Sunday, February 17, 2008

Lone and P’s Bogus Journey (especially Lone’s)

Oh, man, did I sort of catch a break last night. I mean, it was bad, but it could have been way worse.

If you scroll down a little, you should see a video presentation called Unsquare Toronto. I’ve been working on that for about a month. Time-lapse, it’s mostly made up of serial still images taken with my Rebel XT. A few segments are courtesy of my G9 (notably the ferry crossing to the downtown from the Islands, but also the colourful lights spinning and pulsing). I needed one thing to finish it… a sunset.

I’ve been planning this for ages. I picked the site, picked the angle, waited for a clear evening on a weekend. Last week’s forecast suggested it would all come together yesterday, Saturday night. P-Doug was good enough to agree to accompany me on this Quixotic quest and be my stop-watch wielding Panza. The idea was that every minute, we would take one frame. I wound up with about 43 frames I could use. Do the math; we were out there roughly an hour; longer if you count the time walking to and from.

I knew that sunset was at 5:48. After spending a long, enjoyable afternoon at The Bishop and Belcher, we took off about 4:30 to find a place to park and then set up. My intention was to set up on the sidewalk of one of the Richmond-Adelaide bridges over the DVP and shoot into the downtown core as the sun set behind the buildings.

Nothing much went right, I’m afraid. I got something ultimately passable, but not really as dramatic as I’d hoped or imagined. To be honest, we got there too late. We were plenty on time if you were just thinking about the sunset… the problem is, I wanted the sun setting into tall buildings, and that was going on around the time we were deciding to pull up stakes at the pub, not when we got to where we were setting up the tripod. So I had to be content with what I got.

Secondly, it turns out those bridges have no sidewalks, which would explain why they’re so bloody hard to get to in the first place. It took us about ten minutes of wandering around just to find our way to them. Then we were walking in the gutter as DVP-bound traffic soared past us at forty miles an hour. I didn’t say anything at the time but I was deeply grateful to P-Doug for coming along and putting up with the discomfort and the risk, and he never once bitched or acted like he was being put out. Later on I kidded him by suggesting that I imagined he’d had worse assignments (his background includes extensive work in photography in the darkroom and in the field), but not many.

We stood in a snowbank between the two streets in the fading light. By the time I set up, I could barely feel my fingers. The shoots I took were lopsided (I made a movie out of them as such, then rotated that, just the once, for the finished piece, rather than manually straightening 43 frames…). We were facing traffic, and one of our few amusements was to observe cars slowing down as they approached the two dark-coated figures on the hill with the tripod setup. Dozens of people must have assumed we were a speed trap. Who knows; maybe we inadvertently saved a life or two last night.

By the time I got set up, the sun had just dipped behind one of the tall buildings. I knew we’d see it on the other side, but not for long. I think I got about 8 frames with the sun actually in it. In truth, looking at the previews as the shots came up, I didn’t think we’d get anything usable, but as it usually turns out, the images you see on the computer screen tend to be more detailed and nuanced than the camera itself would have you believe. The few frames with the sun were actually pretty nice.

And so there we stood for nearly an hour as the sun set; P-Doug resetting the timer over and over, and me clicking the remote release in my pocket. Once the sun had set, a chill definitely settled on the hill; you could almost feel it change moment by moment. We packed up just about on the dot at six, and that’s where I made The Big Mistake.

P-Doug says, “three good runs between lights should have us on the other side”. We would run, the light would change and we would stand aside while the traffic flowed, then run, wait, then cross. This was the plan, and it worked pretty well. Except…

Earlier that day I had actually noticed that the plastic clasp on my fanny pack was getting bent in and no longer closed really securely. Why that didn’t immediately set off warning bells, I don’t know. What it amounted to at the time was, “better shop for a new one soon”. Yeah.

Somewhere on that first or second run, the goddamn thing gave way. And I didn’t notice. Can you believe that? Well, it’s true.

We got back to my car (P-Doug came to the B&B on the subway), packed up my gear in the trunk, and I drove P-Doug back to East York. The DVP was jammed, so I decided to head home up Don Mills Road.

Somewhere around the time I was crossing Eglinton Avenue, I reached down to my belt level for something. I’m not sure what. But I suddenly noticed I was skinnier than usual. Then I realized I wasn’t wearing the fanny pack.

Do you remember that scene in Pulp Fiction when Vincent realizes Mia’s dying from the heroin overdose and his panic ramps right up? Well, that was me. I pulled into the plaza where Swiss Chalet is and felt around for the fanny pack. Then I dove out, praying it was in the trunk with the rest of the stuff. No dice. And suddenly I’ve lost it all; someone else is the big winner. Yes, contestant, you’ve won:

  • An Ericsson stainless steel Swiss Army knife
  • A 256 MB CF card
  • A 2 GB SD card
  • A 1 GB data pen
  • A geoposition-logging PhotoTrackr
  • A cellphone
  • A Canon G9 with a new 4 GB Sandisk Extreme III SDHC card

Fuck!! Months of my life earning the money, stuff I’ve come to depend on, lost! Gone! I thought I was going to puke right in the trunk.

And then, Mr. Logic, so rarely a friend to me, took pity on me. Putting his powerful hand lightly on my shoulder, he took me through it step by step.

Why isn’t the fanny pack on me?

Because it fell off.

Why did it fall off?

Remember you noticed the clasp was weak?

What would cause it break?

Well, just about anything, but a lot of serious movement would probably cause it.

When have I been in serious motion lately?

Running along Adelaide Street. That’s probably where it fell off. And here’s a bonus: there are no sidewalks on Adelaide Street there, remember? Therefore, it’s unlikely anyone will have just come along, seen it, and scooped up the big prize. So if you hustle your ass back there, you just might get everything back.

In the car. Right onto Don Mills. Left onto Eglinton. Down the DVP. Off at Richmond. Park on Sumach again. Scan the lot under the bridge. No. Watch the sidewalk on Eastern Avenue. No. Cross up to Adelaide. Cross the traffic. Is that a black lump a the side of the road? Run… run!! An SUV passes me and I’m just sure it’s going to crush the lump but it doesn’t. I get there, and yeah, it’s my fanny pack. It’s not squashed flat. I open up the compartment and pull out the G9 and turn it on and it comes to life. Jesus. Take a couple of shots; it still works. Cell phone… it comes up, finds a signal. PhotoTrackr… it comes on; that toffee-nosed Englishwoman’s voice tells me it’s looking for the satellites. It all works. I stand there in the snow with Mia saying “something” after she’s been injected in the heart with adrenaline (to completely my Pulp Fiction metaphor).

I’ve only had the G9 a little over a month but it’s already a battle-scarred vet. It got a small scratch on the display when I dropped it at a basketball game. Now it has a big scrape in the metal right beside the display, and some slight yellowish discolouration of the LED pixels at the bottom right, from the pressure of the impact… either my dropping it, or some tire kicking it aside. The fly-wheel was locked solid last night but will at least turn now, though not easily. It will function, but it will be a real pain in the ass to use. Fortunately, almost none of the features requires its use. I’m not happy it happened, but it sure could have been a lot worse if it had happened on nearly any other street in town, or if I hadn’t acted as decisively as I did.

As for the other things… the 256 MB card is slightly broken open at one corner, but amazingly it still works just fine (some of the photos you’re about to see come from it, in fact). I didn’t notice till I got home but it was actually sticking right through the leather of the pouch it was in like a bone from a compound fracture or something. The 1 GB USB memory pen must have been hit by something; it was bent and there’s a distinctive dent in it. But, it too still works. Most of the stuff is a little worse for wear, but they all still seem to be functional. Oh, man.

Looks okay from the front, at least...

Here's where it landed... or was scraped along the road by something passing by.

The scape, a practice photo, and a hint of the discolouration now in the LED at the bottom right of the display.

Damage to the USB pen memory. Incredibly, it seems to work just fine. The above photos were taken with my Nikon Coolpix 4300.

First image taken with the G9 after the incident. This is looking east up Adelaide towards the DVP overpass. The blur isn't due to a problem with the camera; it's just that it was very low light and I couldn't hold the camera absolutely steady.

Better light this morning. I didn't spend time getting the colour just right; this was shot RAW and the intention is just to show that the camera seems to be working fine, in spite of everything.


I should point out that P-Doug's participation in this escapade was undertaken with him in some discomfort. He was experiencing sciatica at the time, and might well have begged off. I was aware that he had had some back problems lately, but when he seemed all-go to help me out, I put it out of my mind. I feel badly that I didn't clue in when I noticed he was having trouble keeping up on the rise to the bridges (though in his favour I'll say he impressed me on the run back... y'know, where I lost my camera and all trying to catch up!). I can only imagine the pain he might have been going through standing there for an hour, but he never said a word about it. I guess he paid for it over the next several days. I don't want to play mama bird; I think it's condescending... but still, I ought to have been more empathetic, and I'm embarrassed that I didn't get it at all at the time.


James Bow said...

Congratulations on getting your stuff back. I've been there, and when it happens, it really feels like a reprieve from the end of the world.

L-girl said...

OMG. I can feel the panic as you describe it. Thank goodness for a reasonably happy ending.