David Y.H. Lui, Celia Duthie & The Fighting TemeraireSaturday, February 16, 2008
Before Thursday's ballet began I was in the lobby with my companion Abraham Rogatnick. I noticed an old man barely able to walk with his cane. I have been blessed not only with a photographic memory for faces but also with a memory for a face that may have changed after so many years. I acknowledged the man and introduced him to Rogatnick (who surely did know him and that was so), "Mr Lui (David Y.H.) this is Abraham Rogatnick."
Lui almost singlehandedly made dance a presence in Vancouver. Here he was coming into the "house he built" a virtual unknown. I felt sad. In happier times I photographed Lui by the side of the old Greyhound Bus station on Dunsmuir and Cambie. In those days they painted murals (on the Cambie side) on the high walls to decorate and hide the buses that were parked behind.
During the evening I recognized many of my former photographic subjects and some that I want to photograph soon. They were/are architects, writers and dancers. They are the lifeblood of our city's cultural existence. It is a pity that our city so soon forgets. We even do that (forget) the very men and women who made it all happen.
Yesterday I received a phone call from a woman who introduced herself, "Hi Alex this is your friend from Elba." Since Celia Duthie closed shop and moved first to Galeano and then to Salt Spring Island I have insisted that there is no way this active and powerful woman would ever live in exile on "Elba" as Napoleon did. She is soon to return. Of this I am convinced even though this time Celia is coming only for a visit with husband Nick. "We are really happy on Salt Spring and our furniture business/store/gallery is doing very well. Someday our furniture (mostly beautiful bookcases)will be sold at high prices at Sotheby's."
Sometime next week I will lunch with Celia and it will be like old times. Any idea that had some merit could be realized if you went to her, and I did many times. Once, most memorably (it was raining that day), she took me from her store on the corner of Robson and Hornby to the Vancouver Hotel through tunnels and passageways I did not know existed. We had lunch (we shared a club sandwich) in the central lounge that featured then and still features the women sphinxes.
In looking forward to lunch with Celia (the Vancouver Hotel, naturally) I remember all those other pleasant times we had together. Once we walked on Galeano and she showed me some open caves which I photographed with my Widelux panoramic camera.
It all reminds me of other good times I have had in Vancouver. They have been dance openings and concerts, openings of new buildings and art shows. What they all have in common is a sad ephemeral character. If you forget them then they never existed.
It further brings to mind one of my favourite paintings by J.M.W. Turner. It is called The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last birth to be broken up (1839). She had fought valiantly at Trafalgar and here she was being pushed by a smoke-spewing tug boat that represented the future of naval warfare and eventually to the pushing of buttons without seeing the face of your enemy. It was a ship that helped defeat Napoleon but it did not prevent him from leaving Elba. It is my hope that someday, our very own version of the exile in Elba will escape and bring us some excitement. Our city would be better off for it.