Gary Taylor - Auld Lang Syne & Robbie Says Good Bye
Saturday, December 29, 2007
Some 27 years ago Gary Taylor
invited Rosemary and me for New Year’s celebrations at his Rock Room. The entertainer was Roy Forbes who then went by the name of Bim. I remember being astounded when it came time for the countdown as he took out a sheet of music that had the lyrics for Auld Lang Syne! As soon as it was midnight Forbes sang, reading from the sheet. Just as he finished he opened a bottle of Moët Chandon (my fave) and sprayed the crowd. I was in the front so I was soaked. Three Polish sailors came up to me and told me I had an uncanny resemblance to Roman Polanski. For many years later I received a Christmas card from them wishing me a long life!
Rosemary would certainly no longer go to a New Year's party of any kind. We would rather stay at home and read and even make it an early night to bed. The concept of being hugged by complete strangers at the strike of midnight now feels alien.
But as I try to navigate away from porn sites when I look up what I think are innocent words on Google I remember fondly (so much nicer because of the distance of time, perhaps?) the days when my friends and I haunted the Vancouver strip parlours which were euphemistically called show lounges. For many reasons, including assignments for Vancouver Magazine
and the Globe & Mail I had managed to photograph most of the luminary dancers and the proprietors of the bars. One of them was Gary Taylor who had a double-bill club on Hornby called Gary Taylor's Rock Room. It was the Rock Room on the first level but it was a show lounge below. My friend Les Wiseman would often go to listen to bands and as soon as our interest waned we would go below.
As far as I can figure it Vancouver, known at one time for the best strip parlours now only has three within its city. They are Brandy's (not far from where Gary Talor used to hold court), the Cecil Hotel and Tony Ricci's No 5 Orange. I would assert that the days remaining for these three are limited. They are unable to compete in this age of instant communication with ever so "intimate" chats on line with people we don't know or "visits" to porn sites with our credit cards in hand. While the strip joints were loud we could at least say we were going to converse with friends. How can that compete with the comfort of a monitor at home. The beer in one hand and the other....
In those days I could walk to any of the joints and the man at the bar would slide a glass of soda water in my direction with a smile. They all knew my preferences. And so did I. But I no longer go to those remaining strip joints of our city. Peter Busby's firm is going to soon demolish the Cecil. Not too long ago I was chatting with Ricci
and asked him if he had any plans. His answer, "I don't know how to do anything else. This joint, for better or worse is my life." I have not seen Gary Taylor for some years but I do think that in spite of everything that others might say these men did give us pleasure, that in retrospect wasn't all that shabby.
Ansel Adams, Compaction, Múzquiz & Buicks
Friday, December 28, 2007
The great American landscape photographer Ansel Adams pioneered a system of photography, the Zone System, in which on any scene to be photographed there were three options.
1. To do nothing and consider the scene normal.
2. To notice few steps between blacks and whites.
3. To notice a great combination of blacks, grays and whites.
With his zone system the first scene on a separate negative would be processed normally.
The second one would be expanded
and the third compacted
At one time a young family would move into a house and plant a young cherry tree in the back yard. The family would grow, the children would become adults, and the tree would be there for all to notice as a beacon of their linear existence. If any of those children would have looked at an illustrated map of the world they would have noticed a sleeping Mexican under a cactus in Mexico, a woman with a conical rice planting hat in China, a man in short leather pants with braces in Switzerland (or Bavaria?) and a gaucho on horse back swinging boleadoras in Argentina. At that time I would have drawn the borders of most African states in red.
I did not grow up as a member of a "normal" family that stayed put so my life is divided into periods. They are periods that begin "here" and end "there". If I were to compare this with a contemporary phenomenon I would do so with the mundane state of the home computer about to get its weekly or monthy defragmentation. I would also compare it to one's emails in which one opts to compact. Both methods attempt to remove the idle period between activity and make it into a more compressed and efficient whole.
I lived in Nueva Rosita
, Coahuila for exactly one year in the mid 1950s. Those who were living there and went to the school, must have only noticed me as a passing moth or other type of fast-flying insect. Many of those Nueva Rosita children and their parents remained there or moved to the near environs. They intermarried and kept their connections to this day. They lived and live in small towns, Nueva Rosita, Sabinas, Cloete, Múzquiz and in Eagle pass in Texas. A few moved to San Antonio but stayed in touch through school reunions. Our Rosita school went as far as grade 8. Only a few of us went to boarding schools in Texas. Most continued with their school studies in Eagle Pass High School. The Eagle Pass High School reunions kept them in touch.
Through my efforts to find out my own roots in that year in Nueva Rosita and to locate the five boys (in the photograph below, from left to right that's me, Rick Juvé Forns, Enrique Serna, Remigio Martinez Mueller, Sammy Simpson and Steve Frazier) of my class I have posted a few blogs here. These blogs have been found and I have made new contacts with my own class mates and those that were under me in the 7th, 6th grades and beyond. As an "upperclassman" I tended not to notice them so I have few memories of them.
These contacts aided by Google, nurtured by Skype and email make me feel like a computer that has been lightened by an efficient and ultimately satisfying defragmentation. My compact one year in Nueva Rosita, to use the Ansel Adams comparison, has been expanded and added to the other normal periods of my life. And at the same time it has been a long string of surprises to find out how these "new" old friends have managed with their lives. I have found that a few became teachers as they were influenced by my mother and remember her to this day with affection and awe.
I wrote of a mysterious and handsome engineer called Juan Jaime and how he would leave his magazines (he subscribed to True, Argosy and Esquire) in the reading room of the American Hotel in Nueva Rosita. It was in those magazines that I first discovered what women looked like beneath their clothes. From a gracious 89-year old Jeanette Sandford Frazier (mother of Steve, one of the boys in my class and the remote and beautiful Cornelia I adored from afar) in a Skype conversation a few days ago (from her home in Eagle Pass, where I once saw John Wayne in cowboy books walk on the boardwalk near the Eagle Pass Hotel) I received more information on Jaime. Jaime's father, a real general in the Mexican army, she told me, had saved the life of revolutionary presidente Álvaro Obregón. Bertha Slaughter (whose unamarried name of Múzquiz is one of the many Múzquiz who seem to have left their influence in the area) was widowed when her husband died in an accident accompanied by his mistress landed Juan Jaime and married him. I remember Bertha because her son Johnny was my friend even though he was in grade 7. Mid year he was struck by meningitis and he stopped coming to school. He, too died.
The stories of these people merits a book by someone but certainly not from me. If I were to begin I would do so with Jeanette Sanford Frazier ( a sort of Scarlett O'Hara of Northern Mexico) whose husband died in an airplace crash in the Sierra Madre in the early 50s. She was left to fend for herself in managing an hacienda in Cloete, Coahuila and having to educate her two boys, Steve and Roger and daughter Cornelia. It was Jeanette who befriended my lonely mother and brought so much joy to her life. After I left for Austin, Texas the friendship grew. Roger a narcotics agent died in an autombile accident struck by a driver high on drugs when Roger was bringing in two suspects. Steve married a woman from Múzquiz (a town in Coahuila and a surname of fame in the area) and kept with his father's business of heavy equipment in Mexico City. Cornelia is a widow who lives in Eagle Pass (and drives her mother around ) and manages, probably as well as her mother her hacienda in Múzquiz.
Best of all, after 47 years I was able to thank Jeanette Sandford Frazier for her kindness. Her comment to me was, "Your mother and I had so much fun." I told her that I remembered her Buicks. "My husband always had Buicks. Cornelia says that only Buicks and Lexus do not have to be repaired often."
More Nueva Rosita
Those Languid & Wonderful Days Of Year-End
Thursday, December 27, 2007
The period between Christmas Eve and new year's eve is ample proof for me on the relativity of time.
I thought about it when I took Lauren's Polaroid on Christmas Eve and she asked me if she could see it. Once I had pulled the Polaroid from the back attached to my Mamiya RB I told her that we had to wait for 60 seconds. She rapidly counted to 6 and asked me to see the picture. I had to correct her and tell her that she had to to the same thing 9 more times. She was confused.
All of us must remember the last day of school, in that last period of the school day in the heat of summer and how it never ends, particularly when we look at the clock. In our youth we are unaware that sometimes we can control the flow of time as I wrote here
My favourite day of the Christmas season is Christmas Day. Since we celebrate Christmas Eve we do nothing on the next day. By nothing, I mean that Rosemary and I stay in bed. We have our usual breakfast (in bed, and would have read our daily delivered New York Times as they publish on Christmas Day. The delivery man took the day off.) and then while Rosemary dozes off I read and read. I may get up to replenish my tea or picar
on the previous day's leftovers but I do stay in bed all day without one ounce of guilt. And that day lingers into the next into what must be the most languid and wonderful days of the year.
Those days were an eternity in my youth as I anticipated the Epiphany on January 6 and all those neat toys (an Erector set one year). They were unbearably long and dull and hot (Buenos Aires Decembers are hot). Now those days seem to be compressed and before I know it is January 2 and the stress on how I will make do the coming year is a reality.
I can only wish that I could make those days stretch out as I try to go through the pile of new books (30% off on all hardcovers yesterday at Chapters. I bought four.) on my bedside table. But I know that the days will race away from me and my only hope is that I will be around for a few more Christmas Eves with my grandchildren.
Perhaps they will not learn (for a while) that time is fleeting.
The Pleasant Routine Of Christmas & A Saintly Death
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
The envelope from Paris arrived on Christmas Eve like clockwork. I never suspected that the French postal system was any better than the Mexican one! But for the last few years we have received a Christmas card from poet/novelist/environmentalist/diplomat/etc Homero Aridjis and his wife Betty. Aridjis is now the permanent Mexican representative to UNESCO in Paris. Of Aridjis I have written at length in this blog.
is one with a connection to Vancouver's George Bowering. The Christmas card always has a little cellophane bag with a Mexican tin Christmas ornament. I have a long string of them (I use red wool and Rebecca hung them on the inside of our front living room window this year). To this collection we can now add the watermelon. The card was not an ordinary one but a postcard announcing a documentary film by Homero and Betty's daughter Eva (screenplay, director and producer) La Santa Muerte
narrated by actor Gael García Bernal.
I have yet to see the film but I read with relish Homero Arijis's own interpretation of the Mexican cult for death in his book La Santa Muerte
. Since it has yet to be translated into English, an inkling of the plot can be read in this essay
from the New York Times.
While the picture on the poster was on the sombre side I was delighted to find out that Aridjis has a new book out called Sicarios
(Spanish for a hired assasin, lat. sicarĭus). The little deathly candle stick seen here is Pancho El Esqueleto. His story is here
Christmas 2007 With The Philosopher King & Henry James
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Even though it was only the second time that Abraham Jedidiah Rogatnick spent Nochebuena
(Christmas Eve) with us it has become what feels like a long-time and pleasant custom. Abraham was late and Lauren kept asking,"Where's Abraham? When is he coming?"
There were two mutual conditions for his coming. On the one hand we told him not to bring anything (last year he spent a fortune in presents for everybody) and for my part I had to make sure that whatever I offered Abraham for dinner had no traces of onion. Many years ago Abraham found out about his allergy to onions while in a bus on mainland China.
Our menu was a salad of sliced tomatoes, fresh bocconcini and fresh basil, steamed carrots, green beans and white rice. Our main course was what I would call a two-front course. Rosemary put a chicken that Ale brought from Lillooet in the oven and I cooked tenderloin beef shish-kabobs. I made one without onions. To drink some had ginger ale and others an Argentine Malbec.
It was the dessert that was the success. When we first came to Vancouver I photographed a French-Canadian soprano (she was very tiny and very pretty) Ginette Duplessis who invited us to her house for dinner. Here is the recipe for her Pernod Pairs Flambé which were particularly enjoyed by Abraham.
Half, peel pairs.
Melt 1/4 cup butter / bubble not brown.
Put pears in, caramelize
2 oz Pernod
Fire it / let it burn till fire goes out.
Put in three tablespoons berry sugar.
Low temperature - add one cup of heavy whipping cream.
Put high to mix well.
I personally cannot stand Pernod or anything with a licorice taste. But the fired Pernod and the cream go through some sort of chemical change and the result is delicious. This morning I had what was left for breakfast with some very strong Indian cardamom tea.
Our other guest was Carlos Zamora Arcaraz whom we have known since he was born 32 years ago im Mexico City. His parents and his three sisters have been our friends since both our families moved to Arboledas, Estado de Mexico in 1971. Our daughters have ketp in touch traveling to Mexico and Carlos and his sisters coming to stay with us in Vancouver. This time around, Carlos (below left), who is a heavy duty star-salesman for HP Computers in Monterrey, Mexico had to balance pleasure with work involving his cellular phone and his laptop.
Abraham circumvented the not bringing anything by doing origami animals and origami Christmas ornaments for our tree. Since Abraham is an expert on Venice my gift to him was a photograph of a Venetian gondola that was purchased and restored by the Vancouver Maritime Museum. Abraham knew everything about the boat (he almost bought it) that in a travesty of Vancouver provincialism was almost converted into a gelato stand!
Abraham Jedidiah Rogatnick (the Harvard trained architect) that I would compare to an almost all-knowing philosopher king (particularly on anything related to Venice) is traveling with Mayor Sam Sullivan
and partner Lynn Zanatta on boxing day for a 6-day tour of Venice. In a way Sullivan's Beatrice will be Lynn as Abraham will read sections of Dante Alighieri's Commedia
in Italian in previously selected spots in the city.
Abraham was most interested in my copy of Henry James's Italian Hours
which he eventually took home to read while forgetting his Venetian gondola photograph. He could not remember the name of the palazzo where James had stayed in Venice. We found it here
and it is called Palazzo Barbaro.
I do believe that in some way this trip to Venice will be a turning point for our mayor and I hope that it is all for the better of our city. Sullivan will have the best of company and we can only be happy that we shared with Abraham (85) another memorable nochebuena.
It is appropriate that Lauren and I appear last here. I was tickling Rebecca and Lauren (who is always there to defend her sister) swung back (for more momentum and force) with a crystal necklace (given to her by Hilary) in her hand and struck me in the forehead. I momentarily blacked out and quickly discovered I was bleeding. Today I have a painful chichón
(bump) and cut and the realization that I am lucky that Hilary did not give Lauren a pen for Christmas. It all brought memories of Deborah Kerr being hounded by a couple of demonic children (similar to Lauren, perhaps?) in the 1961 film The Innocents
based on Henry James's story The Turn of the Screw.
Gina Daniels & A Christmas Past
Monday, December 24, 2007
Christmas for me, besides representing an umbearably hot midnight Mass in the midst of a Buenos Aires summer, has always been about mechanical toys and things I wanted and mostly never got - no electric train, no motorbike no rifle. Even now, when I am past being excited about a new computer I think of gadgets. I think of gadgets I now don't want or need. This time around I have the ability to grant (when I can afford it) someone else's wish for a gadget or electronic equipment. I have already mentioned here
how Rebecca is getting a glow-in-the-dark Sony clock radio/CD player tonight.
I have been thinking of stereo equipment as I was playing records yesterday with a Sony linear tracking turntable. I could never have afforded one when they were in fashion, but a few Christmases past I bought one for only $100 at a Sony Store because it had a cracked cover. I ordered a new cover for next to nothing and I have been happy with my obsolete turntable since.
Christmas 1977 I was working for a gay/bisexual publication Bi-Line
and the editor told me to create and shoot an ad for one of their advertisers which was a semi-sleazy sound equipment retailer called Vancouver Sight & Sound that used Shakespeare's (Twelfth Night)quote:
If music be the food of love, play on...
as its main identity. At the time I had been seeing many alternative scene rock bands including one very strange one called E. It featured gary bourgeois (I think he liked his name like that) on keyboards and a beautiful light-as-air but very tall singer who went by the name of Deborah E but we all knew to be Gina Daniels from the local cult TV show , The Gina Show. I suggested that Gina Daniels would make an excellent model.
At the time political correctness had yet to arrive. We photographers shamelessly posed women, with not much on, by cars, floor lamps and anything else anybody would want to buy. Why not stereo equipment?
A 1983 Christmas - Jingle-bats In The Belfry
Sunday, December 23, 2007
For Christmas 1980 Les Wiseman
inaugurated a new feature idea for the then adventurous Vancouver Magazine
. The In One Ear
rock music column would feature a local band photographed and interviewed around a Christmas scene. This first In One Ear Christmas involved the hard core punk band the Subhumans
. Others followed, DOA
, the Modernettes
and an even a more mainstream Kenny Coleman seen in that previous Modernettes blog. One of the strangest involved a band called Corsage
. This was for Christmas 1983 when the alternative music scene's most interesting player was amateur golfer, professional grunge dresser and rock promoter Bud Luxford
Of Corsage, Les Wiseman wrote as an introduction to that Christmas In One Ear:
Imagine, if you will, another sort of white Christmas, the kind that surrounds more of our metaphysically distressed than you care to imagine. Padded, white, quilted canvas walls, floor and ceiling; the glare from a 200-watt insect-repellent bulb that seems to do nothing for the white spiders that pop up between our subject's arm hairs. Imagine the purgatory of a young rock musician with a sense of the absurd, for we have just stepped through the doorway which leads to the Corsage Zone.
In the picture with Phil "The K" Smith in the centre, and clockwise from the upper left, Rodney Graham
(the doctor), Chris Grove, Scout Farelaine,Bill Napier-Hemy
he's far right in this link, Jade Blade
, Dale Powers and Robert Walker. Of Robert Walker even my Rebecca would know that's Tony Baloney
. Tony Baloney is the man with the crosses on his glasses, far right in the third picture in this link.