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For the record, these next four photo art posts from Project Firebird I REALLY like! There’s always a period of experimentation in trying to determine just exactly how to work with captures from a particular subject in a particular setting (let alone how to shoot it in the first place). Same goes for determining just how far to go with that subject. Could be a contributing reason it’s taken me so long to establish automotive art as a component of my portfolio, regardless of how much I enjoy it, is that the settings in which automobiles are captured are so vastly different, with infinite uncontrollable lighting conditions and vast amounts of ‘noise’ surrounding them. Of course, as I’ve written before, one of the elements that make photo art ‘art’ is how far the artist decides to take a particular capture into the abstract.
But when I figure that part out, oh the joy!
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BTW: The photo art and prose included in any given post are separate creations having nothing to do with each other. Duality and such …
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Chapter One - The Invention Of The Banana Daiquiri
A Fine Tune
So the two friends staggered off the beach, drunk. They’d exhausted the bananas and chipped the ice block away to nothing and were back the quarter mile or so to the house to clean up before dinner. Lincoln loved these moments when Jefferson would drop the ‘sir’ nonsense and call him by his first name – had to be mostly drunk before he’d do it. Some people perceived Jefferson as his servant; Lincoln knew he was more accurately assigned his protector. It was Jefferson who had identified the island and Jefferson who had gotten him there and kept him supplied and solvent and Jefferson who maintained his incognito. They were friends, and he had told Jefferson that, and Jefferson had winked at him, whispered ‘I know’, then said with greater volume for the benefit of any who might overhear, “Yes, sir, that we are.”
As the sun dropped to just a finger’s width above the Caribbean Sea they made their way up the hill to Eddie’s big house that was surrounded and shaded by flamboyant trees with their red leaves. Its wrap-around porch overlooked Admiralty Bay, dotted with its many small boats as well as Eddie’s large yacht and Jefferson’s much smaller schooner. Port Elizabeth itself was also in view, then eleven miles past Rocky Bay and Northwest Point the looming dark green of St. Vincent itself. Eddie was there on the porch with glass in hand and waved, “Moses!”, calling Jefferson by his first name, “And Link!” calling Lincoln by his fake first name, “My very good friends! Already been happily imbibing, I see!”
They immediately called for the necessary ingredients and introduced Eddie to their new rum with chipped ice and bananas trick. They went quickly through two rounds of the beverage before Jefferson remembered to ask, “Have you strawberries this trip?” As it happened, Eddie did, and called for a small bowl of them. It arrived cradled in the soft hands of a young woman whose appearance caused Lincoln to gasp. Her dark, riveting eyes framed by her deep brunette hair put Lincoln in mind of a panther studying its prey. She wore a light, cream colored dress that slightly tousled as a breeze passed through the doorway where she’d paused, just a hint of a smile on her deeply red lips as though she wanted the guests to have a good look at her before she joined them. All three men, having ceased conversation, looked at her appreciatively, but it was Lincoln who felt a jolt.
“Gentlemen,” Eddie announced proudly, “May I present to you to Miss Jennie Jerome, late of the Isle of Wight. Miss Jerome, I give you Captain Moses Jefferson of the schooner Liberty and Colonel Link Douglas, retired.”
Miss Jerome allowed her smile to broaden slightly at the men, then stepped onto the porch and placed the bowl of strawberries on the table. “There are precious few of these,” she said of the strawberries, her voice strong and assertive, “But they will wither quickly in this heat, so I suggest we eat them up. I’ve asked the staff to prepare strawberry shortcake with much of the remainder.” She examined the other ingredients on the table, noting the little pool of water forming around the small block of ice. “What sort of a concoction have you going here?” she asked.
Eddie chuckled and picked up the ice chipper. “Allow me to demonstrate,” he said.
Jefferson, who always seemed more loquacious in the company of women, said, “We’ll use the strawberries instead of the bananas this round, see how that does.”
Miss Jerome nodded and watched Eddie chip at the block, scrapping up bits of ice to dump into glasses as he went, but her eyes seemed to fall on Lincoln or at least Lincoln perceived that they had. He was immediately concerned that his appearance was too unkempt. He’d allowed his beard to fill in completely and his hair to grow long, both to cover the scars of his his head wound and conceal his identity. Each had greyed considerably; mostly, in fact. But were he not unkept enough, had his appearance not sufficiently departed from his former appearance, might she recognize him? On this entire island only Jefferson and Eddie and probably a couple of Jefferson’s crew (though he also had concerns about his housekeeper) knew who he was, and Jefferson thought that might be too much. The way her dark eyes seemed to pierce him he feared she might have known right off.
“A colonel,” she asked, “What are you retired from?”
Lincoln’s mouth began what would have come out as little more than a stammer, but Jefferson quickly interjected, “This here is a veteran of our civil war, wounded at Gettysburg,” he said.
Finding a very slight voice, Lincoln said, “My long and scruffy hair is my attempt to hide the scars. I hope it does not offend you.”
Her expression changed, Lincoln thought to one of empathy. “Of course not,” she seemed to protest. “It was a fearsome war, that battle especially. I saw lines of men wounded much worse as they were brought to New York.”
“As you can tell by her accent,” Eddie explained, “Miss Jerome is not British, but an American. Born to a financier in Brooklyn.”
“My father, though quite a successful speculator, was something of a cad,” Miss Jerome said. “My mother evacuated my sisters and I, first to Paris and then to Britain.”
“Where there is no shortage of aristocrats seeking excitement through marriage to a spirited American woman,” Eddie intoned.
“Yes,” she said and looked at Eddie. “But they must run from their mamas first.”
Eddie seemed flustered by that; even seemed to blush. Jefferson caught it immediately and knew exactly the implication. Lincoln, Jefferson knew, could not see past his infatuation with the woman. But Jefferson knew much, much more about Eddie and his family issues than Lincoln did. Eddie collected himself. “It will be beef tonight, gentlemen, still reasonably fresh.”
Several more rounds of the rum concoction were drained before dinner was called, though Miss Jerome nursed just a single glass. The strawberries quickly disappeared. None could decide if they preferred it with strawberries or bananas, but it was Miss Jerome, recognizing the strawberries would not be replenished for some time, who declared, “Clearly the bananas make the better drink, you sods”. She, of course, had not tried it with bananas.
They moved to the interior around a large, heavy table crowded with beef Wellington, asparagus in hollandaise sauce, roasted beets and parsnips, sweet potatoes, Brussel sprouts with chestnuts and bacon, a red wine jus, and Yorkshire pudding. A staff of four, who seemed to transition between cooks and servers and butlers, traveled with Eddie served the fare and struggled to keep everyone’s glass filled with a strong red wine. They conversed long into the night about events in Britain and the Continent, about Jamaica and the British dominions of the Caribbean that Eddie had visited on his most recent circuit, about the happenings on Bequia and St. Vincent that had occurred in his absence. “My presence was noted, just as I’d intended,” Eddie said. “Then I touched Canada, made a show, and on a misty night disappeared once more. Slipped from the gaze of the British Empire to our little gem here in the warm blue sea, our island in the clouds, Where Blackbeard once ruled. Where Sir Francis Drake planned his attacks upon the Spanish. Where Henry Morgan dodged hurricanes ‘twixt pirating himself a fortune. And now where we poor loners conceal ourselves from, no, dare I say from where we reject what reality would be forced upon us!”
Miss Jerome placed a hand on Eddie’s and leaned affectionately against him, happily bemused, filled his wine glass with her other hand. “She’ll never find us here, will she, Rosebud?”
The dishes cleared away, the strawberry shortcake, prepared according to Miss Jerome’s recipe, consumed and its leftovers abandoned, the men adjourned back to the porch and lit fat cigars. A blue haze built around them as they ruminated into the quiet, sweet night. Lincoln remaining very subdued, or at least subdued for him, his mind apparently preoccupied. Jefferson too had quieted, something he especially did after sensing he’d been talking too much, which, affected by the presence of a lady, he often did. Eddie did most of the talking, vacillating between pontification and lamentation. Miss Jerome moved further into the house, to the parlor, where Eddie had imported an upright piano. She was classically trained in the instrument by a friend and student of Chopin, but to her family’s disappointed had rejected the level of work and commitment that would have been necessary to achieve the concert status they felt she was capable of. Such seriousness of intent interested her not at all. She enjoyed, at all things, playing well, so long as it was just play. She looked through the sheet music present, but finally decided to let memory and mood direct her fingers. Lincoln heard the first notes nonchalantly, but as they came together with grace and melody his attention sharpened. He looked to Eddie, wondering if he’d added a pianist to his staff. Eddie said, “It’s Miss Jerome. She’s a wonderful player.” Lincoln looked over his shoulder, back into the house. “She wouldn’t mind at all if you joined her; likely be flattered, in fact.” Then sensing that Lincoln was almost looking to him for permission, said, “Go on, my friend. She’s her own woman.” Lincoln nodded, laid his smoldering cigar on the porch railing, and moved inside. Now Jefferson was looking to Eddie as if to confirm that, indeed, Lincoln would be alright. Eddie said, “She’s a remarkable woman, truly, but I do not deceive you when I say she is her own woman and, aside from the obvious dalliance I’ve enjoyed, I have no claims, and she’s accepted the claims of no one, though there’s one gentleman in particular who’d like to believe she has.”
Then he added, “Can you imagine mother’s reactions if I did? An American? Bloody hell!”
Jefferson nodded. Lincoln had enjoyed the occasional dalliance himself but never more than a brief tryst; what he called ‘a sporting woman’. He also sensed how lonely Lincoln was and worried about that. Worried he’d go too far with someone, reveal too much of himself, just to feel close to someone.
Eddie was still on his own problems. “Jefferson, I talk of hiding and rejecting the world and its crushing responsibilities, but I only deceive myself. I want no more part of what the world will have of me than our friend does. I can’t hide forever from the entire British Navy. I suspect your friend can’t either.”
Jefferson looked at him suspiciously, warily. He’d intended to leave the island long enough to collect supplies and, most importantly, finances, as Eddie was there now. But Eddie shrugged and shook his head, flicked the ash off the edge of his cigar into the night, said, “I’m sorry. Truly,” and brought his eyes back to Jefferson’s. “We will watch over your friend. Our friend. There is a duty here. You have my word.”
Back inside, Lincoln took up a seat next to the piano; indeed, Miss Jerome seemed most pleased with the attention.
“This is so beautiful,” he told her.
She smiled at that, asked, “Do you have a favorite song?”
He said, “You know, I have always thought ‘Dixie’ a fine tune.”
She looked over to him from the top of her eye sockets, smirking. “Oh, really?”
He nodded and smiled and looked away to his hands in his lap, her gaze just so piecing he felt to look back into them was too intimate.
She turned back to her keyboard, did not take up ‘Dixie’, not yet. “I like your eyes. They’re very reassuring. I’d even describe them as soothing.”
He looked back to her, now that she had looked away, pleased.
She added without turning towards him, “I’d even call them familiar.”
He said nothing. Sat holding his breath.
“So, Mr. Douglas,” she said, “How is it you have come to be here?”
All my life I have had to learn to do things differently. To see the world differently.