A Hockey Puck From Horst On My BirthdayWednesday, August 31, 2011
|Horst Wenzel & cousin Helga, August 6, 1944, Zeven, Germany|
Birthdays for me are fraught with melancholy and yesterday (as I write this, September 1, it is the day after my birthday) was no exception. This is the first year that having fully immersed (to a certain extent) myself in facebook I received scads of “happy birthday” wishes. I will never understand what can possibly be happy about a birthday except for minors anxious not to be so and who wait for that day that makes them legal adults with drinking privileges and entry to porn movies.
It is interesting to note that Spanish for birthday is “cumpleaños” which sort of means “year fullfillment”. In Spanish a birthday then adds the idea of having carried out one more year in one’s lifetime, a year one may want to reflect on while blowing out the candles. There is less emphasis on coming into the world as more in the direction of getting ready for leaving it.
And this is something that is constantly present when I visit my friend Horst Wenzel who happily repairs my cameras with precision, aplomb and genius. I was born in Buenos Aires, August 31, 1942 and he in Zeven (between Hamburg and Bremen, far from allied bombing raids) August 6, 1939. He wore a sailor suit for his picture here taken August 6, 1944 and I had to wait (but did not necessarily want to) until I was 21 to don my Argentine Navy uniform.
Wenzel is healthy after having had one of those bypass surgery operations a few years ago. As far as I know I don’t have, yet, and live threatening diseases.
When we look at each other during my visits to his basement repair shot we think and sometimes vocalize the idea, “Who is going to go first?” I might think, “I hope he doesn’t die until I am fully retired and I do not need any of my cameras to be repaired.” He might think, “I hope he does not die before I finish my model (German) battleships because I want him to photograph them.”
|Jorge Alejandro Waterhouse-Hayward|
August 31, 1944
Martinez, Buenos Aires
I look at Wenzel’s ever constant and beautiful home renovation work as perfectly silly. I think about that in the same way all those dentists I have been going to see recommend a crown here or there. I always tell them, “You want to make me look good in an open coffin.”
In short Wenzel and I know we are not long for this world and act it almost cheerfully.
There is one big difference between us. While my kind of photography (well lit portrait photography for magazines) is obsolete, Wenzel is ever more in demand as fewer and fewer film camera repairmen still have that shingle over the door. In fact photographers send Wenzel cameras from all parts of the world for urgent repair. One in particular is the Dresden-made Noblex, swivel lens panoramic. The company has gone bankrupt (not able to compete against digital camera panoramic stitching) and replacement parts are almost nonexistent.
After my return from Texas my Noblex Pro 175 U began to fail and I knew exactly why. There is a belt in the camera’s innards that becomes hardened with age and the swivelling of the lens becomes erratic. Wenzel makes new pulleys out of a particular brand of hockey puck!
It was August 31st the morning of my birthday that Rosemary and I were to go to the PNE with Hilary, Bruce, Lauren and Rebecca. I knew I wanted my panoramic back so I called Wenzel early. He was going to the PNE, too with his wife and two grandchildren. I picked up my repaired Noblex (with that on board Canadian hockey puck) and borrowed the photograph you see here.
Later on while I was enjoying some barbecued ribs at the PNE someone tapped my on my shoulder. It was Wenzel. I knew then that this birthday blog would have to somehow include him. I hope that I have done justice to that friendship and relationship that we have had these years and also to that “relationship of death” as I like to call it.