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Terry Fox Run

13 Sep

The reasons I partake in the annual Terry Fox run.
Its Saturday September the 13, here in St Catharines we’re socked in with grey cloud’s- drizzling and chilly . But somehow I know that tomorrow the cloud will part and the sun will shine and the day will be lovely. Its uncanny that the element are true to the momentous of the day that the Terry Fox run take place.
Everybody have their reasons to run/walk/ bike the Terry Fox run, we all been touch by cancer family, friend, schoolmate, co-worker, teammate… etcetera. People of my vintage came of age about the same time that Terry Fox run across Canada took place. You can see them in the crowd a mist of nostalgia/reverence come over them before the run when a speaker come on and say a couple words about Terry Fox. It hard to believe it been 34 years that Terry Fox embarked on his run. The run has taken on a sustainable life of its own handing down to generation upon generation…. Engaged from day one by schools, community clubs and sport teams on and on.
I grew up in Thunder Bay Ontario, I remember hanging out with my friends among a big crowd awaiting the arrival of Terry running though Thunder Bay. Anticipation excitement was buzzing through the crowd.. high fiving, horse playing with friend and family and then the silence as the crowd disassembled and left with what wasn’t going take place. Later we learned the gravity of the reason that Terry had to stop running.
I overheard my aunt and uncle talking about Terry passing. I was at their camp, I don’t know why I did this but I hopped on their dirt bike and hit the rural dirt road (not far from the place the Terry Fox statue now stands on the edge of Thunder Bay) and unexpected visceral tears came to my eyes as I speeding recklessly down the dirt road. Later I was proud to be a flag bearer at the first Terry Fox run in Thunder Bay.
My thought on Terry Fox these days are less visceral, more like reflective. We keep Terry Fox alive like we keep our memories of our mother and father alive in our mind and heart long after they pass. There are myriad of reasons Terry Fox so resonate today. Maybe the earnest fix on his face, maybe implausible challenge of running a marathon a day through the hot summer, maybe the inner strength and outer shy. It’s all of these thing and many more.
Best put by writer Christie Blatchford “ Terry Fox gave Canada A Dream and Big as a Country”
I just know it will beautiful sunny day that its always is, I’ll donate a very modest and partake in the 5k run after 34 year since Terry Fox run across Canada,the Canadian and beyond are still running.


Schleprock In The Ravine

22 Jun


So unreal…So scary… So funny…So benign…So weird… So surreal…almost too fantastic to be real. I guess it just one of those childhood adventures that seemed to follow me around in a schleprock kind of way.
Circa 1978
Every summer we went from Thunder Bay to Toronto and go to hockey school and stay at my Uncle Mike and Aunt Shirley house on Brooklyn Ave. by Avenue Road and Lawrence Street area. One time we (me and my friend Donny also from Thunder Bay) were crossing the ravine going to the store on Avenue Road (Brooklyn was a short dead on street that was broken up by a small ravine) it was a short walk from my relatives house to Beckers on Avenue.

As we are crossing the ravine we notice some older teenager ( we are about 12yrs old) being loud and rambunctious at the other side of the ravine, getting to Avenue Road meant walking past these teenagers. Me and Donny exchanged nervous looks as we proceeded toward the top of the ravine. Before we got to the stop one the teenager shouted (looking our way) “get them!” and then about twenty teenager boys and girls were running our way Donny look at me wide eyes “ F#%*~king run Rollie! I take off one way Donny goes another way. They were hot in pursuit (looking back I still don’t know if it was just a teenage lark or they meant business!) Nonetheless there was a bunch of teenager in  pursuing me like a pack of wolves  and  they weren’t letting up! I was running like a jackrabbit running from yard to yard over fences landing hard, through hedge bushes and short fences fuel by fear..adrenalin… fears …athleticism..and more fear .The final fence I went over I landed hard on my back; the next this I see and feel is and oldish man with a big ass wrench in is hand cocked to brain me while  his other hand held me by the collar. I blurt out “they are chasing me” I didn’t recognize my own voice- laced with primal fear and adrenaline.
He said something about hooligans and calling the police on me. Maybe the years has fuzzed the lines, but what follows is the way I remember what transpires on that bizarre summer day. He bring me into his house,still a wrench in one hand me by the collar.Once in the house I see an oldish woman who is apparently his sister; he send her to the garage to fetch a rope so he can tie this hooligan (me) up! So that he can call the police. She return with a suitable rope …with my arms at my side he wraps the rope around me a couple of time and ties a knot, with the balance of the rope dangle to the floor. He then talks to his sister, they discuss about if they should put me in the cellar (which I don’t like the sound of) or keep me in the kitchen. They decide to keep me in the kitchen where they can keep an eye on their tied up 12 year old prisoners.
I guess when they had the police on the phone I guess I gave them info on where I was staying and the phone number . Because the first to show up was my aunt and Donny with their dog Rocky. The old man brought me to the door I was tied up lamely he was holding other end of the rope in case I had plans to bolt. I said to Donny through the screen door in a voice I still didn’t quite recognize  “ hey Donny wanna come in” I remember he made a duck lips face nodding his head in a no motion. The police quickly pulled up. I remember a black officer had a “what the F*%#*K!?! Going on look  on  face” . He said to me ” you all right son”. he took off the rope and ask me if they hurt me. I said no which was true.I had some cuts and scrapes in the chase. If a had the wherewithal when he asked me I would have made the circular motion beside my head indicating coocoo  inside. He then shifted from me to my crazy misguided abductors and had strong words with them which I don’t remember because I was walking  out the door to my friend and Aunt. It was lucky my uncle was out of town that night..I will leave it at that.
This story become lore among Thunder Bay teenager house party in the 80’s. I remember Donny couldn’t even hold it together retelling the story laughing to coming to the front door “ with the Vigilante grey hair man at the other end of the rope I was tied to…People would listen laugh ..and look toward me and say “Rollie you really got tied up”….I would shrugged my shoulder in that “ Buck Friendly” kind of way and sheepishly say yeah that was me.





5 May
Misty dog story
I was in  grade 7 which sets us in the late 70’s. My school Agnew A Johnson in Thunder Bay Ontario was an open concept schools (which means not a classic  enclose classroom where there doors that separate them from the hallway). I could looks from my classroom vantage  and see the grade 4 class the grade 1 classes etcetera .
Our dog Misty was part Husky part German Shepard..and we suspect  part wolf.   Any time the doors of our House were opens to talk to somebody or someone going  out or coming in..she would bolt to the door and if she got free..once outside she would create havoc in the neighborhood- she was well known by our neighbors …She would run like a greyhounds up and down our street endlessly. She was known to run full blast with greyhound speed at a child a jump clear over the child and deftly snag there toughs and run greyhound away with her prize.
She was not a mean dog but a menace to be sure. When we all track out of the house in our weekday trek to schools on occasion Misty got out. She had only one weakness-bacon. So if she got out we brought bacon with  us to school. We wave the bacon like a matador do with the cape. Misty would run and leaps and try to snag the bacon on a fly by if you were lucky enough you could grabbed the collar and capture Misty and bring her home. On other occasions you couldn’t  get her and you had to get to school on time.
One time we couldn’t catch her..and then half way through the school day I hear commotion right in the primary section of school..Misty is running full blast in and out of classes  creating havoc in a open concept school..she is running toward the the grade 6-7 student  she have a sock in her mouth, one she procure from an unwitting child in the primary grades. I tell my friend Jeff I have a piece of bacon in my jacket from my previous attempt to catch Misty this morning. I tell Jeff when I wave the bacon ..Misty will try to preform a fly by, be ready when she landed. Misty is running full throttled at me I wave the bacon..too say the least its a bit of a speculate —  we have a captive audience of 100+ student , teachers, principals.janitor  etcetera. We preform the capture beautifully. Once captured Misty wants to holds her ground.. doesn’t be led home by her collar…I said I can pick up her front and tell Jeff to carry her back end..I look at the teacher  a say “can we lea..” he wave his hand  has if to say..”yes go…go..please”.
Jeff and I carry my beloved dog,(content look on Misty face).. a block to our home.. like the way in medieval European time the way they carry princess ..queens..Kings.

Purple Super Monster

26 Oct

The Purple Super Monster- Circa 1974 (Halloween story)

I was going through family picture the other day in hopes of finding the picture me in grade  three. I was looking for the picture  I was dress up for Halloweens that year. I went out that night (very reluctant) as a Purple Super Monster. I know this picture exist, but I can’t find it but I can still see that picture in my mind, the embarrassment  I felt behind the plastic mask I wore of a ghoulish monster  with eyeball dripping halfway down his face complete with a purple cape  and purple tights,  bottom and top. That days started much earlier in the day, my very  rememberable parade, that  old  tradition of parading  through the school  in your Halloween nifty outfit. That was a day you can express and reveal a little of your inner hero. Other guys  were dressed as Robin Hood,  Superman, Hockey players other young girl were dressed as Ballerina, Pretty Fairy , Raggedy Anne, etcetera .But what was I crying out to the world in my Purple Super Monster….help me!

I remember not buying what my Mom what selling that day. She knew I like purple and we had a mask of this ghoulish  monster lying  around the house and voila! a new super hero complete with cape- hey it  was the early 70’s  Hippy Diddy. I still remember my mom boiling my underwear’s in Purple dye on the stove. The day starting with me  walking to school with reticent in my purple dye long underwear complete with poop hatch in the back, pee hatch in the front and unmistakable pattern of a grid square throughout in its texture. It looked more like me wearing long  underwear’s- dye purple than tights worthy of a super hero- good thing I was wearing the plastic mask of ghoulish monster with a eyeball dripping half way down the face hiding my red face wearing underwear in public.

I can remember how many question I field that day, it was numerous and came rapid fire, before I had time to answer one the next question was hurl my way.  Questions from my classmate were  like “why are you wearing purple long underwear at school”? “how come your cape it a pillow case”? (oh that’s was the other stuff boiling in the dye with my long underwear)..” what does super monster do”? I can’t remember how many times I got that very question throughout that day but it with lots? and each reply was different deliver in a in less than confidence voice behind my plastic monster mask. I remember trick and treat that night  a teachers at my school lives near us..he ask me what does Super Monster Do..behind my eyeball dripping mask I answer him…I remember it gave him pause  and gave me a odd look.

During the tour of the school through grade four through eight. The minute I got into the new classroom I became a magnet of I got to grade was a bit of a gong show.. these guys were hippy’s long haired some wispy facial hair, bell bottom jeans with headbands- the girls with long fizzy hairs….”far out! check out super monster!! (I think it was written on the cape..or should say pillow case)  and before long the whole class  was staring at me with mirth and weird question, laughing all the while -I was too young to understand  some of their question about acid..stuff like that.

In retrospect those classmate of mine in their tidy well thought Halloween costume of their hero’s colors should have be appreciated for their outfit. If the principal at the school had a sense of humor he should send them through first-so they got their due appreciation for their costume. And then he should have pipe in over the school intercom Grace Slick (Jefferson Airplanes)  “White Rabbit” while I walk through the classes giving them the full ‘Hunter Thompsonesq’ affect.

On a occasion these forty years later I thinks of the angst I had and the costume I wore and I break out into a good laugh. If I ever finds that picture I will post its. Happy Halloween!

Fictional character

2 Oct

this its just a character I met along the way…I thought of him nicely in memory.


The Lion’s Keepers Brother    (note: name Gus Houston fictional)

He took me by surprise at the back door landing, the beak of his cap was about an inch from my face, he was fierce looking, his bushy eyebrows came together in a V shape at the bridge of his nose to give his hard deep set black- brown eyes a menacing and formidable presence. “I’m a cop”! he almost shouts, “ I make sure there’s no problems around here”. He had a thin angular face dwarfed by a thick black mustache; he stood maybe five foot nine and was wiry-skinny. His baseball hat was big and puffy on his head like a train conductors and had some kind of official looking security or policing embalm on it. The beak of his cap stayed an inch from my face during his introductory dissertation, “me and my partner are security around here”…

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a remember a guys from my Junior hockey years

23 Sep

When you’re strange
no one remembers your name.

The Doors

Local folklore has it he was clean shaven, wearing a suit, hair groomed, showered, shoes polished; he was going out with the local hockey teams, a planned get together with him included; it ended unfortunately , falling down, loud, slurring, puking all over the place, a mess.

This is a tribute to all those characters who felt comfort in a place so much so they made it their home.

I have been thinking often lately of a character that use to be a fixture day and night at the local arena. As best as I can remember he always wore the same oversized parka adorned with a couple of hockey buttons and one of those hats with flaps that come down over the ears and is flipped up on the beak. I don’t know what he wore in the summer? We weren’t at the arena in those months.

When the new hockey year began, sure enough he’d be there with his fierce little nature, emerging from a vacant bathroom (where he was rumored to spend his nights when the arena was dark and locked) or he’d just show up in the dressing room.

He was a crabby little guy about the size of a jockey. He strode around with purpose; a threatening stomp even when he was staggering. When he spoke his word spilled out in big burst of bravado. He had dark stubble, bushy eyebrows that met in a V at the bridge of his nose giving him a menacing fix. Half a cigarette stub always clenched between his teeth. He often paced under the rise of the stands where the dug out style confectionery existed with its old fashion popcorn machine percolated away giving off a delicious scent of salt, hot oil and fleshly cooked kernels. If you made eye contact with him he was going to show you in his most demonstrative way the moves he performed while playing for the Montreal Canadians, “I did THIS! and THIS”! and with each THIS! a violent but nonsensical body maneuver would follow startling folks who might be passing by. You knew that he was done showing you when he gave you a glower as if to say “don’t believe me.. I’ll take you out to the woodshed kid”. I don’t remember spending a lot of  time with him, one learned to avoid these confrontations.

When the team was together though (and there was relative safety in numbers) certain players egged him on with humoring questions of his hockey conquests, and if deeply inebriated he would perform for the team, grab a hockey stick in the middle of the dressing room and growl “you do it like THIS”! and he’d feign a slaps shot and look around in that intimidating glare forcing gravity upon his lesson, and on it would go for a bit until it was time to get ready for practice.

Honest nostalgia is equal to a clearer understanding of a memory looked at through a less accurate lens weakened by the years. I can’t remember his name I wish I could, it ended in a Y Frenchy, Franky ,Jimmy. Did he really sleep in the bathrooms at the arena? or did he go to a shelter or both? Is he alive all these years later or has he succumbed to addiction, old age or some other street borne illness? Did he have a family or someone to look after him? or was that us? I have not been to my hometown in many years something tells me he no longer inhabits the nooks and crannies of that arena, his bombastic voice no longer echoes through its hallways. Twenty five years is a long time, I think of all the people I knew, younger and no doubt healthier that have passed since those days. Yet thousands of cold dark nights removed from that era I remember him, he has a place in me. As I make my way home from the pub I follow the moon it is full, the sky open, vast and filled with stars; in my mind I revisit the memory of him, his pantomime full of energy, bluster and conviction “when I played for the Montreal Canadians I did THIS and THIS! “to my surprise I’m saying it under my breath but audible enough that the women on the other side of the street hears and looks at me strangely.

23 Sep

So The Amazing Kreskin still around Eh?

The amazing Kreskin was getting headlines about a week ago he said he could help the Toronto Maple Leafs win. Now you tell us Kreskin. What’s Amazing to me is that he is still around after all these years. According to his website he is still at it and is working as hard as ever. The last time he was really relevant to me was about thirty years ago the result of a stinging comment made by my cancer ward roommate at sick kids hospital in Toronto.

He said he had leukemia; he was a frail blonde kid as laconic as hell. His mother looking tired beyond her years appeared to be using the balance of whatever reserve she had left to pace in and out in of the hospital room, mumbling complaints and regrets with each arrival.

The TV was at the foot of our beds set high on the wall. On TV was one of those mid day talk shows and the guest was “The Amazing Kreskin”, he was wowing the studio audience with his clever magic. I looked over at my roommate and said in my earnest- from the sticks north western Ontario accent “so this Amazing Kreskin guy- he’s a pretty good magician eh”. He turned his head ever so slowly, when finally looking at me he was wearing an Archie Bunker-“you are a meathead’ look, he spat out three words bathed in venom “he’s a psychic”. He turned his attention just as slowly and deliberately back to the TV screen, thoese were our final words. We shared the room for the balance of the day with our respective parents, me a combination of anxiety of events to come and recurring revenge thoughts directed at my little neighbor. Tough talking cool slick bastard from Toronto, all hard boiled from a go at it with chemo- me all lumpy bumpy with lymphoma flown in from Thunder Bay and new to the mat.

It was early January, staring out the eighth floor window it was dark you couldn’t really see anything, but on University Avenue below the sounds of sirens, squealing tires, car horns told a story of desperation, anger and near misses. It may have very well been sunny often that winter, there was a few truly brilliant blue sky days; a story for another time. It just seemed like the darkness was reserved for action, tests, chemotherapy and earnest declarations from doctors: We are putting you on an aggressive protocol of chemo, it will be up to you-really, your parents are taking this hard but by all accounts you are a fighter they know you can overcome this .

My introduction to the fight was late that first night, he looked friendly, like Barney Rubble or at least the image made me think of the Flinstones and how everything was too big. He was carrying what looked like a cafeteria tray dwarfed by what was the largest needle I had ever seen filled with what looked like a litre of cream soda, I think it was called something like “Donomysen” or “Cytozar”. The messenger had a weird fix on his face; a more modern description would have cast him as a smiling Tie Domi in a white doctor’s coat wearing that mug that let the world know nothing could hurt him.

The next day my parents sat with me in the hospital room, I felt nothing in fact I was famished and sent my folks out for a good greasy ham and cheese submarine heated up. My roommate was gone I didn’t see him leave. His bed was neatly made; no indication anyone had inhabited the space beside me. It still bugged me the way he talked to me, I was mad at myself for not having a snappy comeback. I remember thinking- I could take a round out of you buddy, I was athletic, the captain of one of the best bantam triple A hockey teams in North Western Ontario.

Later that night I upchucked the ham and cheese submarine with a ferocity not experienced before or since-this gave way several hours later to a more violent form of wrenching producing small amounts of yellow bile, finally a sort of dark speckled liquid by the end of the second day-sometime later it ended. The fact the doctors seemed nonplussed by the sudden onset of my brutal vomiting was comforting; these cowboys with chemo running around saving lives, taking you down the rabbit hole drawing the bow of will as far back they can, reaching to the quiver for more in the preparation for the triumphant snap back, sending you on your way. Later my hair came out of my “mansome mullet” in easy to pull clumps, akin to the eager hand of a child ripping off the next bit of cotton candy from a cardboard baton-it was kind of fun to pluck out in a “I don’t get to do this very often” way.

The anger I had for not being armed with a witty comeback to my first cancer ward roommate was fleeting, it gave way to the task at hand and later to hockey trips, high school dances, house parties, the power and mystery of sex, wet kisses, my surprising dexterity at being able to unsnap a bra with one hand, first real job, bar fights ,barbeques and off to university in my Scooby –Doo Van.

I have held with me the recurring memory over the years of how that first hospital roommate just disappeared, the bed he slept in tightly made, no evidence of him-gone. I have periodically wondered what became of him, I hope he did well; I think so, he was sour but he had toughness to him.
If he is around did he see the Amazing Keskin had re emerged after all these years on the front page of the Toronto Sun to say he could help the Leafs win? Did it remind him of the naïve kid from the sticks?