George Will, True, Argosy and Brigitte Bardot's CleavageThursday, August 30, 2007
When my mother, grandmother and I moved to Mexico in 1954 (without telling my father) my mother realized how crucial it was for me to have some sort of father figure so I would grow up "normal".
In 1956 my mother got her job teaching at the ASARCO (American Smelting and Refining Company) town of Nueva Rosita in the state of Coahuila. She told me of a young bachelor mining engineer she found charming called Juan Jaime. Perhaps I was too shy or Jaime was shy, too since I don't remember talking to him much. We lived in the American Hotel (that's what it was called)as did Jaime for three years. We had our three meals (home cooked) at the hotel. Next to the dining room there was a den/living room with a magazine rack. Juan Jaime would walk in some days and he added his magazines (he must have been subscribed to them) Argosy, True, Esquire (and sometimes!) Playboy. I would sneak in and look and read them. I distinctly remember reading in True an article on a young boxer called Cassius Clay who boasted that some day he was going to be champion of the world. These magazines (Esquire at the time was a girlie magazine)provided me with my first real glimpses of the female anatomy. My previous experience had been lame Mexican magazines that showed, page after page, pictures of Brigitte Bardot's cleavage.
My mother signed me up with the local chapter of the Explorers Scouts (boy scouts in dark green uniforms) and my scoutmaster, MK Foster taught me how to tie knots. My friend Steve Frazier lived in a nearby hacienda and even though he was 14 he drove a Jeep. From him I learned to shoot with a rifle.
At St. Edward's in Austin I was surrounded by boys and was taught by Catholic brothers of the order of the Holy Cross. One in particular, Brother René wore Wellington boots. I immediately bought my own pair as he was my role model of manhood.
But I have to confess that I got married, had children, moved to Vancouver without ever really having that bonding experience with a father when one is growing up. It happened, belatedly here in Vancouver at Malcolm Parry's Vancouver Magazine. It was there that I met his stable of writers (almost all were men) who exhibited different degrees of manhood. It was there that I met the urbane Ben Metcalf who taught me the lore of guns, fishing (but we never fished), wine, cigars and Hemingway while using the right French words at the right time. From John Lekich I learned how to dress properly and the lore of sipping a cocktail while chatting with a devastatingly beautiful blonde. From Les Wiseman I learned what was the proper pop music that I should listen to ("As your attorney, I would recommend..." he would often suggest.) and that porno stars actually "did it". Les taught me that real men could cry. Mac Parry taught me how to properly approach my subjects that I was supposed to photograph. He taught me how to converse in a bar like the Cecil but was unable to teach me to drink beer. Best of all he prodded me into writing.
But it was writer George Will who dressed like the ideal father that I never had. He always seemed to have a fishing rod or a gun case in his VW camper. He dressed and looked good in fishing vests. He talked to me of life in the outdoors. For me the outdoors had always represented instant constipation. George Will was the man I could never be, in spite of all those role models that have passed through my life.
I was most jealous but at the same time I thoroughly enjoyed watching Rebecca, a month back, bond with my friend Howard Houston as he taught her what my father never had chance to teach me. Howard taught Rebecca how to fish.