A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


Self-Sufficiency, A Spark Plug Gap Adjusting Tool & Discontinuance
Sunday, September 02, 2007

It wasn't too long ago that I noticed our similarity to refrigerators and our equivalent dependence on power to survive. By simply unplugging them everything inside begins to spoil within hours if not minutes. Our bodies maintain that same fussy equilibrium between existence and decay - life.

But unlike refrigerators, we are much more complex and dependence is inherent to our existence. It was most evident when I returned home on Friday to find that my computer had crashed. I wondered how I was going to receive the emails from people who I had contacted for photographic shoots this coming week. Paul Leisz, my computer guru friend (and perhaps friend no longer if I keep calling him for help) was unavailable. My son in law, Bruce Stewart filled in for Paul, long enough to get my Windows XP to work on the Safe Networking mode which meant I could send and receive emails plus do such things as this you read here.

It wasn't too long ago (my memory compresses those 31 years) when I remember driving our VW beetle up Springer Ave to test the timing of the car's distributor. I had brought from Mexico a nice and shiny spark plug gapping tool. I had gapped the plugs and flooring the car up the hill was the best way to test the timing. Back in Mexico City I had removed the car's gasoline tank, once a year, to clean the inside sludge (Mexican gasoline came with unwanted additives). My neighbours pointed at my car with the now cavernous front trunk and thought I was crazy. I loved feeling independent and self-sufficient.

Those days are over. Our family Audi A-4 lease dictates that all we do is fill it with gas. Even changing the burned tail light bulbs is done at the dealer. I would not even try or want to look for our car's sparkplugs.

Those days of independence and self-sufficiency were all an illusion particularly in my photography except for the curious fact (in this day and age) that I can go to my darkroom and print a negative on to photographic paper. This task is in the same league of discontinuance as adjusting the gaps of our VW's plugs. I totalled it in a 23-car pile-up on an icy hill of Rupert Street at Grandview Highway a few months after I raced it up Springer. As for that word discontinuance it is in large type on a label of a box Kodak Kodalith Ortho Film 2556, Type 3 that I keep in my darkroom. In its effort to get rid of money losing products Kodak used this little used word that was often used to mark the elimination of train routes in the past.

I meant to scan that gap tool but I was unable to find it in my shop. This scan of my Pentax S-3 and its owner will do just as well to show you how time has me by and my equipment, too. This Pentax was already used when I purchased it at Foto Rudiger on Venustiano Carranza Street in downtown Mexico City in 1963. It is mechanically sound. Unlike its modern counterparts it has no dependence to batteries except for that meter that sits on top. I never used the meter, it just looked good sitting on top. And should this relic fail, this "relic" would simply take it to my "relic" friend Horst. Without him, without Paul, Bruce, Viktor (he repairs my flash equipment) my Rosemary (who pays my taxes) I would be no better than our unplugged Kenmore Special Edition.


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