I Could Not Prove The Years Had Feet
Saturday, April 05, 2014
I could not prove the Years had feet
I could not prove the Years had feet—
Yet confident they run
Am I, from symptoms that are past
And Series that are done—
I find my feet have further Goals—
I smile upon the Aims
That felt so ample—Yesterday—
Today's—have vaster claims—
I do not doubt the self I was
Was competent to me—
But something awkward in the fit—
Proves that—outgrown—I see—
Friday, April 04, 2014
|Las Dos, Juan Dahlmann 2014|
I have an artist friend in Buenos Aires, Juan Dahlmann, who paints in a
hyper-realist sort of way. Recently he sent me some examples of his latest work
which intrigued me as he borrowed the look of some of my photographs where I
use a camera that is crooked inside a ring flash. The lens then “reads” the
edges of the flash which appear as surrealistic waning moons.
Painters have copied from photography for years. I have seen skies in hyper-realist paintings that come from first taking a photograph of the scene with a polarizer attached to the taking lens. On the other hand in the 19th century, photographers reacted to the Impressionists by consciously blurring their pictures. Alfred Stieglitz and his friend Edward Steichen took blurred (dreamy) photographs.
Note Alfred Stieglitz and Frank Sinatra were both born in Hoboken, New Jersey.
Elizabeth Blew Did Not Meet My Legs
Thursday, April 03, 2014
Since I could remember my mother told me
that I had a younger, sister, a redhead, who was born dead. I think I have been
fascinated by redhead women since, perhaps to the point of obsession.
In my profession as a portrait
photographer, now waning, I always had a dearth of opportunity to photograph
women with red hair. My interest in such an endeavour came from my inability to
ever record on film the true, almost translucent skin of such mysterious
people. Only in the last few months, with the advent of my owning a Fuji X-E1
digital camera do I have the ability to finally achieve my goal. In a few
weeks, if Karen Gerbrecht, a violinist for the Vancouver Symphony writes her
essay, I will put up her picture as the latest in my red shawl series.
Of late I have been reading lots (in my NY
Times and in the National Geographic) of the almost-proven theory of how our
universe inflated after the first 10 to the minus 32 milliseconds. For reasons
that escape my puny intelligence this theory raises the possibility of several
big bangs before our own universe’s Big Bang. If that is indeed the case we
could be living in a multiverse. It is then not just science fiction that if
there is a googolplex (a very large number) of possible universes there could
be one where my sister had not died and I would then not have been an only
Today I checked my first Argentine passport
and it is dated 1953. This confirms that I left Buenos
Aires that year for Mexico
City. I was 10.
I remember many things of my life in Argentina until
1953 but my memory of my cousin Elizabeth Blew (who must be two years younger
than I) is that of a girl that I would have ignored. She wore a ribbon on one side of her hair. I know this because I can see her in one of my group birthday party
pictures in our garden in Melián
in the Buenos Aires
suburb of Coghlan.
|Elizabeth Blew is the girl in white almost in the centre. You can see her hair ribbon.|
important events in my life in 1965 I am ashamed of my faulty memory. It would
seem that Elizabeth Blew’s memory of me (or at least that of my mother’s) is
She recently read this
blog. Elizabeth and I are facebook friends. This is what she wrote:
Alex, I read your
story and looked at the various photos. I think all the ladies in your family
are very attractive and to me, there is a lot of Aunty Nena in Hilary, also in
your looks. Don't know about the legs though, I have not had the pleasure of
meeting them, but will take your word for it!
The first thing that
hit me is her use of the word Aunty. It seems that word evokes for me an era of
nuclear families, no divorces, afternoon teas, and Anglo/Argentine accents that
were more British than the Queen of England.
The second thing is a
bit more intimate and I will proceed gingerly and hope that I will not embarrass
my first cousin, who does happen to be a blazing redhead!
In 1965, I have a hazy
memory of some of the events I used to go to my first cousin/godmother Inesita
O’Reilly Kuker for dinner once a week. I usually showed up in my Argentine Navy
sailor uniform. The table at the Kukers was huge as it had to accommodate
Inesita, her husband Dolfi, Inesita’s four children (she was a re-married
widow) and Dolfi’s four daughters (he was a re-married widower). Since many of
these siblings were teenagers they invited their respective boyfriends and
girlfriends. There was another guest. And this was Elizabeth Blew, one of the
most strikingly beautiful redheads I have ever met. Part of her charm was a
voice that somehow (to me) resembled the voice of Deborah Kerr. Whenever I see a
film with Deborah Kerr my heart palpitates. I have no idea if I ever spoke with
the table or if we had after dinner conversations.
What I do remember is
that we somehow met (I was in my uniform) at one of those Buenos Aires bar/restaurants that are on a
corner. I was sitting with her at window table. I was completely transfixed and
tongue-tied. I was completely smitten. I don’t think that my thoughts may have
descended into the realm of incest, but perhaps my memory has erased it. It must have been summer as the window was open. If Elizabeth had brought a parasol it would not have seemed out of place. She was my Estella and I her Pip.
The magic moment was
broken, a snap it was, when a very tall young man appeared in an Argentine Army uniform
(he was Norwegian but he looked like a perfect blonde member of the Wehrmacht).
I was introduced to the man perhaps by the expression, “….is my fiancé.”
Elizabeth and I are
now first-cousin-type of friends. I have seen her every time that I visit Buenos Aires. I once
visited her at her apartment in Martinez,
not far from the train station. But I usually see her for tea at Inesita’s who
also invites our other first cousin, Dianne. Dianne pouts if you happen to
pronounce that Dy-anne. It has to be Dee-anne.
I am happy to report
hair is still red (she says she colours it) and that she still sounds to me
like Deborah Kerr.
If you re-read her
latest message to me I do believe that her mention of my legs is sort of a
piropo (a much milder Spanish word for flirt or a come-on). I wonder what she
thought when we were sitting at that café before her soldier jerk showed up.
I have enclosed here a couple of pictures with my mother so that Elizabeth can have the pleasure of meeting my legs.
Not too long ago Lord Gilbey told me of a drink he called Primos Hermanos. I wrote about it here. The concoction is terrible but I would drink on now if Elizabeth were on the other side of the table with, of course, a parasol.
VanDusen - That Botanical Jewel (A Zircon)
Wednesday, April 02, 2014
|Rosa 'Charles de Mills' |
VanDusen Botanical Gardens here in Vancouver are not far
from where I live. I can walk there. Of late I have not. Perhaps it has to do
with the fact that my granddaughters are older and visiting a botanical garden
is not to their liking.
When we moved to our present home on Athlone Street in
1986 we had a ritual with VanDusen that was routine every year. In the fall we
would fill our trunk with bags of Vancouver Gold (not what you think but mulch
made by the city from fall leaf pickup). These bags were cheerfully filled by
volunteers who would then pack our trunk. In the spring it was manure, nicely
rotted manure. Again volunteers would fill our trunk and Rosemary would make me
go for a second run. The third tradition was the VanDusen Plant Sale at the end
of April (this year on the 27th).
As botanical gardens are defined they must
not only display plants and trees but be engaged in research and plant propagation.
They must have exchange programs with other gardens in the country and around
By that definition the only true botanical
garden is the appropriately named UBC
Botanical Garden and
Centre for Plant Research. This leaves VanDusen and the concrete garden, the Sun-Yat Sen Chinese
Garden as display
gardens. I am not sure of the exact status of the Nitobe Memorial
Garden at UBC.
Since I arrived in Vancouver in 1975 I have never seen a tad of
botanical cooperation (the pooling or resources, sharing advertising and
promotion, linking each other’s web pages). Each garden goes its own way. I
wonder how many in Vancouver are aware of the UBC Botanical
Garden’s excellent Shop in the Garden or the
massive metallic cat walks that link parts of the garden for eye-popping views
Part of the reason people are now in some
sort of ignorance is that the garden wave of the 80s and 90s has mostly died. Only
a few weeks ago I went to a local rose dealer and was shocked to find not one
(I repeat not one) old rose in their inventory. If you want Rosa ‘Reine de
Violette’ bite the dust you, will not find her.
If people are to garden they might do so
high in a balcony. Many of the owners of garden centres are unable to sell
their business as red ink flows.
VanDusen has always been a special Vancouver problem because
until recently it had an uneasy and hazy relationship with the Vancouver Park
Board. As an example, the many volunteer guides of the garden were not allowed
to pull weeds. There were union regulations!
Now the direction of the garden is clear.
The Park Boars is in Charge. This is the very Park Board, part of the city that
replaces our city trees (when old, when they fall, when they die) with nice new
trees that come with built in weeds. My wife and I have been pulling them (to
no avail) for years now.
Twenty Twelve, as far as I can ascertain
was the last year that VanDusen sold their fall compost and spring manure. This
year, last week, they sold manure in tiny little bags for a price that in some
cases exceed that of garden centres. Perhaps this is a Vancouver Park Board
policy to keep all those involved with clean hands.
April Played A Fiddle
Tuesday, April 01, 2014
April Played a Fiddle
April played a fiddle
And my heart began to dance
And I was so surprised to find
My arms around romance.
April played a fiddle
And I memorized the tune
And later on, a dream and i
Went singing to the moon.
Then may began to gossip,
And june just winked her eye,
And you should have seen
The know-it-all expression on July.
April played a fiddle
Ah but here's the funny part,
I had to pay the fiddler
Emily Posts - A Violin In Baize Replaced
Monday, March 31, 2014
|Karen Gerbrecht, Sunday March 30, 2014 Fuji Instant FP-100C|
One of my most singular pleasures in the last few years is the discovery that I can mate some of my photographs to the poems of my favourite poets, Jorge Luís Borges
, Homero Aridjis
, William Shakespeare
(especially the Dark Lady of the Sonnets) and Emily Dickinson. Of the latter I have posted frequently in the last couple of years since I read Jerome Charyn's The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson - Novel. I first wrote about it here
. Then I cross-referenced some of those blogs with the fact that Charyn then wroteI Am Abraham
. I wrote lots about this novel because like The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson it is an unusual novel, what I call a first person autobiographical novel. Below are all the links to things Emily Dickinson to date.
The first two links are to photographs of the extremely beautiful Karen Kerbrecht who plays the violin in the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. I knew that Dickinson had written at least three poems which include the violin. Here is the third so that I can justify posting one more picture of Karen Gerbrecht, one I took yesterday.
Like Some Old
When Summertime is
And the Affairs of
As infinite Tradition
As Cinderella’s Bays –
Or Little John — of
Lincoln Green –
Or Blue Beard’s
Her Bees have a
fictitious Hum –
Her Blossoms, like a
Elate us — till we
almost weep –
So plausible — they
Her Memories like
Strains — Review –
When Orchestra is dumb
The Violin in Baize
And Ear — and Heaven —
A Fond Embrace With Thirst
Sunday, March 30, 2014
Si la sed va a abrasarme,
que ya me abrase.
If thirst is to embrace me
that it embrace me now
Jorge Luis Borges - El Desierto
Going to a new music concert is always a
thrill and an adventure. Particularly when in the collaboration with Turning
Point Ensemble, musica intima
|Telus Studio Theatre Chan Centre UBC, March 29 2014|
and The Nu: BC Collective
opening performance of
last night, there were two world premieres. That might sound overly
lofty but consider the pleasure of listening to something that has never been
Still I went to Thirst (with my designer
friend Graham Walker) with some reservation. I am not keen (or at least I
wasn’t at one time) on choirs or massed choirs. Fortunately musica intima
(notice that I must write that in lower case!) is far from being a massed
|Caitlin & Phoebe MacRae|
In the middle 50s while being a boarder at
a Catholic school in Austin, a few of us of the many that listened to the only radio
station around (owned by LBJ) considered ourselves sophisticated because we
liked the instrumental music of The Ventures while everybody else preferred
Elvis and company.
It is only in the last 15 years that I have
begun to understand that every human voice (good ones) can be an exquisite
musical instrument. And I should have known this before as I have jazz records
by Lambert, Hendricks & Ross and many scat performances by Ella Fitzgerald.
In my memory is a TV performance of a string trio in which the cello was simply
actor Peter Ustinov imitating one with his voice!
One of the singular pleasures for me last
night was noticing alto Caitlin MacRae (8 months pregnant) with her red hair
singing with musica intima. I believe she may have been one of the original
singers in the group when it was founded. There is a special reason why I hold
a warm memory of MacRae.
In 1992, my wife, our two daughters and I
went to our first ever performance of the Pacific Baroque Orchestra at Ryerson Church. They were appearing with the
Elektra Female Choir. On the program was Vivaldi’s Gloria RV 589 (with that
trumpet!). During this performance, my favourite ever (all female choir?) there
was what seemed to me a competition between two soloists, Caitlin MacRae versus
her sister (also a redhead) soprano Phoebe MacRae.
Most people who shun new music concerts
because they may not be melodic enough or too dissonant or alien have it wrong
when it comes to new music in Vancouver.
Headed by the soft-smiling conductor (and Co-Artistic Director with trombonist
Jeremy Berkman) Owen
Underhill there is always
lots of humanity in Turning Point Ensemble concerts. And when you mate the
Ensemble with the music of the Serbian composer (resides in Montreal) Ana
Sokolovic you have fun, games, humour and sound from instruments you never knew
could be played.
Not that Sokolovic is all laughs. In her
Tanzer Lieder (2004) Soprano Robin Dridger-Klassen and The Nu:BC Collective
headed by pianist Corey Hamm, Paolo Bortolussi on flute and Eric Wilson on
cello there was a romantic intensity in music so good that the 15 minute
duration seemed to me to be too short. Extra special was listening to Driedger-Klassen
sing in German, French and English as Austrian poet Tanzer Lieder's original poem.
|Albertina Chan's harp and Jane Hayes|
Sokolovic’s Dring, dring (2010/2014) with
the Turning Point Ensemble was a hilarious account of our contemporary problems
with cell phones and in particular those in which we post baby and cat
pictures and selfies.
In …and need a room to receive five
thousand people with raised glasses…or …what a wonderful day, the birds are
singing “halleluia”…(2014 and a world premiere) Sokolovic with lots of humour
coaxed all kinds of alarmingly wonderful sounds from Marc Destrubé’s
violin, and Albertina Chan on harp. But
all the other instruments contributed too. David Owen removed the reed from his
oboe to make blowing sounds, Berkman showed off with his trombone’s mutes but
the most hilarious “noise” of all was French-hornist Steve Denroche’s
imitations of the perfect flatulent sound. This piece should put to rest that
unmelodic music cannot be fun and listenable.
Thirst (2008) by American composer Julia
Wolfe was much more serious. There were some moments where musica intima sang
the Old Testament’s text from prophet Isaiah but most of the time they were
simply musical instruments and part of the Ensemble. Thirst, when I closed my
eyes brought me the image of Omar Sharif playing Sherif Ali in Lawrence of
Arabia, in that iconic mirage in the desert as he closes in on the camera on
his camel. And it brought to mind one of my most favourite poems, el Desierto, by Jorge Luís Borges.
Montreal resident (born in Germany)
Michael Oesterle’s No Need (2014 and a world premier), (was this composition
all about food as the program said? Take a year old carrot, sauté for two hours in goat butter and chamomile...) was a more slightly serious laugh (but a laugh
nonetheless) in which guest clarinetist (and a regular of the Turning Point Ensemble)
made sounds with his instrument that I had never heard before. I asked composer
and saxophonist Colin MacDonald who was sitting nearby if he knew about all
these sounds (including those French horn farts). He said, “Yes.” I was afraid
to ask him how you would, as a composer notate those sounds! Musica intima
again with just a few words but with more pure sounds convinced me that Bach
Cantatas, as beautiful as they are (I am a fan) are not the only thing going
for the human voice.
|Ana Sokolovic, left, Owen Underhill, right|
There is another performance (besides the one at 2:30) tonight at 7:30 at the Telus Studio Theatre at the Chan Centre at UBC.