Ornaments Of Christmases Past, Lauren & Humbug Beetles
Saturday, December 25, 2010
FELIZ NAVIDAD ALEX. Siempre fuiste para mí el símbolo de ésta fiesta, que debido a la magia con la que la vivimos nosotros en Melían será por siempre algo especial.
Les mando a Rosemary y a vos, hijas y nietas un gran abrazo y el deseo de que cada vez que se acuerden de sonreir, la vida les devuelva la sonrisa. Wenci.
The email from my first cousin Jorge Wenceslao de Irureta Goyena arrived on Christmas Eve (Christmas day in Buenos Aires). It touched me as Wenci, also, sees our early Christmases in Buenos Aires, in my house and after midnight Mass as the definitive Christmasess which he describes as magia
Christmas has to be about the repetition of past events. It is a tradition of established customs that must not waver. I found out this fact quickly this year. On Tuesday December 221st I had home studio (my living room) portrait session with a lawyer and her two children. I had purchased our Christmas tree (every year I buy it at Art Knapps on 70th and Granville) on the previous Saturday. I had placed it in the dining room. I tried to explain to Rebecca, to Lauren and my wife that I could not put the tree in the living room as I needed space for my gray backdrop. The girls refused to budge on the tradition that the tree is always in the living room. So we decided that as soon as the shoot was over on Tuesday we would move the tree.
Every year we (Rosemary and I have a fight, a sort of tradition?) on our tembleque (a beautiful Spanish word used to describe uneven or shifty chairs) plastic with a water reservoir tree base. No matter how I adjust it the tree leans in whatever direction that is opposite to the one I use to push it straight. Since the tree I buy is always a large one I raise my voice with Rosemary and tell her to keep it straight. This she cannot do. This year when I noticed my temper rising and Rebecca was telling me I was a hypocrite I decided to bite the bullet.
I called Kerrisdale Lumber and asked if they had sturdy cast iron tree bases. They did. The tradition of our squabble over the straightness of the tree is now history.
No Christmas is complete in our house without a letter from my Mexican poet and novelist friend, Homero Arijdis who sends us a Mexican Christmas tree ornament made of tin. Last year’s arrived from Paris
. No envelope has arrived yet so I hope that when our postal service resumes Tuesday or Wednesday the little tin ornament will be in the mail.
In the display of ornaments you see here (we have many more) there a few that have nice stories behind them. According to Rosemary Andrea Hodge, Rebecca’s first ballet teacher gave her the little ballet slipper. The tin sofa came via our friend Graham Walker. The origami swan was made (and many more) a couple of Christmases ago by Abraham Rogatnick. The little wicker mouse is Mexican. The red wooden cart is from a set that I purchased from the Book-of-the-Month Club sometime around 1981 or 82. I don’t remember where I got the brass moon which is part of set including a trumpet and a merry-go-round horse.
I snapped some pictures of the tree with my iPhone and I thought I saw an angel on the red glass sphere.
The real Santa Claus only came for Lauren. The rest of us made the motion as we have become cynical no-believers. I missed Christmases past in when I had to go to misa de gallo
(midnight Mass) in over 30 degree heat in the stifling summer evenings of Buenos Aires. I knew I had to keep awake because upon going back home Santa Claus would have arrived. Another faint problem (which I don’t miss) is that by the time I was 9 I had made my First Communion. This meant that I had to go to communion during that midnight Mass so I had to fast, I believe 6 or 8 hours.
Now we dine with comfort before we open the presents. It seems too easy but thanks to Lauren, Christmas is still Christmas.
There is an element of Christmas that is always present and it is my bittersweet memory of Christmasses past when my parents were there. There are memories of Christmases in Mexico City when I had just married Rosemary. We had little money and our tree had few things underneath. Thanks to my mother we were able to buy a VW beetle which made things a lot easier for us but, paradoxically was responsible for three unfortunate Christmas events. In the first one we drove to spend Christmas with my mother in Veracruz. Ale was three months old and she was in a wicker crib (it had a little hood on top) in the back seat. I had recently purchased some new Firestone tires that came with free safety belts. There was no law in 1968 in Mexico that made it mandatory for cars to have belts. I had installed them. In a clear case of my reckless driving I took one curve near Veracruz far too quickly and we turned over. Ale was saved by the hood of her crib and we were kept in place by out belts. A couple in a car took a shaken Rosemary and Ale to Veracruz while another passenger from that other car accompanied me while I drove our VW (it still sort of worked) which wanted to go only in one direction but I had to manhandle to keep it going straight!
Another Christmas we were delivering presents in our VW. Alas when we returned after one delivery some thief had relieved us of the rest of the gifts we had stupidly left in the back seat. One other Christmas had a sad note. I had left our VW to be serviced that WV dealer, a few days before Christmas. I was in a bus (it was full so I was standing) carrying a baby Hilary (Lauren and Rebecca’s mother) when I felt that I was being relieved of my wallet. I yelled out; don’t take my driver’s license, to no avail. For some reason all the torn Christmas wrapping paper on the floor turns me morose.
I have another, almost, 12 months to feel cheerful in preparation for next Christmas.
Geoff Massey's Eyebrows & Biber's Fantastic Music
Friday, December 24, 2010
Our traditional cena de nochebuena
(Christmas Eve dinner) promises to be a good ending for a day that began with a punctual ring of the bell at noon. Architect Geoff Massey was at the door to pick up a couple of 8x10 prints of a picture I took of him earlier in the year. I wrote about it here
But I managed to convince him (without too much prodding) to pose for my Mamiya in my dining room where I found a suitable blank wall after I removed a large painting. I took 8 shots of the man with the wonderful eyebrows. Other people from the past that had these eyebrows that I photographed were Peter C. Newman, Robertson Davies, Pierre Berton but alas not Brooke Shields!
It was Peter C. Newman who the first time I photographed him pulled out a special eyebrow brush from his shirt front pocket. As soon as he would put the brush back his eyebrows would jump back to their previous condition much like a couple of porcupines in attack mode. Years later I ran into Newman at a bookstore. I stared at him. He looked at me and instantly understood. With a smile on his face he then told me, “I now have them done professionally.
Massey was a much easier man to photograph. I took a couple of Fuji instant pictures (I call them Fujiroids). Like most architects Massey shows an interest and fascination for everything. We sat at my monitor with the scanner on the side and I scanned one of the Polaroids. Massey was charmed by the whole operation and loved the shot which we then attached to an email that I sent to him. “I will send this to all my family.”
As I write this, in an hour I will begin to barbecue our Christmas ham, I am listening to Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber von Bibern's Rosary Sonatas
(sometimes also called the Mystery Sonatas). The CD (Andrew Manze, violin, Richard Egarr organ & harpsichord with Alison McGillivray on cello in Sonata XII) was given to me my friend Graham Walker who has introduced me to the wonderful music of the 17th century (called my many the fantastic period) of which Biber, a Bohemian violinist, was one of the best. Our local Pacific Baroque Orchestra and Early Music Vancouver have given me ample opportunity ot further explore this music.
Biber pioneered a way of de-tuning or alternate tuning a violin which is called scordatura
. The music sounds to me as fresh and as avant-garde today as it must have sounded to his contemporary audiences. For me this is more Christmas music than anything else I might listen to on the radio or in a shopping mall. I has the wonder of the yet to be explored, the very wonder we should all feel for a coming and brand new year.
Bieber's Sonata XIV, The Annunciation II
Red - The Colour Of Christmas
Thursday, December 23, 2010
For most of us who celebrate Christmas, red is the Christmas colour as much as orange is Halloween’s.
In our home we could not make do without tomatoes and onions. I always tell Rosemary that I cannot cook unless I have those two ingredients. In the last few years we have been spoiled by the sudden appearance of really good locally grown tomatoes. One particular variety that we enjoy is the Campari. They are red, very red, and juicy and sweet.
As Christmas beckons tomatoes begin to fade in colour, it would be impossible to consider the tomato the Christmas fruit or the vegetable. And only an imported watermelon from the Southern Hemisphere might provide us with that Christmas red.
Some might assert that the cranberry would be a likely Christmassy candidate. I would personally reject it as the cranberry came into my life, quite late, when I arrived to Vancouver in 1975. Still, my family, and especially Rebecca has a fondness for my home made cranberry sauce. I use whole berries and instead of water I use fresh orange juice. I add orange zest and a little nutmeg to my mixture. Rosemary spreads it on her breakfast toast.
For me it is the red bell pepper (pimiento morrón
, in my Buenos Aires) that truly has that Christmas red. I use it almost as often as the tomato. Rosemary is forced to buy it in quantity to get any sort of discount. I use it for my pasta sauces, on my homemade pizza, in soups, in almost all my salads (except the cucumber salad) but I like it best either in pieces with Maldon Salt (the way Lauren, 8, likes it) or grilled in my barbecue after I have smothered it with olive oil.
The botanical name given to the red bell pepper and almost all of the sweet (not hot) peppers is Capsicum annuum
. In the last few years the folks at the National Geographic
have finally arrived at the fact that all peppers, (the hot ones and the sweet ones) all originated in Bolivia. Through trade these pepper migrated north to Mexico. When Cortez and Pizarro arrived in the New World they took peppers back to Spain. These peppers crossed from Extremadura (the land of Pizarro and Cortez), Spain to Portugal. From there Portuguese navigators and explorers took them in their ships around South Africa (the ones left there became the extra hot and tasty piri-piri peppers) to India.
Not usually known by most that enjoy hot food is the fact that the Sichuan pepper is not a pepper at all. It comes from the prickly ash shrub or Zanthoxylum. The varieties are usually Z. simulans
or Z. piperitum
commonly called the Japanese Sansho peppercorn used in Japanese cooking. It is illegal to import Sichuan “peppercorns” into the US because this relative of the citrus family can carry a canker that could destroy the Florida citrus crops in an instant.
We in Canada who enjoy Sichuan dishes can be lucky that there is no import ban in Canada. There has to be at least one positive advantage to be too cold to grow oranges and lemons!
Some careful readers here might note that one of the bell peppers is not quite red. Indeed, Rosemary thinks that grilling peppers of different colours (including the almost flavourless green ones) makes a beautiful sight. The pepper in question is an orange one and as far as I am concerned it will never replace pumpkins at Halloween.
Early Music Vancouver - Concerts With Friends
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
|Paul Luchkow & Michael Jarvis|
In previous years I have attended all sorts of Early Music Vancouver concerts with my granddaughter Rebecca. It got to the point where by age 7 she knew the difference between a viola da gamba and a cello. I am sure that most reading this would not know that difference, or would you? She could also differentiate the sound between a baroque violin and a modern one.
But of late, after all she is 13; Lady Gaga seems to be her ticket. I cannot understand because my musical tastes, paradoxically at age 7, were nonexistent and by age 13 I was no better. My “sophisticated” musical tastes began when I was 16.
I cannot figure out how an ear that had grown accustomed to the likes of Pier Paolo Pandolfi, Arcangelo Corelli, Antonio Vivaldi, Johan Sebastian Bach, Dietrich Buxtehude and even the Austrian/Bohemian Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber von Bibern, could now listen to Lady Gaga on her iTouch (which I confess I bought for her). The 17th century Biber has been made even more obscure by modern search engines that will most likely connect you to Justin Bieber.
The answer I get, from most of my friends I complain about the loss of my baroque concert companion, is the usual, "It's a product of her age and that some day she will return. You must have patience.”
Meanwhile I consider myself lucky to have one particular friend, the graphic designer Graham Walker who is always game to listen to a gut-stringed instrument or as was the case last night, Early Music Vancouver’s Festive Bach Cantatas for Christmas at the Chan, which featured five unusual instruments, two oboes da caccia, two natural horns and a violone.
Walker and I have attended 9 year’s worth of these Bach Cantatas (about 40 of them), presented by Early Music Vancouver, which feature a mix of brilliant local talent with some singers from abroad and specialty musician who play, in contemporary terms, instruments that most of us would not recognize.
Even with her memory of her baroque past, fading, Rebecca could tell you that any concert featuring soprano Ellen Hargis and oboist Washington McClain would have to be very special.
|David Douglass, Rebecca, Ellen Hargis|
And special it was. Tonight’s performance at the Chan was like having Christmas Eve dinner at home with family. Many of the performers we have seen for years.
We notice that they sometimes change their names as violinist Natalie Mackie who used to go by the name of Nan. We notice that Natalie sported a new hair do. We noticed that leader and virtuoso violinist Marc Destrubé still wears weird shoes. And every time Walker sees Destrubé on stage he makes the comment, “If he had red hair he would be the spitting image of Antonio Vivaldi."
I have given several nicknames (kind ones, I believe) to members of the Early Music Vancouver concerts. Many perform for the Pacific Baroque Orchestra. Violist Steve Creswell, exuberant with the smile of a saint gazing on the Madonna, I dub the Happy Bear. His equally exuberant cohort at the baroque cello, Nathan Whitaker, is Koala Bear.
|Dr. Eric Vogt|
In baseball many players have amulets to give them luck. I believe that the same situation exists for musicians. Destrubé has his special concert shoes and keyboardist, organ and forte pianist, Michael Jarvis has his special florescent red eyeglasses.
When Graham and I sit down for these concerts we notice all the above. Last night we looked forward to listening to Ellen Hargis’s soprano voice (she is my favourite soprano who specializes in the baroque) which is pure and clear but to which she injects a warmth that is most uncommon.
There is very little preaching to the converted. Most who attend (and in this case packed the Chan Centre) are habitués of Vancouver’s thriving baroque and early music scene. Perhaps it is thriving because Early Music Vancouver’s Artistic Director and his board (including that most generous Dr. Stephen Drance) have a secret formula for relieving stalwart, penny pinching and thrifty business leaders from their money.
Going to these Early Music Vancouver concerts gives one the opportunity to meet with people sans facebook and Twitter and to look at them in the eye and smile. These concerts, after so many years, have become a tradition of the predictable. No matter how surprising and fresh baroque composers can sound today there is a comfort to be had in meeting up with people who share one’s taste for music. I have observed how they have changed and become older and stouter (they probably see the same in me). Some of my friends are not there as Abraham Rogatnick who died last year. It is specially fun to have chats with members of the orchestra (they simply step down from the stage) as we did with violinist Paul Luchkow. It seems that it was only yesterday that I spotted a young cyclist at Hemlock and Granville. I went up to him and said, "Sir you look like a baroque violinist." He was dumfounded. But I had cheated as i had attended one of his first concerts in Vancouver. A few months later at a concert I went up to him and said, "Sir you look like a cyclist." It wasn't only yesterday as Walker and I asked him about his son Oscar. "He is two," Luchkow told us.
That predictable pattern of meeting up with friendly faces has its special moments. I always seek out Dr Eric Vogt who used to preside over the UBC cyclotron. Last night I addressed him, “Sir, are the particles still charmed?” His answer, he stood up from his seat to do so, “Yes, they indeed are.”
And then I spotted a man wearing new and recently polished shoes and a nice suit. On his lapel he had the Order of Canada. “José [Verstappen] where are your Birkenstocks?” His answer was something like this, “The Order of Canada does impose a dress code.”
Ah! The pleasure of attending a wonderful concert amongst friends. Rebecca, hurry up.
The Prince of a professor & the man in Birkenstocks
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Today I had a job in my home studio. It was fun and as soon as I was finished I enjoyed the comfort of knowing I really did not have to do anything more of importance for at least a couple of weeks. But I must bring in money while the kettle is hot so I must scan the processed transparencies and develop the rolls of b+w that I shot. This means that my tasks for the year are not quite over. But the stress of worry is not to be for the remainder of the year. I will enjoy, eventually, not having to do anything, or even to get out of bed. I will read, drink all the good teas I have (and a brand new, and extra big ceramic mug) and cuddle, not only with my wife, but with our two cats.
I will spend some time (an enjoyable one) in my darkroom printing some negatives of Rebecca and of some clients who wanted Christmas portraits. Being in the darkroom out of choice and not of necessity is rewarding and even exciting. Most of my contemporaries have abandoned film and the darkroom and I feel now that I have joined the exclusive guild of the French Polishers, Spark Plug Gap Adjusters and the wet darkroom.
But that does not mean that I cannot indulge in the sheer joy of being at my monitor, with that large mug of tea, some good negatives or slides and that Epson V700 Photo scanner (thank you Charlie Smith!). The pictures you see here are the direct result of that scanner and the time I now have in my hands. I am discovering stuff I shot so long ago that I filed without even more than a cursory glance.
My eldest daughter is in town from Lillooet and staying with us. Yesterday I wrote about her and our trip in the Fiat to San Francisco. While looking for those negatives and slides I found these which I took in 1981 at Lynn Canyon.
I look at the pictures and I remember my mother because of a connection that is there by omission.
As a little boy and well into my late youth I used to hear my mother complain how her hair was unmanageable and much too straight. I believe she might have inherited her hair from one of our ancestors, the Roxas who were Chinese/Filipino. My mother wore her hair up with a bun behind very much like Katherine Hepburn in some of her films with Spencer Tracy. The bun consisted of a doughnut made from some fake hair to which she would carefully wrap the ends of her very long hair (down to almost her waist). On some days her hair would simply not cooperate. Sometimes she would blame it either on the hot or cold humid Buenos Aires climate. In Mexico City this was not an issue but she still complained.
My eldest daughter Ale has hair that is naturally wavy, thick, heavy and simply wonderful. Since I can remember she has hated her hair because she says it is much too heavy. She has chopped it, layered it and even gone for heavy metal type of cuts. But in the few years where she just let her hair be it was glorious.
That was the case in 1981 when we went to Lynn Canyon in North Vancouver and I suggested to Ale (who was 13) that she put her hair in the cold water as it rushed by. She protested but finally consented. I never did anything with the pictures. I recently found (and lost but I will find again) some Kodachrome versions of these. I used an extreme wide angle, a Pentax and Kodak Technical Pan Film. This film (I have written about it before) was rated at 25 ISO and it was the sharpest film ever made. An added bonus was its sensitivity towards the red spectrum. This means that anything red (like freckles, pimples, etc) was rendered almost invisible. It had a bit more contrast that I would have liked but the combination of contrast and red sensitivity made skin resemble the finest marble.
I would like to point out here that I have about 30 rolls of this film in 120 size (!) in my freezer just waiting for the perfect model.
That perfect model could be my Rebecca who of late has refused to pose for me. Her hair is just like Ale’s, thick, heavy, naturally curly and simply glorious. For the last couple of months she has opted to straighten it. I tell her that she looks like someone who would haunt the Metrotown Mall while chewing gum, but the insult has been to no avail, until recently. There has been a change.
Her new male friend has indicated that he likes her curly hair! I cannot wait to take some pictures. Kodak Technical Pan Film in 120? Perhaps.
Riding Shotgun With The Boss
Monday, 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.
We were tired and hungry but not hungry enough to eat out so we went to a gas station and purchased some cheezies, chips and a National Enquirer
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.
Sunday, December 19, 2010
Like most men, until most recently, I always found it hard to ask for directions when I found myself lost. In Mexico City I could go anywhere without getting lost as long as I took bus routes. I drove our family VW on bus routes which I knew by heart. Getting there sometimes seemed to take us in roundabout ways (it might have been the route of the Mariscal Sucre, or the Lomas Chapultepec or even that long winded bus, Circuito Hospitales, Cuarteles Tlanepantla) but I always got there. This was different when Rosemary and I drove into the interior of the country. We would get lost. When I would ask (after Rosemary insisted and after a bitter shouting match on how men were stupid about maps and had no sense of direction) I would ask some kindly native on a burro who would tell me, “Tras la Lomita,” or “behind that hill.” It is a fact that most of the people I ever asked for directions in Mexico did not know but they invariably gave me detailed directions to nowhere.
After about almost 40 years of marriage (Rosemary and I now have been married since 1968) it dawned on me one day that Rosemary was terrible in going places and had no idea on how to read a map. When Rosemary wants to go to town she asks me for directions and this always involves me directing her first to take the Cambie Street Bridge which is the only route she sort of knows. To this day when she has to go somewhere by herself she is antsy about getting lost. But consider that if you give her any address in Vancouver she seems to know some formula that escapes me, and she will place you within a block of where you are going.
In Buenos Aires I knew how to get anywhere via trains, subways and colectivos (buses). I never did drive nor would I ever attempt to drive in my place of birth. Some of those 12 lane avenues with no dividers or painted lines would freeze me in neutral for ever.
In Mexico I learned to drive and to drive aggressively. If you don’t, you will never be able to get into a freeway or out of it. I do think I have a very good sense of direction and I used to pride myself in knowing how to get to one of Mexico’s more obscure streets, Chopo Street.
In Vancouver I soon learned the few shortcuts (usually these involve the few diagonal streets like Kingsway or Puget) driving cars from my Tilden Rent-A-Car station on Alberni to the airport, Burnaby and other Tilden locations. Before I became a little old man we used to joke and never drove on South Granville (you have to stop for little old ladies that cross the street) and we always took either Fir or Hemlock but we knew to avoid Hemlock on Sundays when there was only one lane each way as parking was permitted.
To this day I can get anywhere in Vancouver quickly because I know the routes that involve fewer traffic lights or traffic.
It is different when I try to navigate to Richmond. I am confused by streets that are numbered (Number 5 Road) and not named. In Mexico I would get lost in the city of Puebla as all streets were a big number plus poniente (west) or oriente (east). I could never adjust to that method since I would confuse oriente with poniente (but not the easier to remember este and oeste). You see I am a dyslexic and I have problems with numbers, left and right, etc.
My sense of direction is in my brain much like a birds. I know where I am going because of an inner compass. That compass is not embedded, as far as I can ascertain in anybody in my family (including my son-in-law who still gets lost after printing out a Google street map.) The only one with whom I do share the talent is my younger granddaughter Lauren. And I believe my eldest daughter Ale can navigate anywhere with precision.
Some months ago we were on Rosemary’s Cambie Street Bridge and Lauren asked me if we were going to the Vancouver Public Library (I invariably take that bridge to go there). I had to tell her that it was not the case and that we were going to the Vancouver East Cultural Centre. I go there via Beatty Street, right on the Georgia Viaduct and straight down Prior to Venables. It is quick.
Sometimes when I pick up Lauren at school she knows I always turn at VanDusen from Oak. If I keep on going (perhaps I am going to Oakridge) she will invariably and immediately ask me where we are going. Lauren knows her way around.
Rebecca is entirely another thing. She has no idea where west or east is. Forget about north and south.
Today she went on her first real date with her new friend (I have been instructed to not even mention his initial!). They left school and somehow managed to get to Rebecca’s house by bus without getting lost. There the boy had to pass inspection with Rebecca’s father and mother. From there they took an Oak Street Bus downtown. They arrived in town at two. They were keen on seeing Tron-Legacy
at the Scotiabank Theatre at 3:30. At 3:15 Rebecca called home to say they were lost. It would seem that early in life Rebecca’s young man will not ask for directions. Rebecca’s father became miffed. Rebecca called again and talked to her mother. That did not help.
Hilary, Rebecca’s mother called me to tell me to call Rebecca and give her directions. Hilary (who is also a dyslexic) twice gave me Rebecca’s new cell number reversed. By the time I did get the right number Rebecca wasn’t answering.
The good thing is, that the couple arrived a bit after 3:30, and they were unaware that most films begin with long previews. Somehow they were directed to see a better film which began later, The Black Swan
. I am sure that Rebecca was able to show off her knowledge of ballet and dance to the young man with the not so keen sense of direction.
After the film the couple did not know how to get back home. This involved finding the Oak Street Bus stop (not more than three blocks from where they were. They got lost and called home again.
It will be my priority to show Rebecca a compact map of the Lower Mainland and teach here about the streets and where they go. I will take her in the car and cross all the bridges and show her where she is.
I am sure that Lauren, will be thrilled!