My First TimeTuesday, February 05, 2013
|Kraft peanut butter|
Not too long ago I was listening to a Beethoven piano bagatelle on CBC Radio while driving in the city. It was so beautiful that I had to stop to listen to it. By then (not that long ago) I had an early non-digital cellular phone. I called up VSO pianist Linda Lee Thomas to tell her of my experience. Her husband Jon Washburn answered the phone and his comment to my wonder at the bagatelle was a, “To listen to something like that for the first time,” which he expressed with the longing of a paradise lost.
I remember many of my first times. Today’s came from Rosemary saying, “I am hungry, I think I am going to have some peanut butter. That will satisfy my craving for something salty.”
Memory has compressed what may have been four separate events into two and they all happened in Buenos Aires between 1949 (I was 7) and 1951.
My mother was a teacher at the Buenos Aires American Grammar and High School. Her students were the children of parents who headed big American companies (General Motors, Ford, etc) or were from the American Embassy. This meant that she often brought goodies given to her by her students or from functions at school.
One day she came home and had me try a white bread sandwich with something she called peanut butter. Another day it was a salty cracker with poppy seeds. Another day she brought some boxes of Lime Jell-O. To this day Lime Jell-O in all its artificiality is my fave.
Another day she sent our housekeeper Mercedes to purchase (I had never heard of the word before) something she pronounced as ketchup but she pronounced it in Spanish catsup so Mercedes would be understood at the corner almacén.
I was 20 and in the Argentine Navy when my Irish secretary (I was a conscript but my position as aid and translator to the Senior US Naval Advisor meant I had a secretary who typed all my hand-written translations) offered me some La Vascongada brand peach yoghurt. I told her I refused to eat anything that involved rotten milk. She insisted with her big blue eyes so I relented.
Since that that day I have made for lost time and I have yoghurt almost every day. Peach Yoplait is my favourite.
I was 17 when I consumed my first half bottle of Bourbon. The owner of the bottle returned to our boarding school room to find it empty on the floor and me in a drunken stupor on my bed. He kicked and kicked me while screaming, “You drank all of my Bourbon.” Since then (and I am 70) I have not been drunk more than three or four times.
My first time at sex happened when I was almost 20. I was much too stupid or nerdish to understand the motives or desires of women. One in particular was both Jewish and black, "My name is Benjamin but you can call me Benji." To have a black and Jewish girl friend in Mexico City meant that people stared and stared.
I was about to leave Mexico City to Buenos Aires when an Argentine woman friend of mine, in strictest confidence, told me that the black and Jewish woman had terminal leukemia. It was in my power to make her happy…
The short of that story is that at least two years later I kept receiving in Buenos Aires my monthly Downbeat Magazine. The black and Jewish girl had given me a subscription. The subscription stopped after three years. Was I told a lie or was it all a soap opera plot? I will never know. But I do remember that one interview in Downbeat when Miles Davis in the interview uttered an obscenity which had to be written with a first letter and then with .... In that interview Davis was asked why he sometimes played with his back to the audience. His answer was something like, "If you had to look at some of the .... faces you would do the same."
For about a year in 1958 I worked very hard doing odd jobs in my boarding school in Austin, Texas. When I finally had amassed $100 I sent a money order to Olden Camera Supply in New York City. A few weeks later, Brother Emmett Strohmeyer, C.S.C., who was in charge of the school store told me I had a package. When I removed the brown wrapping paper, I had before me a, beautiful and very glossy blue box. Written on it on it was: Pentacon-F Dresden, 50mm Zeiss Tessar f-2.8. This was my first real camera. It was a new-fangled camera called a single lens reflex.
I can report here (and I don’t want to get too personal) that the wonder and excitement of that first time, the opening of that box and the lifting of that wonderful camera has not diminished with time.