A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.




 

Living With Ron Thom
Saturday, September 22, 2012

Guest Blog by Kerry McPhedran
Living with Ron Thom




Ron Thom
The late, great architect designed my wee house in the forest back in 1954, for a moonlighter’s fee of $100. His spirit still resides within its walls.

Ronnie, I never knew you. It was the third house the agent showed me that summer of 1972. We drove up the winding lane between Duchess and Esquimalt on West Vancouver’s Sentinel Hill. “It looks like a cottage,” she said, almost in apology, “but it’s an early Ron Thom house.” The name meant nothing to me, but I nodded solemnly, sensing respect.

The house was unlike anything I had ever seen before. It was low, but not like British Property ranchers. It seemed contemporary, but I knew from the listing it had been built in 1954. And it seemed to belong there, growing out of the steep ivy and fern-covered slope. Later I would learn that Thom believed “a building has to make love to a site.” The low, Japanese-style roof floated over the cedar-and-cement-block base. Glass met glass and corner windows vanished into the air.

I stepped through the grey French doors into a wonderful space. The ceiling rose to meet the pitched roofline. The hall flowed down three steps into an open living room and around the corner into the kitchen. Cedar and cement block flowed inside too. A fire burned in a great hearth, large enough to roast a lamb. A massive sculptural frieze wrapped around the 11-foot-wide fireplace. The house smelled of simmering garlic and the promise of happiness.

That spring of 1972, Watergate was heating up, the baseball season was starting and my world had just fallen apart. Dave’s sudden death at 30 in an April avalanche wrenched me into a young widow’s grief I had not known existed. And it left me the money to buy a house. Curiously, I found myself drawn closer to the mountains, where the house on Duchess waited.

Friends were puzzled when I followed the movers over Lions Gate Bridge from Kitsilano that fall. “Won’t you be nervous, alone, in that house?” Nervous of what? The worst had happened. And I wasn’t alone. Something of Dave still remained. Together we shared the house for almost a year. Then one night, reading by the fire, I realized he had gone. Just the house and I remained. Now after 18 years, there is a new ghost, thanks to Alex.

Not so long ago, Alex Waterhouse-Hayward, a photographer and friend, came to dinner, and discovered I lived in a Ron Thom house. The next week he gave me a photograph of Thom that he had taken two years before the architect died of a sudden heart attack early one November morning in 1986 at his Toronto desk. He was 61 when the photograph was taken.

The picture had a strange effect on me. I peered into the face and those penetrating eyes looked back. I examined the folded hands. I left the portrait in the envelope and put it away on a shelf. Yet I found myself drawn there occasionally, where I would smooth open the white envelope to gaze again at something disturbing and indiscernible in that face.

Alex began prodding me to write about Ron Thom. He was, after all, Canada’s finest residential architect, many would argue, and I had the unique perspective of living in one of his houses. “But I never knew him,” I resisted.

Ronald J. Thom was brilliant, charming, and in the right place for his time, although he didn’t always know it. Frustration started at an early age. He should have been a concert pianist, according to his strict mother–Canada’s second woman lawyer and a communist to boot. His Scottish-born father, an elementary school dropout, worked as a sheet metal worker and sang in the Vancouver Bach Choir. “I’ll never forget the day I looked out the kitchen window and saw my girlfriend playing baseball with a whole bunch of boys,” Thom told Globe and Mail architecture critic Adele Freedman in 1983. “Practicing piano didn’t mean a damn thing to me.”


Kerry McPhedran, photo Eve Lazarus

Drawing and painting did, and when he came back from his World War II stint as an air force navigator, he enrolled at the Vancouver School of Art. Those were heady days. The concentrated mix of talented students and staff, including B.C. Binning, Jack Shadbolt, Gordon Smith, Don Jarvis, and Molly and Bruno Bobak, created one of B.C.’s richest artistic periods.

Thom was a natural painter. “He was the scholarship winner, the best in our class,” remembers artist Gordon Smith. “He had that tremendous gift.” Then one star-crossed night, Bert Binning invited Thom and Arthur Erickson to meet Richard Neutra, the great Viennese architect who had emigrated to the United States in 1923 to make contact with Frank Lloyd Wright. The world would never be the same again for Thom. The post-war architecture boom was on. Painting went the way of the piano.

Meanwhile, one of his boyhood friends had been following a similarly winding road to architecture and to the teachers of Frank Lloyd Wright. Fred Hollingsworth, with whom Thom would later develop a unique West Coast style, found inspiration for the design of his own North Vancouver home in Wright’s famous Arizona desert house, Taliesen West. Hollingsworth was working as an apprentice for Thompson Berwick Pratt, Vancouver’s leading architecture firm, the day Thom walked through the door looking for a job. Bingo. The two friends, eschewing the more accepted college route into architecture, apprenticed side by side for the next eight years at TBP, both obsessed by the potential of applying Wright’s organic principles to the West Coast landscape.


Photography by Simon Scott

Today Hollingsworth rolls his eyes at the thought of summing up Wright’s theories in a sentence. “It’s the principle of nature–how man is part of nature and relates to nature and has got to learn to live with nature. This is popular now, but in those days it wasn’t. But we were convinced it was the right approach to life and architecture. That’s why we spend so much time working at it.”

The two apprentices were fascinated by Wright’s way of applying Japan’s formal discipline to indigenous materials. This novel approach offered Thom and Hollingsworth an enticing escape from the stale European tradition that dominated B.C. architecture up to that point. They traveled down the coast to see work done by like-minded architects: Bernard Maybeck, the Greene brothers, Richard Neutra, Pietro Belluschi and John Yeon. At night they listened to Beethoven, Bach and organic jazz.

But mostly they worked. Day and night. “I had three kids and Ronnie had two or three by his first marriage, and we were each earning about $200 a month,” recalls Hollingsworth. To supplement their income, TBP agreed to let them design small houses at home after work. “In those days, we’d design a house for $100.” Many of the 60-odd Ron Thom houses in Vancouver, dating from the ‘50s and ‘60s, were $100 midnight specials. Most are clustered in North and West Vancouver, but a few dot the Vancouver waterfront along Spanish Banks and Southwest Marine.


Photography by Simon Scott


“It was exciting. We were doing little wee houses, mostly for people with no money–usually neighbours and art school graduates and staff. Most of the reason we got clients was because we were building at less cost than anybody else. We just eliminated things. We’d leave the joists exposed in the ceiling and use cheap materials like cement blocks and concrete brick. Cedar was very cheap and so was clear hemlock. Half our buildings had straight coloured concrete floors. That sort of approach. Every once in a while we’d get a little wealthier client, so things would change a bit.”

Robin Thom, the first of Ron’s six children from two marriages, listens to this with a smile. “They worked till midnight because they were obsessed! Dad worked until 3 a.m. most of his life. I remember one couple who wanted him to design a house. Dad said okay, but the only time I can meet with you is 3 a.m. They agreed. They met with him at 3 a.m., and they got a beautiful house. Later, Dad had the chance to make big money, but money wasn’t what drove him.”

Making good buildings drove him. “Thom at his best created humane architecture, exquisitely detailed,” wrote Adele Freedman. And he loved the house. Like all great artists, he didn’t always get it right, but when he did, owners got a piece of sculpture in which they could live.


Photography by Simon Scott

My house is such a building. It is one of Thom’s “little, wee houses,” and it is named the Boyd House–after the client. The Bennett, Rogers and Forrest houses are all more splendid. My house is not even particularly well built, as Fred’s son Russell Hollingsworth pointed out to me one evening as we talked about Thom. “The curious thing about these places is that the level of finish is so poor.” He was gazing at my living room ceiling with the practiced eye of a designer/builder who grew up in the West Coast house style. He knew Ron Thom and has renovated a number of his houses. “The joiner work is rough, the nail holes are all exposed, because they were doing it on a shoestring. But the form of the building is so beautiful the finishing doesn’t even matter. This is just a great place to be in.”

Vancouver architect Paul Merrick, who worked with Thom in Toronto and knows most of his houses, believes my house is one of the best of its kind. “It’s good because it’s simple, straightforward–almost utilitarian. That’s such a beautiful thing.”

My house is also “almost singularly the reason” Merrick became an architect. “I was a boy living over the hill when it was being built, and I used to come here with my father and a friend of Ron’s to watch this wonderful space going up.”

For all the accolades, the original owners, Joan and Bruce Boyd, sold the house after only three years. The Boyds’ problem with the house was, they say, that they weren’t involved enough in the design. Even though they had been fellow art school students with Thom, they stood in awe of his talent and basically let him experiment with their $12,000 budget. The result was too heavy for them: the cement block he used was not the same as the Arizona sandstone they had admired in the $80,000 Bennett house; the dark wood walls were too dark for the two painters to work in; and the roof overhang was too low.

“Ron had this obsession with hugging the ground,” remembers Bruce Boyd. “He used to walk into a building and put his hand on top of his head and lift it up until it touched something. If the space above his head was too big, he didn’t like it and he’d lower it. We used to have to go to the edge of the window and bend down to see what kind of a day it was. I think what really decided me to move was when I noticed our cat doing the same thing.”

Those same overhangs were calculated to let the winter sun in and keep the house cool in summer– and they worked, says Boyd. “On a hot summer day, with all the French doors flung open, the house opens up like a desert tent. Fred and Ron were obsessed with Wright’s Desert House, and here you can really tell what it must have felt like.”

Now the Boyds look at photographs of the house they commissioned and wonder why they sold it. “It looks like a work of art. And I think as a piece of sculpture it really is a piece of art,” says Bruce.

Maybe that is why the house is equally fascinating upside down. In the winter, I lie on the sofa by the fire and my eyes drift across the soft, stained cedar to the angles and shadows. I know now that things that seem serendipitous are not. When I wake early on a clear winter morning, I pad out to the kitchen, knowing that one small window will frame the spectacular cone of Mount Baker, caught in the alpenglow. Did Ron face east on the lot one clear dawn, before the house was born, and marvel at that precise view? I believe so.

And I believe that although I am the third owner, and I simply stumbled upon the house, it was somehow meant for me. I find an explanation for this in UBC Director of Architecture Doug Shadbolt’s simple analysis of the different between the houses of Arthur Erickson and Ron Thom: “Ron always tried to contain space, Arthur always tries to dissolve it. As a result, Ron’s houses are always snug and cozy, while Erickson’s are elegant temples that force the client to adapt his life to the stern demands of architecture.”

When I first found this house, I needed that embrace: if not someone, then someplace to come home to. A year later, I cut down the big hedge of holly and firs to open up the garden. Punching skylights in the roof, I left light into the house and the world back into my life.

But what I missed by coming to the house late was the client education my next-door neighbours, Wally and Peggy Moult, went through. They also built themselves a Ron Thom house, a year after the Boyds did, and Peggy says she has “never fallen out of love with it.” They paid Thom $300 in fees for the design of their house plus the crash course in architecture that went along with it. Construction cost them $14,000. “We got introduced to the idea of apparent space right away,” remembers Wally. “I was the grouch–I’d ask if we couldn’t reduce the roof overhang by a foot to cut the costs.” Thom explained to the young schoolteacher that there were two types of architects: engineers and artists. The overhang was calculated to keep the summer sun out of the windows. Thom held firm on other details and the Moults are the happier for it.

A year before, on the site of my house, Bruce Boyd received a similar education. Boyd became what Thom called “the sponge.” “Whenever it looked as if we were going over budget, I worked on the house myself, building things like the wooden frames for the cement frieze over the fireplace, to soak up the extra costs.”

In the best of all worlds, Thom liked to design the furnishings too, right down to the ashtrays. He was allowed to go that far at Massey College, but generally he got only as far as advising the client on colours, wall finishes and furniture, which could be as simple as Chinese lanterns and rush matting.

As for my mix-and-match furniture, he would probably not approve–although Fred Hollingsworth tells me it doesn’t hurt the building that much. “It just doesn’t complete the picture.” Which is part of the big difference between the three friends–Hollingsworth, Thom and Erickson–who have been called the holy trinity of West Coast residential architecture.

“The only reason I exclude Arthur from a closer relationship with us is he comes out of a different, elitist school that is more synthetic than organic,” explains Hollingsworth. “His buildings have more of an ‘elegentsia’ quality, and it’s a wonderful quality if you want to live that way. I maintain it doesn’t suit life very well. If you leave things out of place in one of Arthur’s rooms, it destroys the composition altogether.”

Before writing this, I didn’t know that people like Arthur Erickson had been here, in my house. Now, when I look up from washing dishes, I see a young Paul Merrick playing fort among the cedar trees when this was just a forested lot. I imagine Fred Hollingsworth wandering by to look at the progress of the construction. And I hear Joan and Bruce laughing as Thom and the other guests stumble down the hill, as my friends still do, after “a great drunken party.”

But Thom couldn’t resist the bigger party in Toronto. When he won the prestigious Massey College competition for the University of Toronto in 1960, he was at the pinnacle of his career. The Massey design was roundly applauded, later to be described by architecture critic Michael McMordie as “simply among the best buildings in Canada . . . a remarkable anticipation of new directions in architecture.” This was the beginning of a period of praise and pain for Ron Thom.

By the time Massey was completed in 1963, Thom had left TBP, settled permanently in Toronto and started his own firm, The Thom Partnership. He went on to do the superbly sculptural buildings at Peterborough’s Trent University, the Shaw Festival Theatre, a design and master plan for the Toronto Zoo, as well as private homes including that of Murray and Barbara Frum. By bringing the West Coast regional style to the east, Thom “did something that changed the direction of Canadian architecture,” says architect Eberhard Zeidler.

“Until Arthur Erickson arrived on the scene,” echoes Toronto architect and critic George Baird, “Ron was the pivotal representative of the West Coast in Canada.” Although Ron Thom never became a household name in the way Arthur Erickson did, Thom’s brilliance as a designer remains unquestioned.

Murray Beynon, a partner in his Toronto firm, described Thom before his death as “the most natural designer I’ve ever seen. It comes so easily, so fast. He always asks the common sense questions. He gets those straight and looks for the order and logic in them. He doesn’t look at things in a tremendously complex way. Because he’s so comfortable in the artistic sense, he doesn’t feel he has to focus on that.”

Ned Pratt called him one of the “only two architects Canada has ever spawned who design from the neck down. They have an Elizabethan mix of heart and mind. I’m sick to death or architecture from the neck up.” The other, according to Pratt, was Paul Merrick.

But neck-down architecture was tough for Thom to sustain in Toronto, with the demands of running a large practice seriously cutting into his time at the drawing board. He also experienced frustration with increasing bureaucratic controls. “With this fact of life comes the separation of the artist/architect and the client/clients, the weakening of the precious exchange: request and reaction,” he wrote in The Canadian Architect in the late ‘70s.

Russell Hollingsworth looks back to the ‘50s when, as a kid of seven, he watched Thom at his drawing table in a little house in Lynn Valley. “He was happy then, maybe the happiest he ever was.” Russell thinks some of Thom’s later anguish arose from the loss of control over design that inevitably comes with a big firm. “When you hand drawings off to people to do it for you, you give up something, and that’s the frustration Ron felt. You can’t do a really great house and hand it off to somebody. You’ve got to spend a lot of time on the drawing board. A good building invents new details.”

The problem ran deeper than that. “Ron was a man in very considerable pain. I think that’s why he drank,” says Paul Merrick. “He had peculiar preoccupations like always wanting to be accredited by and accepted by the establishments. Ron got the Order of Canada for God’s sake, but he never graduated from university and he always felt a lack for not having done that.”

Journalist and loyal client Barbara Frum recalled after his death, “He could never accept the fact that he never had the right certificates. He always thought he was a fraud.”

Merrick saw Thom the week before he died in November, 1986. “In his last days he wondered if anybody on this earth cared about him. And there were 700 people at his funeral.”

Thom was in Vancouver that week, and he told Merrick he wanted to move back to the coast. “He didn’t want to get into the practice, he just wanted a desk where he could work n the background. And that’s what we were structuring . . . . In some ways, he was a lamb trying to live in lion’s clothing. Anybody who knew him at all well always said, when the hell are you coming back to the rain forest? In his nature and spirit he was a West Coast person, and yet he subjected himself to Toronto and big government and big business. He felt unless he could command that kind of arena, he wasn’t successful as an artist.”

Ron Thom came back to the coast. His family and friends scattered his ashes in the Pacific near Lighthouse Park in West Vancouver.

I like to think of a happier day back in the ‘50s, and a different body of water. Fred Hollingsworth and Thom were studying for their architectural exams after eight years of apprenticing at Thompson Berwick Pratt. “Ronnie phoned and said ‘I’ll pick you up in the morning,’” remembers Hollingsworth. “‘Fine,’ I said, ‘but Ron, please be on time. I don’t want to be driving out there late, worrying about a design problem I haven’t seen yet.’ He didn’t come early. Going down Capilano Road he starts to tell me an Indian legend. I said, ‘Ronnie, I really can’t worry about an Indian legend this morning.’ ‘Well,’ he said, ‘we’ve got to stop on the way at Beaver Lake in Stanley Park and dip our hands in the lake above our wrists. If we do, we’ll pass.’ I said that’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. But we went. It’s kind of marshy and muddy on the edge. Ronnie said kneel down, and I said no, I don’t want to get my pants dirty. So we’re both standing at the edge, leaning over, trying to get our wrists in the water, and we both fall in. He laughed like crazy. He said, ‘Jeez, we can’t fail now! We’ve got our feet in the water, too!’”

Fred laughs. “Ronnie was a charming guy. A wonderful, wonderful guy. No one who met Ron Thom ever forgot him.”

A decade ago, while beachcombing on Erwin Drive, I stumbled onto a waterfront Ron Thom house. I knocked on the door and asked if they would ever sell. “Oh, no,” they said laughing, “but come in and have tea and look at the house.” Yesterday I learned they were still there. I called and asked why they have stayed happily in their house for 30 years. Without hesitation, Scipio Merler answered, “It’s home. Ron Thom designed a home for us.”

I have come close to leaving my home only once, but fate turned and I stayed. I know it is only a building, and if there comes reason to I will pass the house on again, as it was passed to me. In the meantime, I am content. Thom’s portrait is framed now. What was once disturbing and indiscernible is gone in that face. And each time I return home and walk through the front door into the house that Ron built, in some inexplicable way, perhaps for only a moment, I am at peace.

In an interview three years before his death, Ron Thom said, “You know what makes me happy? You work through something with somebody–say, their house–and really, it’s just like you were born together or something. They still live in what you did for them, and they’re still happy. They never forget you.”

Even the ones who never knew you, Ron.

Originally published in Western Living, October 1990
It won a Western Magazine Award for author.

Ron Thom house for sale

The Boyd House by Eve Lazarus

 Ron Thom, a glimpse into a man's soul .



Post Card Design by Graham Walker




















M's Birthday Party
Friday, September 21, 2012


M's birthday party

Some twenty, or so, years ago a mysterious woman who went by the name of M (she did not give me more than that) called me up and asked me if I “did birthday parties.”

I had arrived to Vancouver in 1975 vowing to become a highfalutin photographer. I had made a promise to myself that I would never photograph weddings, babies or pornography. It is now 2012 and I have to admit I photographed two weddings. One of them was Joey Shithead’s and the other was Susan Musgrave saying her marriage vows to a convicted bank robber at the Aggazis maximum security prison. Of babies I can only say that I have taken not quite hundreds of rolls of my two granddaughters from just about their beginning. Of the latter, pornography, I have tried very hard to shoot it but in the end my unavoidable and or inherent good taste transforms it all too just sexy, of the tasteful, ugh, kind!


But when M called about my snapping her birthday party I balked. I told my wife about it. Without saying anything Rosemary looked at me with those “we need the money” eyes. I went to M’s house.

There I was told by a bunch of pleasant looking women that what they all had in common is that in youth they had all been Girl Guides and they often had reunions where they chatted, played bridge and munched on Girl Guide cookies.

I felt a bit uncomfortable because there was only one other man present. I took my snaps. I noticed that the girls were getting rowdy and happy. Had someone spiked their punch?





M 7 the girls

Suddenly I was aware that the one man was gone. The girls looked at me and in unison said, “When are you going to take your clothes off?” I stammered something like, “I think there has been a misunderstanding here.” I quickly packed and went home. I did not collect for my services. This is the first time that M’s pictures have seen the light of day.




Alex, Brother Cadfael, Casi-Casi & A Warm Bench
Thursday, September 20, 2012



Rosa 'Brother Cadfael'

Winter is not a pleasant season for me. As I get older (and older) I am attracted to heat and enjoy feeling hot. When it is hot, paradoxically it is when I feel the most active.

I have always been able to handle intense heat with aplomb. I remember that as a young Argentine Navy conscript it was up to an idiot admiral to inform us that it was no longer winter and that we could switch from the heavy dark blue woolens to the much lighter cotton whites. Temperatures in Buenos Aires can rise to the 30s in spring and the nearby Río de la Plata makes intensifies the effect with high humidity. My fellow sailors observed that I didn’t seem to sweat.

Our garden is a shady one now and by early afternoon I can feel the nip in the air. Some afternoons my Rosemary asks me to switch on the furnace. I do not object.

My English Roses are re-blooming and giving me one last show. But few, with their dense petal structure, are able to open up. There is simply not enough heat and sun. They ball up and look like ping-pong balls. But here are a couple of sweet smelling Rosa ‘Brother Cadfael’ informing me that perhaps there may be a few more sunny and warm days when Casi-Casi (Rosemary’s cat) and I can sit on the garden bench and soak up some heat. The last sunny area in the garden at about 5 is not coincidentally, near Brother Cadfael.




Down South - Point Mistake
Wednesday, September 19, 2012




Boundary Bay, Point Roberts, Washington, August 1995

Sometime at the end of 1974 I found myself in the Canadian Embassy in Mexico City. I was going through the paper work so that Rosemary, my Canadian wife, and our two daughters, Alexandra and Hilary, born in Mexico and I could move up to the Promised Land that Vancouver in Canada was supposed to be. And indeed, from my vantage point of today, that was the case.




At the embassy there was a very tall, slim and most sophisticated woman who was going through some paper work. My guess at the time was that she was a Canadian tourist in some sort of fix. That was not the case. She was there to visit a boy friend who somehow had landed in jail. The woman, as soon as she found out I was headed for Vancouver, introduced herself as Dorothy Barkley and told me that as soon as I arrived to Vancouver, (she added that I would fall in love with the place) she would show me around.


Dorothy Barkley, late 1970s

When we arrived in Vancouver, driving up on Kingsway in our Arctic blue VW beetle we settled in a motel and I immediately called Barkley.

Back in Mexico I was the proud owner of two massive Acoustic Research speakers that with the help of a friend who worked at the Mexican state petroleum company (PEMEX) I had smuggled from the US as oil pumps.

Rosemary told me to sell them as she said I could buy them again for a song in Vancouver. She was wrong. The AR-3As were much more expensive in Canada.

Barkley was helpful and as soon as we were settled down in a townhouse in Burnaby she invited us to visit her at her mother’s cabin in Boundary Bay in Point Roberts, Washington. For those who do not know this is a small peninsula that juts out from Canada past the 49th Parallel in the waters of the inside passage and are part of the United States even though access to it is either via boats or by car through Canada. Point Roberts and its pretty beach on Boundary Bay is a hamlet that is populated by many retired Canadians and by Americans who enjoy a bucolic existence in the laid back small town.








Yours truly, who had left Mexico with all its corruption and bribery for a life in a place were honesty prevailed purchased two AR-3A speakers in the US and had them delivered to the Barkley cabin. When these speakers arrived I drove them, one at a time, (in the front storage compartment of my mid-engined Fiat X-19 which also had a trunk in the back, through Canadian Customs.




I sweated blood and swore I would never, ever smuggle again. My promise was broken in the late 80s and 90s when I expertly wrapped rare hostas in newspapers and brought them in airplane trips to the US or placed them under the spare tire in the trunk of our car.




We spent many lazy weekends at the cabin and I remember how the girls, Ale and Hilary would walk to the nearby corner store to buy Butterfingers and Charleston Chew. After lunch, if the tide was out we would walk on the beach and splash through the tidal pools and soak the sun.



Once they girls became teenagers we never returned. I returned in August of 1995 with writer Jim Christy who wrote a story called Point Mistake (a cover article for the Georgia Straight). This is what he wrote about the geographic mistake that Point Roberts is:


Liberty Wine Store, 1995


In 1791 Francisco Elisa did see the peninsula while sailing by, but called it Isla de Zepeda. The next year Galiano and Valdez, being more discerning, named it Punta Cepeda. They were soon followed by Captain George Vancouver, who on June 12, 1792 called it after his friend Lieut. Henry Roberts.

In 1846, the Americans and the British signed a treaty establishing the international boundary. A short while later, the oddity of Point Roberts was discovered, but it was assumed the Americans would give it back. Point Roberts could be of no use to them. As British survey commissioner J.S. Hawkins put it, “Of Point Roberts it is not necessary to say much.”

Nobody did say much, and they did even less of the place. The Americans didn’t get around to returning it, and the British didn’t ask for it back. Nobody knows why. My own theory is that the British could have had the Point back at any time until 1871 and the Treaty of Washington, which established the border through the nearby islands. But the Civil War had only been over for a few years, and the Americans were smarting because the British had aided the Confederacy. So they kept the point for spite, and it was populated by squatters, smugglers, and, in the 1890s, by Icelandic settlers.




A week ago, out of the blue Dorothy Barkley sent me an email invitation and to my friend Paul Leisz (whom I first met at the cabin in 1975 and is my first and dearest Canadian friend) to visit with her at the cabin. We returned this Sunday. The place has not changed too much but the little grocery store is gone. We were sitting on the same lawn chairs we had occupied so many years back with Paul, Dorothy and two girls, a blonde and a brunette. Except, that this time, they were not our daughters but our granddaughters.



The afternoon was special. We raided the American supermarket and declared it at the border. The Canadian Customs Officer waved us by. My trunk had nothing in it that I had not declared. It felt good.








Rebecca Stewart, Boundary Bay, September 16, 2012

Lauren Stewart, Boundary Bay, September 16, 2012

Alexandra Waterhouse-Hayward, Boundary Bay, 1976


Boundary Bay, August 1995





Lauren Stewart On Superia
Tuesday, September 18, 2012




Sometimes I believe in the photographic version of movie cross casting. In cross casting you choose the wrong actor to play the part with the idea than a new focus might be brought in to what might seem like an old and conventional part. If the actor (or actress) fails then the actor (or actress) is said to be miscast.

An example of this would be Michael Caine who played, famously, the unnamed hero of his spy thrillers. For the purpose of pleasing the ignorant populace the unnamed hero was given the name of Harry Palmer. Anybody who knows would have thought that the cool, collected and internal Christopher Plummer would have been superb. That would have been the case except that Plummer turned the role down and Michael Caine became the Caine we know by playing Harry Palmer to perfection.

To go on Sunday to Boundary Bay in Point Roberts and to take a Nikon FM loaded with Fujifilm Fujicolor Superia (sound like a car!) rated at1600 ISO would seem crazy as the day was beautiful and full of the unwanted contrast that such a day brings to portraits. Nonetheless I am pleased how my 10-year-old granddaughter Rebecca Anne Stewart looks in this picture. She is the sophisticated little girl she is choosing to become.




Rebecca At Boundary Bay On Sunday
Monday, September 17, 2012



The folks at Blogger have removed my access to my custom blog without any explanation. Pretty well nowhere on the internet does Blogger (Google) acknowledge that there is an issue. My ability to talk to a human at Blogger is more remote than that of contacting St. Peter to connect me to President Dwight Eisenhower. The age of communication is rapidly becoming not. What this means is that I cannot write cutlines or move my pictures around as much as I could to make my blog resemble a magazine.



My iPhone 3G At Neverland Burlesque
Sunday, September 16, 2012



Scarlet Delirium's excellent fan dance
 
In the 70s and 80 I went to alternative scene/punk rock concerts with much frequency. My two daughters stopped asking me where I was going when I put on black jeans, a black T-shirt (The Subhumans, D.O.A., Young Canadians, etc) and slipped into my big john boots with steel toes. I also wore a black leather jacket that few knew I had purchased at Sears. The only jarring element was my then pipe which I would puff while taking pictures of the concerts.



Design by Jim Cummins
 Arriving home at around two in the morning Rosemary would not complain that I reeked of smoke. Since I didn’t drink, at least I was sober.

But once the 90s arrived I retired my black T-shirt collection. The Big John boots are long gone and the Sears leather jacket, much too small now, might just fit Rebecca.




You can imagine exactly how I felt when the folks of the Blood Alley Quartet (Randy Bowman, drums, Dave Olajide, bass, Gus Vassos, vocals, guitar, Anthony Walker, vocals, guitar) and Goldie Monroe , their statuesque over 6ft vocalist and burlesque dancer invited me to attend their third (every third Saturday of the month) Neverland Burlesque show last night.


From left, Randy Bowman (drums) Dave Olajide (bass),
Gus Vassos (vocals, guitar)
Anthony Walker (vocals, guitar) Goldie Monroe (vocals,burlesque dancer)
Not taken with iPhone but with Mamiya RB-67 Pro SD


At first I thought I might be saved by the excuse of going to Lillooet to visit my daughter. That did not happen so I resigned myself to sitting at a cabaret style table with young folks I did not know at the venerable Russian Hall on 4th Avenue. Since I don’t drink it would make the evening even more unbearably boring.

That was not to be. When I got there I immediately saw the Mafioso looking (as soon as he smiles you know his look is all show) Gus Vassos and asked him if I could stay backstage.

Malcolm Parry often talks about the privileged position. By this he means to be somewhere where most people are not allowed to be. Anybody can attend a burlesque show. The privileged position is at the dressing room which is exactly where I immediately found myself in. The women were friendly and I felt undressed without my cameras. But I had brought my iPhone 3G. I used it all night until, with care, and even then I ran out of battery power around the end.


Mz. Adriene
The burlesque dancers were good and Mz. Adriene, a multitalented master/mistress of ceremonies handled the always rowdy audiences that congregate at burlesque shows with aplomb and class. Her off-color jokes were almost elegant. The funniest moment of the evening happened when Adriene dubbed the hapless sound man who had many technical problems with the most inelegant epithet of Mr. Testicles.

The show entertained me and that would have been that.

What I should have known is that any band with four pro musicians featuring Tony Baloney (he might be known by Revenue Canada as Anthony Walker) would give me a chance to feel young again. I listened to great rock and roll. Vassos and Mr. Baloney provided vocals and guitar while Randy Bowman on drums and Dave Olajide provided steady bass and rhythm that had riffs that reminded me of Lou Reed’s Sweet Jane. If that was not enough while The Velvet Underground might have had Nico, this Blood Alley Quartet has Goldie Monroe who can sing. If she couldn’t it would not make much difference as she is tall, really tall, and well shaped where it counts.

The band played three original songs (all very solid) and two more where they accompanied Monroe who sang and did her burlesque show. My only regret is that she did not wear those old fashioned stockings with seams. As we Argentines used to say about these stockings, “You follow the seam from the bottom of the high heel shoe all the way up until the leg becomes something else.” With Monroe that would be one sweet and long journey.



Tony Baloney

I will not apologize for the secondary quality of my iPhone pictures. I think they have some charm.

Come October 20 (the third Saturday of the month) I will be exercising my Mac Parry privilege position. I will be back stage with the girls and the boys, and, of course with Tony Baloney.













Goldie Monroe & Zoe Curlylocks

Pocket Venus





Zoe Curlylocks


Dave Olajide tunes his bass
 
Goldie Monroe

Goldie Monroe & The Blood Alley Quartet







Tony Baloney's guitar

Veronica Vex



Adriene's kit

Veronica Vex


Pocket Venus

Scarlet Delirium






Gus Vassos



     

Previous Posts
Inertia

Beyond the Grave - A Posthumous Gift

Pathos With Kokoro at the Roundhouse

That Female Angel

Pete Turner & Khalistan

Figurative Art - An Obsession

Embryotrophic Cavatina - Requiem For My Friend

The Man From Pittsburg Almost Made Me Smile

Giclée in French Slang means...

Fairwell French Style - Not



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8/7/16 - 8/14/16

8/14/16 - 8/21/16

8/21/16 - 8/28/16

8/28/16 - 9/4/16

9/4/16 - 9/11/16

9/11/16 - 9/18/16

9/18/16 - 9/25/16

9/25/16 - 10/2/16

10/2/16 - 10/9/16

10/9/16 - 10/16/16

10/16/16 - 10/23/16

10/23/16 - 10/30/16

10/30/16 - 11/6/16

11/6/16 - 11/13/16

11/13/16 - 11/20/16

11/20/16 - 11/27/16

11/27/16 - 12/4/16

12/4/16 - 12/11/16

12/11/16 - 12/18/16

12/18/16 - 12/25/16

12/25/16 - 1/1/17

1/1/17 - 1/8/17

1/8/17 - 1/15/17

1/15/17 - 1/22/17

1/22/17 - 1/29/17

1/29/17 - 2/5/17

2/5/17 - 2/12/17

2/12/17 - 2/19/17

2/19/17 - 2/26/17

2/26/17 - 3/5/17

3/5/17 - 3/12/17

3/12/17 - 3/19/17

3/19/17 - 3/26/17

3/26/17 - 4/2/17

4/2/17 - 4/9/17

4/9/17 - 4/16/17

4/16/17 - 4/23/17

4/23/17 - 4/30/17

4/30/17 - 5/7/17

5/7/17 - 5/14/17

5/14/17 - 5/21/17

5/21/17 - 5/28/17

5/28/17 - 6/4/17

6/4/17 - 6/11/17

6/11/17 - 6/18/17

6/18/17 - 6/25/17

6/25/17 - 7/2/17

7/2/17 - 7/9/17

7/9/17 - 7/16/17

7/16/17 - 7/23/17

7/23/17 - 7/30/17

7/30/17 - 8/6/17

8/6/17 - 8/13/17

8/13/17 - 8/20/17

8/20/17 - 8/27/17

8/27/17 - 9/3/17

9/3/17 - 9/10/17

9/10/17 - 9/17/17

9/17/17 - 9/24/17

9/24/17 - 10/1/17