the kaftan era

For the last couple of weeks, I have taken to starting my day by choosing and scanning around forty photographs from the nine cubic feet of totally disorganized photo boxes here in Spencer’s LA house.

Today’s selection included a few polaroids that I took with this very cool white plastic camera I got for maybe my tenth birthday (that would be 1968.) [okay, I just checked: it was a polaroid swinger, and here’s an advertisement for one. too cool!]

Here are my parents opening gifts at the breakfast table. I can’t remember what the occasion would have been: Grant and Joyce’s birthdays were at the opposite ends of December, and I don’t remember ever opening Xmas gifts at the breakfast table. Could it have been their wedding anniversary? Not impossible, as my friend Dembski would say.

That’s Spencer looking on at Joycie’s gift, of course.

Next, we have a picture of Stefan Bauer-Mengelberg with my father, on a deck in Amagansett, where Stefan had a place. He was an amazing person, a true polymath: mathematician, conductor, attorney, et al. You can read more about him here. I remember a really fun evening at Gene’s Restaurant on 11th Street with him and my father just before Stefan died in the mid-90s.

Check Grant’s kaftan poncho thing along with the excellent white socks.

Here’s an extra shot in honor of Bill Morrison:

And finally, here are two portraits of my parents in full late-60s regalia, kaftan and nehru jacket, with my father sporting this fabulous little short-lived goatee:

There’s an enlargement of a color photograph taken the same night. It hung along the staircase for forty years: first in the Los Angeles house and then in Scarborough. I think the big version, strangely washed out in color, is still around somewhere, and I’m sure I’ll also come across the original photograph eventually. I’ll post it when I do.

But in the meantime, I opened Spencer’s hall closet the other day and came upon this:

Yup, the nehru jacket my father was wearing in those portraits, which was moved from Glen Rock, NJ to Los Angeles to Scarborough, NY, to Broome Street, Manhattan, and back to Los Angeles, CA.

It needs a new home now. If any among you develops a burning desire for a 43-year-old green and yellow and beige paisley nehru jacket that fits a person the size of my father or brother, you know who to ask!

first portrait

I’m going through stuff here in Spencer’s house in LA.

physically, I mean — but of course in every way.

there are thousands of books, not really exaggerating — only half the books from our parents’ house, but still, way too many books. I’m not capable of just dealing with them wholesale: I go through each one, deciding which to keep, which to sell on Amazon, which to donate. I enjoy the process, really: finding Joyce’s annotations in Virginia Woolf, a copy of an obscure anarchist novel next to pretentious right-wing Russell Kirk (my parents’ politics are inscrutable), it’s all cool.

so here’s what I came upon in a copy of Jim (not yet James) Beard’s Casserole Cookbook of 1955:

Here’s what I can tell you about this piece of paper. The writing is my father’s, from the summer of 1958, and it’s a slightly mysterious set of accounts of income he expects for August of 1958. I can figure out Interlochen (where he taught that summer), and various music publishers: Holt, E B [Marks], Peters, for whom he did music copying work. Here’s a close up view of the accounts:

The reverse side is a blank form (mimeographed I think), for the service music choices at the First Methodist Church in Plymouth, MI, where my mother was the organist. (I was baptized there in October of 1958.)

So of course, the line drawing below can be none other than a pre-natal portrait of me by my father. I was born 22 July 1958, and my guess is that he was working out the numbers to be sure he could pay the hospital bill for my birth.

I love this portrait of a fetus reading. love it completely. and it makes me patient with this whole process of sorting through books. but I guess I was set up to be bookish from the start, no?!