Don Van Vliet, Harris Tweed & The Magic Band
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Ashtray Heart (From Doc At The Radar Station 1980)
You used me like an ashtray heart
Case of the punks
Right from the start
I feel like a glass shrimp in a pink panty
With a saccharine chaperone
Make invalids out of supermen
Call in a "shrink"
And pick you up in a girdle
You used me like an ashtray heart
Right from the start
Case of the punks
Another day, another way
Somebody's had too much to think
Open up another case of the punks
Each pillow is touted like a rock
The mother / father figure
Somebody's had too much to think
Send your mother home your navel
Case of the punks
New hearts to the dining rooms
Violet heart cake
Dissolve in new cards, boards, throats, underwear
You picked me out, brushed me off
Crushed me while I was burning out
Then you picked me out
Like an ashtray heart
Hid behind the curtain
Waited for me to go out
A man on a porcupine fence
Used me for an ashtray heart
Hit me where the lover hangs out
Stood behind the curtain
While they crushed me out
You used me for an ashtray heart
You looked in the window when I went out
You used me like an ashtray heart.
I took these pictures of Captain Beefheart sometime in 1980 at the Hotel Plaza on Burrard the day he appeared with the Magic Band at the Commodore (third photograph). This was one of my earlier collaborations with writer Les Wiseman
for his In One Ear
column in Vancouver Magazine
. Wiseman had told me that if he had to go to a desert island with one record (there were no CDs yet) it would be Beefheart's 1969 Trout Mask Replica
. Such was the complexity of this record's music that it would take years to figure it out and one would never tire of it.
In the hotel Wiseman gave Beefheart a pack of Gitanes to smoke. All three of us were wearing Harris Tweed jackets. Beefheart impressed us with his knowledge of how many dyes were involved in their making. We also discussed the horsemanship of rejoneador
Don Álvaro Domecq who fought bulls from beautiful white horses. I had seen Don Álvaro in Mexico City and Beefheart wanted to know more.
What remains most in my memory of that day was listening to Beefheart sing the line: Somebody's had too much to think
and then he stopped and stared at the young man in the picture.
Six Boys, One Helicopter Jock, One Dead Man
Friday, November 09, 2007
I wrote about the above photograph here
and in the last few days I have been able to locate all but one of the young men.
The breakthrough ocurred when I remembered Remigio Martinez's (last on the right) maternal name Mueller. With his complete name I found him as Vice President, Exploration of Southern Copper Corporation. He replied to my email:Alex,
I received your communication. How are you? As you can see I am continuing the family tradition working for what used to be ASARCO. I now live in Hermosillo, Sonora in Northwestern Mexico. If you ever come this way let me know so we con meet. I have especially fond memories of your mother. Is she still with you? Both my parents passed away about 4 years ago. I still keep in touch with some of the guy and gals we went to school with,. Do you? Anyway let me know how you are doing. I do get to Vancouver every once in a while, I´ll look you up next time I go there.
That's me on the left. Next is Steve Frazier (I am not sure if that is Frazier or Frasier). He lived in a large ranch near Sabinas, Coahuila with his genteel mother and lovely sister Cornelia. After we "graduated" from the 8th grade Steve's mother took me as far as San Antonio to the Greyhound Bus Station several times after a Christmas holiday from my boarding school at St Ed's in Austin. In the car I would be with the remote and extremely lovely Cornelia who we would dropp off in Uvalde, Texas. Steve taught me to shoot with German elephant rifle and took me for rides in his US Army Surplus Jeep in the Coahuila scrub. When I talked to Sammy Simpson yesterday (next guy and below) he told me, "Steve is my cousin. The last I heard he married a girl in Muzquiz, Coahuila and went to Mexico City where he disappeared."
I found out from Remigio Martinez Mueller (last on the right) that Sammy was living in San Antonio and was not in good shape. So I Googled Sam Simpson, San Antonio
and called him up. Sammy was a bit cautious at first but I then immediately recognized his voice with its Texan drawl. He told me, "My wife is in hospital and I am here in the living room with my dog watching the news. I had a boring life." I asked him that seeing he was Texan, was he by any chance a right wing Republican? His answer was short, "I am nothing." I reminded him that it was from him that learned of things I had no idea. One day, October 9, 1956, he arrived at school and gave us a blow by blow description of Don Larsen's perfect game against the Dodgers in the World Series the day before. I had no idea what baseball was much less a perfect game. On another day he arrived singing Blue Swade Shoes. I had never heard this song or did I know who Elvis Presley was. Sammy did not remember this nor did he remember that he drove a 1957 Ford which to my disappointment was the short one and not the long Fairlane 500. Sammy has no email but thanked me for calling me. While Remigio Martinez Mueller had told me that Enrique Serna, second from right had died last year I did not know how to locate Dicky Forns, third from right. It was Sammy who corrected me , "Dicky Juvé Forns." With that I located Dicky and here he is. HAI Announces Recipient of the 2005 Outstanding CFI Award
Alexandria, Va., December 8, 2005 – Richard “Ric” Juve Forns, Senior Flight Instructor, Bell Helicopter, Fort Worth, Texas, is the recipient of HAI’s 2005 Outstanding Certified Flight Instructor Award, which will be presented at the 2005 “Salute to Excellence” awards banquet. This award recognizes superlative contributions by a helicopter flight instructor in upholding high standards of excellence. Forns has been a flight instructor for 35 years, with 10,000 hours of flight instruction, and over 3,000 students. He has amassed more than 22,000 accident- and violation-free flight hours. His flying career began in the U.S. Army at Fort Wolters, Texas, and continued with advanced training at Fort Rucker, Alabama, and service with the 114th Assault Helicopter Company in Vietnam. Forns has instructed at the Bell Helicopter Training Facility for the past 15 years. He speaks fluent Spanish, and has hundreds of flight instruction hours with Spanish-speaking pilots. Forns has worked as a flight instructor in Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Taiwan, Philippines, Iran, Greece, Spain, France, Germany, Czech Republic, Netherlands, and Belgium.
He is an FAA Aviation Safety Counselor, and has conducted safety seminars on various human factors and flying topics for many audiences.
In addition to the Outstanding CFI award, Forns has earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart with Oak Leaf, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Air Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal, and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.
For seven years, Forns conducted recurrent training with members of the Tucson Police Air Support Unit, in Tucson, Arizona. Forn’s teaching style works well with both beginners and experienced pilots. He is able to stimulate the students’ thinking, allowing his students to assimilate information, and apply it to their flying skills. He is a successful instructor because he can communicate with his students and make the lessons relevant to them.
Somehow, soon I will locate Steve and when that happens I will be able to close a little box and tie it up with a neat ribbon. I will be closing another period of my life. When I sent my friend Howard Houston (he piloted a KC-135 re-fueling fighters in Vietnam) Rich's war record he commented:I have known several of these helicopter jocks who served in Vietnam. Without exception, they were "good guys" who had a somewhat loose definition of what was too dangerous to do on a regular basis.
You don't get a DFC or a Bronze Star for being careful.
As an instructor pilot for Bell, he gets to deliver their equipment and train the receipients all across the world. A most interesting job, I would think.
The View While Standing In Our Guest Bathroom
Thursday, November 08, 2007
I have written about our guest bathroom before here
but I need to do so again. It all has to do with the difference between women and men, in so far as to our approach to bathroom use. If Rosemary were writing here about our guest bathroom she would be writing from an altogether different perspective. She would be sitting down and she would gaze at many family photographs that hang on the opposite wall. But since I stand up (for half of my evacuation chores) I get to stare at a different wall. On that wall hang three of my grandmother Lolita's
pastels which she finished not long after her first communion sometime in the late 1880s.
They have had many different frames. The latest ones (the framed pictures are much too big for my scanner) are nice wooden frames done in Veracruz sometime in the late 1960s. I had them re-matted in Burnaby around 1980.
I cannot use the bathroom on any given day without being hit by waves of nostalgia for my abuelita
. If I ever acted in some odd way in my chilhood or when I was older it was explained that I was much like my grandmother. It was she who urged my mother to get me a guitar teacher (and abue
bought me a beautiful Argentine guitar that was wasted on my meager musical talent) and an art teacher.
I know that she would, of all the members of my family, understand Rosemary's and my urging that Rebecca's obvious artistic talent should not be ignored at the expense of a purely scholastic approach to her education.
Manze & Egarr With Cookies, Braun Without
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Amidst all the attention given to the sciences as to how they can lead to the cure of all diseases and daily problems of mankind, I believe that the biggest breakthrough will be the realization that the arts, which are conventionally considered "useless," will be recognized as the whole reason why we ever try to live longer or live more prosperously. The arts are the science of enjoying life.
Muriel Cooper professor of media arts and sciences at the Media Laboratory of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Last night I was one of the happiest of men. I attended a warm and exquisite concert by Early Music Vancouver
that featured Andrew Manze and Richard Egarr
. I was happy because I was there with my friends Abraham Rogatnick and Graham Walker. I was happier still because I had lured my wife Rosemary who was enthralled by the down home virtuosity of Andrew Manze ("Aw shucks I play the violin better than just about anybody in the world but I am not going to tell you this.") and Richard Egarr ("Aw shucks this classical fortepiano that looks like a glorified music box is so easy to play that anybody could do what I do.") The 20 minute pre-concert talk by the pair was part stand-up comedy and a spirited apology as to why they play music and (thank God) did not choose a career in plumbing.
We were asked for questions so I asked Egarr why he was not wearing his usually loud ties. He seriously(I think) told us that we were lucky to see them in clothes as the airline had lost their luggage.
From the atmosphere of an intimate concert in a neighbourhood church (in this case Shaughnessy Heights United Church) complete with coffee, juices and home-made cookies at the interval I cannot fathom why flocks of people will converge on a concert at the Orpheum featuring, perhaps a Schubert Symphony when for less money they might enjoy as I did (and from about three metres away) a Schubert violin and piano sonata.
In the concerts of the Pacific Baroque Orchestra (all held in churches) and in the majority of the concerts of Early Music Vancouver I never feel a barrier between the musicians and myself. We are welcomed to talk to them back stage or sometimes they mingle during the interval. I have seen my friend Paul Luchkow, a violinist with the PBO almost lose that infectuous smile of his when he plays sitting down in his other gig as a violinist for the VSO.
The exception to this difference between the warm congeniality of the former with the colder and more serious latter seems to be the Artistic Director of the VSO, Bramwell Tovey whose banter and easy to understand explanations of the musical goings on I appreciate. Another exception is VSO violinist, Robin Braun (above, left) who understands that if her career in her profession is going to evolve and prosper she has to promote it from the side. And she has an unusual web site
if you realize that most symphony players don't have one. Braun is an accessible musician who shares a bit of that disarming ("What I do isn't as impossible as you might think," attitude of Manze, Eggar and Luchkow).
As I discussed with Luchkow last night the less than good attendance of the concert I wonder why there has to be that barrier between the audience of a symphony orchestra and the musicians and a barrier between those who attend the Orpheum concerts and those who opt for neighbourhood church concerts.
The virtuosity of Manze and Egarr is no less than those of the super musicians lured to play in Vancouver for the larger musical organizations. After listening to Manze and Egarr explain (with on the spot examples with their instruments) how an 18 year-old Schubert was influenced by Mozart I could now attend a Schubert symphony at the Orpheum and get that much more. But would I mingle with the musicians and bite on homemade cookies? I think that our city's musical companies should get together and compare notes.
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
He went to the chest in which vestments were stored and took out a linen alb, pulling the long white smocklike garment over his black cassock. He took up a gold-embroidered stole and, from habit, touched his lips to it before putting it around his neck. He walked past the dead priest, going to the door....He looked up at the sky. Soon winter snows would cover this vast, empty land. Here among the Savages, he would spend his life. He poured water on a sick brow, saying again the words of salvation. And prayer came to him, a true prayer at last.....
Black Robe, Brian Moore 1985
Photographed at Holy Rosary Cathedral on Dunsmuir and Richards.
Jane Rule - & Other Scary Lesbian Charmers
Monday, November 05, 2007
Sometime in April 1991 the editor of Quill & Quire called me up and said, "Alex how would you like to photograph a 6 ft tall lesbian?" I was speechless, even after he said, "Your subject is going to be writer Jane Rule. The piece on her is that she is going to retire from writing because of her terrible arthritis which prevents her from articulating her fingers."
I did not know what to expect as I waited for her to show up.
In 1978 I had photographed a woman for a gay publication called Bi-Line.
She was extremely beautiful and she was a lesbian who was treated by other women as a queen bee. They vied for who would wash her car or clean her house. She was obvious royalty. We met for coffee to dicuss our photo session and decided on dressing her in her karate clothing and I would photograph her after her workout. As I listened and stared at the woman I felt this incredible relaxation that as a man I did not have to worry about my sexuality, to make any kind of passes and I could just be myself. It was a liberating feeling.
With that in mind I did not expect to be woowed and wowed by Jane Rule. I fell for her immediately as she posed for me with her owl glasses. She had a delightful dress and she carried herself well considering she was big woman. At the end of our session she said to me, "Alex, I will need your help to go down the stairs and I would like you to find me a cab." As we walked down the stairs hand in hand I thought of that cliché that applied so well to the situation:
A lady is a woman that makes a man feel like a gentleman.
Booked To Die - The Perils Of Membership
Sunday, November 04, 2007
"It's a Book-of-the-Month Club first," Nuff said enunciating each word with chilly distinction. "It's printed from the same plates as the first, or maybe even the same sheets are used; that's why it says first edition. But the binding is different, there's no price on the jacket, and the book has a blind stamp on the back board."
"How much is it worth?"
"This book? Five bucks, tops. There are eight million copies of it in the naked city."
- from Booked to Die
(1992), by John Dunning
Rosemary refused. I had asked my wife to call the Book-of-the-Month Club to cancel my membership. She was to tell them she was a recent widow. The next time, I did the calling. I wasn't swayed by their, "Sir, our records show you have been a member since May 15, 1975. Are you sure?"
It all began in 1968, when I was living in Mexico City. A friend had a diplomatic passport with access to the diplomatic pouch which meant she could bypass the notorious Mexican postal system. She bragged about the book deals she got from BOMC. I lusted after her unabridged Random House Dictionary of the English Language.
But Even though I tipped my mailman at Christmas and for el día del cartero
(Postie Day), I never got more than eight or nine of my National Geographics
in any given year. The others would get "lost." I could never be a member of the BOMC.
When I arrived in Vancouver in 1975, I joined almost instantly. It was a happy day when I got my first shipment of "free" books. It included a copy of William Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich
Selecting and ordering my new books became a pleasant routine. Thanks to the BMOC I was exposed to John Updike, Margaret Atwood, V.S. Naipaul and Anthony Burgess. I discovered Elmore Leonard
, P.D. James
, Tony Hillerman and Colin Dexter.
It wasn't all fiction. I got hooked on Stephen J. Gould and Richard Dawkins. And there were all those wonderful reference books, like Benet's Reader's Encyclopedia
and John Ayto's Dictionary of Word Origins
When my friends (and in particular Paul Grescoe) told me my books were worthless, I countered that no dollar value can be placed on the pleasure of reading a good book.
By the early '90s my BOMC buys were being supplemented by purchases at local bookstores. Authors who interested me - Jerome Charyn
, J. Robert Janes
, even Walter Mosley
- were not offered by the club. Not that my tastes were especially stuffy. BOMC also did not carry Bernard Cornwell's terrific but lowbrow Richard Sharpe series, set in the Napoleonic Wars. I gobbled them up as well as Stephen Coonts' The Flight of the Intruder
By then I had discovered Manhattan Books (now Sophia Books), so I could read my favourite writers in Spanish": Alejo Carpentier
, Homero Aridjis
and Paco Ignacio Taibo II
. I started losing BMOC order forms beneath piles of faxes and other places. Unwelcome and unordered Stephen Kings started appearing at my front door.
Then, in 1996, I met mystery writer John Dunning (above)and read his novel Booked to Die
, about a Denver cop who is also a collector of first-editon fiction. The motive for the novel's multiple murders centres around what appears to be a worthless BOMC collection.Booked to Die
with its antiquarian-bookstore atmosphere, rings true because Dunning is also a keen book collector. In the novel, he reveals the crazy prices popualr first-edition fiction can fetch.
A friend, a local book collector Robert Blackwood
, told me those prices could be corroborated on Abe Books
, a web site with more than 50 million listings compiled from antiquarian bookstores in North America and elsewhere. There I found that Stephen King's Salem's Lot
is valued at $450, Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire
at $2000 and my BOMC version of John Updike's The Coup
at $5 (while the real thing goes for at least $50). Not surprisingly, Dunning's Booked to Die goes for at least $1000. And if your search in Abe you will discover that there is such a thing as an early as opposed to a later first edition. The price between those categories can be huge.
Also from Booked to Die
, I learned that a good, clean first edition is worthless if:
1. The dustjacket has been clipped. It seems some booksellers routinely do this to BOMC books' jackets to hide their lack of price.
2. It contains a written greeting or dedication from anyone but the author.
While I do not regret my club years, I no longer want my books to come to me at the front door. Part of the fun of acquiring books is reading reviews and going out to look for them.
Now that Manhattan Books has resurrected as Sophia Books
I can find or order Saramagos, Pérez-Revertes and Taibos.
When Mystery Merchant on 4th long closed I bought my mysteries or ordered them at Granville Books. When they closed I had to start going to Chapter's. But I have also discovered the pleasure of browsing at the many antiquarian bookstores in town, such as Lawrence Books and MacLeod's Books
Just don't try to sell your BOMC books to them. They won't buy, although Robert Blackwood did cite one exception. Such is the rarity of the 1952 first edition of J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye
(over $10,000) that pristine BOMC editions will trade for $300.
As a result of my better book-buying habits, I no longer pay "shipping and handling" charges and don't even think of the lost "bargains"."
As Ruby, the expert bookseller from Booked to Die
, says, "A book has always cost about what a meal in a good restaurant costs. Did then, still does. I get sick hearing how expensive books are. Which would you rather have, a good book, or a tender steak? I know what I'd take, seven days a week."
But then Ruby did not know then of the bargain section of Chapters where one can buy a good book and have money left over for a tender steak.