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Terry Fox monument Thunder Bay background lake Superior

4 Oct


Remember my Dad smoke these

25 Sep


A link to a story about Dad,Freind and Hammerin Hank

21 Sep

Remember Klondike Ike

21 Sep

Hang Loose Klondike Ike: a funny memory

It is Christmas of 1979 in Thunder Bay ON my friends mother opens an envelop addressed to her and her husband, it is a gift for their  13 year old son from my uncle Mike in Toronto, a year subscription to Playboy magazine.

He was outrageous, all about fun for us- “the boys’. On the day he died many years ago, weak and ravaged his last communication with my brother was the hand waggle symbolic of “hang loose man”.

I spoke with my friend (recipient of the Playboy subscription) the other day, being on opposite ends of the province, our practice is to have a few beers together over the phone.

Inevitably our conversation turns to Uncle Mike stories from almost 30 years ago.

My Aunt and Uncle hosted us, (me, my brother and a few friends of ours) annually for a couple weeks as summer gave way to a new school year. We would make the pilgrimage to Toronto from our hometown in Thunder Bay.

The annual visit was fraught with adventure: A Buffalo Bills games, CNE, Ontario Place, Wonderland, Blue Jays ,pro wrestling, cannonballs in the backyard pool, a whirlwind two weeks of things you mostly couldn’t do in northwestern Ontario. And oh yeah we’d squeeze in a week at a high end hockey school courtesy of Uncle Mike.

On Saturday afternoons, his touch football team would congregate to his 1970’s man cave for post match libations and we boys would serve beers behind the bar learning at an early age how to pour beer “fast and quick” without the foamy head. What made it “crazy fun” (insert surreal) was that Mike had an uncanny ability to make whatever was going on crackle with excitement. He gave freely, spoke freely, dropped F-bombs and laughed in a roar that shook the walls. He was the ring leader; his friends called him father because of his slight age advantage. After the two weeks were over (our visits) he must have had the longest rest, because surely there was nothing left on the table.

To give frame to the story, Mike was a big boned Ukrainian from rural Edmonton with tree trunks for legs and a torso that matched. In his youth to pay for school he went by the handle of Klondike Ike while barnstorming as a pro wrestler in the Western Canada circuit. Sports were his first love, a golden gloves boxer, university football player and coach. He plied his trade, first flying in the Air Force and later as a QC lawyer in Toronto.Formidable to be sure, but we didn’t think of those things, we were young, we enjoyed his big personality, savage language, insatiable appetite for sports and a single minded protocol to build  fun for us visitors.

As we got older and made the transition from high school to university we would make the same trip from Thunder Bay, this time branching off to universities and college throughout southern Ontario. But first we would stop along the way with friends in tow who wanted to meet the legendary Uncle Mike. We’d stay for a night or two before heading to school. Never disappointing we would go across the ravine to the Bistro on Avenue road for wings and beer, swim, congregate in the basement rec. room, watch sports, tell jokes and anecdotes from back home, Mike loved it and  would growl “ok all right we’re having fun now” . Each visit would end with a firm handshake and the symbolic waggle of the thumb and pinky finger as we drove away.

On one such visit my brother recalled what I consider one of the more memorable stories. The one I shared with my buddy over the phone on this occasion.

We had this ongoing game with my uncle where we would jump out from behind a wall or behind a bush and scare one another; rattle the others cage so bad they involuntarily took a knee.

My brother had convinced one of our friends along for the ride and visit to throw a good scare into Mike when he went out for his midnight dip in the backyard. “Are you sure I just met your uncle” said the newby friend, “no he’ll love it” says my brother “he wont think I’m a weirdo?”says our puzzled looking friend “No we play this game all the time” says my brother.

Uncle Mike was in the pool having his midnight swim his towel draped across the long lawn chair; our friend figured that was where he was going to spring from in the midnight dark to execute the scare of the trip, when Mike went for the towel he’d scream boo, “you sure he’s not going to get pissed off or anything?”, buoyed by my brothers encouragement and a few beers, our friend crawled along the grass in the pitch dark and positioned himself under the lawn chair.

Out of the pool now 250lbs of country strong made his way through the midnight dark to the chair. Instead of picking up the towel and drying off, my uncle sits down in the long lawn chair. Not a sound from my brothers’ friend, he lost his nerve!! Unbelievable!! At this point my brother said he should have stepped forward from behind the bush and rescued his friend, but the moment was too delicious. All those thoughts must have really been rattling around in his head now “I just met him” “he’s not going to think I’m a weirdo?”

For the next little while big Klondike Ike drip dried on the lounger, enjoying the late August night and a martini he must have brought out with him. His ass stretched the fabric of the chair to about an inch from his new house guest’s head (my brother was pretty sure he had been skinny dipping). My brothers friend tucked in the fetal position tried not to breath to loud or move a muscle figuring nothing could be worse than getting caught at this late stage , in his mind he frantically tried to conjure up reasons with supporting logic for his current placement should he get busted, he endured the drip drop of water that rained upon him from between the nylon strips of the chair, at first frequent giving way to moderate and slowing right down some time later.

“Great f&%#* n game”, my brother friend said to him after it was over, while suppressing a holey shit where the hell am I smile “look at me I’m f?*&%# soaked” his rugby pants were doted with water his hair matted and wet. Years later as an adult he settled in the area and remained friends with my Aunt and Uncle.

Upon hearing the eulogies at his funeral many years ago the minister put it well, totally outrageous, totally kind. Hang loose Klondike Ike hope you’re enjoying your long rest.