Le Temps

Certain languages, including French and Bulgarian, have one word for both“time” and “weather.” The French is rendered Le Temps.

One of my treasured moments as a Dad combined weather, time, and beauty. I was sitting on a peak in Arkansas with my son on a Sunday morning singing while watching a thunderstorm roll in not from above but from our flank as it wrapped itself around the mountain and we were, for just a moment, spun into a vortex of time and weather that made my heart skip a beat. The weather became time and time became weather and God seemed very near.

My son taught me to look at the sky. My daughter constantly reminds me of the beauty all around. Brandon is a meteorologist. Lauren, a budding artist and designer. I read some excerpts from this book and thought of them.

Maira Kalman and writer Daniel Handler celebrate in Weather, Weather —  the idea of what I saw on that mountain with my son. I only wish I had taken a picture.

There is a picture in Weather, Weather, taken by Carl T. Gosset Jr./ The New York Times: “This Photo Was Made Just before 4 P.M. at Broadway and 43rd Street, Looking East across Times Square.” July 24, 1959 

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In this picture, time stands still for me even though it was 58 years ago. A man stands with a hand in his pocket looking down at the sidewalk oblivious to the torrent of rain as two women dressed vaguely like my mother dodge puddles and shrink against the elements as they run across a New York street.

I was born the day after this picture was taken. And yet it was only yesterday…

Here are some pictures from Weather, Weather by Maira Kalman and the writer Daniel Handler. Enjoy!

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Illustration by Maira Kalman, based on Hatsuo Ikeuchi’s Snowflakes, c. 1950

 

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László Moholy-Nagy: The Diving Board, 1931

 

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Illustration by Maira Kalman, based on Man Diving, Esztergom by André Kertész, 1917

 

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I was in my room wondering what it was like somewhere else.

What’s the weather like?

It’s like summer. It’s like doing nothing.

Delicious.

Illustration by Maira Kalman, based on Alfred Stieglitz’s Apples and Gable, Lake George, 1922

 

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The newspaper said it would be nice today.

What does the newspaper know.

International News Photo: “The Portent of Coming Disaster: A Tornado, Photographed as It Moved across the Sky toward White, S.D., by a Cameraman Who Was the Only Person Who Did Not Take Shelter in a Cyclone Cellar. None of the Buildings Shown in the Picture Was Damaged, as They Were Not in the Direct Path of the Tornado,” 1938 

 

 

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 Illustration by Maira Kalman, based on Barney Ingoglia’s photograph for the New York Times article “Rain Raises Fears of Flooding: Pedestrians in Times Square Wading through a Puddle as Heavy Rains Began Yesterday. The Rain Was Expected to Continue Today, Melting Much of the Snow and Causing Fears of Flooding,” January 25, 1978

 

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Clarence H. White: Drops of Rain, 1903

 

weatherweather_kalmanhandler14Illustration by Maira Kalman, based on Children Playing in Snow by John Vachon, 1940

 

weatherweather_kalmanhandler15Illustration by Maira Kalman, based on Henri Cartier-Bresson’s Alberto Giacometti Going Out for Breakfast, Paris, 1963

I can’t even say what it’s like. It’s perfect, the whole thing. Come with me, take me with you. Let’s go out together and have poached eggs.

Delicious.

 

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Valery Shchekoldin: Uliyanovsk, 1978

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A Good View of God

I’m a home builder by trade, but when I grow up, I want to be a writer. Since writers publish books, that’s the next step. Bankruptcy is the one thing common to both writers and builders. While the financial poverty of writing is constant, the financial woes of builders are violent, like a train derailing on a bridge over a canyon.

It’s a difficult choice. A dull ubiquitous poverty versus a sharp dive into the abyss. And that’s the appeal of writing, it’s predictable, there is a wealth of new material to write about with each new sunrise, and one can financially plan for a predictable threadbare existence.

I’m being facetious. The building business has been a blessing to me and my family. Although, the minimalist in me does love the idea of writing with pen and paper in an attic dormer converted into a crow’s nest wondering how I’m going to get paid for carving ideas from the alphabet.

But for me, writing is an avocation and I’m not giving up my day job.

With the editing skills of my daughter Lauren and brother Greg, I’ll have a new book ready to publish soon and will have it available in Kindle format and paperback format. It’s a book of essays and stories called, A Good View of God. Here’s an excerpt from the first chapter called, “Kiss Me Like That.” It’s about the neighborhood in which I grew up, our longing to be loved and included, and well…kissing.

…My friends and I roamed the woods using mischief to paint graffiti on a neighborhood canvas that could have been mistaken for time or a billboard or grinding boredom. We built fortresses in the woods behinds our homes, in the event of an invasion by the Soviet Union. We also pondered the deeper questions of supple formative minds, like whether or not Neil Armstrong had a good view of God while walking on the moon July 20, 1969. This was after all the dawning of the age of Aquarius, and we wondered why we no longer felt revulsion around girls.

My first crush and heartbreak over a girl made as much sense as Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft in The Graduate. She was twice my age, sophisticated, blond, shapely and fifteen. Like a dog chasing a car, I had no idea what a boyfriend did with a girlfriend, but I was a smitten seven-year old, jealous because the fifteen-year old twirler in the high school band loved my neighbor, Randy. He was the first pretty boy I knew, an olive-skinned Romeo, dark, handsome and sixteen to my short, pale and seven. I was as hopelessly in love as a seven-year old boy could possibly be.

Jan, who lived across the street in a red brick Cape Cod house with white trim, fell madly in love with Randy. I hated him for that, as did my neighborhood buddies. I had fond memories of Jan babysitting. We would sit on the couch while I leaned against her arm and she’d run her fingers through my hair as we watched Gilligan’s Island. Or I would hang out at her house in the hip upstairs game room with the shag rug listening to “Oh, Sweet Pea,” by Tommy Roe or The Temptations “My Girl” and wishing it were so.

Randy’s sister, Christy, was the first girl I ever kissed. We found ourselves alone one day in the wood box in the backyard with the lid down. We were both five and hadn’t a clue but had seen it done, so why not? And in the sixth grade, under a persimmon tree I kissed a girl, not passionately, but rather the thin-lipped front porch mannequin kiss. Kissing under the persimmon tree felt like eating a persimmon: not romantic at all, puckered, organic, indifferent.

I wasn’t a participant in my first real kiss, only a spectator. I walked into the laundry room of Randy’s house on the day they were leaving for good, the Ross family packed and ready to drive west to Colorado. My nemesis, my romantic rival, was finally leaving, and I thought the door to everlasting love was opening. But the door I opened to the Ross laundry room revealed a surreal scene, boy saying goodbye to girl. Jan’s eyes were swollen and red, leaking emotion onto his shirt like rain skidding down a window pane, as she pulled away from a kiss and turned to look at me, an intruder to their farewell intimacy, their tangled goodbye. I discovered passion as a voyeur next to a washing machine, watching with envy, this weeping river of emotion dotted with red eyes and trembling lips, tightly hugged, wrapped in longing, hidden in shadows of whispered anguish.

That moment in the laundry room was my first lesson in kissing. Sure, I’d seen Julie Andrews kiss Christopher Plummer in the “could this be happening to me” kiss from the Sound of Music but this, this cloying evocative embrace framing the kiss was what made me want to kiss a girl. I wanted what those two had. A desperate longing to be held, loved, touched, cried over if I ever left town. It made me want to get a girl just so I could leave. Just once to have that feeling of someone wanting me desperately, tearing them to pieces. Yea, kiss me like that.