Kate & Anna McGarrigle At The Holiday Inn StepsWednesday, June 20, 2007
In my first year in Vancouver in 1975 I worked for Tilden Rent-A-Car. When I answered the phone (I was promoted from washing cars to the counter desk in 4 months) I had to say, "In Canada it's Tilden, may I help you?" I learned lots at Tilden. I learned not to rent to black people or native people as they were bad risks. I broke this rule a few times and the cars disappeared and I was almost fired. But I did learn a few useful things. In jockeying cars from our downtown location on Alberni Street (across from the Ritz Hotel) to the airport I discovered Vancouver's few shortcuts and back alleys. I have a very good Vancouver GPS in my head thanks to Tilden. While I didn't feel part of Vancouver that first year at least I got to know it well.
A few days ago I was walking west on Helmcken Street and when I arrived at the corner with Howe, I cut through the hotel courtyard of the Holiday Inn that is there. As I walked south on Howe, I saw a step well and I suddenly felt a tingling of memory in my head. I knew I had been near it. I instantly remembered I had photographed the McGarrigle sisters on it sometime in the late 70s.
I can understand how butterflies and birds find their way. They have a more advanced body GPS than I do. I can be driving through some street in Vancouver when I might not have driven through in years and something in my head tells me that I have been there before. It is nothing paranormal. It's just my brain's ability to seek and find coordinates in time and place.
As a 8-year old boy I remember when my mother could not return with me in the train from Belgrano to Coghlan (one stop) at the end of a school day on those special days she had to stay at school for meetings. She would put me in the train and Mercedes, our housekeeper waited for me at the other end usually with a Noel chocolate covered vanilla "Revello". When I traveled alone on the train I looked out of the window and noticed the neighbourhoods and their streets. Once without my mother's permission I took that train alone and walked from the Coghlan train station home (6 blocks). I arrived without getting lost and was given a spanking for my efforts. I feel that thanks to this childhood "roaming" I have a keen sense of direction and I know where I am at most times.
I worry about Rebecca who is picked up, delivered here and there and rarely walks in her neighbourhood. When she is in the car with me and we are near her house I ask here where she is. She usually does not know. So I have been teaching her a bit about the streets of Vancouver. Rosemary's new Audi has a compass that is built-in the rear view mirror. Rebecca and I have been talking about sur and norte and oeste and este. She is getting her bearings. We have to make up for lost time. One day I will take her to the Holiday Inn stepwell and tell her the story of the McGarrigles.