Category Archives: James Lawless

Convertible Summer

I don’t know if it was growing up in frigid Brockville, Ontario, Canada, or the repressive practices of nuns in Catholic School but almost from the beginning of his life as a “landed alien” in the United States, my father was crazy about convertibles–Mustangs, Pontiacs.  Even though he lived most of his years in places with limited summers–Minneapolis, Denver, Washington DC, Santa Fe–he loved the free feeling of driving with the top down.  Many, many years after the groovy 70s picture above, he met my husband and I and our year-old son, Harry, at the airport in Tucson, Arizona, in a Chrysler convertible whose back seat was too small for Harry’s car seat!  If they have them in heaven, my guess is he’s driving one.

Hooray for Hump Day! Summer Pleasures

Robbie learns to ride a bike.

Summers with our dad in Minneapolis meant the simplest joys — bright summer nights of tag and kick-the-can, running over the neighborhood with a pack of kids with no schedules or agendas, wearing clothes we could get dirty and shoes we could wear out, and of course riding bikes.

Family Photos on Chanel Bonfire

One of our last summers in Minneapolis with our father.  A friend of the family took this amazing series of the three of us in the park.  Thanks to the publication of Chanel, they resurfaced as if from a time capsule or the messages Robbie and I stuffed into coke bottles and dropped from the QE2 as our mother sailed us away.


Sunday In The Park With Dad

One of the unexpected joys of publishing Chanel has been the unearthing of photographs from friends and distant relatives.  (This one is from a series taken by an old Minneapolis friend one our last summers with our Dad.)  As you can imagine after reading the book, not very many pictures or keepsakes made it through with us — things were lost in storage, destroyed by our mother or simply left or abandoned by us as we tried to run faster and faster from our past through a long series of houses, rooms and apartments.  


Summers with Daddy — Carnival Rides

Robbie & Me

One of our last, if not our last summer, with our dad (James Lawless).  I’m not sure where this rickety old ride is but I think maybe the Minnesota State Fair.  You can still find these old warhorses at county fair grounds and little mom-and-pop amusement parks all over the country.  They may not have the scientifically engineered spills and thrills of the giant rollercoasters at Six Flags or Cedar Point or Disney World but, like Coney Island’s famous Cyclone, they have their own special kind of terror: they may fall apart at any minute!  The old herky-jerky movements, loose nuts and bolts and shakey scaffolding seem to have been a part of rides like these since they were new.  There even used to be tiny ones driven around on flatbed trucks that would come to neighborhoods like an ice cream truck bringing little thrills for a quarter.  Our Mother (Georgann Rea) took us to Disneyland once on a trip to Beverly Hills–the Beverly Hills Hotel and its Polo Lounge being more her idea of amusement.  But as wonderful as Disneyland was, its calculated charm couldn’t quite match the grinding gears, sunburned shoulders and sticky days of fairs with our dad.  What are your memories of local amusement parks and fairs?  Let me know in the comments or email me at  

Uncle Chuck’s River

Me and Robbie on Uncle Chuck’s River

My father’s hometown, Brockville, where he would take us sometimes in the Summer is on the St. Lawrence River in Ontario just downstream from The Thousand Islands and just north west of New York State.  We called it Uncle Chuck’s River because our Uncle Chuck (my father’s brother-in-law) lived in a house on stilts over the St. Lawrence.  

Happy Canada Day from Chanel Bonfire

Robbie with Grandma Lawless
My father (a “landed alien” who never became an American citizen) called his mother, Anne (Annabelle) Lawless the Iron Duchess.  She went to church every day and spent most of the rest of her time ruling the family from a seat at the kitchen table in Brockville, Ontario, drinking seemingly endless cups of tea.