Life changes in the instant. The ordinary instant - Joan Didion
Saturday, October 29, 2022
|Niña & Niño 28 October 2022|
A couple of days ago I decided that I had seen enough quotes
by Joan Didion,
I write entirely to
find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means.
What I want and what I fear. – Why I Write (essay originally published in the
New York Times Book Review in 1976)
and I was going to find one particular book of hers. I
called Don Stewart at Macleod’s Books and he told me that he had a copy of
The Year of Magical Thinking for $17. I bought it.
My intention in buying the book was not as successful as I
thought it would be. My purpose was to wean myself from my increasing addiction
to my phone, particularly in the morning when I check on CNN and four Argentine
on-line newspapers. I decided I had to start reading on some sort of schedule every day.
Didion’s and Bachelard’s books are so good that I have to
reflect on what I have just read. They are not mystery books or thrillers.
What makes it all worse is that Didion started the
beginning of her book two days after her husband John Gregory Dunn’s death.
While I am no Didion she writes exactly what went through my head a few days
later after the death of my Rosemary on December 9, 2020.
She writes about the death of her parents and explains how
nothing she felt at their loss compared to the grief she experienced at her
Grief is different.
Grief has no distance. Grief comes in waves, paroxysms, sudden apprehensions
that weaken the knees and blind the eyes and obliterate the dailiness of life.
Thoughts similar to Didion’s come to me as a turn off the
lights. Gaston Bachelard writes that poetry
enables us to daydream. He does not define exactly what he means by daydreaming.
When I am thinking, awake in bed is this not daydreaming?
I have a little green book by my bed where I note these
thoughts. I wrote, “Do a blog about Didion and Bachelard’s books.”
I cannot blame my phone obsession with my lack of energy to
write my daily blog every day instead of in spurts. I do a lot of staring at
the ceiling but I can also cite (I do not want to blame) my affectionate cats
that they are part of all this. The single most important obligation of my day
is to take Niño for his walk around the block. When I turn off the lights and
place my hand on them I feel the heat of a living entity that to me is becoming
more human by the day.
We tend to define humans as being sentient, perhaps forgetting that the meaning of the word is one of being able to feel and perceive. My Niño and Niña, I am sure, are sentient.
The death of a human, a human I loved, cannot be replaced by
another human. Both Rosemary and I understood, although upon the death of
one of our cats the only way to deal with the grief was to immediately get
I have written before that cats have an essence (a
Platonic essence from his world of ideas) that I call catness. A cat dies and
the new cat inherits that essence of catness and somehow something of the old
cat survives into (not in as into suggests that there is a transfer) the new one.
Unfortunately my cats do not replace the company of my
Rosemary. But they do provide me with the comfort of a connection that once bound
the four of us. When I am in my tub (remembering Rosemary because she loved her
tub baths) I sometimes have this sudden urge to loudly say, “Rosemary.” Niño
who is near me on the dirty clothes wicker hamper props up his ears and stares
I will never know but I believe there is a recognition
Farewell - Not French Style
Wednesday, October 26, 2022
|Rosa 'Abraham Darby'(orange) & Rosa 'Susan Williams-Ellis' 26 October 2022|
The Spaniards have a very good memory for their history. When
Lord Wellington and his army landed in Portugal and when they were approaching
France, Napoleon’s brother Joseph (King of Spain) left in a rush on his way to
New Jersey they came up with the term ‘despedirse a la francesa’ which
translates to “saying goodbye French style.” Included in that is the idea that
they leave without saying goodbye.
My roses are not French. Well some are and those Gallicas
only bloom once in late spring. The roses in bloom today, 26 October 22 are
English Roses bred by David Austin in Shropshire. They are remontant which means that they bloom more than once and in some cases often until late fall. The orange rose is a very
sturdy Rosa ‘Abraham Darby’ and the white one R. ‘Susan Williams-Ellis’, as delicate
as is looks, can take the cold, wind and rain.
I would say this is their last hurrah but in my lane
garden there are a couple of Rosa ‘The Shropshire Lad’ and my single (5 petals)
hybrid tea Rosa ‘Mrs. Oakley Fisher’ has
a bud that is ready to open.
Who knows if I will have any more roses until spring of next
My two cats, Niño and Niña aren’t keen to get off my bed and today is one of the first
days in a long time that I did not walk Niño around the block.
unlike the French we are ready to fondly bid summer and fall goodbye.
And if you
do not consider it true that Joseph Napoleon went to New Jersey, just look it
Rodney Graham - January 16, 1949 - October 22, 2022
Monday, October 24, 2022
January 16, 1949 – October 22, 2022
For about 15 years this photographer (no artist) shared a
floor in a building of the corner of Robson and Granville with two artists.
With me were the studios of Rodney Graham and Neil Wedman.
We did a lot of mutual visiting and I got to know both quite
One day I went into Graham’s studio and told him I had found
a pristine copy (unopened) of the 1980 Quintessence recording of the band U J 3
R K 5. He got very excited when I told him
that I already had a copy of it. Those of us who were in the know pronounced
the band’s title as U-Jerks. It was an LP-sized record that had to be played at
45 RPM. The most memorable tune for me was one called Eisenhower and the
That nobody on the cover is smiling or making eye contact
except for Colin Griffiths (on the left) to me reveals what few knew that Graham had a dry sense of humour behind his
One day he came into my studio and told me, “I am taking
photographs of trees with a 4x5 camera and I have a problem because the images
are upside-down. What can I do?” I told him that he had the option of buying a
expensive adapter to right side up the image or simply that he could learn to
look at trees upside-down. This he did. You can still purchase some of his
upside-down trees at the Vancouver Art Gallery.
In another occasion I had to photograph him a the Morris
and Helen Belkin Gallery at UBC for the Globe and Mail. When I arrived his show
had rectangles on the walls which seemed to contain one note, in each one. In
the centre of the gallery there was a Yamaha grand piano. Every few minutes a
note would sound. Graham had programmed the piano to play a Wagner work that
would take 27,000 years from beginning to end. He told me all this with that
serious face of his.
What I thought was very funny is that the Globe title and approach of the story on Graham was "Rodney Graham's Upside-Down Trees in Post Modern Vancouver"
|Igor Stravinsky - Arnold Newman|
I suggested that we play a joke on the folks of the Globe
and Mail and that I would rip off the photograph of Igor Stravinsky taken by
Arnold Newman. He may have smiled (I believe). When I sent the image to the
folks at the Globe I told them of our intention which was a humorous one and
that for them to please honour my crop. This they did!
The conceptual and installation art that controls what art
is supposed to be in our Vancouver is never really funny. Those who practice it
are completely serious.
Fortunately for us, that hanging chandelier under the
Granville Street Bridge is all about humour and sheds a light on a man that I
liked and respected.
The Upside-Down portrait:
I told Graham that I wanted to make him look like one of the intellectuals photographed by German photographer August Sander. Graham was knowledgeable in art history so he immediately posed for me and gave me his version of the serious, radical and German intellectual.
An Open Letter to BC Premier Designate David Eby (& ping-pong balls)
Sunday, October 23, 2022
|Alexandra Waterhouse-Hayward - Royal Hudson 1979|
Sometime in the last century I watched a scientific program on
PBS that featured a roomful of mousetraps
each with a ping-pong ball. One of the traps was moved and the result was the
explanation for what is a chain reaction.
Columbia, and particularly in Vancouver, the issue of homelessness is a most
important one. It is one that MLA and BC Premier Designate David Eby
From this non-expert’s
view, attempting to solve homelessness without studying and solving some of the
ancillary problems, amounts to having a large room with a single mouse trap.
In this blog I state Nini Baird’s theory years ago, but most relevant now, about
Vancouver’s density situation. She maintains that the cities and towns of BC’s
interior are isolated because they lack communication. Folks living in some of
those remote and not so remote towns and their young high school graduates do not see
the future of staying put. They come to Vancouver.
I am an
Argentine by birth and since a child my family depended on railroads and subways.
To this day the English trains, built at the end and beginning of the 20th
century, link Buenos Aires to its surrounding neighbourhoods and to the interior
of the country.
daughter Alexandra, who lives in Lillooet, must use her car to visit me. Lillooet
has one of the loveliest train stations.
It is an empty one. Another in Pemberton is a café. That a so called "World Class" skiing region that is Whistler is linked by a solitary bus service that begins at YVR is incredible!
I have been
living long enough in Vancouver (since 1975) to have been on the Royal Hudson
many times. In fact for almost 30 years I worked on contract for Canadian
Pacific Limited and I did my share of photographs of trains, tracks and
cabooses. I know how the scalers kept the sides of the mountains safe for trains
going from Vancouver to Lytton and beyond. I remember the fine Budd diesel
You do not
have to be a railroad engineer to figure out that in many sections of the
single rail linking Vancouver to Squamish there are spots that could have short
double tracks where a train going in one direction could linger until another
going in the opposite direction would pass. A train to Whistler (at the very least) could be a reality.
Ferry system links our islands because the ferries are deemed extensions of our
highways. A BC Bus System could be in the works, perhaps?
else in the world a large geographical entity that would be similar to BC
without a good transportation would be a scandal.
that Premier Gordon Campbell sold BC Rail to the CNR. The CNR promptly folded
Trains to Nowhere
In this blog I mention a Basque gentleman who became a bishop in the 16th
century who moved from Spain to the yet unnamed Mexico. On the way he read Thomas
Moore’s Utopia. Vasco de Quiroga became a proto socialist and founded communes
in what is now the state of Michoacán. He taught the Indigenous populations of
every town a craft. To this day Santa María del Cobre manufactures copper wear
and the best Mexican guitars come from Paracho Michoacán.
If one goes
to the interior I guess one can purchase Nanaimo Bars in Nanaimo and fruits and
wine in the Okanagan.
with its very good motto of “Guaranteed Rugged” manufactures nothing. Boots,
tents, jackets? I would buy one.
returned from Buenos Aires, after my conscription in the Argentine Navy in 1967,
I was on board an Argentine Merchant Marine Victory ship called the Río
Aguapey. It was many years later that to my delight I found out that it had
been built in the Burrard Shipyards. We used to build ships!
seems to be made outside of the Lower Mainland now.
If we are
to understand Nini Baird’s explanation for Vancouver’s density solving
homelessness by considering that part of a multiple problem needing a solution
could be a good beginning.
Eby, our future is in your hands.