Lillooet - Pleasantville in Technicolor
Saturday, May 31, 2008
Looking at Ale (left), now 39, playing with Lauren and Rebecca out in her Lillooet back yard I find it almost impossible to believe but I also find myself lucky to be able to enjoy it. In particular, today, while Rebecca and I were both seeing Pleasantville for a second time, Ale and Lauren were bonding outside with the help of a hose and nozzle.
Even though the drive is not an easy one the next day (today) seems almost like a real live Pleasantville, a Pleasantville in Technicolor. Sounds, smells, tastes and colours are enhanced. Rosemary almost relaxes and I have my two granddaughters all to myself without the hindrance of their parents!
We visited Lloyd McNary's (79) farm today (photos will follow during the week). The girls rode a beautiful horse, bareback and we finished off the stay with McNary's fruit compote and yoghurt ice cream. We then dropped in on Teresa Scallon and Zane Spencer's mountain retreat (very near MacNary's) complete with waterfall and vegetable garden. Lauren and Rebecca rolled down their grass hill while we watched a view to die for.
A cheese fondue will be our dinner (we even brought the Kirsch) and in the morning I will be making extra think pancakes (not crepes, just thin pancakes). We have an unopened container of Argentine dulce de leche which we will slather on those pancakes. I never ask where's my dinner. If I don't cook it, there is no dinner. Since I came to understand this some years life has been less stressful. Besides I like my own cooking.
The Blood Mixes Inside My Heart At The Kay Meek Centre
Friday, May 30, 2008
Last year Harvard architect Abraham Rogatnick and I parked our car on 17th Street in West Vancouver. It was in the evening and we walked up to the place where we were going to see an advance performance of Lloyd Burritt's opera Dream Healer
. The place was called the Key Meek Centre. Somehow this venue had sprung on us like a newborn baby from nowhere. It was up on the mountain. Jutting out were three flying saucer-like structures of metal and glass. We were awed. We immediately inquired and found out that the architects involved, Richard Iredale and James Emery, had an interesting connection with the city below. It was Iredale's father, Rand Iredale who had built the arresting West Coast Transmission building on West Georgia.
In the lobby there was a colourful portrait of Kay Meek. We were told she wanted a theatre in West Vancouver so she donated one million dollars. By building the structure next to a school the city donated the land. It was only last night that, off the record, I was told that Kay Meek's money came through her husband's involvement in rum running.
Last night Rosemary and I attended an unusual theatrical performance at the Key Meek Centre. In preparation to taking the play, Where the Blood Mixes
(written by young Nlakapmux playwright Kevin Loring) to a Toronto theatre festival the Playhouse Theatre Company was persuaded to mount a production in West Vancouver.
The play with its background of alcholism and Catholic boarding school abuse in Lytton specially hit home. Today we drive through Lytton to visit our daughter in Lillooet. We will drive across the very bridge that is central to this poignant play about a father (Floyd, played by Billy Merasty) being found by his daughter (Christine, played by Quelemia Sparrow) who was taken away by "the ministry" when her mother died of mysterious and tragic consequences. Most of the action happens in the bar of the Lytton Hotel that is presided by the benevolent bar man George, Tom McBeath who has a kind soft spot and is unable to prevent Floyd's friend, Mooch (Ben Cardinal) from spending his wife's (June, Margot Kane) money on booze.
This play made Rosemary and I laugh even though the tragedy on stage was ever present. Ben Cardinal's performance of the ever drunk Mooch was so convincing I was worried he would fall from the stage on to the confluence of the Thompson and the Fraser Rivers below. It was almost hard for me to believe that the kind (in my studio!) Margo Kane could be so brutal with Mooch. But it was Billy Merasty's voice and slight Irish accent (learned from a school in Northern Manitoba, perhaps?) that enveloped me and charmed me. I hope to see more of this actor soon. His breaking down on his daughter Christine's lap just about made me cry.
The whole play had the constant and unobtrusive playing of Jason Burnstick's guitar and weissenborn lap slide playing and singing. But it was the sweet tone of his Haida Gwaii made guitar that really made me notice. I had to, after the play ended, ask Burnstick to show me the instrument. This he did.
I found it almost symmetrical for me to see Playhouse Director Glynis Leyshon (above left) direct her, perhaps, last play as she moves on. I first photographed her in my studio in Februrary 1997 when she had just arrived to town. Even then I had the fond but confused (had I been afraid of the man as he had posed for me?) memory of having photographed another Playhouse director, Walter Learning (right) sometime in the end of the 70s.
The play has an important bar brawl and I was surprised to find out that the fight choreographer, Nicholas Harrison (right) managed without broadswords and dirks.
As we left I had a short chat with Margo Kane (below) and she told me she sort of enjoyed "slapping" Mooch. I looked at her warm smile and I didn't believe a word of it.
Today as we cross the bridge in Lytton I will no longer think that the old Nativfe name for the place, Kumsheen, does not mean "the place where the Rivers meet" but in reality the far more poetic "the place inside the heart where the blood mixes".
This play most surely did that. There are still two more performances of this play to be held at the Key Meek Centre.
Yuliya In The Garden - Jo-Ann In My Studio
Thursday, May 29, 2008
I have written about Jo-Ann and Yuliya here
and about Yuliya here
. Now I have the opportunity to show some of their latest pictures. They pass my self-imposed modesty standard of no nudes in my blog. As some of my students at Focal Point would say, "They are nudes but the bits and pieces don't show."
Yuliya showed up on Tuesday and it was a cloudy day with nice shades of green since there was no contrast. This inside shot by my computer would have been impossible on a sunny day as the contrast difference between the living room and the garden would have exceeded my film's range.
With Jo-Ann at our last studio session I used an old Hollywood light that was given to me by photographer Brent Daniels some 16 years ago before he left for Toronto. The light has a huge two foot long incandescent light bulb. Daniels subsequently moved to Australia and can be found here
It is liberating to photograph Yuliya in the garden without lights and to use no flash with Jo-Ann. It makes me feel like I am back to my original roots, before I could afford a studio flash system. The studio flash is so easy to use that after a while I feel like I am in a rut. There is a challenge in having to fight contrast and the unpredictability of anything that is not my set formula.
Now if I could only be in Mexico City on a hot day and be able to tell Yuliya or Jo-Ann, "Let's go to the azotea and take some pictures!
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Someone jolted my elbow as I drank and said, "Je vous demande pardon," and as I moved to give him space he turned and stared at me and I at him, and I realized, with a strange sense of shock and fear and nausea all combined, that his face and voice were known to me too well.
I was looking at myself.
The Scapegoat, 1956, Daphne Du Maurier
Every once in a while my writer friend Sean Rossiter
, left, calls me up to meet him with some friends for lunch downtown. He usually invites a writer from the Vancouver Sun, Nick Rebalksi, an architect, Alan James and some surprise guest. The connection here is that somehow this trio lived in the same neighbourhood and have an interest in golf, hockey and English cars. I like going because this is the closest to the Spanish concept of a tertulia
where friends meet at a cafe to discuss politics, football (soccer) and life.
It was at one of the restaurants where I met up with Rossiter some years ago that I noticed on a wall of decorative Book-of-the-Month Club books, Daphne Du Maurier's The Scapegoat
. I had a cheesy (the cover) pocket book version of this terrific book at home. I read it once a year in conjunction with Du Maurier's House on the Strand
. And only a week ago I was finally able to see the noir/gothic film version of The Scapegoat
on the Turner Classic Movies channel. Consider that this film has Alec Guiness and Bette Davis. Until recently this film was out of print.
When I saw that pristine but worthless (all BOTMC books are worthless) The Scapegoat
I longed to liberate it from the tragic oblivion of, perhaps, never having been read. Books have to be read and should never be used for purely decorative reasons. I wrestled in my mind trying to rationalize my potential petty theft. In the end I liberated it and took it home, warmly held under my arm. The cheesy pocketbook version I gave to my daughter Ale and my worthless edition is proudly displayed in my living room library.
A week ago when Rosemary and I went to see The Producers
I ran into author/actor C.C. Humphreys
who excitedly told me, "After your recommendation I found a cheap pocket book version, with a chessy cover of The Scapegoat
at a used book bin. It is terrific."
Could it be that one wrong makes a few rights?
Yuliya In The Garden
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Today I teach the 8th session (a 10 week, every Tuesday course) of my contemporary portrait nude at Focal Point. One of our models is the most interesting and expressive Yuliya who hails originally from Ukraine. She indicated she also wanted me to photograph her in an outdoor or garden session. I have done this sort of thing in my past and I find it difficult to find some way of doing it differently. She will be here at 10 and we will leave for Focal Point at 1:00pm. I have no idea if I will be inspired nor do I know if I will have any results. The cloudy weather is a perfect low contrast situation for both nudes and garden photographs. I will make sure that I do take some pictures that I will be able to post here!
Monday, May 26, 2008
On the 24th of May I realized that I had one open rose in the garden. Every year Rosa
'Jacqueline du Pré' and Rosa 'Blanc double de Coubert'
vie for being the first rose of our garden. I noticed that Blanc double de Coubert had lots of buds on Saturday but Jacqueline du Pré's
lonely open flower on the same day trumped my ever hardy rugosa (notice the rugose crinkles of the leaves). Both roses are supposed to be white although Jacqueline does have a slight pink tint. Jacqueline is fragrant, delicately and demurely so. She cannot compete with the more intense Blanc double de Coubert.
It is only today, May 26 that I remember that yesterday was the anniversary of Argentina's independence (declared on 25 May, 1810, but the struglle lasted until July 9, 1816). Napoleon had invaded Spain so the residents of what was to be Argentina declared they did not recognize the authority of the Spanish viceroy. I remember fondly the date because I did not go to school and sometimes my father took me to see the desfile
or military parade with strutting Argentine soldiers in their uniforms that were virtually indentical to the Wermacht of WWII. There were Sherman tanks and overhead we could hear the jet engines of Peron's Argentine jet fighter the Pulqui 1
and in later years of the Pulqui 2. I was much too young to disavow blatant militarism and it was most thrilling to me to hear the tank track noises and the singing of the Argentine national anthem.
It is perhaps appropriate that the 25 of May now is a competition between two white roses in my garden. But suppressed in me is the thrill of those military parades and the comforting security of holding my father's hand.
Sunday, May 25, 2008
The Ballet BC House and Garden Tour was over by 5 pm today. Rosemary and I lingered on after with a young couple that had come all the way from Port Coquitlam. We saw them as ourselves 37 years ago when we lived in Burnaby. Unsaid between us was the depression we knew would set in as soon as they left.
In December 2005 I had the best one-man photographic show I have ever had. I even sold stuff. The show featured pictures of Rebecca, nude photographs of a beautiful one-armed model and very large giclées made from my flower scans. After having had many openings I was not ready then nor was I ready today to brush off the post show depression (be it a photographic opening or a gaden opening). People come and you enthusiastically answer their questions.
This post show depression is so acute (they say Diane Arbus slit her wrists in her tub the day after an opening) that years back I invented what I call pre-post-show-opening depression. I feel sad as soon as I hang the pictures on the wall, or in the case of our garden, just thinking about the opening days before.
The lawn has been trampled by the 1000 plus people that visited us in two days. Paradoxically I believe the lawn will come back in full force as the spongy nature of many of my turf repairs were flattened by feet and the ground was dried out (after the many days of rain or my perhaps unitelligent watering).
I understand our depression. People tell us as they leave, "Thank you so much for sharing your garden." It occurs to me that a garden is not a garden if it is not shared. A garden without visitors is silent in a sad way. I remember their eager questions and the smiles on their faces as I held up a cut rose for them to smell, Rosa 'Blanc Double de Coubert'
which is always the first to bloom in our garden.
When I look at this self-portrait of Rebecca and I, taken after the 2005 opening I re live that show depression. I compensate by smiling as I think of her climbing the flowering cherry tree in our back yard as she did today. She asked me, "Papi do you think you could build me a tree fort?" I wonder if it is too late. She is 10. Will she discover boys in a few months and lose interest? Should I build it anyway for Lauren?