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Wednesday, 16 January 2019

A Tale Of 10 Cities
Wandering Through A Good Part Of The 1970s
Me at Weyerhaueser pulp mill in Kamloops, BC 1976.
Toronto Late Fall 1972

It was late autumn in 1972 in Toronto. I was living in an attic room in a downtown rooming house. There was an eclectic group of people living there. A few were university students. A Vietnamese family of 4 shared one room. There wasn’t a kitchen to share and a hotplate was the only way to eat something warm. I think grilled cheese sandwiches were often the order of the day. The whole house smelled horrible when the odor of the Vietnamese cooking seeped from the bottom of their doorway. 

The guy I remember the most in the house was a total drunk who had blotched swollen ankles and an almost purple nose. He was probably about 50 years of age at the time. It would be safe to say that he was lonely and he would engage anyone he could in conversation. He could get very loud and was very opinionated. He once told me that he had been the American writer Norman Mailer’s roommate for a period of time and that Mailer had pulled a knife on him. I wrote it off as pure BS. The guy across the hall from me was about my age and had a steady girlfriend. He lent me his record player and I bought my first big band and jazz albums to play on it.
At the time I was working as a waiter. In the span of less than 3 months I worked at 3 different places including the brand new Four Seasons Sheraton across from City Hall, The Ports of Call on Yonge Street, and a private Jewish Club called The Primrose Club. I was going nowhere fast and didn’t have any solid plans to change that. The one thing I knew for sure was that I wasn’t going to spend the rest of my life in Toronto. I was 25 at the time and was never thrilled with the city.
One night around dinner time there was knock on my door. It was my younger sister who had been living on the West Coast. I was startled. What was she doing in Toronto? She had lost of lot of weight and there was a distinct sadness in her face. Her boyfriend, who I had met only once, had OD’d and died of a heroin overdose in Vancouver and she had found his lifeless body. They were both a part of the Hippy culture and although my sister liked her weed, to the best of my knowledge heroin wasn’t something she did.
After hearing her story I wasn’t sure what to do but I knew I had to do something. Our parents lived on the Lakeshore outside of Montreal and it seemed that my sister’s best bet was to get back to their place. A former roommate of mine in Toronto who was divorced drove up to Montreal once every month to see his young son and he agreed to take my sister along with him the following weekend. I didn’t want to see her hitchhiking alone in her frame of mind.
(See blog story…Toronto 1970-1972  posted March 5, 2013)
Montreal - Late 1972- Early 1973

I quit my job, packed up my meager belongings, and made my way to my parent’s place about a week later. My parents were retired and owned a house in Valois about 15 miles from downtown Montreal. My younger sister was the only one of 4 children in our family to have lived in that house and it was only for a short while she was in high school. I can remember a poster of Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau doing a somersault into a swimming pool on one of the walls in her room. The house had 3 bedrooms, with my parents occupying a bedroom each. I would sleep on either the couch or on the floor.

Backyard view of my parent's house in Valois, Quebec

I needed some kind of income and over the next two months I worked as a waiter at 3 different restaurants. It was kind of a surreal time in my life. I never expected to be living again in Montreal even temporarily. The first waiter job I had was at the Miss Montreal Restaurant on Decarie Blvd. (The home of the Pu-Pu Platter.) I remembered the restaurant from when I was a kid when it was located on the other side of Decarie Blvd. and along with other restaurants like The Bonfire and the Orange Julep close by it was known for its “curb service”. Times had changed and the menu now featured deli food and some Asian dishes. Back in the day burgers, hot dogs, and French fries were the more popular things on the menu.
There were 3 waitresses at the restaurant who were from Seattle, Washington. I can’t recall how they ended up in Montreal. I had a brief fling with one of them. Initially, I was unaware that these gals were actually jockey groupies. I had no idea that such a thing existed. Blue Bonnets horse racing racetrack was just minutes away from the Miss Montreal Restaurant. At the time I wondered what these gals found so appealing about these short gentlemen. Dangerously barrel assing down a straight away on top of an over 1,000 pound steed must have been some of the allure for the gals.
I hitchhiked back and forth from Miss Montreal to my parents place each day. I remember standing out by the highway with my thumb out at 1 a.m. freezing my ass off in the dark. I needed to find a waiter job closer to my parents. I found one at the Airport Hilton, a round 2 story building by the airport in Dorval.
I was hired to work in room service. The attire I had to wear was about the creepiest clothes I have ever worn and included a sash that dipped from my waist. I also had on a string tie and a vest. I think the shirt was mustard coloured. Almost all my shifts were in the daytime so I wasn’t making hardly anything in tips. Basically I was a garbage guy picking up food trays that had been used the night before.
One morning I was on my rounds with my cart picking up smelly trays when I came around a corner (Do round buildings have corners you say?) and my eyes came in direct contact with a young guy on a pay phone. He was dressed in a flashy suit and I recognized him right away as he did me. A Catholic guy I vaguely knew from the ski crowd at St. Sauveur back in my high school days. “Mortified” might be the word I felt about being seen in my costume. I quit that day. 
My 3rd waiter’s job was the charm. It was at an upscale restaurant called The Vieux Amsterdam and was also close to the Dorval Airport. The tips were great and the owners liked me. The menu was based on Indonesian food. Indonesia was once a colony of Holland’s.(The Dutch East Indies.)  For some reason, a lot of the dishes had a fried egg on top.
The restaurant was busy both at lunch and in the evening. It was one of those 3 martini business lunch kind of places. One of the regulars was former Montreal Canadiens star hockey player Dickie Moore. He always came in with an entourage. His voice sounded like he might have been hit in the larynx by a hockey puck at one time, very raspy like he was short of breath. I believe he was in the heavy equipment rental business.

At this point I had been in Montreal for over 2 months. I didn’t have the answers for my sister’s grief. It was obvious to me that it was going to take time for her to sort things out. I did suggest that she try waitressing so that she had some kind of income. That kind of job could also take her mind off of other things, even for a short while. Over the next dozen or so years she waited tables in BC and the US.  Like a lot of other older parents, mine didn’t seem to be sure what to make of hippies, pot smoking, and the counterculture activities of the times. Never mind the music. Things were moving pretty fast and changing rapidly. 
I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with myself or where I was going to live. A year and a half before I had spent a pleasant summer working at The Banff Springs Hotel as a waiter. I thought to myself that maybe a Banff redo was in order. I saved up some money and bought an airline ticket to Calgary. I think it was late February or early March. 

Banff - Winter of 1973
I caught a bus from Calgary to Banff. After buying my airline ticket I didn’t have a lot of cash left but enough to get by with for a bit of time. I checked into the Mount Royal Hotel on Banff Avenue. The hotel had a mammoth tavern in the basement. I remembered the tavern for its huge murals on the walls depicting the building of the CPR Railroad, one of Canada’s two major railroads. The CPR went though Banff and the CNR went though Jasper. The tavern was also known as the cheapest place in town to get ruined on beer.
I have no idea how the hotel guests dealt with the loud noise coming from the basement which didn’t end to about 1 a.m. I was too exhausted from my trip to go downstairs and participate. I remember sitting in my room and wondering what my plan was going to be. I thought I was going to need a Plan A and a Plan B. My Plan A was to walk up to the Banff Springs Hotel in the morning and see if I could get hired on again as a waiter. The bonus in this was that I would also have a place to stay if I got a job.
A year and half before when I was working at “The Springs” I had quit and had told my superiors that they could shove the job up their asses. Not exactly a good reference. I was pissed off at working some 2 hour lunch shifts and being ordered about by shop owners and employees from the hotel lunching and them not leaving a tip. I was totally surprised when I was hired on the spot. Fortunately for me there were no bosses left at the hotel who would have remembered me including the maĆ®tre d' who had moved on or retired.
Banff Springs Hotel
Mountain sheep near Banff.

The winter crowd of workers at the hotel was quite different from the summer crowd of workers. Summer jobs at the hotel were coveted by university students across Canada and the jobs were hard to get.  Many of the winter staff worked at the hotel for the skiing and of course the partying. A lot of them were what could be called “transients” in that to them Banff was merely a place to have some fun before moving on and returning to a more serious kind of life, or not. 

There were 2 large dining rooms that shared the same large kitchen at the Banff Springs Hotel, The Alhambra and The Fairholm (later to be renamed The Alberta Room). The Alhambra was the more upscale of the two and was where I worked on my earlier stint at the hotel. The Fairholm had pillars and the site lines were not as appealing as the Alhambra. The Alhambra also had a curved marble staircase that led to the room entrance. For some reason the Alhambra was closed this winter season, probably because the resort was more popular in the summer months than the winter months.
In my absence a new restaurant called the Rob Roy had been built on the main floor that had a medieval kind of theme. It specialized in steaks. I believe they shut the place down once after a waiter with a flaming skewer came in contact with a lady diner with a lot of hair spray in her hair. A daytime coffee shop in the basement became The Sundance Cabaret at night.
I was assigned to the Fairholm dining room. Almost immediately I formed a connection with two other waiters. One was a guy named John who was the same age as me. He had recently graduated from the University of Toronto and was a licensed pharmacist. The other guy was named Ken and he was from New Brunswick. He was about 2 years younger than John and I and had worked for the ski patrol at Lake Louise before working at the Banff Springs Hotel.
John was kind of low key and laid back. He loved to travel. In his younger years he had been a lifeguard at the beaches in Toronto. Ken, on the other hand, was a pure shit disturber who liked to stir the pot. Mostly we bullshitted while working and hung out some nights at the cabaret. Ken was also friends with a guy from Columbia in South America named Ricardo. Ricardo spoke in broken English and many of his co-workers found him to be kind of exotic or something like that. 

Ken had a kind of secretive side. He was engaged to a gal in Toronto and was getting married at the end of the summer. In the meantime he was messing around with a young gal who worked at the hotel on the sly. He wasn’t fooling John and I.

John in Banff.

Ken wearing ball cap.
I never really had a lot of luck with women in Toronto, perhaps because I didn’t own a car and had very little money. The Banff Springs Hotel was a totally different story. One night at the cabaret I ran into an old French Canadian girlfriend from Montreal. She was with some guy and was attending a convention at The Banff Springs School of Fine Arts. She was now a college professor. She ditched the guy she was with and spent a day or two staying in my room with me before going home.
One night I was at a room party down the hall. I made eye contact with a gal but didn’t think much about it. Somewhat bored I decided to head back to my room and get some shut eye. As I was unlocking my door I saw the gal I had made eye contact coming down the hall. The next thing I knew there was a knock at the door. Why couldn’t things always be this easy? She had short hair and Ken nick named her Fast Eddy. She worked at the front desk and when they were about to open the staff lower annex she invited me to join her in her new room before the rest of the staff moved into their new rooms. We got a bit drunk and sung a few songs. The lower annex rooms had their own bathtubs and washrooms. A bit of a step up from taking a shower in a messy large shared bathroom.

Cheeky photo?

 I moved on to a French Canadian gal with huge knockers who worked in the kitchen. I guess it was kind of like being a kid in a candy store. I didn’t have much of a conscience about moving from one gal to another. I can’t lie. I had nothing bad to say about those gals either. The last gal I got involved with was a chamber maid from Ottawa. When I first met her she was a girlfriend of a rich guy who worked at the hotel from Calgary.

Ken on chairlift Sunshine Lake Louise.
  My friend John left and went back to Toronto. For some reason I joined the room service crew. I don’t know why. The tips weren’t as good as working in the dining room. One morning I was working with a guy from Hong Kong who had, at one time, been my roommate. We seemed to have gotten along well at that time. On this morning for some reason I jokingly told the Asian guy not to spit in a room service customer’s tea pot. Kind of a stupid thing to say I guess. The next thing I knew he was coming at me with his fists flying. I was pretty good at scrapping and got the best of him before the fight was broken up.

I didn’t give the fight much thought. Later that day I went for a swim in the hotel pool along with the Columbian guy Ricardo and his girlfriend Penelope from Calgary. Ricardo called her “Pineapple” because he had trouble pronouncing her name. Out of the side of my eye I noticed 3 Asian guys standing beside the path from the swimming pool. One of them was carrying a table leg. In a flash the burliest one hit me in the face with the table leg. Blood was everywhere and I was never more scared in my life. I started to run but my legs were kind of out of sync. I knew there was a clinic on the way into town about 15 minutes away. My heart was beating like a jungle drum.

I went into the bathroom at the clinic to see what the damage was like. There was a gaping hole above my lip that was later stitched up. It left a scar and I’m sure that turned a few women off in later years. I never thought that I could have made the scar more glamorous by saying it had happened in a hockey game. I wasn’t a hockey player. I was lucky that I didn’t lose an eye or have brain damage.
Of course I was fired for my involvement in the 2 incidents. The Hong Kong boys kept their jobs. Life isn’t always fair.

For some reason, when I left there was a minor exodus of a number of people I worked with out to Vancouver, probably about a dozen guys and gals. I guess it was just time to move on.
(See blog story Banff Springs Hotel 1971 posted April 14, 2012)

Vancouver – Spring 1973 
I ended up sharing a 1 bedroom apartment with Ricardo and Penelope in the west end of Vancouver. I was determined to see the guys who attacked me go to court in Banff. If I had been older and wiser I would have got a lawyer and civilly charged them. I didn’t know any of those 3 guys and they didn’t know me. They were avenging for a guy who was also from Hong Kong. You could call it racism.
I got a notice in the mail in Vancouver that a hearing was going to be held in Banff regarding the assault. I hitchhiked over 600 miles to Banff to attend the hearing only to learn that it had been postponed. That was an over 1200 mile trip. I did the same trip about a month later and this time 2 of the attackers turned up at court. The guy that swung the table leg wore a Banff tee shirt on the witness stand. (Cute.) In the end the judge fined him 50 bucks.
I had no illusions as to how the town of Banff was run. Behind the scenes the Rotary Club was pulling the strings. It was all about the bottom line, making money. Perceived trouble makers, hippies, or any younger people who weren’t spending money were encouraged to move along and get out of town. My being assaulted with a weapon was not of any concern to the local businessmen. One day I was in a shop called Monad’s Sportswear and I had some dry cleaning with me. When I left the store an employee came out and physically frisked me right on Banff Avenue. These days someone doing that would have their ass sued off.
I received a letter from the last girl I was involved with In Banff saying that she would like to move in with me in Vancouver. She turned up about 2 weeks later. At first we lived with Ricardo and Penelope and then they moved to a place of their own. In this story I will call her “Louise” although that isn’t her real name. I started working at an upscale restaurant at the top of the Blue Horizon Hotel on Robson Street in Vancouver as a waiter. We found another apartment in the tallest apartment building in Vancouver’s West End.
I’ve only been in love a few times in my life and Louise certainly wasn’t one of those times. One day I asked her a strange question not realizing the effect it had until years later. I asked her if she had ever had a child. I had never slept with anyone who was a mother at that point in my life but something seemed different about Louise’s’s body. After asking that question it was pretty well the end of our sex lives together. We lived that way even though we shared the same bed for a month or so before she moved out and returned home to Ottawa. 

I got involved with a gorgeous red head who I met in a nightclub for a short while after Louise moved out. Around this time I got a letter from my friend John the pharmacist who I’d met in Banff telling me he was coming out to Vancouver. He moved in for a bit and worked for London Drugs for a few weeks. We also spent a few rainy days working outside on construction. I tried to set him up with the red head’s roommate but that didn’t work out.
John had a proposal for me. He asked me if I would be interested in going on a skiing road trip with him in the western US. The plan was that I would meet John in Banff in a few months after saving up some money and we would head south from there in John’s van that he was going to drive out in from Toronto. I was in. 
The Blue Horizon was a good gig and the tips were great. I served The Mills Brothers one night, a black singing trio who had been around since the 1920s. (Up The Lazy River)  Dean Martin once said that the Mills Brothers singing style influenced his singing more than anyone else.
I kind of ditched the red head. One night she turned up at the lounge beside the restaurant with her girlfriend while I was working. I was caught by surprise and told her I was going on a ski trip shortly to the US. And then she was gone. There was a waitress (Italian) at the restaurant that I was quite attracted to. We went out on 1 date. She was headed to Europe to do some travelling and I was going skiing in the US. Passing ships I guess?
Banff – February 1974
I was about a week to 10 days ahead of John as to meeting up in Banff.  I was going to be staying at our old “friend” Ken’s basement suite on Banff Avenue. A lot of water had gone under the bridge since I last saw Ken. John had been to Ken’s wedding the previous fall in Toronto. After the wedding the newlyweds moved to Banff and into the basement suite. We never found out what Ken did to his wife but one day she moved out suddenly and returned to Toronto. Sometime later the father and her brother turned up in Banff. The father was quite well off. He jammed a knife into the coffee table and told Ken that they were taking the wedding gifts home with them. Yikes! Ken also got fired from the Sundance Cabaret at the Banff Springs Hotel when 100 dollars went missing. He said it wasn’t him and he wouldn’t come clean even when he was drunk. If I remember correctly he was also trying to sue the ski patrol for a damaged knee. I guess you could call Ken bad news, certainly not anyone to ever be trusted. He was one sneaky little guy.

Ken and John.

For some stupid reason I got involved in a number of all-night crap games and lost a sizable chunk of my savings. Never gamble with guys with nick names like “Doc” or “Hollywood”!
Me in downtown Banff.

A very drunk me.

 Our old friends Ricardo and Penelope got married in Calgary when John and I were in Banff. I got really drunk on tequila the night before in Banff and went to sleep in the furnace room. John woke me up in the morning and drove the both of us to Calgary. Ken, who was better friends with the couple than we were, couldn’t be bothered with making the trip. I was in such bad shape that when the mother of the bride saw me she insisted I go upstairs to one of the bedrooms in her home and sleep it off.

Skiing In The Western US – February/March 1974
John finally turned up and we headed south in his white van. The heater in the damned truck didn’t work and the only little bit of warmth came from the engine. Most of the time I sat in the passenger seat with my feet resting on the inside part of one of the headlights.

John's van.
We were refused entry to the US at the Montana border. The border guy’s reasoning was simply that he just didn’t feel like he wanted to let us across even after we showed him that we had funds. He suggested that we try another border crossing about 75 miles away. I remember John pleading with him and claiming to be a student which didn’t make any sense to me. It was kind of embarrassing. We got across the line at the other crossing. 

Altogether we spent about 3 weeks in the US. John was about the most frugal person I’ve ever met. He found us a motel room in Ketchum, Idaho near Sun Valley (where Hemingway committed suicide in 1961) for 6 bucks a night. We sang for our supper literally one night at a city mission where we tied our shoes to our cots before we went to sleep. John was so cheap that he had a pair of dark blue leather boots that he got a deal on. Who wears blue shoes, even back then?

Sun Valley Inn
I remember we bought a jug of really cheap red wine, the kind of a bottle with playing cards on the label. The stuff was so bad that one day we stopped the van and left the bottle beside the highway. One night some black prostitutes in Salt Lake City tapped on the van window as he were wondering what our next move was going to be. They asked us if we were looking for dates. For some reason when I think of Utah I don’t think of black prostitutes.
We took a tour of the Mormon facilities in Salt Lake City with one of the church elders. When I asked him why there were no black Mormons (at the time) he tried to grasp both our arms firmly with John escaping his clutch.
Mormon tabernacle. Visited the Mormon facilities with Linda on our way to the Grand Canyon a few years ago.
 We visited a jail in Vernal, Utah where I had stayed overnight back in 1968. I had my picture taken inside a cell.
Me in jail cell in Verbal, Utah. Believe it or not I was 25 at the time.
We also got in some skiing at Sun Valley, Idaho, Park City in Utah, Aspen Highlands in Colorado and a few other places. I got stopped for speeding by the ski patrol in Aspen.



 One thing I quickly learned about John on our ski trip was that he had a kind of a solemn side to him. I am the kind of the yacky type and am not that comfortable with long silences. I learned that John could be quite moody. What was I supposed to do as we drove by miles and miles of snow with me freezing my ass off in his van?
I’m not sure where we parted company back in Canada. Was it Banff or Vancouver? At least we were still friends I guess. 
Vancouver – Spring of 1974
I first started waiting on tables on the trains in the summer of 1967 out of Montreal during Expo 67. For years it was my fall back kind of job. It was never hard getting hired by some restaurant. I worked all over Canada as a waiter over a period of about 7 years. I also worked at office jobs and on construction.
I went back to The Blue Horizon after the ski trip to work as a waiter but packed it in about a month later. One day I took my waiter’s stuff like white shirts and black ties and stuffed them in the apartment building incinerator chute. My table waiting days were over.
I was good friends with the maitre d’ at the Blue Horizon Hotel and somehow he had managed to get a contract to paint a couple of 4 story office buildings on West Broadway in Vancouver. Long story short, I ended up getting electrocuted by touching a BC Hydro power line with a paint pole.

(See blog story On Being Electrocuted posted January 2, 2014) 
I kind of came to terms that if I wanted to get ahead in life I needed to own a car. I couldn’t manage that working as a waiter or some crappy office job. I answered an ad in one of the Vancouver newspapers. I was hired as a millworker at a remote place called Tahsis on the northern part of Vancouver Island. When I got over to Vancouver Island I discovered that I would have to take a boat ride to get to the mill. Once on board I was asked by one of the crew where I was going. He then informed me that the mill was on strike. I got off the boat with my duffle bag and sat on the dock and wondered what my next move was going to be. I wasn’t having much luck in life. (Cue the Otis Redding song  Sitting on the Dock of the Bay?) 

Port Alberni, BC –April – December 1974

I remembered that Ricardo and Penelope had moved over to Vancouver Island and were living in Port Alberni. Port Alberni wasn’t that far away from the boat dock I was on. I stuck my thumb out and 4 or 5 hours later I was in Port Alberni.
Back then writing letters was the way to stay in touch. Luckily I had Ricardo and Penelope’s address. They seemed glad to see me when I knocked on their door. They were renting a 2 bedroom suite in the downtown area and were saving up their money to buy a VW van and drive all the way south to Columbia in South America. They had both worked on a green chain at a saw mill before I arrived, quite a dangerous and monotonous job.
Ricardo was a bit volatile as far as his temperament went. He had a few run-ins with his bosses and kind of went from job to job. Aside from the green chain job, he also planted trees and worked as a deck hand on a small salmon fishing boat.

Ricardo and Penelope.

Happier times.
Ricardo with salmon.
I moved in with the 2 of them and they were quite happy to cut their costs with me splitting the rent. I got my first taste of planting trees and hated the back breaking work. I applied for a job at the local pulp mill and was hired right away. We lived at the top of a steep hill and the mill was a mile or two away. Penelope lent me her 10 speed bike to get back and forth to work. It felt like I was going 90 miles an hour going down that hill and I was lucky I never ran into a moving or parked vehicle.
Once in a while we would have a few beers but I wasn’t experiencing much of a social life. Ricardo and Penelope set me up with a kind of crazy gal they planted trees with but that didn’t last long. I was kind of fixated with putting money in the bank.
At the end of summer Ricardo and Penelope sold their Izuzu Bellet car and bought a used VW van. They are the only people I have ever known who have driven to South America and back. I didn’t like their chances when they left. Come to think of it they are the only people I ever knew who owned an Izuzu Bellet.
I moved to another place and rented a room for my last few months in Port Alberni. I made friends with one guy in the house who was working his way through university by doing stints in pulp mills. His name was John and I would later hang out with him and his friends in Victoria and Vancouver.
My older sister (by 9 years) lived in Hamilton, Ontario and had an executive position at a car dealership. She knew I was saving up to buy a car and wrote me that she had found a 68’ Ford Falcon that I could purchase for $750.00. The price was right on the mark for me. I quit my mill job and flew back east in early December.
(See blog story Port Alberni, BC 1974 posted March 21, 2013)

Hamilton, Ontario – December 1974- February 1975
I was totally thrilled about finally owning a car. I even took driving lessons. I moved in to my sister’s place for the short time I was in Hamilton. She was a single mom with a daughter who was about 10 years old at the time.  

I needed to find some kind of employment to pay for my trip with my new car back out to the West Coast and I found a job at the local Stelco steel mill. Initially they had me do broom work cleaning up metal shavings before giving me the job of straightening bars on a big press with a flywheel. One day a guy I was working with turned a heavy steel bar over on my thumb and I had to go the hospital. My thumb hurt like hell but there was no permanent damage.

To be honest, I started faking my job a bit. I wasn’t straightening all the bars that passed my way. I just wanted to get out of that place in one piece. I remember someone telling a story at lunch one day about a guy who got caught up in lathe and lived to tell about it. For some reason a lot of pornography was passed around at that mill.

I bought myself a metal ski rack for the top of the car, I thought it looked cool but it always seemed to make a groaning sound when I was driving. Finally I had enough cash saved up and was ready to see Hamilton in my rear view mirror. I never cared for the city. It was my 2nd time living there. A few years earlier I had worked as a waiter at a kind of road house restaurant called “The Pines” in Stoney Creek just south of Hamilton. The tips were good and the owner almost treated me like a son even though he had 2 boys of his own. 
Ottawa – February 1975
There were several things I wanted to do before heading out west again. One of those things was to make a brief visit to Montreal to see my parents. A few weeks earlier I had received a letter from “Louise” (made up name), the gal I had lived with in Vancouver a year and a half before. She had tracked me down through my friend John who I went on the ski vacation with. I never expected to see her again. In her letter she invited me to stay at her parents place in Ottawa for a weekend. Why not I thought? I certainly didn’t have any plans on rekindling something that never was but I thought it might be nice to catch up on things.
I arrived at her parent’s place on a Friday night. The chit chat with her folks at first was rather cordial but as time went on I realized that I was being politely grilled as a potential husband for their daughter. What were my plans in life? Was there a career I favoured? Was I ready to settle down? I had to be on my toes a bit. There is no polite way to tell parents that you have absolutely no romantic interest in their daughter especially considering that I was staying in their home.
The next day Louise invited me to go to an upscale bar/restaurant in the afternoon. I guess her thinking was that we could have a one on one conversation without her parents around. I think it might have been at the Ottawa Press Club. Shortly after we were seated the floodgates kind of opened. She mentioned the question I had once asked her out in Vancouver as to whether she had ever had a child. She told me that some time before she met me she had found herself pregnant while travelling in Europe. The baby was put up for adoption in Holland I believe. That was also a bit strange because Louise and her younger brother had also been adopted.
The second shocker was when she told me that she had colitis. I had no idea what that was at the time. I was told that she had to use a colostomy bag. After describing the maintenance of her affliction she asked me if I thought it would make any difference to any potential future suitor. As delicately as I could I told her that there was a strong possibility that that could turn some guys off. I wasn’t trying to be mean. Just realistic.
My plan was to drive back to Montreal that night. I started to pack my overnight bag. By this time Louise’s parents now seemed a bit frosty to me. It was kind of creepy. Louise had just started a nursing course and was going to a dance with the other hospital types that evening. Her parents were also going out that night. I can’t recall how our goodbyes were said but I think there was a mutual feeling that we couldn’t part company soon enough. I had never expected the drama.
I was still technically a new driver. To my chagrin I soon discovered the roads were covered in black ice. It was one thing to creep slowly along side streets but after a while I thought I was going to be taking my life in my hands once I made it out to the Ottawa/Montreal highway. It was also pitch black out. I pulled the car over and stopped to think what my best action should be. I had been driving for about an hour and still wasn’t near the highway. I decided to turn back.
I got back to Louise’s house at about 8 p.m. and rang the doorbell. A teenage baby sitter answered. It was quite awkward explaining who I was to her. I think I said something to Louise’s younger brother like “Hey Bobby, remember me?” The babysitter was kind of on the spot. How was she going to explain to Louise’s parents that she had let a complete stranger into the house?
The parents were the first to turn up later in the evening. I kind of got the feeling that they loathed me at this point. It wasn’t like I had somewhere else to stay. I felt like telling them to go and fuck themselves the following morning when I left for good. Was I supposed to die out on an icy highway because I had no romantic interest in their daughter?
Road Trip  Across Canada And The US – February 1975

When I got back to my parent’s place in Montreal from my trip to Ottawa I put an ad in one of the local papers seeking someone who would chip in on gas for a ride out to Vancouver. A Jewish guy a few years younger than me with dread locks responded. He got a pretty sweet deal. For his meager contribution to the gas expenses he was also getting a free place to sleep each night as I would smuggle him into each motel we stayed at.
We stopped off at my older sister’s place in Hamilton at the beginning of the trip. The car trunk was packed with stuff as was part of the back seat. For some reason my passenger was in the back seat.  (Maybe to get some shut eye). I remember looking in the rear view mirror and realizing that he was stretched out on top of a stereo I was bringing out west with me. I was really pissed. Suddenly I noticed that the traffic had stopped in front of me and I barely avoided crashing the car.  
At this point in my life I had been across Canada a number of times. I didn’t relish the thought of driving over the top of Lake Superior in the dead of winter. I chose to enter the US and drive through Wisconsin and Minnesota instead and then back into Canada. This probably wasn’t a great decision. There’s lots of snow in those states in the winter. (The movie Fargo with the bleakness of winter is a good reflection of the conditions.)
I got stuck in a snow bank once and some good Samaratins helped us get back on the road. I lent one of them a new pair of leather clothes my mother had given me for Christmas and drove away forgetting I had lent them. I felt kind of stupid about doing that. There was a lot of white out driving across the US states and I can remember seeing the occasional Budweiser or some other US beer sign lit up along the side of the road.
My passenger wasn’t exactly a barrel of laughs nor was he much of a conversationalist. Some nights I would rent a motel room with only 1 bed and he would have to sleep on the floor. One night he was resting his head on the bed watching TV. Back then some motels had a thing where you could make the bed vibrate by putting a quarter into a slot. I did just that and watched my passenger’s head with dread locks bounce around for a few minutes. Well at least I thought it was funny.
My destination was Victoria, BC. I was going to look up the guy who I had become friends with at the rooming house in Port Alberni.
Altogether the trip took about a week. I dropped my passenger off in Victoria. 

Victoria, BC – March-May 1975
The friend, (let’s call him John #2) that I had met in Port Alberni had moved to Victoria and he introduced me to his 2 brothers and some of his friends. Most of them were from Bathhurst, New Brunswick. One of John  #2’s brothers, Jim, was an artist. He also did outdoor painting like dams and big construction jobs. He drove a red Mustang convertible and I started hanging out with him more than John #2.

John #2
One of John #2’s friends was a guy named Fred. I had taken up tennis and would spend hours hitting a ball against a wall at the U of Vic. One day Fred and I played tennis for about 5 hours in the hot sun. We were pretty evenly matched and it was probably the most enjoyable tennis match I ever played.
Jim had a girlfriend named Hildie who rented a large main floor apartment in and old mansion in the James Bay area of Victoria not far from where the Canadian artist Emily Carr once lived. Hildie must have had about 50 plants in her place and it kind of felt like a botanical gardens in her home. I crashed there for a while. 

Hildie’s dad was a professor at the University of Victoria who had a friend who owned a nice waterfront house not far from the university in the district of Gordon Head. Well known jazz flautist and saxophonist Paul Horn lived next door. Hildie was asked if she would house sit her dad’s friend’s house for a few months while the they were away traveling and she accepted. There were artifacts in glass cases from all over the world in the house and I remember a giant shower room on the top floor. The water views from the house were impressive. I stayed at that house for about a month.

My 68' Falcon next to John #2's Volvo parked outside of house in Gordon Head.
I wasn’t sure what I was going to do as far as work goes. One day a friend of John #2’s mentioned that he was going up to northern BC to plant trees and asked me if I would like to come along. I had done this kind of job once before and hated it but I was enticed about going somewhere and socking some money away. It wasn’t a great decision. I was gone for about a month and left my car parked in an alley way.
(See blog story Planting Trees posted November 6, 2012)

When I got back to Victoria from tree planting I rented a basement room in a hilly part of Victoria. I couldn’t find that place today if my life depended on it. I found a job working as a sales rep for a Victoria company called Old Country Rentals. The owner of the company was a guy in his mid thirties who had made a lot of money selling real estate in Calgary. I quickly discovered that many of the staff, excluding the owner, were born again Christians. Sometimes they would leave little notes from the bible on my desk. I’m an atheist so I found it quite creepy. I also recall that the owner had an old Jaguar that he had one of the staff repaint a number of times. 

One night I was in a downtown bar in Victoria and ran into a gal tourist from Montreal. She was visiting the city along with 2 other friends from Montreal. We messed around for about a week before she went back home. Her 2 friends and I then decided to rent a house together. One of them had a boyfriend who had his own apartment. 

I ran into a few guys that I had planted trees with and they helped me move some furniture I had bought and I bought them a bucket of KFC chicken for their efforts. Oddly enough, that same day I ran into the guy with the dread locks who had traveled with me as a passenger a few months before. He was walking off of a field where he had slept the night before and he looked quite bedraggled. It was the last time I ever saw him. 

I had a brief little fling with one of the 2 girls. I guess you could say I was batting .666. The best looking of the 3 was the one with the boyfriend. The next thing I knew there was another gal living in the house. She was the sister of the boyfriend of the best looking gal. My name alone was on the rental agreement and all the furniture was mine. I wasn’t consulted about another gal moving in. I told the new gal that she too would have to pay rent and she basically told me to screw off. A few days later I came home for lunch and told her that she had an hour to pack her bags and get out or else I would put her bags at the end of the driveway. She left.

My 2 Victoria housemates.
The house was in the Saanich area of Victoria on a street called Peto Place. The landlords were East Indian and lived in the basement. They had kids and often I could hear them yelling downstairs. I came home one day and had just about enough of the downstairs noise after complaining several times. I placed my stereo speakers over the air vents and jacked up the volume before taking a 15 minute shower. Things were a lot quieter after that. Another time one of the girls found a poop beside her bed. Apparently one of the kids from downstairs had come upstairs while we were out and decided to have a crap on the shag carpet. Gross!
There was no training at all at my sales job. Basically I had to wing things and figure out stuff for myself. I visited a number of construction sites. Mostly I sold hand tools for bricklayers and concrete finishers. The weirdest place I visited was a local penitentiary. I sold them some acid brushes.  I wondered if the brushes were going to be used to clean up blood.
One November morning at around 5:30 a.m. and in the dark, an older employee and I set off for the ferry to Vancouver with a van full of construction equipment. We were going to a trade exhibition in Vancouver. I rounded a corner on the Pat Bay Highway and hit a stretch of black ice. I lost control of the vehicle and gave the steering wheel a yank when I saw the van heading for a large tree. We hit the curb sideways and the van rolled over on its roof. The older guy climbed of out of the front window and I got out through the driver’s side door even though it was upside down at that point. Neither of us was hurt. We stood there in bewilderment watching the tires that were still turning. The radio was still on.
That was the end of my job at Old Country Rentals. Funny how that works!
Kamloops, BC – January 1976 – September 1976
I packed up everything in Victoria and caught a ferry to Vancouver. At the time my younger sister was renting a converted garage with a wood stove in North Vancouver and working as a waitress at a nearby seafood restaurant called Guppy’s. I stayed at her place for a few weeks.
I think that was the year when we went to Frank Baker’s Attic restaurant in West Vancouver for Christmas dinner. The joint could seat over a 1,000 people. Frank Baker was a character. None of the dishes or cutlery matched and there seemed like there were a million Tiffany lamps in the place. It was a buffet type of restaurant. I can still vision the wieners lying in hot water. Frank wore a white suit and liked Dixieland jazz. Every now and then he would whip out his trumpet and attempt a few tunes. Apparently there was a statue of David complete with a fig leaf in the ladies washroom. A siren would go off if some gal decided to see what was under the fig leaf. If all this wasn’t strange enough, outside of the restaurant, under plexiglass, was one of the Aston Martin cars used in the James Bond movie Goldfinger. 

My new plan was to drive up to Kamloops about 225 miles away and see if I could land a pulp mill job there, save up my money again, and then move to Calgary and find another job in sales. I left Vancouver in the afternoon and I soon realized that I wasn’t going to get there that night. I picked up 2 young gals in their early twenties who were hitchhiking and snuck them into my motel room that night. They shared the other bed and I acted like I was their big brother. 

I made it to Kamloops the next day, got a hold of a local paper, and found a basement room in a house owned by a French Canadian guy who worked at the local Weyerhaeuser pulp mill. He gave me the info as where to apply for a job at the mill. He later took credit for getting me the job which actually wasn’t the case. 

A bit of trivia…..The  German/American Weyerhaeuser family  has been in the softwood lumber business for close to 120 years. Based in Washington State with interests around the world, including in Canada, the company is one of biggest lumber companies in the world with net sales of over 7 billion in 2017. Some readers of this story may be aware of the Lindberg kidnapping of 1932 where a baby was taken and later murdered. The Weyerhaeuser family was also victims in the kidnapping of the owner’s 10 year old son in 1935. The child was recovered in good health and the kidnappers were sent to prison. In the mid 1960s the lead kidnapper was released from prison on parole. The 10 year old boy was now the chairman of the company. He hired the parolee to work at one of their mills in Oregon. 

Working at a pulp mill can be a bit dangerous at times. Shortly after I was hired at the Kamloops mill I was told a story about a wall being blown out and that an employee was found to be missing but they did find his lunch box. It turned out that the employee was alive but after the explosion he left the premises and got in his car and drove home. never wishing to go back to as dangerous a job as that.

One of my chores at the mill was to do testing on the purity of various chemical liquids stored in huge tanks. It could get pretty cold up on the top of those tanks in the winter as the mill was situated in a valley where the wind came screaming through. When it got way below freezing I had to go up to the top of the tanks and pour in sacks of corn starch or something like that. One night in a blizzard some electrical wiring got loose and I could see sparks coming from the live end. This job wasn’t for the faint of heart!
I always worked with one other person who was “the operator”. His job was to watch a control panel making sure the process wasn’t getting out of whack and delegating manual chores to me. By and large the operators were proficient but I remember a British guy, who had been a milkman before working at the mill, screwing things up every now and then by trying to fine tune the control panel too much. Sometimes the system would get overrun and I would spend the entire shift washing pulp down the drain with a fire hose.
A number of the millworkers played crib when things were pretty quiet on the night shifts. To this day I still don’t have a clue how that game is played. I just didn’t have the curiosity to find out I guess.

Crib players. Blonde guy, Doug Paget, was a crack golfer.
My room in the basement was just basically a bed and a dresser. There was no door for privacy, just a curtain. Kitty corner from me lived another renter, an older guy with an artificial leg. Every now and then one of his terrible farts would waft across the basement.
Every day for months when I would come home and go through the backyard to get to the basement door, a small yappy dog would chase after me. Finally I had had enough of that and went upstairs and told them that if the dog continued with his routine I was going to drop kick the dog over the back fence. I was never going to do that but I never saw that dog again.
Eventually I moved out and into a nicer basement suite that I didn’t have to share with a small kitchen. The owner of house was a Polish lady who had stacks of jars of borsht against the walls on the stairway to the basement. The only furniture I had was a trunk where a rented TV sat. That trunk went all over Canada with me. I found it abandoned in a fraternity house I was living at in Montreal in 1966 that was about to be torn down. I still have it. Over the years it was used as a TV stand, a coffee table, and I think an aquarium once sat on it.
I slept in a sleeping bag on the carpeted floor. I remember watching the 76’ Olympics in Montreal and Bruce Jenner winning a gold medal in the decathlon.

I didn’t have much of a social life in Kamloops. I played a bit of tennis and golf with some younger guys from the mill a few times. One day I got word in the mail that John from Toronto was making another visit out to Banff and that Ken was still living there. Kamloops to Banff was about a 6 hour drive and I drove up to Banff to see “the boys” for a few days. I thought it would be neat if we had dinner at the Banff Springs Hotel which we did. I treated.
Dining at the Banff Springs Hotel with Ken and John.
 I really had the shit scared out of me on the way back to Kamloops. I was coming down some mountains when I notice a semi in my rear view mirror. It got closer and closer until it was just a few feet from my rear bumper. I had the pedal to the floor and still the jerk wouldn’t back off. There was no way I could pull off of the highway. We finally got to a flat straight away and I pulled ahead. My engine light lit up and the car was overheated. I pulled over to the side of road. A few minutes later the semi driver drove past me with a big grin on his face. I wanted to throw a rock through his windshield but I didn’t. 
I saw Ken one last time when he came up to Kamloops. Why I haven’t a clue?  He just turned up one day and didn’t have a car. He must have hitchhiked or taken a bus. We got really drunk one night at a huge tavern in Kamloops called “The Cattleman” (or something like that) and we picked up a couple of girls. I was too drunk to do anything with the gal I met.
Calgary – September 1976
I quit my mill job at the end of the summer and drove to Calgary to start another “new” life. It was impossible to find an apartment in Calgary and I started going through my savings staying at motels. I was once again going nowhere fast. I didn’t know a soul in Calgary and the city seemed like a cold place to me even though they were experiencing one of their boom periods.
I packed up the car and headed back to Vancouver.
Vancouver –Autumn 1976 - February 1977
I found a 1 bedroom apartment in an older building on 2nd Avenue in North Vancouver. I did a short stint as a commissioned sales rep for an alarm company but didn’t make any money doing that. To keep money coming in I resorted to doing daily labour, mostly unloading box cars. It wasn’t a lot of fun.
In February of 77’ I responded to an ad at the “Manpower” government office in downtown Vancouver. The job was working as a sales rep for a business equipment company called Benndorf-Verster Ltd. I was hired after 3 interviews and my life was changed completely. After being there for a few years I got into photocopier sales (Canon) and started making some serious money.

(See blog story Benndorf-Verster posted June 3, 2014)
Ricardo and Penelope
I last saw Ricardo and Penelope in Victoria when they came back from South America. I still have some Inca god bookends that they gave me. I moved in with them and cut their rent costs. Ricardo got me a job through some guy he had worked for that required me to dig a drainage ditch. The chore was impossible to do with a spade as some of the boulders in the way were well over 200 pounds. When I told Ricardo that I was quitting the job he went berserk. He was kind of like a powder keg. I packed up my stuff and moved out. What a lunatic! I’m pretty sure that marriage didn’t last.
John #2

John #2, the guy I met in Port Alberni and hung out with in Victoria, eventually moved to the Vancouver area and went back to school at Simon Fraser University. For a while he rented a farmhouse with a New Brunswick friend in a muddy industrial area next to the Fraser River in Delta, BC. There were wild horses on the property and blueberries the size of grapes. I stayed at this place a few times while visiting from Victoria. 
One night I went night skiing at Grouse Mountain in North Vancouver and got lost on a dirt road trying to get back to the farm house. It was pretty dark out and hard to see anything and I decided to turn the car around. For some reason I decided to park and get out of the car to see where I was. To my amazement I discovered that only 3 of the car wheels were on solid land. There was a very steep drop off behind the car. It freaked me out. A few more inches! I realized that I was going to need a tow truck. I approached a house that was about 200 feet away and rang the doorbell. A few moments later the whole place lit up. There was a big Jesus sign up on the roof. Whoa! I felt like I was in the middle of a cheap horror movie. A guy talked to me through a little window in the front door and agreed to call a tow truck for me. I waited by the car. A few minutes later a car stopped close to me and the driver asked if I needed any help. He tied a chain to my bumper and yanked the car back onto terra firma. I never waited for the tow truck.
I remember John #2 staying at my place in North Van around 1980. He left one morning not telling me what time he was coming back or if he was coming back at all. He didn’t have a key. I was out to about 2 a.m. that night and when I got home he was waiting for me in the apartment building garage. He told me that he had asked the building superintendant if they would let him into my apartment but was refused. 
The next time I saw John #2 was around 1982. At this point I was married and making great money. John #2 was also married and had bought an established printing business. I sold him a photocopier. About a year later I injured my back while on vacation in Hawaii and was laid up for several months on Bowen Island where we then lived. I had lost a lot of muscle fiber and was going to need some time to get myself back in reasonable shape. I decided to help John #2 out in sales at his business for a few months before getting back into the rat race of selling copiers.
I quickly discovered that John #2 had no business acumen whatsoever.  He didn’t have any previous experience in working in the printing business. When he bought the company it included a lot of dated equipment that was no longer functional in including machines that made metal credit card kind of things that were no longer used by the public. He had one really big client that provided most of the company revenue and had no idea how to expand sales.
  A lot of printing jobs got messed up and any that required full colour were farmed out. It was disturbing to know that I could find printing jobs but in most cases they would be screwed up. Finally I had had enough and went back to copier sales.
I later learned that the world had come crashing down on John #2. He lost his house because he was using the equity to invest in his business. His wife left him and took their young child with her. Then he discovered that his bookkeeper was embezzling from him. At one point he had lent her money to buy a house. He found out that when she was off on sick days that she was actually in court for stealing money from other companies she had worked for.

In almost no time the company went out of business. I felt really bad for him. Unfortunately he just didn’t seem to know what he was doing when it came to business. I hope his life took a turn for the better. 

John The Pharmacist
I stayed in touch with John the pharmacist and skiing companion for close to 25 years. My first wife and I spent a few days with him and his girlfriend in Toronto in the summer of 82’. We spent a day at Canada’s Wonderland. By this time John had become a full blown world traveler. He visited countries all over the world for months at a time. This was his deal. One of the more exotic things he did was riding on the Trans Siberian Railroad. He once told me about being at a baseball game in Puerto Rico and a local asking him if he would give him money if the local stuck a long nail up his nose. John wasn’t interested but the guy stuck the nail up his nose anyway.

John and his then girlfriend in 1982.
His modus operandi over the ensuing years was to work as a temp at a pharmacy and save up enough cash for his next trip. He owned a nice house in the Islington area of Toronto which was often empty for months at a time. I met his brother and sister and his parents who were all nice. I think his brother ran a strip club with his in laws.
John came out to Vancouver in the late 80s. We took him up to Whistler one weekend. After spending about a week with us I drove him down to the US border. He set off for San Francisco on a ten speed bike he had purchased in Vancouver.
The next time I saw John was in 1997 not long after I had turned 50. One of my business suppliers, who were based in Montreal, told me about an NDG reunion that was being planned for the early fall that year. (NDG was the district I grew up in Montreal.) I looked at the list of potential attendees and I recognized a lot of names. I thought it would be a hoot to see some old faces from 30 and more years earlier.
Before flying to Toronto John and I discussed plans for my trip back east. I asked John if he would be interested in going to Montreal with me. My plan was to rent a car and drive to the New England states and back up to Canada through either Vermont or Maine. John was keen on the plan and said he had friends in Montreal that he had met while travelling around the globe and that it would be nice to reconnect with them.
The second day that I was in Toronto we drove down to the Guelph area to visit my older brother. When we got back to John’s place I was pretty eager to start our trip to Montreal. John wasn’t showing the same enthusiasm. One day seemed to roll into another. He insisted on showing me maps and photos of his travels which bored me to death. One night we went to a video place to rent a movie. John had a wallet fatter than George Costanza’s but couldn’t find his video store membership. The clerk suggested that maybe John’s “Significant Other” (me) might have a membership card. I almost fell on ass laughing. We had been labeled as a couple of middle age homosexuals.
Something else I found very annoying about John was his repeated whining about his younger sister and how she had inherited the bulk of their parent’s estate. From what understood she was their main care giver in their last years while John was often travelling the planet. He had a university degree and owned a house so he wasn’t exactly experiencing hard times.
I remember another time when we were driving around and John telling me he knew of a place where we could get a really good deal (5 bucks?) on rugby pants. Rugby pants had gone out of style about a dozen years earlier. I was starting to get uncomfortable with this whole situation. I had 2 small kids and a business back in Vancouver. (At that point I had been separated from my wife for about 2 years.)This was my vacation and I was wasting my time hanging around Toronto not doing much of anything. We sure lead different lives.
One night when I asked him to drive me to a take-out place so I could have some dinner he complained that he wasn’t fussy about driving me around. What a prick I thought. I drove him all over the place when he was in out in Vancouver.
Finally he told me that he wasn’t going on the trip with me. To be honest it was a relief. I didn’t want to be stuck with this moody bugger for over a week. I rented a spiffy car the next morning and took off for Montreal. By this time my side trip to New England no longer fit my time limitations although I did spend a few days in the Eastern Townships and up state Vermont.

When I got back to Toronto John wasn’t home so I waited outside of his house for a few hours. Later on he drove me to the car rental place and out to the airport to catch my flight back to Vancouver. In retrospect I probably should not have had him give me those lifts and instead just looked after things myself.
I got a card or a letter from John some months later. I didn’t respond to it. Sometimes you don’t have to make a final goodbye formal. We were worlds apart in how we were living our lives and no longer had anything in common.
The Reunion In Montreal

I spent a night at a hotel in Ganonoque, Ontario close to the Thousand Islands vacation area off of the 401 Highway on my way to Montreal. I had been working out a bit back in Vancouver wanting to look good at the reunion. I hit the gym at the hotel.
I spent the next night at a motel in Pointe Claire, Quebec. My parents had owned a house in this area in their retirement but by this time they were both deceased. I had a few days to spare before the reunion and decided to drive south of Montreal to the Eastern Townships. I stopped off in a college town named Stanstead. A high school friend named Andy had been teaching at Stanstead College for decades. His life kind of reminded me of the movie Goodbye Mr. Chips. With the help of some locals I found Andy’s house. He was away camping with his family for the Labour Day weekend. I noticed a couple of small bikes in the car port. Like me it seemed that he had become a father later than most. I stuck my business card in the front door jamb. I never heard back from him.
Stanstead is right on the border of the US and Canada. Getting across the border wasn’t easy. The border security guy was very suspicious of me. Out of the blue he asked me what prison I had spent time in. I’ve never been charged with a crime and I certainly never did time in any prison. He didn’t like it when I told him I wasn’t impressed with this tactic. The next thing I knew he was dragging out anything I owned from the rental car. I was left to pick it up off the pavement and put it back. What a prick!
There was a small golf tournament before the reunion. At that point in my life I had given up golf for a while. Somebody later told me that the tournament was named after a guy (who I didn’t know) who was a complete drunk and had died way too early because of it.
Yes it probably is somewhat shallow but I wanted to look my best at the reunion. I think I managed that. I walked into the hall and identified myself to the evening’s hosts. I was asked if I recognized any of the names on the guest list and I said I did. One of the names was a gal who I knew as Cathy Marks in grade school and high school. We didn’t know each other well but had mutual friends. She didn’t have a clue who I was. Better no impression than a bad impression I guess. When I told her I had taken video of our old schools she insisted I send her a copy and wrote down her address on a Tower of London ticket stub. What? I have no idea of how to copy a video.
A lot of people on the guest list didn’t attend. I found that a bit disappointing. I danced with a gal who I had once had a make out session with while she was babysitting. Nice gal. I chatted with a guy several times who also lived in the Vancouver area. We had hung out a bit in high school. Another guy I knew from high school told me that he had gotten laid at the last high school reunion. Actually the whole deal wasn’t a high school reunion but more of a community reunion.
One guy knew my older sister which would have made him around 9 years older than me. I remembered when he married one of two sisters who lived across the street from me around 1958. They had rented a juke box for the wedding and the younger sister let me play some tunes on it for a few weeks before it was finally picked up. I played “Who Wrote The Book Of Love?” by the Monotones over and over. The guy was a lot shorter than I remembered him, maybe 5’4”. I think he had a motorcycle back in the day. I asked him if he was still married to the same gal and he said something like “that bitch?” Creepy little guy.
I had my video camera in the trunk of my car. For some reason I never brought it out. It would have been an interesting video. Because my kids were young I almost exclusively took videos.
They had a draw towards the end of the evening and I won a giant Texas Mickey. By this point I had had a few drinks and I never claimed my prize. I think I just forgot about it. As things were winding down I was invited to go night clubbing with some others. Montreal seemed so far away and I didn’t want to get stopped for drunk driving. I opted for just going back to the motel.
Not far from my motel there was a Jewish deli called Chenoy’s. I feasted on their smoke meat several times during my stay in Montreal. The front door guy recognized me each time I came in. After the reunion I decided to have one more go at the world of cured meats. As soon as I walked in the front door the guy asked me if I had heard the news. Princess Di died that evening in a car accident in Paris.
I went back to the motel, turned the TV on, and watched for hours. Things were starting to feel a bit surreal. I had kind of gone full circle with Chuck and Di. I got married the same weekend as they did in 1981 in Gull Lake, Saskatchewan and we received a few Chuck and Di gifts. Not quite as bad as the giant wooden spoon and fork we received that I used for kindling in the fireplace.
Montreal…..Made 1 last trip to Montreal in 2012. Not much left of what I remembered. Whatever it was is just in my head now I guess.
Toronto…..Drove through Toronto twice without stopping on our trip to Montreal in 2012. I also picked my wife up at Pearson Airport on that trip. Toronto never was my cup of tea. A lot of people I grew up with in Montreal settled in Toronto. On a positive note, I’m a big fan of Harvey’s hamburgers that aren’t available on the West Coast. So there's that.
Banff…..Have driven through Banff a number of times over the years. Sometimes I would go up to the Banff Springs Hotel and look around. A lot has changed since way back when like newer surrounding buildings and TV’s everywhere in the hotel. The giant buffalo heads that hung from the wall in the reception area have disappeared. On one walk around at the hotel I asked an older security guy when they had changed the name of the Fairholm dining room to the Alberta Room. His response was that he had worked at the hotel for years and the room had never been called the Fairholm. That might surprise some who waited tables in the Fairholm some 50 years ago.
Calgary…..Spent a few days in Calgary several years ago when my daughter was appearing in the musical “Cats” in that city. Was kind of surprised how funky the downtown part of the city had become.
Victoria, BC…..Victoria is about a 2 hour drive south of where we live on Vancouver Island. We used to get down there more often than we do these days. Actually, I lived in the city out near the U. of Victoria for about a year ten years ago. The city can be a bit of a tourist trap in the summers. We much prefer the Nanaimo area. It’s not as congested.
Port Alberni, BC…..I’ve passed through Port Alberni many times over the years on the way out to Long Beach and the Pacific Rim National Park. Port Alberni is about an hour’s drive away from where we live.
Sun Valley, Idaho…..Spent a few days at the Sun Valley Inn on our honeymoon in 1981. They had a covered outdoor theatre next to the hotel that showed the 1941 black and white movie Sun Valley Serenade. My ex wife wasn’t interested in seeing the movie but I was. Altogether there were about 6 people in the audience aside from me. I’ve watched the movie many times since. 
To me the movie was an historical film. It was made just before WW2. It was the era of wooden skis and men wearing ties while taking part in recreational activities. Top billing went to Sonja Henning, a European figure skater. Milton Berle had a supporting part. 10-12 years later he would be the biggest thing on American TV. Glenn Miller and his big band were in the movie. 3 songs from the movie would become very well known, In The Mood, Chattanooga Choo, and At Last. Glenn Miller would die 3 years later in a plane crash in the English Channel. Neither his body nor the plane was ever found.
We’ve visited the western US many times over the years including the Grand Canyon. I wouldn’t mind trout fishing in Idaho some day if it is in the cards.
Vancouver…..I spent most of my adult life living in the Vancouver area. I have lots of great memories. I owned a business there. My kids grew up there. Unfortunately, like Montreal, each time I have been back it is less and less recognizable. From a midsized city it has grown into a major metropolis. The days of bringing your own booze to restaurants are long gone. It’s like the character of the city has been painted over with a broad brush. Real estate prices are totally crazy. Not a city where most young people will ever own their own house. Glad I got out when I did. I’m still a Canuck fan though.
Wasting One’s Twenties?

Years later I came up with a bit of a theory which was that it quite OK to kind of waste your twenties travelling and doing a variety of low paying jobs as long as you have learned some kind of craft that is going to see you make a decent living for the rest of your life. Eventually most of us get married and have kids. Most of us will never again see the total freedom we had to make choices and get into a bit of trouble now and then like we had when we had no other responsibilities other than for ourselves. When we were young and thought we’d live forever. Like others around my age, I am finding that that isn’t the case.