A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


Grasshoppers, Butterflies & Snow
Monday, December 03, 2007

While snorkel diving near the Gulf of Mexico Isla Sacrificios, off Veracruz I happened to step on a sea urchin. The Mexican Red Cross could not help me much as most of the needles broke off, painfully, on the surface of my feet. A year later in 1967 the last of the glass-like needles was ejected by my body. Since then I have had the attitude that the sea is out to get me and that I must be resolute and careful when in it. I feel the same about snow. I respect both.

In my years in Argentina the skies brought us plagues of grasshoppers or white butterflies in the millions. Pamperos, or winds from the interior, brought dust that almost clouded the sky. But I never saw snow. I could look at the horizon on the pampa, turn my head around 360 degrees with nothing, except maybe a lonely ombĂș ( a large tree-like shrub of the Argentine Pampa), breaking the pleasant monotony. The closest I ever got to snow in Buenos Aires was watching my father spray our Chrismas tree with a can of Noma Snow, a few days before December 25th with the contrast of temperatures that hovered around 35. It is summer down there.

My first glimpse of snow, real snow, not the picture kind, happened in Mexico City in 1955. When I arrived there, the skies were transparent. There was no pollution to hide the beautiful volcanoes, Popocatepetl and Ixtaccihuatl. I did not touch snow until sometime in the late 60s when it snowed at higher elevations near Mexico City in a place called El Desierto de los Leones (the Desert of the Lions). It melted before I could decide if I liked it or not.

In my first year in Vancouver, around late March 1976, while working at Tilden Rent-A-Car (on Alberni Street, across the street from the Ritz Hotel), I predicted snow. I was told by everybody working there that I knew nothing of snow and that it never snowed in Vancouver in March. My fellow workers made a bet with me and the prize for the winner would be a coconut cream pie (my fave) from the White Spot, around the corner on Robson Street (at the time there was one between Thurlow and Burrard). It did snow and I was forced to eat the whole pie in one sitting. My knowledge of things snow has not improved since I made the decision to never eat coconut pie again.

I don't ski as I am afraid of breaking something. As a freelancer I would not be able to make money during such a mishap. Driving in the snow is something I try to avoid but I must admit that Rosemary's Audi gives me a tad more confidence. If I don't have more confidence it is that sometime in 1977, Rosemary and I slid helplessly down Prince Rupert to Grandview in our Arctic White (that was the name of the colour) Mexican-made VW Beetle. Our beloved car was only the 10th or 11th in an eventual 28 car pileup that happened because of the the icy conditions during a January snow fall. It was the totalling of the Mexican Beetle that led us to buy the worst car of our life (after those two Fiats and that Maserati), a used Rabbit that suddenly stopped on the old Connaught Bridge (the one with wood instead of pavement) while almost being rear ended by a Cambie Street trolley.

But seeing the white stuff gently flutter down from the relative comfort and safety of my living room was a pleasant experience yesterday. That pleasant experience was shortlived as it contrasted with my taking Hilary (Rebecca's mother and my daughter)in the evening to emergency where she had four stitches to the back of the head. On her way for dinner with us she slipped and fell not far from our house. But then Hilary was born in Mexico and snow is a stranger to both of us.


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Aldous Huxley, Simone Orlando & Lilly The Cat

Sarah Strange Starlet - Not

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