It Is No More … It Ceases To Exist …

In the months before we married, my ex-wife bought a 59 cent Schefflera from Berridge Nursery as an apartment decoration. It came in a green-plastic pint container and was less than six inches tall with the same amount of shoots having the characteristic radial leaf pattern. She put it on the counter under the kitchen window so it could get enough light. Her cat, Frodo—being a contemptuous animal that cats are—ate half of the tiny plant’s leaves during the night. It would have made sense for her to toss the plant and run down the street to buy another, but she scolded the cat and moved the half eaten plant to a safer place.

Ten years passed, and my ex and I went our separate ways. When we divided the house, I got custody of the Schefflera. By now it was a waist-high shrubbery living in a large pot. When I moved into my condo, I put it at the end of my couch by French doors. It looked good there. Even when Queen Anne moved in, she agreed and promptly named it Harvey, which was how she marked her territory.  Between the high ceilings and southern exposure, Harvey continued to grow. Like kids and shoes, we constantly re-potted him. He grew to eight feet. When we sat at that end of the couch, his overhead leaves would shade us.

After another decade, we wanted a house, and as we looked for a place, one of our considerations was where to put Harvey. He needed space. With the help of a realtor, we found a place only five miles away, and after navigating all the paperwork we hired movers to schlep our crap to the new house. Harvey was one of the last things to go, so he wound up in the back of someone’s pick-up truck. We didn’t trust him with the movers, but as I followed behind, I watched in horror as the forty-five mile an hour wind began to shred his leaves. By the time we put him in the new house, he looked like a tornado victim. He went into shock and the taller branches were wind-burnt, so we pruned and nursed him. He managed to survive, but he was forever stunted.

The next time Queen Anne had her seven-year itch, we were wiser. On this move, we made sure to wrap Harvey in a sheet and put him inside the moving truck. He didn’t go into shock and he made it without damage. He was a bit stubbier but had new growth each year. We found a spot for him in the family room at the end of the couch where he watched TV and listened to music with us for another seven years.

Our latest move was two years ago—to Congress and retirement. By now we were old hands a moving our pygmy tree. Even though we stayed in temporary housing for a month, when we settled in, Harvey took his place at the couch’s end and stood proudly. As we neared our Alaska Trip, he looked scraggly and we worried he wouldn’t make it, so Anne found a plant-sitter to look after Harvey and his siblings. Before we left, we moved everyone to the dining room where the light is better and it’s not as warm. The plant-sitters did a good job and all the plants survived the summer without us.

Even though we’ve stayed home this year, we haven’t been as lucky. With the porch and large Palo Verde tree out front, the light in the living room is marginal. To manage the summer heat, we’ve also been closing the blinds, which means less light. Harvey started losing leaves. To get more light, we moved him to the dining room and then in front of the guest bedroom’s north facing window. Anne has rooted in the soil trying to aerate it. His last leaf fell off on Tuesday. I think he’s root bound and has slowly drowned. He looks like the summer mesquite—just leafless branches. I’m afraid that our forty-five-year-old living room centerpiece has gone to the great salad bar in the sky. I suggested to Anne that we throw in the towel and replace him.

She turned, scowled and barked, “He’s not dead … he’s merely resting his eyes.”

Till then … jw

Leonard Cohen – Leon Russell

Music is an important part of my life. I don’t have the talent to actually play an instrument, and as my grandmother once said to me, “You couldn’t carry a tune in a bushel basket.” I don’t even lip sync well. In spite of . . . or maybe because of that, I appreciate talented musicians.

My tastes deviate from the mainstream. I’ve commented on this blog about having found great radio stations on our Alaska trip, something seriously lacking in Phoenix. That wasn’t always the case however. In the early part of the 70’s under Bill Compton’s leadership, KDKB was a station that had a ‘free form’ radio format.  That was a radio style from San Francisco’s ‘hippie’ era. A set of music might contain The Beatles, followed by a classical cut, followed by Jessie Winchester, followed by someone obscure. Some of the sets were theme based while others were dependent on the DJ’s mood. It was KDKB that introduced me to Leonard Cohen and Leon Russell, both of which we lost in the past weeks. Today’s commercial and computer generated radio stations don’t teach anyone about music.

If you followed folk music, you knew the songs of Leonard Cohen. Numerous artiest covered his songs; Judy Collins to U2. His voice was an off-put to some, but I found it gritty and honest. Besides, the songs weren’t lullabies.

It was March 1976 that I attended my ‘best ever’ concert at Phoenix’s Celebrity Theater. It’s a 60’s holdover theater in the round where the stage slowly spins and most of the audience is close to the stage. Because of its size, the acoustics are easily overwhelmed by amplification (Larry Gatlin was the example I remember), but it works for an intimate group like Mr. Cohen’s. It was the last stop on his tour, so all the road’s technical bugs were worked out and the performers were relaxed. Each song brought enthusiastic applause and there were multiple curtain calls. After clapping till our palms blistered, Mr. Cohen returned alone to the stage and apologized that he had no more songs. Then he explained, “This is the last stop on our tour, and we too hate to see it end. We have nowhere to go tonight. Would you mind if we did the show again . . . from the beginning?” As I already said, the theater is easily overloaded with loud noise. The second show was even better than the first; I think it was because we knew we were witnessing something special. The concert finally ended a 3:18 am.

Leon’s music I enjoyed on KDKB, but never enough to run out and pick up an album at the time. A couple of years ago, I was flipping through the used record bins at the record store and happened across one of Russell’s albums in the ‘R’ bin. I thought to myself, “This was part of my life.” It was only three dollars, so I bought it. When I got it home and put it on my system, I was at first amazed at the production quality. Then the music started to flow it disappointed me that I’d waited so long to add it to my collection. Only recently I read about his career and how he contributed so much to the music industry.

It’s sad for me to look around to find those who’ve joined me on my life’s journey are falling to the wayside. It’s inevitable, I guess. If you’re a reader from a younger generation, none of this must seem important to you. Too soon, you’ll find people who influenced you will be gone from your life and you’ll find your immortality vaporizing (also, take care of your teeth).

Friday night is the night that the Queen lets me enjoy my scotch and listen to my music. She doesn’t have the patience to sit, listen and study the albums, so she either goes to the library or out to her girlfriends. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. In addition to cooking a rotisserie turkey breast, I told Anne that my chore for the day was to assemble and tune the turntable. I already know Friday’s play list.

Till then – jw

Michael Reichmann – RIP

This morning, as is my usual routine, I visited the blog The Online Photographer, where I read the sad news the Michael Reichmann passed away May 18th at the age of 71. Michael was a man of many accomplishments, most significant to me; he was the creator of the Luminous Landscapes Website of which I was a regular visitor for the last thirteen years.

During my transition from film to digital photography, the Luminous Landscapes (also nicknamed LuLA) was my textbook for growing my art. Most important to me were the lessons on color management and printing techniques. I’ve integrated these ideas into my workflow and use them to this day.

My heart goes out to the Reichmann family and to his many fans that share with me this great loss.

jw