The Boy has become aware of money and all the things it can bring. While he’s not quite dreaming of cameras, he has his own toys he thinks about.

“Daddy, I’m going to save some money and buy that set,” he might say when we discovers some new car set that he simply must have. So he’s set about finding ways to get money. It turns out, our neighbor will give him some spare change when E comes over hand helps him wash his truck.

“He scrubs the tires a bit,” the neighbor explains, “and I help him out in his savings.” Last week, he came back with thirty-five cents.

“Now I can buy my car!”

“Not so fast,” we all want to explain, but it’s difficult to explain to an almost-four-year-old what money really is, what value actually consists of.


Value is something, I guess, you have to learn yourself. Like when you drop some of your coins into the recycling bin that’s half again as tall as you, when you realize that there’s no way at all you can get that money back out without someone’s dedicated assistance.



1-VIV_6098So many things started for me in Poland. Of course the most obvious is my family. I met K soon after my arrival, and now close to twenty years later, I can’t imagine life without her. I also fell in love with cycling while in Poland, eventually buying a road bike that I rode many, many kilometers. I sold that a few years ago to raise money for my other Polish-born love: photography.


In between the time I first decided I needed a better camera — which was about two or three weeks after arriving in Lipnica — and the images I made today, I’ve amassed a small collection of various cameras, including several Russian models I bought in Poland or K brought to the marriage.


Today, the Boy discovered them and absolutely had to look at them all. The Russian range finders were a favorite as they were small and fit his hands. The twin-lens reflex camera was a mystery: I couldn’t explain to him that you hold it waist level and look down into the view finder.


But he was a quick learner: it was only the second camera that the questions from the first experience appeared: “Daddy, how do you take the picture?” which is to say, “Where is the shutter release?” “Daddy, how do you move the picture?” which is to ask, “Where is the film advance?”


The irony of the situation was on the other side of the lens. I spent so much time lusting after bigger and “better” cameras over the years. The Nikon D2X captivated me until the release of the D3. The D4 of course replaced that, and then came the D5. And it would be pointless to mention that, at around $6,000 for the body alone, these professional cameras are and always will be out of our price range. So I contented myself with the so-called prosummer D300, which is now of course ancient history.


And then there are the lenses. The real magic of the camera is the glass, and my dream lens to go with my dream camera is about $2,000. Again, out of my price range.

The irony? My favorite camera now is our little Fuji digital range finder.

No zoom. No bells. About as plain a camera as one could wish for.


So now I’m dreaming of a $6,000 Leica M9 digital range finder…

Silly boys and their toys.

Art Show

L had an art show at school this evening. At least that was the explanation. It was part of a whole art evening, with performances by the chorus and strings orchestra. After dinner, L and I jumped into the car, and the Boy started howling when he thought he wasn’t going with us. Truth be told, I didn’t think he was: he usually prefers staying with Mama.


But there was no negotiating: “I want to go, too!” So we found ourselves wandering the hall of L’s school, look at students’ art work, talking about how her year has been going, keeping the Boy out of trouble. With all the wide, empty hallways, he wanted to do one thing: run.


The Girl worked her way through a scavenger hunt, finding Warhol-inspired art and collages of some German school that I can’t remember.


Finally we made it up to the Girl’s classroom. She showed us her desk, pointed out where all her friends sit, gave commentary on the seating arrangement.

“And poor A must sit here, beside E.” Not our E — some other boy whose Biblical name begins with the same letter and whose bad behavior seems just as Biblical in scale, when L tells about it.


I try to help her get used to it: there will always be behavior issues in her class. It’s inevitable — a sign of our times. She’s depressed about it, but what can we do?

Rain and the Roof

They were already at work when I peaked out the front windows at eight this morning.


Our neighbors finalized the purchase of their home, and in doing so, got enough money from the bank to fix up a few things, including the roof. And so while the Boy and I worked on trimming the hedges in the front — well, while I worked on it and he helped, which, as is often (but not always) the case, makes more work for me — we heard the sounds of scraping and popping as the workers pulled up the old roof, accompanied occasionally by some song or another that the workers would sing. I wouldn’t recognize the songs; they were in Spanish.

I thought about the situation for a few moments and realized that had this been in the suburbs of Chicago, it might have been Polish a few years ago. It still might be, but the likelihood is smaller: with the opening of the EU to Poles some ten years ago, few people come here to work. It’s easier just to work in Austria.


At any rate, by the time we finished the hedges, they had pulled all the shingles and tar paper off. And it was then that the unlikely happened: rain. It hasn’t rained in a couple of weeks, but the roofers had no sooner gotten the first bit of tar paper down than it started raining.


The Boy and I by that time were working on improving the draining at the bottom of our driveway, and so we decided just to continue working.


I dumped the gravel; the Boy threw away the empty bags. One of the few but increasingly frequent times when his “I want to help!” was actually help.


“Teamwork!” he exclaimed. Indeed.


The Boy’s birthday is approaching. He’s excited — we’ve promised him that he can open one of the two classic Polish cars Babcia sent a couple of years ago. He’s had them on his shelf, unable to touch them, and has now begun insisting he’s old enough. We’ve kept it from him because of the worry that, as rough as he can be with toys, he’ll destroy them in no time.


And so he’s begun marking off the days.