Ward W. Willits House
Highland Park, Illinois, 1901
by Frank Lloyd Wright…
Martagon Hybrid creeping through the whitewashed fence at Waukegan Harbor. Canon Rebel 35mm. This photo is extremely sentimental to me, and I plan on tattooing this image on my upper calf some time this year.
one of the first pictures I took, with an old film camera, last January when it was 60 degrees, and I had no idea what i was doing.
Unknown beauty, 1965
In those days it seemed there was an ever-present wind from the morning sea that brought the smell of fried foods over the gated paradise. Here, though, for each and every night there was a ubiquitous feeling of foreboding at the first twinkle of the spine, the often immobilizing summer swelter lured tycoons young and old to this sight of the leopard shaded and parasoled poolside. Most mornings were so pleasant; the coffee, croissants, Sunday papers, and the softer air seemed simply too serene to miss. And down through the brick staircase, lit by a single lamp, the air was cool and stale, and smoke-ridden-stagnant. Late in the morning, a reclusive few listened to the twinge of Ravel on a distant stereo. They remained only a few as the oak-paneled sub-cellar bar had not yet taken on its garish evening glow nor that cacophonous clink and clatter. Lingering somewhere out, in the overbearing heat, in the Oaks that had outlived the proprietors, was the dew of decrepit old money that, like the Oak, would remain forever, casting shadows, but be forgotten.
In the afternoon, the flowers reached for the fading sun and produced the ebullient exclusivity which clouded so many things. The El Toro’s came in off the lake into the golden charcoal haze, which enticed the young helmsmen. And with their return it felt right for the evening to ensue. It was in those days Charles, the soda jerk, begun listening to the buoyant voices of the little boys and little girls. He watched fondly, the polite and meekly charming. But their desperate attempts at prolonging their young summers put him, like many others, in a deep and dark pit of despair. Perhaps it was general caprice of people gathering at night, in particular. Or perhaps just the lights that continued to expose every little flaw late into the night. He couldn’t know for sure. But wherever he looked there seemed to be equally many frowns as smiles. Often quickly following one another. Often they lie in the same face. Each crooked countenance cried out for help.
He reminisced and watched the sun set on yet another August day, this one colder than the last. He tried not to be influenced by this deceitful melancholy, or that which is airborne from the cold night or cold hearts. But trivial things made all the hours trivial. And now the once great months of the year seemed summed up in the series of library receipts and pay stubs. Still, children of the most innocent age seemed slightly less susceptible to the summer sadness. But in the forbidden forests lurked the children’s dumb despair and the equally elusive swarms of rabbits, where, save for a glimmer or beam, the light often failed to reach. And so, the kids continued and ran along and swam with joy like caged birds. They professed silent loves and kissed down by the lake. Like their parents, getting away, longing, pretending.
This evening was quieter. This evening the younger ones got out of the pool around six upon Father’s arrival from work in the city, and the arrival of those baffling cold nights. And Son, Northwestern-bound, came for dinner.
“I’m sorry to spring this on you, Lloyd, but, we’re all going to visit your great-aunt in South Bend.”
“Have you forgotten I’m leaving for school next week?”
“You haven’t been for three years and, if you don’t now you never will.”
“Why the finality?”
As a sea breeze beckoned, and grasped his lung and voice, his own recent feelings of finality broached the dinner’s conversation. But he left before speaking. And they sent the kids back to the pool without dinner. They sat atop the bluff as the oldest smoked a joint somewhere along the wooded shore. They sat in the cold iron furniture, discussing quaint misfortune, warming their bones over a bottle of red wine. They sat in the unending twilight slightly ignoring matters and looking at the sky longing for midsummer peonies and chrysanthemums from weeks past. The children were presently being consumed by an insatiable desire to throw off their autumn sweaters, though the warm embrace of assorted woolens and flannels was inevitable come September. The grown-ups did not care much for they wore their fancy clothes and shoes all year long.
“I’ll never live in New York, will I?” she said unwittingly distant.
“You don’t want to live in New York.”
“Maybe I do.”
“But you’ve never been.”
“Would you take me?” she gleamed in a childish plea
“What about Ethel’s will?” The diamonds in her eyes faded and her crystal face wilted.
“Uncle Jack’s sitting on the ten grand, what more is there of real importance? We’ll make an appearance and have dinner at Anne’s.”
“At Anne’s? Christ, we wouldn’t want to speed things up any more with Ethel.”
“Oh yes. Well I don’t want to be exposed to quarrels and cold shoulders, why should I?”
“Didn’t you say Ethel needed to give you some belongings?”
“I don’t need any more old rubbish.” She took a long sigh, “Promise me you’ll never let them loot and pillage our home like they do every other relative.”
Unfortunately, Ethel’s gilded rubbish fell from her dying hand and dissolved to dust of another place and time and her next of kin could not be bothered. Presently she loathed that horrible age. Her dreary old home smelt of that wood you could always smell and that dust you could always see against the late sun that she thought she loved. Until, one night, a sea breeze beckoned and sped the cardiovascular turbines and she draped a tarp over the vanity.
Charles sat staring across the car at the girl with the hair that ebbed and flowed against the flowing treescape. And outside, below them, gaggles of giggling girls in plaid skirts and dapper young military men heading home one more time congregated on the station platform. That Saturday morning the wind was lively in moving the Labor Day leaves and the two alike in their going-somewhere sat silently for a while. Also alike in their pouty faces and heads that moved effortlessly, but not unwittingly, with each hitch in the track; And in those delicate heads, the various oils and gases of adolescence ruminated violently, and their stomachs ached with anticipation. He recognized her and he only hoped that she be fond of feeble working types. All he knew of her was her family of boys of whom ambition had made lazy. For Dartmouth’s sailing champion was Lady Luck, for the young bond trader was the old Jaguar, and for the youngest boy the house to protect the family legacy and their north shore from the ravages of time. With nothing left to plunder, they sent her east each fall. It was nearly fall and it felt as if the summer was somehow wasted. It felt like neither had spoken a word since late May, when things were all shadowy and green. They both enjoyed the colorful illusions of change, and other unspoken beauties so one of them remarked, “What a pretty day.” And she sighed and added “Where are you headed?”
“For destruction.” He said rather confidently then returned to his window, and they both to their little silhouettes and quiet journeys. And as the trees rushed by and washed over him, a gaunt old house appeared from them. He suddenly felt utter rapture bubble up from his body, where it had been all his life. But only now could it be, because soon he would have to leave for a place beyond this shore or that shore. After all, they were the same.
“I just want to walk up and down every street, and down every ravine.” Intermittently, he spoke sadly, “But they’ll find me here.” Again he paused. “Toward the end of the war my father was forced into service and he ran off to the border waters with a canoe and three days worth of food. And when the food and the wild berries ran out some week and a half later he walked into the nearest town, where he could see in the distance they were dancing and cheering. Alone in the quiet of upper Minnesota, while far off storm clouds came over the sea of Japan and cast a gloom over everything west of the rising sun, the sun shined and carnivals roared though the trains didn’t.”
“So run away.”
“Like everyone else?”