Saturday, November 5, 2011

On Subject

I often wonder if I could keep to one subject would my blog be better or better attended? It seems blogs that focus on one subject build an audience of interested followers, while amorphous blogs like mine pick up and drop off readers like a daladala—a Tanzanian form of public transportation—never stopping for passengers in the same place twice.

Not being able to stay on subject makes my husband weary. "Keep to one subject," he pleads. I promise I'll try, knowing it drives him crazy, but I secretly worry I won't be able to do it.

I thought of this the other day when I woke up. I looked out the window and saw a brilliant red alder tree in the morning light. 

I got so excited I began to photograph everything in sight that was red, thinking I could do this—I could do red.

Then I remembered Louise's bright red sunglasses and how they appeared as she stood on the Ernie Maxwell trail last weekend in Idyllwild.  
We'd gone up to Idyllwild for an overnight to check out the hiking trails, of which there are many. We had great hikes, good food, saw a lot of red-headed (red-bellied?) woodpeckers and came back to L.A. refreshed. I was going to write about it, but then I began to wonder, why had I never written about my road trip with my brother David? 

David had come out from St. Louis in September, the first time we'd seen each other in two years. We traveled up to wine country for a few days, tasted wine off Highway 46W, had a picnic and an ocean hike, but we also had some childish quarrels and a depressing talk about exiting this mortal plane like our father.

Last week, I'd been thinking of David when I came across an old photo album lying open in my office. There were pictures of our father, looking ridiculously young, stationed at Ashford General Hospital in West Virginia during the second war.

My father as a young Quartermaster 
(check out the sign)

After completing training, our father was sent to India, as punishment, according to him, for complaining about a superior officer. While there, he contracted malaria and spent most of his time recovering in an Indian hospital. He hated everything about India— the poverty, the filth, the poor beggars asking for handouts. He was bitter of his time in service; it didn't help that his younger brother rose to minor fame, as a Lieutenant leading a troop of Africa-Americans across North Africa.

I sat down in my office and looked at the photos he'd brought back from overseas.... and my god! What treasures. Did he take these? If so he was some kind of photographic genius. More likely, they were a set he'd picked up somewhere in a tourist shop. Alas, it's too late to ask; here are a few:


The caption reads: 
"While Sid was stationed in India he took in some of the sights."

My brother is a photographer, my son and husband are photographers and I've studied photography. Could my father have been one too? And could the malaria he contracted in India have been responsible for his erratic behavior during his life and the cause of his downward spiral at the end? All questions to ponder about his life and death....

But, boy, have I gotten off subject! 

At least I tried.

My brother David


  1. but I love how your not staying on subject is in itself a subject in this blog, and how it opens up from red to India to fathers and sons and daughters. Good writing is good writing and that's why I love your blog! (besides the wonderful photos and drawings and the way you think and create narrative.)

  2. Love this post, and happy to follow you on your trail of associations. In fact, the trail makes perfect sense - xcept that David should have been wearing red in the final photo. Brilliant orange pumpkins led off your last post, red leads off this way. Hmm. Maybe you're more focused than you realize ...

    Also, fascinating about your father's military history. India in WW2 - wow.

    And finally, um, I don't think you have Red-bellied or Red-headed woodpeckers out in them thar parts. WHich is not to say you don't have woodpeckers with red heads. Could they have been Acorn woodpeckers?