Thursday, October 31, 2013

Hector's gift

There’s good news sports fans and not just about the Bosox waxing the Cardinals.  The prodigal camera has been pronounced fit for duty.  Beyond getting the thing fixed the whole effort was so stellar it was almost life affirming.  When I left the gimpy machine on Monday they said it would take two or three days for the evaluation and, if parts from the United States were required, a likely prospect, it would be another 7-10 days.  That timeline pushed the process into why bother territory.  So, I left Gaute with low to no hope of getting a functioning Canon 5D Mark II in this lifetime.

But, shocks of shocks, when Sergio left me off at the school later on Monday there was a email from my new best friend Hector saying he had found a bent wire, that he had broken it while attempting to straighten it, had replaced it and that the camera was working perfectly.  That, amigos, is service. And to think that I was starting to think that I was jousting with windmills. It seems there’s a fine line between compulsive behavior and perseverance.

Suffice it to say, your peripatetic photographer is a happy boy, one who’s headed for Lago Atitlan manana.

The accompanying very out of focus photograph captures the spirit of the moment that Senor Canon returned to my loving hands. The beaming Hector says it all.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Snake bit in paradise

The view from my classroom
My time in Guatemala has been fair to partly cloudy.  Yes, amigos, it rains in La Antigua. My life experience here has been mixed, too.  My homestay did not work out though my host family was muy simpatico.   My room was shabby, not clean and sin agua caliente.  And on top of it the practicing Spanish theory did not play out. It was limited to meals and, even then, minimal.  And in the evening I was alone in my cell while family members slouched on every horizontal surface in front of the televisor.  I  now am at mi escuela happily ensconced in a cheerful room with, glory of glories, hot water.  The sky parted and the earth shook.
I've survived a minor three day bout with the turistas and my main camera stopped "de pronto" on Saturday.  I'm feeling a tad snakebit. That's two out of last three big trips where Mr. Canon has bit the dust.

School is good in a measured sort of way.  Though I thought I had the past tense wired before I got here I'm just putting it to bed now.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Even more Marin

I’ll probably be bouncing around a bit over the next month since I’m an unstable sort and I’m posting from Guatemala where I’m getting the lay of the land and sorting out the techno minefield of a foreign country.  I still haven’t figured out how to use my new cellular phone though I used it yesterday and don’t know how I did it.  Fortunately there are some tech savvy youngsters in my familial midst and there may be hope.  Did I mention that the electrical outlets in my room (dormitorio) are two pronged and this PC is three? Maybe downstairs in the dining room (comidor) there will be three prongers otherwise there will be a major search manana.

Over these four weeks I’m envisioning posts about Marin, the East Bay, Fort Ord and Navajo country any of which may be preempted by postcards from Antigua.

As previously noted, West Marin with its farm to table aesthetic grabbed me in a big way.  When I first arrived in Point Reyes Station I saw light blue posters  that said “Save our Drake’s Bay Oyster Farm.” Over wood fired pizza, beer and, yes indeedy, oysters I asked my waiter what the hoop-di-do was about and he told me that there had been an oyster farm on Drake’s Bay for several generations and that the government was going to terminate the lease for some reason. Don’t know exactly why. But the gist of it all is that most locals seemed to feel that the venerated farm and scrumptious oysters should stay.  I concur. Do love my oysters.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

East Bay Boogie

After blissed out days in West Marin and a tepid Saturday night in San Francisco my photo safari took an urgent turn.  I had a serious case of the homesick blues but my look back at the East Bay of late forties hadn’t even started. Still to be found were the homes and neighborhoods of my early years in Oakland and San Leandro. Why I would want to reach back more than sixty years is a mystery.

Did I even have breakfast? Can’t say. I just know it was dark o’clock on a drowsy Sunday when I strolled through my old neighborhood, a morning after the night before Marina District, took some record shots and boogied for the Bay Bridge.

My memories of two years in Oakland and a couple more in San Leandro are really more like snapshots in my brain of punctuation points in my childhood. My only useful recollection was that we lived in a chunky apartment house on High Street in Oakland, one that I thought I’d recognize it if it was still there. I recall that we could walk to Mills College, a place that, even as a child, I knew was an enclave of privilege. And knowing our proximity to Mills gave me a landmark to use to use in my search.
Just how is a guy supposed to find the place where he lived in 1948 and, worse yet, what are the odds that an apartment house that predates World War Two even exists today? Here’s how it’s done students. Back then you had to take East 14th Street but today you take the eastbound I-580 from downtown Oakland and get off on High.  I went north into a tangle of single family houses that were generic, of indeterminate age and definitely not on my High Street. So I flipped a U-turn, dipped under the 580 and, behold, two blocks on my right stood the Sunny View Terrace. I felt shock and disbelief with dollop of melancholy. I do not have technicolor memories of High Street.
Oddly, my memories of the Sunny View are of the rear alley and it’s the alley that confirmed that this was my old home. I have no recollection of the front of the building whatsoever. It’s in the alley that I fell on my head from the plumber’s truck while I was hanging upside down on a pipe and the alley's the place where some kid named Billy punctured my eardrum with a Tootsie Roll stick. And it’s Sunny View Terrace where that my dear grandmother sent Easter eggs that did not survive two weeks of unrefrigerated transit from Ohio. Ah, the memories. 

My mother was a person of modest means, a divorced parent who was a primary school teacher, yet she was cultured and discerning and sought out the finer things. And though she was very much a prig and a prude, formative experiences like seeing The Lavender Hill Mob with Alec Guinness, attending Swan Lake in San Francisco, hearing Helen Keller speak at UC-Berkeley and having my first Caesar Salad at Larry Blake’s, first Welsh Rarebit at Townsend’s and High Tea at the City of Paris in San Francisco all sprung from her taste and erudition. I know those epiphanies foretold my journey in some way.  

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Missing Marin

I’ve been living on the fat of my California photo safari for at least two months and there's no end in sight. And today I’m riding the rapture of West Marin yet again, this time in living color.

West Marin, essentially the coastal part of a famously liberal, educated, wealthy, eat organic county just across the Golden Gate from San Francisco, boasts of attributes that weaken my knees.  The mighty Pacific, farm and sea to table cuisine, a rich wine aesthetic and pastures literally kissing the surf promote palpitations and labored breathing in old people.

BMW socialists aside, West Marin is a trove photographic wonders some of which appear herein and with minimal commentary. And here’s a precocious little Russian River Pinot Noir while we’re at it.