A Massive Explosion Four Billions Years Ago & Bif Poses at the Marble Arch
Saturday, September 05, 2020
In September 2020, I can safely and accurately define myself
as being obsolete, redundant, retired and inconsequential.
But I can also add to that finality, that before it, many
faced my camera. I looked at Bif’s folder today and found these. Instead of
scanning the medium format (6x7cm negatives) I opted for scanning the contact
sheets. I kind of like them.
I look at them and they represent that magic concept (when
one looks back) of a moment in which I was too busy snapping my photographs to
consider that someday, many years later, I would be looking at them and being
inspired to write this short blog.
This whole year I have been fruitlessly trying to figure out
that idea and not being aware of its enormity (then), (even if a small one such as Bif
posing for me in the best room of that seedy Marble Arch) when looking back at
it in this most present moment.
Much has been written about one’s life passing by one’s eyes
at a time of an imminent accident when death seems to be in the works.
My friend George Bowering has nicely argued that a photo that
I took of him was of him but not him. Would this be Bif in a past?
But there is another concept concerning time and of those moments then recorded with my camera and then years later remembering them through my archives. Some four billion years ago a couple of black holes got together and massively exploded.We know this because the noise and light has just reached our earth. I am wondering now if that event is sort of like my memory but backwards. The reality of that explosion is now something that just happened as we only now know of it. There was nobody around to record that memory of so long ago. Is this reality also a memory?
Friday, September 04, 2020
|Shayne McAulay - Whistler British Columbia, 3 de septiembre 2020 |
El jueves pasado
fui en el Chevrolet Cruze a Whistler a buscar a Rosemary. Ale la trajo desde Lillooet . Whistler
está a medio camino. Almorzamos en el club de golf Nicklaus North. En mi vida
había visto greens tan prolijos o un paisaje tan espectacular. La comida fue excelente pero lo mejor fue la
vista ya que estábamos frente a un lago (Green Lake) donde estaban aterrizando
y despejando los famosoa hidroaviones defabricación canadiense, de Havilland Beavers. Ya no los hacen y el
avíon de mi foto, con el simpático piloto neozelandés Shayne McAulay, lo
armaron en 1954. Por lo menos 2000 de estos aviones, que volaron en la segunda
guerra mundial, aún existen con nuevos motores y equipo electrónico. En su mayoría
el motor es radial, marca Pratt & Whitney que suena como una motocicleta
muchísimas veces en estos ”floatplanes”.
por esta carta/blog/bitácora es que estoy invitándote formalmente a vos y a
McKinley (¿así se escribe su nombre?) a venir a Vancouver en plan de jugar al
golf. Yo les invitaría ir a Whistler (el viaje de dos horas es hermoso) y después
de jugar iríamos los tres en un de Havilland. Para mí se compara con un
viajecito en góndola en Venecia.
con la mayor consideración y estima,
Lunch With These Two Today
Thursday, September 03, 2020
My Rosemary has been visiting our Alexandra in Lillooet for a week. I have had to make do with Niño and Niña on me all night like glue. I have no idea if they miss their mistress? Perhaps they dream of being stroked by ancient pharaohs or being present with Aristotle imparting knowledge to his ward, Alexander. If they are disappointed with our Kits present I have no way of knowing.
What is certain is that I cannot wait to get into our Chevrolet Cruze and drive today to Whistler (a restaurant there) where the three of us will dine before I bring my Rosemary home.
My Rick Ouston Obituary - I Have Not Found Another
Wednesday, September 02, 2020
|Abraham Rogatnick's Pancho|
Vancouver is a city either with a little memory or with a poor
memory. We quickly forget those who have served us well.
It was Bill Tieleman’s posting on Facebook on Tuesday
in how I found out that Vancouver Sun Reporter Rick Ouston had died. I called up
John Mackie (he will probably inevitably turn off the lights at the newspaper
if Malcolm Parry does not beat him to the punch). Mackie did not call me back.
I have looked everywhere for some sort of announcement but I have not found
I wrote this blog (below) about Ouston some years ago. You can skip
my preamble and go to the link of a remarkable essay that Ouston wrote
defending a clinically assisted suicide.
Rick Ouston's Personal Take On Choice Of Death
Friday, August 22, 2014
August 22, 2014 11:15
Writing to deadline
Yes, it’s good to see
Mac (Malcolm Parry)
Nobody is an expert on
dying except perhaps those who administer to the dying or soldiers in battle
whose companions die. The rest of us by definition must be amateurs.
In Spanish we have the
expression “donde el rey va solo” or that place where the king goes and is
alone. This is a polite 19th century Spanish euphemism for saying
that someone is in the bathroom.
Not too long ago while
driving on a back alley near Quebec
and First Avenue I watched a seagull thrash on the
ground in what must have been its last moments. For a long time we talked about
that place the elephants go to die and sometimes we asked ourselves where it
was sea gulls died, at sea or on land? I felt melancholic
watching the bird and well knowing that dying is something that is supremely
lonely and shared with nobody in spite of Hollywood bed-bound death scenes.
Five years ago I went
to visit a dying friend, architect Abraham Rogatnick. We had discussed death
many times but this time I had brought with me my copy of the stories of
Ambrose Bierce. I told Rogatnick I was going to read him Parker Adderson Philosopher. The story relates how a captured Union spy is not afraid of death
knowing he will die in the morning. When the Confederate officer changes the
execution to that moment and not in the morning the spy suddenly is afraid.
I asked Rogatnick if
he were to have a gun pointed to his temple would he be afraid of dying. We
both agreed that there was not way of knowing until it happened.
A few days later
Rogatnick died in his sleep. He had decided, a year before, not to proceed with
the extended therapy to treat his prostate cancer. He sold or gave away his
stuff and donated money to his favourite art organizations. To me he gave me a
Leica IIIF and a Mexican papier-mâché skeleton. His words to me were, “I am
going to die in a year so you can have my skeleton.”
Paradoxically today I
was hit by a wave of melancholia and delight upon seeing the byline of Rick
Ouston in the Vancouver
Years ago, in the mid
80s Malcolm Parry as editor of Vancouver Magazine, had an open-door policy in
his office. Actors, politicians, thugs, prostitutes, writers, doctors,
architects, poets, crazy Estonians, illustrators, etc were quickly ushered in
and Parry always had an ear for good stories. He had a pulse for our city. The
magazine, Vancouver Magazine was relevant. In many ways so were our two city
newspapers. Every once in a while Parry would hire someone close to the
Vancouver Sun or working there to write a report on the status of our city’s
One frequent writer of
those essays was Rick Ouston. I never spoke much to him. But I remember that he
had a look through his eyeglasses that seemed to penetrate into my soul. He was
quiet-spoken. His essays were good. Had they not Parry would not have hired him
Years after when I
visited the Vancouver
Sun newsroom I would run into Ouston. I remember one time when I was there to
see Editor-in-Chief John Cruickshank. I met up with Ouston at the door (they had
to buzz it to get in). Ouston looked haggard and serious. In those days I used
to say to some of my friends that if you put Ouston into a room with my friend
journalist Mark Budgen and illustrator/designer Ian Bateson that in short
order, these three men would do themselves in. I thought it was interesting to
figure out who would have been first.
With all the changes
in the Vancouver
Sun, I stopped seeing Ouston’s byline. I called him one day and he told me he
was in charge of something called or similar to ombudsman of on line media.
Perhaps that was not exactly the term but it was vague. It seemed that Ouston
was in some sort of limbo and I was saddened to hear this.
Years back when a
couple of writers had been nominated for writing awards by the Western Magazine
Award foundation there was a scandal that few new about. These two writers had
written stories in which they had interviewed people who had not been
interviewed and quoted quotes that had never been uttered. The publications in
question (to be fair they had published the letters of protest) had then been
(amazing!) submitted as entries to the Western Magazine Awards. Rick Ouston and
Adrian du Plessis worked in the background in a subtle kind of blackmail, “You
give these two guys a prize and we will come forward.” The writers did not win
anything and the possible journalistic scandal was avoided. I was in awe of the
two men who had sound ethical standards which I know now are not really part of
the mix in the era of citizen journalism.
Today’s Ouston essay Choice of Death is a Personal Thing is in the heels of the Gillian Bennett
suicide of a few days past. Ouston defends that suicide instigated by Bennett’s
awareness of the encroachment of Alzheimer’s disease. In fact Ouston defends
our personal choice of death when circumstances push against staying alive.
I have long maintained
that if ever diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or another dementia, I will take my own
life. My reasoning is personal and purely selfish: What’s the point in staying
alive if I can’t think? I am beholden to no one, no children of my own, no
needy parents, no debts.
Later in the essay he
describes his bungled suicide attempt a year ago.
I wish Ouston well and
I congratulate him for his courage in writing this timely essay. I also
congratulate his Editor-in-Chief for allowing the essay to run.
It was pleasant to see
Ouston’s byline in spite of the circumstances.
Mashed Potatoes, Donna Leon's Venice & Cortázar's Counter Novel
Tuesday, September 01, 2020
In this 2020 September it is impossible to understand what
the future will bring. This makes it difficult to imagine being in that future
and then looking back to discern what will stand out as important.
For me I will look back at my Rosemary’s and my declining
health and how two brother and sister cats made that 2020 a bearable one by the
comfort they bring to our lives.
There is one item in that year which will be represented by
the reading of one book. The book is Julio Cortázar’s Rayuela. If more people were aware of its existence in a language
other than Spanish they might understand that Hopscotch (the book’s title in
English) is up there in complexity with anything that James Joyce ever wrote.
I read it first in 1966 in Buenos Aires. The reading left no
trace in my memory. This time around I read it slowly in the evenings to the
point that some of my nightmares centre on events of this novel, particularly
as I met the author in my home many times in my youth. He was a friend of my
Of the novel, Cortázar points out that Rayuela is many books
and in particular, two. As a reader I am
given a few choices. The first book, he explains ends in Chapter 56 after which
on the last page of that chapter there are three little stars indicating that
it is the end. The second book begins on Chapter 73 and Cortázar makes no
comment on what to do with the interim chapters but does have a chart with
pages and chapters to read.
Instructions" and structure
Written in an
episodic, snapshot manner, the novel has 155 chapters, the last 99 designated
as "expendable." Some of these "expendable" chapters fill
in gaps that occur in the main storyline, while others add information about
the characters or record the aesthetic or literary speculations of a writer
named Morelli who makes a brief appearance in the narrative. Some of the
"expendable" chapters at first seem like random musings, but upon
closer inspection solve questions that arise during the reading of the first
two parts of the book.
An author's note
suggests that the book would best be read in one of two possible ways, either
progressively from chapters 1 to 56 or by "hopscotching" through the
entire set of 155 chapters according to a "Table of Instructions designated by the author. Cortázar also
leaves the reader the option of choosing a unique path through the narrative.
techniques are employed throughout the book, and frequently overlap, including
first person, third person, and a kind of stream-of-consciousness. Traditional
spelling and grammatical rules are often bent and sometimes broken outright.
At this date, September 15 after quite a few months I can
state that I have finished that first book. But I had to find a rest from my
That rest came from Donna Leon’s Trace Elements which I
purchased two day s ago and finished in two evenings. It was refreshing (and
soothing) to read without the help of my Galaxy 5 as it was with Rayuela with
all those translated passages in French and the names of to me unknown jazz
It was soothing to sort of know what to expect. I have read
all of Leon’s previous Commissario Guido Brunetti novels set in Venice. After
having been with my Rosemary in Venice in 2019 the places so nicely described
by Leon are even more familiar.
The novel was like having comfort food (mashed potatoes and
stew?). But this comfort-food-novel gave me a tad of indigestion. The ending I
thought would be predictable. It was not. Commissario Brunetti had to make an
ethical decision involving two situations. He had to let go of one of them. The
ending was therefore not tidy. All the villains did not all go to jail.
It made me think and realize that Leon has been living so
long in Venice that she knows about the slowness of justice in Italy or that
the Mafia will be in existence for as long as people eat pizza. If the book were
made into a film it would not pass the censorship of the American system of
what is okay and what is not.
And then there was another content in this novel that
fascinated me to no end. Leon must have done a thorough examination on how a
glass of water from a Venetian tap gets there. Trace Elements is a novel about
crimes committed to make that tap water questionable.
Dust Gathered on the Glass
Henry James in Venice
Breaking a pattern of distraction
The gondola by my bed
To cope with the decision that Brunetti has to make he reads the tragedies of Aeschylus to determing how the tragedian inserted justice into them.
So, in the end, the mashed potatoes where just fine. There
might be smoke in the air, but we have lots of space in Vancouver and the tap
water is safe.
And best of all the novel was written in 2019 and events occur
during a hot Italian summer full of tourist throngs in Venice. Imagine that!
A Memorable Performance of Bach's Goldberg Variations - August 31, 2020
Monday, August 31, 2020
|Leslie Dala - 31 August 2020|
Today, my 78th birthday I will remember (for as long as I am
alive) as one of the best I have ever had.
I did not have to eat a horrible birthday cake or suffer
listening to people sing Happy Birthday.
It was a sad birthday in that my Rosemary is currently
visiting our eldest daughter Alexandra in Lillooet. I have had the sticky (they
are like glue) companionship of our brother and sister cats, Niño and Niña,
Why was today special? Consider that the handsome musical
director of the Vancouver Bach Choir, Leslie Dala, who has his hands (he is
also a conductor) in many things as seen here. He called me up a few days ago
knowing that today was my birthday offering to play Bach’s complete Goldberg
Variations for me on our 100-year-old fully restored Chickering baby grand.
I sat, an audience of one, in our piano room for almost 46
minutes of stellar music (just for me!).
After that we consumed a whole bottle of Argentine Catena
Malbec accompanied by an Emmentaler and a Spanish quince jelly.
Our conversation (sobremesa
it is called in Spanish when one chats intelligently at a dinner table) was
fun. It seems that Dala has been practicing the Goldbergs that will be in a
concert ten days hence.
While I am not of blue blood, for those 46 minutes, I felt
like a duke, even a king. How about that and in my birthday?
But in spite of the wonder of the afternoon I felt some melancholy during the performance. My mother played the piano very well in her last 10 years of life she developed Menniere's Disease. At first she had a persistent ringing in the ear. Then the nerve died and she was hit with deafness and loss of balance. She would cry in desperation while playing telling me that she could only imagine in her memory what she was playing.
Around 1971 my Rosemary told me that we had no money to pay the mortgage for our little brick house in Arboledas, Estado de Mexico. My mother sold her piano (she cried). All these years I have felt a tremendous guilt.
Today my melancholy, thanks to Dala and his playing became a happy moment in which I dedicated the concert to a woman, my mother, friend of my Rosemary, who sacrificed so much but was never ever able to listen to the Goldbergs played live.
As Christ said in the New Testament in Luke 22:19, "Do this in remembrance of me."
My Rosemary's Presence
Sunday, August 30, 2020
|Rosemary Elizabeth July 2020|
Today is August 30th. Tomorrow I will no longer be 77. My
Rosemary will not be around and I will not prepare any strawberry daiquiris.
Taking a bath today I went for the almost empty bottle of
shampoo and found a brand new one. Our toothpaste tubes (the empty ones) are
rapidly replaced. I am never out of shaving cream or razor blades. Many years
ago when I still smoked a pipe I would find little packages of mints on my
The presence of my Rosemary is acutely noticed, particularly
when she is not here. On Thursday I drove her to Squamish where Alexandra was
going to then drive her to Lillooet to her house for a few days. Ale found a lovely
restaurant by a river in Squamish and we celebrated her birthday (53) at lunch.
Driving home without my Rosemary’s physical presence put me into a state of
Tomorrow I am going
to have an extraordinary day. My friend Leslie Dala is going to come over and
in our Chickering he will serenade me with some of Bach’s Goldberg
Variations. That is extraordinary! We will then imbibe an Argentine Catena
Rosemary will not be around but her presence will be noted.
|Squamish, British Colmumbia - 27 August 2020|
Last night I was supposed to watch the 1957 film Raintree County with Elizabeth Taylor, Montgomery Clift and Eva Marie Saint. In 1958 my mother came to Austin to visit me. It was my first year at St. Edward's High School and I was really homesick. We went to the Austin Theatre on Congress Avenue to see Raintree County. It didn't take me long to ignore the performance of Elizabeth Taylor and concentrate on Eva Marie Saint. Henceforth I was a fan. Perhaps my favourite film of hers is the 1959 Hitchcock North by Northwest because of the bed scene with Cary Grant in the train compartment.
It was not too long ago that my writer friend John Lekich told me that my Rosemary reminds him of Eva Marie Saint.
Could it be that my future was ascertained that long ago day in Austin, Texas?