The Red-Haired Stewardess - John Lekich & A Gentlemanly Routine
Saturday, November 05, 2022
|Exposure 37 & 36|
Because I am a human being who is a product of the 20th
century, I feel now, with the death of my wife Rosemary on December 9 2020, to be rudderless
in a sea of change.
Only routine keeps me on an even keel (enough with these
nautical terms!). One very important one is walking my male cat (without a
leash) Niño (his sister Niña is not as daring) around the block every day.
There is comfort in the routine of entering my nicely heated
oficina and sitting at my desk to write as I am now.
There is another routine that helps. This is the idea that
manners, style and knowledge persist in a few people I know. Stellar in this
category is writer John Lekich with whom I worked paring my photographs with
his lovely writing for Vancouver Magazine, the Globe and Mail and the Georgia
I would add another quality to Lekich and this is that he is
old-fashioned. He thinks about women the way we did back then. Why can they not be on a pedestal and at the same time still be at eye contact in front of us? He marvels at who
they are and comments about them or to them in social media without ever offending. This routine of
his keeps my ship (again) on a straight course.
He is one of the few that reads my blogs and goes beyond the
photographs, although, while he often comments, he does use emojis (anathema!).
Emoticons from hell
He reacted to this blog (below is the link) about the red-haired stewardess I
may have photographed around 1978. The
pictures he liked are at least 44 years old. I am adding a pair of the two last
ones just because I have the urge to do so. But I will add a little explanation
about the two photographs. Because the colour negative I used was inherently unstable it is really impossible to properly correct the colour. And I am sure that Lekich will enjoy them.
When I used film, if I loaded my camera in a darkroom (or
with a changing bag), I could sometimes get more than the 36 exposures of a
36-exposure roll. Sometimes I could even get a 38 one. In Argentine Spanish this is called yapa (extra).
Yapa, Cholesterol & Blood Sugar
The two photographs here are the 36th and 37
I marvel at the fact that the red-haired woman may now be
close to 80 and I wonder if she is alive and where she lives. There is
something about looking at a portrait of a person I photographed long ago that
makes me wonder about the phenomenon I feel when I do so.
For me it all began at the Lincoln Library on Calle Florida
in 1950. The library was an arm of the United States Information Service (a
long title for what they really were, spies) that was adjacent to the American
Embassy. It was there that I discovered that I could borrow books and take them
home! One of the books (it could have
been a magazine) called American Heritage. In it were some photographs of soldiers
of the American Civil War taken by Timothy 0’Sullivan, Alexander Gardner and
Matthew Brady. There were some that
were dead on the field. Others
were alive and looking in my direction. I could not help but notice that they
looked like the Argentines walking outside. It was also my first realization
that the soldiers in the photographs were now all dead. Death stared at my face for the first time.
While the red-haired stewardess may be alive there is
something about looking at these pictures that takes me back to the most
important moment in my life at the Lincoln Library.
I believe that my friend John Lekich would understand
this. If he were to somehow spot this red-haired stewardess I am sure he would
open the door for her. Gentlemen then are still gentlemen now. That is an
unchanging routine I share with Lekich.
Shoes, Mentors & Joan Didion
Friday, November 04, 2022
In the Odyssey, Mentor (Greek: Μέντωρ, Méntōr; gen.: Μέντορος)
was the son of Alcimus. In his old age Mentor was a friend of Odysseus. When
Odysseus left for the Trojan War, he placed Mentor in charge of his son
Telemachus, and of Odysseus' palace.
The above citation from Wikipedia explains why to this day
many consider a mentor to be a man and an inspiration of a woman, a muse.
I have written at length in previous blogs about all the mentors
in my life beginning with my father and then to the Brothers of Holy Cross at
my boarding school in Austin. Pushy art directors in Vancouver made me the
photographer I am today and Argentine Juan Manuel Sánchez convinced me to the fact that I was an
My huge negative, slide and photo files of beautiful women
attest to the fact that I had many muses.
Of late I have come to understand how wrong I have been. My
grandmother, my mother and particularly my Rosemary (married to her for 52
years) were definite mentors. I would not be the man I am today without them.
My new mentor now is Joan Didion. She did write this:
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)
As I wrote in this blog (link below) I
became tired of finding quotes by her and decided to get one of her
books at Macleod Books.
Life changes in the instant. The ordinary instant - Joan Didion
The book in question The Year of Magical Thinking is a tough
read. She starts the book a couple of days after her husband John Gregory Dunne
died. While I am not Didion, what she writes as she navigates her grief is
exactly what has been in my head since December 9, 2020 when Rosemary died.
I can only read a few pages at a time. I marked this page
and the quote:
Grief is different. Grief has no distance. Grief comes in
waves, paroxysms, sudden apprehension, that weaken the knees and blind the eyes
and obliterate the dailiness of life.
And there was this one:
I needed to be alone so that he could come back. This was
the beginning of my year of magical thinking.
The clincher that inspired my blog for today (13 November
2022 but that I am placing back to fill a gaping hole caused by my listleness)
is this one:
I took the bags [after Dunne’s death] of his clothes] to
St. James’. One day, a few weeks later, I gathered up more bags and took them to
John’s office where he had kept his clothes. I was not yet prepared to address
the suits and shirts and jackets but I thought I could handle what remained of
the shoes, a start.
I stopped at the door of the room. I could not give away the
rest of the shoes. I stood there for a moment, then realized why: he would need
shoes if he was to return. The recognition of this thought by no means eradicated the thought.
I have still not tried to determine (say by giving away the
shoes) if the thought has lost its power.
Of the Argentine shoe in this scan I remember the exact day in
Buenos Aires when I spotted it on the window of a shoe store on Calle
Corrientes, half a block from Calle Florida.
For 52 years Rosemary never bought shoes by herself. We went
together and most often I chose the pair she would buy. The colours of this pair scream to me of “my
I have yet to accept that she is gone and that she is never
going to return. Joan Didion would understand.
Read All Over
Thursday, November 03, 2022
|Rosa 'The Shropshire Lad' 3 November 2022|
My memory is good, almost exceptional, but in a random
way. I remember that I was 9 years old, it was 1951 and going to the American
Grammar School in Belgrano R in Buenos Aires when I heard a statement, I
thought it was a joke but it was an intelligent one.
Our teacher Miss Zimmerman asked us, “What is black and
white and red (we heard red not knowing she meant read) all over?” The startling answer for me was, “A newspaper.”
Today in what may be the last of my roses for the year, I spotted
these two (and a bud) of the English Rose, Rosa ‘The Shropshire Lad” so I
concocted the scan to illustrate that joke I heard so many years ago.
Wednesday, November 02, 2022
|Rosa 'Mrs Oakley Fisher' 14 October 2022|
|Rosa 'Mrs. Oakley Fisher' 3 November 2022|
Since my Rosemary died on December 9, 2022 I have come to
understand that she was the bond that kept our family together. Many in my
family have gone their own way. Perhaps it could be that the younger ones are
now much older and an 80 year old man (me) is simply an 80 year old man.
I find myself now, often going to the Preface, page 19 of Harold
Bloom’s How to Read and Why where I
We read not only because we cannot know enough people, but
because friendship is so vulnerable, so likely to diminish and disappear, overcome
by space, time, imperfect sympathies, and all the sorrows of familial and
My Rosemary and I were together for 52 years. It is obvious it
was all her doing. She had that talent. With her gone the breakup is
And yes, I have found in this last year that friendship indeed
Tuesday, November 01, 2022
|Rosa 'Susan Williams-Ellis' & Pyracantha - 1 November 2022|
My state of being prevents me from going into my document
files to find out the exact date when we moved from Kerrisdale (and our large
and extremely beautiful corner garden) to our duplex in Kitsilano. It was about 5 years ago.
Rosemary was unhappy with the move. This time around my
opinion prevailed. She had always been the smart one to make all the decisions
in our 52 year marriage.
I told her that we had spent so much money in making the
garden that it was and travelled all over the world with our daughters and
granddaughters that we had little money to make repairs in leaky bathrooms. If
we moved she was aware that we were going to make lots of money. I told her
that by moving we could inherit our daughters while we were still alive and
still have money to live comfortably.
And so we moved and Rosemary was downcast.
The first time we saw our house on 7th Avenue
must have been around now five years ago. One salient feature of the small deck
garden was the brilliant red pyracantha and its red berries (a relative of the
extensive rose family that includes peaches, cherries, etc).
Today in my melancholy of a cold sort of not quite rainy day
and my Niño and Niña not wanting to leave my lap on the bed I had a look at the
pyracantha and I instantly became saddened thinking how Rosemary may have been
starting to feel happy in this little house of ours by the time she was dying on
December 9, 2020.
And so today I scanned the pyracantha with one of the last
remaining roses of the season (I believe three or four may bloom in the next
days if it does not rain too much) and dedicated it and this blog to the memory
of my Rosemary.
As St. Luke wrote (the King James version) Luke 22:19 NKJV
And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to
them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance