This past summer those people in the Portland Oregon / Vancouver, Washington area got a rare treat. Associate Professor of Molecular Biosciences Steve Sylvester had been nurturing this tropical plant in a greenhouse at Washington State University’s Vancouver campus.
Professor Sylvester had originally planted Titan VanCoug in 2002. Usually these plant grow for 7 to 10 years before blooming. This one has been maturing for 17 years.
The blossom is on the small side at just over four feet tall. Short-lived, the flowers wither after about 48 hours. This one was already on the old side when I saw it — you can see the top of the stamen starting to shrivel.
Corpse Flowers are so named because of their feted odor, reminiscent of rotting flesh. This miasma attracts flies which pollinate the plant so that the blossom can produce seeds.
A long cue of people from all over the region waited to see this rare sight. It is estimated that only five or so corpse flowers are in bloom at any given time in the world. After their first flowering, it generally takes four or more years before another bloom.
Titan VanCoug is a name of affection given to this particular plant by Prof. Sylvester. The scientific name for the species is Amorphophallus titanum.
So it’s been ten years since the attack of September 11. The media has been filled with remembrances of that day, I thought I should write mine. A couple of weeks earlier I had been in New York shooting some panoramic images of Manhattan using a parabolic mirror. The images above were created this way and were taken on August 29, 2001. The circular one is a raw image right off of the round mirror, looking straight up. You can see the whole World Trade Center plaza, complete with a security guard telling me that I could not use a tripod in that area. I’ve often wondered what happened to him. On September 11 I was safely back home in Portland, Oregon. Summer, my then girlfriend and now wife were sleeping in. The phone kept ringing, and I kept thinking I’d check the machine later. When I got up the phone was ringing again. I answered and heard my mother telling me that both towers had collapsed and that the Pentagon had been attacked as well, all by commercial jetliners. It was hard to believe. Turning on the television Summer and I started watching what seemed like an endless loop of video showing planes crashing, towers falling and smoke billowing. It seemed so close yet so far away. The TV had us transfixed and my mind was slipping into a deeper and darker torpor each time the news footage was replayed. Slowly it seemed that some form was shaping out of the chaos. The mayor of New York was visibly taking charge of the rescue operation. The president was in an undisclosed location.
That afternoon I had a Little League photo shoot scheduled for team photos. I kept expecting to get the call that the appointment had been cancelled. That call never came. In retrospect, it was for the best to be pulled from the television and forced out into the world. Driving out to the shoot, the city of Portland seemed to be in stunned silence and few cars were on the road.
After arriving at the field, I remember walking across the green grass under a placid blue sky. The coach was standing with the kids as they were arriving. I said something like “I’m a little surprised that you’re here.” The coach replied “I’m a little surprised you showed up.”
That was all either of us said about what had happened. As the kids gathered some seemed to be murmuring about the attacks, but most were silent. After their photos were done, I packed up my gear and wondered about how still and quiet the world seemed. Then I realized that it was the lack of planes. No jet rumbles or vapor trails in the sky—it was a quietness that I would never have realized would be so noticeable. Yet while the planes were grounded, the silence seemed deafening.
In New York, my friend, David Vanadia was living in lower Manhattan. As soon as he hear what had happened he took to the streets with his video camera. It was a fancy digital camera he had bought from me after the dot com I was working for went under. I kept the camera in lieu of back pay. I sold it to David to help cover bills while I looked for work. David now took this camera and shot hours of tape capturing the reactions of those most directly effected that morning. After ten years, he’s finally edited it down to an hour-long documentary. See out here on his site Vanadia.com.
Well, it’s not really that new now. The Sultan Hookah Lounge opened a couple of months ago. I wrote a short piece about it and took some photos for the Sentinel, which is still online for the moment, but maybe going dark soon—hopefully to be replaced by a larger news venture.
The smokers I spoke to said they love the hookah. It seems that the lounge is pretty busy on weekend evenings. Personally, I find it hard to breath there. Though the shop might seem controversial (they also sell a lot of smoking paraphernalia) I think at this point, with so many vacant storefronts in the neighborhood, people are happy to see anyone make a go of a new business.