The Adirondacks Again
Saturday, May 24, 2008
It was a long day in the garden and hundreds marched through the garden. Rosemary and I answered many questions to these visitors on the Ballet BC Home And Garden Tour. They were an appreciative bunch but we felt exhausted by the end of the day. The weather permitted Rebecca and Lauren to run around barefoot. The visitors were all gone and I sat down in one of the adirondacks
. The garden was beautiful in the late afternoon light. Lauren appeared with a plate of fruit and sat down next to me. "Why is your mouth so red, Lauren? You look like a vampire." "Papi, they are red because I have been sucking on strawberries."
A perfect ending to a perfect day.
Shoulder To Shoulder Gardening & Black Clay Pottery
Friday, May 23, 2008
It is almost 11:30 pm on Friday so this means that I will still be able to keep my pace of the daily blog. It is only now after a long day in the garden (and then shopping with Rosemary at Safeway) that I can finally sit down to write.
A few days ago I received an email communication through my web page from Ilse Taylor Hable. She and her husband Andrew live in Guadalajara. Yorkshire born Andrew is my eldest daughter Ale's godson. Ilse is Austrian and a very fine painter. I long to visit the Taylors at their home and have Rebecca learn painting from her.
name: Ilse Taylor Hable
comments: Dear Alex,
I´d love to see your famous garden one day!
Does it look shoulder to shoulder now that the date
has almost arrived? With so much care and love put
into it, I bet it´s a work of art.
Well as the first picture here shows (I took in on Tuesday) one of my hosta beds is almost shoulder to shoulder as the plants lean on each other and dirt does not show. But there is no colour yet except for that Rhododendron luteum on the right. The yellow flowers have been perfuming the garden for a week. The roses all have buds. The many visitors to our garden tomorrow and Sunday may see the odd rose in bloom but not too much else. May 24 is a bit early for our garden and spring has been cold and wet.
The second photograph, which I took in June 2001 shows the riot of colour. The hosta with the mauve flowers is Hosta 'June'. June can be seen in the first photograph, too.
In the third photo there are remnants of the cherry blossoms. Besides finishing the hedge and doing other stuff I spent many hours with a hose set at a very fine spray and with my fingers I gently wiped away the blossoms from the many hostas under the cherry tree. Getting out of the car after our shopping I realized my back hurt, my legs hurt, my ankles hurt, my hands hurt and just about everything else! Tonight will be a pleasant relaxed sleep as there is not much more I can do. The garden is set for tomorrow. But I suspect that Rosemary will get up at 6:30 and with paint bucket in on hand and a painbrush in the other she will be painting the board (black) that runs the length of our white picket fence.
Ilse Taylor has a beautiful blog in which she writes (almost every day) on the meaning of colour in her painting. She also writes a bit on the origins of some of the colours. But best of all you get a sampling of the ethnic Mexico she likes to write about and paint. My favourite is the one on black pottery. Here
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Last night Rosemary and I went to the Stanley Industrial Alliance Theatre for an Arts Club Theatre Company opening night performance of the Mel Brooks musical, The Producers
. Rosemary told me, I prefer serious theatre." I said nothing because after 40 years of marriage I have finally learned to keep quiet.
But I would have told her, "Sometimes it's nice not to have serious theatre. Sometimes it's nice to laugh." I would have told her that as an Argentine I have never understood the North American (and English?) concept of the musical where people who are talking to each other suddenly begin to sing. Give me opera or give me a movie. That I understand. But while I will not often admit it, I love musicals even if I don't quite understand them. Watching Gene Kelly dancing on a stage floor of newspapers in Summer Stock
is where I finally caught on.
I love musicals and I have been getting tired seeing them in the Turner Classic Movies channel. Seeing a musical on stage, in a smallish theatre up front, is watching a musical the way it should be watched.
I could find no fault with the Arts Club Theatre Production. My serious wife laughed lots and so did I. The performances of the two producers, Max Bialystock (Jay Brazeau) and Leopold Bloom (Josh Epstein) were funny. In the end, when Josh Epstein (the proverbial shmuck) returns with the voluptuous Ulla (Terra C. MacLeod) from Rio to appear at court to defend Bialystock, I was awed by his transformation. He was suddenly a confident Al Pacino.
But I laughed the most at Jackson Davies who played the playwright Franz. He was terrific and more so because I had run into him a couple of weeks ago at the Arts Club on Granville Island, "How are you Alex? How have you been? I have not seen you for a long time." It is moments like those when I really believe that even though I was born somewhere else I am from Vancouver and Vancouver is my city.
It was also a delight to see bassist Rene Worst in the orchestra. It is the first time I have seen him with clipped gray hair. I was not aware he carried a hip flask. In the photograph here, taken some 30 years ago, that's Rene, third, from left on the top row. Next to him is conga player Albert St Albert and alto saxophonist Gavin Walker. On the bottom row from left to right, its Gerry Silver, Bruce Freedman and Al Wold. I took this photograph for Vancouver Magazine
to illustrate an article on live music. The location for the photograph is the platform of the CP train station.
I used to listen to Worst and Walker
play at the Classical Joint on Thursdays. The Joint is gone but it is comforting to know that Bill Millerd is happily directing plays (he directed this one) and thanking his sponsors in the opening night of every Arts Club Theatre Company play. It is a Vancouver ritual of sorts. Enjoying the company of my wife at the theatre is becoming a ritual of sorts, too.
The Scandal With Blogger -
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Every now and then (more often that it should) I am unable to post blogs with photographs. Since my blog is specific and or attached to my web page I must unload photographs from my hard drive on to my blog using FTP. My server provides this service. The problem is that Blogger will suddenly not offer the FTP upload. Ocassionally they will warn that the system will not be working. They did this on Saturday and Sunday. The fact is that I have been unable to upload, and my guess is that many more in the thousands share this problem with me. My alternate secret weapon is to upload from my hardrive to a web site for storing photographs. I use Photobucket. The pictures then have several addresses. The one that works well is the direct HTML code address. But I have yet to figure out how to size and place the photographs within my blog. When pictures appear larger than usual it is because of the FTP failure.
Blogger (owned by Google) knows of the problem but does not acknowledge that the problem exists. People, myself included, go through all kinds of computer checks before we understand that the anomaly is at Blogger. And Blogger is run by robots. I have never been able to reach any human being. I did once call Google and talked to a man. The moment I uttered the word blogger he hung up.
The alternative solution is to shift to WordPress and see how it looks in comparison to the way my Blogger blog looks. I will have to hire a webmaster to shift me to WordPress.
I hope anybody reading this realizes this if my first rant ever. When I try to upload photographs to Blogger this warning flag appears:
Your publish is taking longer than expected. To continue waiting for it to finish, click here.
I know of people (persistent people) who have clicked every few seconds for hours on end before the system works. I don't have the time. And I don't want to deal with robots.
The picture here represents how I feel at the moment. Like a great big Japanese monster I would like to go on a destruction rampage. I probably would not feel better.
Halcyon - The Essence of Blueness
Monday, May 19, 2008
I have, easily 400 hostas in our garden. I have green ones, yellow ones (sometimes called gold), blue ones and variegated ones. Some of the variegated have yellow edges or white edges and are variegated or streaky on the inside. The streaks can be yellow, green or blue or a combination of all three. Some have asymetrical variegation. I even have some really ugly ones like Mildred Seaver's Hosta
'Spilt Milk'. I will never admit to saying this out loud but I tolerate Spilt Milk because Mildred Seaver
is dear to me. On any given summer day I will answer the question, "Which is your favourite hosta?" by picking the colour of the day. Of late and only a week ago when Rebecca asked me I told her it was Hosta 'June'. Hosta 'June' is a truly English hosta as it was hybridized (not quite as it was found as a sport or mutant in a bed of Hosta 'Halcyon') in England. It flowers like crazy, it has thick substanced leaves that are imperviuous to munching slugs. It is its variegation that is elegant and striking. All that see it want it. All that see mine specially want it. Many of the Hosta
'June' sold in Vancouver come from American nurseries and they have lost the original understated variegation of the English one. My English June was liberated from England, it traveled to the US and it was given to me for services rendered. It came home in my luggage.
The particular elegance of June has to do with the shape of its leaves. Hosta leaves can be thin and lanceolate or they can be almost round. Some of them can be puckered or dimpled. Some are smooth and some are smooth and shiny. June's leaves are spade shaped and they have an elegant slight curvature in the middle. Some hostas can be so curved as to resemble gourds. In short, Hosta
'June' has everything. That is until I thought about it today.
In the late 60s while working at the famous English nursery of Hilliers of Winchester, architect trained, Southampton born , Eric Smith became its chief propagator. He worked in the walled garden for four years. He came up with new hellebores, bergenias, brunneras, camassia crocosmia, kniphofi and rheums but one cross made him famous. Most hostas flower in June. One in particular Hosta sieboldiana
and Hosta sieboldiana
'Elegans' are big and blue with thick leaves. Hosta
'Tardiflora' flowers in Septmeber and has narrow, shiny green leaves. Somehow one of his sieboldianas re-flowered in September do Smith used its pollen to fertilize the Tardiflora's pod. From this cross arose a whole series of mostly blue hostas called called Tardiana (Tardiflora/sieboldiana combined) grex.
Most of these blue hostas inherited the blueness of Hosta sieboldiana
with the narrowness of Tardiflora's leaves. Most of the Tardianas have either white flowers like sieboldiana or purple/mauve like Tardiflora.
One of the bluest in my garden is Hosta
'Halcyon'. Another Smith hosta, Hosta
'Camelot' is slightly bluer in my garden but its leaves are just a bit rounder to lose the elegance of Halcyon.
No matter where I place Halcyon, it will be noticed and immediately identified while I may waffle at the names of others and their confusing variegation.
Today while working in the garden and noticing many of my Halcyons I realized that many of my other hostas are flings, exotic flings. Many because of their variegation are hard to keep in good shape. They have less chlorophyll and can be sensitive to too much light or have thinner leaves and are subject to slugs and cut worms.
Not Halcyon. She (she is definitely a she) is tried, true, faithful, stays were it is placed and when placed next to a yellow plant it makes the yellow yellower while appearing itself much bluer. She has only one request and that is that nobody should touch her delicate white/blue coating called bloom. It is sensitive to touch and where you touch it will become green and the blueness will not return until the next season. Not in the least worse for wear, she will be back, unfailingly.
In the picture above, Halcyon is seen in the middle top. To the right is the larger leaved Hosta
A Halcyon June in my garden
If even dying is to be made a social function, then, please, grant me the favour of sneaking out on tiptoe without disturbing the party.
Markings, Dag Hammarskjöld
Georgia Straight technology columnist, Dave Watson died of colon cancer on May 7th. Former Georgia Straight editor Charles Campbell wrote a fine obituary here
. He was 45 and what separated his death from most of our own inevitable deaths is that he knew he was going to die with far more precision than any of us. Perhaps he was lucky to know or not. We look at his death, and like many a greenhorn soldier on the eve of battle, I wonder how I will face death. Will I be a coward? Will I be unflinching?
Campbell's obituary is followed by glowing remembrances from friends and colleagues. I never considered contributing. I have a very good reason.
When I first met Watson in the early 80s I worked at Vancouver Magazine. I had the lucky gig of contributing photographs to Les Wiseman's rock column In One Ear
. The column was hip as it avoided mainstream music and concentrated on the lesser known proto punk (New York Dolls) the critically acclaimed Iggy Pop (then not popular with the crowds) and with the odd but wonderful local Vancouver alternative music scene. I had no knowledge of who Hunter S. Thompson was and did not understand when Wiseman would introduce me as, "This is Lenso, my Argentine lensman." I did not have the foggiest when he often started conversations with me , "As your attorney I would....." Or he would say stuff like, "When in doubt, drink heavily." I remember being back stage at the Commodore getting ready to photograph the Cramps. I wrote about it here
. I had to make sure Wiseman had plugged in his tape recorder. He was in no shape to notice.
Around this time Watson started showing up at Vancouver Magazine. He worshipped Wiseman and admired Wiseman's methods for inspiration and how he wrote about rock and roll. He loved the off-beat articles that Wiseman wrote such as one on learning to drive a semi trailer.
Watson was a good looking young man, even with his glasses, he was not tall and he had a monotone voice, matter-a-fact kind of voice. He had clear and sharp eyes and no matter how much he told me had drunk or pills he had popped he always looked, acted and was extremely sober.
For years my friends had told me I needed to loosen up. They tried to get me drunk but after only a couple of beer I would be hit by terrible migraines. In Mexico they tested peyote on me. I threw it up and that was it. Maurice Depas (of Maurice & the Cliches) made me puff incredibly strong hashish. The only result was extreme stuttering. I learned to understand that for me there was no escape from problems, the chemical forgetting of them was not an option. I came to suspect that the one thing I could be sure of was that I was going to die sane.
I looked at Watson as my fetch. Like me he was as straight as they came. In many conversations with Watson through the years, particularly about computers, he never made me change my mind that he was a straight as an arrow.
It is my hope that somehow my exit will be as good as his but I have no illusion or wish that anybody write a fine obituary. Obituaries are for the living. The dead get no profit. We the living can only ponder every day if we will face our death with our chin up.
I took the photograph of the Packard hearse outside of the Guanajuato, Mexico cemetery back in 1968. The gate of the cemetery is decorated with skulls and children outside sell sticky taffy shaped like the mummies that people go inside to look at. After 7 years bodies are disinterred (if no perpetuity charges have been met) and the bones at thrown away. There is very little room in the cemetery for expansion. But often because of the arid weather and the chemicals in the soil the bodies are found mummified. A gallery is kept which shocks tourists but Mexicans take in their stride.
Three years ago Rebecca, Rosemary and I went to Guanajuato. On one of the streets I spied the picture of the hearse on the wall of a funeral service. I entered and asked the man. When I described my photo he told me it was his sister when she was young. The Packard had been purchased by a car museum in Cincinnati.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
Before the performance of Pi Theatre's
production of William Maranda's The 8th Land
, directed by John Wright I knew I had to write a blog in thanks for the years of pleasure I have received from the Wright family via John Wright's daughter Johnna Wright and husband Del Surjic. The new artistic director for Pi, Richard Wolfe (in company of general manager Emma Luna Davis) announced that Surjic, his predecessor at Pi, was leaving for Saskatoon where he will be the artistic director of Persephone Theatre. With Surjic leaving we will also miss Johnna Wright.
I didn't sleep much last night. I knew I had a picture of Surjic (in photo above left) I took on February 2003 for the Georgia Straight
. It was a preview of Pi Theatre's Elisa's Skin
. Here you see Surjik (right, with Marie Stillin and Jean-Michael Legal. I didn't sleep last night because I couldn't find the pictures with Johnna Wright. I knew I had photographed her for the Straight
in relation to the founding of See Seven. I looked under See Seven, See 7, C Seven, C 7 and found nothing. I didn't sleep. I had nightmares involving last night's scary performance by Linda Quibell who on stilts (playing goddess Hiva)and with a striking costume by Marti Wright was the ethnic mother-in-law from hell! Photo (I took this some years ago for Felix Culpa) bottom left.
This morning I remembered and I ran down to my files and looked under Bloom, David (the Director of Felix Culpa). And there was the picture of Johnna Wright, Del Surjic, David Bloom (top left) and Ruby Slippers' director Diane Brown. Photo is top left.
This story really begins during the 2002 Christmas season when Rosemary and I went to see the Solo Collective's three one act, one actor plays A Christmas 3
. The three plays Kiljoy with Lois Anderson, Office Party with Bill Dow and Wobbling Maddona with Sheelah Megill (in picture Megill is far right) was a virtuoso performance night. Rosemary, who likes little, liked a lot. In particular we loved Johnna Wright's direction of Killjoy and Del Sujik's direction of Office Party.
Rosemary asked me who the director for Killjoy was. Lois Anderson was fantastic. I pointed at a woman who was sweeping the floor between plays and said, "The floor sweeper, that's Johnna Wright." Rosemary was then not surprised to see Wright selling sweets and drinks during the intermission.
This is theatre in Vancouver. It is a pity that perhaps nobody will acknowledge or appreciate the contribution of this couple until they are gone. My guess is that with Richard Wolfe as the new artistic director of Pi Theatre we will be subjected to more cutting edge theatre if his directorship of Theatre Conspiracy
is an example.
In the beginning I was troubled by last night's performance of The 8th Land
. It had a lot of hocus pocus. It was contrasted by the interesting music of Oriental (La República Oriental del Uruguay) Pepe Danza and the intriguing contribution of four singing, chanting, martial arts fighting, insects (flees and flies) played by Sarah Afful, Spencer Atkinson, Nick Fontaine and Thrasso Petras. The sets by David Roberts were interesting, elaborate and finely crafted.
But then I warmed up to all the hocus pocus. I was watching a modern version of a Greek play. The voices of all the actor were (unlike the voices of modern radio) superb. I recognized the man playing the lead part of Te-Te, Parnelli Parnes but I could not place him until I read he had been in the Banana Boys.
The evening was specially enjoyable because of the tropical heat of an unseasonably hot evening. I looked at all the usual suspects, including Felix Culpa's David Bloom and I felt sad that Surjik and Wright will not be with us. But I am grateful that all these usual suspects have challenged my perception of what theatre is supposed to be. They have done this gently and entertained me to no end.