Just a week before the USA was forced to close access to its national parks and the landmarks (the Statue of Liberty, the Golden Gate Bridge) therein, the Eiffel Tower’s operating company launched its first video in tribute to the Grand Dame.
I was there, sitting in its pointed shadow, earlier this year. A somewhat reluctant tourist, in general unfazed by must-sees, I was unashamedly stunned. And then my dad died. He was snorkelling off the coast of Lifou; I was gazing at the Eiffel Tower.
Landmarks rarely match expectations, oftentimes smaller or dirtier than one imagines. But sometimes their reality is just an echo of the idea of them. A landmark comes to mean so much more in thought and anticipation; they become the land they mark.
A couple of years ago I was in a motel on the tourist end of Lombard Street in San Francisco. If you stood on the very tips of your toes you could see part of the Golden Gate Bridge. We were moving into the city and frantically looking for an apartment. Despite the stress that usually entails, that glimpse of the bridge was a sign. Mind you, the first official San Franciscan we saw was totally nude except for golden nipple tassels. It was the weekend of the Folsom Street Fair and that too should be read as a sign.
While away I never really missed home until a friend sent a link to an ad for the Sydney Opera House. I found myself clicking on it when I got carried away by the US.
Eventually we came back to Sydney and its Opera House. And soon after fathers died. And when people die there are photographs. My dad and I, posed by my mother, in front of the Big Merino, the Big Pineapple, the Big Banana; our journeys peppered with stops that have me remembering a bigger Dad with bigger stories than he ever was or than he dared to tell.
Eventually I’ll head back to the Big Things and take my own photographs. And the Eiffel Tower, which is often taken as a symbol of romantic love, to me, will always be about the love between a man and his daughter. And you can’t get bigger than that.
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