The Optimistic Swimmer
Saturday, July 09, 2011
|Lauren at the Holiday Inn Express
Many years ago when I was a boy (very spoiled and very rude) I would complain to my mother about everything. Sometime when I was 14 a kind gentleman would pick us up at our home on Sierra Madre in the Lomas de Chapultepec section of Mexico City and take us both to the American School in Tacubaya where my mother taught physics, chemistry and algebra and where I attended the 6th grade. The car pool made getting to the school a lot easier.
The gentleman had a lovely (it looked odd in those days, but he was extremely proud of it ) Raymond Loewy designed 1953 Studebaker. I remember distinctly complaining about the lack of legroom in the back and actually saying,” I think this car is ugly.”
In short I was not a terribly adorable young boy and my mother had to wait until I was 21 (I had returned for a short holiday from my stint in the Argentine Navy) to tell me, “As your mother I have always loved you but I had no obligation to like you. But now you seem to have changed and I feel that I can say that I do like you.”
My mother one day offered me the joke of the set of young twins who went down on Christmas Eve to open their gifts. One was an optimist and the other was a pessimist. The pessimist rejected his brand new red tricycle saying that it was dangerous and that he would fall and break his skull. The optimist opening a bag full of horse shit was running, all excited, around the house looking for his pony.
In our trip returning from Texas we stopped in the little town of Shiprock, New Mexico which is really a town populated mostly by Navajos. I wanted to see the striking basalt structure for which the town is called as it was central to many of the novels of Tony Hillerman (I have read them all). The town offered only three places to dine. These were KFC, McDonald’s and Burger King. Earlier that morning the girls had not wanted to wake up for the largish breakfasts that are now offered as part of the package for staying the night in hotels near interstate highways. I knew they would be angry. I asked Rebecca if she had a choice. There was no answer as she was slumbering. We then asked Lauren who opted for the Burger King.
|Lauren at the Santa Fe Ranch
When Rebecca woke up she protested on our choice. When we arrived, within minutes she said, “This place sucks, it has no Wi-Fi.” Since Rebecca had facebook in her iTouch I could understand her complaint.
Having Wi-Fi and or high speed internet was of supreme importance to Rebecca in whatever hotel we stayed. For Lauren her needs were a tad simpler. All she wanted was a swimming pool. Some of the hotels had nice outdoor pools but most (particularly the Holiday Inn Express) had indoor pools lit by dawn-of-the-dead florescent units. But as long as Lauren could swim she did not mind. This forced me to accompany her and even swim a few laps which is good exercise for my increasingly painful arthritis.
Time will tell if Lauren the optimist will grow up a bit and become the complainer that her grandfather once was.
In Praise Of The Malibu
Friday, July 08, 2011
This blog has had an uncommon dedication to our “new” 2007 Chevrolet Malibu (the V-6 version). It’s final test and vindication that we did well to finally buy a domestic car was its stellar performance in our almost 10,000 KM drive to South Texas. It never gave us a complaint and it took the sometimes 9 hour drives with aplomb. I almost got the impression that the V-6 was coasting. In Texas we had some 43 degree days. The Malibu’s air conditioner kept us cool and crisp even after parking the car in the heat of the noon day to buy drinks or fill the gas tank.
In many of the interstate highways the posted speed of 75MPH meant that one could exceed it by five more. It took me a while to adjust that the car was cruising effortlessly at 80MPH! I soon got the hang of using the cruise control and it and my driver’s seat made the driving fun and painless.
But never ever travel with three women. The trunk was full to the point that I had to almost shoe horn some items to close the trunk. Every evening the trunk had to be unloaded and the task of re-arranging it the next morning was something I did not look forward to.
Rosemary brought five pairs of shoes. I put some of them around the spare tire compartment as well as the hair dryer that never had to be used. It did not take long before Rosemary asked for the particular pair of shoes that was with the wheel and I had to unload everything.
The girls either watched films on the laptop in the back seat or Lauren would watch a movie and Rebecca would listen to music on her iPod. I rarely played music on the car’s sound system. I liked the noise of the road and the quiet of the big sky and the expansive horizon. Driving was fun and it never felt like a chore. The girls and Rosemary did a lot of sleeping. I enjoyed the company of my Malibu and the feel of her ever so tight steering. The years of whining Buick Dynaflow transmissions and uncertain steering are long gone!
The two girls soon got tired of my hauling them out of the car to pose by it for another Malibu picture in Moab, or in Santa Rosa, or in Abilene or Butte. I could fill blogs for the next month with such pictures. But I will not. But there are these here which I took with my iPhone and which I particularly like. The equivalents taken with the film cameras will have to wait for me to process them or to scan them.
No matter how much I praised my Malibu most people simply stared at me as if I were crazy. Praising a Jaguar or a Maserati might be understandable, but a Malibu?
The Malibu (a later post will explain how it was finally named by a friend in Burnet, Texas!) got us there and brought us back without a hitch. I could not ask for more. It did so elegantly, quietly and with not a hint of protest.
|Vermilion Cliffs, Arizona
No, I could not ask for more.
The van der Pol Oscillator & Rebecca In Bryce Canyon
Thursday, July 07, 2011
In 1975 I was working for Tilden-Rent-A-Car in Vancouver. “In Canada it’s Tilden,” I was told to say when I answered the phone. Winter Sundays were days when nobody came to rent cars. I attempted to read but the manager would then make me wash windows or sweep and mop floors. It was then that I learned that sitting on my bench and looking out of the window gave me the opportunity to do lot’s of thinking. It was one of those slow Sundays when I noticed that two cars, parked in front of the long gone and lamented cheap beer hotel, the Ritz, on Alberni Street, had their four way flashes going. I noticed that every once in a while, both cars’ lights would flash in unison. But the moments were fleeting and the lights would then blink in complete discord. I knew enough mathematics to figure out that a couple of sine waves plotted on a graph would coincide at nodal intervals and that I could then predict when the lights would behave in simultaneous unity. Moments later I found a parallel between the lights and human relationships.
A couple of months ago my granddaughter Rebecca made an uncharacteristically intimate question. She asked me why it was that when you liked someone, that someone would like somebody else. I cited the flashing lights on Alberni Street and she seemed to understand. Soon enough the young man in question dumped his girlfriend and directed his interests to my granddaughter.
In some way all human relationships, between friends, between brothers and sisters and, as I have come to understand, between grandparents and their grandchildren, are all subject to the flashing lights.
When my granddaughter was 6 I was adored and her company was one that I treasured. She would pose for my camera with a perfectly straight face. My friends and relatives would ask me why it was that Rebecca never smiled. I told them that she had never offered to do so, so I had become accustomed to her beautiful but almost off-putting and penetrating stare.
During out trip to Texas in the Malibu which ended this past Sunday, her smiles were limited to watching movies in the laptop in the car’s back seat or when chatting with her friends on facebook either on her iTouch (which I bought for her a year ago) and with the laptop which I asked her father to provide us with!
At all other times there was look of melancholy.
Few, if any of us, can look back and try to remember what it was like when we were 13. I cannot. But I don’t think that my life was as complicated as Rebecca's. It had fewer options. I could go to the movies or watch b+w television. My music of the day was jazz, and perhaps only in this was I different from the norm.
It was when I was 21 and in the Argentine Navy that I finally realized that the desire to conform was suddenly anathema. We conscripts would bend our German submariner type caps to suit our efforts to not look exactly like everybody else. I wore expensive sunglasses and carried and equally expensive black leather brief case. I did not look like the average conscript. Perhaps at age 13 I conformed and even did my best not to stand out.
My Rebecca, like the girls of her age, listens to the same music. To my uneducated ears the singers all seem to be women who drone on with rhythms that are obsessive and repetitive. The all sound like Deborah Harry at her worst.
When I was "fixing up" the startling picture of Rebecca staring at Bryce Canyon, Utah I though of a little essay by David Colman from Sunday, July 10th, Sunday Styles section of the New York Times. It is about a device that James Gleick owns. Gleick, the former NY Times reported and editor who wrote a beautiful (and even short) biography on Isaac Newton has a van der Pol oscillator. The machine is designed to make noise. It starts with a simple tone, which as one turns the dial that gradually increases the frequency, jumps up to a higher tone. Not quite regularly. In between tones, as the pitch gets highter, there is the unmistakable sound of scratchy noise. What is the connection between Balthasar van der Pol’s oscillator and life (and music, and just about everything else)?
Gleick says, “ A piece of music is boring if it’s completely predictable, and boring if it’s completely unpredictable. What we respond to aesthetically as humans is a mixture of order and disorder.”
Or as David Colman deftly summarizes, “ In short, the van der Pol oscillator is a clamorous rebuttal to the popular notion that all things, from people to nations to galaxies, are supposed to exist in some state of serene harmony. But it doesn’t take an oscilloscope to see that reality contains both concord and discord. If it’s true peace of mind you’re after, you have to make room for the noise.”
As Rebecca grimly stared at my iPhone camera in Bryce Canyon in Utah I felt confused. But I now understand that I must be patient and just wait for the oscillating to happen in my direction much like those two cars in front of the Ritz. Sooner or later Rebecca and I will flash together!
An Inspiring Spot At The Santa Fe Ranch
Wednesday, July 06, 2011
|Lauren in South Texas at the Santa Fe Ranch, iPhone photo
Yesterday, July 24 Rosemary and my two granddaughters Rebecca and Lauren returned from our 9000km trip to South Texas. I had high hopes that I was going to be able to post pictures from my iPhone via facebook and from there to my blog but this only worked once. After that my iPhone, the photo app CP Pro and facebook ceased to communicate. My frustration lasted a couple of days when I finally realized it was all for the best. This does not mean that I will not post 20 blogs for the 20 days we were on the road or at Mike East’s Santa Fe Ranch in South Texas. What I plan to do is to randomly write something every day using pictures from the many cameras that I took in those days.
|Pentax MX, 20mm lens, Kodak Ektachrome 100G
For the trip I took two Nikons, and FM-2 and an FM. One was loaded with Kodak Plus X b+w and the other with a no-name (probably Konica) expired 24 exposure, 800 ISO colour negative film. I like the look of this film with its almost garish colours and grain. I had a third camera, a Pentax MX with only one lens, a fantastically corrected 20mm F-4 lens. In this camera I loaded it with Kodak Exktachrome 100G. I took a medium format Mamiya RB-67. In one back I used the last of my Kodak Plus X (Kodak has discontinued this film in 120 size) plus the not yet discontinued Ilford FP-4. I used this camera to take portraits in b+w of the cowboys I met working at the Santa Fe Ranch.
If this were not enough I also took my swivel lens panoramic Noblex which takes two and a quarter inch by 7 inch negative or slide. I sometimes used the FP-4 and sometimes Kodak Ektachrome 100G. Finally I used my iPhone for snaps but I must point out that the CP Pro App that my friend Paul Leisz recommended I download from iTunes has vastly improved the look of my often primitive looking iPhone shots.
During the whole trip I was hampered by extreme heat (up to 44 degrees Celsius) so I had to be careful where I stored the film. I opted to place it under my driver’s seat as it was always cool as the Malibu has a most efficient air conditioner. In the evenings I would store the film in our hotel fridge.
Another problem was the iffy loading procedure of the Noblex. It simply isn’t easy and then the camera has many ways that will guarantee that your picture will be a double or even triple exposure. But worst of all was always having to remember that while the slide film and the b+w negative film was ISO 100 the colour negative was 800.
|Nikon FM, 24mm lens, ISO 800 neg film
Last year when I took Rebecca to the Santa Fe Ranch I photographed her by one of my favourite spots there. This is a hill, barely a hill, with some trees for shade, opposite the main house of the ranch where Mike East’s father, Tom East
is buried. Rebecca objected to going there as Mike had warned us to be careful as rattlesnakes might be lurking. We never noticed any but the bugs were aplenty and Rebecca complained that she just might be bitten not only by mosquitoes but by the terrible Texas chiggers. The resulting photographs
, in spite of all of Rebecca’s objections, pleased me.
This year I decided to not pursue the idea of taking more pictures of Rebecca. A year later her temper has not improved for the better. I asked Lauren if she would pose for me. Her objections were manifold but in the end she did not only grant me the opportunity but she even carried my tripod in the stifling 42 degree heat. I took pictures with every camera I had. Here (until I process all the b+w) are three pictures, taken with the Nikon (the 800ISO colour negative film), the Pentax and the 20mm lens with Kodak Ektachrome 100 G and the last one with the iPhone.
Me & My Malibu & Bugs On The Windshield
Tuesday, July 05, 2011
Me and my Malibu near the Washington Oregon border.
Fourth Of July At Point Roberts & The Three Rose Princesses
Monday, July 04, 2011
As we prepare for our trip to Texas I feel most exhausted today July 4, 2011. In a day that we should have spent in final preparations, I instead took Rebecca and Lauren to Point Roberts. Vancouver/Point Roberts rosarian, Linda Marie Bruce had invited the two girls to be rose princesses at the 4th of July parade at the point that just happens to be inside the United States of America. I could not say no to such a kind offer as the prospect of some good old fashioned patriotism of the friendly kind was too good to miss. And so it was.
The two girls were joined by Linda’s niece’s daughter Madison (all the way from Orange County just to be in the parade!). The three in lovely dresses complete with tiaras and long white gloves sat in the back of Bill’s (I forgot to get his last name) 1947 Ford Monarch convertible. The parade was all good fun and many of the Canadians residents of the point joined in on the festivities.
After the parade we had hot dogs, curly fries and soft drinks at the lighthouse. As we left Rebecca smiled in my direction and told me that the whole morning was an auspicious beginning to our holiday in the good old USA!
|Linda & Bill, the 47 Ford Monarch
As we were walking to join the floats I spotted roses growing amongst thistles, weeds and tall grass. One of the roses was a fragrant yellow one which Linda said was probably the English Rose Graham Stuart Thomas. That the delicate looking rose could grow in such a tough location and so near the beach with sand and hot sun attests that not all delicate looking things are necessarily delicate.
Because I knew that I would have to post this blog on the eve of our next adventure I made sure I had some photos to place here. My iPhone is not able to handle the high contrast situation of a sunny day. Lauren concurs and had I known I would have brought sun glasses for here. She is most sensitive to light. The picures I took with the "better" film camera will have to wait.
|Lauren, Madison & Rebecca
Felis catus domesticus sapiens sapiens 'Plata'
Sunday, July 03, 2011
|Plata - Felis domesticus sapiens sapiens
In our efforts to pack efficiently Rosemary has dedicated Hilary’s former room as a staging area (there are two beds there) for what we are taking to the Santa Fe Ranch. Sometimes (and more these days) Plata sleeps in a chair in that room and only transfers herself to our bed in the latter part of the night. I am convinced she knows. Today (and I am cheating as I am writing this blog on July 5) as I pack the Malibu Plata is visibly disturbed. I would go as far as saying she is paranoid (I have a degree in psychiatry from F.W. Woolworth’s as my grandmother would often say).
I look at Rosemary’s Casi and he certainly resembles the inscrutability of the ancient Egyptian Sphinx. I wonder if he knows or he is simply showing a stiff upper lip (who knows Casi might have some of the Manchester blood of the Haywards) and providing Plata with a form of stability. I wonder if a three week absence by his masters will pass quickly or seem like a cat nap? Who knows? But I am convinced that Plata is on to something and I already look forward to seeing her. Whenever Rosemary or I arrive in the car she goes out to greet us and when we place our hand so high she jumps up to it like a trained seal. We will miss our felines.