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 

weatherweather_kalmanhandler10

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!

weatherweather_kalmanhandler7

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

 

weatherweather 2

László Moholy-Nagy: The Diving Board, 1931

 

weatherweather_kalmanhandler4

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

 

weatherweather_kalmanhandler8

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

 

weatherweather_kalmanhandler9

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 

 

 

weatherweather_kalmanhandler11

 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

 

weatherweather_kalmanhandler12

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.

 

weatherweather_kalmanhandler16

Valery Shchekoldin: Uliyanovsk, 1978

Advertisements

Toronto journal 4: King Lear and the Subterranean Underground

We are going to Hyde Park to see King Lear,” Brandon said. Turns out he said High Park. Which is where we sat, perched high on a hill overlooking the outdoor stage at High Park in north Toronto. My expectations were low but I did carry high expectations in a picnic bag, a sub sandwich giving a measure of hope for enjoyment during the evening performance.

Shakespeare is sometimes difficult to follow. Lots of humor missed but I noticed veterans of Shakespeare in the audience chuckling so it must be funny and I’m just slow to the meaning translating Queen’s English into a slow Okie drawl. The production was performed with members of York University’s Drama and Arts School. York is the University where my son is working on his Masters Thesis on Radar Differential Measurement or something meteorologically spatial.

Anyway, it’s the shape of stuff in the atmosphere before it hits us on the head. He has developed a certain expertise in radar and was recruited to York University by the noted Atmospheric Scientist, Dr. Peter Taylor.

We also met Brandon’s buddies in the program, ZQ, Tim, Kai, and Isaac. My evaluation of Brandon’s friends: they are easy-going and smarter than I am. We are eating at a sports bar and there are several televisions tuned to street motorcycle racing, the kind where the rider turns corners with the bike leaning over sideways and Isaac (17 years old) is asking how the bike makes the turn at such high-speed. Tim, the one the guys jokingly call the savant, is studying atmospheric pollutants and has just returned from the northern Canadian woods where he is downloading data from the atmosphere. Tim pulls out a plain paper notebook and begins to sketch a model of movement at speed describing centrifugal force with mathematics, a simple graph and pencil and paper.

I don’t understand the sketch and I want to snap a picture but don’t want to appear to be a hayseed and make a big deal out of what they take as a mundane mathematical explanation for a visual and visceral sport like motorcycle racing. I wonder if this happens everyday in their world.

We’ve enjoyed the food in Toronto. One can eat at any country in the world when in Toronto. Bahn Mi from Vietnam, Pork Shoulder sandwiches from Cuba, and of course the traditional Canadian meal of Poutine, fries, gravy, cheese curds, yummy.

We’ve had a wonderful trip! We drove through Michigan after crossing the Canadian border at Sarnia, about 30 miles north of Detroit. We listened to the Audiobook version of Killers of the Flower Moon, by David Grann while driving home. It literally wore me out, but it was fascinating. A lot of King Lear in Osage County back in the 1920’s, when the Osage Indians were the richest people per capita in the world and J.Paul Getty and Sinclair and Frank Phillips gathered under the Million Dollar Elm to bid on the Osage Indians’ subterranean kingdom.

The Osage built mansions and drove Cadillacs and succumbed to the foolishness of riches just like most of us do, and then one by one, the Osage began to be killed off. The story is an indictment of the prejudice toward American Indians that allowed the murderers to operate with impunity. Utterly compelling, but also emotionally draining. The bad guys could just have easily been actors in a Shakespearean tragedy like King Lear…

rascals, eaters of broken meats; base, proud, shallow, beggarly, three-suited, hundred-pound, filthy, worsted-stocking knaves; lily-livered, glass-gazing, super-serviceable finical rogues.

Bill Shakespeare could really talk some trash.

A few evenings back, we sat with Brandon and Liz watching some old home movies that I had sent off to Legacy Box. They converted our home movies in 8mm and VHS format films into digital which we accessed through wi-fi. We stumbled upon this: Brandon struggling to breathe his first breath. One of the nurses was a good friend, Maresha Scarsdale, and I handed her the video camera. He is purple. Brandon thinks he looks like a purple lizard. Oxygen hasn’t coursed through his body and made him pink yet. I’ve never watched this. I was there, yes, and I held him and marveled then. I’m tearing up again watching and remembering…Brandon is struggling to breath, gurgling cries, his airways still not clear…Ello Stephney, another nurse friend of ours is working on him, clearing out his mouth and nose, and he magically begins to glow pink…he isn’t a lizard, he is human.

“When we are born, we cry that we are come to this great stage of fools.” ― William Shakespeare, King Lear

We all cry before the blood fills our veins and oxygen brightens our countenance and we nestle in the warmth of human contact, and we determine that the fools and knaves and killers of the flower moon may share the stage, but they won’t rule the story.

Thanks for showing us around Toronto Brandon and Liz. You really put on a great show!

 

New York & Toronto: journal 3

Saturday August 26 

We took the subway to downtown Toronno (locals say Toronno) and walked along the harbor. The Blue Jays won in a slugfest over the Minnesota Twins so we heard roars rising from the open stadium and bouncing around the city canyons. The ferry carries 453 souls at a time over to Centre Island and it provides an extraordinary view of the city skyline. We walked to the far side to a sandy beach and watched pasty folks who found the beach novel, wading and corralling children in the shallow water as if this were the first time to experience sand and surf. But the salt air is missing along with the majestic powerful roar of surf pounding sand.

File_000(2)

Toronto Harbor with the CN Tower in the background

Lake Ontario is simply nudging up to the beach in gentle ripples. The children are stripping off their jean shorts to reveal camo or superhero underwear, boxers, briefs, it is all here on display.

Sunday August 27

We drove around the western edge of Lake Ontario through Hamilton and just shy of Niagara to fruit tree land. This area is afforded protection being hard against the western edge of Lake Ontario giving it just enough protection from north winds which are warmed by the lake in winter giving grapevines just enough comfort to keep  from freezing and lake generated snow keeps plenty moisture in the ground. There are vineyards and peach, nectarine, cherry, and apple orchards. We went into the orchards on a trailer pulled by a small tractor and used wide-spreading ladders older than me to pick peaches, nectarines, and a few plums which were not quite fully ripe yet, but should ripen off the vine in time.

File_000(6)

Karen climbs the peach tree.

This farm was established in 1799. There is a beautiful old tree with a huge trunk and low spreading limbs that I couldn’t identify as to species, so I asked a worker. She said the tree is a Purple Beech and came over with the family from Estonia on the ship, a small sapling traveling in a boot, and planted at the new homestead which became their front yard. Now it’s over 200 years old.

File_000(4)

This Purple Beech tree traveled in a boot as a sapling from Estonia over 200 years ago next to my son Brandon sporting Canadian socks, lime shorts, and a man bun all younger than most of the smallest limbs.

 

Afterwards we enjoyed fresh cold apple cider and shared a peach muffin from a roadside farmer’s market.

File_000(3)

Walking to the orchard to pick peaches, plums, and nectarines.

Then we had Cuban sandwiches and pulled pork shoulder with rice and beans and mango spicy salsa. Next door is a place called Bang Bang where they pair gourmet cookies with exotic ice cream. The line is always 30 plus deep. Here are some flavors: bellwoods stout beer n’ brown bread, black tea banana puddin’, Italian eggnog, salted caramel vanilla mojito… can’t even remember what I got but pretty sure I blacked out into a sugar induced coma afterwards.

 

New York & Toronto: journal 2

August 24-25, 2017

We drove to the Adirondack Mountains with Toby & Debbie Taylor with plans to kayak the Moose River near the village of Old Forge. We wandered through Old Forge Hardware established in 1900. It’s squeaking groaning oak floors tells stories of those from another time walking these same boards with hunting boots, saddle shoes, and blue leather Mary Janes.

File_000(1)

Dr. Toby Taylor who is 1/256 Cherokee Indian standing next to the drug store indian at Old Forge Hardware store.

On main street there are slabs of oak and red elm and butternut standing at attention like surf boards at the beach awaiting a buyer to transform them into breakfast bar tops. There is a candy shop with mini donuts and chunks of fudge and brown bottles of Saranac Root Beer. We came to kayak, but we never made it, losing ourselves in a 1970’s time warp of batting cages, go carts (yes, Karen cut someone off), an arcade with redemption games like pinball and skee ball, Pac Man, and Galaga, and right next door there is a dairy shack with a roof top ice cream cone where you can get a frozen custard cone rolled in crushed heath bar. I ignored my age all afternoon and acted 14 most of the day.

File_000(7)

according to, Kathleen McMichael Mulligan, this is my mom’s wedding picture with Karen’s Aunt Rose n my Dad Roy Fairbanks n her GMA’s other two sisters Aunt Mary n Aunt Bertha…

We drove west to Syracuse on Friday, then north on Interstate 84 to the Canadian Border crossing at Thousand Islands (salad dressing originated here) and then connecting with Canada’s 401 West.

As we drove north along interstate 84 in upstate New York, I listened to my wife go through a box of old pictures given to her by her sister Debbie after her mom had cleaned them out of the house before moving to Arizona from New Jersey. It felt like listening to Jack Buck call a Cardinals baseball game, very entertaining, but visually I have to create some of the images from verbal reactions and comments from Karen as I drive in a strange land on strange roads. Karen reacts to a picture of herself in a bikini on the roof of Cathcart dorm as a 9th grader visiting Harding University in the late 1970’s and I steal a glance since I would have been a freshman there at the time.

File_000(8)

Thom Mason in his James Dean rebel years. This picture was taken not long after a car wreck. He and some buddies were raiding a farmers watermelon crop and were chased away. In the scramble to escape, he did not sit in his usual seat in the car. Thom’s friend sat in that seat instead. His buddy died in the accident.

While we are still on I-84 in New York, Karen reads a letter written from her mother Anne who was pregnant with Debbie in August 1957. It is addressed to her husband Thom who was serving as an Army Reserve cook at Fort Drum in upstate New York. Karen always wondered about her Dad serving as a cook in the Army, where the love of cooking and making eggs and bacon for his children first began. Karen has always wondered where Fort Drum is. She looks up from her letter and spies a green interstate highway sign not far from the Canadian border just east of Lake Ontario. It’s an exit sign for Fort Drum.

New York & Toronto: journal 1

Tuesday August 22

When my brother the doctor is not on call, he decompresses by setting his smart phone to airplane mode. I am on airplane mode at this moment, serene at 39,000 feet viewing the fruited plain from a 737, untethered from the constancy of digital connection and liberated from the tyranny of the lightning rod phone collecting emails, instagrams, texts, and breaking blurbs from the The Huffington Post about what Donald just tweeted to a bifurcated nation. I am on my way to Philly via Southwest Airlines where Karen will pick me up and we’ll get a hoagie bigger than a football and eat it while driving north to Utica, NY. The view from the upper atmosphere is soft and slow, more ancient and eternal. Kentucky is a checkerboard of bluegrass and tobacco farms. I have a distinct sense that I’m calmer when disconnected from the technology that has reduced my social construct from handshakes and hugs, to something less, finger swipes and clicks.

Between the rolling hills of Kentucky and the farms of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania I read an article titled, “Has the smartphone destroyed a generation?” Jean M. Twenge, Atlantic September 2017

Here are a few compelling quotes from her article:

“In the early 1970’s, the photographer Bill Yates shot a series of portraits at the Sweetheart Roller Skating Rink in Tampa, Florida. In one, a shirtless teen stands with a large bottle of peppermint schnapps stuck in the waistband of his jeans. In another, a boy who looks no older than 12 poses with a cigarette in his mouth.

The rink was a place where kids could get away from their parents and inhabit a world of their own, a world where they could drink, smoke, and make out in the backs of their cars. In stark black-and-white, the adolescent Boomers gaze at Yate’s camera with the self-confidence born of making their own choices–even if, perhaps especially if, your parents wouldn’t think they were the right ones.”

Sweetheart Roller Skating Rink - 1972-1973

“…the twin rise of the smartphone and social media has caused an earthquake of a magnitude we’ve not seen in a very long time, if ever. There is compelling evidence that the devices we’ve placed in young people’s hands are having profound effects on their lives–and making them seriously unhappy.”

I listen to the blissful snoring of a rotund man in seat 6A, while musing about an unfettered childhood riding a bike without a helmet as the risk of cracking my skull seemed directly proportional to my joy and speed. I remember many of those kids in the roller rink with the liquor and cigarettes. I wonder where they are now.

Pretty Good Romantic Quotes

Last night, Karen and I snuggled up on the sofa with a soft throw and a cat named Boo while watching a Hallmark movie, “I do, I do, I do,” a plagiarized revisiting of the movie, “Ground Hog Day.” Here’s the plot.

An architect heads to the altar with her fiancé, unsure of her marriage and their future.  She relives her disastrous wedding day, put together by her fiance’s overbearing mother, over and over until, with the help of her fiancé’s brother, she begins to face her biggest fears and discover what she really wants in herself and in her life.

I don’t consider this wasted time because it was spent with my lovely wife, but afterward, I felt the need to baptize myself in the redeeming waters of better writing.

Which reminds me of the most romantic line uttered by someone I know who wasn’t in a movie or book. My brother-in-law toasted his wife at their wedding with these heart warming words, “I love you as much as my dog Toby.”

In honor of Toby, here are some other pretty good all-time romantic quotes.

“If you ever have need of my life, come and take it.”
Anton Chekhov, The Seagull

“If I were to live a thousand years, I would belong to you for all of them. If we were to live a thousand lives, I would want to make you mine in each one.”
Michelle Hodkin, The Evolution of Mara Dyer

“The more you love someone, he came to think, the harder it is to tell them. It surprised him that strangers didn’t stop each other on the street to say I love you.”
Jonathan Safran Foer, Everything Is Illuminated

“If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more.”  Jane Austen, Emma

“He stepped down, trying not to look long at her, as if she were the sun, yet he saw her, like the sun, even without looking.”
Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

“In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”
Pride and Prejudiceby Jane Austen

“Who, being loved, is poor?”
A Woman of No Importance, by Oscar Wilde

“I thought an hour ago that I loved you more than any woman has ever loved a man, but a half hour after that I knew that what I felt before was nothing compared to what I felt then. But ten minutes after that, I understood that my previous love was a puddle compared to the high seas before a storm.”
–The Princess Bride, by William Goldman

A Thousand Pines

He can tell a story better than Mark Twain on a riverboat drinking whiskey in the moonlight, although the surreal and the absurd are difficult to distinguish from reality. I hang near him at family gatherings, because I’m a writer and he gives me stuff you can’t make up. And like Seinfeld’s blonde girlfriend who can get away with anything because she is beautiful, Tom gets away with things because he is funny.

Although sometimes the story takes the storyteller to the woodshed and what emerges can’t be fabricated, but only told, and it happens in the warp time of a single sentence. Tom’s extemporaneous fabrication that accelerated him into warp story mode, was molded by a moment of need and suddenly, he is in a Learjet with Jamie Moyer and the Vice-President of Fox News. The twisted moment vaulted Tom from airport mundane to jet set surreal as he uttered these words to the airline reservations attendant, “You don’t understand…”

Tom Achey Pumpkin Patch Grandson

It began with a white lie meant to get him to San Diego for his grandson’s 1st birthday and to remain in the good graces of his wife. The lady at the counter said, “Your plane is delayed for at least three hours and there are no alternative flights,” which meant most likely the next day. He was only planning to be there two days. “You don’t understand,” he exclaimed with the passion of a Phillies fan booing Santa Claus. “I’ve got to get to San Diego…my, umm, daughter is getting married at Moonlight Beach tonight at 9:00 o’clock.”

He had dropped his wife at the airport early Friday morning and she was flying alone. She was not happy because he told her he had to work and couldn’t make it for the birthday party. “This is a big event, a big deal, our grandchild’s first birthday, and you should be there.” she reprimanded. He didn’t tell her that he was booked on a flight leaving at 5:00 pm EST that same Friday and arriving in San Diego at 8:00 PST.

“Do you have any proof that your daughter is getting married?” the airline clerk asked. Tom said, “Yea, I brought my wife in here this morning. She’s flying out for the wedding.” She typed her name into her terminal and confirmed the flight that morning. “Let me check something,” and she began typing again. “Look, don’t tell anyone I did this, but take this boarding pass to gate 14 and they’ll take it from there.”

Tom took the boarding pass to gate 14 and was quickly boarded onto a Learjet. He sat down, glanced across the aisle and saw Jamie Moyer. Tom said, “Aren’t you Jamie Moyer?” Moyer replied, “Yes, I’ve been in Philadelphia an entire week and you are the first one to recognize me or at least say something.” Tom has been a Phillies fan since childhood so they chatted and talked baseball…and weddings at Moonlight Beach and Moyer bought Tom a drink. Then everyone on the jet knew the mission…get Tom to Moonlight Beach by 9:00 pm. In the meantime, they talked and drinks were hoisted for Tom in honor of his father-of-the-bride moment.

In the meantime, the Vice-President of Fox News chatted with Tom. He told him that he had received a $2 bill as change at the grocery and on it was the name of his wife and her phone number and address from forty years ago, which he had scribbled on the $2 bill as a memo to ask her on a date. Which is exactly what the VP of Fox News was looking for, human interest stories, since most news today is filled with tragedy. They exchanged information.

They were on the ground at 8:30 and exited the plane. The VP stood chatting with Tom and said, “I’ll take you to Moonlight Beach.” Tom replied, “That’s ok, my son is coming for me.” The VP said, “OK, I’ll wait here with you to make sure and if he doesn’t come, then I’ll take you. Don’t you have a tuxedo?” “Ummm, yea, my son is bringing it, he’s in the wedding also.” They waited awkwardly, but then Jimmy arrived.

Tom’s son drove up in a jeep, wearing shorts, flip flops, and no shirt. “Hey Pop!, he said. The Fox guy says, “No tux?” Tom replied, “He’s a surfer!” The TV exec waved as they drove away. No word yet on the Fox News special about the New Jersey couple and the $2 bill.

Tom did walk his daughter down the aisle at her wedding a few weeks later, in the pines of New Jersey far far away from Moonlight Beach. He danced that evening with his daughter while wearing sunglasses and his wife snuck up behind him and removed the sunglasses to reveal the Moonlight Beach Dad was emotional?
Tom Achey Wedding Dance Megan
One can never tell where a story will lead and what will be revealed in a moment of twisted story logic shaped by a Dad’s love. Sometimes, “You don’t understand…”, is the best we can come up with. Sometimes, “You don’t understand,” is surreal with twists and turns of Learjets and moonlit beaches, while other times it’s as clear and refreshing as friends and family and pine trees. Sometimes the pines look like a thousand people through the lense of Ray Bans and moist eyes which seems funny yet real, like Tom’s stories, a thousand pine trees waving and clapping for the funny guy dancing with his lovely daughter in the evening shadows wearing Ray Bans, and he isn’t telling a story, he’s living it.