A Fond Goodbye
Saturday, July 24, 2010
For those who insist on visiting this blog and see this I would like to clarify that I am really taking a holiday. I plan to interact with my granddaughter and to try to keep her away from computers, Wi-Fi zones and anything else that might lure her to attempt to log in to Facebook. Since today will be Saturday (as I write this on Thursday night) it means that after breakfast or perhaps even after lunch Rebecca and I will walk the short three blocks to the bus stop and catch a bus downtown. We should be there in fifteen minutes. We will walk to the state capitol where we will not run into the man you see here. He is not part of the Capitol security. He is my friend John Arnold, ex-spy, ex Marine and ex SEC Investigator. He is posing here, at the capitol (I took this last June on my last visit to Austin) in front of a large portrait of Davy Crockett.
We are not going to see John Arnold on Saturday. But sometime on Sunday, after church, he is going to take Rebecca to a shooting range and teach her the necessary mechanics (with all the precautionary details, Marine Corps style) for the shooting of a .22 caliber pistol.
I am personally not in the least attracted or enamored by guns. But since my other St. Ed’s friend Howard Houston taught Rebecca to fish on dam lake two years ago, it would seem to me that learning to shoot in Texas will be quite symmetrical.
While I am too old to run up the iron stairs of Old Main I will instruct Rebecca to do so. If she does, she just might run into my ghost. It was at least a half a century ago when I would run upa and down as fast as I could.
And this is as far as this blog will go until I return in about a week. I will write a blog for every missing day. Until then, a fond goodbye.
The City Of Austin
Friday, July 23, 2010
For those who may be reading this you should know that Rebecca and I will be on board a jet to Austin, Texas. We will be picked up at the airport (the former Bergstrom Air Force Base) by Brother Edwin Reggio, C.S.C. who has informed us to be on the lookout for a silver Toyota Matrix.
He will drive us to the St. Edward’s University campus home of the the Old Main which is where I slept, lived and learned for four years. From the picture you see here I can be noted that the architecture is definitely neo-Gothic. No bats have ever been seen to fly from it. Most bats in the Austin area prefer the South Congress Avenue Bridge.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
Travel for a photographer can be a problem. Unlike plumbers who leave the repaired kitchen sink in the home it was repaired, photographers (or at least this one) tend to want to bring everything including the kitchen sink, just in case.
Tripods are a problem. There are two kinds of tripods. One kind is heavy and sturdy. It is in essence what a tripod is supposed to be. Travel tripods are light and rickety. They are not, in essence, a tripod. If I were to open a line of credit at the bank I could perhaps purchase a Gitzo tripod made of carbon fibre. At my age no bank is going to give me a line of credit. So I have compromised on my travel tripod by using the from the neck (tripod head) down a small and light unit. And from the neck up I am using my heavy duty (and heavy) Arca Swiss Mono Head. While some 30 years ago I could have gotten a line of credit I paid, in cash, $600 for that Arca Swiss.
Since I am a film photographer, by necessity I have and additional problem. Even though I have backs (one for b+w negative and the other for Ektachrome) for my medium format Mamiya, it, the camera, is heavy and the individual lenses are heavy, too. In the past I have traveled with two Nikon FM-2s. One is for Ektachrome and the other for Plus-X. I sometimes bring a Pentax MX with a wonderful 20mm wide angle. For the Nikons I travel with an 85, 50 and 35mm lenses.
At the border or at the airport the Americans sometime unpack every individual roll of film. I must first (ever so politely) tell them, “I respectfully request visual inspection of my film.” In good airports they pass my film with handheld device that has a swab that tests for the presence of explosives.
Last year I went to Austin, Texas and then to Mike East’s ranch in South Texas. I took two Nikon FM-2s. After looking at some of the b+ws I took last year I have made a decisive change of plans.
I am traveling with a Mamiya RB with two backs, a 90mm and 50 mm lens. I am taking a Dynalite studio pack and one Dynalite head. For that head I am bringing a small 2x3 ft soft box. Just in case I am packing a Nikon FM-2 and I am only bringing b+w film for it.
In my hard suitcase have packed the Dynalite pack and head, the soft box, a compact light stand and the modified tripod. There seems to be room enough for my clothes, toiletries and the pasalubongs
(Tagalog for gifts you take to the people you are staying with).
What is amazing is that my carry on bag which is a tough black and very sturdy zippered affair that Hilary gave me many years ago has all my cameras, lenses, films, flash cords and flashmeters. Plus there are two books for reading in the plane and Rosemary got me a headset so I will not have to buy one on board.
In the pictures here you see Mike East in one of the kitchens that makes homemade food for the cowboys. In the other picture it is a tree lined mound in front of Mike’s ranch house where his father, Tom is buried. In the third you see Mike next to the de facto horse of the 21st century Texas rancher. It is the twin cab truck.
One-Upping Diane Arbus
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
For many of the years that I exhibited my photographs in local galleries I experience the Diane Arbus Effect. It seems that so sometime in July 1971 Diane Arbus immersed herself in a tub and with the help of pills and a razor committed suicide. One of the versions recounts that she had a bout of depression after a show.
I felt the same kind of depression after a show. Usually the opening would happen on a Thursday or Friday and by Saturday when no work had been sold (and the world had not changed) I felt what perhaps Arbus had felt that day in her tub. But I soon found that I one-upped Arbus by feeling depressed even before the show opened. I called it the pre-post show depression.
For me the best moment of a show happened seconds after all the work was up on the wall. From then on it was a downwards spiral. I would invite some good friends to come. One who never came to any of my shows told me, “I had to cook for my daughter.” To make matters worse there were those who I had invited who I would run into days later and would ask me, “Alex, how was the show?” I would answer something like, “It was very successful. Many people showed up.” And then I would think an obscenity I never did blurt out.
Something similar happens when I travel without my wife Rosemary. Today she insisted we go to town to buy me new socks to take on my trip to Austin. She has laid my stuff out by my suitcase and is going o press the shirts I am taking. I have to take a few long-sleeved shirts to protect me from the sun of South Texas. She has purchased bottles of maple syrup to take as gifts.
I find that I feel a melancholy and a sadness. I miss her already even though I have not left. I should be excited (and I am) about the trip but I still feel I am being overcome by this sadnes. I guess that is normal when you have been married for 42 years.
The Ghosts In Our Garden
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Last year Rebecca and I gave a talk (two days) at the first ever World Rose Convention here in Vancouver. I wrote about it here
. Today our audience will be smaller but no less interesting. Our talk will be during the monthly meeting of the Vancouver Rose Society. It is a society that has been growing strong since the late 40s but of late I notice that most of the members are at least as old as I am. There are no young people.
It is my feeling that if you get children involved, then as youths and as young adults, they will participate in these activities that seem to be relegated to old fogies like me.
Rebecca has been interested in roses because I gently got her involved from the time she was around 4. I found out that children, paradoxically, may not be interested in the cutesy of gardening but will be inclined to show interest if the explanations are historical. They can be whimsical but there has to be some reality.
It was when Rebecca was around 6 that I showed her an Angel record cover of Jacqueline du Pré. It was a recording of Dvořák’s Cello Concerto in B Minor. I played some of it and explained to Rebecca that the woman had ceased to play long before she died because she had Multiple Sclerosis. English rose grower, Jack Harkness had approached the bed-ridden du Pré in the late 80’s with some roses. She asked her to live with them and then to pick her favourite. Harkness introduced her pick in 1989 and that was the very rose that Rebecca saw in the garden. Her interest in roses began then because roses had the faces of people on them.
Sometimes those people are unknown and their names are mysterious. Such is Rosa ‘Charles de Mills’
one of Rebecca’s and my favourite roses. We sometimes wonder who Madame Pierre Oger
was to have had a beautiful Bourbon rose named after her, and yet her name is that of her husband’s. Another mysterious woman Mrs. Oakley Fisher
, at least did not have to ride on her husband's trug. Rebecca can tell you the story of other roses in her garden or in my garden. I suspect that her interest in roses will not wane because the passion is there.
Our talk tonight is called “The People In Our Garden." Many of the photographs of garden people I have photographed through the years are of gardeners who are now dead. I tell Rebecca that not only do roses remind us of people but the very people that they remind us of are sometimes ghosts in our garden.
Contemplation & Jingly Spurs
Monday, July 19, 2010
Sometime on Friday afternoon Rebecca and I will deplane at at the former Bergstrom Air Force Base and now the Austin, Texas airport. We will be met by Brother Edwin Reggio, CSC (seen here a couple of years ago with Rebecca when we visited St. Edward’s University). Brother Edwin will then drive us to St. Joseph Hall on the St.Ed’s University campus. It was here, in the venerable neo-Gothic main building that I attended high school for four years in the last half of the 50s. Then St. Joseph’s Hall was the inner sanctum of my teachers. It was verboten to even attempt to enter the place.
Last year at my high school reunion (all years beginning when the school opened in the 19th century (few if any from those classes showed up!) I had a chance to go into that inner sanctum. The school closed around in 1967 and the main building was incorporated to the ancillary university which was then also run by Brothers of the Holy Cross. There are fewer brothers now but the university is a de facto secular university with a liberal Catholic approach much like its sister university in Indiana, Notre Dame University.
St. Joseph’s hall is inhabited by older Brothers of the Holy Cross. The food, cooked by a most friendly Mexican/American is very good. The company is excellent and the conversation at the dinner table is always interesting. I look forward to Rebecca interacting with my former teacher (the last one still alive) and the other brothers who were all specialists in some field.
We will be there for three days and we will explore the city, which is different to the one I left in 1961. On Monday we will fly to Harlingen where we will be picked up by a boot and jingly-spurred cowboy called Mike East who will drive us to his ranch. Today I called his partner Letty who informed me that it was 108 degrees Fahrenheit. The lingua franca at the ranch is good Mexican Spanish so I hope that the immersion into that language will profit Rebecca.
In this ranch, little cookhouses are dispersed over its large area. Cowboys have their chow there. Tortillas are made by hand ( I tried some last year and I could no stop) and the food is scrumptious. I hope that Mike will take us to one of those cookhouses. On the other hand breakfast at the ranch is a huge affair with eggs, beans, oatmeal, toast and loads of coffee.
Mike’s living room is a living museum with large stuffed heads of longhorns on the walls and with beautiful 19th century peacemaker Colts and Remington rifles on the wall. On the long corridor to the bedrooms the walls have old photographs that represent the history of Texas as lived by Mike’s ancestors.
It is my hope that some of the portraits that I take this time around might someday grace the walls of that corridor.
A Waning Albertine On A Sunday Afternoon
Sunday, July 18, 2010
Sunday was a quiet day without the girls. We had been with them on Saturday so we were off the hook (reluctantly on our part) for the day. Rosemary spent most of the day puttering in the garden while I worked on Rebecca’s and my lecture, The People in Our Garden which we are going to give to the Vancouver Rose Society on Tuesday. For the lecture I prepared a basic PowerPoint so I had to scan my 6x7cm transparencies so I can use a digital projector. The reason for this is that I have no easy way of projecting the rose scans except with that digital projector.
Rebecca was reluctant but I picked her up in the evening so that we could go through a trial run. We have to speak for about 45 minutes.
Because it was Sunday today and we have an odd-numbered address it was our day to water between 7 and 10 in the evening. I have a very efficient sprinkler and I use it on the boulevard as not only does the sprinkler get the boulevard lawn but also the back of Rosemary’s perennial bed and the area under the thuja which never gets water even when it rains.
In the picture here, taken with my iPhone the sprinkler is right by the rambling rose, Rosa ‘Albertine’ which is on its waning days after a glorious June. It only blooms once so I will have to prune it soon to get blooms next year. Pruning it is something I have to do with extreme care as this rose (and fragrant she is) has vicious thorns. I use gloves and I make sure I wear my glasses.