I be a good righter.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Daddy's Girl

So, it's Parents Achievement Week here in the blogosphere! Congrats to Ras' mom, who must be awesome to have created Ras! There should be an award for that!

So, listen. It's the holiday season. Which I'm sure you're probably aware. It's a big time for giving. So, I thought I'd warm your cockles (hee!) with a little story about how my dad just recently got the first award that's truly important to him!

My dad grew up in Detroit. He was a hooligan (my grandma's word). Lots of fights, lots of suspension from school, lots of drinking, girls, souped-up cars. It's all very romantic to me, hearing the yarns spun about my father's early days. Apparently he was in some gang, named after the pizza parlor where they all hung. My dad's got scars, well, everywhere, from beating up or getting beaten up by other punks (or his brothers). Okay, seriously? When I envision my dad's early years, I think he's Danny Zuko. When I envision the fights he got into? I envision West Side Story. I'm pretty sure this isn't reality, but you understand, hopefully, why I'd find it all fearfully romantic!

When my dad "graduated" from high school (after going through summer school to complete his credits) he needed to find a job, stat. He literally fell into a job at the Detrot News as a photographer. I'm assuming they were desperate since he had exactly zero experience being a photographer -- so he studied and studied photography, like he'd never studied, well, ever.

Once there, he really excelled. Maybe they saw something in him that he hadn't yet recognized. He moved quickly up the ranks (his photos on the Detroit Riots are compelling -- I'm sure this has a lot to do with it), and soon he was offered a job with United Press International (UPI). He was sent to Munich to cover the Olympics, only to find a massacre. He was sent to Nicaragua to cover the war. He was sent to various Presidential campaign trails -- when Jimmy Carter came to my hometown, I got to ride on his shoulders (uh, I was two)! Actually, my dad's introduced me to a lot of Presidents -- which is odd, because someone like me doesn't meet Presidents. But, that brings us to...

When I was ten or so, my dad was sent to D.C. to be White House Photographer for UPI (hence all my President meeting). It was when he was stepping through the White House gates that he saw a homeless guy. He took a picture. It's an amazing photo of a throng of D.C. businessmen stepping over this guy lying in the middle of the sidewalk, just outside the White House. This was at a time when Reagan was denying that there was, in fact, a homeless problem.

My dad left UPI, sick of the political climate, sick of the denial. As he learned more and more about the homeless, he realized that the true victims of homelessness were the children. One day, at a shelter, one of the kids who lived there, tried to grab my dad's camera. He wasn't trying to steal it, he was just curious. My dad let him take it. Soon, my dad was surrounded by all the kids. All curious about his camera and photography. So, he started a program. Teaching kids photography.

This is at a time when gang activity in D.C. was at an all time high. Not the romantic gang life that I imagined my dad having. No East Side Story here. This was full on murder, retaliation murder, murder -- lather, rinse, repeat. This was, "roll your window up, BooM, we're nearing 14th street" times.

So, these kids needed something to do after school. After spending *some* time in my dad's program, some of the kids went back to gang life. In fact, I remember one of them was pretty brutally murdered upon his return. But, some of them really succeeded, in a way that I don't think they would have had my dad not come into their lives.

Have any of you seen Born Into Brothels? Well, that movie is an homage to my dad. Have you seen Dogville? The photos at the end? Those are my dad's.

Oh, and then the awards:

He's been nominated for three Pulitzers, has a shelf full of awards from places or institutions I've never heard of. To my amusement, he was awarded Father of the Year... TWICE. Once by my sister and me (immortalized on some really crappy home-made blob), and then by "Parents" Magazine (an honor accompanied by a beautiful crystal award -- but, I like to think he likes the crappy home-made one better). He always brushes aside his achievements. Almost embarrassed.

But, remember back when he had just gotten his first job? Well, he studied. And, like, most people are drawn to someone unique who specializes in their field, he was drawn to one photographer. A man from the 1900s, a pioneer of sorts. This was my dad's idol. Is my dad's idol. And, this award he's just recieved? Well, it would be like me getting the Joss Whedon award. And, yesterday I received an email from my dad. Boasting! He's proud of himself! No embarrassment! This is a major coup for him, though I doubt anyone's ever heard of the award. It's a poignant moment in his life. The man he studied 40 years ago... well, yeah. You get it.

To relate this to writing: my dad had no aspirations of lawyerdom or doctordom for me. He just hoped I wouldn't become anything creative -- because he knew how hard a life it was. So, when I told him I was going to be a writer... well. Yeah. When I had a modicum of success, he was all, "I have a great idea for a story for you." Actually, he says this a lot. And he emails me a lot, with random news stories. I need to have a chat with him about that. My brain can only take so much information.

Anyway, big ginormous congratulations to my Papa!


  • At January 03, 2007 1:44 PM, Blogger Diana Dare said…

    Yaay, Papa Boom! that's great news! (and I'm sure that letter from Joss is just lost in the mail)

    happy 2007!

  • At January 04, 2007 3:33 AM, Blogger BooM said…

    Happy 2007 indeed! I hope that you and Ned had a spectacular New Year celebration and that there weren't too many mysteries to solve!

    Hugs and kisses to you, George and Bess!


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