On The Road With Willoughby Blew
Saturday, May 23, 2009
Being in a car for almost four hours with my first cousin Willoughby Blew and his wife Chris was a singular pleasure. Rosemary sat in the back with Chris and Willoughby who is six foot four sat shotgun. We drove to Lillooet to visit our daughter Ale. We drove via Whistler and Pemberton and stopped on the way (near Pemberton) and we had thin, crustless cucumber sandwiches and ham sandwiches. I prepared some extra spicy deviled eggs. Rosemary brought along a large bottle of ginger ale. We listened to Daniel Berenboim's tango CD and we talked of our shared past. Chris had been dissapointed to find out we didn't have any lilacs in our garden. So it was ever so pleasant to arrive at Ale's and find three huge lilacs in bloom and their perfume wafting through her property. Ale had invited three friends, Margaret (97), Sarah and Catherine. I barbecued three pork loins. We had several salads and Willoughby noted that I put sugar into the Keen's powdered mustard mixture. "You make it like Uncle Harry used to make it, with sugar and salt." Uncle Harry was the oldest brother of my father George and Willougby's mother Lelia.
After a lengthy sobremesa
(conversation at the dinner table following dinner) while drinking strong tea everybody went home and Ale took the Blews to the Reynolds Hotel.
I find it so amazing that my cousin from Buenos Aires who now lives in Florida would find himself and his wife in a relatively remote place like Ale's Lillooet. It is amazing and wonderful and only proves that life isn't all bad.
Friday, May 22, 2009
In the 50s I used to watch cowboy tenors Jorge Negrete and Pedro Infante play tough cookies in Mexican westerns. They were as tough as John Wayne ever was but in order to prove their manhood they rarely resorted to fists or guns. They grabbed their guitars and extemporaneously insulted each other with on the spot lyrics. It would seem that conflict was resolved in a more peaceful manner south of the American border. I remembered these films tonight at a concert of virtuoso string concertos from 18th century Italy.
A tune that came from Europe’s past (some indicate it came from Portugal) which was the story of a mad or bewitched woman became a melody, called La Follia
and sometimes La Folia
or plain folia
. It was borrowed and appropriated by Lully, Corelli, Geminiani, Vivaldi and even an amateur English violinist, John Playford. Playford
published violin music in the 17th century which featured a composition, Faronell's Division on a Ground
which is a dead ringer for La Follia. I wrote about La Folia here
Tonight I heard a live version, Vivaldi’s Sonata in D minor, Op. 1 no. 12 “La Follia”
for the first time. It was so good that somehow it induced a nose bleed and I had to use very quiet nasal suction to keep it in check!
The group that performed it at St Jude’s Catholic Church, Saint Jude’s Pro Musica
, was founded by harpsichordist/organist Michael Jarvis with help from baroque violinist friend Paul Luchkow (photograph, top left). Angela Malmberg also played the violin with Glenys Webster on the viola. A serious Curtis Scheschuk played and carried his large violon hither and thither, while Natalie Mackie did double duty and double time (in that La Follia!) with her viola da gamba.
But Saint Jude’s Pro Musica had a surprise in store in guest violinist Julia Wedman (Tafelmusik, I Furiosi, etc). Not by luck but by complete intention my friend Graham Walker and I sat down in the front row, left. This put us four feet from the guest violinist and when Paul Luchkow soloed Pietro Nardini’s (1722-1793) Violin Concerto VI in F major, Op.1, No. 6.
Violinist Julia Wedman, short, slim and very well shaped appeared in a teal, tiered, dress and a little black top. Paul Luchkow described it as being “mermaidish”. She had a short bleach blonde Joan of Arc cut and little black flat shoes. I don’t usually describe what a musician wears but here it is most important. When Wedman played she reminded me of a cobra emerging from basket. At the same time she was all passion, fun (she smiled often) and her technique, flawless to this amateur, seemed to come from total confidence in her abilities.
The first movement, Largo
, of the first piece by Tomasso Albinoni’s (1671-1751) Sonata II in C major from Sinfonie a 5 in C major, Op.2, No.
2 (remember her violin was a mere four feet away) had me holding back tears knowing I had no handkerchief (and how was I to know that blood would follow?).
It escapes me why the majority coming to an intimate concert in a smallish church would not want to sit where we were sitting. I could hear Wedman’s violin here
, and then I could hear the response from Luchkow’s violin there
. This music is best appreciated as a small contest, a give an take between musicians who are standing. They are almost in an in your face presence. I feel that I am not just a spectator but part of the electricity.
While I can enjoy and did enjoy some weeks ago the Vancouver Philharmonic Orchestra’s extra loud (the way I like it!) version of Shostakovich’s Symphony No.5 there are times when I don’t want to listen to musicians in unison. This is why I also love baroque music. And I love to listen to the quiet notes of a violin. Tonight I could even hear extra quiet but very clear secondary undertones from both Wedman and Luchkow.
Vivaldi’s La Follia almost topped that Albinoni for me. It had Wedman on the left in her dress (that dress!) and Paul Luchkow in smart tails on the right. Between these dueling violinists were harpsichordist Jarvis (with his trademark candy red eyglasses) and viola da gambist Natalie Mackie (the former viola da gambist Nan Mackie I might add). It was a killer virtuoso performance by all four. At one point Mackie and Jarvis were going so fast that I prayed they had not forgotten to apply some extra Mitchum.
From my point of view Wedman won the dueling violins performance. But to be fair let me add the following:
Paul Luchkow told me, “From the moment I saw Wedman’s dress I knew I didn’t have a chance.”
Michael Jarvis explained, “Vivaldi wrote the music so that the violin on the left would win.” And he insisted by repeating, “It was in the music.”
All in all it was an evening to savour and remember and to savour again and remember that I live in Vancouver and that few cities anywhere have such depth of talent.
I would like to point out that all these musicians (alas Julia Wedman is packing her dress and flying back to Toronto) are playing music from XVII & XVIII century France on Friday, May 29 and Saturday May 30 at 8pm at Academie Duello, 422 Richards Street (at Hastings), Second Floor. The performance will be followed by a Theatre De L’Arbre Perche staged production of Moliere’s one-act comedy, “Sganarelle, or the Imaginary Cuckhold” (in English). For more info go here
I have "borrowed" the image of Julia Wedman you see here from I Furiosi's
website. I cannot credit the photographer as the photographer is not mentioned.
A Sad Tone To A Pleasant Routine
Thursday, May 21, 2009
One of my singular pleasures these days is a routine that began a few weeks ago on Thursdays. I teach at Focal Point (10th Avenue at Sasamat) from 2 to 5 and from 7 to 10. Initially I did not know what I was going to do with those two hours. But then Abraham Rogatnick lives a block away. I suggested we meet for coffee or tea. He suggested a tea house on 10th owned by a Taiwanese woman who lived many years in Brazil. They have a cute waiter, from Lyon, with black rimmed glasses who looks like Elvis Costello. We call him Elvis. He serves me a strong Kenya Kemba tea and a grilled eggplant sandwich. Abraham has an English Breakfast tea with palmiers (he orders extra dark ones). We chat for an hour and then we walk slowly to his house, we chat some more and soon I walk to school and I get there at 6:55.
Today was almost as pleasant as other Thursdays as the routine sets in. A pleasant routine can be ever more so by the fact that it is one. But our routine had a sad tone. Arthur Erickson died yesterday.
The first person Abraham Rogatnick met when he came to Canada from Boston in 1955 was Arthur Erickson who at the time was living in Chilco Street. Abraham knew him well. They were good friends and just about the same age. Arthur was 84 and Abraham is six months older and 85. Abraham told me many stories about Erickson. The one salient fact was that Abraham saw his friend lose his cool only once in all those years. It seems that the Erickson the architect (Rogatnick is also an architect) was mostly a kind person who rarely spoke ill of others.
We discussed the idea that in Canada we had Pierre and Arthur and that they were perhaps the only two people (at least in BC) that one could discuss by their first name and most would know who one was talking about. Abraham further suggested another Pierre (Berton) but I am not that sure.
My relation with Erickson consisted of multiple studio sessions where he faced my camera. I had in most cases lots of time for conversation. I like to question him on his opinion on the Spanish architect Felix Candela. I asked him once if Candela had influenced him and he answered me with a silent smile.
I told Rogatnick that the first time I photographed Erickson it was at the Museum of Anthropology in the early 80s. I had showed up early and taken several Polaroids of different locations. When Erickson arrived I placed the Polaroids on the floor and asked them to choose the ones he liked. His favourite was one by Bill Read’s Raven. He liked my low angle. When I photographed Erickson with that low angle the sculpture did not show. Behind Erickson there was pure architecture with no artifacts. Rogatnick, excitedly told me that the Raven sits on a covered gun emplacement. Erickson did not want to remove any of the gun emplacements built to defend Vancouver from a possible WWII attack by the Japanese. He left most of them intact and built around them. Only in one did he build over.
My two fun stories involving the architect also involve my granddaughter Rebecca. She may have been around 7 when we were invited to a garden party at Erickson’s West Side house. Snacks were served in a long table between the kitchen and the living room. Rebecca went to the living room and sat on a prominent wing chair. A woman came up to me and said, “Don’t let her do that. That’s Arthur’s chair.” Erickson heard, he smiled and said nothing. I then brought Rebecca and introduced her, “Rebecca this is Arthur.” Rebecca answered, “He cannot be Arthur. King Arthur had hair.” Erickson was sometimes a tad deaf. He was this time, “What did she say?”
The second story happened at the Museum of Anthropology at a July 2007 opening of the works of Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas. After the show, food was served outside that included hamburgers made on the spot. There was also homemade root beer, potato salad and cookies. I was sitting with Erickson on a rock enjoying my hamburger when Rebecca showed up. By then she was 10. Erickson looked familiar but she could not place him. I told Rebecca, “Ask this man what his involvement with this place is.” She did. Erickson answered, “I built this place. I am the architect."
Whenever Erickson would appear at some conference or lecture, I always went to them. It was always a treat to listen to a man with intelligence and humour. He liked to shock and challenge with some of his ideas. I was never disappointed.
Even though he was a handsome and elegant man and many of my photographs captured that, I will always remember, more than anything, that voice. He had a voice. When Erickson talked you had to listen.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
When I read a novel I never skip the Forewords the Prefaces or in the case of Robert Wilson’s The Ignorance of Blood
, the Acknowledgments.This is the last book in the Javier Falcón Seville Quartet and I would like to take the opportunity to thank the people of Seville for being so understanding at having all this fictional mayhem created in the streets of their beautiful and, comparatively, tranquil city…
My thanks to the brilliant Mr. Ravi Pillai and his assistant, Dr. Hassan Katash, whose surgical skills have kept the Robert Wilson show on the road...
I would perhaps be awfully pessimistic that Wilson’s last Javier Falcón novel (The Blind Man of Seville, The Silent and the Damned, The Hidden Assassins
are the previous three) is somehow connected to Mr. Wilson’s health. I suspect that the case may be that he wants to write about other things. After all Wilson has written six other novels that have no connection with Seville and which I enjoyed tremendously. Perhaps Seville (or Sevilla as I prefer to think of it) has taken his Inspector Javier Falcón away from him much in the same way that Alec Guinness took George Smiley away from John Le Carré.
Sevilla can be that possessive. After all, the gold (and silver) of the new world in caravels and galleons went past San Lucar de Barrameda, at the mouth of the Guadalquivir River, a port that concocts its own pale gold, the bone dry manzanilla, and navigated the 80kms to the Puerto de las Indias
in Seville. Madrid was just a town.
Spain squandered in Flanders
all that gold and silver. But other treasures remained.
There were documents and maps that were housed in Archivo de Indias
(The Archive of the Indies). My Manila born uncle, Don Luís Miranda often told me of his trip to Seville to this wonderful place that houses more than 53,000 documents and 8,000 maps and drawings. Accounts in the handwriting of Cortés, Pizarro, Balboa and Magallanes are there. I would suspect that the first maps that gave our new world its name, those drawn by Amerigo Vespucci must be there, too. The place conjures a marvelous world when Spain was its centre.
My first experience with Seville happened in 1985. Rosemary, Ale, Hilary and I stayed at the recently refurbished Alfonso XIII Hotel which was opened by that very king in 1929. Many of the European nobility stayed in the hotel in its glory days as did the best bullfighters that fought at la Plaza de Toros de la Real Maestranza de Caballería de Sevilla
and the American author, Hemingway who was writing their story.
Perhaps it was because my daughters spoke English that the staff of the hotel thought we were Americans. They looked at us with stiff disdain and I could think their thoughts, “You Americans are defiling this great hotel that has seen so much Spanish history. Leave us your Dollars and go home.”
As much as I wanted to like Seville, I didn’t. I was tempted. At Santa María Cathedral I gazed on the tomb of Christopher Columbus. I was born in Buenos Aires and until I came to Vancouver October 12th was a holiday, el día de la raza or the day when a new race was born(the spin in those days was that the intermarriage between Spaniards and native Americans produced a superior race, even though mostly the whites, the Spaniards always seemed to be in charge.) Even the tomb was not all that satisfying. It seems the Admiral of the True Oceans’ body was divided a tad and part of his body is in the cathedral in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic.
Suffice to say, that Seville has never appealed to my mind but only a bit to my heart. In my heart is that black lace mantilla that my grandmother bought in Seville and always wore to cover her head when she went to Mass. It was with that mantilla that I photographed my oldest daughter Ale.
I fell in love with Seville because Javier Falcon's city, as written by Wilson, somehow became my own. As this Vancouver winter lingers into a cold spring I long for the hot days that Inspector Javier Falcón sweats in, loves in, eats, fights the bureaucracy of the Spanish judicial system and sometimes even drinks. Falcón mentions the heat but never complains.
It was at the bell tower of that Cathedral of Santa María, the Giralda that I also photographed Ale. You can see her at the bottom of the reddish picture. The other photograph is a the Patio de los Naranjos (Courtyard of the Orange Trees) adjacent to the cathedral and seen from the top of La Giralda which projected its shadow into the scene.
Perhaps soon I can return to Seville and see the city through the eyes of that melancholy man, Inspector Javier Falcón. His city would warm my heart.Burriana, Seville Oranges & Dundee Orange Marmelade Seville, Oranges, La Giralda, Spooks, Robert Wilson & A Sumo Wrestler
The 1939 Lagonda V-12 Sedanca Coupé & A Proper Sunbeam
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Last Saturday Rebecca told me,”I want to go to the English car show at VanDusen.” Anything that Rebecca might be interested in that is out of the normal for a girl her age I applaud. Rosemary, Lauren, Rebecca and I went to the show. We were unaware that the show was going to close at 4 when we got there at 3:15. The first cars we looked at were the Morgans. There were 55 of them including three, three wheelers!
Because the show was going to close I told Rebecca, “Let’s go to see the best car here. I knew exactly were to go. I went to the upper area of the garden where they usually display the Lagondas. I was looking for Liz Haan and Bill Holt’s maroon 1939 Lagonda V-12 Sedanca Coupé. This car won the best in its Lagonda Class at Pebble Beach in 1999. It is perfect. Some years ago I had taken my young daughter Ale to see Ed Aveling’s
convertible and supercharged Auburn. Ale looked at the car and said, “Daddy why don’t new cars look as new as this one?” If Ale had been with us she would have said the same thing about the maroon Lagonda.
Lagondas are rare cars because few were made. The Holt/Haan Lagonda is especially rare. Consider that it was specially ordered by the King of England in early 1936 and by the time it was delivered to him in New York in 1939 he was the Duke of Windsor. After the war the car exchanged many hands and ended up as property of the wife of a man who owned a North Vancouver car dealership. It was in a terrible condition and it could not be driven.
The maroon Lagonda that Rebecca and I inspected was spotless. We showed interest and in particular I was staring at the beautiful running boards with the chrome strips. Bill Holt came up to us and opened the trunk. He opened a beautiful case lined in green billiard felt. In it was what looked like a brand new tool kit. Holt told us, “I searched through Europe for a year to complete this.” Since Holt is a retired psychiatrist I was not about to question his unusual obsession.
Lagondas are unusual in many ways. The body of the maroon Sedanca is of aluminum laid on an ash chassis. The engine and its racing package was installed in 2 Lagondas (much lighter than this car’s 5000 pounds) that ran in the 1938 Le Mans. I asked Holt if the Duchess would have sat in the back seat. “No, she would have been in the front as the Duke drove the car.” I asked Liz Haan if she ever drove it . “I sometimes do but it is almost impossible for me to park it.” Of course the Lagonda has no power assisted steering.
From the Lagonda Rebecca took me to see a lineup of Sunbeams, Sunbeam Alpines and Sunbeam Tigers. Rebecca was attracted to the plain Sunbeams (not plain at all) and properly called “Proper Sunbeams”! The light blue one you see here has an interesting story. A car exactly like it and in the same colour was driven by Grace Kelly in To Catch A Thief
. I did not pursue with Rebecca the Sunbeam Alpine that caught my eye. It was red with a black top. The owner confirmed my suspicions. “Yes it is exactly like the one Elizabeth Taylor drove to her death in Butterfield 8
, Daniel Mann’s 1960 film with Lawrence Harvey and Eddie Fisher. The scene where Taylor grinds the heel of her pumps into the front of Harvey’s shoe is a scene that I have never forgotten for its implied pain and eroticism. Rebecca will have to wait a few years before we see that film together.
I do apologize to Bill Holt and Liz Haan for my photographic travesty of their beautiful car. I simply spent too much time on the unusual running boards. Perhaps the next time I just might get a bit more of it. This situation reminded me of one of which I wrote here
The Whetting Stone & Spotone
Monday, May 18, 2009
verb (whetted, whetting) 1 sharpen the blade of (a tool or weapon). 2 excite or stimulate (someone’s desire, interest, or appetite. Origin: Old English.
Compact Oxford English Dictionary
It has only recently that I finally caught on that one whetted one's appetite with that word that included an all-important h
. I looked it up today. Coincidentally I was having problems cutting off my damaged rose leaves (the pesky winter moth) yesterday because my Swiss Felco secateurs were not sharp.
When Rosemary and I went to a nursery yesterday I decided I was no longer going to buy a brand new replacement blade for my rose cutters. I paid $22.00 (almost the price of a new blade) for a neat Felco whetting stone. And yes it has that h
as it seems the verb has all to do with sharpening either taste or a blade.
Since we began to garden in our Athlone Street house in 1986 we have gone through countless garden tools, lawn sprinklers and a few secateurs. Sooner or later like in almost anything one does, one comes to the realization that the best is almost always the most lasting. Ever few weeks I cannot find my Felco. But I use Rosemary’s trick of remembering where I used it last and I always find. Unless I lose it the Felco secateurs and its whetting stone (made of aluminum oxide) will be the last I will ever buy. If Rosemary wants to she can bury me with them with my hat off to the Texan who was buried with his Cadillac.
When Lauren is excited about some event she always asks Rosemary, "How many sleeps?" Lauren's calendar is made up of days that are separated by her sleeps. In a similar way I ask myself, "Will this be my last Felco?" In a similar vein I have figured that had I not had a little accident a few years ago I would be a Two Spotone Bottle Man
. What's that?
The three litle bottles here contain a liquid (Number 1 is a blue black, Number 2 is a sepia and Number 3 is a neutral black) that when applied with a fine brush (there are two here, very dark on the left side) will hide or eliminate the dust marks that appear as white dots on b+w prints, printed on an enlarger. When I was 20 I bought my first set of Spotone. Then about 15 years ago I spilt Number 3 (the most useful colour) and had to buy a bottle. I calculated that the spilt one was the second I had ever bought. A photographer's life span could thus be measured (without an accident) as a two-Number-3-Spotone-bottle life.
The little ceramic tray at the bottom is where I dilute the Spotone gradually by dunking my brush in water and dabbing the indentations. This gives me different degrees of black to a light gray. On the other side (the bottom) I mix my Number 3 in the same way for sepia prints.
For my negative and transparency scans and for the scanned artefacts you see here there is always dust that appears as white little dots on the scan. Spotone does not do the job. I rely on two Photoshop tools. One is called the clone stamp tool and the other the healing brush tool. As Photoshop is constantly being replaced by a new version (mine is plain Photoshop CS) it would seem that it would be next to impossible to be a 3 Spotone Bottle Man
in the digital age. I can confidently assert that I will not buy one more bottle of the stuff.
A Blond Vision
Sunday, May 17, 2009
My first cousin Willoughby Blew and his wife Chris visited us from Florida (they are on their way to an Alaska cruise) on Friday evening. Hilary, Lauren and Rebecca were present and Bruce Stewart, who was working, arrived a bit before dessert. We had a “sobremesa” (literally on the table) which is a beautiful word that describes a pleasant conversation after a nice meal. Both Chris and Willougby seem to crave that family sobremesa that we may have observed when all of us were children but were too small to participate.
The original plan was to eat out but in the end we settled for a quick tour of our garden and a relaxed meal at home. It was all so pleasant that it made me think of family more than my usual. As I was looking for those two pictures of Rosemary for yesterday's blog I found this yellowish/green/cyan SX-70 Polaroid. By the window, I know I must have taken this in our Burnaby home between 1975 and 1977. Rosemary is wearing her colorín
necklace and she seems to have a band aid in her right hand. Jaime Vidal, a Spanish jeweler and friend in Mexico City not only designed the colorín jewelry set but he also made our wedding rings. They are of gold with an exterior band of fired enamel. Through the years the enamel has chipped off and as our fingers have thickened with age we can no longer wear them. On her left wrist Rosemary is wearing a beautiful jeweled watch that my father gave to my mother. My mother often told me the story that this was the only object given to her by my mother that was left. He had pawned just about everything else to pay for his alcoholic habit. My mother had a talent for breaking watches so she rarely used it except for special occasions. I do remember that the watch mechanism has been repaired a few times. Since Rosemary inderectly inherited from my mother the special talent for breaking watches, she too wears it sparingly.
As I look at this picture of Rosemary where she oozes with elegance and intelligence I can remember the first time I saw her in 1968. She was teaching English at a school where I was teaching. I saw this blond vision (remember I am a Latin!) wearing a very short mini skirt. Her legs rivaled my mother’s in shapeliness. The rest is family history and I would not change any of it.