A House is not a Home Until
Saturday, November 20, 2021
|Rosemary & Alexandra - Los Bebederos, Arboledas, Estado de México - 1971|
reaches my age, the idea of legacy is an important one. On the other hand I am
not too concerned about it. Particularly because in the blog cited below containing a link to an essay by a former
Editor-in-Chief of Life Magazine,
Bill Shapiro, who wrote in 2020 for the NY Times Sunday Magazine how
after a couple of generations you might look at old family portraits and not
know now their identity.
A Snapshot of Death
It was my
mother, many years ago, who told me that a house could never be a home (and
especially one you had just moved into) if there were no pictures hanging on
the walls. All my life, since I can remember, the walls of all my homes and my
present one, have been full of framed (well framed) photographs, paintings, and
recently, my plant scanographs.
|Rosemary & Alexandra - Mexico City 1971|
happen when I am gone? Will my two daughters, and if my two granddaughters have
their own home, want these framed photographs, etc?
that today I have printed what I consider one of my most iconic (and never
noticed until a few weeks ago when I was filing old negatives) portrait of my
beautiful Rosemary and my two year-old daughter Alexandra. That would make the
date 1971. That means that the photo is half a century old! My youngest
daughter Hilary has told me that she has that powder-blue sweater dress of my
Rosemary in her closet.
The photograph was taken half a block away from our first-owned house in Arboledas. The place was called Los Bebederos and it was built by famous Mexican architect Luís Barragán. In my internet searches I avoided Pinterest but found a fine site. It is a PDF but it is worth looking at it. The Bebederos had large mature eucaliptus trees. We would walk with our two daughters Alexandra and Hilary and our stray dog Mouche. It was here that I had the luck of taking a photograph of Hilary when she discovered her shadow
|Hilary - Los Bebederos 1972|
photograph that I am having framed, taken when Alexandra was one and a bit, has
a special significance for me. In the early 70s I was taking photographs of
wealthy families for extra money. Rosemary and I were teachers at the time in
Mexico City. The business of shooting these family portraits was a good one
even though I would process and print the pictures in my bathroom darkroom. But
nobody was taking pictures in homes using Kodak Tri-X and a small 35mm camera.
The significance of that photograph of my two is that it was part of my little
lovely leather-bound portfolio. If you consider that I printed this picture in
1972 that makes it one year shy of half a century. And it looks perfect with no
stains or fading. Even then I was careful to over-wash my prints to remove all
traces of fixer.
is of no particular concern to me now, I am still a bit troubled by the recent “shows”
at the Vancouver Convention Centre of the Van Gogh, then Picasso and soon The
Sistine Chapel, projected video (and probably with sound) extravaganzas. At one
time I was predicting that putting a valuable or not so valuable framed
painting or poster on a wall was being replaced by large-screen TVs. Now I am
wondering if the future of art exposure will circumvent going to local
galleries or fine galleries in Italy, France, England and the US. Are the
events of the Vancouver Convention Centre also undermining interest in our Vancouver
Art Gallery? Will we soon have Emily Car projected as a show at the centre?
And as far as legacy is concerned is it worth it that I will have my framer at Magnum Frames use UV protection glass?
Turning Into a Cat
Friday, November 19, 2021
|Rosemary & Niño 2020|
10. If you cannot live
a little more like a cat, return without regret to the human world of
diversion. Living like a cat means wanting nothing beyond the life you lead.
From Ten Feline Hints on How to Live well.
John Gray – Feline Philosophy – Cats and the Meaning of Life
A cliché of clichés is the one when men, including this one
say, “My better half.” It acknowledges that to be a whole person (in the lingo
of the long lost 20th century) one had to have a partner (lingo of
this century) or a wife.
With my Rosemary now gone since December 9, 2020 the
feeling that I am not a whole man is acute. I find myself with the idea that I am waiting for something. I will not be morose here and write what I suspect I am waiting for. I deal with my daily menialities
and try to keep busy with distractions. But at the hour of turning off the
light in my bedroom, it brings with it that realization that I am not a whole man (person).
My grief suddenly lands upon me with a vengeance that is only mollified by
the immediate competition of Niño and Niña to get prime bed real estate as
close to this guy as possible. I then grasp that these two are alive and
their live presence in the room signifies that I am not alone even if I am half
When Rosemary was alive I would say that that the two of us
lived with two cats. This two plus two
was one of humans here, and felines there.
Now I would say, “The
three of us live in a little Kitsilano duplex.”
In John Gray’s lovely book, which is full of philosophers
who loved cats, Montaigne, etc and some who disliked them, Pascal; I found lots
of evidence that my cats have a strong human presence. And it is more perfect
than that of the human who insists on equating life with actions and
distractions and not of simply being. That said I believe that Sartre must have
In a recent visit to my cardiologist, Dr. Huckell, he asked me about my cats. I told him, "I think they are becoming human." The good doctor, with a smile on his face, countered, "No, Alex you are becoming a cat."
In Fond Remembrance of Miss Mew
Thursday, November 18, 2021
I have been informed by friends that Kathleen O’Byrne
died in her sleep the day of her 60th birthday this past Wednesday
Most who knew her called her Fleen. Because she
was an ecdysiast she went by the name of Topaz.
I knew her as Miss Mew. She had an almost smile when she
danced (ever so slowly) and she made sure to look at you. She had a preference for
the music of Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground.
My friendly relationship began one evening when after
seeing her perform at the Number 5 Orange I left to attend a Subhumans (a
fabulous Vancouver punk band) concert at the nearby Carnegie Centre on the
corner of Main and Hastings.
To my surprise she was walking in the same direction. I
asked if she were going to the same concert I was. Her pleasant affirmative
began my following of this woman that all my friends would kid me about me since I would
often say, “This afternoon I have to go to see Miss Mew.”
Writer Les Wiseman and I convinced Malcolm Parry, Editor
of Vancouver Magazine to run a piece on Vancouver exotic dancers with the angle
of the business side and of the money that was made. Of course Miss Mew made it
to our choice of dancers and that may have been the first time I photographed
But there is another story to this that attests to the
presence, personality and gumption of Miss Mew. I was taking photographs of
several women in domestic circumstances while doing it in the nude. This
included painting kitchens and posing with a dog by a fireplace. The show at a local gallery I called Homebodies.
One day I received a phone call from Miss Mew who told
me, “Alex, just because I live in a fleabag
hotel (the Niagara) does not mean that I do not live at home. It is my home. So
you should photograph me in it.”
This I did and she prepared a window with her pumps, an
apple and a vase with flowers. She then posed for me in a most vulnerable and
sad position. I will never forget. The photograph is at the end of this blog.
In later years she would come to our Thursday noon
gatherings at the Railway Club and that is when I noticed that this woman with
alabaster white skin had been hiding a myriad of freckles for years!
She moved from Vancouver and through social media (we
were friends) I know that she cleaned up her life and worked for the film
As a photographer in Vancouver I was lucky to penetrate
all social strata. I knew politicians, businessmen, lawyers, policemen and
policewomen, detectives, hoods, punkers, journalists, prostitutes, bus drivers,
etc. I could go to the Marble Arch and sit at the bar and the man behind,
Jorge, would say, “Alex, your usual?” And he would serve me a soda water. I
felt like Humphrey Bogart in a noir film. It was my life as a photographer in
Vancouver that made me feel that this was my city.
The many ecdysiasts,that were my friends, patiently posed
for me while I learned my techniques of taking photographs of women that I held
on a pedestal. These techniques served me well in my career.
Miss Mew was such a woman.
Jorge Luís Borges - A Love Poem - A Woman hurts in my entire body.
Wednesday, November 17, 2021
|Rosemary & Alexandra 1973 - Bebederos, Arboledas, Estado de México|
Perhaps it was Elizabeth Barrett Browning who with her
Sonnet 43 How Do I Love Thee? might have begun the tired (was it?) 20th
century cliché of telling anybody you loved them.
I know that when my mother died in 1972 I regretted the fact
I had rarely told her of my love for her.
After my 52 year marriage to my Rosemary I find it hard to
recall if after I met her and asked her to marry me if I uttered that phrase.
And now with her gone I feel no better than when my mother died. There is that guilt of having failed.
My mother was the kind of person who often told me that to
love was not something of displayed by affection. She would say, “Love is doing.” And yet I also regret not having hugged my mother as much
as I could have. With Rosemary I was always affectionate but she may have
indirectly inherited some of my mother’s coolness. And, as my mother, she did
(do) lots of stuff for me and for our family that proved her love. If I now
live in quiet solitude with no worries it is because my Rosemary did do.
My friend Kerry McPhedran today sent me an email with a
Borges quote that somehow has escaped my memory.
Being with you or without you
is how I measure my time.
That quote was followed by Kerry writing: I thought of you and Rosemary when I read
That made me curious and I found the poem by Borges (it
will be here below in both Spanish and English). It is a lovely poem by a man which the opinion of experts declared that he had a problem communicating with women. The
anguish in this poem with that line “Me
duele una mujer en todo el cuerpo.” This is translated to, “A
woman hurts on my entire body.” makes this love poem unique and wonderful. I would have translated in my entire body not on.
El amenazado for me is Jorge Luis Borges’s magnum opus love
poem. It successfully blends how it hurts to love and how much more it hurts
when you have lost the person you loved and rarely told you loved..
que ocultarme o que huir.
los muros de su cárcel
un sueño atroz.
hermosa máscara ha cambiado,
como siempre es la única.
me servirán mis talismanes:
ejercicio de las letras, la vaga erudición,
aprendizaje de las palabras que usó
áspero Norte para cantar sus mares y sus espadas,
serena amistad, las galerías de la biblioteca,
cosas comunes, los hábitos,
amor de mi madre,
sombra militar de mis muertos,
intemporal, el sabor del sueño?
contigo o no estar contigo
medida de mi tiempo.
cántaro se quiebra sobre la fuente,
hombre se levanta a la voz del ave,
ya se han
oscurecido los que miran por las ventanas,
sombra no ha traído la paz.
lo sé, el amor:
ansiedad y el alivio de oír tu voz,
espera y la memoria,
horror de vivir en lo sucesivo.
amor con sus mitologías,
pequeñas magias inútiles.
esquina por la que no me atrevo a pasar.
ejércitos me cercan, las hordas.
habitación es irreal; ella no la ha visto.)
nombre de una mujer me delata.
una mujer en todo el cuerpo.
The Threatened One
It´s love. I will have to hide or run.
The walls of its prison grow, like in an awful dream.
The beautiful mask has changed, but as always, it's the
In which way will my talismans serve me: the exercise of
the vague erudition, the learning of the words that the
rough North uses to sing his seas and his swords,
the calm friendship, the galleries of the library, the
the habits, the young love of my mother, the military
shadow of my deceased, the timeless night, the flavor of the dream?
Being or not being with you is the measure of my time.
The pitch breaks over the fountain, the man
rises at the voice of the bird, the ones that look
through the windows have darkened, but shadow hasn't brought peace.
It's, I know, love: the anxiety and the relief of hearing
yur voice, the wait and the memory, the horror of living on the sequential.
It's love with its mythologies, with it's useless little
There is a corner that I don't dare passing by.
The armies fence me already, the hordes.
(This room is unreal; she hasn't seen it.)
The name of a woman betrays me.
A woman hurts on my entire body.