A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


The Wrist Man After The Fireworks - Gets A Headache
Thursday, July 31, 2008

Yesterday I went to a fireworks party at Marv Newland's. Like a good snob that I am I arrived early so I could enjoy pleasant conversation with people I had not seen for years, like broadcaster David Wisdom and his pal (strictly friends should anybody wonder about Wisdom) artist Neil Wedman whom I have really missed. He moved out of my studio floor some months ago. I arrived early so that I could leave exactly when the fireworks began. As a snob, I feel that fireworks, rose slide shows, sunset slide shows and caves, are fine, one time around. It didn't take two minutes into the fireworks when over the radio I could hear Celine Dion. I looked at magnificent illustrator Bernie Lyon and saw a kindrid snob spirit. We left.

Now, Lyon is very adamant about many things. She does not like to have parking problems so she parked some 15 blocks away. She made me walk extra fast as she did not want to have traffic problems. She mentioned how people should allow free access through city property sidewalks. While she loves plants she thinks the folks at Kitsilano (a place she knows intimately) should prune and control their vegetation for unempeded congress through those sidewalks. So as to leave quickly she made a U-turn on 12th Avenue while citing its perfect legality at that time of the evening and place (something about it not being a commercial area).

Today I taught at a new school (for me) called Van Arts. It was grueling and intense day. Halfway through it I was hit by a migraine (I thought they were history with me but I was wrong). Driving home, while holding my head with one hand (Rosemary came to pick me up) I was thinking, "What about that blog. Will I be able to get up from bed when the headache has receded to post it? And what will I post? Will it be something token?"

Not quite. Above is a photograph of Nena Kazulin's legs. And as I stare at it here I discover, that as strange as this might seem, I have become a wrist man.

Gaze on that wrist. And that migraine is almost gone.

Alice Again
Wednesday, July 30, 2008

In my profession I have the pleasure of being able to record the passing of time. And here is Alice (Rebecca) again.

Curiously she is posing in the same place with the Cedrus deodara 'Snow Sprite' behind her. She is holding the exact same rose, Rosa 'William Shakespeare'. In the picture taken five years ago the cut rose was past its prime so the originally deep red bloom had faded to purple and opened more. That's why it looks bigger. Will I be able to do this five years hence?

Another Alice

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I have tried to answer the above question twice and here you can read about it. This time around I have a far simpler reason and perhaps even more satisfying one. On Thursday Lauren and Rebecca's bespoke dresses from Jan Donaldson Designs arrived in the mail. We made the mistake of giving the girls the opportunity to pick the patterns and Lauren picked a pattern that mostly clashed with many of the plants in my garden. But on Saturday afternoon it became partly overcast and the contrast level in our garden was ideal for portraits of the girls with the roses. I gave Rebecca my secateurs and she proceeded to select the roses for our photos.

There were many pictures that I like and I was able to narrow them down to 9. Rebecca told me, "Moma said that I should pose for you with the condition that I at least think about smiling for some of them. " This she did and I picked some of them, although if I were given free rein I would pick all the serious ones.

The magazines that I work for would never consider the idea of running pictures of little girls with semi exotic old roses or English Roses. Even if they did, the display of photos would be a maximum of three.

But in this blog I can run as many as I want and write what I want. That is why I blog.

Who shaves the barber? I had to explain to Rebecca the term and she immediately offered to photograph me with Lauren even though I had not shaved that morning. I was able to explain to her how to focus my large Mamiya RB-67 ProSD and maneuver with the cable release. And here is the picture with Lauren Stewart (6) taken by Rebecca Stewart (almost 11) with Papi holding a hybrid tea rose from the 30s called Rosa 'Crimson Glory'.

Lauren Elizabeth Stewart & Rosa 'Fimbriata'

We thought it was going to be tough to find roses that would not clash with Lauren's bright green dress. I remember back in Mexico Chrysler Mexico made a variant of the Dodge Super Bee and called it the Plymouth Super Bee. The colour of choice for most Mexican road runners was a ghastly green that matches Lauren's dress.

Rebecca and I figured out that white was a safe colour. And it just so happened that one of the most exotic of my rugosa hybrids, Rosa 'Fimbriata' was in bloom. Notice the ruffled edges of the petals and how the flower resembles a carnation.

Rosa 'Pierre Oger' was sold to me by John Tuytle as Rosa 'Louise Odier'. Both are Bourbon Roses and I eventually secured Louise Odier. But John Tuytle's surprise roses can be very pleasant ones. Rosa 'Pierre Oger' is not the kind of rose you can find anywhere. Verdier hybridized it in France in 1878 and Peter Beales describes her thus:

A sport of 'La Reine Victoria'. Very pale silvery-pink, translucent, cupped flowers with the form of small water-lilies, sweetly scented.

Lauren Elizabeth Stewart & Rosa 'Green Ice'

I believe that most miniature roses, with such names as Red Patio Wonder are the toy poodle plants of the garden. No garden should have either of them. The only botanical dog I would tolerate would be the species rose, Rosa canina. But there are a few miniature roses that are "good garden plants" as my friend Alleyne Cook describes the plants he likes. The bush after a few years (as mine) can actually spread about four feet wide and high. It has masses of tiny white flowers tinged with bits of pink/red on the edges. As the flowers age (they do not fall off and manage to look fresh) they get an attractive green tinge. And the rose re-blooms during the summer. When Hilary arrived that Saturday evening for dinner, Lauren ran up to her and said, "We found a rose that looks good with my dress. It is Green Ice!"

Rebecca Anne Stewart & Rosa 'William Shakespeare'

Rosa 'William Shakespeare' is an English Rose. It is supposed to be such a terrible rose (disease prone) that hybridizer David Austin delisted it (removed it from the list of his available roses for world-wide distribution). He introduced an improved version called Rosa 'William Shakespeare 2000'. I don't think that the Bard would consider that name to be poetic nor do I. And, besides my William Shakespeare, while not being terribly floriferous is healthy, fragrant and extremely beautiful. I took two pictures of Rebecca with this rose. This first picture is my choice. But Rebecca's other relatives would surely opt for the one below. Rosemary says it reminds her of the Mona Lisa.

Rebecca Anne Stewart & Rosa 'English Elegance'

This English Rose, Rosa 'English Elegance' has come back from the dead. Some 6 years ago Rosemary thought our garden squirrels were cute. She talked to them and called any one of them Mrs. Squirrel. To make matters worse she fed them. We might be watching TV and we would suddenly be startled by a Mrs. Squirrel staring at us forom outside the window. Or she and her offsfring would snatch food from the kitchen when we left the door ajar and we were in the garden. Our cats believed in détente and lived and let live. Mrs Squirrel felt so at home that she decided to set up housekeeping in the interior space between the outer roof and inside roof of our garden gazebo. To my horror, one spring four years ago I spotted the young things nibbling on the upper shoots of English Elegance which is really a climbing rose. The little vegetarians found the tender young shoot close at hand. They munched and there was nothing I could do. I had no roses that summer. In the next summer I figured that if Rosemary did not feed Mrs. Squirrel, she would go away. But she didn't and her offspring had a memory for the delights of English Elegance in their genes, perhaps? By the time I cooked the idea of walling the outer roof and inside roof with a chicken wire version of Edgar Allan Poe's A Cask of Amontillado, the damage had been done and English Elegance withered away to one sickly short cane. I was at loss as to what to do. I could not replace her with a new English Elegance as David Austin had given her, her marching orders (like Rosa 'William Shakespeare') and she was no longer available. Peter Beales came over from England to talk to the Vancuver Rose Society a couple of late summers ago. I went up ro him and told him of my tragedy. His advice was as follows:

This late fall cut what remains of the rose to the ground. If you pray and you are lucky you will be rewarded with a new shoot in the spring."

He was right! Last year that is what happened but the bush did not bloom. This last Saturday I notices that one single, almost open bloom and here she is with Rebecca.

Lauren & Rebecca Stewart With Rosa 'Crimson Glory'

For a while now I have had a terrible time taking pictures of these sisters together. Lauren is much more sensitive to light and she tends to squint. And sometimes when she faces my camera she will blink her eyes in perfect harmony with my Mamiya's shutter. Sometimes Rebecca will lose patience and she will smack her and tell her to keep her eyes open. But of late, Lauren has been more cooperative and I am pretty happy with this one, even if I cringe at the two dresses clashing together. When we finished with this picture, Rebecca said, "Make sure you send it to John Tuytle."

Since I am accused by my relatives and friends of taking stark serious photographs of my granddaughters I attempted at getting a few almost smiles. But with this English Rose, Rosa 'Brother Cadfael' I decided to really lighten up. It makes an excellent book end to today's series of rose portraits. And I will be sure to send the link to this blog to my ex teacher friend and mentor, Brother Edwin Reggio CSC in Austin, Texas.

With the exception, perhaps of English Rose, Rosa 'Mary Webb', English Rose, Abraham Darby is the largest bloom in our garden. And with the possible exception of Rosa 'Gertrude Jekyll' and Rosa 'Evelyn', both English Roses, Abraham has the most powerful and sweet (in a refreshingly fruity manner) scent.

Rebecca has a few roses in her back patio garden (and some hostas, June, Mildred Seaver, Halcyon, Praying Hands, Blue Boy and Feather Boa). She has one fairly exotic exotic rose I don't have that came from John Tuytle, Tuscany Superb. She also loves her Mrs. Oakley Fisher. But she is no longer allowed more roses, and indeed more plants by her father. Just like sometimes Rebecca's mother has to clean up and feed Rebecca's Guinea pig, her father Bruce ends up watering her thirsty roses. Because they are in pots they dry out more quickly in the full sun. Now Rebecca has her eyes set on Rosa 'Felicite Parmentier'. But the only way she can have one is for me to buy one for my own garden and she woould then enjoy the plant on her weekly visits.

She tried a new tack this Saturday (I am not sure it will work). When her father brought Lauren and her to our house she asked him to accompany her to the back garden. She showed him the huge blooms of Abraham Darby and asked him to take in the perfume. he must have been impressed because he asked, "Is it an easy rose?" Rebecca did not answer as she did not know. She is an easy rose but she is a rose that will bully for more room. She is a climber that sprawls. I presently have two Abraham Darby bushes. Will that be the situation next year?

A few weeks back Rosemary, our granddaughters and I went to stay at a nice resort in Parksville, BC. We visited the nearby Milner Gardens which was created by British socialite Veronica Milner. There weren't too many roses in the garden as I was told, "Veronica did not care much for roses." Tucked into an area where a venerable Master Gardener stood watch over plants that visitors could purchase I spotted a very large rose bush with a myriad of blooms each containing 60 or more rose-pink petals, each with a deeper reverse and shadings of magenta. Best of all they were very fragrant. I enquired what rose it was but the venerable mum did not know, "If you could tell me I would be most thankful as everybody asks, " she replied. I did the obvious, I got on my knees and searched for a label by the thick stock of canes. And I found one that proclaimed the rose to be Rosa 'Aloha'. Can you imagine this plant snob (me) with a rose by that name? If I were to accommodate Aloha, then Tropicana would soon follow! And who knows would Red Patio Wonder follow suit? I put my nose into Aloha again and I was hit by a familiarity that was to obvious to discount. And I remembered. In 1985 Shropshire rosarian David Austin had created Abraham Darby by crossing a rose called Yellow Cushion with Aloha. The very old fashioned looking offspring had inherited Aloha's striking perfume and simply pulled the stops on intensity. I left Milner Gardens with more respect for David Austin and his roses.

Peter Beales, the expert British rose expert grew up admiring and smelling the Alba rose Maiden's Blush. Its perfume is unequivocal. It is the perfume of Maiden's Blush. The quality of the pinkness of this rose has given rise to many names besides Maiden's Blush. Consider La Virginale, La Séduisante and Cuisse de Nymphe. But after a few weeks in Spring she retires until the next year. David Austin gave us an equally romantic Sweet Juliet with an identical perfume. This rose is in bloom today and will be continue until the fall.

David Austin's English Roses combine the mystique, beauty, perfume and wonder of the old roses with a liberal dosage of botanical MSG. We get more of the same, for a longer period of time.

And here is a rare (in my situation) photograph of Abraham Darby in my garden that is not a rose scan and Rebecca and Lauren are not holding her. But then she can hold her own.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Since March 9, 2008 I have been haunted by an image that was published in the New York Times Book Review. I removed it and put it on my bedside table. The image is a modified Edward Hopper painting. It made me think of a couple of painter friends who seem to be interested in that period of American art. Both my friends Tiko Kerr and
Neil Wedman have an affinity for Thomas Eakins and the latter also loves Edward Hopper and John Singer Sargent. And I would suspect that the three of us would include American painter Winslow Homer in our list of American favourites.

A month back Tiko Kerr and husband Craig Shervey visited Philadelphia and made it a point to go and see the paintings, sculptures and photographs of the city's favourite son, Thomas Eakins. I wonder if they saw his wonderful but disturbing Crucifixion (1880).

The painting with Christ's facial features obliterated by shadow makes it the most lonely ever interpretation of the fact that we all die alone, even God.

Much has been written about Hopper's near obsession with displaying solitary figures in his paintings. His paintings remind me of Neil Wedman (and some of his own work) who lives a reclusive life. I've seen him every once in a while, smartly dressed, walking on South Granville. He lives nearby. Wedman dresses in the clothing of the 50s and 60s and almost looks like one of Hopper's figures in 3D. I once commented to Wedman, that dressed as he was he could be on the street selling apples and looking very much the part of the apple sellers of the American Depression.

All the above serves as a long winded introduction to my theme for today's blog which has something to do with sharing an opinion with David E. Corbin from Omaha who sent the letter to the New York Times Book Review.

My friend Nina Gouveia, an ex photographic subject of mine who now lives in Spain insisted I become a member of facebook so that I could see her photographs. I resisted for a long time. I had no interest in becoming a member of a social networking site. In the end I joined under my legal first name in Spanish and my mother's maiden name. Within hours I was getting friend requests from Spanish men who were intrigued by my mother's Basque surname. Of course I did not respond as I have no wish to make friends with people I don't know (as strange as that may sound).

These social networking sites like facebook further disturb me by the fact that I am able to see who Nina Gouveia's friends are. I am even hinted at the idea that I might know some of her friends. This of course is a distinct possibility as she lived in Vancouver for a few years. Both she and I know animator artist Danny Antonucci. I don't have to resist and urge to communicate with him by sending him a facebook friend request. He would not know me by my surrogate name. I can simply call him up with a telephone.

I have been thinking about the internet, social networking sites and communications in general for some time. Recently I broke a friendship (He told me, accurately I would suppose, that I could not do it)that began when both of us were 21 and in college. The final nail on the coffin was when he told me that he hated phones and my attempts to talk to him via Skype. He told me that it was sufficient for him to read my blog to find out what I was doing.

After years of having lost touch with my friend Felipe Ferrer Junco, the ex chief the federal police in Acapulco I located him in Houston where he survives respiratory problems (he smoked a lot) with an oxygen tube in his nose. The result of our Skype talk is that he now communicates with me via MSN and has sent me 150 very large files of Powerpoints on pink horses, Bush conspiracy theories, etc. I don't have the heart to write to him and tell him that a short communication telling me his health is better would suffice for me. I delete his sendings without even looking at them.

My participation in photography forums have resulted in accusations that I show off my knowledge in my posts (not hard in an age of photographic mediocrity). These forum back and forth communications remind me of having exhchanged a science fiction book with a neighbour in Mexico City. Months later we both discussed the book while I was certain that neither of us had read each other's book. The photographic forum postings are all one-sided.

Some years back while waiting for our airplane to take off in the very busy Chicago airport I noticed that there were airplanes in front of us and airplanes behind us. We would move up as soon as a plane had taken off. Each plane had its position. In the same way I have a friend who answers emails in the order that he gets them. But because he must have many email pals that roster of lined up emails is so long that a reply will come perhaps in a week. I sent my friend some music CDs and these were also put on a pile with their correct standby order.

All of this reminds me of the essay a woman wrote for Playboy during the pre-AIDS gay period and from San Francisco. She dressed up as a man and investigated glory hole venues in the city. Men would stick their private organ through an orifice of a private booth and someone would anonymously service them from the other side. It strikes me now as an example of intimate communication (of sorts) with a perfect stranger.

I remember in my youth writing letters to women. I had inherited not only from my father but from my Aunt Dolly the ability to write good letters. My letter relationships with these women were distanced by the time it took my letter to get to them and for them to reply. Sometimes it took me time to reply as I could not and cannot write legibly. It was frustrating to write knowing that half of what I wrote was unintelligible even to me. Or the placid machinations of the Mexican or Argentine postal services would delay or lose the letters. With Word, a computer and email it has all changed.

With email, communication is instant. And "kissing on that first date" is now more common. Within a couple of emails you are told intimate details you would be embarrased to tell anybody else. There is a paradox here of exchanging intimacies while not looking at the other person in the eye. Perhaps in all this, a reader of this blog might just understand why I loathe Flickr, facebook and the like. I can think of one image that I took of a mentally disturbed woman on the mend in front of the Vancouver General Hospital some years back that conveys the loneliness and frustration so many of us are forced to suffer.

Some 38 years ago I had a student in Mexico City with whom I have kept in touch since. Only recently this friend sent me a communication (a whimsical and lovely one) about her marital troubles. I wonder if face to face these details would have been so forthcoming? Perhaps yes because of our long record of exchanging both conventional letter and emails all these years. Here it is:

I went on a date this week. My first...friend of some friends..Widower, 65, lived in Spain, Moscow, Paris..retired..sails, reads, cooks and spends time with his granddaughter for fun. Great sense of humor...which is the sexiest thing in the world for me. Asked me for a kiss which was very awkward..its like asking me if you can take my picture..."deer in headlights"...told him I needed a little more "smelling" time...we'll see if he calls again.

Intimacy on the Net - Not

Plata & The Unnamed Red Rose
Saturday, July 26, 2008

Rebecca and Lauren's new flowered dresses (made to order) arrived from Vancouver Island yesterday so I decided to photograph the girls with some of the roses of the garden. The problem is that the girls chose the patterns for the dresses. While Rebecca selected a mauve flowered pattern that goes with most of the roses and blends in the garden Lauren chose a flourescent green coloured dress that clashed with everything. We managed to find a miniature rose that looked fine, called Rosa 'Green Ice'. These pictures will appear soon in this blog.

Rebecca was choosing the roses for her portraits and with my secateurs in hand she snipped her favourites, or at least her favourites among the ones that were in bloom today. She asked me about a red tea rose. I told her that it and Rosa 'Honor' had come with the house in 1986 and that I have never had the heart to get rid of them. The red rose has no scent and it blooms sporadically. I have a brand new deep red rose Rosa 'Crimson Glory' that blooms freely and with a very sweet scent. I tried to explain to Rebecca how I could not just dig up the old red rose and turf it. I am not about to let nature take it course and having it die by not taking care of it. Somehow the plant was a choice of the previous owner of our garden. Yet space is at a premium in our garden, particularly a sunny space where roses really thrive. I should get rid of the nameless red rose.

But I keep thinking about Brother Edwin Reggio CSC who taught me about the Catholic church's version of the different levels of life and their corresponding complexity. Without mentioning the ambivalent (which side of existence are you guys are?) nature of viruses his list went as follows:

1. Rocks
2. Amaebas
3. Mosses and lichens.
4. Plants.
5. Fish, insects
5. Animals 9body and rudimentary spirit)
6. Humans (body and a soul)
7. Angels (no body but pure spirit)
8. God (Pure and the highest spririt of them all)

This list has kept me satisfied for most of my years. And then I began to read the in our local papers and found out that the whales of our aquarium were very smart and almost human. Then it became known that the local pacific octopus was uncommonly smart. Any day now there will be calls to release the super smart and super cute Vancouver Aquarium sea otters.

Could it be that my female cat Plata (seen here) is as smart as she looks when she stares at me? She is affectionate and walks around the block with us every day. I remember the other three cats that I have buried in our garden (Rebecca is annoyed that I cannot mark the exact spots). Are they any different from humans? Are we any different from them?

In the end I explained to Rebecca that the unnamed red rose to me is no different from Plata. It might not stare at me or walk around the block with me. But every year it does its best to please me. In its own quiet and scentless way is tells me, "I am here. Notice me. Take care of me." And so the red rose will remain even if her space is a premium space. In some ways she is just like Plata. I have never liked the idea of acquiring a kitten as oposed to full grown cat. Rosemary's dear black cat Mosca (who had a heart attack on our bed while Rosemary was watching Vertigo) was the exception. Both Rosemary and I enjoy the uncertainty of acquiring a cat that somebody else has owned. We get our cats from the SPCA and we like the idea of learning to get along while discovering the already set personality of the cat. We adapt to it, and in some situations the cat will adapt to us. Plata was not affectionate in the beginning but she is so now.

The Towel Queen
Friday, July 25, 2008

A couple of weeks ago when we went swimming in Paul's Richmond pool, Rebecca wrapped her wet hair in a towel. I immediately saw a good picture and took it. Rebecca is now about to be 11 and she is fashion conscious. She told me that if I ever put that picture in this blog she would get very angry.

I have been working on a fashion shoot for a local magazine called VLM. The photos and my story are running in September. Stylist Maureen Willick (I call her my "secret weapon" as now does VLM editor Bob Mercer) came to the house today to sort out the pictures that I took. She knows how the clothing should fit and rejected quite a few. I showed her this towel photo to her with Rebecca present. Maureen mentioned something about a 60s look and Rebecca smiled. I have a feeling that I can now post this picture with no further repercussions.

The Adirondacks & Cherry Jell-O
Thursday, July 24, 2008

Although there has been no fear of rain in recent weeks I am always ready to run into the garden at the first sign of any precipitation and haul our two Adirondacks to dry safety. They are valuable to me in a nostalgia that seeps into me through my memory of the original owner, our neighbour, who died a few years ago, in his 80s, while doing what he loved best, golfing. I have no other nostalgia or attachment to the chairs as I never lived in New England and Adirondacks are not common in Latin American gardens.

But our Adirondacks have been useful in taking pictures of my granddaughters. I have written about it before (links below). A pattern is beginning to happen which coincides with the fact that the punctilious Lauren who is precise in everything has the one flaw of not being able to keep her mouth clean. I was puzzled by these slides until I showed them to Rosemary who just said, "Cherry Jell-0."

The Adirondacks

The Adirondacks Again

Mexican Leg Of Pork Sandwiches - Nena & Indiana Dance The Tango
Wednesday, July 23, 2008

One of the delicacies of Mexican cousine is the lowely "torta de pierna". The really good ones have to be ordered on the street or in "changarros" or little holes in the wall. These are sandwiches made from a specially shaped (sort of like a turtle shell) small French loaf called a "telera". The pierna part of the torta (sandwich in Mexican Spanish but cake in Argentine Spanish) means leg but my Real Academia On Line Dictionary or RAE states that not only is a pierna the lower extremity of a human being but also the thigh of birds and quadrupeds. That delicious Mexican torta de pierna then is a a pork thigh sandwich. The really good ones have to be slathered in butter, mayonnaise AND aguacate (avocado).

As we ate our shepherd's pie last night, the evening heat made me remember Mexico and its food. It didn't take long to move from a pork pierna to a human one. Pierna is Spanish for leg. While my RAE dictionary will state that birds have piernas and these are their thighs we all know that South American ostriches have patas not piernas. A dog has patas as do cats. Strangely enough the patitas (or little animal feet) is what we in Spanish call the sides of my glasses.

Argentines borrow gamba from Italian when they want to talk about women's legs. They might say, "¡Esa mina tiene unas gambas de locura!" This translates as, "What fantastic legs that broad (mina) has!"

While I have known many women in my life who had and have beautiful legs (my wife Rosemary and my mother come to mind) there are two that have legs to dance the tango with. And dance the tango I did with them. One is Nena and the other Indiana.

Both Indiana and Nena are close to 6ft tall and few men were disposed to dance with them when I used to dance Argentine tango a few years ago. I knew better. Both women had these extremely long legs. They wore fishnets (I am barely able to type here!) and their dresses were tight with a slit in the right place. When I danced with them nobody noticed my efficient (I never went past that ) dancing. The other bonus of dancing with tall women is that in tango you must dance close. When you are that close there is no room for your head if you are short. You are "forced" to rest it on the woman's chest! I savoured every moment that I danced with this pair who happened to be friends. One of them introduced me to both her husband and her wife in one tango evening. I told her, "No matter what you want to call it that sounds like bigamy to me. "

Most men, if lucky, have one good idea in their lifetime. I may be extra fortunate in that I had two. The first one involved taking photographs of 18 different women, one at a time, in a bath tub of water. I had a show of these.

My second one revolved on the problem of taking tango pictures that had not really been taken before. I convinced Indiana to come to my studio and I photographed her using my ring flash. She was wearing fishnets and zapatos de charol or patent leather shoes. She was not wearing anything else. The session was so successful that I decided that since it takes two to tango we would invite Nena into the formula.

Here are some of the pictures. I have had to crop them (It was excruciating!) so as to pass my personal blog decorum.

Mexico - The Smell Of Hot Humid Earth
Tuesday, July 22, 2008

As I watered my wilting garden today in the somewhat reduced heat in comparison to what it was in Lillooet last week I could almost imagine being in Mexico.

Thirty seven years after having left Mexico (I have returned quite a few times) I still feel the pull of the dry earth of the winter season and the smell of humidity in the summer. I especially remember that smell and the noises of nocturnal insects when Rosemary and I would drive down to Veracruz on a Friday night as we did quite often. We would leave Mexico City in the late afternoon and within three hours we would go down from 2240 meters to sea level. Passing through the capital of the state of Veracruz, Xalapa, the change seemed almost immediate. The humidity was palpable as I rolled down my window. We could smell that hot humid earth. The port city of Veracruz beckoned a few miles away. Arriving in Veracruz my mother would greet us, sometime around midnight and Rosemary would instantly go for a cold shower. At the time she minded the heat. Because the air is so much denser at sea level noises seemed (and they were) louder. Mexico City altitude muffles sound except perhaps the incessant car horns and rumbling diesel buses. In Veracruz the smell of humidity was coloured with the smell of salt and the port. Sometimes Rosemary and I would go for a stroll on the Malecón which is what avenues that hug beaches in any Spanish speaking country all called. One time, when we returned we were greeted by hundreds of flying cockroaches in the bathroom. In the tropics you learn to live with insects.

It was last week that Hilary accompanied us with her daughters to visit Ale in Lillooet. Both Ale (Alexandra) and Hilary were born in Mexico but Ale is the most Mexican of both. Even her Spanish is peppered with the chilango dialect of Mexico City. But Hilary instantly raved and loved the 32 degrees and never complained. I think both of us would have enjoyed even a few more degrees.

Rosemary now admits that she quickly adapted and loved the heat (40) that we experienced in Mérida, Yucatán last year.

While trying to find some misfiled transparencies (I did not find them) I found thre strips of b+w negatives of very fast 120 film. One of them caught my eye. Rosemary says I took them in the winter of 2003. When I look at the picture here of Rebecca I think, smell and almost feel that Mexico heat and I long for it.

I took the picture at the MacMillan Bloedel Conservatory in Queen Elizabeth Park. I look at Rebecca and that maguey and I can imagine the Pico de Orizaba (also called Citlaltépetl), Mexico's highest volcano looming over Xalapa, Veracruz. It would seem to me that perhaps Rosemary, Rebecca, Lauren and I will have to experience it. Imagining it is not enough.

The other picture is the real thing. That's Rosemary and Ale (she was about 1) sitting in a Malecón bench in Veracruz during a norte or wind storm. When nortes came with the dry winds and sand would get under the doors I was transported to my childhood memories of Beau Geste but then that's another story.

The Bad Ramona - The Good Ramona & The Doubtful Ramona
Monday, July 21, 2008

The Genus Rosa includes many plants that would be familiar to most such as cherries, plums, apples and pears. And of course it includes Rosa or the rose. The genus is further divided into several subgenera. One of them Eurosa a includes a very small Section called Laevigatae. This Section is represented by one species Rosa laevigata and a few cultivars or sports. My rose bible, Peter Beales' Classic Roses list only five cultivars. Since there are thousands of roses this particular Section: Laevigatae is awflly sparse. These roses are described by Beales as:

Growth sprawling or climbing with hooked, irregular thorns. Leaves large, mostly of 3, rarely 5, leaflets. Almost evergreen. Flowers produced singly. Hips, when formed have persistent sepals.

My grandmother used to call me el Príncipe de Gales (the Prince of Wales) because I was spoiled and demanded to be served. Part of the reason is that from my birth until my early 20s we always had help at home. In Argentina we called them mucamas and in Mexico criadas or sirvientas. In Buenos Aires I recall three, Zelia, Mercedes and Ramona. The first I insulted and she left in a huff with her husband Abelardo. The second was my favourite as she was very patient with me and would cook her carrot soufflé when I asked for it. Her famous breaded veal cutlets (always on Tuesdays) brought my cousin Robby (mentioned in the second link) who had a special fondness for them. Ramona was loud and big and did not give me any slack. I didn't like her.

For the last 6 or 7 years I have had a mystery rose in my garden. It has fragrant cerise blooms which seem to be around most of the time. I know that John Tuytle sold it to me. For a few years I tried to get the English rose, Rosa 'Emily' from him and every time it was some sort of surprise. This mystery rose could be one of those. Yesterday I remembered that I had purchased a Rosa 'Ramona' a sport of Rosa "Anemone Rose', a sport of Rosa laevigata. I suddenly got very excited as I thought I had an ID for this wonderful rose that blooms freely and as seen here in a cluster of 8 blooms. But when I read the description in Peter Beales it says it is a single rose with five petals. My 'Ramon' has at least 20. Could it be a double, double sport of Ramona that Tuytle unwittingly sold me? I will never know. I will have to keep enjoying this rose without a name. She is, in any case, the good Ramona!

Both Ramona and my mystery rose have superb golden stamens. You cannot see them here because I scanned the roses in the evening. Most roses close in the evening!

Lloyd McNary's Farm In Texas Creek, BC & Elk Sausages
Sunday, July 20, 2008

We returned from Lillooet yesterday afternoon and this time the trip back seemed to be longer for the girls. Rosemary thought that because Hilary had come along the girls did not have the expectation of telling their mother all the things they had done when they got back and saw her.

What they didn't do is ride Lloyd McNary's horses Leo (the beautiful white horse seen here.) and Sunny at his farm in nearby Texas Creek. They had done just that back in June. Rebecca was quite angry at Ale for this and Ale had to explain that McNary had visitors from Alberta with many children and that he was perhaps not ready to entertain two more. So we invited McNary for our Saturday morning pankcake breakfast and he brought along some elk sausages he had made from an elk he shot last year. Rosemay, of course did not try them. We barbequed them and I did not find them gamy at all. The children enjoyed the stories of the over 80 McNary and he promised them that the next time they came they would be able to ride his horses.

Leo & Sunny

Rebecca Wants A Chicken & My Famous Iced Tea
Saturday, July 19, 2008

Rebecca is 10 and will soon be 11. She has become unpredictable. Today in Lillooet her sister Lauren behaved beautifully and was a perfect hostess when Ale's friend, Teresa and her sons John(8) and Thomas(3) came for dinner. Because John was a year younger than Rebecca, she was reluctant to play with him and tried her best to ignore him. With some pressure from Ale and me, she finally played some soccer with him after our dinner. Dinner outside at 28 degrees (with a nice breeze) with the mountains of the Fraser Canyon on either side of our table was heavenly, especially for our stressed out daughter Hilary who is now keen to return to the calm of Lillooet.

In the afternoon Rebecca had visited Ale's neighbour, Mohamed. It seems he has chickens and he allowed Rebecca to pick one up. Rebecca insisted that Ale get some chickens. Ale has her hands full teaching and taking care of her two cats, Ellroy and Banjo. She has no time nor the inclination for chickens. Rebecca said Ale was unfair. " I want a chicken," she told Ale, almost shouting at her. When I explained that Ale did not want a chicken because she was afraid to cross the street, Rebecca burst into what looked like real tears. It all passed.

We were to watch the Masterpiece Theatre version of Kidnapped but Rebecca said she was uneasy and did not want to see it. In the end she and Ale sat down for Scrabble which gave me the opportunity to write this.

We did not have our pancake breakfast yesterday morning so today Saturday I will not be able to escape from the task. We will leave for Vancouver around noon feeling rested and having enjoyed almost three days away from the city, cellular phones and the reading of the daily newspapers.

The best, of course was the chance to spend the time with all the women of my life, my wife, my two daughters and Rebecca and Lauren. As I made my famous iced tea Hilary watched. She helped me squeeze the oranges, lemons and the mandarins. She made the comment, " It has been great to find out how you make the tea. When you are gone, we will be able to serve it and be able to say, " This was Papi's famous iced tea."

Lauren, Rebecca, A Dead Snake & Grasshoppers
Friday, July 18, 2008

Lauren at 6 is not the Lauren of before. She is now cuddly and affectionate and doesn't tell me to go away when I ask for a cuddle or a kiss. But there is one aspect about her that seems to be a repetition from her sister Rebecca. Or perhaps it could be imitation. When Lauren poses for me (and she is most eager these days) she looks at the camera in a serious way. My folks no longer ask me why it is I photograph my grandchildren unsmiling.

We are in Lillooet today. The pleasant surprise for all is that we came with Hilary the little girls' mother. It is not especially warm here at 32 but the three of them slept in a tent last night. The breeze must have cooled them a bit. As I write this I am attempting to avoid the making of the thin pancake breakfast. If I get my way it will mean that I will have to make it tomorrow morning.

It is a wonder to watch Rebecca and Lauren look for grasshoppers and other bugs. Yesterday they found a dead (and very dry) garter snake. They put on their bathing suits and ran through Ale's lawn sprinklers. By law Ale has to keep her grass very short and green, if possible, because of the fear of spreading grass fires. Lillooet is a desert and the wind going through the Fraser Canyon can make a fire dangerous.

At Paul's Pool
Thursday, July 17, 2008

Rosemary was the first Canadian I ever met. I married her. The second Canadian, I met in Vancouver and it was Paul Leisz. We have been friends since. Of late his interest in photography has increased. His girlfriend Amy (seen here in picture of Paul with Lauren on his lap) says he has become fanatical.

Every time I (or anybody else) I looked at him he would raise his huge DSLR and take pictures. He took a very nice one of Lauren seen here. Amy's daughter and granddaughter were there so we had a great time at Paul's pool and then Paul made some hamburgers and a surprise lime dessert and lemon cake. The photo of Rebecca in the pool I took last year. You might notice that she is growing up.

Rebecca & Lauren Visit John Tuytle
Wednesday, July 16, 2008


(Del mallorquín ensaïmada, der. de saïm, saín).
1. f. Bollo formado por una tira de pasta hojaldrada dispuesta en espiral.

Real Academia Española © Todos los derechos reservados

Last Friday afternoon Rosemary, our granddaughters and I visited John Tuytle and his wife at their sheep farm and garden in Langley. We arrived at the farm with its exquisite wood work, from the front gate to the barn and house, all built from scratch by John in 1968 which was the year I married Rosemary in Mexico. John and relatives cleared the land but left very large trees right next to the house and there is even a stream going underneath. The sound of water perhaps reminds John of his remote native land, Holland.

We were shown around by John. We never saw his wife who is convalescing from a terrible bout of cancer. John almost died last year and had extensive heart surgery. But he looked very fit. We tried to approach his sheep and he explained how sheep will always need about 20 ft of grace and a way behind them to escape. The idea of petting a sheep is totally alien. John explained to Rebecca how sheep and deer and others of their ilk have glands between their hooves with which they lay a scent on paths. The sheep go to pasture by one and come back by another.

Rosemary marveled at John's eryingiums and some very rarar plants while Rebecca and I tried to ID many of the roses. After we took some pictures Rebecca asked me me if we could eat the ensaimadas (see above definition!) that I had purchased from Goldilocks as well as the polvorones (Spanish short bread). I told Rebecca that unless John offered us we could not ask. She insisted that perhaps Lauren could ask. I told her it was very rude. We left and in the car Rebecca complained that we had to eat something. This we did (at home). The next day John called to tell us how he and his wife had enjoyed our treats. When I told Rebecca she smiled and understood the value of manners. She also understands and appreciates how generous John has been as many of her roses (the latest being Rosa glauca)have been given to her by the Dutchman.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

More of her in September.

Jo-Ann Against The Wall
Monday, July 14, 2008

There is nothing more stifling for photographic creativity than the concept of the studio. This extends to the idea of layers that sometimes end up being separated and with no mingling. Layer one is the backdrop or wall. Layer two is my subject. Layer four is my light (or lights). Layer five is my camera and I am the final layer or layer six. To make it all worse some photographers will offer their model wine and then play loud heavy metal or hip-hop. Then they tell the model, "Do something." This usually results in nothing.

Sometimes I have to get out of that mold. Here I have Jo-Ann against the wall (combining layer one with two) and I used one old Hollywood light. It is refreshing for me to not use the predictably accurate studio flash (Dynalites).

I place my camera on a tripod and use faster film since the exposures will need slower speeds. These pictures of Jo-Ann remind me of some of the pictures taken in the 30s. I am no Man Ray, but Jo-Ann could certainly be my Lee Miller. I have added the blue/cyan colour to imitate that 30s avant-garde.

Sunday, July 13, 2008


In May 1992 I had my first feature story (with photographs) in Western Living. Rosemary and I had been gardening in our new Athlone St. home since 1986 and by then we sort of thought we knew enough that I could write about it. I will include that article here, verbatum and as I transcribe it I am sure I will gasp of the ignorance of it all! As my grandmother used to say, "La ignorancia es atrevida." (Ignorance is daring.)

The Education of a Gardener

When you don't know the difference between a philodendron and a rhododendron, it is nice to have a ghost around the house that you can turn for advice.

I never met Kay Young. But I have come to know her quite well through her garden. When my wife Rosemary, and I purchased her home in the fall of 1986, we were in love with the house but terrified of the yard. The plants and the flowers had been neglected by the interim owners, while a large rectangular patch of dead grass was evidence that a trampoline had once dominated the back yard. The carp in the fish pond swam blindly in murky water. When it came to gardening, we had no better sense of direction. I didn't know the difference between a rhododendron and a philodendron, or that perennials come back.

Despite this ignorance of all things botanical, I was amazed by the transformation of the garden that first spring. Green sprouts began to pop up out of nowhere. The plants seemed to beckon for my attention. Still, I was afraid as the first time my newborn daughter was placed in my hands and I didn't know how to hold her.

When Kay and her husband, Bill, bought the mock Tudor on this corner lot in Kerridale in 1952, the house was as lovely as it is now, but the landscaping was nondescript. Kay immediately set to work. She planted the hawthorn and a laurel hedge in the front yard, and put in cherry trees and an apple tree in the back. She chose her rhododendrons and azaleas so that they would bloom consecutively between January and June. A circular flower bed in the middle of the lawn showed off her hybrid tea roses. She had a fish pond built, but was never able to keep it from leaking.

Next to the gazebo she planted a very fragrant red climbing rose and two flowering Japanese quinces. A neighbour's thujas eventually grew so tall they blocked out the sun on the south side. Undeterred, Kay simply added shade-loving (A 2008 correction. I must interject here that my Atlanta gardener friend, W. George Schmid has told me that there is no such thing and that some plants are shade tolerant.)ferns, white astilbes, periwinkles, violets and Salomon's seal. Her green thumb knew no bounds. Outside the white picket fence, she planed more roses and delphiniums in the lane.

Although she was alone after her husband died in 1979, she couldn't leave her plants. Then in her eighties and unable to do the upkeep herself, she hired Harry Nomura to be her hands. Harry, who had been taking care of gardens in the neighbourhood for more than 20 years, never seemed to mind her supervision.

I would eventually turn to Harry for help. When one of our evergreens suddenly wilted, the attending tree doctor was more like a funeral director. "It's tree rot. Nothing can be done. Remove it." The rhododendrons developed notches, cause by weevilgs that I was never able to see, let alone fight. When I asked friends of advice, the instructions were completley baffling. "Lime it. De-thatch it. Spray it."

It was time to bring in a professional. When Harry mowed our lawn with his ancient English reel mower, complete with a front grass catcher, I would spy from the top window to figure out the routine. My feeble attempts at copying him met with a stinging rebuke from my wife, "Harry wouldn't do it that way," she'd say. "You'd better go and ask Harry. "Harry was God, but I wasn't much of a prophet. His most mysterious act was the fall pruning, which seemed to be somewhere between integral calculus and brain surgery. Yet whenever I asked Harry to identify some of the plants, he would answer in his cryptic English, "Japonica this or japonica that." According to the gospel of Harry, we were the guardians of yard full of japonicas.

By our second year in Kay's house, I was beginning to know my way around a plant encyclopedia. Investigating on my own I realized that some of Harry's japonicas were really hydrangeas, magnolias and the brightest of read camellias. Instead of the frightening unknown, the garden had become an edless source of wonder. A weedlike shrub I almost cut down was actually a buddleia , whose fragrant purple blooms attracted butterflies, bees andthe odd daring snail. An azalea that I had left for dead in the winter bloomed again in spring. It turdend out to be decidious. One day I discovered an aluminum tag under the climbing rose, identifying it as Don Juan. It had died after a late March frost, but I was quickly able to replace it.

I began to do more and Harry less. Of course a little knowledge is dangerous. Brown patches of dead grass suddenly appeared, the result of too much fertilizer. The bits of grass that I then planted to cover up the bare spots developed into agressive patches of crab grass. Still, after a full year under Harry's tutelage, I was feeling confident, overconfident, in fact. I no longer looked at liming the lawn in the spring as one of life's great mysteries. Like scarifying or hand de-thatching, it had become routine. Instead of following Harry's lead and trimming the long laurel hedge in the front garden with mechanical trimmers (he never uses the electrical variety, saying they chew up the thick branches without cutting them cleanly), I decided to do Harry one better, pruning it one leaf at a time with rose secateurs.

The last time I hired Harry, it was my turn to utter the rebuke. As part of the fall cleanup, he had gone ahead and pruned the many hydrangeas, cutting off the dry mopheads that protect the emerging buds from the late winter frosts. That didn't mean that I was beyond reproach myself. I was smart enough not to ask Harry why my roses had lost all their leaves by summer. Much later I found out that my indiscriminate late-afternoon waterings had prevented the rosebushes from drying, leaving them susceptible to black spot.

Such wisdom doesn't come easily or cheaply. I now own endless books about shrubs, roses, hostas and perennials, and too many guides to growing the perfect lawn. Most of them look good on the coffee table, but only a few are useful to be dog-eares wit use, such as my Wyman's Gardening Encyclopedia. I also have four years' worth of garden sprinklers; a series of plastic cheapies finally ended with an investment in a solid brass pulsating one.

As I adjust the brass sprinkler to avoid the roses, I can feel Kay Young's presence. Sitting on the soft moss and Corsican mint that grow under the Japanese maple by the pond, I picture her in her plastic rain cap and plastic boots snipping the wilted fern fronds. There are still so many puzzles. I don't understand, for example, why the wisteria near the kitchen never blooms. I have done everything the experts suggest, even ignoring it as some books suggest. I would like to ask Kay if it bloomed for her and what her secret was, but she lives in Toronto now. At the age of 83, she had a stroke in my kitchen, where she lay on the linoleum for two days until a neighbour found her. That was when she had to finally give up the garden, selling the house and moving to Ontario to live with her sister.

Thanks to Rosemary, one of the lessons that I have learned is that it is futile to keep the garden the same, in memory of Kay. Although a dead Don Juan rose can always be replaced, gardens evolve, all by themselves. Rosemary wanted a new perennial bed. She made numerous trips to nurseries and came back with hardy geraniums, white lily of the Nile, exotic Himalayan blue poppies, and white bleedig hearts. I have developed an obsession for a plant Kay never thought of, an exotic leafed shade loving perennial called a hosta. My collection now numbers more than a hundred, fighting Kay's rhododendrons for prominence.

As Kay's presence slowly diminishes, there is another person I am getting to know through her garden. Me. The apple and the cherry trees died, one by one, of blight and old age, yet I no longer grieve for what's gone. Their places have been taken by a young kinkgo, a stewartia with beautiful defoliating bark and robinia 'Frisia.' It's golden leaves shimmer in the breeze, the dark green thuja behind it providing the perfect contrasting frame. Looking out of the windows from my home, I cannot tire of the view.

Six years after being dismayed at the prospect of a garden, I'm now impatient for spring to come. I look forward to the minuteman-missile-shaped cones of my hosta shoots. The first ones to emerge are always Hosta lancifolia. Some like Hosta sieboldiana 'Blue Lake,' will grow to the size of a dinner plate. They will attract the spring training slugs and snails before they tackle the summer flowering buddleia. Sometimes Harry comes by, and he compliments me on my work: "Roses good this year." I smile. I may not be Harry, not yet, but I do have been well supervised.

The Education Of A Gardener - 2008

On June 4, 1954 my grandmother (abuelita) gave me a Spanish language dictionary. I remember the event very clearly because she put the wrong date with her fountain pen when she dedicated it to me. She got all flustered but managed to correct it. The "dedicatoria" reads:

A loving memory for my very dear grandson Alex, so that it will help you perfect the use and love of the language that your grandfather Tirso spoke and loved so much and that you may someday become grandson that he would be proud of.

Abuelita, June 4, 1954.

Yesterday when we all went to Paul Leisz's Richmond home (it comes with a swimming pool) we were relaxing in his small backyard before our swim when Rebecca went to one of his two roses and sniffed at it. She said, "This is Abraham Darby, ins't it? "I was immediately able to confirm her accurate guess as I had given Paul the very rose last year. She then borrowed Paul's secateurs and began to deadhead both roses and remove the few leaves with blackspot. it ocurred to me that Rebecca at 10 knows more about gardening than I did in 1986.

This morning I thought about the dictionary that my grandmother gave me in 1954. I no longer use it as I find the on-line target'>RAE much more convenient. But rarely is memory of that dictionary and my grandmother not in my thoughts. I spied the rose book ( A Pocket Guide to Roses - Species, Care And Garden Design by Sandra Lindner )that I had given Rebecca last month. She had left it yesterday when we bypassed coming back home from Paul's and we took her and Lauren directly home.

I opened the book and it didn't take me long to write:

To my dear granddaughter Rebbecca that she may learn to love roses and other plants as your Papi, Abi and my mother Filomena loved.

June 22, 2008

John Tuytle's Eryngium Planum
Saturday, July 12, 2008

Today began with an intensive watering of the garden. From cool rainy days the weather has shifted to hot, dry and some strong winds a few days back. Rosemary's aconitums camed tumbling down and many roses that might have survived a few more days of beauty lost their petals. It is in such times when the thistle-like eryngium shines and even stands out. The flowers are either a startling white or a cool metallic blue. The best eryngiums in Vancouver are not in Vancouver but in John Tuytle's sheep farm in Langley. We visited him with the girls on Friday. He showed us his spectacular roses but my eyes were lovingly gazing at his eryngiums. Tuytle noticed so he cut some for me to take home. I was going to scan them as soon as possible but forgot until now which is Saturday night around 10:30. Here are some Eryngium planum seedlings in all their cool glory. You would not notice that the blue has shifted a bit and the leaves are a crisp dry.

Jo-Ann & The Cardoon - A Manifestation Of A Compulsion
Friday, July 11, 2008

Jo-Ann has appeared on this pages (screen?) in other occasions. Here is one example. The cardoon and its association with thistles here. Jo-Ann has more or less been showing up at my studio once every couple of months on a Thursday at noon. Our "theme" is to take pictures with only one theme or item. We have used cloth ribbon and an old Hollywood light as in the example seen in the link above.

Today Rosemary, Lauren, Rebecca and I visited John Tuytle's small sheep farm in Langley. That he has an ancillary interest in roses is what took us there. John also grows the best Eryngiums in Vancouver. I have featured the plant twice here and here. Tuytle cut me some of their flowers to bring home. They might make their appearance as scans here soon.

This evening I went to Focal Point to see a photographic exhibition of my students' work. There was so-so work and there was superlative work. There were pictures, as an example a cow grazing near a housing development that had significance if my student explained as he did that the cow was in the former pig farm in Coquitlam. The photograph made me think that there are some pictures that attract us without any explanation and some photographs that don't affect us until the explanation behind them is revealed.

It is sad to realize that there will be at least 16 new photographers who will be competing with me for the shrinking photographic dollar. I took with me the metal foil wrapper of a roll of Ektachrome 120 transparency film and I asked my students to guess what was in my closed hand. One student was close when she said candy rapper. Had I said that what was in my hand was yellow and blue (the colour of Ektachrome boxes and wrappers, would not have made the guess any easier in this digital age.

At the end of the day I feel like one of those Mexican turtles who is compelled to lay eggs on a beach (no idea if the turtle knows that fewer than 10% of the eggs will survive to be hatched. I feel this compulsion of meeting with Jo-Ann every once in a while and going through the excercise of taking her picture undraped. Is there any purpose any more for this sort of thing? The fish end of the original Starbucks siren is long gone and sanitized. Do the pictures here of Jo-Ann (the few that I can post without breaking my self-made rule of not showing nudes (overt ones) have any meaning without the explanation that I posted them today because the eryngiums at Tuytle's farm reminded me of thistles even though the thistle-like appearance of eryngiums does not make them so? Is the hidden meaning of these photographs just a manifestation of a compulsion of mine that I follow simply because I can?

The Internal Tibial Torsioned Grant Shilling
Thursday, July 10, 2008


Since 1976 I have worked with a variety of magazine and newspaper writers. For magazines, newspapers and books I have photographed many writers from William F. Buckley to one who upon seeing me said, "Call me dog." The latter was James Ellroy. Working with some was dull and with others it was fun. Many were difficult and tried to tell me how to take my photographs. I remember when Sean Rossiter interviewed Canucks coach Roger Nielson he told me, "You have to photograph him watching with some players the practice videos on TV. And get the blue lighting reflecting on his face." I never saw any blue light so I had to rig a little flash to one side of the TV set. I taped a blue gel and it bathed Nielsen and players with that Rossiter blue light!

But the most excentric and fun was the multi-talented Grant Shilling. I worked on a couple of baseball stories with him. One involved an umpire and the other was about the joy of playing on real grass at Nat Bailey Stadium. We watched a game of the Vancouver Canadians and I noted to Shilling that the lingua franca seemed to be Spanish. Many of the players were Mexican, Puerto Rican, Venezuelan, etc. There was a lot of swearing in Spanish. I got Shilling all nervous when I started yelling motherly advice in Spanish to the umpire of his story.

Shilling at the time had a precursor of blogs (he faxed it). It was some sort of baseball zine that had been adopted to run, I believe the Wall Street Journal or the Harvard Review. I don't remember which. Shilling's inseparable friend at the time (1987?) was photographer Oraf. Both worked as bouncers in a new wave club on Richards, half a block south from Vancouver Magazine. Somehow Shilling convinced the owners to sponsor an art show of his. I don't think he told them, until it was too late that his show involved the carting of tons of turf. I have forgotten what the show was about but I recall it had something to do with baseball cards. It was called Coach Does My Hair.

It was perhaps 7 or 8 years ago that I ran into Shilling near the Marble Arch. At the time he was traveling back and forth between Vancouver and Tofino. I now know that he was working on his 2003 book The Cedar Surf: An Informal History of Surfing in British Columbia . "Alex,"I remember him telling me, "you photograph many women in the rooms of the Marble Arch. I actually live there. Photograph me." This I did. I noticed that he protected his bike by keeping it in the room. I took the pictures and never saw Shilling again. The roll lay undeveloped in my darkroom. Yesterday I got curious and processed it. Here are two photographs.

Shilling has an unusual blog and in it I read this essay by perhaps one of his students?

Surfing is Surfing - An Essay on Grant Shilling by Clayton Webb - Grade 11 Stellys Secondary, Central Saanich.

As for the internal-tibial-torsioned Grant Shilling I had to pick on his only physical flaw. He always denied it but he was pigeon-toed.

Addendum ( re: another physical flaw):

Grant Shilling is now living in Cumberland BC. He wrote:

Life is great here in Cumberland where I remain stoked have a seven year old boy and live with my sweetie. Life is good!

In his communication Shilling reminded me that we both worked on a profile on Ben Johnson for Vancouver Magazine.

When I found out that sprinter Ben Johnson (before his Olympic run) was coming to town I told editor Mac Parry that I wanted to photograph Ben Johnson. Mac told me, "Impossible, Ben Johnson has been dead for years." I went over to associate editor Don Stanley's office and repeated the question. Stanley answered with a question, "Ben Johnson the actor? " I went back to Mac's office and explained. Mac nodded and said, "Call up that reprobate Grant Shilling and do it."

During the shoot Shilling asked Johnson if he was happy with his body. Johnson looked down on his crotch and said, "I would have been happy with a couple more inches."

My First Date With Charles
Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Deadheading a rose is a relaxing task. It is sometimes.

If I have had a busy day it gives me the opportunity to smell the roses, see who is coming out, who's in trouble with some pest or who wants water. But deadheading a once-blooming rose is like going to the peer to say goodbye to someone who is leaving on a trip, Since a once-blooming rose parades it charms for perhaps for two to three weeks it is like the visit of a favourite friend who lives abroad. Before I know it she is going home. And there is that question in my mind, "Will I be here next year? Will I be alive come spring?" After all none of us can be sure that we will make it in tandem with our roses which somehow have made it back from the crusades and survived abandonment in long forgotten cemeteries. Such was the case of the lovely Damask Rosa 'Omar Khayyam'.

Today I did not have the heart to deadhead Charles de Mills. As Rosemary, Plata (my cat) and I went for our walk around the block I spied Charles in our back lane. He is a bit forelorn. All it blooms, except for one, were in decline. I remembered the first time I lay eyes on Charles de Mills that Gallica of wonder.

It was late July 1990 and I had gone to Adamson Heritage Nursery in Langley. I had the job from Canada Post to find 6 Canadian roses and photograph them. Four would become stamps. In late July most roses were past their peak so a large wholesale nursery was my only chance to find something. And I did, Rosa 'Champlain' and Rosa 'Morden Centennial'. As I was about to leave I saw what seemed an aparition. It was a very large shrub that was covered with purple/blue/red roses that were quartered and so flat that it seemed someone had used a barber's razor to slice the front off. I inquired and was told it was Rosa 'Charles de Mills'. The caretaker then cut about 50 of the blooms and gave them to me, "We use this plant to take cuttings. We don't need the flowers. Take them and enjoy them."

I took the roses home and the scent in the car was unbelievable. When I got home I proudly showed Rosemary my booty. "I guess you are going to order this rose, aren't you?" She was right. And I do believe that was my first date with Charles. Today he said goodbye with that one perfect bloom. Let's hope it's the same time next year!

Hydrangea aspera 'Villosa' - Nature's Meatball
Tuesday, July 08, 2008

I wrote about Hyrandgea aspera here. I have three types. Hydrangea aspera has narrow leaves. H. aspera ssp. sargentiana has very large leaves and in between is Hydrangea aspera 'Villosa'. The flowers of all three are lacecaps of subtle earthy colours. None are bright pink or blue. Before the flowers open they look like little uncooked meatballs. Or at least that's what I thought until I put them under the scrutiny of my scanner yesterday afternoon.

Unlike my roses that cry for attention. with their beauty and scent my hydrangeas are faithful, need minimum care and by mid-summer when the roses are gone or faded they provide colour and interest in the garden. They manage to survive the August drought (with a few spaced waterings) and look fresh and spiffy.

But there is one mystery shared by both my old roses and the asperas. How can something so compact and meatball-like open into a glorious light lacecap? Lacecaps remind me of planetary systems which are made up mostly of empty space. How can a tight rose bud open to so many petals? Nature's origami puts the human kind to shame.

When Rebecca was 6 I photographed her behind the gazebo holding a flower from my Hydrangea macrophylla 'Blue Wave'. Rosemary was a bit shocked at the picture as Rebecca looked a lot older. This was one of a series of photographs of Rebecca where she did not offer to smile and I did not ask her to.

Yesterday when I was pruning my hydrangeas (and I noticed the aspera 'meatball" I also noticed the almost open flower of macrophylla 'Blue Wave'. Here it is and compare it with the open one that Rebecca was holding four years ago. Perhaps I will repeat the shot and pose again this year. In almost a month Blue Wave will be in bloom.

Delia Brett - Contact High
Monday, July 07, 2008

Last year I attended the popular Vancouver intitution of dance, Brief Encounters. I was charmed by the performance of the intriguing Delia Brett who partnered with a puppeteer. A the intermission I saw Brett with a little boy in tow. They were identical and charming. He looked like a little adult, and adult with poise and grace.

Artemis Gordon, dance director of Arts Umbrella on Granville Island, considers dance skill to be important but it must be balanced by presence. After having seen Brett dance I agree with Gordon. Brett has presence in spades.

Brett decided to dance when she was 20. After seeing Dancemakers, a Toronto contemporary dance company, she quit her pursuit of film and TV and chose Peter Bingham's a contact improvisational dance method at EDAM. After my photo session with her and her seven-year-old son, Beckett I asked Brett: Why contact?

"It uses the whole person to develop artistry, imagination and awareness with physcial principles. It is flying because you are free. You develop greater levels of trust in yourself and others." Brett then went to shower praise on Bingham, one of Vancouver's little-known gurus of dance excellence. "He has been a huge influence in my life. EDAM [Experimental Dance and Music] is a place where I feel I belong. There I feel a sense of completeness."

I asked Brett what it was like to be a dancer and a mom. "It's good, but it's hard to be poor and to be a mother. Dance has given me the power and strength I never knew I had before I had Beckett. It is a different perspective in a way that I don't think you could get by just being an artist on the margins of society. It is a bigger world because I am a mother."

Brett and dance partner Daelik (both directors of Machinenoisy performed Vancouver vs Vancouver in collaboration with choreographer Fabrice Ramalingon in Sete, France May 30 and in Thessaloniki, Greece June 14. Perhaps we will see this performance (about the lively and sometimes pugilistic Vancouver dance scene) here soon.

As for Beckett, when I asked him if he planned to be a dancer, he looked me straight in the eye and groaned, "Uh-uh."

© 2008 VLM/Alex Waterhouse-Hayward

Alexandria - Oriana - Alexandria
Sunday, July 06, 2008

Sometime at the end of the 50s my uncle, who at the time was in Egypt, proposed to my mother that I attend the University of Alexandria. I remember going with her to the P&O representative in Mexico City to inquire about ticket prices. I was to go in the Oriana. But this strange dream of my uncle's was for naught as Nasser suddenly banned the use of English from the curriculum. I never made it to Alexandria.

I have never been to Egypt and much less explored the stacks of the library in Alexandria. But there has been a small measure of ancillary pleasure involved in my pursuit of another Alexandria. Alexandria posed for my camera for several years. She was the perfect model, uncomplicated in that she was always available for pictures. She was pleasant and as my friend Juan Manuel Sanchez was fond of saying of such a woman , "muy plástica" which is his Argentine way of describing a body that is flexible and moldable to his style.

With Alexandria (considering that the two previous posts feature photographs of women on their backs and upside down) I finally nailed down a favourite cliché which unfortunately I cannot show here as the pictures have to have a modicum of decency. In these photographs I posed Alexandria upside down with cigarette in mouth and with sunlight streaming in through a Venetian blind, projectic zig zag marks on her undraped body. With Alexandria I tested all kinds of lighting techniques, lenses and film stocks.

Many of the picures that I took of her never saw the light of day because of the expense of making prints from slides. I rarely shot 35mm slides but in one occasion I photographed Alexandria in her apartment with a Kodak transparency film in 35mm format that had an ISO (ASA) rating of 800 but could be nicely pushed to 1600. The results had contrast and grain. With the advent of my scanner I am now able to put them here with ease.

I am too old to take some of the photographs that can only be taken with the latest technology. Not because I could not master the technology but more so because of that gold card in my pocket. Read further to find out why.

Years back I affixed a Nikon FM-2 to the hub of a cyclist's front wheel and threaded the wire of the motor drive to his right hand so that he could take pictures as he pedalled. I would like to see the same principle made easier by strapping cheap digital point and shoots to skateboards and snowboards. I have always rejected the shooting of pornography and gotten very close to doing it. I have always recoiled in the end as good taste prevailed. But the idea of strapping a point and shoot to one's forehaed and... I need not go any further. You can imagine the impact of capturing (to use this new term that has replaced take or expose) the frenzy and intimacy of such physical closeness.

In some way when I looked at Alexandria's slides which I took with the fast slide film I am shocked to find a level of intimacy that I did not see then. Being behind my camera can do that.

It protects you by distancing you. I did not see then what I see here now. In most the clothes are on but the darkness and the stark colours seem to ooze with eroticism.

The Polka Dot Dress
Saturday, July 05, 2008

In late 1989 Art Bergmann and I went to the Number 5 Orange for a beer after having seen one of the worst films we had ever seen in our lives. We had gone to a pre-screening of of Flesh Gordon Meets the Cosmic Cheerleaders. We had a mutual friend Michael Metcalf who was a PA and had a bit part playing a real turd. His character's name was Chief Diareahh. To get rid of him and his evil associates, Bill and Mary Turd and Little Poop they were fed Exlax.

Whe quickly ran out of money and when our sassy, but attractive waitress asked us if we wanted more beer I told her we had no more money.

She was wearing a white dress with black polka dots that was tight in the right places. The sight of her reminded me of the most erotic scene in films. In John Huston's 1961 The Misfits Marilyn Monroe walks into a cowboy bar and grabs a man's paddle ball and plays it expertly as all the men go wild and count, "35, 35, 36,..." and she does not miss. The polka dots resembled the physics experiment where you draw dots on a balloon and then blow it large. The polka dots had a life all their own. So did Kelly's (our waitress).

With a sneer she asked us, "Go into your pockets and bring out what you've got." We pulled out quarters, dimes and nickles. Triumphantly she picked it all up and said, "Just enough for a pint. You boys can share it," and plunked it in the middle of our table.

I did get Kelly to come to my studio and pose for me in her polka dot dress. At the time, 1990 I was obsessed with the idea of taking pictures of women with them upside down and hanging from my studio couch (a $100 bargain from a retiring psychiatrist who even included the delivery for the price.)

I believe that the truly sophisticated would never think of turning such a picture in the other direction! Pictures that are taken upside down should be seen that way. This blog posts shares a similarity with the previous one in that both feature a woman lying on her back and photographed upside down. But there is also a difference. While I met only two Tannias I did meet four Kellys in all.

Kelly Tough

Kelly Brock

Kelly Wood

Two Tannias & The Pastel Balkan Sobranies
Friday, July 04, 2008

I met two Tannias in my life and both were voluptuously beautiful. The first, was called Tannia do Nascimento and I met her one evening in Santos Brazil in 1966.

The second Tannia was Tannia Kidd and she posed for me in my studio and then in room 615 of the Marble Arch around 1988. The second Tannia suffered through my photographic uncertainty and a lack of purpose. How was I suppose to photograph a beautiful woman in a cheap hotel room? I was experimenting with glamour lighting. My guess is that if she suffered fools she did so silently and through her I eventually found my way.

I knew the first Tannia even less. The two young officers of the ELMA (Empresa Lineas Maritimas Argentinas) motor vessel Rio Aguapey had gone on shore leave when their ship docked to load coffee beans and machinery in the Brazilian port of Santos. I was the only passenger so I was invited to go along. We three were Argentines and thought ourselves superior to all Brazilians. We felt we were better at futbol, in sailing ships and in the conquest of women. We went to a cafe. We were soon joined by three delightful and beautiful women. The most forward of them was my first Tannia. We three looked at each other and simultaneously thought, "We are so handsome and manly that we are getting the pick of the lot." Tannia went into her handbag and produced what looked like a solid gold cigarette case. She opened it and offered us what I immediately recognized as pastel coloured , Balkan Sobranies made to order. My two officer friends were in their glory. The three ladies suggested we go dancing at a nearby cabaret. We arrived and we compared notes on our money situation. We were going to order rum. Rum is cheap in Brazil. The ladies orderes Scotch. At that point I told the two smiling officers, "We have been had, let's go before we lose all our money.

As we left we decided that Brazilian men were more worthy of our respect.

The Roof - 1205 Richards Street- We Were Young & Fun Was Fun
Thursday, July 03, 2008

I first met Malcolm Parry, editor of Vancouver Magazine sometime in 1977 when the office was on 1008 Hornby Street. His office, on the second floor, was the largest. It was on the North West corner of the building. Looking west Mac would pick up a monocular and look into the rooms of the Century Plaza on Burrard. Sometimes he would just play a bent soprano saxophone. Looking west was a messy scene that one day was transformed when I watched James La Bounty photograph a good looking architect in a trench coat. The messy scene behind him became the Law Courts and Robson Square and the architect was Arthur Erkikson.

But later in the 70s the magazine moved to 1205 Richards corner with Davy. Across the street facing East was an industrial laundry works. The building was gleeming white. I believe that corner houses a Choices and large condo.

Ten Zero eight Hornby Street was famous for the monthly "pissups". They happened a few days after the magazine made it to the newstands. Contributors (writers, photographers and illustrators) would show up and the magazine would provide cheap vino verde, cheap beer and munchies (terrible munchies). It was here that I met writers who became better known later. Max Wyman, Ben Metcalf, Bob Hunter, Garry Marchant and a young Les Wiseman are examples.

Twelve Zero Five Richards was famous for more parties. It was here that I saw my first alcoholic punch fountain and came to understand that the Christmas issue Playboy cartoons of office orgy parties were not all that off the mark. In one memorable occasion Mac went out to the street (in the early 80s prostitutes worked the area) and invited several ladies of the night to the festivities. I distinctly remember jumping into Mac's WV camper to go to La Bodega. One of my friends was holding hands with a prostitute. At la bodega he was sitting to my right and a another friend to my left. I told the friend on my left, "He is holding hands with her but he is much too drunk to realize that she is a man. Should I tell him?" His answer was short, "No, it's none of your business."

On Friday afternoons often some of the freelance writers would show up with beer. Sometimes this also happened on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. When Garry Marchant, the travel writer affectionately called the Gaz, visited, his pal Les Wiseman would go to the Blackstone (on Granville and Davie) to buy beer (it was the cheapest place). If the day was sunny the beer party would move up to the roof. On this particular day (see photographs) the party had begun at the Cecil Hotel and Wiseman and Marchant had brought back a couple of the dancers back to the magazine. Tiffany is wearing a striped top that sort of hides her extra special measurements. I had a weakness for her mouth since it reminded me of Leslie Caron's. The other dancer (who under the influence of beer did not seem to be afraid of heights and somehow could maintain her balance) is Ruby. She was friendly and efficient when she danced and Les one day told me, "She is so pleasant and nice but I think she is fated for tragedy." Perhaps he was right but we will never know. I never heard from her again. Only a week ago I was invited to a birthday party (Tiffany's) in Mapleridge where I would have met her husband and children. But I did not want to go. I did not want to tamper with my memories of that day. As we went up to the roof I took a quick picture of Mac in his office with a woman I cannot identify.

In these pictures you can see Richards street, which runs north/south. Marchant is wearing the darker shirt, Wiseman has the beard and the then brand new art director, Chris Dahl is the man in the light shirt. And that's me in the dark sunglasses.


Chantal Somebody. French name. From Quebec. One our advertising sales
representatives. Location is an advertising sales office.


Rebbeca, Steer Manure, Alfalfa Meal & Magnesium Salts
Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Rebecca came back from Toronto today at 10am. I had to find a reason to go and see her. My Rosemary (very Canadian) said, "She is probably too tired. We should let her be." Why must Canadians be so correct, so thoughtful and so right? And why is it that just in a situation like this can they not be just a little bit daring?

I mixed a bucket with well aged steer manure and a few handfuls of alfalfa meal mixed with a touch of epson salts (magnesium sulphate) and suggested to Rosemary that we go to Rebecca's. We did. Rebecca and I mixed in the stuff into her roses and then watered them. The manure will do its thing. The epson salts will make the plants digest the manure more easily and the alfalfa meal will promote healthy new shoots which will become next year's canes. I lent Rebecca my secateurs and warned her to be careful as she deadheaded her plants.

Rebecca's beautiful curly hair had been made straight by her Toronto aunt and she had lots of makeup. She looked lovely. After a week she looked a year older. Rosemary commented, "Why must you grow up, Rebecca?"

The secret is that both her mother (Hilary) and her father (Bruce) have already seen the latest Harrison Ford film. "Let's all go to see it I said." Hilary looked at me and said, "Yes let's all go, but if you want to take her Papi you may."


A White Rose & A White Boeing 727
Tuesday, July 01, 2008

White is not my favourite colour. Perhaps it has all to do with having had to dress in sailor whites for two long summer/springs in Buenos Aires. I had to look crisp and clean all the time. When I took the train or bus I never sat down. Buenos Aires car pollution not to mention that from the Mercedes Benz diesel buses added to the seat grime. Luckily the blue sailor collar prevented ring around the collar. I swore that if I ever survived the ordeal I would never wear bell bottoms, white pants or white shirts. During the late 60s I must admit I wore a few semi-bell bottoms. But none were white.

In photography, white shirts and dresses are a problem particularly when the resulting photograph will be reproduced in a newspaper or a magazine with lower reproduction standards. White shirts and a caucasian man's white face don't mix well and look terrible in newsprint. I invariably ask the businessmen and lawyers that I photograph to wear blue shirts. I ask the women to try not to wear white bloused but I do recommend pearls. Pearls will make the toughest female lawyer look approchable and femenine.

In my garden I have several white roses. I have Rosa 'Fair Bianca', Rosa 'Blanc double de Coubert', Rosa 'Splendens', Rosa 'Mme Alfred Carriere', Rosa 'Gruss an Aachen' and the lovely one seen here Rosa 'Margaret Merrill'. She is not an old rose but a 1978 Harkness floribunda with a very sweet smell. I have purchased three and two have died in the same spot that I insist on planting her (not very sunny). I thought I had finally lost her but today she appeared with this one bloom. I gave gotten the message and in the fall I will move her to a sunny location.

When I first saw her today I remembered many years ago (at least 32) when I had gone to the Mayan ruins of Palenque in Chiapas, Mexico. I had spent a whole day in stifling humid heat and was attacked by mosquitoes which I kept almost at bay by constantly smoking some Flor de La Costa cigars from Veracruz. That evening I had stayed at a cheap hotel. I asked the man at the front desk to wake me up in the morning so I could take the bus to Villahermosa and not miss my Mexicana plane. The man told me he could not assure me that he would wake me up as he had nobody to wake him up. I had a wrist alarm watch but I did not trust it. I kept awake all night and took my third class bus with chickens, pigs, turkeys and native Mexicans that reeked of smoke and sweat. The bus had something like 10 forward gears. Every time it stopped to pick up a passenger (and this happened so many times I was in fear of missing my flight). Then the driver would engage all those forward gears until he reached some sort of cruising speed.

I finally arrived at the airport with a few minutes to spare. I was soothed and refreshed by the sight of the all white Mexicana de Aviacíon Boeing 727. I have never been so happy to see white. Almost as happy as I was today to see Margaret Merril.


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