friends to a garden party. It featured a piñata, bag races and pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey. One of my classmates, the overly agressive Mónica would break all my toys and break the piñata. My cousins Georgito and Ricardo would gallop in with sneers in their faces and terrorize me. I hate cake of any kind. And it always rained. August 30th is St Rose of Lima's feastday. The storm that hits Buenos Aires near that date is called " la tormenta de Santa Rosa". I hate all my birthdays. I don't tell anybody when either of them is. But I still get depressed when nobody calls.
According to my mother, my father forgot to register me until almost a year later. Could this be true? Wouldn't he have to produce a live habeas corpus
(me), a document of sorts, a doctor's signature? Was I that young looking even at the early age of almost one?
All my Argentine documents cite the April 18 birthday from my passports to that all important draft document (not anymore since President Menem abolished he draft) called a Libreta de Enrolamiento
Then there is the problem of my name. My birth certificate states my father was called Jorge Waterhouse Hayward. In our family there was a tradition that the firstborn carried Waterhouse as the middle name. My uncle Harry was the firtsborn but I remember someone telling me that my grandmother Ellen Carter had not yet married my grandfather Harry when Harry Jr. was born. Technically he was not the firtborn but a bastard. Or perhaps my uncle Harry (who prepared a wicked salad and I fondly remember him putting sugar into his preparation of a Coleman's mustard salad dressing) didn't want to bother with the name. By 1942, 43 nobody in Argentina could legally have a foreign name (other than the surname). When the registrar objected to the Waterhouse my father explained it was part of the surname and slipped a bill (a coima) under the table.
But I was't the firstborn. Bastards seem to be a family tradition. My mother had revealed to me that my father had married a socialite from the Province of Salta and that the wedding had been blessed by the Salta bishop. It seems that in their wedding night my father's bride confessed to him that she was pregnant by another man and that she hoped that he would be an English gentleman and remain married to her long enough to give the child his name.
As a little boy I was never curious enough question that when we crossed borders my mother would tell me to be quiet and then when asked she would say her name was Filomena de Irureta Goyana. Why was her name different to mine? The document records that she is soltera
I did not know that at the time (in 1954 when you look at her Argentine passport of that date) Argentina did not recognize the divorce. I later remember, hazily that my mother and father married in Uruguay.
Eduardo Waterhouse (he dropped the Hayward) never met my father but looks exactly like him as they both resemble David Niven and share beautiful blue eyes. About 13 years ago I met his mother. Eduardo refused to accompany me and dispatched me with his son Patricio. Patricio's grandmother was gracious and served me empanadas salteñas. She spoke fondly of my father and told me how he had taught her to swim. My mother had been an exquisite swimmer and my father had taught her to dance the tango. My father danced the tango beautifully. When I asked the woman if my father danced she replied, "George, didn't."
I think my birth was much too complicated. My mother told me of all the effort she put in trying to get pregnant. It took her about five years and she had several miscarriages. To make sure I was a male she tried all kinds of concoctions like Coca Cola and vinegar.
I have thus decided that my death will be much simpler. I plan to die vaporized and I will leave no residue.
Today's blog title isn't entirely correct. Someone did call yesterday. I received a text message from Telus wishing me a happy birthday.
Exotic Chinese In Mexico DF
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
In 1997 when I had to choose a location to photograph one of my favourite Mexican (but Spanish born) authors, Paco Ignacio Taibo II it was easy. It had to be an exotic place. A place that was both mysterious but prominent in his mystery novels. His odly named Mexico City private detective, Héctor Belascoarán Shayne who has a fondness for Gerry Mulligan and Stan Getz also likes Chinese food. In Mexico City, for many years that was a problem. There was a Chinese restaurant in the Zona Rosa called the Luau which was expensive. And then there was the two block Callejón de Dolores, a narrow street by the Alameda Park. This was and still is the city's only China Town.
When I photographed Taibo there, the street seemed much too peaceful. In his novel The Shadow of the Shadow (1986, La Sombra de la Sombra) there is a big explosion and a fire-eating Chinese-Mexican union organizer, Tomás Wong could be the culprit.
In my 18 years in Mexico I don't remember ever seeing any Chinese except the odd one on a bus and I would stare. To this day going for Chinese food in Vancouver has yet to lose its exotic nature for me.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
In 1981 I was a suitably conventional and boring 39-year-old man. My idea that sex was principally for procreation ( I had learned this in 4 years of a Catholic boarding school education in Austin, Texas) had been disturbed years back when my very sick 59-year-old mother, a couple of months before her untimely death, confessed to me that at her age, too many years of not having known a man had deeply depressed her and that she felt bitter.
In 1981 I ordered D.M. Thomas's The White Hotel
from the Book of the Month Club.
It was in this novel that I first began to understand a woman's mind and imagination and that they were not to be found with the ideal woman I had placed on a Dorian plinth.
It was also in 1981, when processing some film in my Burnaby basement darkroom, that I received a call from a young woman poet called Diana Hayes. She wanted to have her picture taken. She told me she was researching an article on exotic dancers and wanted to know what it was like so she wanted me to photograph her as if she were one.
I had photographed a few exotic dancers so I had a distorted belief that only women of that profession had an interest in undraping for a camera. Miss Hayes' request had me a tad confused. Nevertheless I did anticipate with a small amount of pleasure my appointment with her at her Kits home.
The photograph (top) is perhaps the only one of that first session that I can safely publish here. It hints that underneath a pristine, innocent appearance, lurks an imagination that is much richer and daring than that of any man, or at the very least, of this one. In our photographic relationship of many years, Miss Hayes constantly pushed on my photographic boundaries and the only force that thwarted her was my poor and slow imagination.
I just finished D.M. Thomas' Charlotte - The Final Journey of Jane Eyre
and it led me to wonder what Diana Hayes was doing with her imagination. Her new webpage shows she has not rested on past laurels.
A Woman's Imagination
Jim Christy, B Traven , Borges & A Hard Working Boxer
Monday, April 16, 2007
Some years ago Jim Christy, an infrequent visitor to my garden, suggested I needed a new path in my back garden. "This concrete path evenly divides it into two boring parts. You need a meandering curved one." So he began to build the path. With spade in hand he would look at me and then at Rosemary's black cat (he had a tendency to blink his big black eyes) and say, "He doesn't have too much upstairs, does he?" As Christy path approached the rear gate he looked at the nearby garage door and asked me, "What now?" I replied with one word, "Borges." Christy instantly knew. After all he had read Borges' story Garden of the Forking Paths
, so much nicer sounding in its Spanish title El Jardín de Senderos que se Bifurcan
. For close to three months my wife Rosemary nagged me every morning, "Christy's path is too curved and the stone is too pink."
Then one morning, as she looked out of the bedroom window, she saw Mosca walking on the path and she never nagged me again. Time and moss has muted the pinkness and both of us think of Christy often and wonder where he is. We haven't seen him for years. When in town he haunts the West End and the Sylvia Hotel.
Christy, has always been secretive about his personal life. But I did meet his wife Mary Anne twice. Rosemary and I were once invited for dinner. Mary Anne had hypnotic black eyes and seemed to me to be a protagonist of a B Traven novel.
Had James Richard Christinzio not been born in Richmond, Virginia in 1945 and raised in South Philadelphia he would have been more at home in 19th century Victorian London. He and his pal Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton would have journeyed to Mecca, searched for the origin of the Nile and looked for gold in Brazil.
Christy came to Vancouver from Toronto in 1981 to promote his novel Streethearts
and stayed. Some know him as the writer of offbeat articles on looking for treasure in Honduras or on the Victoria car thief who allowed Christy to watch him "work" for a week. Christy writes intelligent book reviews on such odd books as Jonathon Cott's The Search for Omm Sety
. Few know that he has published at least eight books and finished six more. Few know that Christy is an artist, a gardener, an ex hobo, a dormant anarchist, an ex-American and lover of things Canadian or that he was a regular of American Bandstand and friend of the legendary jazz bassist and poet Chrlie Leeds. When Quest Magazine
ceased publication in 1984 the screenwriter Norman Snider (Deadringers
) bemoaned its extinction in the Globe & Mail
and wrote, "It gave a voice to a talented maverick like Jim Christy."
When Christy has not been writing or traveling, or working in a slaughterhouse ( "I did it for the money.") he usually works on his art. This could be his funny collage/sculptures he calls assemblages. "I started painting but I needed that other dimension." Many of them are about Catholic saints like his piece on St. Dominic, the patron saint of time. "I like the stories of the saints. Like St Martin of Porres, the Peruvian and first black saint and patron saint of dog lovers. I like the stories even if they are not true. I like it when orthodox Catholicism meets the pagan and the changes each undergoes." These sculptures are full of little details.
In his writings Christy cites long forgotten writers, or not so forgotten like B Traven ("I met him."), boxers and fire breathers. "I like little details." Of his art he says, "It's fun, It's funny and it shows a side of me that gets into the writing a bit. It's kind of goofy, it has a sort of askew charm to it, even if I say so myself."
In one of the chapters of one of his books on boxing, Flesh and Blood
Christy writes in admiration of Vancouver boxer Jamey Ollenberger. "When I first saw him, Ollenberger was holding down three jobs: grounds keeper and gravedigger at a cemetery during the day, aerobics teacher at night, and a Saturday stint moving furniture at a department store. Somehow he managed to put in his hours at the gym, and to fight." When I asked Christy if he had ever dug graves he looked at me and smiled.
Sunday, April 15, 2007
Many plants in our spring garden are too small to really notice unless you know about them. Such is the case of the epimediums. At this time of the year we cut off last year's leaves while having to be careful not to cut off the fresh new stems with the little flowers. I am so used to seeing the forsythia's Yellow Cab yellow flowers that my only connection is the knowledge that I should have pruned my roses by now. In many gardening circles the flowering of the forsythia is a rose pruning indicator.
The rhodos are difficult to ignore at this time of the year, particularly my early blooming ones like Rhododendron augustinii
, Rhododendron racemosum
and a new one I purchased last year at the VanDusen plant sale, Rhododendron williamsianum
The four camellias are in bloom, Camelia japonica
(a white one and a hot pink one), Camellia x williamsii
‘Donation’ and Camellia x williamsii
But it is our Magnolia stellata
with its startling cool white flowers that I cannot but notice and feel that spring is really here. The small tree is by our kitchen bed and it replaced a dead Lawson Cypress about 15 years ago. I found it espaliered against a wall in a nearby house (Hudson and 43d) that was about to be demolished. I obtained permission from the developer to bring it home and it has flourished since.Magnolia stellata
unlike many magnolias is not fragrant. Some 10 years ago I planted a Magnolia grandiflora
also called the Southern Magnolia. It's huge and also white flowers bloom later in spring and their scent must be proof that if heaven does not happen to exist "up there" it exists right here. But magnolias are like cats and babies and they don't perform on demand. My grandiflora has yet to bloom. The hope that it might is what makes gardening so exciting.