Posted: Dec 14, 2013
Other than the content in ABOUT and what is on my home page this is my first real entry.
Over time I am going to add different parts to this website but that is all offshoots to this category really. This is the part where you get up close and personal with Django. YUMMY.
What you will find here are notes from my travels, personal rants, some of my writing and poetry, recipes I have developed or shamelessly stolen etc. As they start to appear here I will add categories to start to organize them.
So, sit in and enjoy. Because of not always being in port where I have internet the timing of my dispatches is lumpy – nothing for a while in periods I have been blown off course (figuratively and literally) and then several at once.
Why is it called Dispatches and Ramblings? Well the way I see it, DISPATCHES are important factual bits of info that are timely and important and need to make it to the recipient. There are a few of these sprinkled about my various posts. For the most part, the writing I do here are RAMBLINGS, both in the travel sense and in the disjointed literary sense.
The spark for this all starts with this idea that each of Jim and I need to be more like the other if we are going to control more of our deep stresses. He needs to lose control of things and let what happens…. well, happen. I need to put more discipline into my life, so I can let my mind not be constantly worrying about my precarious living situation. I don’t think either of us really thought about what we did in our subconscious as being a problem, but we both have evidence that it is and need to be more like the other – he is a controlling planner (he even studied Urban Planning) and I am an undisciplined party lad.
So, to get warmed up and to test how Jim is going to be with this I am going to do my first few posts on our lives when we were younger, so you can get a feel for Jim, myself and Jim’s wife Janice too.
I am going to do a series of pieces organized by decade and start in the 1970’s. But before doing that I am going to dive into a story I wrote about Jim and his mother surrounding an event that happened in the summer of 1969 which was instrumental in setting him up for some of his challenges in high school.
Writing it in the first person from Jim’s perspective may test his tolerance of this project but that’s what it’s for. So, if you see this website end next week you will know that “radio free Django” has been pulled from the airwaves. LOL.
“The Who will probably be there. And The Band too, I think – you know, Ronnie Hawkins’ backup band ” I said, knowing she and my dad had once seen Ronnie Hawkins.
“We’ve had this conversation before,” she said stepping out from behind the kitchen island in her shorts and tired pale green and yellow flowered cottage apron and wielding her wooden stir stick. “Your dad knows that there won’t be enough toilets at a makeshift music festival.”
As I stormed outside I was shouting “Arlo Guthrie, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin – they are all on the line up”.
What a way to end the summer and the prospect of going back to school. Going back to failing math, failing science and my all-time favorite – failing French, with a French heritage. The thought of going back to school was particularly upsetting because this could have been such a good weekend. I had been offered the last spot in my cousins’ car for a trip to a music festival in upper New York State. My parents had said I couldn’t go because David and his friends were five years older, might get into mischief, and there wouldn’t be enough toilets at a three-day music festival.
Toilets. It would have to be on my tombstone: HERE LIES THE BOY WHOSE LIFE WAS RUINED BY A SHORTAGE OF TOILETS!
Other than summer school, the summer had been pretty good. The two things I had enjoyed most were my summer job and just hanging out and swimming with other cottage kids when the weather was good – especially with The Americans in the bay.
My parents’ cottage sat on a point at the edge of a large bay and there were three properties in the bay. The furthest one was a cottage for a local family from the nearby town. The closest one was also a local farming family, the McGregor’s. They used to arrive at night for a swim after working at the farm and would come often on Sunday afternoons after church. They rarely stayed overnight and only one of the kids was my age. I never played with him, because the McGregor boy had accidentally shot another student and he pretty well kept to himself after that. It had happened at a ‘show and tell’ at school. He had taken in an old gun from one of the barns to show the class and when fooling around pressed the trigger. It was loaded and had nails in the barrel. It killed his classmate almost instantly. It was an accident but the kid and his whole family sort of wandered around like ghosts after that.
Next to the McGregor’s and in the middle of the bay were The Americans. Everyone just called them The Americans, instead of their names because there were so many of them. It had started as a fishing camp for five fishermen from Newcastle Pennsylvania, and after a number of years their families start coming up as well and it went from a fishing camp to a family cottage for the five families, with each of them getting two weeks during the summer.
I enjoyed the change of cottage friends every two weeks. Some only had older kids, but three of them had kids that were, if not my age, the right age to play together at the cottage. The experience of “cottage friends” being a range of ages I looked forward to each summer. Kids spanning several years will find common interests at a cottage. Sometimes the older kids, of driving age, would even take some my age or even the younger ones into one of the towns like Smiths Falls or Kingston to watch a movie on a rainy day.
The American kids were all so confident. It didn’t matter their age; they seemed to know more and had so strong a sense of everything that was American. None of them thought of Canada as anything but the wilderness and didn’t think of Canadians as very sophisticated and worse – cool. By grade eight I had a very good sense of foreign policy, particularly American and Canadian foreign policy. The war in Vietnam was ripping America apart and I was proud of Canada’s position of not being in the war and allowing draft dodgers to come to Canada. I knew the Americans had no legitimate reason to be in Vietnam, other than their passion for fighting communism wherever they found it.
One of the coolest older Americans was named Jeep, like the car. That was so cool, it wasn’t even a nickname. Right on his driver’s license – JEEP. That was so cool. He had been up earlier that summer and for some reason, he and his family were back for a second vacation. He had finished High School and his girlfriend came up as well. One rainy day they wanted to shop for some things and asked where to go, so they took me into Brockville, so I could show them how to get to the Canadian Tire. At Canadian Tire, I had brought the money I had saved up from my summer job.
My summer job had been great. I would catch frogs in a field for about an hour and sell them to the marina as bait for fishermen. I had been saving for a bow and arrow set.
I hoped they would have one in stock- the last time they didn’t. Sure enough, they were out of stock, but a much better one was on sale, but even with the sale, it was still more than I had. It was a PROFESSIONAL HUNTING SET and said so right on the package. The bow came up to my nose when the other tip was on the ground, and the arrows had GENUINE HUNTING TIPS.
Jeep had bought a lot of stuff and paid the extra money I needed for my bow and arrow set with the Canadian Tire Money he got back. Americans were so generous. It was really confusing – they were generous, but they were also so rude and in world politics, it seemed their country was the playground bully.
At one point on the trip back, an anti-war song came on the radio and Jeep started to cry. His girlfriend explained that his best friend had been drafted and they had just received the news that he had died in Vietnam. Jeep was a big guy but had cried several times over the two weeks at the cottage and his mom had as well, especially when they were leaving. Jeep wasn’t with them when his girlfriend and his parents packed up the Buick station wagon to go back to Pennsylvania. My parents explained that he was going to be studying abroad at the end of their vacation, so he wouldn’t be going back with them. I was pretty sure the stuff Jeep was bought at Canadian Tire was not for the cottage but for him and that he would stay in Canada and avoid the draft.
Jeeps family and one other were my favourites and the Americans staying at the cottage in this last two week stretch of the summer were not much fun. One of the girls was about sixteen and had brought up a friend and they pretty much stuck to themselves, sunbathing, and playing badminton. They were nice looking, sort of like California Girls on the Beach Boys albums but treated me like a kid.
I was a bit drained from fighting with my mom, and the day was hot and really still- eerie, like Alfred Hitchcock and a good time to practice with the bow and arrow. The cicadas were the only sound. It was hard to imagine that the summer would soon be over, school would start, and I would go back to failing French and Math and getting in trouble. It was never my goal to get into trouble at school and be disruptive, but it just seemed to happen sometimes. About once a week during the summer I would remember what my principal had said last year “a bit of a waste of a human, aren’t you”? He might have been right, but it really hurt to hear it said right out loud. This year I would have to try harder.
My parents had made some strict rules for using the bow and arrow especially because of the higher quality bow and hunting arrow tips I had ended up getting, so I had a careful ritual before using it. Sandy, my dog was inside the cottage, I had told my mom what I was doing, and was shooting at a target where I could see anyone coming into the area.
After shooting at the target for a while I was getting bored and the day was so still I started shooting up in the air, and watching it land on the grass beside the water, after a spectacular trip up and then back down.
Some time passed, and I wasn’t as angry about the music festival and went in for a Popsicle. My mom had a Popsicle maker that she would freeze juice or Kool-Aid on the sticks. I liked the cherry ones best. I had two and then a big round homemade donut my mom had just made and sprinkled with big pieces of sugar.
My mom made great donuts. I liked the big round ones and odd shaped ones the best. She was a good mom when she didn’t have to deal with me doing something wrong. I sensed she dreaded the upcoming school year as much as I did. As I ate the second donut I asked if I had not gotten into as much trouble during the school year would they have let me go to the music festival this weekend. My mom thought about it for a minute before reassuring me the bigger issue was the toilettes but that perhaps if I had acted more responsibly generally, yes, they might have considered it. On the weekend, my dad would be back from the city, but it would be too late to talk to them both about the festival and she had already talked to him about it on the phone the night before. He was in the city working.
I didn’t comment further but thanked my mom for letting me know and told her it was going to be a better year. I wasn’t sure if she heard me. The radio was on and she was listening to the description of a hippie cult that had just killed some people in Hollywood the weekend before.
It’s all that was on the radio and while there was no T.V. at our cottage I suspected it would be the main thing on the T.V. as well. She wasn’t even listening to me.
“Grateful Dead, Richie Havens, Santana” I blurted.
“No toilets, no toilets, no toilets” was her rapid-fire response as she stepped out from behind the counter with her apron covered in flour and looking tired and disappointed at my outburst.
There was no reasoning with her on this. I was a bad kid who would get into more trouble if allowed to do anything fun and despite my good intentions to not fight with her I just couldn’t leave it alone. “You were never young!” I screamed, taking another donut with me as I went back outside.
“Jimi Hendrix, Jimi Hendrix” I was muttering to myself through my clenched teeth and wet cheeks. I cranked back the bowline as far as I could and shot it straight up. This one was going to be really high. As the arrow left the bow, I felt a breeze off my left shoulder. It took a few seconds to register- a wind had come up while I was inside, and the arrow was going to be pushed by the wind toward the bay and go through the roof of our boathouse. Shit, was I going to be in trouble.
I stood there with the bow and my heart in my hand. I had been in trouble a lot this summer and done badly in school last year and didn’t need this. The arrow had amazing height and was still climbing and wobbling a bit as it was being pushed by the wind even further than the boathouse.
I dropped the bow.
“Shit, it’s going over the bay!” I said aloud.
I started to run and tried to hurdle the old farm type fence between my parents and the McGregor’s and fell. It was a bad cut and bleeding, but I was back up and running again but couldn’t run fast enough in sandals and was screaming “get away from the beach” to the people who were swimming and on the docks in the bay.
I was out of breath, crying and still screaming to get off the beach as I made it to the Americans dock. One of the girls was walking from the cottage to the dock and looked puzzled at my screaming and running, and bleeding leg from the fence. I was hoping I had made it in time when I saw the arrow.
I was too late. The arrow with the barbed hunting tip had pierced one of the American girls’ upper arms who was sunbathing on the dock, went right through and had pinned her to the dock. She was screaming, the bottom half of her body was flopping like a fish and there was blood everywhere. I knew right then my life would be changed forever.