So Mama Don't Take My Videomatica AwaySaturday, May 07, 2011
Din! Din! Din!
You Lazarushian-leather Gunga Din!
Tho' I've belted you an' flayed you,
By the livin' Gawd that made you,
You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din!
Kodachrome, they give us those nice bright colours
They give us the greens of summers
Makes you think all the world's a sunny day, oh yeah
I got a Nikon camera, I love to take a photograph
So mama don't take my Kodachrome away
Simon & Garfunkel
|Johnny Weissmuller photo by George Hurrell
I was born in Buenos Aires and that city's presence in my psyche is indelible. Almost as much is Mexico (Mexico City, Veracruz and the mining town of Nueva Rosita in the northern state of Coahuila). Even my five years (formative years) in Austin have left a lot of Texan in me.
I have no equivalent overpowering soft, fuzzy and warm feeling for Vancouver. And this, even though Vancouver has been most kind to me since I arrived in 1975 with my two Mexican born daughters and Canadian wife. But I feel an inordinate measure of pride for what this city offers.
Vancouver to me has all the features of a great American city without too many of the less attractive trappings that are part of the American (USA American) experience. Few cities besides Vancouver (Portland perhaps?) have a growing population in its inner city core.
In the 80s Vancouver was a big city with a provincial attitude (provincial with a small p). It was a big city because it offered Kodachrome processing. There were few others in North America!
Kodachrome is gone and its processing left Vancouver as soon as Kodak shut its doors on Howe Street. But Vancouver retains at least four labs that process Ektachrome. For this digital photographer who hand loads his cameras with film that has a paper backing this is still a big city indeed.
I tell my Argentine cousins that the electric clock in my kitchen tells accurate time. They do not believe me. I tell my friends in Mexico City that Vancouver’s 110 volts are so steady that the electric motors of refrigerators last forever. They do not believe me. I tell my Argentine godmother that buses in Vancouver are driven by courteous drives and that the buses are clean and even allow for bicycles, wheelchairs. She does not believe me and when I add that the buses lower themselves so that people like her (she is 86) can get on the bus with no danger, she is incredulous.
he piece de resistance is when I tell them that if I lose my driver’s license I can get one in under an hour with no bureaucracy. They say it cannot be true. I don’t tell them that here in Vancouver we have the option not to vote (it is mandatory in Argentina except during military dictatorships) and that we do so in schools that are walking distance from where we live. I tell them that there are no soldiers or guards. I tell them that there are no guns of any kind at these voting stations.
But when I want to really brag about Vancouver I tell them of our Vancouver Public Library with its tremendous collection of books and films and that I can order my choices on line and that they are delivered to my nearest public library while being informed via e-mail.
Then I tell them of Videomatica where I can find just about any film I have ever seen or want to see.
It was perhaps 6 years ago that my Rebecca, then around 7 years old was hanging from our banister like a monkey. I told her that I wanted to show her something. I opened my George Hurrell book and had her look at a photograph of Johnny Weissmuller. Then I ask her to get into the car with me and we go to Videomatica to take out (it was a VHS at the time) Tarzan the Ape Man. We return and see it together. Within hours she is hanging from the banister but this time she is making monkey sounds and attempting Weissmuller’s chest beating yell.
A week later we watch Gunga Din with Cary Grant, Victor McLaglen and Douglas Fairbanks jr. After the film I read her Kipling’s poem. Gunga Din is followed by Sahara with Humphrey Bogart and many more after that. How is one to compensate for that rush of films with perfect animated rats that talk with the voice of Johnny Depp? I compensate with films that show real people talking and where Rebecca has to imagine that Humphrey Bogart is truly driving a General Grant tank and pursued by Germans in a desert back lot in Hollywood.
Videomatica has been a treasure into the great films of the past that cannot be found at Blockbuster or downloaded from Netflix. It has been a treasure into the great films that may have come to Vancouver, even a few months ago that nobody ever noticed.
Videomatica is the only place in Vancouver where you will find Carlos Saura’s Goya in Bordeaux.
|A film by Carlos Saura I took out from Videomatica last week
People constantly complain of the mediocrity of our Vancouver Sun, yet it always has to be John Mackie (who originally came from Alberta as a manager of a punk band called Popular Mechanics) to tell us, so well, but so sadly how the good things that have made our Vancouver a great city are disappearing without us noticing. And so today Mackie has informed me via the Vancouver Sun that Videomatica will be no more sometime by the end of summer.
Fortunately my Vancouver Public Library has many of the other films of Carlos Saura even if Goya in Bordeaux is not one of them.
King Solomon's Mines
The Corsican Brothers