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In Memory

In Memory, originally uploaded by elefanterosado.

This photo was taken by my grandfather in Princeton, New Jersey (circa 1968) when I was three and my brother was five. I adored and idolized my brother then, just as I would for his remaining 19 years.

My grandfather was a tall and imposing presence; a taciturn classics professor (who nevertheless spoke Latin, German and ancient Greek fluently when he had something to say) and who did not suffer fools gladly. He played the organ at church with flawless execution and banged out grammatically immaculate lettersfamous for their terse pointedness–on an old black Smith manual typewriter. His writing tablet resembled tracing paper: wafer thin and cut into economic thirds.

He admired cats and detested dogs. And, like a stealthy feline, he silently stalked his Maine and New Jersey properties while wielding his trusty Voightlander. Never tactile, he expressed his affection through photography and a silent presence. He documented moments of small kindnesses and familial fondness. He disliked being photographed. His occasional self portraits were severe and generally reflected a baleful glare of reproach.

Later, during the summer, he would pull out his slide projector and treat us all to a long and solemn slide show, during which extraneous remarks were frowned upon. There were always a few scenic shots, but the images that most often flashed upon the screen were of his five grandchildren, involved in various displays of childish tustling.

I used to squirm and wiggle during these tortuous evenings and wonder why I was subjected to them. Only years later did it occur to me that my grandfather’s slides were an extraordinary gift. A gift which extended far beyond the mere physical dimensions of a camera’s lens.

Th real treasure was his presence. A silent witnessing presence of some of the most profoundly beautiful memories of my life. He was there to record for later recollection the full expression of love I had, and continue to have, for one of the most extraordinary human beings I have ever known.

My brother died 21 years ago.

For Jack and C.M. Hall. In memoriam.