Monday, August 20, 2012

Whatever Lola Wants...

    ...from a photographer's notebook

Superpussy ~1971 - 1985

Sometimes, while seeking out a particular image among my countless boxes of color slides, I’ll come upon a long-unviewed slide. And, as often as not, with it will come…memories.

Once upon a time, on a cold November night, a little tabby kitty took advantage of the opening of a door to an audio shop as a customer departed.

She strutted confidently inside, her tail erect with that cute little crook at the end that contented cats display, and up to a group of salesmen and customers.

She was inquisitive and friendly to all, but she seemed to pay particular attention to one man.

She wore a red collar with a little bell. Clearly, she had to be someone’s pet. One of the assembled audiophiles gently led the kitty to the door, opened it, and placed her outside, thinking she’d go home to her family.

But kitty had other ideas.

So, the next time someone entered the shop, so did she, strutting confidently back to (you guessed it, didn’t you?) ME.

She gave a friendly little purrrowlll as she looked up at the stranger she had decided to make a friend. Come on, pick me up!

He did. At which time, the purr machine notched itself up to a throaty rumble, as she sniffed my face.

A decision was made that Miss Kitty might enjoy a little snack, before being placed back on the street. So back to the service area she trotted to be fed.

Another attempt was made to take her outside, where she, of course, would not remain. Another customer entered the shop. And so did Miss Kitty.

Her “theme song” could well have been the tune from “Damn Yankees,” Whatever Lola Wants, Lola Gets.

Yes, “Lola” wanted…ME.

Now, there was this one little problem. The red collar with the bell. Family pet, you know…

So, it’s decided, with the weather forecast calling for plunging mercury overnight, I’ll take her home with me, but the shop will put up a lost cat notice in the neighborhood, and I’ll return her to her rightful family when they reply.

I get a box from the shop, so Kitty can have a snug place in the car for the twenty-minute homeward trip. I place the box on the front passenger seat and place Kitty inside it.

Not thirty seconds into the trip, Kitty is snuggled in my lap, purring loudly. I thought it best to put her back in the box for the ride down the highway.

But wait - What was that I said about Lola?

Yes, Kitty rode home in my lap, her purr machine almost drowning out the big 428 cubic inch V-8 up front.

When no one responded to the lost cat notice after a reasonable period (yes, I was relieved), it seemed the right time to give Miss Kitty a name. I wasn’t comfortable doing so before that – attachment, you know. I suppose Lola (she who gets what she wants!) would have worked just fine, but little Miss Kitty became Superpussy, chosen in recognition of her diminutive size but huge personality.

But she also got a nom de radio, as I would talk about her on my radio programs. Now this was a while before shock jocks were so commonplace, and I just couldn’t see my very proper and upscale station being hit with fines from the FCC, so Superpussy was known to her radio fans simply as Snipe. As in Guttersnipe. No, not as in “heartless guttersnipe” as Henry Higgins called Eliza Doolittle, for she had a heart as big as a locomotive, but a nod to her alley cat heritage. She was more commonly referred to as a half of the eight-legged furry mischief-making team of “Snipe the Stripe and Zard the Wondercat.” I’ll tell you Zard’s real name in a future post. (If the cops don't shut us down.)

Little Superpussy was the only cat I’ve ever had who actually liked being on a leash. Or maybe she just felt it was a worthwhile trade-off for being able to take her evening constitutional in my neighborhood. That was fun, of course, but even more so was tucking Superpussy into my parka when it got really cold,  and then off on our walk we'd go, with her head peeking out just under my chin. Best danged muffler I ever owned – soft, warm, and with its own built-in massage machine.

By the time the photo was taken, Superpussy was well into middle age. But I think you can see why that inquisitive, bold, and Lola-like little kitty had to come home with me on that chilly November night.

©2012 Steve Ember

If you'd like to see a higher resolution image, as well as the design of a new Photo Note Card featuring this little feline Lola, please visit my pages on Foto-Community and peruse the "Cats" folder.

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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Not a place, but a very special state of mind

     ...from a photographer's notebook

"Patschifig"     ©2011 Steve Ember
I was delighted to have my Swiss landscape "Patschifig" selected for inclusion in the Annual Landscape Show at the Art League Gallery in Old Town Alexandria. It will be on display through September 2 in a 20x14 inch print. If you are reading this in the Washington D.C. area, I hope you can join us for the Opening Reception Thursday evening, August 9, from 7 to 9 PM. The Gallery is on the Alexandria waterfront, on the first floor of the Torpedo Factory, at the corner of King and North Union Streets.

You may recall reading about "Patschifig"  in a previous post. On the other hand, perhaps something "Alpine" will prove a good antidote to the unremitting steam bath we've been slogging through this summer.

I normally title my Swiss landscapes according to where they were taken. But this one called out for something different. The moment I  saw  it on my monitor, while editing images from my last trip, I knew there was only one thing I could call it: Patschifig.

Patschifig is a word well known to the people of Canton Graubünden in Switzerland. It's about as difficult to define in mere words as is the more conventional German "Gemütlichkeit," but one absolutely knows its meaning when one experiences it. 

I first experienced it in 1989, in the autumn afternoon sunshine, high in the Bernina Alps. I’d experience it again and again on future visits to my beloved Graubünden, in 1994 and 2010, whether riding the bright red trains of the Rhätische Bahn, hiking with my cameras in the Bündner Alps, strolling the cobblestone streets of ancient Chur, or reflecting on such activities at the end of the day, while dining on hearty Bündner Gerstensuppe (the regional barley soup) and other tasty fare.

I was certainly feeling “patschifig.” I just didn’t know it ;-)

Until last October. Because, on that particular trip, I not only enjoyed my favorite region in Switzerland, but I got to do so, for the first time, with lifelong residents of Graubünden, my friends, Beatrice and Ruedi.

Beatrice, also a photographer, decided it was time to "up the ante" on my rudimentary and somewhat rusty spoken German by coaching me not only in Schwyzerdütsch, but the Bündnerdialekt as well!

So, over heaping platters of Bündnerfleisch – along with ample amounts of Calandabräu (to chase away any last vestiges of reserve in trying out some of those initially intimidating “sounds”) – the classes in Bündnersprache took place.

And it was then that I finally learned the name for that easy-going, Gemütlich feeling of well-being I always experience the moment I arrive in Canton Graubünden -- Patschifig!

So…while I normally identify my photos by place name, this one I simply chose to identify by the term that immediately springs to mind when I remember this particular early autumn Graubünden afternoon in 2011.

I(ch) mag Patschifig!

"Patschifig" will also be joining my line of custom printed Photo Note Cards. For sizes and pricing, please be in touch.

And, if you'd like a higher definition look at "Patschifig," please follow this link to my images on Foto-Community. Click on "To the photos of SE" and navigate to the "Swiss Alps" folder.

Photo, Narrative, and Design ©2011/2012 Steve Ember  

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