Friday, August 5, 2011

30-Day Writing Challenge; Day Two

(I am participating in a "30-Day Writing Challenge." This challenge, to find one's voice with words, inspired by Ann Evanston.)

Day Two.

Totem. Rockport, Massachusetts. Photo by Bruce Barone.
All through the night I contemplated the marriage of image and words. And today I continue along this path; meditating on my voice.

I am now reminded of W.G. Sebald's fascinating book, "The Rings of Saturn," in which the text is enhanced by caption-less photographs and illustrations whose relevance is not always immediately apparent. 

I am also reminded of "The Bonnyclabber" by George Chambers  in which he "gave a structure to his book which is independent of traditional literary esthetics. It is a collection of varied writings which has no traditional sequence. The majority don't even have titles. There are blank pages which have nothing to do with the book itself, and neither to the odd illustrations. Paradoxically we can find beauty in some of the book's contents."

I am in need of this quote, right now:

"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back-- Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now."  ~Goethe

Life is for living. (See Under: "Life is for Living." Eric Butterworth)

Sunrise at Rockport, Massachusetts. Photo by Bruce Barone.  

Susan and I went to the Westfield Athenaeum Library. We came home with an armful of books and magazines. Books and magazines about living, interior design and cooking. I am reminded now of when my dad passed away; suddenly, recuperating in the hospital after surgery. My dad was a great man. And he loved his family, friends, a good glass of wine, a vodka and cranberry juice, and food--eaten with family and friends.

I went back to my Dad's apartment twenty-one days after my Dad passed away. I went back. I went back to pack the china and glassware, measure the dining room table and hutch, dust and sweep.

The apartment was stale, lifeless and the Jade plant in my Dad's bedroom sagged from forty years of growth, dry in the sun. I stood there and I stared out the window at The George Washington Bridge and the Jade plant stood there, too; stories I knew she would share with me when she was ready to speak--family stories.

The George Washington Bridge. Photo by Bruce Barone.

When I opened the door to my Dad's apartment the photograph I gave him for Father's Day was the first thing I saw--not one of mine but one I bought from a photographer on a street corner in New York City; a photo of Lower Manhattan taken from the Jersey side of the Hudson River, the Twin Towers still standing. When I finally reached my Dad that day on the phone I was never sure if he was crying but he said he stood and he stared out the window and saw the Twin Towers crumble to dust and fall, and he heard the sirens and he waited, waited, and waited for another skyscraper in New York City to be attacked and crumble and fall. We talked everyday for days afterward--a few times every day. I wish I could call him now. "Dad. Hi. It's me."

First I walked from room to room in my Dad's apartment. Bathroom. Bedroom. Guest Room. Living Room. Dining Room. Kitchen. Bedroom. Guest Room. Living Room. Kitchen. Balcony. The apartment was eerily empty of life: much of the furniture had already been taken by relatives, the hundreds of family photographs gone, the kitchen cabinets bare; strangely, the only room with some sense of normality, of life, was my Dad's bedroom (My nephew Craig had not yet come for the bedroom furniture.). I had not yet begun to pack but I was already feeling emotionally drained.

The first thing I packed were the Martini glasses and Red Wine goblets. My Dad, as I said,  appreciated a good drink and a fine wine and I think this was where I should have started and I did. Of course, I would have poured a drink then and there but it was not yet noon and all the wine and liquor had already been divided up among my siblings and I three short weeks ago. Next I packed the china. Place-settings for twelve. White and perfect. Dinner Plates. Soup Bowls. Salad Plates. Coffee cups and saucers. Platters. Bowls. And then I packed the silverware, and the vases, and the candlestick holders. I packed three boxes of glasses, dishes and silverware for my children, Danielle and Daryl.

And then I packed the car and I had room for one or two more items. I went back to my Dad's apartment; 15J in Fort Lee, New Jersey. Funny: six or seven years ago when I was selling printing and commuting to NYC from Western Massachusetts and spending one or two nights a week with my Dad, I went the 17th Floor, Apartment J, opened the door and thought "Oh My God. Dad has totally remodeled his apartment!" One or two seconds later, I realized I was in the wrong apartment, quietly closed the door, and went to Apartment 15J. "Bruce," my Dad said. "You look tired. Put your briefcase and camera down. I'll make you a drink."

And that's the way it was--always. I would arrive at his apartment around seven at night after a day in the city (or he would pick me up at the Ferry Terminal), we would have drinks, watch FoodTV (usually Mario Batali or Sara Moulton), and then go to The Big Red Tomato for dinner (where we were treated like kings; the brother and sister owners, Vincent and Carmella, and the waitstaff knew us very well--we had been eating there at least once a week for five or six years; ah the stories we shared). We would bring a bottle of red and unwind. Father and Son. Sometimes, I would ask a waitress to come outside with me so I could photograph her. Sometimes, I photographed people at their tables. 

I went back for the Jade plant. She had I knew stories to share with me. Like this one:

Recipes. They fall from the cookbooks;
I was just thinking of meatballs; I was
looking through a cookbook of my dad's
and clipped recipes marked recipes in
the book and he had marked "meatballs."
And this his favorite ("Dad," I said, "How
come you never order something else?")
Orecchiette Con Broccoli Di Raba. Or
Broccoli Di Rapa Affogati. They are both
clearly marked in "Naples At Table," a book
he was happy to share one night with me:
"Look," he said, "Arthur Schwartz wrote
this book." Tomorrow I will make
Pasta E Lenticchie. I wonder which of
these he may have made (knowing how
difficult it can be to cook for one--yet
I can hear him say "Tonight
I am making Meatloaf. Tonight I am
making Salmon. Tonight
I am making Meatballs."

Meatballs from Bruce's Kitchen. Photo by Bruce Barone.

If you want distinctive nature, documentary or portrait photography--photography with soul that inspires you to live a more artful and beautiful life, please contact me.


  1. I loved this post and its touching moments spent with your father. Finishing with a cozy recipe that represents so much of your time together. And, beginning with a quote by Goethe that I so needed to read!! Have a wonderful weekend, Bruce. ; )

  2. Love the marriage of word and picture Bruce. The memory of time spent with your father (and without) was deeply moving.

  3. Beautiful writing! I wonder why you were you "hiding behind pictures" all this time.

  4. My Father's Hat
    by Mark Irwin

    Sunday mornings I would reach
    high into his dark closet while standing
    on a chair and tiptoeing reach
    higher, touching, sometimes fumbling
    the soft crowns and imagine
    I was in a forest, wind hymning
    through pines, where the musky scent
    of rain clinging to damp earth was
    his scent I loved, lingering on
    bands, leather, and on the inner silk
    crowns where I would smell his
    hair and almost think I was being
    held, or climbing a tree, touching
    the yellow fruit, leaves whose scent
    was that of a clove in the godsome
    air, as now, thinking of his fabulous
    sleep, I stand on this canyon floor
    and watch light slowly close
    on water I'm not sure is there.

  5. Bruce your writing is very poignant. Thank you for sharing this story about you and your Father.

    I have always loved that quote from Goethe.


    Art by Karena

  6. i don't know what to do. you have broken me open with the possibility of life everywhere. no, not possibility, but surety. yes, there is life everywhere, deep and delicious aching life.

    i want to kick you just a little. why haven't you been writing?



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