The Blue And The Gold Of Tiger Town
Saturday, June 13, 2009
The certainty that I would be able to connect with classmates that I had known for four years but somehow had not been my friends ( a mere sharing of a living space in a boarding school) has been a pleasant one. I have connected and spoken with these men that were boys once and discerned a warmth and intelligence in them that would have been missed by the stupidity of my youth.
The icing on the cake has been my two day visit with Brother Edwin. Yesterday he took me on a two-hour tour of the Austin lake district in a Chevrolet Lumina. This happened after lunch (again in the inner sanctum of St Joseph Hall.)
I saw new sides of the man when he went to the communal garden and banged a stick on the wall. A squirrel appeared and came up to him as he put corn and nuts into a little bowl. We passed by a little room with a barber chair. I asked. "I am the barber here.” I asked him who shaved the barber. "That's Brother Thomas." Brother Thomas was repairing the very old curtains of the Brothers' living room. He told Brother Edwin, "We are going to need new curtains soon." With money tight I know Brother Thomas will fix them.
In the memorial recognition lunch today we remembered those brothers, faculty and students who had been there before us (Brother Edwin's euphemism for those who had died). He opened the lunch with this poem:To Remember You
A bouquet of beautiful memories
we place before our graves.
We wish we could be with us
as we recall the good old days.
We the Men of Tigertown
pledge our prayers for you.
You are still with us in those "Good old days"
as we remember the "Old Gold and Blue".
Brother Edwin Reggio, CSC (Congregation of the Holy Cross).
All that maudlin, but wonderful, content of above needs a little bit of irreverent balance..
We stood up to sing our school song (lyrics and music by Brother Edwin, naturally!) I never bothered to learn the words because I had to play the song on the alto saxophone. I was a member of the school band, not by choice, but by a gentle pressure from Brother Edwin who had diverted me and then fished me one day on my way to the cafeteria.
The song reminded me that at school football games, the cheerleaders would be in front of us and at the end of the song:
The Blue, fight, fight!
The Gold, fight, fight!
I would be rewarded by a rapid glimpse of Judy Reyes'
fine legs and...as she jumped up in the air.
Vanillla Ice Cream, Rolling Thunder & My Friend A White Frog
Friday, June 12, 2009
Rosemary was as always absolutely right in sending me to the St. Ed's Reunion two days early. I have been able to linger in conversation with Brother Edwin Reggio who keeps inviting me for lunch at the inner sanctum of St. Joseph Hall. I had egg plant parmigiano which was delicious. Nobody back in Vancouver likes egg plant so that was a treat.
A kindly looking man in glasses came up to me in the afternoon and asked, " Are you alex?" I countered, " Are you Milton?" I had not seen Milton Hernandez, class of 1960) since 1961. He came along with us, Brother Edwin, John and Carolyn Arnold to the County Line where we enjoyed Texas barbecue. The best was the conversation and the peach cobbler with homemade vanilla bean ice cream.
As we left for home (St. Ed's) Carolyn received a phone communication from her daughter informing her of a tornado warning for the evening. The tornado never happened but...
I sat down on one of the benches (I moved it to the centre and placed it right next to the big red door of the front entrance of Old Main and I watched the most spectacular electrical storm form 8:45pm until 10:00pm. The city skyline was sharp and brilliant and the lightning bolts were covering a 150 degree sweep of the horizon. I could see the clouds behind (North West) move in my direction and the rain made the city disappear. Soon the rain and the thunder came upon me and the noise was constant. It made me remember LBJ's Operation Rolling Thunder which was his failed attempt to end the Vietnam war from March 1965 to November 1968. I am sure that my friend Howard Houston (class of 1961) was busy fueling fighters from his Boeing KC-135 tanker.
The electrical storm last night was rolling thunder. I was not alone from my vantage point on the best seat of the house. A little white frog hopped up the stone stairs and stared at me. He ate some insects and then hopped back down. As the rain increased to the level of a deluge he came back up. As the lightning bolts receded I bid the frog goodbye and I walked to my room at Moreau Hall.
It has been a long time since I have been able to feel so at peace with my happiness.
Harvey's Last Chance & A White Apparition
Thursday, June 11, 2009
It is a curious fact that wherever Rosemary and I go we always think, "Would Rebecca like this?" When we watch a film we wonder if it would be appropriate for Rebecca and if it would help her learn."
There I was on board a Continental Boeing 737 watching Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson in Harvey's Last Chance knowing that it was the perfect film for Rosemary. I suddenly missed Rosemary very much and wanted her right there.
I was picked up by John Arnold at the Austin Airport. The last time I had been there was in 1959 when I had passed my hand on the razor edge wing of a Lockheed F-104 Starfighter. It was Bergstrom Air Force Base. As my 737 landed I could see vestiges of WWII buildings and grass growing over old runways. The vision of the past faded as the jet taxied to the modern airport.
John and I drove to St. Ed's and when we saw the tower of the Old Main we knew we were home.
We had an unusual supper with Brother Edwin and the other Brothers at St. Joseph's Hall. This was unusual as this was an inner sanctum we were never able to penetrate in our youth. And there was Carolyn Arnold (John's wife) surrounded by men in what in previous times would have been a cloister situation. We felt lucky and blessed.
The evening ended in magic. We were in back of Old Main and we saw what seemed at first to be an aparition. A tall woman in flowing white robes (Carolyn noticed she was wearing heels) passed by. Could she have been a nun? She was so. Brother Edwin confirmed there are three nuns from Ghana on campus.
The Three Of Us & Four In A Corvair
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
When Rebecca took this series of Pictures of the three of us (she is pressing a bulb with one of her hands) last Saturday, Rosemary told me that Lauren had closed her eyes for all of them. Rosemary, for once, was wrong and Lauren not only managed not to blink but somehow the three of us posed with pleasant smiles. I am holding a tiny hosta called Cat’s Eye and Rebecca is proudly showing her potted Hosta ‘June’. My Hosta ‘June’ is behind. They are different because Rebecca’s is a North American tissue culture (cloned) plant and mine came from a division of an English plant. Rebecca is aware of this and she is jealous. I think I might have to cut a chunk out in the fall for her. After all I should reward her sense of good taste!
As I fly to Austin and to my teenage roots I will keep this picture in my head should I get depressed about soon finding myself in a room with all of us old, bald and paunchy.
I will look forward to meeting up with Captain Henry Harper. On the last day of school, on the day of our graduation I did not go to the prom because I could not dance and I was too shy to ask a girl. Harper felt sorry for me. At the time his father was on officer at the nearby Bergstrom Air Force Base (now the very Ausin Airport my plane will land on). He invited me to a pool party at the base. I remember running after girls in bathing suits with chunks of watermelon in my hand. The game was to throw them at them or rub them on. I believe that was the first and last pool side watermelon party I ever went to. After the party, Harper found me a date and the four of us (Harper had no problem getting his own dates) went cruising and parking in a Corvair. In my late teens I finally discovered the overture delights of a woman.
A La Francesa
Tuesday, June 09, 2009
Since my Spanish grandmother was born in the 19th century many of the things she told me had to do with her memories as a little girl. The Catholic world of Spain and her former colonies were still socked by Darwin. “Asomar el rabo” or to show one’s tail was how my grandmother would describe a person’s faux pa. They did not know any better because they were still close to monkey ancestors.
Napoleon was still big in Spain. Spaniards to this day use the expression “despedirse a la francesa” or, to say goodbye French style which means without saying goodbye”. One day asked my grandmother the origin of the expression. She told me that as soon as Wellington landed in Portugal and started going up the Iberian Peninsula the French noticed. When Wellington began to gain victories the French panicked and left, “without saying goodbye!”
Tomorrow Wednesday I leave for Austin. I have been busy today getting pictures for magazines scanned and tying loose ends. I had to water the garden well and put my pots out of the sun so that they will not dry out so quickly and give Rosemary a bit of a break in the incessant watering she will be doing until the weekend. There seems to be no rain in sight.
I have never noticed Rosemary deadheading my roses as she believes they are my domain. This meant I had to put on gloves and deadhead my tall Blanc double de Coubert. It has tons of tiny prickles so it is a tough job.
Many of my roses like the Gallicas will only bloom once. Some are blooming now and when I come back in a week they will either be waning or over. This is what has made me melancholy.
But my melancholy was lifted by four friends that decided to show their face today. I would assert that they are saying goodbye to me in a most un-French and courteous manner.
The large (5 inches wide) almost white rose, Mary Webb, is perhaps the most fragrant myrrh scented English Rose of my garden. Alas, it is not one of David Austin’s best. I might get four or five flowers in a short span of a few weeks and then it will not re-bloom. She makes up for all those failings by producing large flowers that rival that other English Rose, Gertrude Jekyll.
The smaller white rose, the English Rose Fair Bianca, is almost as myrrh fragrant as Mary Webb but she is remontant and her scent is complex with the addition of hints of lemon and magnolia soap.
The light pink rose is a Bourbon rose that sported from Reine Victoria. She is Mme. Pierre Oger. She is a reluctant bloomer and her canes are thin tall and spindly. But her colour is a translucent pink that is almost white and sometimes a very pale yellow. I have often wondered how a woman’s claim to fame could be her husband’s.
The fourth rose is one that competes with the other three for my favourite. It is the mysterious Gallica Charles de Mills. Nobody has been able to figure out who the man was. This particular bloom is smallish because it has not opened fully. It is the first and it is not even from my own bush. Charles de Mills is notorious for sending runners and offspring plants will pop up. I have two of them. This one I have promised to Rebecca and I will dig it out for her in the fall. It is most appropriate that Charles has said goodbye courtesy of Rebecca and there is a small possibility that when I return he will still be around to greet me back.
A Somber Cardinal Richelieu Cheers Up
Monday, June 08, 2009
Laffay France c. 1840
When I first started scanning my roses some years back my first intention was to use the process to accurately record the status of a particular rose on a particular day. I scanned them then and now at 100% size so that anybody perusing my files of roses (somewhere around 500 of them) would see a rose pretty well the way it appeared. When possible I try to make sure that my scan resembles the colour of the rose as closely as possible. As inaccurate as this may seem the result is far more accurate that that of either a film camera or a digital camera. The former will show roses with disparate colour depending on the film stock used (film stock is affected by latitude so that pictures taken further north will be a tad bluer) the time of day the pictures are taken or if they are taken on a cloudy day or under the shade of a tree. So few digital photographers have well calibrated monitor screens that the colour of a rose could be awfully suspect.
Anybody looking at these two different scans of the Gallica Rose, Cardinal Richelieu would be convinced they are not the same plant. The first one above is a scan I did today. The other one was June 18, 2007. The fading colour and the beautiful stage towards decay that most Gallicas have as an extra feature are here to be enjoyed. The rich purple flowers fade to a metallic bluish purple. What is strange that in a dryer and hotter spring, 2009, the bush seems to be later in comparison to 2007. The 2007 Cardinal had those spent blooms while today I found the open ones and there was one bud about to open.
Anybody looking at that first scan would wonder which rose is the real Cardinal Richelieu. For most of us who have enjoyed reading Alexandre Dumas’ Musketeer saga and seen all the films, Cardinal Richelieu is Vincent Price just like Lady de Winter was never better than when she was played by Lana Turner. Dumas’ Cardinal as a conniving power hungry cleric is mostly from the writer’s imagination. We do know that the Cardinal was a patron of the arts. Perhaps my particular plant is showing the man in his true colours and there was a gayer side of him we never knew. That would explain the less somber colour and the many shades of that one single but extraordinary bloom.
Will William Lobb Be Around? What Melancholy
Sunday, June 07, 2009
I am off to Austin this week for a school reunion. I should be all excited about seeing people I have not seen since 1961. Yet I feel heavy melancholy.
I will meet old friends who in some cases weren’t friends but now with some mutual maturity there will be ample opportunity to make new friends of these old friends. They are a varied bunch. One is a captain in the navy but is an expert on nuclear reactors and he even owns some float planes. Another has the largest factory in the US (in Arizona) that makes adobe bricks. A roommate of mine told me he was going to be a dentist back in 1958. He is a dentist in Houston. A few don’t remember me at all even though we were boarders together for four years. One of them has a funeral home and the other is a Vietnam veteran who lives in Maine. Perhaps the most brilliant of our class is the man who works with the Mars Rover for NASA. Closer to home in Austin there is John. Everybody says he is a former spy or a former FBI or CIA agent. He denies it and “does not do computers”. This latter inability may confirm his assertions. On the other hand…
This should be exciting. But the melancholy persists and I know why. I am going to miss my friends from home. Two of them are in the Polaroid (I bought some Polaroid film and kept a small stock when I found out the company was pulling a GM). I took the snapshot on Saturday to set up the focus on m big camera to photograph Rebecca and me. In the end she pressed the bulb as she wanted it to be her self-portrait.
Many of my roses have lots of buds. The moss rose (it is a smallish shrub as I purchased it only a year ago) William Lobb has 117 buds. Rebecca counted them. Alas they may be open and over by the time I come back. Not only will I miss my friends Rosemary and Rebecca (and Lauren and Hilary) but I will also miss all these roses that are checking in from last year. Some have checked in with surprises. The new (20th century) Gallica rose James Mason has a lighter less deep red colour. Rosemary was disappointed in him. As I wrote a few posts back Gertrude Jekyll is back bigger and with an even more powerful scent.
Today I even discovered roses that had opened in the middle of the day.
I will reluctantly leave my friends behind (including Plata and Toby the cats). Perhaps I will cheer up on the way. If not I will cheer up about coming back to my old friends.