Autumn Rain - Umbrellas & Jorge Luís Borges
Saturday, September 23, 2023
|Rosa 'Princess Alexandra of Kent' & Hosta 'Paul's Glory' 23 September 2023|
Rain is a thing that happens in the past
In 1975 while living in Mexico, Rosemary convinced me that Mexico City was not a
place for our two Mexican daughters and that we were to move to Canada. She
added that I would not agree with Toronto’s snow or with Montreal’s French
language. She said we were moving to Vancouver.
On our way there in our Mexican WW Beetle we stopped to see
some friends in Seattle . They told us, “Why would you want to go there as it
rains all the time?” That was our first inkling about a city where it is
personally mandatory to change your windshield wipers once a year.
My previous concept of rain came from bitterly cold and dark
Buenos Aires winters where it rained lots. We have an Argentine word for a
persistently fine rain – garúa. ‘When it really pours we say, “Llueve a
cántaros,” It rains buckets.
In Mexico persistent fine rain is called chipi-chipi. Until
we left Mexico City in 1975, macho culture seemed to dictate that men did no
use umbrellas if they did not want to be labelled effeminate. I did not own an
umbrella. The dry season is from October through May but from June to September
the rainy season it may rain on average once a day, though it rarely lasts
longer than a few hours.
Rain in Mexico then was not the plain one they get in Spain.
As rains fell it mixed with the atmospheric pollution to produce an acid rain
that contained sulphurous dioxide which then became sulphurous acid. If you did not protect your car’s paint with
lots of wax, the finish lost its lustre. I have no idea how breathing that rain
may have caused damage to my lungs.
Today is the first day of fall and I noticed a rose, Rosa ‘Princess
Alexandra of Kent’(it was one of Rosemary’s favourites) so combined it with a
wet Hosta ‘Paul’s Glory’ leaf knowing that I could use it to illustrate today’s
I own a lovely dark blue umbrella that I bought many years from
The Umbrella Shop. Sadly that wonderful Vancouver institution is gone so I am
extra careful in not leaving my umbrella anywhere except in my hand. I wonder
about the completely different meaning behind the word umbrella and the one in
Spanish , paraguas. The English word sidesteps the obvious as it comes from the
Latin for shade. In Spanish we are more
direct as the word means “for waters”.
For me the best poem about rain is the one by Jorge Luís
Borges here first in English and then in Spanish. There is a line : Rain is something happening
in the past – La lluvia es una cosa que sin duda ocurre en el pasado. I
wonder if Jorge Luís Borges had ever stayed in Vancouver, if he would have
written about rain in the past.
The Rain :: J. L. Borges
The afternoon grows light because at last
Abruptly a minutely shredded rain
Is falling, or it fell. For once again
Rain is something happening in the past.
Whoever hears it fall has brought to mind
Time when by a sudden lucky chance
A flower called “rose” was open to his glance
And the curious color of the colored kind.
This rain that blinds the windows with its mists
Will gladden in suburbs no more to be found
The black grapes on a vine there overhead
In a certain patio that no longer exists.
And the drenched afternoon brings back the sound
How longed for, of my father’s voice, not dead.
[From Dreamtigers, by Jorge Luis Borges, translated by
Lluvia – Jorge Luís Borges
la tarde se ha aclarado
cae la lluvia minuciosa.
Cae o cayó.
La lluvia es una cosa
duda sucede en el pasado.
oye caer ha recobrado
en que la suerte venturosa
una flor llamada rosa
curioso color del colorado.
que ciega los cristales
uvas de una parra en cierto
ya no existe. La mojada
trae la voz, la voz deseada,
De mi padre
que vuelve y que no ha muerto.
First Paragraphs for a Second Time
Friday, September 22, 2023
Because I read lots I have always been fascinated by the
first paragraphs of books that I am about to buy or ultimately do so.
I have written about it a few times, and I have even singled second
First Paragraphs & Autobiographical novels
Jane Rule - Of Second Paragraphs
In my Sunday, September 24 New York Times Book Review I
immediately noticed this first paragraph in Dwight Garner’s review of J.M.
Coetzee’s latest The Pole (167 pp.).
The South African writer J.M. Coetzee’s novels are slim
and so, by and large, are his characters – they’re Modiglianis, not Boteros.
I often use one of my first paragraphs in my bios:
My birth in Buenos Aires in 1942 was recorded by a photographer
with the burst of magnesium flash powder. I knew then I would someday be a
The Unanswered Question - 9 December 2020
Thursday, September 21, 2023
My first attempt at the Unanswered Question
The Unanswered Question Satisfied us Twice
The Unanswered Question Never AskedLeonard Bernstein conducts The Unanswered Question by Charles Ives
Leonard Berstein Lectures - The Unanswered Question Absolutely worth listening to this!
My Rosemary died in the evening of 9 December 2020 in our
bed in the presence of my daughters Alexandra, Hilary, my granddaughter Rebecca
I am writing this in the closing hours of 20 September 2023.
I asked Hilary this evening if Rosemary had said anything before she died.
Hilary told me that her mother had a problem with her windpipe and said
nothing. She also added that she did not remember. I don’t plan to ask the other two the same
I distinctly heard Rosemary ask, “Am I dying?” My mental
block is that I don’t remember if any one of us answered.
This blog has been in my mind since that tragic evening and
finally I will write it. I did make an effort before. First link above.
Of the subject of the Unanswered Question in relation to the
1908 composition by Charles Ives I wrote two previous blogs. Links above.
This time I want to explore and remove (or not) from my system this
idea that we all die alone. If someone is holding your hand as you are dying (as in many Hollywood films)
there is no way of knowing how that feels. Nobody has come back to tell us.
That question of Rosemary is not one that I would have answered at all. But
then, if I had been in her place and I had asked, would I have been aware of the
silence following the question?
I cannot comprehend how she knew she was about to
die that evening. She had been told by her cancer doctor that she had a few months left of life. Both of us did not believe we would ever see each other again. Was she
aware of that loss as she asked that question that we could not have possibly
When Rosemary was alive, my own personal life was in order. I
had a purpose and I shared one with Rosemary. With her gone, I have no rudder. I
could even add, with no further detail, that the little family life I have is unravelling.
I have come to believe that Rosemary knew she was dying
before she asked the question. And there were two other living things that seemed
to know. Niño was always next to her on those last few days. Niña was with her
until her last moments and after so I found out.
After Rosemary died we all went downstairs to wait for
the funeral service to show up. Because I
am a photographer I knew I had to go up. I did. Niña was on top asleep with Rosemary. I
took one photograph.
is inside me and I will die with it. Will it ever see the light of day?
A, B, & C
Wednesday, September 20, 2023
|Martin Guderna - 20 September 2023 16:15 to 16:18|
Today I went to the studio of my artist friend, Martin Guderna.
For a few days I had seen a painting that he did of his wife
Yolanda who died in September 2022. I was able, through email, to see its
progress until it was finished (is it?).
The painting is derived from a shadow of her profile that
Guderna had. It is an amazing work because when you look at it you check if you
have your glasses on. The portrait is blurred.
I decided I wanted to take a portrait of Guderna with his
painting behind him. I took my light and softbox. From my vantage point at my
chair, as I looked at the standing Guderna, I knew how I wanted to take the shot.
Knowing how to take the shot (from one place and only a few)
is in me because of my experience of shooting actors, directors and authors
when I am given little time. In some of those cases I was working with writers
for the Globe and Mail or the Georgia Straight, Christopher Dafoe and John
Lekich. As I would watch the interview I would eliminate what I could not do
and then decided on the one thing that I could.
I took three shots of Guderna. The times (recorded by my
Fuji X-E3) are 16:15,59 – 16:16,41- 16:18, 37.
Between the first and the last I decided I needed both hands
in the picture. Because we were listening to one of my Astor Piazzolla CDs I placed
it in the last photograph.
I am used to leaving after a session like this and not
thinking, “I should have…”
I thank Martin Guderna for giving me the opportunity to
practice my craft. I need a person to face may camera. The advantage of the
painter that he is, is, that he can practice his craft in solitude.
Did the tree fall?
Faulkner's The Bear in the Century of Emojis
Monday, September 18, 2023
|First page of The Bear|
Sometime in 1992 I received a fax from Peruvian writer Mario
Vargas Llosa. I was to see him in his home three months hence. I decided then
to read his literary output to then in Spanish.
principio del 1992 recibí un fax del escritor peruano Mario Vargas Llosa. Me
citaba en tres meses para verle en su casa en Lima. Decidí leer todos sus libros
ya publicados en castellano.
|Mario Vargas Llosa 1992|
One of his books, Conversación en la Catedral, was rather
complex. The protagonists had different names. When you read a dialogue you had
to figure out who was talking to whom. I enjoyed the novel in spite of my
troubles. I did find out that the conversation was not at a cathedral but at a
café by that name.
Uno de sus libros, Conversación en la Catedral, era muy complejo. Los protagonistas
tenían varios nombres y cuando uno hablaba con otro la variedad de nombres
aparecían. Era una confusión para mí. Me encantó el libro a pesar de esas dificultades. Ysupe que la
Catedral no era una iglesia pero un café.
I had long chats with him. I was not nervous as I had read
his books. I asked him about the complex structure of his novels. This was his
answer, “By forcing my readers to figure out what they are reading they
participate in the creation of the novel. I was inspired by William Faulkner’s
story, The Bear."
largas charlas con Vargas Llosa. Yo estaba calmado ya que había leído todos sus
libros. Le pregunté el porqué de la complejidad de sus novelas. Me contestó, “Escribo
de esa manera para obligar al lector a participar en la creación de la novela. El
cuento, “The Bear”, de William Faulkner me inspiró.”
Last night I took out my copy of Faulkner’s Go Down Moses
that contains the story. I have read 10 pages with difficulty and I am not sure
I know the name of the principal protagonist who seems to gain a year every few
atreví a leer el cuento en mi copia de Go Down Moses. Después de leer diez
páginas no estoy seguro si sé el nombre del jovencito que es el protagonista
principal. Cada cuantas páginas el jovencito envejece por un año.
But how I acquired my copy of my Random House 1942 (the year
of my birth) edition of Go Down Moses is an interesting story in itself. On May
15 1972 my Rosemary and I taught English at several American companies in
Mexico City. On that day I was at Colgate Palmolive. I had a very enthusiastic
young woman student called Ana María Ramírez Ponce. On that day she gave me the
book. All these years later I finally opened it to read The Bear.
Como vine a
tener este libro en mi biblioteca tiene
un relato interesante. El 15 de mayo de
1972 yo estaba enseñando inglés en la Colgate Palmolive en la Colonia
Irrigación. Mi Rosemary y yo íbamos a varias compañías estadounidenses. La
chamba era fácil e interesante. En mi clase, Ana María Ramírez Ponce era una
alumna con mucho entusiasmo. Ese día me regaló el libro con mucho cariño. ¡Es increíble
que tantos años han pasado antes que yo abriera el libro para leer The Bear!
La Espada del Rey Arturo - Sword Excalibur
Sunday, September 17, 2023
|Hilary discovers her shadow|
King Arthur has always been in my mind whenever I have one
of my cameras in my hand. With
them I cannot fail.
de la espada del Rey Arturo siempre está conmigo cuando tengo en mis manos una de
mis cámaras. No puedo fallar.
My first camera was a newfangled (at the time) single lens réflex,
an East German Pentacon-F with a f-2.8
Tessar lens. I bought it from Olden Cameras in New York for $100 on mail order
from St. Edward’s High School in Austin, Texas in 1958.
Mi primera buena
cámara fue una Pentacon-F con un objectivo Tessar de f-2.8. Era una innovación
llamada single lens réflex (SLR). La compré por encomienda de Olden Cameras en
Nueva York desde mi escuela en St.
Edward’s High School en Austin, Texas. Pagué $100.
Back in Mexico City in 1962 I wanted a second camera with a
faster lens but I could not afford the ones being sold at Foto Lipkau on
Avenida Venustiano Carranza. In nearby Foto Rudiger I found a used Asahi Pentax
S-3 with a 50mm f-2 lens.
Al volver a
la ciudad de México quería otra cámara con un objetivo más rápido. Las cámaras
de Foto Lipkau en la Avenida Venustiano Carranza eran muy caras. Cerca, en la
Foto Rudiger, encontré una Asahi Pentax S-3 usada, con un objetivo de 50mm f-2.
With those two cameras, that had the same lens mount, I
started my fledgling career as a photographer. I used them in Buenos Aires and
then in Mexico City from 1967 until 1975 when with my Rosemary and two
daughters, Alexandra and Hilary, we moved to Vancouver.
dos cámaras (la Pentacon y la Pentax tenían la misma entrada de rosca) me
desenvolví en mis primeros intentos como fotógrafo en Buenos Aires y en 1967
hasta 1975, cuando con mi Rosemary y dos hijas, Alejandra y Hilary, nos mudamos
A year before 1975 we put our house for sale and left our jobs.
That was not a good idea as nobody wanted to buy our house. I then began to
photograph the wealthy Mexican families in their homes and processed and
printed my Kodak Tri-X in my bathroom darkroom in Arboledas, Estado de México.
I was astounded in that I was making good money. Rosemary insisted we should
move to Vancouver and when we sold our house we did just that.
antes del 1975, pusimos nuestra casa en venta y dejamos nuestros empleos. Fue
un error ya que nadie quería comprar la casa. Comencé a fotografiar familias
adineradas en sus casas. Revelava mi Kodak Tri-X en mi cuarto oscuro que era el
baño de servicio y allí imprimía la fotos. Me quedé asombrado con el gran éxito
de mi nueva carrera. Pero Rosemary insistió en la mudanza y al vender la casa
no trasladamos a Vancouver en nuestro bochito (VW).
|Desierto de Altar - 1975|
With those two cameras, and especially with that Pentax, I
believe I took some of the best photographs of my life. In a group trip to
Guanajuato with the University of Americas, my street photos won the grand
prize at the university. My diploma was signed by Rufino Tamayo. Until today I
value my portraits of Rosemary, of Rosemary with our then only daughter
Alexandra and subsequently in that magical photograph of our Hilary discovering
her shadow when she was two. I am now convinced that with Pentax in hand I have
my own personal Sword Excalibur.
dos cámaras, y en especial con la Pentax, tomé algunas de mis mejores fotos de
mi vida. En un viaje a Guanajuato, con un grupo de la Universidad de las
Américas, mis fotos ganaron el gran premio en la universidad. Mi diploma lo
firmó Rufino Tamayo. Pero hasta hoy las fotos de mi Rosemary con Alejandra, de
Rosemary sola, y esa tan especial foto de Hilary a los dos años cuando
descubrió su sombra me han convencido que esa Pentax es mi espada del Rey
In my trip to the Mexico City Book Fair to be held in Mexico
City for a week and a half beginning on October 13 where I will talk and show
my author portraits I have made the whimsical decision to take not only my Fuji
X-E3 but also that Asahi Pentax S-3. Could this be an example of symmetrical synchronicity?
En mi viaje
a la Ciudad de México, para la Feria Internacional del Libro en el Zócalo, que
empieza el 13 de Octubre, voy a charlar y mostrar mis retratos de autores. Pero
también (y estoy muy emocionado) no solo voy a llevar mi Fuji X-E3 digital pero
también esa Asahi Pentax S-3. La cámara (¿ella?) volveremos a nuestras raíces culturales.
Mi nostalgia por México
Mi último adiós - My last hurrah
There is a sad but interesting postscript here. A month ago the shutter button of my Pentax
fell out. I took it to Horst Wenzel. He repaired it and then died two weeks
agregar un dato curioso pero triste. Hace un mes el botón del obturador de mi
Pentax se cayó. Lo llevé a Horst Wenzel. Lo arregló en un par de días y murió
dos semanas después.