Saturday, October 10, 2020
|Yuki, Bella Vista, Provincia de Buenos Aires|
In the beginning of this century I had a joint show with
Argentine artists Juan Manuel Sánchez and Nora Patrich called Argentine
Nostalgia. We would meet in Vancouver
cafés or sip mates until the late hours of the night discussing and sharing
stories of the country where we were born. Because this was all nostalgia it
had to be rosy or funny or both.
Looking back at all this I must reconsider it. I left Buenos
Aires in 1954 and lived in Mexico City (and other places in Mexico like
Veracruz and Nueva Rosita, Coahuila). Then, after five years in Austin, I
returned to Buenos Aires for my military service. I married my Rosemary in
Mexico City in 1968 and moved with our two daughters to Vancouver in 1975.
What makes my nostalgia now different is that I must include
my subsequent trips in this century with Rosemary to Buenos Aires. In two of
those trips, in one we took our older granddaughter Rebecca and in the other
the younger one Lauren.
It would seem that my nostalgia is tinged by more recent
Suddenly I find that my nostalgia is no longer nostalgia.
It is something more powerful. Nostalgia is a noun, it is a feeling. But to
yearn (and in that beautiful word añorar)
is a much more active verb. The feeling is now an action. It is an action that
lacks the subject. I can do just fine with a rosy memory that is nostalgia but
it is not enough. I need the very place and thing I am thinking about.
This idea cemented itself on Sunday when our eldest daughter
Ale (visiting us from her home in Lillooet, BC) my Rosemary and I went to
Chapters/Indigo on Granville and Broadway. There were books and books, but
leather purses, and frames, and jig-saw puzzles and so much other stuff that I
was overwhelmed. When we left (I bought nothing) I told my companions, “I yearn
for a Buenos Aires bookstore that only has books.”
In Vancouver Pulp Fiction and Macleod Books almost qualifies
for a sort of similarity.
But they cannot satisfy my yearning for books in my native
language (maternal if we are going to be gender specific). I was pleasantly
surprised that at Indigo in their reduced Spanish section of about 10 books
they had two copies of Julio Cortázar’s Rayuela in the very edition that I am
As I read Rayuela, written in 1963, Cortázar uses words in
the Argentine lunfardo an ever changing Buenos Aires jargon, such as pituco. I
had not seen or heard that word since I left Buenos Aires in the late 60s. It
sort of means, sort of cool and posh. It can be used to describe a woman as
Seeing these words is more than nostalgic as now I have to
bring in my Rosemary’s impression of the Buenos Aires we have now visited many
In 1966 I was invited by my nephew Georgito O’Reilly to
spend the summer in his parent’s rented summer home in Pacheco which had a
pool. We both had to put coins inside a large ashtray so that the alarm clock
would jangle us awake so we could take a 6am bus (it was called the Don
Torcuato) that would leave us at a train station and from there to our military
job (he was a conscript in the army and I was in the navy). And his brother
Ricardo who was doing his servixe in the police force.
Their step sisters (their widow mother, my first cousin and
godmother, had married a widower with four daughters) kept playing a record
called Misa Criolla over and over
until I could not stand it anymore. How was I to know then that the composer
was a man called Ariel Rámirez?
A few years ago I discovered through a friend a magnificent,
perhaps unknown poet in our globalized-in-English-world called Alfonsina
Storni. She was born in Switzerland but as a very young girl moved with her
Argentine parents to Argentina. Of her I have written, here, here, and here.
And because of this poet I have come to love, adore a
composition called Alfonsina y el Mar
composed by Ariel Ramirez the man whose music I loathed back then.
This means that I cannot have nostalgia for Ariel Rámirez
and his music. But I can have a yearning for his absolutely beautiful
composition particularly if performed by Argentine folksinger (now dead)
What makes this song especially lovely are the lyrics by
Félix Luna an Argentine writer, lyricist and historian.
And more so, as the song is an Argentine zamba (with a z not with the Brazilian S) so it has a quirky rhythm that
makes me shed tears and particularly when I listen to any version (and I have
many) of Alfonsina y el Mar.
Mercedes Sosa - Alfonsina y el Mar (with the Zamba rythm)
Ariel Rámirez plays it on solo piano
While I have most of the books that Jorge Luís Borges, Julio
Cortázar and Ernesto Sábato ever wrote I do not have a single volume by Storni.
I can safely and accurately state here that I yearn for a
Buenos Aires bookstore where I would find her books. And should they sell CDs I would pick up a copy of that damned Misa Criolla.
I cannot stop there without mentioning that my yearning is one I share with my Rosemary. Yearning in company is so much better.
Milonga del Angel
Friday, October 09, 2020
|La Recoleta - Buenos Aires|
I write a blog, 5160 to date, but I am not a writer. At one
time when I was not only taking photographs for periodicals I was getting paid
a dollar a word. But I am not a writer. It is not my gig.
But this caught my eye today in an interview with novelist
Tana French in my NY Times today. I have read three of her novels. I am a fan.
…for the last few
months, French has been struggling to write. She’s too anxious about the state
of the world.
”I’ve realized how
much of this gig is your subconscious, and my subconscious, like everybody else’s
in the world is a smoking crater right now, “It’s all used up by dealing with
what’s going on around us and trying to process it.”
So while writing is not my gig, writing my daily blog has
been a slog these last months. I worry about feeding my-not-too-well Rosemary;
I stare at the ceiling while contemplating our two orange and white sibling
cats; and I try to remain sane while reading about a circus cat (el gato calculista) who can count in
Julio Cortázar’s Rayuela. I believe
that anything by James Joyce or William Falkner is simple in comparison to this
“contranovela” as Cortázar called it
when he published it in 1963. The novel unsettles me but then I am living in
My wife tells me, “Do
something. Go to your oficina and write some blogs. You are driving me crazy.”
With the pandemic pretty well eliminating local theatre and
concerts, I find that I do not want to listen to YouTube or much less what friends send me in links with no explanations. We are living a time when
content (newspaper content is one example) has all but disappeared.
The ushering in of the internet devalued heretofore romantic/lovely
words. As an example there was, “Visit our web page, Vancouver Garbage
Department”. With pandemic visits in
persons all but gone, that early internet word has become central to my
understanding how far we have gone in social interaction. It has been devalued.
One of the most beautiful words in English, to share, is
even more beautiful in Spanish, “compartir”. The idea of the word (my opinion)
is con- with and partir- break comes from Christ breaking bread with His disciples.
That act in the New Testament has these lovely words, “Do this in remembrance
Now particularly those in social media go to some sites that
have music videos, jokes, posters, and then they “share” them without much of
an explanation. “This song by Frank Sinatra is my fave.” There is no
explanation on why. This sharing lacks context and more important (my view) in
Here goes and explanation:
My fave Ástor Piazzolla is Milonga del Angel.
I can leave it at that or I can proceed with personal
In 1966 when I was in my native Buenos Aires, Piazzolla was
the centre of controversy. Those who were classic tango lovers (my first cousin
Jorge Wenceslao de Irureta Goyena) pointed out that nobody could dance to this “Nuevo
Tango”. This was patently not true as I learned (many years later to dance to
Piazzolla). In tango the man (who is in charge as in fly fishing and perhaps no
other activity) can stop or pause while dancing at will. The partner (no longer
having to be a woman in this 21st century) then has to adapt and
stop, too. Piazzolla pieces lend themselves nicely to this method of imposing
My first cousin and I had many arguments but pragmatically we
navigated to other subjects like the wonders of his native state of Corrientes.
It was in that year that I fell in love with a lovely Argentine
woman even though with my short Argentine Navy haircut I looked even less
attractive than I really am. We went to a party in the neighbourhood of
Martínez one Saturday. Susy, was hip on new music so she had persuaded me to
buy two tickets to a performance of Astor Piazzolla downtown on Calle Florida.
When it was time for us to leave she told me that she was having too much fun
and that she was going to stay at the party. Melancholic beyond words I waited
for the train at the Martínez station. It was a sad evening and I seemed to be
the only person on the platform.
At the theatre (Teatro Florida, now gone) I sat down and the
seat next to me was empty. She was not there. The concert began and Piazzolla’s
tangos made me go further into depression. The Argentine tango can do that
nicely. Then the group began this lovely piece called La Milonga del Ángel.
Suddenly I felt a slight pressure on my right hand.There she was. During a lull she
whispered into my ear, “I could not let you be here alone. I thought you would miss me."
Perhaps that is not great content. But it is content.
My grandmother showered me with all kinds of Spanish advice,
sayings and I did not know then that many of her aphorisms came for Cervantes.
It seems that Sancho Panza was full of them.
There is one such advice that my abuelita often gave me:
Saludar con sombrero ajeno. (to greet with someone else’s
This is what social media sharing is all about.
A Glass of Warm Blood
Awake ye muses nine, sing me a strain divine
Thursday, October 08, 2020
|Bronwen Marsden 2019|
Awake ye muses nine,
sing me a strain divine, Unwind the solemn twine, and tie my Valentine!
In this new (to me) 21st century I am hip (a
favourite word of William Gibson) enough to understand that to call a woman a
muse is no longer appropriate (I hate this word). To call a woman an
inspiration perhaps sounds better. And yet I see a muse as someone (not
necessarily a woman) whispering in my ear ideas that I can then
make my own and perhaps even display them well.
Promise This -- When You be Dying -- by Emily Dickinson
Promise This -- When You be Dying --
Some shall summon Me --
Mine belong Your latest Sighing --
Mine -- to Belt Your Eye --
Not with Coins -- though they be Minted
From an Emperor's Hand --
Be my lips -- the only Buckle
Your low Eyes -- demand --
Mine to stay -- when all have wandered --
To devise once more
If the Life be too surrendered --
Life of Mine -- restore --
Poured like this -- My Whole Libation --
Just that You should see
Bliss of Death -- Life's Bliss extol thro'
Imitating You --
Mine -- to guard Your Narrow Precinct --
To seduce the Sun
Longest on Your South, to linger,
Largest Dews of Morn
To demand, in Your low favor
Lest the Jealous Grass
Greener lean -- Or fonder cluster
Round some other face --
Mine to supplicate Madonna --
If Madonna be
Could behold so far a Creature --
Christ -- omitted -- Me --
Just to follow Your dear future --
Ne'er so far behind --
For My Heaven --
Had I not been
Most enough -- denied?
More Emily Dickinson
If you were coming in the fall
Yellow she affords
A melancholy of a waning summer
Just as green and as white
It's full as opera
I cannot dance upon my Toes
a door just opened on the street
Amber slips away
When August burning low
A sepal, petal and a thorn
Her breast is fit for pearls
I would not paint a picture
November left then clambered up
You cannot make remembrance grow
the maple wears a gayer scarf
We turn not older with years, but older
Now I am ready to go
Pink Small and punctual
A slash of blue
I cannot dance upon my toes
Ah little rose
For hold them, blue to blue
The spreading wide my narrow Hands To gather Paradise
Wednesday, October 07, 2020
With so much time in my hands I sit at home and look
around. Invariably when I am in the living room I spy this framed photograph of
a former tango partner and friend Nena Kazulin. The photograph is to me an
obvious portrait. I believe that after a face the next most important and
telling feature of a human being has to be the hands.
Early in my boyhood I watched my mother and grandmother
remove a strong box from a closet and open it to decide what jewellery to wear
for a party. They picked necklaces and bracelets but invariably chose from
their collection of rings. I do not recall my grandmother’s hands perhaps
because my mother had hands to match her beautiful legs. She had long fingers
and immaculate manicured finger nails. Since those days I always look at a
person’s hands right after noticing their face.
And I would assert here that if my portraits have brought
me some element of fleeting fame it is because when they hands show I do my
best to show them in some graceful manner.
This photograph of Nena I took with Kodak B+W Infrared
film. Because as boy I had fallen in
love with Estella in Great Expectations
I saw in this photograph (before I even took it) a vision of her guardian Miss
Havisham, a wealthy spinster, once jilted at the altar, who insists on wearing
her wedding dress for the rest of her life.
It seems that I have blogged about hands before many
times. Here are some of them:
I took the power in my hand
The hands that talk
Toco tu boca
I would not paint
Tus manos son mi caricia
Al borde de la desesperación
A bassist's hands
Mate cocido with Curtis Daily
New Music for old instruments
And below a beautiful poem by Uruguayan poet Mario Benedetti called Tus Manos (Your Hands)
MANOS - Mario Benedetti
manos son mi caricia
quiero porque tus manos
por la justicia.
quiero es porque sos
mi cómplice y todo
y en la
calle codo a codo
mucho más que dos.
son mi conjuro
la mala jornada
quiero por tu mirada
y siembra futuro.
que es tuya y mía
no se equivoca
quiero porque tu boca
quiero es porque sos
y todo y
en la calle codo a codo
mucho más que dos.
Y por tu
llanto por el mundo
sos pueblo te quiero.
amor no es aureola
que no está sola.
quiero en mi paraíso
que en mi país
no tenga permiso.
quiero es porque sos
mi cómplice y todo
y en la
calle codo a codo
mucho más que dos...