Monday, November 30, 2020

One day in 1971 or 1972, Justine asked if I would play the up-and-down record ... / And now, another time when balance and direction and George Harrison's musical genius are welcomed

"The album cover consists of a painting by American artist Bob Gill in which, as in Massot's film, two contrasting worlds are separated by a wall, with only a small gap allowing visual access between them."

The back cover of "Wonderwall Music" was created using a photo of the Berlin Wall:


When R and I began to live apart in May 1971, I rented a room in a house where four other people lived. R and I continued to spend time together on a regular basis until October 1971, when our separation became a permanent one.  The house was owned by a man who was a high school teacher (second from the left).  He had three children.  His older daughter is standing in front of him, his younger daughter is at his side, and his son (or was the boy his ex-wife's son whom he had adopted during the marriage?) is at the top of the photo.  Next to his son is the daughter of the woman in the middle of the photo.  The high school teacher had also rented out a room to a couple, the man on the far left and woman in the middle.  That couple and the man on the far right had met at San Jose State University and had grown up in Southern California.  The man on the far right, holding a kitten, is standing behind a dog that is barely visible.  He had a degree from San Jose State University in photography.  He was the one who set up the camera on a tripod to make this photo possible.  I'm standing next to him.  He slept outside in a tiny open air playhouse that had been built for the high school teacher's children and was only large enough for him to arrange a sleeping bag with cushion underneath, along with his few belongings.  This was Northern California, where the weather was such that a person could sleep comfortably outside during all seasons of the year.  Note the low brick wall behind all of us.


As part of the rental arrangement, I was to be a sort of nanny for the high school teacher's two pre-school girls on the afternoons that their mother brought them to stay at their father's house before he came home from work.  I am struggling to recall how the son fit into the picture that day.  He didn't live in the house.  Perhaps he was there because this group photo was taken to serve as a surprise birthday gift for a woman who also lived in the house.  Until just now, I had forgotten about her.  She was my age but in a relationship with a man who was in his 40s and lived somewhere else.  At the time I thought that was a little odd because at 21 years old, 40-year-old men were "old" and unattractive to me.  

During those months, I would often put "Wonderwall Music" on the turntable because I found it oddly comforting during that time of emotional anguish as I tried to find some balance and direction.  While listening to "Wonderwall Music" on the turntable downstairs, I would work at making macrame wall hangings in my room.  

One day, Justine, the older of the two little girls came to me and asked if I would play the "up-and-down" record for her.  I tried to guess which record she was referring to.  We looked through house's record collection until she identified my copy of "Wonderwall Music" as the up-and-down record.  Still baffled, I put it on the turntable for her to listen to.  She pointed to the way the record needle went up and down.  It turned out that my copy of "Wonderwall Music" had somehow become warped, although it was still perfectly playable.  Only a small child would be able to easily observe the needle going up and down!

It still delights me that Justine was so adept at describing exactly what she observed -- an up-and-down record -- and was as drawn to listen to "Wonderwall Music" as I was.  When I left California in 1974, I lost touch with all of the people in the photograph.  I do know, though, that the man on the far right went on to start a building crane business and was one of the first responders in the wake of the devastation in New York City on September 11, 2001.

I wonder where Justine is today.  She would be in her 50s now.  I wonder if she remembers "Wonderwall Music."  While writing this post, I've been listening to "Wonderwall Music," grateful to have found the entire album on YouTube.  I'll be listening to it later today as I work on Mandala #54, with immense gratitude to George Harrison.

Something occurred to me about the possibility of making a 2021 Mandala calendar available to those blog readers who are interested, assuming that I complete four more mandalas in the next few weeks.  Given the cost of having calendars printed in addition to shipping costs, I could simply attach 12 photos of the mandalas in an email to anyone interested.  The images could be sent via email to one's local print shop and made into a calendar.  What do you think?  I have Robin's email address.  Anyone else interested can email me:


Happy Birthday to Sabine, born on November 29, 1957, if I am not mistaken.  On one of my perpetual calendars, I had written "Sabine's Birthday 1957."


Anonymous said...

That photo is so beautiful. It captures a time so long ago, already nearly a half century. We had such dreams back then. I'm going to listen to Wonderwall. I had forgotten all about it.
Happy birthday to Sabine!

Colette said...

Love the photograph. Black and white was still commonly used back then. The photo seems so dated on the one hand, but fresh and normal on the other. I miss those days.

37paddington said...

I love the story of that wonderful photo from the seventies, a whole world in that photo. I often marvel at the way in which our past experiences can seem as if they were lived in another life, by another person entirely. I have been feeling a little sad lately about some of the people from my past with whom I have lost touch. Alas, it is a fact of life, some walk alongside us only for a season. I would definitely love a mandala calendar by you. My email is

Carruthers said...

I'm listening to Wonderwall as I type. I didn't know it - but I needed something new to listen to. I'm enjoying it.

Wonderful photo. Reading the story that goes with it, I found myself thinking there's a novel/film in there somewhere!

(This is "Sackerson" by the way. Thought I'd start another blog (As it happens...) , too, that's more of a daily diary kind of thing!)

Carruthers said...

And I meant to say, if you make a Mandala calendar, let me know!

Carruthers said...

Following on from George Harrison... Are you a Harold Budd Fan? He's just died, aged 84. I didn't know his music until today. Just been listening...

Carruthers said...

Just had a thought... Talking of calendars, have you thought of getting your mandalas printed on t-shirts? As you probably know, there are internet firms that print them, sell them and give you a cut. I could see them selling like hot cakes.