"Whew! That clerk was certainly giving us the stink-eye." Sean said as they entered the coffeehouse. "Do you think it was personal?"
"Probably. He didn't bat an eye at the gay couple ahead of us. Black woman plus white man = trouble. Or maybe he knows who we are—the Bonnie and Clyde of the hipster generation—on the lam and hiding out in a sleepy Iowa farming community." Mary said. She wasn't smiling. "Get me a small mocha, I'm going to check in with legal."
Logging in, she ran a quick security check on the coffeehouse's IP and was satisfied that the WiFi wasn't compromised. By the time Sean came over with the coffees she was checking her inbox.
"Anything of earth-shaking importance?" Sean asked as he sat down. "Are we still hot or are we not?"
"Except for my photo, the internet has lost interest in us. Would you like a T-shirt of me, au naturel? Or perhaps a coffee mug?"
"Only if they were tastefully done." said Sean, "Any fallout from the buyout?"
"No problems there; at least something in my life has been going according to plan.
Everything else is crazy. I was talking to Tina this morning about the 'vision' I had last night. She saw it too, and she confirmed that it is Emily, or a least the spirit of her." Mary stopped to sip her mocha. "Why am I not surprised? Don't you find this a bit strange, or is the norm for the Carrolls?"
"Emily has always been a figure of mystery to me, when I would ask about her my questions wouldn't be answered, and the subject was changed. I knew that Tina had some kind of a rapport with her."
"And your mother, did she have a connection?
"I don't think so. Or if she did it wasn't a positive one. That might have been why she was so nervous when we would come to the farm, and always so eager to return to D.C.." Sean looked at Mary closely. "I know why the clerk at the license bureau looked at you the way he did. "Your appearance is changing, if it wasn't so corny I'd say that you were 'glowing'. I think pregnancy suits you."
"Well it isn't doing much for my sense of taste; this mocha is awful. Taste it." Mary said, pushing the cup away.
"It seems alright to me, it must be you. " said Sean. "What else is going on in Seattle?"
"I'm having legal write us a pre-nup, are there any particulars you'd like to include?"
"Well, we've done all right with separate finances so far, and we both have wills, what about grounds for divorce?"
"I've only got two." said Mary. "Unfaithfulness or cruelty."
"I'll go along with that. What about a sanity clause?"
"Very funny. It's too late for that, I'm afraid we're stuck with each other."
"I'm thinking that the fun is only beginning." Sean replied.
Roger Ramsen sat in his home office anxiously awaiting a call from his lawyers. It had been three days since their overture to the Icelandic woman, Þora, who Roger had figured was fathered by Billy Clarkson. Ramsen went over the possibilities: If she wouldn't acknowledge Billy as the father, there was no way they could co-opt her. Who was advising her? Roger had heard that the Icelanders were a stubborn, independent breed, but even so, what single mother would turn down a chance for child support? Of course the underlying plan was to make her admit that Billy was the father, and when she did, it would be 'discovered' that the boy's father wasn't Billy after all—and she would be shamed into silence by the threat of fraud charges. He felt confident in his contacts in Iceland—it would be a relatively easy matter to rig the boy's results—and Billy's DNA samples had already been sequenced. What was wrong with that woman? It was bad enough that Sean had disappeared with his girlfriend Mary. The online character assassination of Mary gone nowhere; she had become a feminist icon. Roger didn't like the way things were heading. Worse still, Senator Clarkson was now vulnerable in his bid for reelection. His defeat would mean the end of his inside track in the Senate; not exactly the end of the world but Clarkson's defeat would certainly make things difficult. By effectively ending his 'congressional immunity' it could open the way for prosecution on numerous charges related to 'Billygate'. The bastards. They had already convicted the ex-governor of Virginia, and his wife, for Christ's sake!
And, in addition to all this, Ramsen could feel his indigestion acting up again.
"I'm hungry. Again." said Mary. "How about hitting the Whippy Dip on the way out of town?" Mary said as they left the coffeehouse. "Then you can show me around town a little, I have a feeling we'll be spending more time here than we planned."
"Sure thing, I wouldn't want to starve you. The town isn't that big, but the Porter House is kind of neat, and the Vesterheim Museum, of course, you can get up to speed on Tina's Norwegian heritage. They have tours, but we can do those when we have more time." said Sean. "You might get a kick out of The Ice Cave."
"The Ice Cave. Is it far?"
"It's just up the bluff a little ways, we could be there before your Whippy Dip melted."
"Don't we need gear?" Mary said with a worried note in her voice.
"It's only about 40 feet long. You've got your flashlight and your hoodie, don't you?"
"In the car."
"Good, you'll need both of them."
30 years ago, back in my rock 'n roll days, one of the bands that I worked with would occasionally be required to make a road trip. The most pleasant of these was Bayfield, Wisconsin, where they hold an annual "Apple Festival" in early October. The venue was named "Bates' Bar" (not related to the motel of the same name) and we would play both Friday and Saturday nights—leaving us with a full day to amuse ourselves in the picturesque harbor town. While wandering about I spotted an old storefront. Rundown, apparently neglected, but still full of interesting things: boat motors and other gear, automotive parts and unidentifiable miscellany. The north lighting streaming through the large plate glass windows was most photogenic so I took some pictures:
Some of the items in the store looked relatively new, while others were very old, including this calendar from 1928:
Beneath the picture on the calendar was printed:
H. A. Reiten, Auto Supplies and Repairs, Phone 07, Bayfield … Wisconsin
Halvor A. Reiten was born in 1895 and died in 1982—only a few years before my visit— this shop was in existence in Bayfield for over fifty years! Ten years ago, when the Weaver and I returned there, the shop was gone and the waterfront on Lake Superior was bristling with new condos. His nephew, Larry Reiten, has posted some a few pictures of H.A in an online gallery. He looks to be quite the character. I'm sorry I missed him, but I am thankful that I could capture these traces of his life.
As the earth rotates the sun, creating the seasons, so goes my closet as well. All the Hawaiian shirts, my usual summer fare, have been laundered and placed at the far end of the rack, the coveted "center position" now occupied by wool shirts, hoodies and long sleeves. Perched above are the lords of the haberdashery: the sweaters. They pay for themselves in savings on the heating bill by allowing the comfortable household temperature to be set considerably lower.
Around the yard, we had a frost scare Friday night, but the long term looks seasonably warm until the middle of October, giving the tomatoes a reprieve and postponing the annual transplanting of the Norfolk Island Pine, an odd choice for a houseplant (being nearly six feet tall and four feet across) but I've "bonded" with it; I'd hate to see it freeze to death. It really has grown too big for Flippist World Headquarters; it may have to reside in the basement (Flippist World Hindquarters) and make do with a grow light.
Jono's hummingbirds made an appearance here yesterday—no doubt on their way to a warmer clime. The school kids have been flocking as well, this year their bus stops on our corner so our mornings are filled with the chirpings of elementary students. I don't mind these changes, as Lois Lenski would say: "Now it's fall, just the nicest time of all."
"Did you get enough?" Aunt Tina had just finished making her 'Norwegian Pancakes'—crepes served with strawberry-rhubarb jam. "More coffee?" she said, turning off the burner on the gas range. "And what are you two up to today?"
"I think that I'm supposed to make an announcement." said Mary, "So, in light of further consideration and due diligence, I hereby proclaim: I, Mary Robinson, being of sound mind and body, and free of any duress, do hereby accept Sean Carroll's proposal of marriage, according to the laws of the Grand State of Iowa, subject to a mutually agreed upon prenuptial contract. Tina, you are our witness."
"Well done, Mary." said Tina. "Sean, is this a satisfactory answer to your proposal?"
"Tis' a consummation devoutly to be wished." Sean said, as he got into the formal mood of the event. "Tina, do you happen to know what the requirements for a wedding license in Iowa are?"
"Three day waiting period, I believe, same sex OK, and no other spouses. There are no other spouses are there?"
Sean and Mary looked at each other.
"Are there?" Tina repeated.
"No." said the two of them, simultaneously.
"Good. You can get the license in town, at the courthouse. It opens at 10, I believe."
"Tina, do you know of a good WiFi spot in town?" asked Tina. "I will have to check in with my lawyers, I know that isn't very romantic, my business life is somewhat complicated these days."
"The Mudpie, the coffee shop katty-corner from the courthouse. I see people with their computers in there all the time."
"Very good." Sean said, grinning from ear to ear." In the meantime I'll clean up these dishes. Tina, Mary said she'd like to look around the yard, would you give her the tour?"
"Okay, but there isn't much too see, I'm afraid. Just some broken down buildings." Tina said.
"I'm interested in the pasture out back. Is it still being used?"
"Oh yes, my neighbor, Mel Henderson, he uses it, 'gives the cows a change of scenery', he says. He's going to buy all of this, when I move out in September. Com'on, and I'll show you around."
The two women went out.
In the Reykjavík suburb of Kópavogur, Þora Arnarsdóttir read the email she had received from a Washington D.C law firm. It distressed her for it mentioned her son—the toddler Vilhjálmur Stefán—and suggested that they could help her receive 'just compensation' for expenses incurred in the birth and raising of her child. It mentioned the late William Clarkson Jr., son of the U.S. Senator, and suggested that the Senator was 'vulnerable' to a paternity suit. Vulnerable. Berskjaldaður. The word which perfectly expressed how Þora felt about the whole thing. Bad things had come from her relationship with Billy: his death, her mistake with his half-brother Sean, and now this. Her concentration was interrupted by sound of feet and the piping voice of little Vilhjálmur saying: "Mama, mama." Þora smiled. She thought that least there was one good thing which had come out of that situation. She hit 'delete' and picked up the boy. "þú ert sólskin minn." She said.
"Tell, Mary, did the storm keep you up last night?" said Tina, "It was quite the show, wasn't it?"
"We don't often get thunder and lightning like that in Seattle. It has something to do with the ocean, I think." Mary replied, "The pasture out there was lit up like a rock concert! That's the same pasture as the one in the painting in our room, isn't?"
"Emily painted it." said Tina, tersely. "She loves… loved being out there."
"Tina, how long did you watch the storm? Did you see that bright flash, the one after the storm had passed? "
"What did you see? Right out there, where the sun is breaking through now?"
"Lightning can play tricks on the eyes." said Tina.
"Tell me what you saw." said Mary.
"A figure. A woman." said Tina, shrinking back slightly.
"Wearing a shawl?" pressed Mary.
"So. You can see. Yes, I saw her, it was Emily, my mother. Her spirit walks this valley and has for many years. Waiting." Tina was pale and excited.
"Waiting? For what?" pressed Mary.
"I knew it from the moment I laid eyes on you. You and Sean. Your baby. Emily's hope is that her lineage will not die out. That is what she's been waiting for, all these years, she can not rest until the fulfillment."
"I want to know more." Mary said. "I must know everything."
"How are you at reading codes, secret messages and the like?"
"It's been my whole life. There has never been a code I couldn't crack."
"When you get back from town you can take a look at Emily's book. What does Sean know about all this?"
"He knows I saw something last night." Mary paused. "He knows of the things which have been happening to me lately. He knows that it is all part of something bigger. He trusts me."
"That's good. That's good. You will both be tested. I was tested too, once. Let's go in, Sean should be done with the dishes by now. I need to sit down."
Ownership and Privacy
Another potentially problematic issue facing this blog is the use of "found" images. I've made many posts using photographs and other ephemera that I've purchased at estate sales, thrift stores and antique shops. Copyright belongs to the originator of a work, in the case of photographs it is:
I. 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation whichever is shorter (anonymous works, pseudonymous works, or works made for hire, published since 1978).
To the best of my knowledge, none of the found images I've used had ever been previously published, they are not 'commercial photography'. I've got the originals, making any claim of ownership effectively moot. My "Back to School Fashions, 1971" images would fall under category II, if they had been published. Most of the other found images used here would fall under category III or IV. This is far from an academic question. The case of Vivian Maier is currently under threat of litigation; it is quite reasonable to assume that her work won't be shown again for many years. Perhaps no work of unknown ownership should ever be shown? The images on this blog are original, unless otherwise credited. Those works which aren't original are posted in good faith to be 'fair use', and will be taken down if shown otherwise. More on this topic at TOP.
II. 95 years from publication for works published 1964–1977.
III. 28 years (if copyright not renewed) or 95 years from publication for works published 1923–1963.
IV. Copyrights prior to 1923 have expired. (source: wikipedia)
The other big question is one of privacy. I'm not a 'window peeper' (excepting commercial and other public buildings) my general guide to privacy is not to post anything I wouldn't want seen of my self or would cause embarrassment or discomfort to anyone else. That could be interpreted in many different ways; a reasonable objection and I will quickly pull any offending image. This is mentioned in the fine print on my 'Welcome' page, and has been in place since day one. A couple of examples of images I've had second thoughts about posting:
Butterfly Buddha, Seattle, 2014
The above image is from a street fair, in a public place, with a recognizable person. Searchable, although buried in with numerous other Buddha-related images. I can imagine the subject having a negative reaction to the image, but that's her prerogative. I thought it captured the essence of the moment. If she wanted it taken down, I'd do it in a minute.
Lonely Avenue, Minneapolis, 2013
This image, although the subject is not identifiable, might be considered objectionable by many. Again, I thought it captured the essence of the moment. I would need to have a very persuasive argument to take this image down. It is of an arguably different aesthetic (I hope) from the casual cell-phone pictures in the Reddit case (discussed in Monday's post), but schematically it is the same: a picture which includes a woman's backside.
I don't have any answers to these conflicts. In light of other modern problems, what I post here is not of much importance. Some of the images posted here have made connections with people who knew or otherwise were related to the subjects. The response has been nearly uniformly favorable, I will continue to post what I see fit, although always remembering the power of a photograph to do harm. It would be a sad day if a misguided law squelched this type of expression.
I'm reconsidering my "Fashion" post of last week.
The images of sidewalk shoppers in Seattle's U district (from 1971) was put up as a tame (rhymes with lame) satire of traditional back to school fashion articles. Recent developments suggest that this kind of imagery may soon be subject to criminal prosecution. The Philippines parliament has been debating a very restrictive public photography law. On the local scene, a unknown photographer caused a stir with a tasteless Reddit thread of pictures of women (mild sample here, other, presumably worse pictures have been taken down) shot on the campus commuter line. Where does one draw the lines between harassment, stalking, criminal activity or simply poor taste? Or poor photography? As a blog which uses a lot of pictures of people taken in public places, I could be considered a 'perp' or, in the nuanced words of one commenter: "… a sick sack of shit and the world would be a better place without you…"). The forum in question ('Candid Fashion Police') evidently exists to make snarky comments about women in tight fitting shorts and stretch pants. Most of the images feature women's posteriors and have judgmental and hateful remarks about the them and their clothes. The obvious question is: "if you don't like it, why post and comment about it?" Of course many internet comment threads are judgmental and hateful. I suspect the 'thrill of violation/hatred of women' form of sociopathy is the driving factor here. In contrast to the forum, the clothes from 1971 images are haute couture; the bodies demure. The intent of the photographer may have been less than lofty but the images seem, to my eyes at least, to capture a lost era.
Perhaps it is better to be safe than sorry so, with all due diligence, I'm re-posting the photos from last week, redacted:
Wednesday: Ownership and Privacy
"I present to you… Mother's room." said Sean, as he opened the door for Mary. Outside the thunderstorm, which had been threatening all evening, had finally arrived with a bang—shaking the farmhouse.
"That was quite the dramatic introduction." Mary said as she looked around at the small, square, room. Papered in an old fashioned rose pattern, the room's walls were otherwise unadorned, save for a framed oil painting. A three drawer dresser with an oval mirror on top was next to the bed as well as a plain, armless, chair by the window. Mary opened the door to the closet; it was empty.
"Nothing." said Mary.
"Everything of hers is in the back bedroom downstairs. We can look into it tomorrow, but I don't think there's anything exceptional, mother was pretty much all business style as far as her clothes went. Her computers are here as well, along with the rest of my college stuff. I brought a SCSI to USB adapter to save the files on, although I don't know if we'll be able to read them, it's been fifteen years."
"We'll figure it out, if we… " Mary was interrupted by another crack of thunder. "… need to."
The bedroom window rattled in its sash. Outside, the lighting illuminated the back yard as well as the pasture which lay beyond.
"Sean, how do you feel, being back here, is it like coming home, or do you even have a place that feels like home?" said Mary as she gazed out the window into the blackness. "This is the only place where Tina has lived, isn't it?"
"It is the only place. I think she visited Chicago once, when she was young. She never liked cities." Sean said, as he put the sheets on the bed. "Home. I don't know what it means. Our apartment in Seattle? What would it take to make a place into a home? A year, two years?"
"A baby." said Mary, as she tucked in the top sheet. "A baby would make it into a home, for sure."
"Well, then I'd say that we're on the right track." said Sean.
"Yes, we are." Mary said.
The storm passed, although the lighting continued. Sean slept soundly but Mary remained wide awake. She got out of bed and sat looking out the window into the dark. As she watched the strokes became more infrequent until they seemed to have stopped. As she began to get up to return to bed Mary was startled by an exceptionally bright flash. Outside, in the pasture, there stood a woman—naked except for a shawl.
Mary was transfixed, and sat back down to ponder the meaning of the vision. There was no more lighting.
"I saw someone outside last night." Mary said to Sean as they lay in bed in the morning. "A woman, standing in the pasture."
"Say what? How is that possible?"
"Sean, does Tina have any pictures of your grandmother?" Mary asked.
"Tina has a photo album, we can take a look at it, if you like. Why do you ask?"
"This sounds crazy but…" Mary paused, "… that woman in the field, I think it was your grandmother."
"Emily? What do you mean?"
"Sean, listen to me. Things that have been happening to me: the deer in the road, the coyotes at the motel, and now this. I'm not imagining them—they aren't hallucinations—I've never been more lucid. But there is something going on, these things are signs, signs that I just can't quite read. Yet."
"Your night visions are getting interesting. You might not want to tell Tina about this."
"How so?" said Mary, getting out of bed.
"It might set her off." said Sean. "Emily is still alive in Tina's mind. When I was little I often heard her talking to her."
As Mary pulled a sweatshirt on over her head she bumped the painting on the wall, knocking it askew. As she straightened it, she looked at it closely."
"This is one of Emily's paintings, isn't it?" she said. "In the corner, here, the initials 'E. C.' and the date 1921."
"I have to say that I've never looked at it closely before." said Sean. "She would have been a teenager when she painted that."
"Look, on the right side of the painting, those two stones. The trees are different, but the stones are still there, beside each other, out in the pasture." Mary said, looking first out the window, and then back at the painting. "It's the view out this window."
"It is." said Sean. "It makes sense, I guess."
"Let's go out to the pasture today, I just want to stand in the same spot I saw my 'vision' last night. Just to… just to see if I can sense anything."
"I can sense that Tina is making pancakes. Let's have some breakfast first and then we'll check out your night visitor."
"Sounds good, and I am starving, again." Mary said. "I'm… I… Sean, do you think I'm nuts?"
"Your intuition has never yet led me astray. I'm behind you 100%"
"I appreciate that. I'll need you with me on this."
"It's a family affair now. Our family. We're on the right track."
"Yes, we are."
"You didn't answer my question yesterday."