The long, long drives I used to take to school, on my own, in my two-toned burgundy Dodge Caravan. Never ending, winding, farm strewn roads, seasons changing again and again around me, road kill becoming once again, one with nature, day by day. I drove those roads in daylight and darkness, with smiles and wind tousled hair flying out the sun-drenched windows, and I drove those roads in tears. Many, many tears…rain down, come on rain down on me, from a great height… I was an emotional girl.
The first time I made that living-memory drive, I nearly drove right off the road, my burned rubber tire tracks remaining there until they covered with snow. It was my first day of college, and it seemed as if the stress and anxiety had gotten the best of me. That drive has come to represent my entire college existence. It’s funny how these things come to be, how the trip you take every day, solely because there’s no better way, becomes an extension of you; a glitter-filled snow globe holding three years of your life inside.
Beyond the drive, what I think of most when I recall these times is the snow. I can’t be sure if these thoughts have manifested from the winter weather which surrounded my drama filled birthdays (everything was always drama with me) or from the projection of winter we watched that day in film class. A silent 8mm film reel someone had found at a stranger’s garage sale. We loaded it up onto the projector, turned out the lights, and all sat in silence. I feel like we all connected with each other a little that day, all eyes on the flickering screen, a black and white image of an elementary school in winter. The snow fell softly on screen, settling on the shoulders of wool coat clad mothers ushering their children into the school. And that was all.
I remember it was snowing the morning Erin and I got together to re-do my 16mm Bolex film project. She filmed me, standing in front of a church in my black pea coat, laughing as I pretended to break off my fingers, which had turned to ice inside my inexpensive gloves. We were out there on Lakeshore, in the cold, that morning before class because I had screwed up the day before. The project, that is, not the day. The day lives happily on.
The assignment: load up a Bolex and shoot some pretty footage, and also, create a photo storyboard with a still camera. I teamed up with good friends Erin, Drew, and Wes, and took my maroon van to Toronto to have some fun with this project. As the boys were off with their camera, Erin and I were in the back of the van, in a parking garage, trying to load the film into ours. How does one do this? Well, you need a dark bag of course so as not to expose the film, which means you must do it by feel. The other rule: you must set your camera to 12 frames per second. I don’t remember exactly why, but I did this, as instructed, and managed to successfully load the camera.
So proud of ourselves, Erin and I hopped out of the van to meet up with the boys and shoot all of our pretty footage around town. After a fun few hours of filming, we decided to turn into a deli for a coffee and a snack. It was one of those days when you find yourself in the company of great friends, feeling like everything is right in the world, with an honest to goodness smile on your face. I popped into the bathroom and my silly smile continued as I sat there, happy, on the toilet, until… It wasn’t anything bathroom related that wiped that smile off my face, but the memory, time-traveling through my mind like the tracking shot out of the garbage can in Fight Club, back to the van in the parking garage. TWELVE FRAMES PER SECOND! I hadn’t set the camera speed back to 24 after loading. What I had on my hands was an entire film shot in fast motion. The assignment was lost, to be re-shot the next morning, half-assed in Oakville, cold in front of a snowy church.
After we left the Toronto deli, we decided to drive back to Oakville, and complete the photo storyboard assignment there, at our usual Coffee Time. This way, we could get the work done and enjoy a coffee at the same time. These were the days when I whole heartedly did enjoy a coffee from Coffee Time. Oh, and throw in a bagel with cream cheese for good measure.
The photo storyboard project was a hilarious success, bringing me closer than ever to the Coffee Time floor.
I am lucky enough to have been able to keep these treasured shots, as they were taken with my mom’s old Pentax. Erin is missing from the shots as she, obviously, was the photographer. Rounding out this memorable day, we found ourselves back at Drew’s (or was it Wes’?) apartment, sitting on his bedroom floor sorting through the pictures, listening to The Wall, and reliving memories related to Comfortably Numb.
Its hard to believe that this day was thirteen years ago, it hardly seems possible. The maroon van is long gone, and those long, country roads are no longer country at all, rather they are subdivision strewn. The road kill graves long paved over now with 8 lane highways and guard rails, but regardless, the air is the same, and my heart still beats a little faster when I’m there.
And as a little post script: A few other photos from 1997…