Chasing Butterflies & Flying Stukas
Saturday, June 01, 2013
As I was taking pictures of Lauren in the garden on Saturday chasing imagined butterflies with her butterfly net I remembered my Uncle Tony’s U-control model airplanes.
In the late 40s and early 50 my Uncle Tony, Tía Sarita and cousin Wenceslao would often show up on Saturday mornings. They lived in downtown Buenos Aires and we lived in Coghlan one of the stops of the urban train, Bartolomé Mitre on its way from Retiro to the Paraná River delta of Tigre.
Uncle Tony was a chemical engineer who worked for Dupont Argentina. He was an avid model airplane builder. He constructed beautifully detailed WWII fighters which he flew with the double wire U-control. His airplanes were powered by K&B Torpedo engines that had a simple fixed-size venturi with only a mixture ratio adjustment. After starting the engine with his index finger Wenceslao or I would hold on to the plane and Uncle Tony would run to the end of the wires and the hand control. He would taxi the plane and it would take off.
|Wenceslao & the Stuka|
We did all this in the nearby General Electric football field. I remember his flying saucer
and his beautifully detailed P-40 with the Flying Tiger markings and the bottom of the plane was sky blue and the top olive drab. He built a Stuka and a Focke Wulf 190. In an attempt at realism he made one Stuka with the bent wings. It was very unstable and it immediately crashed.
None of Uncle Tony’s planes ever lasted. When they crashed he would remove the engine and a few important parts, leaving the scaled machine guns and fighter pilots (some had moustaches) all in a pile which he then set on fire by pouring engine fuel which I believe was part ether and some sort of oil.
As I watched Lauren, 10 run in the garden I could now see her with the experience of a grandfather twice over. As a father when my two daughters were approaching their teens I hired photographer James La Bounty to take their portraits. My Rosemary wondered why I did this seeing that I was a capable photographer myself. I told Rosemary that as their father I saw the girls as little girls and La Bounty would in his obvious objectivity see them as girls becoming women.
Since then I have learned a few things. Perhaps the most important lesson is that little girls are not little girls for long. One cannot prevent this awful passage from happening. The idea is to enjoy the moment when a little girl is still a little girl.
As I photographed Lauren in the garden I enjoyed every second of it knowing that any day now, she will stop chasing butterflies that are not there. And like my Uncle Tony’s airplanes she will soar, and be exciting. But one day it will all suddenly end and I must be prepared to accept it and move on with the transition. This transition, unlike the crash and burn of Uncle Tony’s planes, will be ripe with the transformation of that little girl to a full blown woman. If there happens to be a “monster-like” teenage element in between only patience will serve. My Uncle Tony had it in spades. I could learn.
Friday, May 31, 2013
I dreamt last night that there was wind and rain.
I got up and looked out, but all was strange;
A muddy track across a wooded plain;
A distant tumult; angry cries, exchange
O fire. And then, out of that dreadful night,
Appeared a scarecrow army, staggering,
Defiant, famished. In the quenched starlight
They marched on to their bitter reckoning.
Their sleepless, bloodshot eyes were turned to me.
Their flags hung black agains the pelting sky.
Their jests and curses echoed whisperingly,
As though from long-lost years of sorrow -Why,
You're weeping! What, then? What more did you see?
A grey man on a grey horse rode by.
|Uncredited cover to Richard Adams' novel Traveller|
General Lee, who had led the Army of Northern Virginia in all these contests, was a very highly estimated man in the Confederate army and States, and filled also a very high place in the estimation of the people and press of the Northern States. His praise was sounded throughout the entire North after every action he was engaged in: the number of his forces was always lowered and that of the National forces exaggerated. He was a large, austere man, and I judge difficult of approach to his subordinates. To be extolled by the entire press of the South after every engagement, and by a portion of the press North with equal vehemence, was calculated to give him the entire confidence of his troops and to make him feared by his antagonists. It was not an uncommon thing for my staff officers to hear from Eastern officers, “Well Grant had never met Bobby Lee yet.” There were good and true officers who believe now that the Army of Northern Virginia was superior to the Army of the Potomac man to man. I do not believe so. Before the end I believe the difference was the other way. The Army of Northern Virginia became despondent and saw the end. It did not please them. The National army saw the same thing, and were encouraged by it.
Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant
Before stating what took place between General Lee and myself, I will give all there is of the story of the famous apple tree.
Wars produce many stories of fiction, some of which are told until they are believed to be true. The war of the rebellion was no exception to this rule, and the story of the apple tree is one of those fictions based on a slight foundation of fact. As I have said, there was an apple orchard on the side of the hill occupied by the Confederate forces. Running diagonally up the hill was a wagon road, which, at one point, ran very near one of the trees, so that the wheels of the vehicles had, on that side, cut off the roots of this tree, leaving a little embankment. General Babcock, of my staff, reported to me that when he first met General Lee he was sitting upon the embankment with his feet in the road below and his back resting against the tree. The story had no other foundation than that. Like many other stories, it would be very good if it was only true. [For a time after the war there was a rumor that the surrender occurred under an apple tree. There is no truth to this legend. Lee did for a while rest on a pile of fence rails near an apple tree shortly before he went to see Grant].
I had known General Lee in the old army, and had served with him in the Mexican War; but did not suppose, owing to the difference in our age and rank, that he would remember me; while I would more naturally remember him distinctly, because he was the chief of staff of General Scott in the Mexican War.
When I had left the camp in that morning I had not expected so soon the result that was then taking place, and consequently was in rough garb. I was without a sword, as I usually was when on horseback on the field, and wore a soldiers blouse for a coat, with the shoulder straps of my rank to indicate to the army who I was. When I went into the house I found General Lee. We greeted each other, and after shaking hands took our seats. I had my staff with me, a good portion of whom were in the room during the whole interview.
What General Lee’s feelings were I do not know. As he was a man of much dignity, with an impassable face, it was impossible to say whether he felt inwardly glad that the end had finally come, or felt sad over the result, and was too manly to show it. Whatever his feelings, they were entirely concealed from my observation; but my own feelings, which had been quite jubilant on the receipt of his letter, were sad and depressed.
[April 9, 1865
General: - I received your note this morning on the picket-line wither I had come to meet you and ascertain definitely what terms were embraced in your proposal yesterday with reference to the surrender of this army. I now request an interview in accordance with the offer contained in your letter of yesterday for that purpose.
R.E. Lee - General]
I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse. I do not question however, the sincerity of the great mass of those who were opposed to us.
General Lee was dressed in a full uniform which was entirely new, and was wearing a sword of considerable value, very likely the sword which had been presented by the State of Virginia; at all events, it was an entirely different sword from the one that would ordinarily be worn on the field. In my rough traveling suit, the uniform of a private with the straps of a lieutenant-general, I must have contrasted very strangely with a man so handsomely dressed, six feet high and of faultless form. But this was not a matter that I though of until afterwards.
|General Ely S. Parker|
We soon fell into a conversation about old army times. He remarked that he remembered me very well in the old army; and I told him that as a matter of course I remembered him perfectly, but from the difference in our rank and years (there being about sixteen years’ difference in our ages), I had thought it very likely that I had not attracted his attention sufficiently to be remembered by him after such a long interval. Our conversation grew so pleasant that I almost forgot the object of our meeting. After the conversation had run on in this style for some time, General Lee called my attention to the object of our meeting, and said that he had asked for this interview for the purpose of getting from me the terms I proposed to give his army. I said that I meant merely that his army should lay down their arms, not to take them up again during the continuance of the war unless duly and properly exchanged. He said he had so understood my letter.
Then we gradually fell of again into conversation about matters foreign to the subject which had brought us together. This continued for some little time, when General Lee interrupted the course of the conversation by suggesting the terms I proposed to give his army ought to be written out. I called to General Ely S. Parker, secretary of my staff, for writing materials, and commenced writing the following terms:
Appomattox C.H. Va.,
Ap’l 9th, 1865
Gen. R.E. Lee
Gen.: In accordance with the substance of my letter to you on the 8th inst., I propose to receive the surrender of the Army of N. Va. on the following terms, to wit: Roll of all the officers and men to be made in duplicate. One copy to be given to an officer designated by me, the other to be retained by such officer or officers as you may designate. The officers to give their individual paroles not to take up arms against the Government of the United States until properly exchanged, and each company or regimental commander sign a like parole for the men of their commands. The arms, artillery and public property to be parked and stacked, and turned over to the officer appointed by me to receive them. This will not embrace the side-arms of the officers, nor their private horses or baggage. This done, each officer and man will be allowed to return to their homes, not to be disturbed by United States authority so long as they observe their paroles and the laws in force where they may reside.
The Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant
|Painting by John Leon Gerome Ferris|
Texting In 1864
Thursday, May 30, 2013
On October 17, 1863 a reply to my telegram arrived from Cairo [Missouri] directing me to proceed immediately to Galt House, Louisville…Just as the train I was on was starting out of the depot at Indianapolis a messenger came running up to stop it, saying the Secretary of War was coming into the station and wanted to see me.
I had never met Mr. Edwin M. Stanton up to that time, though we had held frequent conversations over the wires the year before, when I was in Tennessee. Occasionally at night he would order the wires between the War Department and my headquarters to be connected, and we would hold a conversation for an hour or two.
Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant
I started on this trip [Knoxville on the latter part of December 1863]. I was back in Nashville by the 13th of January 1864. It was necessary for me to have some person along who would turn dispatches into cipher, and who could also read the cipher dispatches which I was liable to receive daily and almost hourly. Under the rules of the War Department at that time, Mr. Stanton had taken entire control of the matter regulating the telegraph and determining how it would be used, and of saying who, and who alone, should have the ciphers. The operators possessed of the cipher, as well as the ciphers used, were practically independent of the commanders whom they were serving immediately under, and had to report to the War Department through General Stager all the dispatches which they received or forwarded.
I was obliged to leave the telegraphic operator back at Nashville, because that was the point at which all dispatches to me would come, to be forwarded from there. As I have said it was necessary for me also to have an operator during the inspection [at Knoxville] who had possession of this cipher to enable me to telegraph to my division and to the War Department without my dispatches being read by all the operators along the line of wires over which they were transmitted. Accordingly I ordered the cipher operator to turn over the key to Captain Cyrus B. Comstock, of the Corps of Engineers, whom I had selected as a wise and discreet man who certainly could be trusted with the cipher if the operator at my headquarters could.
|Captain Cyrus Ballou Comstock|
The operator refused point blank to turn over the key to Captain Comstock as directed by me, stating that his orders from the War Department were not to give it to anybody – the commanding general or anybody else. I told him I would see whether he would or not. He said that if he did he would be punished. I told him if he did not he would most certainly be punished. Finally seeing that punishment was certain if he refused longer to obey my order, and being somewhat remote (even if he was not protected altogether from the consequences of his disobedience to his orders) from the War Department, he yielded. When I returned from Knoxville I found quite a commotion. The operator had been reprimanded very severely and ordered to be relieved. I informed the Secretary of War, or his assistant secretary in charge of the telegraph, Stager, that the man could not be relieved, for he had only obeyed my orders. It was absolutely necessary for me to have the cipher, and the man would most certainly have been punished if he had not delivered it; that they would have to punish me if they punished anybody, or words to that effect.
This was about the only thing approaching a disagreeable difference between the Secretary of War and myself that occurred until the war was over, when we had another spat.
Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant
|Union Army cipher disks|
It may be as well here as elsewhere to state two things connected with all movements of the Army of the Potomac: first, in every change of position or halt for the night, whether confronting the enemy or not, the moment arms were stack the men entrenched themselves. For this purpose they would build up piles of logs or rails if they could find them in their front, and dig a ditch, throwing the dirt forward on the timber. Thus the digging they did counted in making a depression to stand in, and increased the elevation in front of them. It was wonderful how quickly they could in this way construct defences of considerable strength. When a halt was made with the view of assaulting the enemy, or in his presence, these would be strengthened or their positions changed under the direction of engineer officers. The second was the use of the telegraph and signal corps. Nothing could be more complete than the organization and discipline of this body of brave and intelligent men. Insulated wires – insulated so that they would transmit messages in a storm, on the ground or under water – were wound up on reels, making about two hundred pounds weight of wire to each reel. Two men and one mule were detailed to each reel. The pack-saddle on which this was carried was provided with a rack like a sawbuck placed crosswise of the saddle, and raised above it so that the reel, with its wire, would revolve freely. There was a wagon, supplied with a telegraph operator, battery and telegraph instruments for each division, each corps, each army, and one of my headquarters. There were wagons also loaded with light poles, about the size and length of a wall tent pole, supplied with an iron spike in one end, used to hold the wires up when laid, so that wagons and artillery would not run over them. The mules thus loaded were assigned to brigades, and always kept with the command they were assigned to. The operators were also assigned to particular headquarters, and never changed except by special orders.
|General Ulysses S. Grant, photographed by |
Mathew Brady at City Point, Virginia
The moment the troops were put in position to into camp all the men connected with this branch of service would proceed to put up their wires. A mule loaded with a coil of wire would be lead to the rear of the nearest flank of the brigade he belonged to, and would be lead in a line parallel thereto, while one man would hold an end of the wire and uncoil it as the mule was led off. When he had walked the length of the wire the whole of it would be on the ground. This would be done in the rear of every brigade at the same time. The ends of all the wires would then be joined, making a continuous wire in the rear of the whole army. The men attached to brigades or divisions, would all commence at once raising the wires with their telegraph poles. This was done by making a loop in the wire and putting it over the spike and raising the pole to a perpendicular position. At intervals the wire would be attached to trees, or some other permanent object, so that one pole was sufficient at a place. While this was being done the telegraph wagons would take their positions near the headquarters they belonged to were established, and would connect with the wire. Thus, in a few minutes longer time than it took a mule to walk the length of its coil, telegraphic communications would be effected between all the headquarters of the army. No orders ever had to be given to establish the telegraph.
Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant
|Union telegraph wagon|
The Dechronization of Wild Edric
Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Looking out of the window this rainy afternoon I noticed my very big English Rose, Rosa
‘Wild Edric’ its branches drooping with the weight of their numerous, huge and wet blooms. Some of the flowers were spent. Some were about to open and there were buds on their way.
For no reason at all I took out one of my favourite ever little novels, The Dechronization of Sam Magruder
by George Gaylord Simpson and came up with an idea.
Wild Shropshire Thane
Second out of the gate
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
My favourite uncle was Luís Miranda
. We weren’t related that closely. He was first cousin, twice of my maternal grandfather. Miranda was a chemist who brought Coca Cola to the Philippines. When the Japanese army was about to occupy Manila he told his wife, “No Jap is going to drink my beer.” At the time he was the chief chemist for San Miguel beer. He went to the plant and did some extensive sabotage. I never asked my Uncle Luís if the Japanese found out. What I do know is that the Japanese high command took possession of his house for their headquarters for the duration of the war.
My uncle had a strange sense of humour and an off the wall attitude towards things. He told me he hated to go to the beach because sand got into his shoes.
But more into the reason why I am citing him in this blog was his habit of smiling when people read him poetry out loud. At the end of each line he would say one of two things, randomly, “por adelante,” or “por atrás.” In English that’s from the front or from the back. You can imagine that just about any poetry would become quite racy if this man (he had flexible digits so that he would point and only bend the first part of his long index finger) uttered those two seemingly innocuous statements.
Here are some scans of flowers that normally I would not get that close. I would for the mystery deep red Gallica I purchased from Robin Dening from Brentwood Bay Nursery on Vancouver Island. I lost the label and Dening has been unable to ID my plant.
Here is a scan of the mystery Gallica “por atrás”. The other scan is of a fallen petal of one of the 7 original rhododendrons in our garden that were there (and still are) when we moved into our house in 1986. They are mostly lurid coloured hybrids with no scent (except for Rhododendron luteum). This one is pink and it blooms profusely about now.
A Nice Cup Of Tea
Monday, May 27, 2013
The Book of Tea
Artistic Direction Marc Walter
Translated by Deke Dusinberre
Preface by Anthony Burgess
...Before I go further, it would be in order for me to state here how precisely tea ought to be prepared. First you must have a capacious teapot. Then you must have a kettle. Boil your water and at the same time heat your teapot. It is unwise to heat it by swilling warm water around in it: it will be difficult to swill all of this out, and thus the inside of the teapot will be wet. It must be perfectly dry. Place the teapot in an inch or so of very hot water; when its external bottom is hot enough to make the hand uncomfortable, its internal bottom is hot enough for tea. Place into the warmed pot, according to the tradition, one teaspoonful for each drinker and an extra teaspoonful as a gift for the pot. You may, of course, increase these doses according to taste or, more accurately to habituation. I substitute a dessert spoon for a teaspoon. Pour on boiling water from the kettle. Stir the infusion gently. Place the lid on the pot and leave it for five minutes. Then pour into cup or mug.
If you take milk with your tea – no more than a minute amount to soften the impact of the tannin content – you must decide which faction to belong to – the one that puts the milk into the cup before pouring the tea, or the school that drips milk in while the tea lies black and steaming. I do not think it makes very much difference: it is one of these very British controversies which keep off the tedium vitae. You may then add sugar, but this is frowned upon by many tea-drinking experts. The late George Orwell was one of these. He published an essay, rather less well-known that his Nineteen Eighty-Four
(one of the horrors of which seems to be a total abstinence of tea, though not gin), whose title is “A Nice Cup of Tea
.” In it he says that the addition of sugar kills the taste of the tea. He says that the older one grows the stronger one prefers one’s tea. One of the few qualities he found in Britain’s wartime Ministry of Food was its willingness to grant a larger ration of tea to citizens over 65 (60 if they were women) than the younger and unseasoned...
I Smell Sweet Savours
Sunday, May 26, 2013
|Rosa 'Splendens' May 26, 2013|
The smell of sweet peas in our Coghlan garden, the smell of Mercedes’s cheese soufflé baking in the oven, the smell, most unfishy, Mercedes’s breaded pejerey on Fridays, of my father’s whisky and Player’s Navy Cut cigarettes, the smell of Chanel No 5 of my mother, the smell of a Buenos Aires pizzeria, of the smell of the chrome bars in a Buenos Aires colectivo (the number 60), of the paper ticket of colectivo number 60, the smell of a mate cebado, the smell of my father’s empty mate gourd, the electrical smell of tram number 35 on the way to Abuelita’s flat downtown, the smell of Abuelita’s and my strawberry ice cream soda at the Roxy after seeing a Randolph Scott Western on Avenida Lavalle, the smell of pastillas Volpi gusto de mandarina, the smell of the rain that came with the pampero after a stifling summer week, the smell of the Noma artificial snow spray we used on our Christmas trees in plus 40 degree when I opened my presents after misa de gallo, the smell of the lions in the Buenos Aires zoo, the smell of the kerosene stove to heat our house in the winter and of the water and cedrón boiling in a pan on it, the smell of the train on the way to Retiro, the electrical smell (rusting brake linings and stale urine) of the Buenos Aires subte, the smell of urine at the River Plate Stadium, the sweet smell of ice cold Vascolet, chocolate milk at one of those futbol games, the smell of tortillas in a tortillería in Atizapán de Zaragosa, the smell of just baked bolillos in the panadería around the corner, the smell of the carrot juice in the juice bar at Guillermo Shakespeare and Mariscal Lafayette, of the smell and crunch of partially dissolved Milo in my milk, of the once obnoxious smell of cinnamon in Mexican chocolate, the smell of the Flecha Roja Toluca Rocket bus to the University of the Americas, which was of unwashed bodies living in dirt floor houses, of the wood fires they used, of chickens and turkeys in the overhead bins, and of the raw unfiltered diesel of the Cummins engines, the smell of bunker oil in my Victory Ship, Rio Aguapey, of my daily entrecote and pure sea air, the smell of cajeta envinada and my longing for plain Argentine dulce de leche, the inescapable smell of Korean issue powdered eggs which ketchup could not overwhelm in my boarding school in Austin, the smell of old metal of my alto saxophone lent to me by Brother Edwin Reggio, C.S.C., the now obnoxious scent of Old Spice and Top Brass hair cream, of Vitalis, the smell of over boiled okra, and par boiled steaks in our cafeteria, the smell of the frogs we dissected alive, the smell of a real Texas steak across the street on Congress Avenue accompanied by Bill Black’s Combo, the smell of my first girl Judy Reyes that conjured the underwear I could sometimes spy when she jumped (she was a cheerleader), the pungent and earthy smell of Brother Francis’s black habit which may have been first worn before I was born, the smell of the first spoonful of peach flavoured yoghurt La Vascongada I savoured when I was 20, the smell of my winter blues after a week full of Buenos Aires rain, the smell of Rosemary the first time I dared to kiss her, the smell of the chicken cooked, with Campbell’s sopa de champignon in our Sunbeam electric frypan in our flat on Calle Estrasburgo, the smell of Ale’s Johnson & Johnson talcum powder, the smell of mother’s milk in our Calle Herodoto bed, the fragrance of Tia Fermina’s enzaimadas baking in her Puerto de Angostura home in Mexico City, the smell of brine, port sewer and tropical humidity when Rosemary and I would wake up on a Saturday morning at my mother’s house in Veracruz, the pungent smell of vegetation as our VW suddenly descended from Mexico City to Orizaba, Veracruz, the smell of brine, port sewer and tropical humidity watching the Águila de Veracruz play beisbol, the smell of Spaniards watching the corrida de toros at the Plaza de Toros on Insurgentes, the smell of Basques at the Frontón, the smell, ever so good, of turkey soup at El Rey del Pavo on Gante, the smell of centuries inside la Catedral Metropolitana, the smell of stale mescal outside cantinas, the smell of the first Manila mango I ever tried and how Vancouver bought mangoes remind me of my mother’s Veracruz, the smell of conifers in Vancouver, not much different from the many pines and junipers of Mexico, the smell of urine on Wreck Beach after a month’s drought, the smell of the Keg’s Burnaby Salad Bar with all those synthetic bacon bits, the smell of rain when I land at the Vancouver Airport, the smell of french-fries in malls, the killer scent of the Earl Grey Tea I purchase at the Granville Island Tea Company, the smell of Kodak Rapid Fixer in a tray in my darkroom, the smell of the paper backing of 120 film, the smell of the metal when I open my Nikon FM-2, the smell of ozone when I fire my Dynalite flash, the sweet smell of my abuelita's "camphor babies" purchased in Durban in the mid 30s, the smell of my mother's red shawl stored in a trunck of Olinalá wood from the state of Guerrero, the smell of my ready-to-bake Save-On scissor rolls baking for breakfast and of the brown sugar and sliced bananas that Rosemary prefers, of her decaf brewing and the not too pleasant smell when I open Plata and Casi-Casi’s Fancy Feast grilled tuna, the smell of the furnace, just turned on when it suddenly gets cold in our Vancouver spring, the un-Teutonic smell, a pleasant smell of our Malibu, the smell of the paper and ink of my breakfast NY Times, the smell of Rosemary when she eases herself into our bed after a hot bath, the smell of my mother when I take out her Chinese blue silk coat, the smell I imagine of my father’s whiskey, Player’s Navy Cut Cigarettes and his tweed jacket, all those smells I remember or imagine which is the same thing.
The smell of myrrh, of the Myrrh Rose, Rosa
‘Splendens’ that I smelled today, an indescribable scent not at all like my favourite pipe tobacco mixture, Bell’s Three Nuns, both from Scotland. This smell, of Splenden’s myrrh, I can remember with most accuracy but will it someday soon slip like the other smells into the realm of my memory.
That Fantastic Enumeración