A Flooded Darkroom & Katheryn's ChestFriday, August 10, 2007
For most of my life I have lived in a brick (or at least cement or concrete ) house. In Mexico City, Rosemary and I lived in a small brick house. We were proud of its solidity. But we chose to move to Vancouver. We were in shock at our first house in Burnaby. For me it was made of cardboard. My friends talked of gyprock and particle board. For me it was glorified cardboard. And the ceilings had "stuff" that looked like miniature stalactites. The shag carpet ( a uniform olive drab) was a black hole for quarters, keys, screws and even camera lens caps. After an unhappy stay in that Springer Avenue house we moved to a "better" one on Athlone Street. But the construction seemed to be no different. Both houses had a basement. Nobody in his right mind in Mexico or Argentina would have a sótano, or would even think of living in one. But there was one luxury. Our Mexico City house in Arboledas had a darkroom that was a bathroom. Now I had a basement darkroom with a bathroom. But that bathroom would cause me grief as would my wet darkroom sink. It got stuck (it is linked to our kitchen sink) with rice and celery stalks I had unwisely garbarated. During the visit of photographer Patrick Hattenburger I could not proudly show him my darkroom. The sink looked like a huge tub of celery and rice soup.
In our 27 years in our Athlone house we have had all kinds of trouble repairing the flimsy "cardboard" construction. Toilets fail, plumbing leaks, the roof has leaked a few times ruining the beautiful vaulted ceiling of our living room (an expensive repair), but in all those years I have managed (more or less, in spite of the rice and celery) to keep my darkroom (in the basement) relatively dry. Until yesterday, of course. Perhaps some of John Lekich's "mala leche", bad luck, rubbed off. Only yesterday he had told me of having flooding basements in Arbutus Village. It seems that the Village was constructed over natural springs and..... I was washing two b+w negatives and the negative washer tilted and fell over. Water was gushing into my darkroom carpet for at least an hour before I realized it. Many of my photographs, stacked in a nearby closet were ruined. I shouted (luckily Rosemary was not around) that my life's work was headed for permanent sogginess. The cats crept under the bed. A trip to Home Depot and a $100 wet/dry vac dealt with most of the water. A portable baseboard heater will probably dry it all up.
Through all the chaos I kept passing by a very large framed photograph of Katheryn Petersen's chest (safely on a wall) posing with Clematis montana. Somehow some of the agony I felt was dissipated.