The caption sucked you in didn’t it? “Drive By Shooting”…it’s a sad commentary on society and the state of art when this kind of story get’s attention but that is the way our MTV, FOX, iPod, Twitter, Facebook, etc. media generated minds work now. Back to the ‘Drive By’…
The drive south down 99 from Whistler to Vancouver was brilliant. The sun finally pushed through the five-week canopy of cloud and the curtain opened to five meters of fallen snow in the past 24 days. Meanwhile, I realised almost immediately that I had fallen into the three most regrettable pitfalls of renting a car.
Number one: never get into a rental car without you sunglasses. Granted it is November on the wet coast so a sunny drive on a day forecast for heavy rain wasn’t expected but I own a store that sells three of the coolest brands of sunglasses out there, have shades stashed in back packs, in my glove box (my wife had my truck) and otherwise scatter them in any number of places around my home and office on ledges and window sills where I meant not to forget them…but step into a shiny new Hyundai from Avis…you get the picture. Note to self, when you get home put a pair of sunglasses in every bag.
Number two: no tunes. No hook up for my HTC Mp3 phone (no iPod dock…not that I have an iPod), no Bluetooth, no CD’s (although the player is marked clearly ‘MP3’…even Hyundai gets that we burn them)…just the radio. Mountain FM? God no. I mean, yes it works, but no. Enter XM Radio (XM2 actually…do they need 2?). Leave it to Hyundai to add XM but no jack for auxiliary hook ups…and to add insult to injury they call it a ‘full size’? They must be made in, well, somewhere with very small people. XM and I develop an inevitable love hate relationship within minutes. Every specialty commercial free station you can imagine categorized by music genre, decade, nationality, a million talk stations from comedy to sports to news, even religion (do they still have that?), every station that is except one that is playing a song I want to listen to. Seek, scan, stop, XM Elvis, 60’s Pop, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s…end of a good song, damn! OFF!!
Finally, the third and hardest to swallow of all rental car pitfalls – especially for hardened Whistler locals like myself who drive full size 4×4, 4 door, Chevy Silverado pick-ups with one of the coolest line ups of stickers ever assembled on a vehicle and, by the way, gets better gas mileage than the Hyundai – the rest stop photo op. It doesn’t matter how core I am or what hoody I have on or what time my meeting with Patagonia at Granville Island to see the 2010/11 winter line up is (yes, already) when I sit down in a rental car I know I will drop my camera ready to shoot in the passenger seat beside me and be resigned to stop at the first rest stop with a view and take a few shots like every other tourist and be humiliatingly recognized and at the same time welcomed as one of them. I can’t fight it, or bother to explain to the guys in the big truck – like mine at home – loaded with sleds who are obviously local and only stopped for the call of nature that happens whenever there are more empty cans of Monster than passengers. I give in to the urge and like a bar star who says she only smokes when she drinks, I pull over and suffer the loss of inner discipline that self righteously drives locals everywhere from interrupting their commute by selfishly enjoying magnificent surroundings like ours…dummies!
The tragic irony of the rental car is that, for me anyways, it is the ultimate excuse and licence to not be cool (except of course for the dorks in Hawaii who insist on renting the Mustang convertibles thinking they are cool). So my pride intact, I pull up on the Tantalus view-point, grab my camera from the seat beside me, fold myself out of the Hyundai (still squinting from the drive south into the sun…no shades), dressed in my city clothes – black shirt, black jacket, black Vans – and lose myself in the grandeur of this place I am so blessed to call home. Go ahead, I think to myself, “Screw the cool guy standard…Claim it!” (MSP, In Deep 2009)
The rolling summit due north is a scene straight out of Alaska…’click’…every rock and tree and shadow line a canvas of white beneath the pale blue sky of morning, and down the valley the snow line on the pines is churning in the smokey mist and warmth of the sunlight seen so rarely this time of year…’click, click, click’. I love the pure imagination of it all…even the digital sound of a shutter release embedded on a chip programmed to echo from the little speaker on my camera to add to the nostalgia of my experience every time I snap a shot like I am Ansel Adams in 1930’something 3 months into a cold winter in Yosemite…brilliant. Another car drives up and snapped back to reality I wonder for a moment what time it is, put the lens cap back in place and fold myself back into the Hyundai and stop. I look again through the windshield at the smokey trees…and get back out for a few more…one more for the road. I laugh to myself and think, ‘I love being a tourist’, and head on down the highway listening to Mountain FM.
It’s awakening to find inspiration in my own time…in my own back yard. What have you passed by lately? or daily? Is there some place you know you’ve always wanted to stop but never have the time? (ie. When your on your way to wait 10 minutes in the line at Starbucks or Wal-Mart or London Drugs? – sorry, no line ups there.) It’s right there outside your window, just a step outside the comfort of your shiny metal box, yes, it’s right there. Stop. Just stop.
Back to the ‘Drive By’…need to hit Vancouver, Granville Island by noon. Bathroom break in Squamish, resist the ridiculously priced CD’s at Chevron even though they have a copy of ACDC’s Dirty Deeds…where will I ever find that on CD again? Answer; right there, forever…and don’t even think about the shades on the shiny spinny chrome rack thingy on the counter. Three words, ‘Made In China’, and while I’m at it, why not add one word to that oh so familiar phrase stamped across some ridiculously growing double-digit percentage of our economy that might just sway the buying and manufacturing habits of the western world, ‘communist’. If every second item you purchased was labelled, ‘Made in Communist China’, would you think twice? Just a thought. Two Mocha Monsters for $5.00, an old school chocolate puffed wheat square and I am back on the road.
The drive by shooting begins somewhere on the descent to Stanley Park on the Lion’s Gate Bridge. I look in the rear view and see the perfect reflection of the suspension towers behind me, the city scape in front just above the mirror, wrap the neck cord of my camera around my wrist – just in case – open the window and fire off a round of black and white’s (I pre-programmed a B+W high res mode on my digi) at arms length out the window from the driver’s seat. The first shot amazingly catches an oncoming car completely obscuring the city view above the mirror but captures a perfect mirror image of the bridge and the traffic behind. The next two or three catch the view of downtown Vancouver between the cars, through the suspension cabling, above the tree line of Stanley Park. Here we go.
I rattle off a few more down West Georgia; homeless guy in the soft focus silhouette of the moving trees (moving @30km/h past Burrard), big sign on the Vancouver Art Gallery, cool soft cover on the back of a Silverado like mine, the underside of the Granville Street Bridge at False Creek, a painting through a wood framed window where I parked, and think to myself, “Drive By Shooting…Drive By”. Don’t call the MOT (BC Ministry of Transport) for an opinion on this one, don’t even take mine or think what you think I am suggesting (I accept no liability, blah, blah, blah…). Just think of the possibilities. We have all done it (haven’t we?). Eaten a grape at the grocery store, pocketed some cool meaningless trinket, ridden to the store without our helmet, gone into the back country alone…snapped shots from airplane windows, on the bus or train, taken pics of funny road signs, people, other cars, vistas…this is just the natural progression of the art of every day. It gives new meaning to ‘Street To Peak’ (ha, ha…just thought of that now!). What better place to get it started (not that I am starting anything) than Street To Peak.
Imagine you are a tourist today. Yes, at home or sitting where ever you might be reading this. How many photos did you take on your last week or two escape to somewhere else? How many letters and/or post cards did you write? (Better question – how many did you send?) Did you get out your journal or a pile of napkins and write? and fill more pages than you have in the past six months of the every day? Imagine you are a geeky tourist in a rental Hyundai with no iTunes, squinting into the sun, drinking Monster Mocha, eating Fish and Chips from Tony’s (the best on Granville Island) from a box on the passenger seat, searching for a good song on the local radio, snapping photos of the sky on a dark rainy bridge after a day of stopping at view points and rest stops just because life is good and you don’t know for sure when you will ever be here, right here, right now, again. Imagine if that today was every day.
Where to start? Wait a minute…before you dust off your SLR, load it in the car and hit the road, don’t miss the point. (I can see the type A’s and OCD’s packing their sunglasses and CD’s already.) In the immortal words of Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while you could miss it.”