Riding Shotgun With The BossMonday, December 20, 2010
On Saturday I downloaded some maps of Vancouver and of downtown Vancouver and had a little session with Rebecca, aka La Perdida. We then got into the Malibu and I drove her downtown explaining the city layout and how on this side of the bridges the streets run north/south and avenues east/west. I explained that in Vancouver an avenue is not necessarily a wide street. I explained that the situation with streets and avenues breaks down in the city core because the city core is a peninsula that is tilted west on a North West axis.
As we drove I had a feeling of familiarity but I could not put my finger exactly what it was. That evening it clicked.
When my eldest daughter Ale was 14 she was a bit rowdy, had a temper which caused her once to kick a hole in her bedroom wall. I thought (Rosemary did, too) that her English (me an a bunch of guys) was terrible (she was going to a French immersion school in Coquitlam called Centennial Secondary. Even though my daughter was obviously a soon to be woman(something that perhapas I was oblivous to) I thought that what she needed was a “man-to-man” situation with her father. I suggested to Rosemary (who gave us her blessing) that I drive my Fiat X-1/9 mid-engine sports car to San Francisco and take Ale along so that we would “bond”. We went during the Christmas vacations.
Before the trip I bought every Bruce Springsteen tape I could find including The River. That was going to be the music we would listen to in our trip.
On the first day we managed to get to northern Oregon by night fall. I chose a motel. When we went in I noticed that the man behind the desk was looking at us funny. I figured why very quickly. I tried to ameliorate the situation by saying, “Ale, why don’t you call your mother?” The man looked at me with disgust and threw our room keys at me.
I don’t remember much of our trip except that I took some pictures in the Oregon coast using my 20mm wide angle lens. We also had breakfast at Bodega Bay which was the location for Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. I remember one early morning, somewhere in Northern California. It was sunny but bitterly cold. I removed the top and stored it in the front trunk. We drove with the heater full blast and with Springsteen full blast, too. I soon discovered that we talked little.
When we arrived in San Francisco I felt like Steve McQueen driving his Mustang in Bullitt. I was navigating San Francisco’s up and downs when suddenly I heard a clunk every time I shifted.
The problem was a constant velocity joint that had cracked. Once the wheel had been taken appart the constant velocity joint was as good as Humpty Dumpty after his fall. We were in a fix. The only remaining Fiat dealer in the city told me that the part was in National back order. The man at the dealership(adding insult to injury) offered to buy the car. I found (before the internet and purely with a land line phone) the part in Surrey, BC and had it delivered (before Fedex) via Air Canada to the airport. The car was repaired and we drove back home.
At the time Ale was in the 9th grade. By the 10th grade, Rosemary told me that she wanted to put Ale in a private school. We chose York House because from our house in Burnaby there was one bus that took her straight to the school that is located on King Edward and Granville.
That we had to send Ale to a private school suggests that my man to man did not quite work. In retrospect it all seemed so much simpler and the problems not so grave in comparison with those that Rebecca has to face at 13 now, today.
But judging by how Ale has turned out (splendidly!), it seems that in most cases children do just fine, in spite of their parents or meddling (in my case) grandfathers.
When I look at these pictures, no smiles, almost stark, I know that something has not changed. And this is that I approach my portraits now very much as I did then. The pictures of Ale look so much like those that I take of Rebecca. But there is one difference. This difference is that as a first time father I took pictures of Ale from afar. I almost made no effort to get in close. Ale had a wayward eye. It was an unsettling wayward eye. It was sometime painful to look at her. It was almost as if that wayward eye, the Mexican "mal-ojo" could penetrate into my skull. Is that why I took so many profiles? As I look at these pictures I get the idea that Ale would have known that my attempts of a "man-to-man" bonding had to begin with me looking at myself in a mirror first. But these early portraits of my Ale do attest that I would I soon learn to get in close and to not avoid that wayward eye. When I photograph Rebecca and she gives me one of those disarming stares into my camera I can look back with no hesitation. As Rebecca drifts away into her teens, I just might be lucky to have her come back, someday, just like Ale has. As Ale has taught me, it all comes with patience.