Posted: April 3, 2014
I am new to this website business and not familiar with the best way to relate some of the ideas and stories that Jim and Janice and I want to get down, so I am just going to jump in. If you have read the ABOUT section, you will know how this site came to be and why it covers the topics it does. If you haven’t read that you should probably do that, or you will be a bit lost and it might be helpful to read the first post as well.
Today I am going to look back to the 1970’s as a bit of a way for me to get warmed up and a way to introduce you to some of the characters you will be reading about here.
That ten-year span was a time of massive change for Jim and me. I started it in early high school and finished it as a full-time drifter. He started it in high school and ended up with a few degrees.
The first part was with Jim in high school. Neither of us was very good at the high school thing in Ottawa but enjoyed music, partying, fighting with parents, trying to figure out why the world was so screwed up. Jim had a pretty tight string on him for a while coming into high school after that summer incident.
In the summer of 69 before this decade began he was involved in – well caused – a nasty incident and it sort of scarred him and certainly did not help his relationship with his parents. In an earlier post I wrote about it so check out the piece here or in the PROSE & POETRY section called My First Post and you will find the piece “Summers End”.
He was an average to bad student and I was a worse one. It’s not that I wasn’t any good at it, but I was just always screwing up. So, there was always a bit of summer school involved for me and sometimes for him as well. We had a great group of friends and I don’t know if any of us appreciated just how good we had it then.
Now for anyone who has read the ABOUT section they will know that I am also to be reporting on Janice. I did not know Janice until Jim met her many years later, so I can only relate what I understand her life was like. She was a very good student, liked sewing and music and art and skiing both in the winter and water skiing as well. Her dad had been in the Canadian military, so they had moved around a lot until he left that and went into business and they settled down in Ottawa and had a cottage near Perth. Jim’s family had a cottage in that area as well. In the summers I would usually just go to summer school and hang out. Janice had a brother who was only a year older and a sister a few years younger – still does.
None of this sounds very memorable, does it? Well, where the plot thickens is when Jim and I and our friends finished high school in 1973. Jim had been the school track star and ran for a club in Ottawa as well. He did not make the team for the 1972 Olympics and realized he was never going to amount to anything. It put him kind of adrift for the next year as we finished grade 13. Yes, for those Americans, Europeans or millennials reading there was once a grade 13! It was a year for the female students to mature some more and for most of the male students start to mature and focus on getting their grades up. The universities were all gearing up for us – we were this mass of humanity all about the same age – the baby boom and colleges and universities were expanding like mad and if you had a pulse and a blood type you could get in and get some level of scholarship or financial aid. Even with that Jim, another buddy, and I decided that we would go to Europe with no particular idea of returning. With that said our other buddy was fully expecting to come back to go to university at the end of the summer but Jim and I were open-ended about our plans.
We had been touring around Europe, splitting up for a few days and then meeting up at rendezvous point and traveling together for a while and then splitting up again. It worked well, and we had some great times together – getting kicked out of Ibiza, arrested in Monaco, staying in hostels and making friends. It seemed everyone was traveling then, and we met people from everywhere.
But near the end of August Jim had another life-changing event. He had a job in Munich being the photographer for an Israeli doctor who was writing a book on the Holocaust. Touring around Dachau on a rainy day in August he learned some things that set his thinking on risk and life for good. How he relates it is that while the Holocaust itself was unique, the survivors share a common set of ideas with others who have been through such traumas. The Armenian slaughter by the Turks for example. Someone can take all your possessions, your titles and dignity, and even your family and your health but if you have your memories you keep yourself intact. Life is a collection of memories. Memories are depression proof, inflation proof, portable and your own. So, the trick is to have as many experiences as you can and put them in your memory bank. Don’t fear failure, fear not trying. Keep moving forward. It all adds to your memory bank.
I am probably not doing justice to this, and while some of this sounds self – evident it certainly was a life changer for him. Coming out of that experience he called his parents from Europe (quite a costly endeavor in 1973) told them to accept a spot at Carleton University if there was still space and to choose some courses if he did not make it back in time. They were a bit taken aback as the relationship with them was mixed and it did not sound like the son who left for Europe just months before.
At that point, my relationship with Jim took a big departure. While we both went to university, for me it was an extension of high school and never really stuck. By what would have been second-year university I was roaming around the U.S. and fell into a job working on a cruise ship in the kitchen. By the end of first year he was a top student always in the top ten of his classes. He had worked as a security guard all through first year working midnight shifts then going to school during the day. Driven. I mean really driven.
During this time Janice (who is a year younger than Jim and me) finished high school and after a false start at college ended up in Fashion Design College where she excelled. Jim and Janice met when she had about one more year of college to go and he had about one more year of his first degree to finish. A year later they were married in ’78.
Now at this point and through the back half of the 70’s I really did not know Jim at all. There was no internet, I was working the cruise ships and he and Janice were blasting away on their life together. He did a graduate program then more graduate work then went into a doctoral program. She finished her fashion design program and after working some jobs in that industry set up a clothing line in Toronto.
On new years eve of 1979 they were living in Toronto and were poor with a fledgling clothing line, Jim’s doctoral program had been discontinued and I was with a group of fine young creatures throwing up on the side of a ship.