The eleven-year old girl dangled precariously five hundred feet above the Puget Sound. The crosswinds over the water buffeted her like a pinball: right, left, down and up…
Her small voice could be heard mewling over the videotape. “Ahh… Ahhh… I want to get down!… Ah!… Ahh!”
She had a death grip on her video camera and tried to keep it steadied on the twenty five thousand people below, but each time she locked onto the crowd another erratic wind slammed her again, left, right, up, down; like a butterfly in a windstorm. She was tethered to a tiny speedboat that dragged her through the air,
“Ahhh… I want… down!”
In her father’s defense the girl had parasailed over the Sound before. The last time they were in Seattle dad and daughter shared a tandem flight, a smooth glide on a windless day over water like glass. In the ensuing year she had jumped off the thousand-foot Stratosphere in Las Vegas singing Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi” as she slid gracefully back down to Earth. After it was over she walked up to her father and said, “ “I want to do that again!”
That was the same year the girl picked up a penchant for photography which her father encouraged with good digital camera. He arranged to do an interview with one of her favorite musicians, the eldritch violinist Emily Autumn, before a small show in Northampton, Massachusetts. He told the press agent he was bringing a photographer.
In addition to being an intensely gifted musician, Ms. Autumn was also a former spokesmodel for Manic Panic, the preferred rapid hair dye for several generations of Goth girls. The daughter played along with a vermillion red haircut, striped bloomers and stockings; a small tea service in tow too.
On the night before the interview the father took her to the New York show and let her loose in a concert hall for the first time in her life. He perched on the back risers and watched her like a hawk as the unmistakably candy-colored coif made its way through the crowd. It pressed inexorably forward, step by precious step, until the hairdo arrived at the edge of the stage where it did not move except to pulsate for the next two hours. He relaxed a little and tried to watch the show.
The next day they arrived at the sound check and watched Emily perform a few of her songs in an empty dance hall. Afterwards, she was hustled over to meet the High Times writer and his photographer who, taken together, bore an odd resemblance to a shameless dad and his fan girl daughter. As instructed, when Dylan was introduced to her first rock star, she nodded professionally and started snapping pictures. Ms. Autumn, who was not a pot smoker and whose audience was an alt-army of tweenage girls, grocked the situation immediately, and, sympathetically turned to the young shutterbug, took her by the hand and said, “C’mon. Let’s go do a photo shoot!” They disappeared backstage, leaving the hapless dad alone in the empty dance hall wondering what the hell just happened.
That night Emily gave her stage access to take pictures (which was not part of the original deal). An extremely visual performer, the photos of Emily Autumn and her eccentric band were surprisingly exceptional. Sure, the kid had great access and a great camera, but many of the shots were beautifully composed and many key moments of the show were captured. Just what you would expect from a professional photographer.
That’s how she wound up sailing over Seattle in a windstorm: her befuddled dad thought she might be a daredevil shutterbug. It was a noble attempt on her part to make her father’s fantasy of an iconic clip of world’s largest protestival come true, but a wicked wind prevailed that day. There were no steady shots, just a dizzying dance of images of water, crowd and sky. The videotape was unusable through no fault of the videographer. But the sound of her pleading, “I want to get down!” echoed in the father’s mind long after the event was through. It took him years to work up the nerve to ask the question:
“What were you thinking when you were sailing over Seattle? Were you scared?”
“I wasn’t objectively afraid. I knew it was safe.”
“You were whimpering, I want to get down! I want to get down!“
“I was venting. My body panicked. I knew it was safe, but it was extremely windy, and I was an extremely small child. I was being lifted out of my seat! Completely buckled in but… the seat, the parasail and me were not the same object! I was afraid of dropping the camera… or of being flung down into the Puget Sound with the camera. I didn’t want to drop the camera.”
“You sure sounded like you were afraid.”
“It’s like… a good roller coaster is determined by how much I don’t want to be on it at the moment I’m on it. And afterwards by how much I want to do it again.”
“You would do it again?”
“Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.”