The Great Gatsby, Tim Bray & The Mayan Long Count

Tim Bray — Photograph — Alex Waterhouse-Hayward

Saturday night Rebecca and I went to EDAM and enjoyed an intimate combination of avant-garde dance, contact improvisational dance and some modern ballet. We had (she did as I had miso) some sushi at Kishu Island Japanese Restaurant on Main and Broadway and then we came home. She was sleeping over as was her sister Lauren. When we arrived I picked up the New York Times that was at the door (it was 10:30) and I told Rebecca (not for the first time), “I am going to read tomorrow’s newspaper today.” I showed her the date which was yesterday’s. She looked perplexed and said nothing.

There is a memorable scene in Jack Clayton’s 1974 film The Great Gatsby where an immaculately dressed Jay Gatsby (Robert Redford) walks with someone else (I don’t remember) down the side of a swimming pool in a late and sunny afternoon. One of them says to the other, “It was a great summer.” When I saw this movie that statement affected me with a shock of emotion. It was sometime in 1975 and we had just arrived in Vancouver.

In my formative years in Buenos Aires I lived through four distinct seasons. Most memorable in my memory was spring. In September the city’s jacarandás would all be that rare and brilliant blue. Once we moved to Mexico City the four seasons faded into two. One was a rainy season and the other the dry one. The mountains of the Mexico City valley were either green or brown to mark the seasonal difference. The zompantle (sometimes called a colorín) or Erythrina americana ‘Miller’, which we planted in our garden to enjoy its bright red flowers, would bloom sporadically all year, undecided and probably confused when spring would arrive.

It was finally in Vancouver, 32 years ago where the four seasons defined themselves to me in complete distinction, one from the other.

When people ask me, “How was your summer?” I usually reply simply with a, “Just fine.” What I really want to say is far more complicated and it might upset them. I would say that as a freelancer and a person who does not go to school the seasons mean little to me as does the concept of the weekend. I work when there is work. And when I don’t work I don’t rest as I worry about getting work.

With the advent of Sunday shopping and 24 hour stores, for me the idea of a seven day week has completely eroded. My concept of time, 24 hours in a day, 7 days a week and 30 days in a month, has changed.

One person who seems to have adjusted is my friend Tim Bray. Don’t ask me what he does. He says he works for Sun Microsystems. He was involved in the making of a computer language called XML. He travels the world and sometimes talks to the spooks in Langley, Virginia. Bray has a web log (he would never call it a blog) ongoing. Its content is usually over my head in complexity but every once in a while nice photographs appear and I understand some of the subjects. Bray’s web log reflects the activity of a man who gets more text messaging than emails and whose sense of time, in relation to mine is even more radical. The idea of writing a diary with multiple entries during the day would be alien to a Victorian diarist. I might extend one of my blogs with an addendum (usually when I have made a mistake and someone fires off an indignant correction) but Bray has it all figured out. His blog is one long fragment of fragments. He calls each entry a fragment. His web log has no beginning that I can figure out. Could it be that Bray has figured the Mayan long count?

Link to: The Great Gatsby, Tim Bray & The Mayan Long Count

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Into Bunny Watson. I am a Vancouver-based magazine photographer/writer. I have a popular daily blog which can be found at: