Senior Citizenship Fish TalesSaturday, August 21, 2010
The last really good magazine assignment I got happened in June 2008 when Bob Mercer sent me to a Parksville resort to write and photograph a piece for his magazineVLM. Unfortunately he stopped publishing in March, 2009. I never did write my piece. The resort was a beautiful one and Mercer urged me to take not only my wife but my granddaughters as few spa/resort articles ever mentioned children. Rebecca and Lauren had their own room and Lauren was particularly impressed by the fact that not only did they have their own flat screen TV but also a fridge with an ice maker. But there is one lingering memory of the trip which has served me as a cautionary warning.
It was at the cozy Fish Tales Cafe that I had one of those moments that affect the rest of your life. Some of my Filipino cababayans are known for uttering obvious remarks (with slight off putting changes with that special Filipino accent!) such as “You never cross the bridge until you get to the bidge.” Had I been with one of my cabahayans they would have immediately warned me.
While we were dining on our excellent fish and chips (Rebecca had lobster) I listened into a conversation at another table between two senior citizen couples who were obviously retired and on holiday. At the time I did not consider myself a senior citizen and much less one who was retired. Here I was with a beautiful youthful wife, two young girls who called me papi and thus some unobservant idiot might have misconstrued that I was their father. I had a job, a good magazine assignment. I did not see myself as soon being like the couples at the other table.
They were comparing notes on a cruise to Greece and a trip to Machu Picchu. There was a lot of “We did Machu Picchu so what are we going to do now.” It occurred to me that these two couples had experienced a superficial exposure to the great Incan ruins and had observed that the Parthenon was not very pretty as it was not well preserved.”
I stared at their shorts and their elaborate sports shoes and I vowed that I would never become like them.
Every couple of years I either get an email or a phone call from some long-lost relatives or friends I have not kept in touch with who inform me that they will be soon in Vancouver as they are taking a boat cruise to Alaska where they are all excited about meeting up with Eskimos. The first thing I tell the is about the Inuit but I immediately offer them some sort of hospitality and a quick Vancouver tour.
One of these long lost relatives was not so. It was my half-brother Eduardo from Buenos Aires. He is wealthy and if I had his money I would opt for a weekend at the Metropolitan in New York. But then I am a snob and living in Vancouver I take our scenery for granted. The passage to Alaska is exotic to many folks.
But I would never want to be on board a ship that is not really taking me to a destination that is going to be my destination. Nor would I want to be on board a floating palace and gorge myself with food or even consider shuffleboard. I am sure that by now shuffleboard has been superseded by cabin swapping.
In short do not want to become a senior citizen who will have people wish him, “Alex have a long and happy retirement.”
I photographed many of those events (retirement ceremonies/roastings for Canadian Pacific Limited for something like 15 years). I used to detest going to them. Many of them were at the Terminal City Club. It meant I had to wear a suit and tie. I would complain but Rosemary would look at me in the eye and convey silently, “We need the money and you must go.” After a while I realized that the pay was very good and if I could desensitize myself it was a piece of cake.
But it was difficult to desensitize myself to speeches where a boring CP Rail executive would say, “I have worked for this company for 40 years and I really never did like my job (Imagine working for 40 years and not liking your job!). What made it pleasant were the people.” He would then sit down and his fellow workers would lambast him with terrible secrets about his youth, tell him that now he would be at the mercy of his wife’s kitchen job jar. He would then be given a fishing rod or golf clubs and once (to my horror!) a rocking chair.
Had I been that executive, and many other like him, I would have gone home and pulled a Karl Christian von Langsdorf with a Luger.
These days Rosemary and I watch good movies or read good books. I putter in the garden and wait to hear from my daughters or from my granddaughters. I know that call will eventually come and I will have to show someone Stanley Park before I drop them of at the cruise ship terminal. But I vow, here and now, that no Eskimo will ever see my face nor will I ever do Alaska.