Family and Love

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                                                                Chapter Excerpts:

                                        Chapter One: Bristol, England, 1945-53

     The first eight years of my life were spent in Bristol, an English city located in the northern part of Thomas Hardy’s Wessex.

     Bristol had been the second largest city in the British Isles for over five hundred years. With its’ prime location as a major seaport on England’s west coast, it became a haven for pirates, merchants, and explorers over the centuries, and also served as the northern apex of the slave-trade triangle between Britain, Africa, and America.

     I had two brief excursions outside England during those eight years, both involving consecutive trips to Africa, where my father had found himself a teaching position in a small school outside Nairobi, Kenya. These two trips were made when I was three years old.

     My young Nordic body wasn’t able to adapt to the searing heat of equatorial Africa, and I returned to Bristol initially from the first trip, managing to recover somewhat from the effects of extreme heat.

     But not long after my unfortunate return to Kenya,  I was soon on a second trip back to Bristol with my mother. This time our family doctor diagnosed me with chronic encephalitis, and assured her that if I was brought back to Africa for a third time, I would die for sure.

So my father reluctantly returned to England for a few more years, before deciding to head out again for another remote, but less torrid, part of the world, Canada.

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     What I remember most favorably about my early days in England, are the times I spent with my dear granny on my mother’s side of the family.

     Granny used to take me out for walks, and amazing walks they were, up and down the roads of Henleaze, the Bristol neighborhood where we lived.

     We always ended up going along streets which were lined on both sides with all sorts of small shops, among which were several candy shops and  toy shops. Sooner or later, we inevitably wandered into these stores.

     The candy stores were usually sort of dark inside. All around me, on the counter-tops, were huge glass jars containing various sweets of every color and flavor. Behind the glass display counters were rows of chocolate bars, among which Mars and Crunchie were my favorites.

     I also recall having an affinity for sherbet, a powdery substance which you sucked up through a liquorice straw, which could itself be devoured after the sherbet was all gone.

     When we invaded the toy shops, it was nearly always for the purpose of obtaining some new soldier or cowboy for my small army of metal troops. Or we might purchase a few tiny animals for a toy farm which I can vaguely remember owning. And there would also be the occasional Dinky Toy, a little metal steam-roller, or a double-decker bus, or a garbage truck, on those special days when granny had a little more money.

     Thus, with these assorted tokens of love from my granny, I spent many a contented hour playing by myself in that private, beautiful, inviolable world of innocence, the child’s mind.

     I had some other toys as well, of course. There was a wind-up train which spent many an evening and many a rainy day speeding around our living room floor. I also remember having quite a few jig-saw puzzles, which easily took the better part of a day to assemble.

    A white and brown stuffed dog named Sandy slept at my side each night, and crossed the wide ocean with me when we eventually sailed out of Southampton.

     No doubt there were various other toys also, but I have long since forgotten them.

                                                              …………

     Another person who stands out strongly among my memories of  England is a boy who was my best friend at school, Peter Jeffries.

     Peter and I made a great pair. I was a  thin, scrawny kid, and Peter was downright fat.

     We went to a typically English school, where we wore blazers and school caps, white shirts, school ties, grey-flanneled shorts, grey knee-socks, and brown sandals.

     As is the case with all young boys who are the best of friends, we had our occasional fights. And that is how I best remember Peter, for the way he looked after one of our fights.

     His glasses would be hanging askew, while he held his cap tightly in one hand and used it to brush the dust from his clothes. One knee-sock would be down around an ankle, while the other one always somehow managed to stay up.

     His dirty face would be streaked with a few tears, as would mine, and sometimes a scraped knee served to indicate that we had engaged in a more extensive battle than usual.

     But hostilities were always short lived, and the most that was ever needed to wipe out any lingering resentment between us was a night’s sleep.

                                                                    …………

     A girl around my own age named Linda Carr, who lived next door to us, also stands out in my memory because of an incident that happened one Guy Fawkes’ Night.

     As we were shooting off fireworks in her back yard, one went the wrong way, hitting her on the head, causing her hair to catch on fire.

     Some man ran over immediately and smothered her hair in his arms, instantly extinguishing the flames.

     Her hair was just slightly singed. Her scalp wasn’t burnt at all.

     But I still remember clearly a pink ribbon she’d worn in her hair that night.

     It too had caught fire. As the man covered her head, the ribbon fell to the ground and lay there burning. Someone else stamped on it and put it out, leaving only a small piece of charred pink material as a testimony to Linda’s near tragedy.

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                             Chapter Two: Stockton, Alberta, 1953-54 

    In August of nineteen fifty-three, shortly before my eighth birthday, my family and I left England and set out for North America. 

     After a week of sailing across the Atlantic on the RMS Scythia, we docked at Montreal. From there we boarded a train and traveled four thousand miles due west, to the flat  prairie land of the Canadian province of Alberta.

     There we settled in Stockton, a little town situated on the main highway between Calgary and Edmonton.

     Fields of yellow wheat stretched all the way to the Rocky Mountains on the Western horizon, under a clear blue sky. It made for the first panoramic view I can ever remember being really impressed by, other than the sight of an iceberg which happened to drift past our ship, as our Atlantic crossing was ending and we neared the Gulf of St Lawrence.

     We arrived in Alberta late in August, and early in September I entered the local elementary school. Upon entering this new school, I wrote a number of placement tests so the administration could determine into which class I should be put.
     My results indicated that I was intellectually ready to enter grade five, but in Alberta eight years of age is not quite old enough for grade five, the normal age for that grade level being ten. I was put into grade four, where I was still about two years younger than most of the other pupils
     At one recess period during my first few days there, I received my first exposure to the sport of baseball. Not knowing quite what to expect, but wanting very much to be accepted by my classmates, I stepped up to the plate with bat in hand.
     I guess the game had appeared to me as some sort of a variation on cricket, but honestly, I can’t ever remember having played cricket much back in England either.
     Specific memories of the incident are hazy, but I did manage to hit the ball when it was thrown at me. I took off like crazy down towards first base, bat in hand, at which point some of the other children started yelling at me to drop the bat.
     Confusion set in. You didn’t drop your bat in cricket! I ran blindly on to the first base sack, hit it with the bat, and then turned and ran back towards home plate.
Howls and yells rained down on me from my classmates, who naturally couldn’t understand where the hell I had learned to play baseball like that.
     As I stood confusedly at home plate, bat still in hand and wondering what to do next, another student from my class stepped forward to help me in my dilemma. Her name was Monica Kruger. She had recently emigrated from Germany.
     Due to her lack of ability to read and write in English, Monica had also ended up in grade four, although she was eleven years old. When she realized the predicament I was in, Monica came over to me and put her arm around my thin trembling shoulders.
     I let the bat fall and she led me off to the side of the playing field. In her comforting voice with its’ German accent, she explained the rules of baseball to 
me, and probably a few other things too, such as how she probably had also had to go through a lot of heavy changes herself in trying to adapt to this strange new Canadian environment.
                                                            …………
     In that old Alberta school house, as in most other school houses across Canada, it was customary to sing ‘Oh Canada’ every afternoon following lunch period.
I really felt alone when that happened. Nostalgic in my own private eight year-old way, I stood by my desk and stared out through the classroom window.
     We were on the third floor. Yellow wheat fields also stretched to the Eastern horizon, just as they did westward. The lyrics of the Canadian national anthem buzzed around me as my classmates’ voices rose in song.
     My mind silently turned in on itself for a few brief moments of undisturbed introspection. There I was in the middle of some strange new continent, amongst people that I didn’t know. I felt very homesick for England. I don’t remember it being for anything or anyone that I specifically missed from back there. The homesickness was just a sort of very intense fear of the uprooting process through which I had just been put. I guess it made me feel quite insecure.
     To this day I can’t remember any reasons or explanations having been given for the journey which had brought me half way around the world from what I had known as home. Probably I must have been spoken to at some point before the journey, and everything must have been explained to me in a very logical manner.                  
     But all of it meant nothing to me as I stared out of that classroom window, through blurry eyes with a throat that felt all wrong.
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                             Chapter Three: Quebec, Spring/Summer, 1954

     Besides our trip to the candy store, there was another event of major importance which occurred every Saturday morning. This other one took place at the bottom of the street where the railroad tracks passed.

     There were three sets of tracks there. One was a rust-coated old sidetrack which was hardly ever used. Another was the mainline, along which all the regular traffic moved. The third, which lay between the other two, was a siding that was used whenever two trains had to pass one another while going through Harding in opposite directions.

     Every Saturday morning, the schedule of an east-bound freight train and a west-bound passenger train coincided in the town. Naturally the diesel driven passenger train had priority over the freight, which was pulled over onto the side-track by one of those amazing steam engines. So once a week, at ten-thirty every Saturday morning, all the kids on the block would gather  at the bottom of the street to watch the freight train slowly move onto the siding, where it would then wait until the passenger train had passed through.

The passenger train would slow down quite a bit on its’ journey through town.  We could see all the people inside the train, eating their breakfast in the dining car or relaxing in the other cars.

As the engine rolled by, the engineer always had a wave for us, which was the great thing about train drivers that unfortunately didn’t happen a lot with other people. Those train drivers always had time to smile and wave at a kid.

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                                       Chapter Four: School in Harding, 1954-57

     Before I wander too far from the realm of bubble-gum cards, I have to pay a small tribute to Madame Majeur. 

     She ran a small general store about half a block from the apartment where we were staying that Winter in Harding. Her store sold such articles as soft drinks, milk, bread, chips, candy, newspapers, cakes, and bubble-gum cards. 

     In her own way, she was something else.

     She used to have her own private collection of hockey cards, which she kept behind the counter. She knew her regular customers in the bubble-gum trade. She knew too how hard it got towards the end of a set to get those last few cards.

     One Winter’s evening, I went into her store to invest a dime in two more packs of cards. We were the only ones in the store, and up until this time I hadn’t known about her private collection.

     I opened my two new packs and was met with a total of eight new traders. I took some consolation from the fact that a few of them were very valuable traders, but this was really only a way of rationalizing my disappointment. 

     Then Madame Majeur leaned over the counter towards me as I turned to go, and asked me to wait a minute.

     As I did so, she reached into some dark corner behind her and withdrew the largest single stack of hockey cards I had ever seen in my life! My eyes bugged out! 

     Slowly but deftly, like a dealer in a showdown poker game, she began to flip the cards out onto the counter. Her chubby fingers made a minimum of movement, and she went through the deck with just enough time between the showings of each card for me to recognize it as needed or not. 

     Every time I saw one I didn’t have, she gave it to me. When I wasn’t sure of one, she stopped dealing and gave me time to check my own collection which I had in my pocket of course. 

     It was one of the greatest gifts I have ever received! 

     She was certainly something else, that Madame Majeur!

                                                                   ……

     Besides enjoying myself on that outdoor rink in Harding, there was one other place where I sometimes went to skate, and I much preferred it there. 

     That was out on the frozen surface of the Ottawa River, which often became solid enough to skate upon by mid-December.

      If winter’s first real cold spell managed to perpetuate itself for a fair while, thus putting off the arrival of the first heavy snowfall, one could steal a few really beautiful weekends alone with the elements, skimming across the river’s icy plains. Whenever such weather conditions occurred, I would be out of our house by mid-morning on a Saturday, my skates tied loosely together and hanging around my neck. 

     I’d head down to the river side, and gaze out across the frozen surface. 

     I always walked out twenty yards or so at first, just to test the ice. I’d jump on it, and throw a very heavy rock from the shoreline onto the ice ahead of me. 

     If the rock bounced, and slid safely onward out towards the middle of the river, I’d return to shore and quickly change from my boots into my skates. This done I would set out on skates, now carrying my boots over my shoulders. The smooth, hard surface of the ice quickly bore me out to the center of the river, where I could ecstatically revel in my complete and utter isolation 

and freedom.

     When there was no wind it didn’t matter if I skated upriver or downriver, but on particularly gusty days I always began by skating against the wind for a few miles. 

     Then, when I got really tired of forcing myself against it, I’d turn around and let my adversary become a boon companion, who would then effortlessly blow me across the ice and back to my original point of departure.

     Sometimes I’d even open my Winter coat and make a sort of sail, which increased my downwind speed considerably

     During the first week or so after the initial freeze-over, the ice was often quite clear, especially out in the middle of the river where the main current ran. 

     While skating over the transparent surface there, I could see the dark murky waters as they moved sluggishly beneath my long quick strides. The occasional strand of water weed would be frozen in the ice, with its’ loose end waving slowly in the current, giving a clear reading of the pace at which the river flowed. 

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                       Chapter Five: Summer of Grade Six, 1957

     I remember very clearly getting up for one of those early masses on a bright Summer morning after grade six, the Summer that Michael died. 

     He and I were scheduled to serve together at seven o’clock.  

     My mother had called me for breakfast at six-thirty. When I went outside after eating, there was Michael, waiting by the road with his bicycle. He had thought of knocking at the door, but then decided against it in case everyone was asleep.

     Such is my most vivid recollection of Michael, full of life at quarter to seven on a Summer morning, leaning against his bike, grinning with the sunlight pouring down on his tousled hair. 

     Other incidents that I shared with Michael also stand out, but in none of them can I recall his face being so clear and bright. That day we shared together at Rigaud with Randy and a few other close friends was the last time I ever saw Michael alive. 

     He was out walking with his grandfather a few days later, when he began to complain of a headache. Back at his house he went straight to bed. A few days after that he went to the hospital, and in another week he was dead from spinal meningitis. Understandably my mother was more than glad that she had let me go on the bicycle trip with Michael and the others. 

     Six of Michael’s best friends, including myself, were chosen by his parents to be assistant pall-bearers at the funeral. That meant we got to walk beside the six men who 

actually carried the casket on their shoulders from the funeral home to the church.

     I had been to see Michael in his coffin before the funeral. He looked a lot quieter and still, but that was the only real change. That was all death could do to him, make him quiet and still. He looked peaceful and happy. His face was still full and round. His fingernails, as always, were bitten right down.

     I don’t remember anything about the service, except that the boy sitting on my right was crying and at that point I wasn’t. Afterwards we went to the cemetery for the burial. All I can recall was the car-ride up there, which I made with Michael’s uncle and aunt, and a few of my friends. 

     His uncle spoke to us all the time he was with us, and the one thing he said that stuck in my mind was, “Of course we’ve got another nephew you know, and a niece too.”

     I already knew that, but I knew too why he had to say it. In his own special way he was trying to give us some comfort in the fact that life goes on, and we have to look at what we have left instead of just thinking about what we’ve lost.

     Somehow I made my way home after the burial. Then, perhaps a week or so later, Michael’s parents came over to our house to see me. 

     They had come to see me and talk to me as they had done with the other five boys who walked beside Michael’s coffin on that final morning.  They came to try and make it easier for me. They came to try and put some sense into it all for me. After everything they had been through, they were able to come and do something for me.

     With them they brought a tennis racket which Michael had used. He had also been a great tennis player. The racket had a red plastic covering on which were painted his initials, M.A.C., Michael Andrew Corbett. His parents gave something personal of Michael’s to each of us who had walked beside the coffin. 

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                 Chapter Six: School in Dorval, grades Eight to Ten, 1958-61         
     With all the commuting I was made to do between Harding and Dorval, I didn’t get to see my old friends much any more. Soon most of them fell by the wayside. I still saw them occasionally on weekends and during the Summer, but being away at school prevented me from getting as close to most of them as I otherwise might have done.
     I did manage to keep up my friendship with Randy though, at least through grade eight and nine. He wasn’t going to school in Harding either, since his parents had decided to send him to Loyola High School in Montreal West. When I got home in the evenings, I’d often go to meet him. We’d go off for a ride on our bikes, or throw a football or baseball around. Other times we’d just wander off into the fields or woods and talk about what was happening to us, all the changes we were going through, and where we thought it was all going to end.
                                                                       …………
     My friendship with Peter had grown stronger during our year in grade ten, and by the time school ended for the summer we were very close friends. Together we shared all the problems and hang-ups either of us encountered during the year, of which I had by far the greater share. But Peter, being almost two years older than I, was always more than willing to listen and advise me on anything with which I came to him. 
     I drifted away from Randy that year in grade ten too. All that we had shared over the 
past six years quietly took its’ place on the great Mandela of life. His time at Loyola High was getting him into things which were no longer a part of where I was at. We still kept in touch, talking at length whenever we met, but now it was mainly a comparison sort of thing or a reminiscent ‘remember when’ thing. 
      But, as already stated, Peter took his place, so at least I wasn’t alone.
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                                 Chapter Seven: Grade Eleven, Summer of '61  
     Getting back to that evening, Bob and I were shooting pool and smoking cigarettes. Ben’s wasn’t too crowded, which was normal for a Saturday evening after nine o’clock.   
By that time every body was either next door at the local cinema, or at a dance, or off somewhere doing something else. 
     Just those with nowhere else to go ended up at Ben’s, and if you’ve got no place to go at all, Ben’s isn’t such a bad place to end up. It was kind of a family living room for the youths of the village. In all the years after I eventually left Harding, I never found another place quite like Ben’s, where I could hang out all day, not spend a cent, and not be thrown out or hassled for not buying anything. 
     The store was owned by two brothers, Billy and Ted, and if I had a dollar for every hour I’d spent there, I could stock one hell of a good library. You could always get credit 
there too, for a meal or a pack of cigarettes, or anything else they sold. Ted and Billy knew everybody in town, and everybody knew them. Even after I moved away from Harding, whenever I occasionally returned they’d always have a few friendly words for me, inquiring as to how I was making out and so on. 
                                                                            ............
     Six tired bodies with heavy heads rode very slowly back towards the Harding Yacht Club that morning, and twelve legs felt none too steady when they stepped ashore once again. Such was the first overnight drunk of the Summer, but it wasn’t the last by a long shot. They became regular occurrences every week or so after that. We continued to get plastered every time we went over to Oka, but none of the following binges were quite as devastating as the first one.
                                                                 …………
     There were a lot of great men passing their lives in relative anonymity in that old 
tavern in Harding. Just like the boys in ‘Cannery Row’, they were a book in themselves. But Steinbeck’s already done those guys, so I’m only going to do the one that I got closest to. He was the one for whom I did the most, and the one who did the most for me.
     That was ‘Tabs”, the town drunk.
     I don’t remember how or when our friendship began exactly. I guess I sought him out when I started into the drinking thing because the most logical thing to do when you want to get right into something is to see the top man. Tabs was far beyond all the other town drunks. They often wouldn’t let him sit with them, or else they’d make fun of him, as would the rest of the people in Harding. But I never once laughed at him, and I always had time to sit down and have a drink with him.
     I remember clearly saying goodbye to him when I was nineteen. Our farewell happened on the eve of my departure to the city of Montreal, where I was going finally to live by myself for a while. We were having a farewell drink together at the tavern. 
    Tabs asked me to write him a letter sometime when I was away, and I promised that I would. He reached across the table and took hold of me, saying that I mustn’t forget. A lot of people had told him before that they’d write to him and they never did. He’d never gotten a letter from anyone in his entire life.
      So that Winter, when I was away from Harding, I wrote Tabs a letter. I told him about my experiences at the Quebec Winter Carnival, as well as a few other things. I wrote the letter in French, because Tabs had a hard time reading English. 
     When I finally arrived back in Harding the following Spring he greeted me like a long-lost brother. He embraced me saying that he had got my letter and he had read it over and over. He carried it in his wallet always, and showed it to everyone he knew.
                                                       .....................................................               
                           Chapter Eight: Grade Twelve, Pointe Claire, '61-'62
     I had four different teachers that year, three of whom were completely useless.
The fourth was Miles Torpin, who taught English Literature.
     It was only during Miles’ classes that I would abandon our back-row sanctuary to Sid, and take up a new position in the front-row centre seat of the class. Something very special was happening in those English classes, and I was making sure that I took it all in.        Over the months, under Miles’ leadership, we explored Pygmalion, Canterbury Tales, The Fairie Queen, Shadows on the Rock, Hamlet, liberal heapings of E.J. Pratt, Gerard Manley Hopkins, T.S. Eliot, and much more.
     I kept all the notes that I took during Miles’ lectures for a long time after I had left the school. On re-reading them at a much later date I could see that they were but a scant record of all the wisdom and knowledge we received from him. 
    But I took down all I could at the time, and the rest of it all entered my mind and still resides there somewhere.  
     Miles was my first professional role-model. The love of literature which he gave me would last for the rest of my life. 
     Though I only got sixty-six percent on the final exam that year, the mark itself was far from indicative of how much Miles had helped to shape the course of my life in years to come.
                                                                 …………
     While my time at school belonged mainly to Sid and Miles Torpin, my weekends out at Harding were spent mainly with Bob Turnfield.
     One evening in October, we were sitting as usual in Ben’s, looking forward to another drab Friday night, when we heard a train whistle blowing somewhere off in the distance. 
     For no special reason we decided to go down to the park behind the restaurant, and watch the train go by. But it didn’t just go straight by, at least not immediately.
     It was a freight train. It pulled off onto a side track, just like those Saturday morning freights had done many years before when I first moved to Harding. This freight waited on the siding for a while. 
     We stood in the shadows nearby and waited to see what developed. Soon we heard the sound of another train approaching, and before long it roared straight through on its’ way to Ottawa, with small groups of passengers framed in each of the lighted coach windows.
     Once the passenger train had passed, the freight began to move out slowly. 
     Bob and I were both thinking the same thing, as the dark box-cars rumbled by us. 
    We turned to each other simultaneously and exclaimed, “Let’s jump on!’ 
     And we did.   
     The train picked up speed and soon we were out in the flat countryside between Harding and Dorion, headed in the eventual direction of Montreal. 
      Thus began what was to become our regular Friday night entertainment of ’hopping the freight’. 
     We rode those freights as far as Dorion each time. 
     The train slowed down quite a bit while passing through that town, and we were always able to safely jump off and disappear down the side-streets. 
     Once in Dorion, we’d go somewhere for a cup of coffee, and then hitch-hike back to Harding.
     Those were really great nights that we spent sitting on top of those box-cars, the wind rushing past us, the sound of the wheels rolling along on the tracks below, and the slight swaying motion of the whole train.
      It all combined in a marvelous assault upon our collective senses.
      If it got too cold, we’d ride on the ladders which ran down the back and front of each of the cars, or on the platforms that extended all the way around the oil-tank cars. 
     One night Bob and I climbed into a gravel-carrying car, and that was the last time we ever did that.
     Those gravel cars had sloping floors that opened to empty out their contents when necessary. The night we climbed into one of them with me leading the way, the bottom of the car was partly open. 
    The first thing I noticed was how steep the incline of the floor was. The next thing I noticed was that it was so steep my sneakers couldn’t get a grip on the bottom, and I was continuing to slide further down towards the bottom of the car. 
     Looking down towards where I was slipping, I made my third great discovery. The bottom of the car was open! There, where the floor panels should have met, were two railroad tracks gleaming in the moon-light as they slid by beneath me at better than seventy miles an hour.
     I turned to Bob. “Grab my arm, the fuckin’ bottom’s open!”
     His hand closed on my upper arm and I stopped sliding. Bob still had a grip on the upper rim of the car. He managed to hold on and to pull me back up to safety.
     In spite of our close call, we continued to ride the freight trains for a few more weeks, staying well away from the gravel cars.
    Then Winter closed in, and for some reason the freights stopped coming through Harding on Friday nights. 
     So we had to give up our steel-rail past-time, and settle once again for those quiet evenings at Ben’s.
     What was to be a quiet Winter set in and slowly began to drag by. 
     Bob and I spent a fair amount of time in the tavern drinking our evenings away. 
                                                     .....................................................................                        
                                             Chapter Nine: $um Death, 1963-64   
     For the greater part of my first year there, only one event stands out amidst all that happened. But I guess that no matter where I would have been for the year, that same incident would have been the only one to really remember…..the murder of John Kennedy in Dallas.
     I was sitting at my desk, shuffling some useless papers around, when one of the girls who worked near me went to answer a phone call at our boss’s desk. My eyes followed her as she eagerly picked up the phone. She spoke first, and then began to listen. 
     Suddenly she paled, and said loudly, “Oh god, no”.  
     She called over to a few of her friends. I heard her say that President Kennedy had been shot and was in hospital.
     I felt the blood draining out of my head, and a wave of nausea swept over me. 
     The girl was still listening and getting more information. Soon other people began to come around from other parts of the building, each with his or her own version of the story, each running about for their own personal reasons. 
     I sat still. Then the final bit of news came in. He was dead. I felt so different. I wanted to do something, anything, but there was nothing to do.  
     At that point in my life I held quite a high regard for the United States. In fact, I was quite strongly pro-American, because in nineteen sixty three, I felt there was something for which to be pro-American.
     Later research on early American Indian policy, showed me a different perspective on ‘America the Beautiful’. In times to come I would be less enthusiastic about some aspects of the American nation than I was on that dark November twenty-second. 
      I really can’t remember anything else of importance that happened to me between the time of John Kennedy’s death and the Summer of the following year. 
     But there would be no forgetting that next Summer, not ever. That was the summer when I met Bob’s cousin, Nancy, who lived over at Oka.
                                                           …………
    One of the most beautiful things about our relationship was the way in which Nancy taught me so much about her people. We had many long talks about her tribe and its’ history, and what was happening to the Indians today.
      It felt strangely beautiful and sacred on certain afternoons, to be sitting with her on the small beach behind her house. 
     Alone we would sit there while the Ottawa River flowed silently past us, as it had 
flowed by the villages of her ancestors for thousands of years.
      My vision of her home is still crystal clear today. Tall shady trees surrounded it, shafts of sunlight filtered down and danced on the deep rich green lawn. A white picket fence ran along both sides and the front of the property. A porch went all the way around the house.  There was a beautiful sandy strip of beach that ran from the end of the lawn to the water, with reeds in the shallows just off-shore, gently moving in the wind. 
     A breeze always blew across the yard from over the river’s cool water. That soft wind had a way of cooling you, getting right in underneath your clothes and passing its’ cold fingers over your warm Summer skin. The wind rustled in the leaves that shaded us, while we talked away seemingly endless late Summer afternoons
    The sinking sun reflected on the dark rippling waters of the river.                                   
                                         .......................................................................          
                                             Chapter Ten: Montreal, 1964-65    
     So, evenings and weekends whenever I got to feeling lonely while hanging around in my room at the “Y“, I’d head over to their place. 
     They’d invite me in as if I was their brother. We’d spend the evening talking, listening to records, smoking cigarettes, and drinking coffee. Then, if a nice weekend came along, we’d all go for a walk together on Mount Royal, a beautiful natural park in the middle of the city. 
     We made such a great trio whenever we went anywhere together for a walk. I’d be in the middle wearing my beat-up old suede jacket, my hands stuffed deep down inside the pockets of my blue jeans, Carol hanging onto one arm while Jeannie hung onto the other.
     Those were beautiful simple times that we shared, definitely a quiet oasis in the desert of life.
                                                          ..................................             
     In the next few months such people as Tom Rush, Sonnie Terry and Brownie McGee, Rev Gary Davis, Dave Van Ronk, Phil Ochs, and Eric Anderson, all appeared there.
     Eric was the one I remembered best of them all. He was just starting his career then. He’d known Gary for quite a while. They’d spent a recent summer bumming around Buffalo, New York, together. 
     When Eric came into Gary’s club, ‘The Fifth Amendment’, for his first night there, he was wearing an old navy pea-jacket, faded jeans, and the greatest pair of cowboy boots I’d ever seen. He took off the pea-jacket to reveal a faded black turtle-neck sweater, which hung limply upon his thin frame. He had a beautiful, tired face, Eric did. When he moved in behind his guitar and started to sing and play, he was something else.
     The last night he was in town, we all went over to the ‘Bistro’, on Mountain Street, for a few beers. After that we went upstairs to the ‘Crepe Breton’ for pancakes. It felt so good to be there, with Gary and Eric and a few others who hung around ‘The Fifth 
Amendment’ regularly.
     I spent a lot of nights over at Gary’s coffee house that Autumn and Winter. After he’d closed the place down for the night, we’d go over to ‘le Bistro’, or the ‘Swiss Hut’, or down on St Lawrence ‘Main’ street for steamed hot dogs.  
     Those times meant an awful lot to me then, and they still do now. I’d stay out till all hours with Gary and his friends, then head back to my room at the Y” for a few hours sleep before putting in another $um Death day.
     Eventually I got caught right up in the folk-thing. What with getting into Dylan, and seeing all sorts of singers at Gary’s. I liked what it all stood for, and I liked the people that were part of it. So I decided to go down to Greenwich Village and have a look at what was going on there.
                                                             …………
     It was with Lorraine that I went to see the first of three concert appearances by the Rolling Stones in Montreal during the sixties. As the next twenty years went by, I eventually saw a total of ten shows by the Stones, but those first three with Brian Jones and the original Stones were the best, and definitely historical concert viewing.  
     We had a fantastic time at the concert, managing to get right up to the front of the stage as soon as the Stones appeared. We were only a few feet away from them throughout the entire performance. After the show, we went over to the hotel where they were staying with crazy hopes of meeting them. 
     Not surprisingly, our efforts were in vain, although we did get to stand right beside their station-wagon with all their guitars inside it, in the hotel parking lot on one of the upper floors. We also got a clear view of some hotel guest humping his date for the night through their window, as we snuck along one of the hotel’s many roofs. Then, around four am we went back to the apartment to sleep.
                                  ........................................................................................................                       
                                   Chapter Eleven: Back to Harding, '65-'66    
     Once I was familiar with Velvet, controlling her and so on, we began going on long rides through the woods and fields which went for miles in every direction. We’d ride slowly through the forests with trees towering over our heads. 
     They were mostly deciduous trees. Up above the cool shadowed area of the forest canopy, we could see the sun shining down from behind the highest leaves of the tallest trees. When we rode with the sun behind us, we could see its’ beams pouring down through the leafy ceiling and stopping among the roots of the trees and ferns which were scattered liberally throughout the forest all around us.
     There were lots of open areas too, where we could cantor or gallop the horses as we wished. One long straight stretch of smooth hard gravel road in particular was always a really spectacular place for racing the horses. The forest was off to one side and a large quarry was off to the other.
     I rode Velvet along that stretch of road flat out, urging her to go faster and faster. I’d barely be touching the saddle after a while, just sort of balancing on it, as Velvet’s huge powerful body moved beneath me. My eyes would be watering like crazy. The air rushed past my face so fast that it carried away the tears before they could collect sufficiently to blur my vision. If I opened my mouth, it was all I could do to close it again against the force of the wind. 
     What an experience it was! What an important part of living life to its’ fullest.
     I knew after that Summer that I’d really like to get a horse of my own some day, though many years have passed and that day has yet to come.
     I learned a lot of other things about horses besides just how to ride them. Soon I was saddling Velvet, grooming her, brushing her down after a good ride, combing out her mane and tail, cleaning her hooves, feeding her. I really enjoyed just being around the stable and looking after the horses. It was yet another great experience in its’ own right.
                                                     ....................................   
     I read a quote from Rod Steiger once, in a Montreal weekend newspaper. 
     He said, “When someone steals your childhood, you spend the rest of your life chasing after it.”     
     His words had a special meaning for me too.
                                                  .......................................     
     Amongst the staff however, there was one man who stood head and shoulders above the rest. That was my English professor, Mr. O’Mara. For me he was the successor to Miles Torpin, who had kept my mind alive back in grade twelve.
     Mr. O’Mara’s classes were the only ones which I found to be of any interest throughout the year, save for a Canadian history course which was interesting up until seventeen sixty-three.
     His English course centered on the development of the English novel. It dealt with such authors as Hardy, Dickens, Joyce, Lawrence, Hemmingway, Huxley, Orwell, Wolfe, 
and Fitzgerald, to mention a few. 
     .Mr. O’Mara’s wealth of background knowledge seemed bottomless. He spoke in detail of such things as D.H. Lawrence’s attitude and comments on the trial of Lady Chatterley’s Lover. He constantly used Gertrude Stein as a stepping stone to Salvatore Dali and Picasso. His knowledge of history and art easily equaled his knowledge of literature. 
     I had a front row seat for every one of his lectures over the year. In that front row seat I would sit back and let his lectures sweep over me like a beautiful wave, two mornings a week from eight-thirty to ten am.
                                                  ...............................................................................                               
                                                Chapter Twelve: College/Dina
     I was away from Dina just once during the course of the weekend. It happened on the Friday night between six and twelve pm. My absence was due to the Rolling Stones third concert appearance in Montreal.
     I couldn’t have afforded to take Dina to the show, even if she’d wanted to go, but there was no way I was going to miss it myself. It was a religious pilgrimage to the highest of altars, where the mightiest of Druids would be distributing all their powerful magic to the faithful crowd.
                                                                  .....................
     We wanted a short, simple ceremony, and that was just what we got. 
     Our parents came, along with June, Dave, and Silky. It started at eight o’clock, and was all over by quarter past. 
     We went back to Dina’s parents’ house for a reception, but it was so phony that we soon left. 
     Dina, June, Dave, Silky and I, all piled into ‘Manuel’. We went over to the apartment in Ville St Laurent where Dina and I were starting our life together. It was just a ten-minute walk from the aircraft plant where I’d be working.  The others came in for a few minutes, but soon split as Dina and I obviously wanted to get into bed to celebrate. 
     Besides, since it was Tuesday night, I had to be up at six am to make it for my seven-fifteen am to three-fifty-five pm shift the next day.
     Our marriage had begun.
                                            .....................................................................                                            
                                            Chapter Thirteen: Kurt     

      Shortly after the doctor had gone, a nurse came to check on her. She lifted the sheets to have a look, gasped, and ran out of the room. Apparently the baby’s head was coming out. She reappeared almost immediately, and wheeled the bed out of the room and down the hall to the delivery room. At six-twelve pm, Dina finally gave birth to a boy weighing in at seven pounds, ten and a half ounces.

      I saw them both twenty minutes later. Dina was lying flat out on a bed in the hall. Kurt was lying beneath a transparent covering on a tray beside her. He still had some blood splotches on his head, but his tiny face had been washed clean. A fine down of blonde hair covered his head, coming out into a prominent widow’s peak on his forehead and going down into a tiny pair of blonde sideburns on either side of his face.

     His chin sported a massive cleft, the rim of which was white in contrast to the redness of the rest of his face. His eyes were open, though of course he couldn’t see yet. His limbs still held to a great extent their fetal position, though they were stretched as far from his torso as his early freedom would permit. At the ends of his limbs were tiny clenched fists and curled feet. He was wearing a tiny diaper. Just above it was the 

remaining piece of umbilical chord, dark grey, green, and black, which would be there for a week or so before finally falling off. Such was my first impression of my son.

     Dina was looking much relieved as she lay beside him. She managed a weak smile as she said, “Isn’t he beautiful!”

     I leaned over and kissed her, for what she had given me and for what she had been through. At that moment I felt closer to her than I ever had since the first few weeks of our marriage, those first few weeks of happiness which now seemed so distant, so far

 removed, and so final.

     Perhaps in that fleeting moment of compassion I loved her. I don’t really know. Perhaps it was because she was lying there so completely exhausted and in need of compassion, that I felt as I did towards her. Whatever it was, even as I felt it sweep over me, I knew it was only temporary. But I knew too also for these two helpless human beings, it was what they had to have to survive at that moment.

                                         ................................................................................................

                                       Chapter Fourteen: Summer of '67

     By the time we headed into July, Expo 67 was in full swing. With the help of various friends to baby-sit for us, especially my mum, Dina and I managed to get down there together occasionally, and I managed to make quite a few visits on my own also.

      I  often went down to the fair-site alone on week nights after work, to slowly wind my way through the long list of pavilions awaiting discovery and exploration during the six-month span of the exposition. By the time Expo closed, I would have all but one of the pavilions’ stamps in my passport.

                                                       ............................

     At one point as we were sitting on the balcony with the record player in the doorway, sipping on cold beers, I got up saying to Pete, “There’s Kurt crying for something.”

     I went in to check on him and Pete followed, surprised because he hadn’t heard a thing. It was only when we were in Kurt’s room that he could discern audibly the faint whimper that had caught my attention.

     Nothing was wrong. Kurt had just turned over and woken up in doing so. A word of reassurance and a tucked in blanket closed his eyes again, and he went back to sleep.

     Pete was amazed at how I had been able to hear him, but I explained it as Nature’s way of protecting her young. 

     I was both father and mother to Kurt at this point. With all my other involvements in his daily life, my sense of hearing was tuned up to catch every sound he made. Even during the night when I slept, the slightest sound on his part would wake me, and I’d go in to check on him.

     We stood there looking down on him, five months old, sleeping peacefully. 

     “Whatever it takes, I’ll go through it for him,” I told Pete. “He’s far more important than anything else. As long as I have him I’ll make out somehow.”

     Then we went back out onto the balcony and talked on into the night.

                                         ......................................................................

                         Chapter Fifteen: Back to College, Autumn '67     

     So it was there that Suzanne and I went that night. As we turned off the road our headlights hit on another car already parked there. Two heads popped up as we pulled past, and the guy gave us a dirty look. I smiled and waved, quite willing for my own part to share the area with them. But they left almost immediately and we were alone.

      Suzanne turned off the engine and opened the windows just enough to keep them from fogging up. I asked her if she wanted to get in the back seat, but she just pushed a button under the front seat and it slid way back making such a move unnecessary.

                                       ................................................................................               

                                                   

                Chapter Sixteen: Winter '67 through Summer '68

      The last few weeks of school went by. I wrote off my final exams without any trouble, then set about trying to find some Summer work to help make money to keep us going and pay for my tuition and books in the Fall.

     I managed to get a job at a nearby donut restaurant, working behind the counter on Friday and Saturday nights from midnight to eight am.

     It was really an alright job. Kids my own age or younger were the main clients of the place until about four am. Then there was a quiet spell until seven, when an early morning crowd quickly rounded off the shift.

                                               .............................................

     On the night of June fifth, I stayed up late watching the results of the California primary coming in. I went to bed when it seemed certain that Bobby had beaten Gene McCarthy.

     It was with numbed shock that I sat bolt upright in bed the next morning when Dina, who had been up before me and was getting ready for work, came running into the room saying, “They’ve shot him, they’ve shot him! Bobby Kennedy’s been shot!”

     So the nightmare came back, and the horror of Dallas became the horror of Los Angeles. I felt again as I had felt back in nineteen sixty-three. It was a feeling that can’t otherwise be described except by referring to it as the feeling I had when I heard of the Kennedys’ assassinations. 

     I turned on the TV and began to watch it all. Replays of Bobby’s victory speech, ending with his fingers raised in a ‘V’ as he said, “And now it’s on to Chicago and let’s win there.”

     Then the gunfire, the screams, and the panic……….

     Dina left for work and I sat there on the floor, watching the television and holding Kurt in my arms, wondering in what sort of a world he was going to grow up. 

     No, not really wondering, just more certain than ever before that it was all just a big 

piece of shit. We were all expendable numbers to the powers that called the shots. 

     Invisible powers that no-one could put their fingers on, but powers big enough to set up the execution of a president and a civil rights leader. With those two deaths on the consciences of two hundred million people, and Life magazine turning every mass murder into a Hollywood spectacular, it almost seemed inevitable that Bobby would be shot if he reached out for the presidency. 




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