Generally speaking, I feel blessed to have the brothers-in-law that life has dealt me. In-laws as a rule can be a nightmare of bickering and resentment. Not so with mine. Eduardo and Gustavo Cardier have been like brothers to me from the moment we met. However, when it comes to cameras, they're a downright curse. Allow me illustrate a few examples, and I think you'll agree.
December, 2004, Club Puerto Azul, Venezuela
As recently as 2004, Alex and I recorded our memories the old fashioned way--with a non-digital camera. Often we were mocked for clinging to the old ways, but we loved our little apparatus, a worthy Canon that had gone with me on my first transcontinental foray--a study-abroad in Austria in 1997. Back then you had 32 pictures per roll and you took every shot as though it were your last. Well, the Canon took its last shot during, of all things, a game of miniature golf, not in Austria, but at the Club Puerto Azul in Venezuela. My beloved cuñado, Gustavo, then a wily eight-year-old, was growing bored with the game. Instead of putting from the tee of the 15th hole, he took a full and mighty swing. I, unsuspecting, with camera dangling from neck, was standing all too close. Gustavo's follow-through hit the Canon squarely, dashing it to oblivion forever. Hardly contrite, he cackled with glee at seeing the fairway littered with the shattered ruins of my first camera.
December, 2005, Madrid, Spain
A digital replacement for the Canon was procured for our relocation to France, but it was in Spain that our latest camera, a Panasonic with a Lumix lens (recommended personally by the preeminent photographer, Spencer Tunick) was to meet its fate. We had ventured south to pick up Eduardo in Madrid, so that he might fulfill a longtime dream of seeing the Futbol Club Real Madrid play live and in person. We met him at the airport and at once handed over the camera, knowing he would want to document this life-changing trip to Europe. After fetching his baggage, we descended into the subway. As we entered the train, a pack of Gypsies, in the guise of ordinary passengers, surrounded us. Not fooled, I turned to face them, determined to protect my camera and family from this band of ruthless thieves. Alas, we were outnumbered and my efforts were in vain. One of them, a young woman, plucked our Panasonic from Eduardo's backpack and made her escape. The subway doors closed, but it was not over yet. I pried them open again and leaped to the platform, snagging the Gypsy by her scarf. Alex, meanwhile, fanned Eduardo, who had fainted in the chaos. While I tussled with this hellcat of a Gypsy, she tossed the camera to another, a moustachioed co-conspirator. A security guard separated me from the girl as her accomplice raced to the exit. I pulled the guard's pistol from his holster and fired three shots, the last of which I'm sure grazed the Gypsy's thigh. I was not shooting to kill, only to disable. Regrettably, I was tackled now by a team of security personnel and the weapon was wrested from me as the Gypsy limped to freedom. No doubt I would have been arrested, but I explained our plight and the guards drew a map to the nearest Corte Ingles electronics store, where we bought an identical replacement.
August, 2008, Amagansett, New York
No golf club or Gypsy was to do in our next camera, but the treacherous sea. Our second Panasonic served us well in the interval between Cardier visits. Unfortunately it was Gustavo's turn to come and see us, this time in the USA. We picked him up in Chicago without incident, then drove to Ohio and New York, where we frolicked in the city, snapping photos to our hearts' content. Soon, a week had passed, and we went further east, to Amagansett on Long Island. Feeling more confident, too confident perhaps, Alex and Gustavo brought the Panasonic down to the beach. At that moment, a dusky shape appeared on the horizon, tattered sails held up by a half-rotten mast. The sun ducked behind a bank of clouds and glimpsed what I had feared--the Jolly Roger boldly fluttering in the wind.
Pirates! Already the swarthy crew was rowing to the shore, swords drawn and thirsting for blood. Naturally, my first instinct was to protect the camera, but Gustavo, ever the free-spirited rapscallion, had already snatched it from Alex's hand was dashing into the surf. I could see it by the wild look in his eyes: a pirate's life was what he wanted, and he meant to record his adventures in crisp digital images.
I was having none of that, not with our camera anyway. I plunged in after him and snatched the camera as I was surrounded by cutlass-wielding cutthroats, all demanding I hand over the "booty" that was our Panasonic. Instead I threw it toward the shore, toward Alex, though I knew her chances of catching it were slim. And catch it she didn't. It bobbled in her hands and fell softly into the sand. Soon a gentle surf washed over its black carapace and I moaned a lament.
Quickly I gathered my senses. I was surrounded, armed only with a bit of driftwood I had picked up from the beach, a feeble weapon in the face of so much flashing steel. The shallows of the Atlantic was to be my watery grave. The pirates leered and laughed and were about to run me through when cannonfire sounded. I was saved. A royal ship full of redcoats chased the scurvy dogs back to their wreck of a boat. I snatched my brother in law, gave him a Dutch rub as punishment, and dragged him ashore. Alex was waiting there, shaking the camera in dismay.
This thing's screwed, she said, shooting her brother a dirty look that said: and screw you too!
So there you have it, McBoners. The sad tale of our cameras, but I do not finish without a ray of light. The Panasonic is in the shop, and we've purchased an inexpensive Kodak to be used by Gustavo for the rest of his trip and for any other encounters with those darn Cardiers!
Camera statistics in the Cardier era:
Number of our cameras used: 4
Number of our cameras ruined: 3
Total dollars lost: untold millions
Pictured above: Alex with camera-destroying brothers Gustavo (left) and Eduardo Cardier