Friday, January 17, 2014

Week three – A tribute to a great man

“Talent and Imagination are to a Human Being what the hands are to a clock, without them it has no meaning”
Maestro Sergio Snyder

This was a phrase my father said to me the day I turned 18 and he told me I was going to London to study English for 3 months. It is a very emotive phrase because encompass two things my father had – Imagination and Talent, and those where what he was hoping I would develop as I left Mexico City in October 1985. We boarded an Aeroflot plane bound for Moscow where we would spend 5 days together. He was on a business trip conducting meetings for his travel agency called “Magallanica”. I had the opportunity to enjoy seeing the fascinating and intriguing USSR. At that point in my life I had only made a few trips outside of the hustle and buzzel of Mexico and this was all an amazing new experience. Moscow was an opportunity for my father to show me something new, completely different to what I was used to. And I was so amazed by this mysterious country and city that it left a mark in my mind, an imprint that would never fade away, a time with my father in a strange yet fascinating place. He was at this point cultivating my imagination.
After the five days in Moscow we flew to London where I would make my residence for 3 months. But his first task was to settle me in and he rented an apartment in Mayfair. 17 Audely Street, London, I still remember the very fashionable address. And it was only two minutes from Selfridges in Oxford Street. Remember I had never been so spoiled in my life and it was all like a dream, something I had never experienced before, and I was enjoying it with my dad, a man that up to this point had been I figure I had always admired because of his flamboyant and elegant life style, a man who lived with Imagination and a man with tremendous talent, someone I aspired to be. It was just the two of us; for five weeks, father and son time that we never had before. He was a busy man who travelled a lot and I saw periodically when he was back from his trips.
And at that moment as we shared a flat in London I thought he was being a great dad giving me the opportunity to see Russia and to go to England to learn English for three months, that was the plan, that’s what he told my mum. It was fun, exiting and different and I was set to return to Mexico after that, I had a very “busy” acting career back home and this trip was just a break from it. Little did I know that his plans where more than that. If the truth be known, I was an unemployed actor who had left school when I turn 17 and was getting no acting jobs. Instead I was hanging around with my best friend in an “acting and dancing” academy, waiting for something to happen, drinking and going out perhaps too much.
What my father was setting for me back then was not just a trip to the USSR and to visit England to have fun and learn a few English phrases. He was concerned that I had lost my way and focus to be an actor and this trip was his way of cementing my new life, my new future. This trip would help me refocus and pursue my dreams, my ambitions to be an artist in a country very close to his heart. My father was educated in England and he spoke a flawless English. He admired the English and relished the culture. And he knew that the best school for a young actor was here in London. He didn’t know at that point if I would return to Mexico after the three months, he would not be able to stop me. All he could do was to show me what there was on offer and hope I would make the right choice.  I myself did not know at that moment if I would stay or return, I don’t think anyone knew, but his vision of a better life for me was all he could seed into my mind, the choice at the end would be mine. And I did not disappoint him and after three months I asked, “Could I stay longer?” and he immediately said yes. I think back then he felt he had accomplished what he had set himself to do, to give his son a new lease of life away from his routine and what seemed back then a wasted youth. He knew I had desires to become a famous actor, and yet I was doing very little towards it.  My father was a very talented artist, a great piano player and it hurt him that none if his 4 children even played the flute, so when I had shown signs of wanting to be an actor, he knew he had to do everything he could to help me follow my dreams.
I was probably a rubbish actor as today I’m not on the silver screen, but his efforts and vision for me did not go to waste and thanks to him today I have a great life. Living in England gave me the platform to develop my talents and imagination, the two things that he so much wanted to cultivate in me, and here I am today writing this blog in his honour, 28 years after he took that boy out of Mexico wanting to give him a better life.
I entitled my blog this week “a tribute to a great man” and it may seem a little unusual how I am writing it as I have spent so far the majority of the time talking about me rather than him! But this is for a very important reason.
Anyone who had the pleasure and privilege of knowing my father better than me could share more intricate stories and anecdotes about him. Some people may even claim to know him better than I do. And they would be right. I cannot tell you hundreds of stories about my dad, as we did not spend a lot of time together. I cannot share with you anecdotes about my father and I; we had little adventure time together. I would not be able to tell you what he liked or disliked, what side of the bed he slept in, what was his favourite chair in the house or what he always had for breakfast. My father and I did not play football on a Sunday or watch a movie on a rainy Friday afternoon. So I cannot give you the usual tribute most people would give about their dad. But what I can give you is better than that.  Yes I may have missed all those moments most people have with their dads when they grow, but my tribute to my father today is to thank him for giving me a chance to change my life and become what I am today. I sometimes wonder what my life would have been if I had not stayed, if I had returned, if I had not chosen what my father had given me. There is no better tribute to a great man than to share with you who I am.
And I don’t mean to imply I did not know him at all. I do have memories of my father, an exiting, adventurous and exotic man. He knew people from all walks of life, from high society in England and India, to hard working honest people around the world. He was a true artist, and an accomplished pianist who moved people with his talent. He had the ability to make you feel good and special, he could tell stories and tales that would keep you entertained for hours, he knew about wine, food, sent, seas, cities, civilisations, countries, history, religion. He could hold your hand and make you feel safe even after he let go. He had a smile that said humble and loving yet powerful. He had time for everyone, even if he did not agree with you. He could cook, sing, write, swim; I don’t think there was anything he could not do.
His love for travelling and his desire for exploring the world led him to be away most of the time. This in itself brought a huge distance between him and I. But he had an ability that not many people have. He was able to make every moment you spent with him special. Every time we met, he would educate me by sharing good food, wine and books. Although the times we saw each other were scarce, he would take me to the theatre or to a concert and infuse that desire for art. The little time we would spend he would read me poems or share phrases to get me to see the beauty of the world. He knew our time together was limited and he try to bathe me with as much culture and fascinating views of the world as he could leaving me behind to process and soak it all in until our next time. These were the formation years of my youth, a time crucial for anyone, and all the time he was pointing me to the right direction, to become what I am today. I often said I could have gone off the rails; I was alone in London, with no one to tell me what to do. And the late 80’s, early 90’s were a time where “sex, drugs and rock and roll” were back in fashion. Yet he was doing something, in those few times we saw each other, which kept me on the right track. He was doing what any great dad would have done; give his son a goal, an illusion and a desire to succeed in life. He believed in me, in my talent. Without his support and encouragement I might have not reached what I have done so far. My values and personality are a reflection of what he cultivated all those precious moments we spent together.
Time with him became less and less and as I matured and became I guess more aware of the world and realities around me, we began to loose touch. His lifestyle was different to mine. I had to become independent and start to look after myself, and life isn’t always as fascinating as my father made it to be, some time life became hard and even cruel and I had to deal with those realities. He was a true artist and in a sense some times not fully in touch with my realities. This was to be the biases of our separation and eventually those 15 years of silence.
Towards the end of his life we kindled our relationship again, we patched things up and it didn’t matter what had happened, we just picked up from where we left. I’ve no doubt that he was disappointed during those 15 years we had lost contact and neither him or I were prepared to make an effort to speak, he had his life and I had mine. But that doesn’t matter, I can never deny that thanks to him I am what I am and I hope he felt proud of me. Thought not a famous actor, I have accomplished a lot, and there I was, in Moscow, doing well, the day he died, just as he wanted 28 years ago.
There are moments in life, which get imbedded in your mind and I want to share one of those moments with you. Sometimes those moments seem magical and for the first time it all starts to makes sense. If you know what I am talking about you would know those moments that give you the shivers, that stand the hairs on the back of your neck, those moment where you finally know why and how things happen. That moment came to me on Monday as I looked outside my hotel window in Moscow after I was given the devastating news of my father passing away. I stood there for a few moments looking at Red Square, I was in Moscow, the same place I had seen for the first time with him 28 years ago, the same place he had taken me to start my new life. Was this fate? Was this a message for me? Was there a sublime meaning to this? There I was standing looking at the first place my father and I landed the day I left Mexico for a new life. Red Square was staring me in the eyes as if to say, “Remember who you are”. The place where my new life began was right in front of me, like a painting that had been hanged in front of me to remind me of where it all began. I was not meant to be in Moscow that day; this trip had been arranged last minute on the Friday. I arrived the day he would peacefully leave us to finally rest after his two year suffering in silence. I was meant to be in Moscow when he died, this would be the sublime moment for the rest of my life to remember my father for who he was, the great man who gave me a chance to build my own life.

He leaves behind a legacy of memories which many people share.

Maestro Snyder touched the lives of many who will remember him for what he was, a talented man who lived with imagination… and now the clock has stopped but the memories will live on.

I love you dad… forever.

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