Two At A Time
Saturday, November 09, 2013
|Left, Wreck Beach, right Les Wiseman & Mary Jo Kopechne|
Film has never been cheap. In my early
career in the late 70s as a magazine photographer I tried to squeeze as many
assignments into a roll of film as possible. Many people in those days went a
step further. They might go for a winter vacation in Hawaii and perhaps take 20 pictures on a 36
exposure roll. Instead of having the roll processed they might wait for another
picture taking situation to finish the roll. Or, and this happened a lot, they
might forget all about it. They might take out their camera months later and
open the back to put film in and… We know how that story ends.
|Alex W-H & Maurice Depas|
I suspect that the pictures you see hear
must be from sometime around 1977. I was still using a strange but very sharp film
(even though many of these here are not!) called Kodak Special Order 115. It was
later was renamed Technical Pan. It was the sharpest film ever made. Its extended red sensitivity rendered skin to look almost pristine.
|Left John Armstrong (aka Buck Cherry) & Alex W-H|
I found the negatives and matching contact
sheet filed as family 1977. Because of the snapshot of my eldest daughter Ale
having her hair done by Nancy Gillespie (the hairdresser of a whole Vancouver generation of
punk musicians), and the snap in my Fiat, I had the negs filed with family. But there are others that seem to
have been taken in three separate times at three separate punk concerts which I
|Left, unknown, right Bev Davies|
I would like to clear the air and mention
that the picture of this photographer posing with musician Maurice Depas has me
smoking a cheroot. It is not what you might think it is.
|Right Cathy Cleghorn|
What I particularly found interesting was
that when I scanned a negative next to the one next to it the result put a smile
in my face.
|Left, Gord Nicholl, Les Wiseman, John Lekich, Right Johno & Kristine Thimsen|
|Jim Cummins aka Braineater|
|Left, Nancy Gillespie & Ale Waterhouse-Hayward, Right Ale & father|
|Top Rosemary, Ale, Hilary & Alex Waterhouse-Hayward with friend Paul Leisz|
And Please No Weed Whackers
Friday, November 08, 2013
|Ian & Jean Bateson in Stanley Park - Fall 1977|
Sometime around 1978 I was having coffee
with my friend Ian Bateson who at the time was a highly regarded editorial
illustrator. In 1978 Vancouver Magazine and many other magazines across Canada
paid photographers and illustrators to contribute.
Since this was a time before the invention
of the fax machine we photographers and illustrators had to go to the offices
of the magazines to get our instructions from art directors. If the magazine
was in Toronto
or abroad then phone conversations were detailed.
That day of coffee somewhere on Denman ad
Bateson lived nearby he told me,” I have a job this month. They are paying me
$200.” I may have told Bateson that I too had a job to illustrate an article
and that I was being paid a similar sum. We both looked at each other and
smiled. We were freelancers and we were being paid. Life was good. I remember
that Bateson then said that he hated all those people with weed wackers who
made noise when he was trying to work in his apartment studio. “I will never
ever buy one of those contraptions,” he told me.
Of course in the end he did. After all both
of us had a rather lengthy and more-or-less lucrative career in the magazine industry.
When magazines became smaller and budgets for drawn illustrations were
minimized Bateson switched his career to design and he joined a cooperative
design company called Baseline Type & Graphics.
At this date paid photography in most of Canada is dead
and you will rarely see good illustrations by the likes of Ian Bateson, Marv
Newland or Ian MacLeod (all three worked for magazines, locally, nationally and
But some things have not really changed
since those early days of my photographic career. Editors and somewhat sleazy ones
would offer me photo credits with the promise of paid work at a later date. They
would pamper me with “you have so much talent” and attempt to butter me up with
praise in an attempt to not pay me for my work.
Usually I would tell these people that my
local branch of the Bank of Montreal (before it became BMO and this is
Definitely not the Opera, changed to DNTO) did not accept my photo credit
deposits nor would they issue me loans on photo credit collateral. Very rapidly
I developed a reputation of being an overly superior sounding photographer but I stuck
to my guns.
Throughout those years organizations like
CAPIC (Canadian Association of Photographers and Illustrators in Communication
but now the Canadian Association of Professional Image Creators) tried to raise
fees for photographers and illustrators through vain attempts of price fixing
standards. But even then as now photographers and illustrators would low-ball
in order to get a job.
At the height of graphic design in the 80s
and early 90s a designer might have charged $100 and hour for work. Now these
designers have to compete with crowd sourcing and hourly rates of less than
This is why paid editorial photography,
illustration and design is either permanently dead or if one is optimistic
perhaps the situation will someday change for the better.
Today a Toronto publisher wanted to use a photograph that
I took of a prominent actor/playwright and his male lover for a book on gay
couples. No offer was made for the use of my picture. When I suggested that
some sort of fee (but did not mention a sum) might be offered this was the
Thank you for the reply Mr
Waterhouse-Hayward, but, as you had probably imagined, this is a no-budget
project, a venture actually, so thank you again, but I cannot afford the fee. I
will try to find a suitable substitute photo, or going without. My best,
Not long after the email arrived I was
contacted by an Edmonton
man who said, “I am a journalist and I would be honoured to use your artistic
photograph of Art Bergmann…
No money was mentioned and when I asked the
man rapidly told me that he would look elsewhere.
I get many requests like these every week
and I mostly hold firm that I will not give any of my work for free. My past
experience is that if I am pleasant and courteous I can sometimes retain a fee
even when it is not mentioned. At other times when I am not in a good mood I
tell these people that even though they might be working for a non-profit organization
they receive a salary. I add that I am not a non-profit organization and that I
must pay my rent. The often tell me I am rude and hang up or they do not answer
Not too long ago I was teaching at a local
downtown photography school. I would tell my students (who ate hamburgers and fast
Chinese food in my class as the school did not condone this action) that if they
wanted to be photographers they might want to think of a Plan B, plumbing. Not long
after that I was told by a school administrator that I was not a good fit for the
school. I was fired.
This may sound like a rant. I hope it isn’t
one. I want to finish with a statement that I feel lucky to have ridden the pleasant
and exciting wave of editorial photography when I was paid to travel, paid to take
pictures and give access to stars, politicians and the likes. I feel very lucky
to have made enough money in that venture to more or less find myself in a comfortable
position of not having to think of killing a seal tomorrow to live, to survive.
Some things have changed. Indeed both Bateson and I own weed wackers. But some things haven't changed, if anything they are worse. The mantra for this 21st century is that the "best things are free" and "we would be honoured to use your image in our publication".
Thursday, November 07, 2013
This story has been cooking in my brain for
years. Tonight in a bout of insomnia I was thinking about two known entities
about the law that seem to have no exception. One is that a country’s embassy is
that country. So if you are in the Canadian Embassy in Mexico
City you are in Canada.
The other one is about Catholic Church Sanctuary. If you are running from the law
and you enter a Catholic church the lads of law and order cannot remove you.
In 1989 I went to Acapulco to spend a week with my friend Licenciado
Felipe Ferrer Junco who was the chief of the city’s Federal Police. I wrote
about him here and here.
The story in question involves sanctuary. I
was in the Ferrer Junco’s office one morning when a teary-eyed young woman
entered the Chief’s office. She sat down and told us the story of a young man
who had raped her and that when he went to face the judge; the young man had
offered to marry the girl. The judge decided to drop the case pending proof of
his intentions as per a marriage certificate. Ferrer Junco asked the young
woman when the wedding was to happen and she told him that it would be three
hence on a Sunday.
That afternoon Ferrer Junco took me to Acapulco’s red light
district and pointed out a house and told me, “Our girl works there.” I was
astounded and came up with an argument that would be suspect in this 21st
century. I told him, “You believe her story? And if it's true how can you prove
it was rape? And look at her background and profession?”
Ferrer Junco then, quite angry (he was a
lawyer by profession and knew his Mexican Law) told me, “We are going to be at
the church on Sunday and if the young man shows up, and this I doubt, we will nab
him.” I immediately countered with, “You can’t do that he will be in a church
and that is against the law. It is sanctuary.” Ferrer Junco with a smile in his
face simply said, “¡Me vale madre!” which is a Mexicanism that is virtually untranslatable
but sort of means, “I don’t give a fuck if it’s sanctuary or not.” Then he said, "She may be a prostitute, but she is a woman. We are the police and we must protect her rights."
Monday morning I showed up at the station
and asked my friend, the police chief, of the events of the day before. He asked
me to follow him. We walked a few blocks to the jail. It was there that I
snapped a picture of the groom still dressed in his finest.
Junto Al Pueblo
Wednesday, November 06, 2013
I have never been close to death except in
my imagination or during nightmares. The only time I considered my possible
death was in Buenos Aires
in the beginning of June 1966.
I was in the Argentine Navy as a conscript
but because of my English I had a cushy desk job as aide and translator to the
Senior US Naval Advisor, Captain, USN, Onofrio Salvia.
Much has not changed since then with the
idea that the United States
of America might allegedly interfere in the
internal running of other nations that are part of its sphere of influence. By
the beginning of June we knew (at least we in the Office of the Senior US Naval
Advisor knew) that there was something that was going to transpire soon that would
involve a military takeover of the government. At the time Argentina had
an old country docto, Arturo Illíá as its freely elected president. The press liked to bill
him (with many political cartoons) as a slow turtle. His opponent the head of
the army, General Juan Carlos Onganía, who because of his prominent moustache
was drawn as a sea lion, was eying the possibility of an extra star on his
shoulders. This star, the presidency of Argentina, has often been the
ambition of many Argentine senior officers.
The six of us who worked at the Senior US
Naval Advisor’s office knowing what was inevitable decided to have a meeting in
a nearby café. We discussed that during a possible coup d'état we might either
be ordered to shoot some of our fellow conscripts in the army or that it might
just happen the other way. We decided in the end to follow our internal
judgment. This internal judgment was never taxed as the coup d'état was a bloodless
Since then only an occasional near mishap
while driving my car has ever given me the idea that my death might be
forthcoming at that precise instant.
A couple of months ago Argentine artist
Nora Patrich and I flagged a cab near a train station. We were going to the
former Escuela de Mecánica de la Armada (ESMA) the notorious place where many
Argentine political activists and many more who were simply arrested by mistake
were tortured and killed during the military government that plagued Argentina
between 1976 and 1982.
Instead of telling our taxi driver the name
of the place she gave him a corner and the street of the place. I thought this
funny and came out with it and told the driver that we were going to the ESMA. The
driver was youngish and I started a conversation with him. Patrich kept gesticulating to
me to shut up. When we got out of the cab she was livid and explained to me that in her
experience taxi drivers were not to be trusted and that many if not most were
all fachos (an Argentine expression used to denote that someone may have fascist
I protested and tried to have my way and that she was just being paranoid. But I
later thought about it.
In March of 1977, Nora Patrich’s first
husband Horacio Roberto Machi, a young political activist in the city of Rosario, found himself
surrounded by the authorities. The shot at his house and finally the house
began to flood as the mains had been destroyed. Machi kept a few bullets in his
gun but just to make sure he bit into a cyanide pill.
Patrich managed to save their young son and
two-year-old daughter and escaped Argentina
Now Patrich is Jewish. The Jewish people in
their history of persecution have a logical tendency to watch for their backs
and to exercise all caution. I had forgotten this when Patrich became angry in
the cab. I accused her of paranoia. I was wrong to do this as a white, Roman
Catholic old man with an English name I have no need to fear authorities of any
kind except perhaps and over-zealous American border agent at Blaine!
I am enclosing this photograph here, which
I took outside of that terrible place (and yet so beautiful) ESMA. It is
obviously a portrait of some man who disappeared or at least if one is to
believe the poster was a member of clandestine activity who went into exile in
1976. Who he is or was I have no idea. The poster was plastered over another
announcing the elections that were going to happen on October 26, 2013. I can
discern in the bottom left Cristina Kirchner who is currently the president of Argentina. The
woman on the right behind the posters is Nora Patrich on her cell phone.
Brother Hubert's Red Tricycle
Tuesday, November 05, 2013
I was in the back row of my ancient history class. I was in the 9th grade in a Catholic boarding school in Austin, Texas called St. Edward’s. My teacher was Brother Hubert Koeppen, C.S.C.. He told us a story about a little boy who wanted a brand new red tricycle of Christmas. He told his father that it would make him the happiest little boy in the world. Once he had his wish he quickly became bored. The little boy graduated from the tricycle to a red bicycle, a red motor scooter, a red motorbike, a red car, a red Ferrari, a red motor boat, a red yacht, a read Cessna and ultimately he became board with a red D-C6.
Brother Hubert told us that only upon seeing God would the grown little boy finally find satisfaction, money-back guarantee.
I have never forgotten that little story in which Brother Hubert gave us an informal proof for the existence of God.
Not too long ago, I was sitting having a caramel macchiato with whipping cream at a nearby Starbucks when I overheard a conversation between an old man and a young girl.
Old Man: Your father and I have a difference of approach to life and I am not really sure which one of us is right.
Young Girl: And what is this difference?
Old man: I believe in happiness and he believes in contentment. To be content you must not be too ambitious and you must go with the flow. You find a steady job and you stick to it. You don’t socialize too much and you avoid confrontation. Since this will ultimately reduce your stress you will be content.
Young Girl: And your version, what is it?
Old Man: I believe in happiness. To be happy you must set goals and be ambitious. You cannot be satisfied with a status quo. You seek to better yourself. You socialize and meet people. You sometimes become stressed out because you realize you have to compete to get where you are going.
Young Girl: Are you happy?
Old Man: No, but I think I may be getting there. And even now I am not sure which is better, to go for happiness or to be content. What do you want to be?
Young Girl: I want to be happy.
Today Rosemary and I drove our granddaughter to see a councilor near East Hastings and Renfrew. As we crossed Renfrew and Grandview Highway our granddaughter asked us if we were in the suburbs. I told her not quite. She immediately told us that the suburbs were ugly, full of fast food joints, Chinese restaurants and used car lots. She told us that she would never want to live in the suburbs.
I thought that at her present level of school performance she might be doomed to living in the suburbs and earning a low hourly wage. But to avoid confrontation in the close quarters of the car I remained silent.
I wrote what is below on Saturday, May 19, 2012
That Meandering Melancholy That Is Entropy
|Mexico City, 1968|
In 1986 Rosemary, our two daughters and I moved to our present home on Athlone Street. As soon as we had purchased the corner house with a large garden I knew that I needed to buy something else. The house has two fireplaces. One is in the living room (we never use that fireplace) and the other in the den. I had second thoughts of having a stiff mortgage but Rosemary promised that if we bought the house the den would be called the smoking room and I could smoke my pipes and cigars in it. That did it and we signed on the dotted lines.
That first purchase was an antique, black slate, turn-of-the-20th century French mantel clock.
On our first night in our new house, as I lay in bed with my wife, I would peak outside the window and admire the fine view of 43d Avenue with its weeping birches. There was no Lougheed Highway. There were no neighbors on the other side of the wall as they were in our Burnaby townhouse. Best of all, the house was so quiet I could hear the chime of the clock from downstairs. It was sheer bliss.
A few days ago John Kessel a recently discovered German-born clockmaker who has rapidly become my friend brought a wonderfully repaired mantel clock. After all these years the clock went the way of entropy and the main spring broke and quite a few other parts followed suit. For about a year the clock lay silent and motionless. It was just another thing in our house that needed repairing. The roof might have to be done soon and the interior needs a paint job. We have four bathrooms but each one has some fixture that does not work. In one the leak underneath the tub needs to be seen to. We have been told that the only way is to make a hole in our living room’s vaulted ceiling.
Rosemary, when it is sunny puts sheets on the erstwhile beautiful wooden floors to slow the fading of the sun. It seems, sometimes like we are in a corner of a room which is the only place where things are as they were back in 1986.
For years we put most of our money into our children and grandchildren. What was left went into the garden. We bought premium plants and yuppie trees. I spent a fortune in all sorts of apparatus to have a perfectly manicured lawn. Our roses are the best.
But even our plants are showing entropy. Many of my hostas under the Western Red Cedar (all in protective plastic pots) have been attacked by an almost-intelligent root system. The Western Red Cedar has robbed my precious hostas of nutrient. Some have disappeared, others I have removed from their pots and nurtured back to life.
Trees have been dying and our beautiful Cercis canadensis
‘Forest Pansy’ is almost dead. I will have to cut it down.
It seems that it was only yesterday that in the height of summer we would place a blanket in the shade and put baby Rebecca on it while we all listened to Saturday Afternoon at the Opera. It was not quite yesterday that both Rebecca and Lauren would run in their lovely flower dresses on Saturday, right through the kitchen and out to the garden. We looked forward to these all-day visits and dinner at our large Victorian crank table.
But then everybody grew up as we the grandparents started manifesting our own personal entropy with pains, constipation, flaccidity, heartburn, etc. Our breakfast tray is now full of bottles with pills.
It was only today, the usual day when we get the girls come early afternoon, and then my daughter Hilary and her husband Bruce show up later for my home-cooked meal. I could hear Hilary telling Rebecca, the oldest granddaughter, that I was going to make shish kabobs and that it might be worthwhile coming. She then informed us that Rosemary would review Rebecca’s math after dinner, kyboshing our usual family movie session.
In a fit of temper I told them all that I was not going to cook and that I was not going to make my famous ice tea and that was that.
So nobody showed up and Rosemary and I ended up early in bed and the quiet in the house was so that our new repaired mantle clock chimed and we indeed did hear it.
All the above brought to mind a story Brother Hubert Koeppen, C.S.C.
told us in my 9th grade Ancient History class at St. Ed’s in Austin Texas. It was a story about a little boy who nagged his father to buy him a red tricycle. The purchase would make him the happiest boy in the world. The tricycle became a bicycle, a motor scooter, a motorcycle, a car, a red Ferrari… and so on. This was Brother Hubert’s so-called proof for the existence of God. Ultimately he was telling us, our desire for happiness could only be satisfied by the sight of God.
I am not entirely sure that Brother Hubert was right but I now understand, better than ever, that good things have a lifespan. Even new shoes get scuffed and suits become moth-eaten.
As I write this it is Sunday and I miss my granddaughters, my daughters and my friends who seem to be so far. I miss my father and my mother and the red-haired sister of mine that was born dead. I miss my childhood and galloping on the Argentine Pampa pursuing South American ostriches with the smell of rich humid earth and the occasional sight of a large Ombú.
I remember that day in 1967 when I gathered up enough courage to ask the blond, mini-skirted beauty, Rosemary Healey for a date. She got into my VW beetle and quickly did something that she has always done. She made herself comfortable on the seat by bringing up her lovely legs giving me glimpses of thigh that suddenly made the VW have a pair of stick shifts. It seems it was only yesterday.
But I can count my blessings - or at least one blessing. And that is that in this meandering melancholy that is entropy, I can at least share it with my Rosemary.
|Our bedroom - top windows - the boulevard and the birches |
Rosemary is at Rebecca’s tutoring her in her math. I can hear the mantle clock. Most of the weeping birches on the boulevard have been long ago cut down.
Access Is Not Always Denied
Monday, November 04, 2013
The facebook (note it has to be in lowercase)
ambulance chasers were out in full force after Lou Reed’s death. They pointed
at all kinds of obituaries. Some pointed at favourite songs or wrote about the
man’s importance in music.
The best obituary I read was not really
one. In November 3d’s NY Times Sunday Review, Tony Lioce (describing himself as
a bartender in San Francisco) wrote, When Backstage Was No Big Deal of his experience
of frequenting a hall on Berkeley Street
in Boston where a post Andy Warhol Velvet underground performed. It seems they “would do
a few nights a couple months. You’d pay three bucks and hear them play two long
sets.” Because the hall had no backstage Lioce had instant access to Lou Reed
and the Velvet Underground. The frequency of their interactions meant that even
some years later Lioce was able to approach Reed.
The lovely piece ends with something that
has been in my mind for a while as I watch my 16 year-old granddaughter’s
turmoil at home and at school.
That was the last time I saw him,
other than from a seat in a theater. What made me sad wasn’t so much that my
own days of hanging with him were over, but that those days seemed to be over,
period, when a kid like me and a genius from whom he had learned so much still
had a chance of having a real good time together.
The 21st century as far as
entertainment is concerned could be defined as one with two words, “access denied”.
I will not boast here of the many artists,
musicians, actors, police chiefs, directors, etc I have photographed and even
broken bread with as many of those people are now dead. But back in that 20th
century I had access. I still do this century but it is a
different access that I would categorize as even more exciting.
BC’s Tilt a few weeks back I took my granddaughter Lauren,
11, back stage (it is very easy you simply open the door) to meet up with
dancer Thibaut Eiferman. We had a nice chat
I arranged to photograph Emily Molnar and
dancer, choreographer Margie Gillis to pose together for me wearing my mother’s
red shawl for my red shawl project. It was fun to face the two divas (Molnar said, "Alex you are a diva, too."
Last week I met up with Art Bergmann before
his concert at the Biltmore Hotel and we discussed our mutual liking for Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano.
Every time I go to a play in Vancouver I get to go
backstage (it is very easy) and I talk with the actors or directors I may have
There is access in Vancouver to local musicians, actors,
directors and writers. You have no idea how easy it is.
Just a few days,ago, sitting on the front row at
a concert of Colin MacDonald’s Pocket Orchestra I wast next to Vancouver
composer Jocelyn Morlock (whom I have photographed a few times) and we compared
notes on the quality of the music (very new music) we were listening to. I felt most lucky and privileged.
At intimate concerts in nice homes of Marc
Destrubé’s Microcosmos Quartet
this year I have had the pleasure of talking to individual members. It is so
much fun to be able to do this. Violinists, violists and cellist put one their pants one leg at a time.
You don’t have to meet
up with Lou Reed, or Iggy Pop or Lady Gaga to experience that sense of
excitement that one feels at being next to the real thing. No favourite video
of Lou or Iggy shared in facebook (notice that it is written in lowercase) can
match the experience of being just two feet away from Art Bergman, his guitar,
and his microphone on stage. The sound is loud and it is not coming as an MP3
file on earbuds. You leave the concert with a steady buzz in your ear (not
good, but good nonetheless).
As I watch my granddaughter,
16, work once a week as a teller in a supermarket and her grades in school
slide, I want (but I can't and I don't) to tell her that if she persists in this and does not plan for a Plan
B, her life could be monotony, drudgery and by age 30 she will be an old woman.
Photography gave me
unlimited access in the 20th century and it still seems to work a
bit in this century. As a conscientious worker, let’s say as a plumber (and
making very good money) I would probably (I am not sure if this smacks of condescension)
not want to meet Ballet BC dancer Thibaut Eiferman or
talk to the delicious Lindsey Angell after a performance of Velvet in Fur,
backstage after a performance at the Arts Club Theatre.What has replaced watching Archie Bunker in this century?
I am afraid that a complete dependence
(addiction perhaps) on texting, facebooking and looking for odd videos in
YouTube or far from salient factoids on forgettable celebrities while ignoring books could lead to a boring and sedentary life where the idea of
perhaps talking to an anonymous rock bassist in a seedy back stage would not be
seen as an exciting possibility.
My New And Very Dead Friend Hiram - Part II
Sunday, November 03, 2013
I have been giving a lot of thought to aging as I see in myself a prime example. I sometimes wonder what would have been of my life if I had prematurely become bald at 50. Would I have worn a toupée?
Not too long ago I photographed a beautiful (undraped) woman in her mid 50s. Her body has handled time just right but stuff did appear under her chin on her neck. She was lightly upset and told me she might need (I am sure it was in jest) some corrective surgery.
Fortunately, for me, even in this 21st century we live in an era where the idea that on old man with wrinkles is an old man with character while a photograph of a woman showing wrinkles
is seen as character assassination.
My friend Paul Leisz, he of fantastic digital proclivities, (and I don’t mean that he may be good with his hands as I am not his partner) has advised me to write down my various passwords, mostly related to the names of my long-dead-and gone cats, on a piece of paper and to stick it in the bottom of my desk drawer. He further advised me, “When you cannot get on your knees to see it then you are too old and you no longer need passwords.”
Just yesterday I called up my 90-year-old godmother/first cousin in Buenos Aires and asked her how she was now that she is 90. In her perfect British English she answered, “I feel 90.” And then in a curious turn of events (I am perceived as a doubting heathen by her family) and considering that as my godmother she has the obligation to see to my spiritual well-being she asked, “You still have the chronic respiratory disease, do you want me to pray for you?” I immediately answered, “Yes!”
is the only person that I now know who is older than I am. I have always respected my elders and I have always had a few in my pocket that I could consult for advice. They are all dead. What older person can I now count on? It has become patently evident that the person in question is one that will have to dole out pithy advice at his reflection on his guest bathroom mirror.
My New And Very Dead Friend Hiram
Friday, May 24, 2013
In the last five years I have noticed the inexorable disappearance of my friends. I remove them from my diary (my last one is two years old and I have not bothered to purchase one for 2013). Some die, some worked for companies that are gone and I have lost track to where they went. With some friends I have arrived at the conclusion that we have nothing in common anymore and making the motion of having a friendship is perhaps worse than terminating one.
My friends abroad don’t seem to use email and few want to Skype.
To add to this jarring turn of events my very good friend Abraham Rogatnick died three years ago and this year both my mentor/father surrogates, Raúl Guerrero Montemayor and Brother Edwin Reggio, C.S.C. Left for perhaps a better place.
My oldest granddaughter who was my constant companion until what seemed only a while ago had found boys and more dangerous pursuits. My garden of roses cannot compete. Luckily her sister Lauren who is only 10 has picked up the mantle of the one person in my current life who can make me smile, entertain me and even share with me my passion for Star Trek. I believe she might even agree with me that the whole Star Trek Next Generation was one big aberration.
But not all is doom in gloom. I have found a new friend called Hiram. He is dead. He departed this world on July 23, 1885.
It was sometime around 1956 that I chose to review a book about the battle of Shiloh. My friend Hiram was in command of one of the forces. Let me explain.
After a family conference and vote by the relatives, the name Hiram Ulysses was chosen for the new baby [born April 27, 1822]. He was known as “Lyss” while a boy. Rep. Thomas L. Hamer in filling out Grant’s application for appointment to West Point, forgot that he usually used H. Ulysses and, knowing that his mother’s name was Simpson, Hamer wrote in “Ulysses S. Grant,” the name he was to known by thereafter. When registering at West Point, Grant did try to have it corrected. He signed the register “Ulysses Hiram Grant” as he was afraid if he used his correct name he would be nicknamed ‘Hug.” However the authorities would not allow it to be corrected and while at West Point he was often called “Uncle Sam Grant” and later just “Sam.”
Lloyd Lewis and Dictionary of American Biography
My interest in the American Civil War began when I was around 8 or 9 and in the USIS library, the Lincoln Library in Buenos Aires on Calle Florida. My mother had gone to visit her friends in the Philippine Ministry which was adjacent to the U.S. Embassy in the same building as the library. In those days Filipinos celebrated their liberation from the Japanese and their independence from their formerly colonial masters, the Americans, on the 4th of July.
I opened a book or magazine called American Heritage and it was there that my eyes were transfixed by photographs of live and dead soldiers of the American Civil War taken by a couple of photographers called Timothy O’Sullivan and Alexander Gardner.
Looking at pictures that were brutal and realistic in their sharp b+w reproduction, the men looked very much like the Argentines walking on Calle Florida. I was also affected by the idea that I was gazing at people who had been alive when they were photographed but they were now long dead.
The memory of those photographs may have become embedded somewhere in my brain and finally inspired me to become a photographer of people.
When in the 8th grade and with my mother as the teacher in a one room schoolhouse in Nueva Rosita, Coahuila I chose the book about the Battle of Shiloh for my book report assignment. It was in the book where I first learned and became interested in Ulysses S. Grant.
For some years now I have wanted to read Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant
published May 23, 1885. It never occurred to me until the last few months to see if the Vancouver Public Library carried copies. They did and until a week ago they were all out! The library has a beautiful (but not well preserved as someone has repaired it with duct tape) second edition in two volumes that they will not let out of the building. I leafed through it and made the determination I would return as soon as they had a copy available.
Now as the evening becomes so in our longer days I savour getting into bed to open the Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant whom I have come to know quite well. His writing seems to have a voice that I can almost imagine. He seems to be a dependable, kind man who rarely has ill to say about anybody. This is one of the first books I have read in a long time where I feel that I am with a friend who is conversing with me.
I am currently reading his account of the Mexican-American War of which the young second lieutenant was most opposed but followed orders, nonetheless.
Consider his account to the events leading to the Battle of Camargo in what is now the state of Tamaulipas. Zachary Taylor’s army of invasion had to cross rivers and move from one evening’s camp to another. Grant was detailed as quartermaster and commissary to the regiment (the 4th).
The teams that had proven abundantly sufficient to transport all the supplies from Corpus Christy to the Rio Grande over the level prairies of Texas, were entirely inadequate to the needs of the reinforced army in a mountainous country. To obviate the deficiency, pack mules were hired, with Mexican to pack and drive them. I had charge of the few wagons allotted to the 4th infantry and of the pack train to supplement them. There were not men enough in the army to manage that train without the help of the Mexicans who had learned how. As it was the difficulty was great enough. The troops would take up their march at an early hour each day. After they had started, the tents and cooking utensils had to be made into packages, so that they could be lashed to the backs of the mules. Sheet-iron kettles, tent poles and mess chests were inconvenient articles to transport in that way. It took several hours to get ready to start each morning, and by the time we were ready some of the mules first loaded would be tired of standing so long with their loads on their backs. Sometimes one would start to run, bowing his back and kicking up until he scattered his load; others would lie down and try to disarrange their loads by attempting to get on the top of them by rolling on them; others with tent-poles for part of their loads would manage to run a tent-pole on one side of a sapling while they would take the other. I am not aware of ever having used a profane expletive in my life; but I would have the charity to excuse those who may have done so, if they were in charge of a train of Mexican pack mules at the time.
Still in his account of the Mexican war Grant cites how Mexican still celebrate two battles they lost, one in Chapultepec and the other at Molino del Rey. He writes:
With us twenty years after the close of the most stupendous war ever known, we have writers –who profess devotion to the nation – engaged in trying to prove that the Union forces were not victorious; practically they say, we were slashed around from Donelson to Vicksburg and to Chattanooga; and in the East from Gettysburg to Appomattox, when the physical rebellion gave out from sheer exhaustion. There is no difference in the amount of romance in the two stories.
I would not have the anniversaries of our victories celebrate, nor those of our defeats made fast days and spent in humiliation and prayer; but I would like to see truthful history written. Such history will do full credit to the courage, endurance and soldierly ability of the American citizen, no matter what section of the country he hailed from, or in what ranks he fought. The justice of the cause which in the end prevailed, will, I doubt not, come to be acknowledged by every citizen of the land, in time. For the present, and so long as there are living witnesses of the great war of sections, there will be people who will not be consoled for the loss of a cause which they believed to be holy. As time passes, people, even in the South, will begin to wonder how it was possible that their ancestors ever fought for or justified institutions which acknowledged the right of property in man.
One of the more interesting but curious fact about these memoirs is that Grant was not a very good judge of men re their ability to be dishonest. He was taken by many and his administration as President of the US was rife with imbroglios of graft of which Grant was not aware of. When Mark Twain found out how much money had been offered to then now bankrupt ex-president he interceded for him. They became friends.
No streaming video of Lincoln in my head
Amdrew Taylor, Esq.
Evil can seem beautiful if the uniforms are just right
Abraham Lincoln and General Don José de San Martín