A Telescope, A Spent .45 Caliber Cartridge & The Red Door At St. Ed'sThursday, June 02, 2011
That Dolores, as most of us who know her call her, happens to live in Austin is a something I could hardly believe when her brother and my first cousin Robin Humphrey told me a couple of months ago.
In a hazy in my mind mid 80s I remember going to Austin, from Houston, with Stephen Burdick (St. Ed’s High School class of 1961) in his girlfriend’s brand new BMW with an early on board computer. Dolores insists I stayed at the Stephen Austin Hotel on Congress Avenue at 5th Street. I had forgotten but Burdick in last week’s all classes reunion confirmed it. Somehow I had met Dolores for coffee and a few years after she disappeared moving to San Antonio and North Carolina.
Dolores has been part of my life in small segments of time that for reasons that I cannot explain happened in times of my life that I could not possibly forget.
Her mother often criticized her beautiful daughter (she may be a few months older or younger than I but when directly asked Dolores will answer, “That information is locked in the vaults.”) for not being smart and would say so in most unkind ways. I disagreed as intelligence comes in many forms. Dolores’ perspicacity was one that in former times of unpolitical correctness would have been called a practical and womanly intelligence. Dolores’ intelligence was one that could not be separated from her passionate heart – a passionate and intensely feeling heart. If anything that passionate heart made her a woman which in spite of the fact we compared to Marilyn Monroe because of her shapely body, was more like Elizabeth Taylor in her tendency to tackle multiple marriages. I asked Dolores how many times she had been married and her answer was all about that locked vault. I do know that her last husband was the love of her life and when he died she was left empty for a long time.
The next morning when I called her Dolores told me that she had no car and I would have to take the bus. Later on she told me that her car had been repaired and that she would try to drive to St. Ed’s. And she did. She arrived in a red Mercedes called Scarlett (after Vivien Leigh!).
|Dolores in Scarlet|
We had hamburgers at Ragsdale Center. We drank glasses and glasses of iced tea (she unsweetened). We connected. Her Spanish is flawless. We talked of her former boyfriends of which I had somehow met a few. I mentioned Brito the tall and handsome but somewhat scary man who had visited her when she was staying with us in Mexico City for a few weeks sometime in the early 60s. I told her that our Abuelita did not like him at all and she tried her best to make him leave quickly every time he came over. Dolores simply told me, “Let me show you this.” From her purse she removed a very little clear plastic box. Inside was a spent .45 caliber cartridge.
|Dolores on the roof, Avenida Insurgentes Sur|
This was her story: "Do you remember the Hotel María Isabel on Paseo de la Reforma by the statue of El Angel? The hotel was built especially to be finished for a forthcoming visit by President Kennedy. Brito came over and threw the cartridge at me. He said, ‘This proves my love for you. The man who has this bullet in his gut had looked at you and that is not permitted.’ "
It seems that Brito had shot the man in point blank range in the lobby of the hotel.
In happier and somewhat less complicated times, perhaps around 1960, Dolores and I had gone to the roof of my grandmother’s and mother’s apartment on Avenida de los Insurgentes Sur in Mexico City with my telescope.
I had built the reflecting type telescope, it had a four inch mirror, from Edmund Scientific parts back in my sophomore year at St. Ed’s. With it I had looked at the moon, the planets and the stars from the large windows of the West Dormitory. I was so proud of my telescope that I had asked Richard Todd, a handsome boy who looked like Ricky Nelson to pin stripe it.
My grandmother approved of our astronomical interests but was not aware that our interests were baser. Next door to our apartment there was a fairly nice house that sold patio furniture in its front garden (Dolores with a smile told me in the cafeteria, “I never noticed that they sold any of it.”). The house was a clandestine house of ill repute. As soon as we were on the roof we swung the telescope down and peered into the windows where we would spy seedy looking old and fat men being entertained by scantily clad women. We never say any action as the curtains were invariably drawn. But we had our hopes. It was during the day that I snapped the Ektachrome of Dolores with my Pentacon-F with its F-2.8 Zeiss Tessar lens.
|Richard Todd, 1958/59|
Some time later in the middle of the night there was a loud banging at our door. My grandmother went downstairs and when she opened it she found a drunken man who was delighted to see her and called her madam. He wanted to come in. I think it was then that Abuelita caught on why it was the house next door never sold any lawn furniture.
I find it so amazing that the beautiful red door at the front of Old Main, a door I first entered 54 years ago with my mother, is a door where I photographed my wife Rosemary, my granddaughter Rebecca, Dolores and lastly an iPhone self portrait.
|Alex the telescope man, 1958/59|