But for Maserati of America and their badly misguided promotion I never would have taken this photo.
Here’s the story. I got a mailing from Maserati suggesting that if I test drove one of their cars I would get a $100 gift certificate. What marketing list did they get me from? I mean, with a love for wild and rugged places, and three kids with car seats, bikes, trikes, scooters, friends and fellow travelers, do I look like a viable candidate for a $150,000 sports car described as an “affordable” Ferrari that compromises between race track and road? 450 horse power under the hood is a great rush, but inquiring minds think, “Nyet!”
Something was terribly off-track with this marketing campaign, but Nicky, our five-year old has watched the movie Cars an infinite number of times and is sports car mad. If Maserati wanted to pay me $100 to take Nicky sports car driving, who was I to say no?
So I called Maserati of San Francisco in Mill Valley (now there’s an oxymoron!) and made an appointment. And a couple of days later picked Nicky up at his pre-school and showed up at Maserati Nicky and car seat in tow, where “Alessandro” was snooty as all get out and basically told me to forget it.
So I went next door to the Ferrari showroom (it turns out that Maserati and Ferrari are both owned by Fiat) and Nicky got to jump in and out of Ferraris, and a nice salesman named Evan, with three kids of his own, took us for our test drive in the Maserati. For a minute there I felt like a power stud sports car king gunning those 450 horses on the short on-ramp to 101 at the Sausalito entrance under the shadow of the Golden Gate, and Nicky had a great time.
Nicky had such a great time, in fact, that I figured we should do it again, even without the gift certificate. So I tried to think about what kind of vehicle might actually sort of qualify as a sports car and that I might realistically take into the back of beyond. Anyway, Nicky and I ended up driving a red Porsche Cayenne at a dealer in Walnut Creek. (Nicky’s verdict: “Good, but not as good as the Maserati.”)
Since we were already out in Walnut Creek, after we had driven the car I took Nicky to the Jungle and then for dinner to an Elephant Restaurant. My not so devious photographer’s plan was to end the day at sunset on top of nearby Mt Diablo.
What I didn’t know then that I know now was that Nicky was coming down with an intestinal virus that would knock out 15 of the 24 kids in his pre-school class, reduce the teachers to wiping all surfaces down with bleach, roll through my family, and present me with another sick child vomiting in another restaurant a few days later.
All this doesn’t really come into the story of the image of Mt Tamalpais from Mt Diablo, nor does the fact that Nicky took a couple of bites of his Mac-and-cheese, said, “Daddy, my tummy doesn’t feel too good,” and proceeded to vomit. More vomit than I could image coming out of the body of this small five year old, filling bowls, plates, and the entire banquette seat of the booth we were sitting in.
We paid a belated cleanup visit to the bathroom, I scooped out my loose bills to partly pay for the damage, and you can imagine we got out of there fast.
Nicky said he felt better, and I didn’t really know what was to come, so I suppose as a parent I don’t need to feel too bad that I took Nicky at his word and headed up nearby Mount Diablo to photograph sunset. It’s a pretty quick, although winding, road from the Elephant Restaurant to the top of Diablo, and it is a sign of how unwell Nicky was feeling that he didn’t even take much interest in the little bit of snow at the top. In fact, Nicky’s contribution to the top of Diablo was a little more vomit.
I took a look at the view reversing my normal view of Mt Tamalpais and Mt Diablo, saw how sick Nicky was, snapped this photo, and headed home.
And that, in somewhat the same spirit as Arlo Guthrie’s conflation of his ticket for littering with avoiding the military draft in his song Alice’s Restaurant, is the story of why I owe this photo to Maserati.