Saturday, April 10, 2010
A La Abuela Emilia (To Grandmother Emilia)
Desde Buenos Aires le escribo estas líneas
Quisiera que sepa que pienso en usted
Con esa paciencia infinita cuidando
Las flores, los pájaros que suele tener
From Buenos Aires I write these lines
I would like you to know that I think of you
Of that infinite patience of yours with which
You take care of the flowers and your birds
Aquí la esperanza no me ha abandonado
Pero ando extrañando charlar con usted
Recuerdo que el día que nos despedimos
La oí repetirme que todo irá bien
Here, I have not been abandoned by hope
But I miss chatting with you
I remember the day we parted
I heard you tell me, over and over, that all will be well
Señora, me digo, cómo es que se vive
Con esta nostalgia tan grande, no sé
A veces parece que no me resigno
Pero otras me ayuda acordarme de usted
Ma'm, I wonder how it is possible to live with this nostalgia, so big I don’t know
Sometimes I think I resign myself
And other times it helps me remember you
Si ahora pudiera iría volando
A verla y quedarme a su lado otra vez
Y oir que me cuenta de nuevo los cuentos
Junto a la ventana como en la niñez
If I could, I would now fly
To see you and to stay by your side again
And to listen again your telling of the stories
By the window as in my childhood
Mi madre me ha dicho que mucho ha cambiado
Que todas las cosas se olvida y también
Que apenas camina, por eso le escribo
A ver si se alegra y mejora otra vez
My mother has told me that much has changed
That you forget everything and also
That you barely walk, this is why I write
To see if you cheer up and get better again
Recuérdeme abuela, no olvide que espero
Que riegue sus plantas y vuelva a coser
Aquí mi nostalgia se cura tan sólo
Si yo la imagino tal cual la dejé
Remember me grandmother, don’t forget that I wait
For you to water your plants and that you sew again
Here my nostalgia is cured only
If I remember you exactly as I left you
No importa si atiende mis muchas razones
Lo único cierto es que quiero saber
Si riega las plantas, si cuida las flores
Si espera mis pasos al atardecer
It is not important that you think of my reasons
The only sure thing is that I want to know
If you water the plants, if you take care of the flowers
If you wait for my steps at sundown
Y bueno la dejo, recuérdeme un poco
Aquí en buenos aires empieza a llover
Los niños llegaron recién de la escuela
La extraño, ya sabe, escríbame usted
Well I leave you, remember me a bit
Here in Buenos Aires it begins to rain
The children just arrived from school
I miss you, you know, write to me ma'm
From: El Purajhei de Teresa Parodi, 1984 (My translation into English)
1.(often foll. By for) sentimental yearning for a period of the past; regretful of wistful memory of an earlier time.
2. thing or things which evoke a former era.
3. severe homesickness
[modern Latin, from Greek nostos ‘return home’]
The Canadian Oxford Dictionary 1998
(Del gr. νόστος, regreso, y -algia).
1. f. Pena de verse ausente de la patria o de los deudos o amigos.
2. f. Tristeza melancólica originada por el recuerdo de una dicha perdida.
Real Academia Española © Todos los derechos reservados
Of both definitions for nostalgia my preference is the one in my online “mataburros”( donkey killer) of the RAI or the Real Academia Española. What follows is my direct translation:
1. Sorrow or grief of being absent from one’s motherland or relatives or friends.
2. Melancholic sorrow upon remembering a lost happiness.
The RAI’s definition mentions people (friends and relatives) and place. It is far more evocative of the bitter sweetness that nostalgia has always been for me.
While I don’t do it too often anymore, whenever I would play Astor Piazzolla
records in the late evening my wife Rosemary knew (and would say nothing) that the listening precipitated intense nostalgia for Argentina, my youth and a few Argentine girlfriends. Since Rosemary, our granddaughter Rebecca and I visited Buenos Aires in 2005 we can now share a nostalgia (far different from my former one) to the good times we shared in a city of my youth.
This delving into the subject came about on Friday afternoon when Rebecca and I went to Opera Sushi for our dinner before an evening at the Granville Island Arts Club Theatre where we had a pair of tickets (second row, centre!) for Billy Bishop Goes to War.
When we arrived at Opera Sushi we knew something was wrong. We pushed the door and it was all shambles. The owners are gone and the place is going to be transformed to a sushi place that will not have the charm of Opera Sushi. Every time we went the owner/chef would say, “How are you, Rebecca?”
The look on Rebecca’s face was of sheer despair and sorrow for a lost pleasure. Part of that pleasure was its comforting regularity. Opera Sushi was always predictably, Opera Sushi. In an almost bitter anger Rebecca told me, “Let’s go to Goldilocks and have some enzaimadas.” This we did even though soft sweet bread did not do anything to satisfy my appetite for a savory meal. At Granville Island Tea Company we managed to sip our teas before a rather nasty security guard told us it was seven and the market was closed. The Granville Island Tea Company has expanded and its new and bigger setup does not promote the cozy chats we often had with people we did not know. I could see that in Rebecca’s face. And I will never understand how a place of such success, as is the Granville Island Market would close at seven in the evening on a Friday night. We had an hour to wait before our play began. I was not going to take Rebecca to the Arts Club Bar which I knew was open.
Having seen Billy Bishop Goes to War
in 1982 with Rosemary and then again the new version two weeks ago, I thought that taking Rebecca to the play would transfer some of my past nostalgia to her. In years to come she will remember the play and her grandfather when the play will come back again, as surely it will.
Saturday morning was a sunny one and it brought some happy events besides the warm sunshine (we had to wear coats, nonetheless). Casa (short for Casanova), our new 19 pound male cat stayed in the garden and this time he romped around (cautiously most of the time) to explore the garden. He now understands that there is an outside. But he knows where the front and back doors of the house are and he eventually gravitates to one of them and meows. He wants to get in for the comfort of the Eaton’s blue blanket at the end of our bed.
Lauren was busy planting trees. She would plunk branches that fell from the windstorms of past weeks on the ground. The one you see here she described, “Papi this is a tree that has a bird nest.”
As we were getting ready to eat our homemade pizza (on Calabria Bakery pizza bread) I switched on the TV to the Turner Classic’s Channel and noticed that a Clint Eastwood western was about to begin. It happened to be Eastwood’s first Spaghetti Western, A Fistful of Dollars
. I had never seen it. Rebecca got bored after 10 minutes but Lauren lingered and then remained for the length of this extraordinarily violent show. It didn’t seem to bother her. “Where is his horse? Is it in the barn?” I felt a tad guilty about enjoying the film with Lauren and it occurred to me that while she was not me and I wasn’t my grandmother and that we weren’t watching Colt .45
with Randolph Scott, here indeed was the promise of a relationship that I will enjoy and that at the same time will provide Lauren with future nostalgia. What’s next? The Corsican Brothers
with Douglas Fairbanks Jr? Or, perhaps The Black Pirate
with Burt Lancaster?
As I drove the girls and their mother home (after a most pleasant day without any arguments of any kind) I put on a CD of an Argentine folk singer called Teresa Parodi. The CD was given to me by my nephew Jorge O’Reilly back in 1995. He had sung some of the songs with his guitar. I had been charmed.
It was in 1966 when I got together with my first cousin, Jorge Wenceslao de Irureta Goyena in Buenos Aires. Unlike his “English” cousin (me) Wenci was dark and handsome like his correntina
(from the Northern province of Corrientes) mother Sarita. Wenci at the time combed back his hair with gomina (greasy kid stuff) and looked like a cross between Rudolph Valentino and the quintessential Argentine tango singer Carlos Gardel. I was keen on ‘Nuevo Tango” with Astor Piazzolla but Wenci argued up and down that it could not be tango as it was not possible to dance to it. Ultimately he was wrong but I could not find a counter argument so our differences became sore points. What made it worse was that Wenci, while born in Buenos Aires was really a country boy from the province of Corrientes where his relatives (on his mother’s side) had large estancias (ranches). Wenci favoured the polka music, a blend of the music of the German settlers of the 19th century and the music and lyrics of the indigenous peoples called the Guaraní. This music was called the chamamé
and the main instrument was the hated (to me!) accordion and certainly not the far more interesting bandoneón
of Argentine tango.
While I never did like the chamamé (until Jorge O’Reilly played some songs on his guitar in 1995 and I had a change of heart) I did and have had nostalgia for Wenci’s province of Corrientes. In a seminal year of my life I went
to the estancia Sta. Teresita with him, his mother and my mother in the early 50s. We went up the Paraná River in a stern paddle wheeler.
I lived the heat, the sounds, the music of the workers who lived on the estancia and we both swam in the piraña infested Rió Corrientes only after one of the workers splashed around with a horse as it seems (or at least we were led to believe) that the feisty little creatures did not like the scent of a horse.
As I played the CD of the Correntina folk singer, Teresa Parodi (“She certainly has a powerful voice,” Rebecca mentioned in the car.), Rebecca asked, “Please play song 8 (A La Abuela Emilia). I had played this CD on a previous trip to visit Ale in Lillooet. I did not know that particular song had made such an impression on Rebecca.
Consider that when I play this song, tears immediately pour out of my eyes. The voice and the melody, affect me. But what affects me most is the untranslatable use by Parodi of the formal address of usted when she sings to the grandmother Emilia. Usted here is a mark of respect. It is this respect for one’s elders that fills me with nostalgia for my grandmother and for a past filled with people, relatives, places, smells and sounds that make my presence in Vancouver sometimes feel so alien.
As I drove home I was suddenly hit by the idea that nostalgia can sometimes be transferred and that I will have to communicate with Wenci in Buenos Aires and enquire when we could possibly visit him perhaps in January when it is hot in Argentina. Wency manages his aunt’s estancia in Corrientes. Will I be soon swimming in the River Corrientes with Rebecca, Lauren and Rosemary?
In March 2004 Teresa Parodi was invited to sing in the Casa Rosada in Buenos Aires in the Salón Blanco. Here
she is singing A La Abuela Emilia
Friday, April 09, 2010
By the end of the 70s I was a pretty well established photographer in Vancouver. I never held a job at Vancouver Magazine but I was there almost every day so that finally those there became accustomed to my presence. Many of my jobs happened simply because I was there and the art director may have felt a tad lazy about calling somebody else.
I made it a point to be pleasant with the receptionists since they could do me favors. I could call and ask to speak to Mac Parry, the editor. If he was around the receptionist would do everything possible to find him for me. In later years one of the editorial assistants was the liaison between submitted free lance invoices and the payroll/accounting department. This usually pleasant woman either liked you or she didn’t. I knew for a fact that she did not like a political columnist and she would keep his invoice I her desk for weeks and even months. I learned quickly to give Belgian chocolates to the women of the accounting department. I would then show up during the liaison woman’s lunch period and ask about my invoice. The women at accounting would then go to her desk and fish out my invoice. It was here where I often saw the political columnist’s forgotten invoice.
One of the receptionists in the very early 80s, one day pulled me aside and asked me if I would take her picture. When she asked she seemed visibly uncomfortable. I knew. She wanted me to photograph her “before gravity takes its toll on my body.”
I did. And I used normal b+w film and Kodak b+w Infrared film. In those days I thought women wanted to look as good as they could. Are receptionist was not 20 so I did my best to soften the image. Somehow (my memory is hazy about it all) she hated the pictures and she never asked for any prints.
This morning while filing I found the file called: Ex Receptionist Van Mag. This would suggest that she perhaps did not talk to me while she was working at the magazine. She must have called me after she had stopped working there. I found this particular frame shot in b+w infrared and I rather like it, even though the pearls are a cliché.
John L. Sullivan, Helmut Newton & Sandrine Cassini
Thursday, April 08, 2010
It is through Jack O’Brien, the Arbiter Elegantiarum Philadelphiae, that I trace my rapport with the historic past through the laying-on of hands. He hit me, for pedagogical example, and he had been hit by the great Bob Fitzsimmons, from whom he won the light-heavyweight title in 1906. Jack had a scar to show for it. Fitzsimmons had been hit by Corbett, Corbett by John L. Sullivan, he by Paddy Ryan, with the bare knuckles, and Ryan by Joe Goss, his predecessor, who as a young man had felt the fist of the great Jem Mace. It is a great thrill to feel that all that separates you from the early Victorian is a series of punches on the nose. I wonder if Professor Toynbee is as intimately attuned to his sources. The Sweet Science is joined onto the past like a man’s arm to his shoulder.
A.J. Liebling, The Sweet Source.
It was in 2002 that while watching a rehearsal of Ballet BC I spotted a ballerina who walked like none of the others. She moved with a super-human grace and with a particularly attractive slowness. I went up to her and asked her who she was. “I am Sandrine Cassini,” she answered with a lovely Parisian accent. I asked more questions. She had danced for the Ballet de l'Opera. It was in the middle of the 80s that I had gone to Paris with my wife and daughters and photographed the exterior of the old Paris Opera Ballet (see, below) after admiring the wondrous interiors. At the time my total ignorance on all things related to ballet prevented me from making a connection with the 1880s and how Degas haunted the place with his sketch pad. It was here where he discovered Marie van Goethem and she posed for him for that seminal ballet sculpture, Little Dancer Age 14
. And of course, the tradition of Ballet de l'Opera went back to the enthusiasm and pioneering participation of Louis XIV.
I asked Cassini about her relation to the Italian astronomer Giovanni Domenico Cassini and his grandson (also an astronomer) Jean Dominique Cassini. It was the elder Cassini who discovered the dark separation between some rings on Saturn which is called the Cassini Division. And the Cassini-Huygens is the famous NASA spacecraft that is still sending our world magical images of our planetary systems as it hurtles eventually to the outer reaches of our system and into deep space. Indeed, she confirmed that they were her ancestors.
I asked Cassini where else she had danced. She told me she had been a member of Les Ballet de Monte-Carlo.
Without thinking any further I asked her, “Did he photograph you while you were there?” Cassini, while slow and graceful in dance, quickly replied, “Yes he did.” And of course we both knew without having to ask any further that “he” was Helmut Newton.
Cassini came to my studio in August of 2003 and posed as if she were an adult Marie von Goethem.
A. J. Liebling would not only have understood, he would have been as thrilled as I was.
I have written about Sandrine Cassini here many times, and I have also mentioned her ancestors, the two astronomers of the same name and of her more than ancillary connection to the traditions of the Paris Opera Ballet and Marie van Goethem. But when I read that passage by Liebling on boxers some days ago, I found just the excuse to put yet one more picture of the lovely Sandrine Cassini here!
The Beetle, Messi , Oliver Cromwell & Bomber Harris
Wednesday, April 07, 2010
Wednesday was a varied day as it included a discussion about Oliver Cromwell, Argentine football player Lionel Messi and by noon had me driving home in a brand-new electric blue nouveau Volkswagen Beetle.
I was at our Audi dealer waiting for our A-4 to get a recall fix on its ignition and the installation of a new set of windshield wipers. I was quietly reading Arturo Pérez-Reverte’s No Me Cogeréis Vivo
( You won't catch me alive, essays from his Spanish newspaper columns, 2001-2005) and sipping the very nice free coffee that Audi provides to its customers. After an hour I needed to rest my eyes so I knocked on the open door of the resident maintenance manager. He is a well dressed Englishman whose job must surely consist in explaining to irate customers that the expensive repair their car needs is not covered by the warranty. So it’s obvious that the manager’s most important asset is his ability to stay cool.
“Sir,” I told the man, “My wife and I are pretty well retired and by September our Audi lease expires. We will not be able to afford a new one. I see a used Honda Fit in our future. Would you be able to tell us of a possible alternative?”
“No, I know nothing of this. You will have to ask someone else.”
“Sir, are you aware that the only reason Volkswagen made money in 2009 is because Audi (whom they own) made a profit? Now that Volkswagen has purchased Porsche how do you see the situation where you have Porsche’s new four-door sedan, the Panamera competing with the Audi A-8 and then Porsche sport scars competing with Audi sport cars? What do you think is going to happen? Will they not be competing with each other?”
“I was not aware that VW had lost money. I don’t know about this.”
“Sir, seeing that you are English what do you think about Arsenal loosing yesterday to Barcelona thanks to the efforts of Argentine player Messi who kicked in four goals? You know, I am an Argie.”
“I don’t like football.”
“Sir, let’s switch to talking about food. What do you think of French cheese fondue?”
“I don’t like cheese fondue.”
I gave up and turned around to sit and read my Pérez-Reverte. Soon after my service mechanic told me the bad news that our car had an oil leak. But he told me, with a smile, that it would be a warranty repair. He gave me a car, the brand-new blue Beetle, to go home telling me that the repair would be done that very day.
At noon I got his call and returned to the dealer. I was talking whit him and told him of my unsuccessful efforts to have a chat with his boss. “He really is a nice guy,” he told me, “Give him a chance.” And so I did.
“Sir, since you are English and my father was English we must have something in common. My father’s father was from Manchester. Where are you from? “
“I am from London.”
“I love London and the crowning event for me in one of my visits was to step on a grave on the floor of Westminster Cathedral and to say, ‘Hi, H.G.’”
“I love history. Our son is called Oliver. Outside of Parliament there is a statue that says he is there. But I don’t think so since after his death his body was dismembered and scattered.”
“I believe that was the same fate as Richard the III.”
We talked about other English monarchs and I told him of my sleepy experience while watching Deborah Kerr at the Old Vic in the play called The Corn is Green.
"Sir, I had the pleasure of meeting and taking portraits of Lady James of Holland Park (P.D. James). We talked about de Havilland Beavers."
"I don't like P.D. James. Her novels are formulaic."
"I don'think so as people really commit crimes because of wills and family squabbles."
"I don't have family sqabbles so I would not know about that."
I switched to talking about the statue of Sir Arthur Harris, First Baronet (Bomber Harris) outside the church of St. Clement Danes and the man smiled again. As I left we shook hands, warmly.
I drove home thinking about my resolve upon leaving Mexico City in our VW Beetle that I would never buy another one again. This is a resolve that I have kept. Driving the new Beetle did not shake that resolve.
The picture here is of our first Mexican Beetle here with our boxer Antonio on Mocambo Beach in Veracruz sometime around 1969.
One Lucky Guy
Tuesday, April 06, 2010
Today looms like a tough one. My computer is about to collapse. Unless I can partition the hard drive, 60% / 40% the 50% that holds all the stuff Microsoft sends you unawares is going to be full and something will happen. I would call it computer constipation. My glasses (the other side broke at the frame) broke. Tonight I will epoxy it. Luckily I have an ancient extra pair that I can wear.
And today I teach the same class twice at Focal Point. They have partitioned (!) the class so I teach editorial photography in the morning and the same class in the afternoon. I guess I would call this an editorial hiccup day.
But last night I went with my friend Graham Walker and his wife Cathy to listen to Philip Glass’s solo piano performance at the Chan. I was absolutely delighted that Rebecca, my 12 year-old granddaughter wanted to come along.
All in all in spite of aching pinkies, computer problems, problems with my blog’s archiving process, etc I am one lucky man.
Monday, April 05, 2010
Including today I have posted 1599 blogs. I have been enjoying the new, until now, stress free method of publishing my blog since it was converted from the previously FTP generated blog that Blogger will cease to support as of May 1st. I thought I was ahead of the game. I have been able to post pictures instantly (sometimes with the FTP method it would take from minutes to repeated efforts that would take hours).
To my dismay today I have discovered that while I have not lost any of my 1599 blogs which I can access through my Blogger edit, the monthly archives on the right of my blog only list approximately half of them (the second half) for each month!
While I can find each blog if I want to, any of you who are reading this will not have access to the missing blogs.
Alice Visits Us On Easter Sunday
Sunday, April 04, 2010
"The March Hare will be much the most interesting, and perhaps as this is May it won't be raving mad -- at least not so mad as it was in March."
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
Our expectations for a pleasant Easter weekend were shattered by our 36-hour power failure
. But by Sunday morning things were back to normal and I prepped the meal we were originally going to have on Saturday night. The girls appeared by noon all dolled up in dresses.
Lauren had so enjoyed the 3-D Alice In Wonderland
last week that I had proposed that we dress her up to look like Alice. I would have normally photographed her in the garden but it was much too cold and rainy for that. Rebecca did her hair and the makeup (during our session Lauren had tears coming down as the makeup was bothering her). Lauren had the idea that we use a pocket watch to suggest indirectly the White Rabbit. The rabbit hand puppet was given to her mother by my Aunt Fermina Miranda back in the early 70s.
I took pictures using b+w film with my Mamiya but I also shot Fuji instant pictures which are the ones you see here.
We had a fire in the den and our dinner was a pleasant affair. It ended with my two daughters and Rosemary discussing mortgages at the dinner table while Rebecca, Lauren and I sat by the fire. I was pleasantly surprised when Rebecca asked me if she could borrow my leather-bound edition of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
illustrated by Sir John Tennile.
It was Brother Edwin Reggio, CSC who explained to me so many years ago the significance of the Easter Rabbit.
“All of you may have noticed how hares appear here and then suddenly disappear and appear there. It is the same with Christ after his Resurrection. There were rumors of him appearing here and there and of penetrating walls. All these rumors were doubted by the Apostle Thomas. As for the eggs they represent Christ’s tomb.”
As everybody went home and Rosemary and I enjoyed the luxury of a warm house and bed it occurred to me once again how nice it is to have two delightful granddaughters and how lucky I am that they are not two little boys!