Rebecca, Che Guevara & My Pyrolytic Carbon PipeMonday, September 08, 2008
Today's blog really had its origins sometime in 1964 when I started smoking a pipe. My friend Robert Hijar was studying to get a fine arts degree at the University of the Americas in Mexico City and I admired his bohemian ways. While I was not a skirt chaser (I was much too shy for that sort of thing) I was jealous of Robert's many women. This attraction that women had for him had to do (I thought) because of his bohemian ways and that pipe. I began to smoke a pipe and wherever Robert and I went we always had a pipe attached to our mouth. I started with the usual aromatic blends like Cherry Blend and Sugar Barrel but settled on Edgeworth and in my later years on Three Nuns.
In 1967 I visited Robert in San Francisco. He was living in the Haight Ashbury area. He was surrounded by hippies and Robert still had many of the females after him. In spite of my pipe I was ignored by them. Robert convinced me to buy a new-fangled pipe made of pyrolytic carbon and hard rubber. This was a pipe you could wash in soap and water if you wanted to. I never did warm up to it as the smoke that entered my mouth seemed to be hotter that that of a briar pipe. While the pipe did not need to broken in it always tasted harsh.
I gave up the pipe and cigars sometime around 1992. My daughter Ale sent me an image from Lillooet that made me recall the pipe and a beret I had worn when I first came to Vancouver in 1975. I had thought that for me to stand out as a photographer in Vancouver I had to look different so I purchased a French beret like the one my Basque ancestors wore. My friend John Lekich asserts that not only did I wear a beret and smoked a pipe but I also wore a cape. He must be wrong as I have never owned one.
Ale in her email with the photograph of me with the beret and pipe told me it was her favourite self portrait of her father. I had to correct her and tell her that sometime in 1977 Rosemary had taken this photograph and I had printed it with an oval cutout to make it look old.
A few weeks ago Rebecca said she loved berets and that she wanted a red one. I knew I had this black one and gave it to her on Saturday. It was a hit and she kept going to the bathroom to look at herself in the mirror. Yesterday, Sunday when she arrived in the afternoon she said to me (while wearing the beret), "I am Che," and she brought up her right hand to her face and formed a fist.
I took some snaps of Rebecca with the beret in the TV room and then with two frames left we went out to the garden where there was more light. She insisted, "Who shaves the barber? I have to take your picture." I took one frame and then she took the next. Here you see the results.
I wonder if I should have done what I did in the end. Rebecca seemed to have shaky knowledge on who Che Guevara was so I told her, "Let me show you my favourite photograph of him." And I did. I showed her the picture of Che dead on that slab taken in the laundry area in Vallegrande, Bolivia. She looked at it and was repelled. Previously to that she wanted me to photograph her with a pipe. She put the pipe in her mouth and almost spit it out, "It tastes of tobacco!" she shouted. At least I got that one right.