My apologies for not having a better picture of the above. Scratch that. I should apologize for even posting this picture because it’s not the photo I wanted to use. Truth be told, I don’t have the photo I want.
That would be picture of Link Byfield, my old boss at the Alberta Report. According to this column in the Calgary Herald by Licia Corbella, Link has been told he has less than two years to live, “diagnosed with incurable stage IV cancer of the esophagus and liver.”
This is sad news. The first I heard of it. I should like to send out my personal condolences here, but I realize no one is reading this blog right now, so that’s a little useless. Maybe I’ll send an email later. I went into my personal archives to see if I had taken a picture of Link while I was working at the magazine. I was pretty sure I had, but I was wrong. I will take some comfort in the fact that the Calgary Herald ran a gigantic headshot of Corbella (that columnist picture of her has been around for at least ten years) rather than a picture of Link.
All I have is a picture of Link’s office chair that Alberta Report controller Curtis Stewart threw away on the day he bought everybody new chairs. I can actually recall that day, especially the look on Curtis’s face; he helped bring in all the chairs himself and his expression—the serious look of an accountant not too accustomed to physical labour but with the glint of a smile in his eye—conveyed the solemnity of the occasion. That was a good day. I don’t think Link was there, though.
Most of the office furniture in the editorial room was pretty ratty. Ancient desks, battered filing cabinets, folding tables that looked like they had been discarded after their 101st church bake sale and/or flea market. By far the worst piece of furniture, the most beat up and broken, was Link’s chair. It was comical because he was the head honcho, publisher of the magazine, son of the founder and he’s got the worst chair. Something inside the top of the base had broken and it listed heavily to the left, so Link would have to strain to balance it by sitting over to the right. And I’d see him sometimes (before he rearranged his office), with his back to the door, speedily pecking away on his computer keyboard. After a while the strain of balancing the chair grew too tiring and he would just give up, succumb to gravity and work at a 25 degree angle, like the ship was taking on water and the captain was going down with it but not before he finishes writing this note, damn it!
Now, I could get maudlin and start going on about how this shows how humble the guy was and stuff like that, and some of that would be true I suppose. He never has been a very pretentious guy. However, from what I recall someone telling me, he had the worst chair because he wasn’t in the office as much as everyone else. That may or may not have been bullshit. Maybe it was his favourite chair. I don’t know. Still, there’s something to be said for a boss who doesn’t blow the budget dressing up his office.
When we got the new chairs I swiped Link’s and another one, thinking I could pair up the base of one with the top of the other and then use it in my home office. So this top ended up on top of a pile of scrap wood by the garbage cans beside my downtown alleyway. That’s where I took the picture and I can’t for the life of me remember why. I was shooting a lot of black and white film at the time, so I probably snapped the pic thinking it might turn out to be something. As you see, it didn’t. I don’t have a print and the above is a scan of the negative. That negative survived because it was among others which mean more to me. But here it is, through unfortunate circumstance it becomes the first personal picture posted on my new blog. Where the chair ended up after this I don’t know. I assume some hobo grabbed it off the pile and dragged it down to his jungle camp in the river valley nearby where, after a season of hosting some heavy drinking, it was finally hunted down in the annual civic spring clean-up (of all the garbage that gets “re-purposed” by the rough sleepers), melted-snow soaked and moldy, exhausted, and dragged to one of the temporary dumpsters, brought there for the occasion, in which it was hearsed off to it’s final resting place in a landfill. Will the circle be unbroken? By and by. But I am slipping here, sinking…
“When we concentrate on a material object, whatever its situation, the very act of attention may lead to our involuntarily sinking into the history of that object. Novices must learn to skim over matter if they want matter to stay at the exact level of the moment. Transparent things, through which the past shines!
Man-made objects, or natural ones, inert in themselves but much used by careless life (you are thinking, and quite rightly so, of a hillside stone over which a multitude of small animals have scurried in the course of incalculable seasons) are particularly difficult to keep in surface focus: novices fall through the surface, humming happily to themselves, and are soon reveling with childish abandon in the story of this stone, of that heath. I shall explain. A thin veneer of immediate reality is spread over natural and artificial matter, and whoever wishes to remain in the now, with the now, on the now, should please not break its tension film. Otherwise the inexperienced miracle-worker will find himself no longer walking on water but descending upright among staring fish. More in a moment.”
From Transparent Things by Vladimir Nabokov