La Serenisima Steps OutSunday, September 12, 2010
In my first year in grade 9 (1957) at St Edward’s High School in Austin I returned home for the Christmas holidays. My mother and grandmother were living in an apartment on Avenida Insurgents Sur. It was a nice area even though there was some road noise during the day. But it was fun to look out of the window and watch the buses and cars go by. Next to us there was a gun shop owned by a friend of ours who was a retired pelotari (ja alai player). His name was Daniel Guridi Árregui. I lusted after the Berettas in his glass display cases but I knew they were beyond my grasp. I would watch generals of the Mexican army walk in for a "visit". Some indirectly, but most quite directly, would ask for funds to take a vacation in Acapulco. Guridi knew that if he did not comply they would withhold his import permits for the fine guns he brought from Europe. I admired his handling of the men. I soon grew to respect Guridi as a man. He was also a well-read man. He had suffered from acute insomnia ever since he had left the hamlet of Mondragón in the Basque Province in Spain as a very young teenager to play “la pelota” around the world in such places as Shanghai, Manila, Miami and Mexico City. We talked books.
Guridi was one of the few male role models in my life since I had last seen my father when I was 11. The other male role models were the Brothers of Holy Cross at St. Edwards. They had all slowly been weaning me from the fact that I had been raised for so many years by my mother and grandmother.
I remember that during the Christmas holiday I went to a nearby barber shop for my haircut. A youngish American, sporting elaborate cowboy boots was getting his hair cut, too. He befriended me as soon as he learned I spoke English. He asked me to tell him a bit about myself. This I did.
Back in Austin, in January one evening he came to the school to visit me. The brothers promptly cut him off at the pass and that was the last time I ever saw the cowboy. I was much too naïve, much too young for my age. And besides in the age of 57 Chevies I knew more about tail fins than of men who prowled after young boys. It was a lesson that I never forgot.
By the nature of my blog in which I write about personal events of my life and where my blog is attached to a web page that has my name, addresss, phone numbers, etc, people who want to find me will do so. In fact more than the web page, the blog has served me well as a good source of occasional income. I sell my photographs because photographs are found by search engines in blogs but have a bit of harder time in locating pictures in web pages. My latest little coup is to have sold photographs (for the cover) of Robertson Davies to a publisher in Barcelona who came out with the first Catalan translation of the Deptford Trilogy. Another photograph, one I took of Pierre Berton will grace the cover of softcover version of a recent biography on him being published in Toronto this fall.
My wife, my daughters and my granddaughters’ other relatives have been vocal in opposing some of the stuff I write about my grandchildren here. In most cases I have tried to find a balance between being too revealing and to circumspect. But more than what I write it’s the pictures.
If the grandkids are four, five, six or even 9, it’s fair game. As soon as the little girls reach that in-between age when they are not quite children anymore and not quite teenagers yet there is a potential blur.
I have in most cases refused to censor myself. I particularly appreciate the support of my grandchildren’s parents (Hilary and Bruce) in seeing more of the good than in the potential bad.
It was only yesterday that Hilary (and Rosemary) warned me about placing a picture of Lauren where she looks a tad like an Arab as a potential problem since the date in question was 9/11. I published the picture anyway and defended my decision. I don’t think I will get any threats to my life in the next while!
Yesterday, through the usual lack of communication caused by the girls’ busy parents, they did not arrive in the morning with clothing to wear for a function at the Italian Cultural Centre on Slocan. It was the opening of new show on Venice which was inspired by a generous bequeath of books on la Serenisima by Abraham Rogatnick who died last year. Since we (including the girls) were friends of Rogatnick we knew we had to go. Central to the display at the new museum of the cultural centre is a genuine gondola that I had photographed in 1986 for the Georgia Straight.
Rosemary said that since we had to be at the opening at 5:30 that we go to the girls’ house at least 45 minutes before so they could dress up. After at least 40 minutes both girls came down. Rebecca was wearing a little black dress that showed ample cleavage and her long and shapely legs. These legs she inherited from my mother, from my wife and from her mother. She may have inherited them from me, too, as I have lovely legs!
If Rebecca’s mother had been around I am sure that she would have been told to change her dress. What ameliorated the shortness of the hemline was a nice long black coat that Rebecca got as a hand-me-down from her friend Mina. I thought she looked terrific.
When we arrived at the function I was amazed to see that Rebecca was just as well dressed as the other patrons of the museum. They were all dressed to kill and I felt out of place in my faded black jeans. Rebecca looked beautiful, sophisticated. In fact she reminded me a bit of Audrey Hepburn. Lauren in her pale blue dress, and pink ballerina shoes, was Alice in Wonderland, slumming the Venetian Carnevale.
Last night when we returned and sat down for dinner with the girls’ mother, Hilary. She was precise in saying that she would not have allowed Rebecca to leave in such a dress.
I set up my home studio (in the living room) and took some big camera snaps of the two of them together and separate. I have a nice sequence of Rebecca getting Lauren’s hair ready. But the pictures show how short the LBD (Little-Black-Dress really was and I would be crucified if I were to put it here. So what you see here is a waist up picture of Rebecca taken with my iPhone.
As my granddaughter chats in Facebook and uses her personal pink cellular phone, I wonder how much different, how much more dangerous it has become for a potentially naïve child to face the world.