Thursday 30 December 2010

Garage Beers

A lot of the family "talk" this Christmas was about the formula revealed in my last blog: the perfect woman is always 1/2 your age +10.  Things got a little heated because of this controversial formula and an uncle that excels and making cocktails...stiff ones.

When things got a little too hot too handle, in the kitchen, I'd see my grandpa disappear out to the garage.  I followed him out once.  He was having a smoke out the back door; and just hanging out with his bloodhound Carl.  Grandpa said that it was time I learned a lesson.  He pointed to an old Beach Industries Tool Box and said to bring it over.  It was heavy.

He looked all mysterious and said: "Now son open 'er up and pick one".  He had a serious look on his face.  This was surely some time honoured rite of passage.  I was not disappointed when I opened the case.  It was full of winter chilled beers.  They were mainly imports.  Grandpa started chucklin'  - "This emergency tool kit has helped me weather a few storms".

I picked one out.

Grandpa said: "Now pass that G.D. case over here".

Wednesday 22 December 2010

Half Your Age Plus Ten

Had a few festive drinks last night with the lads.  Sweaty sat there all night looking at PD's sketch pad.  Occasionally he'd pull out a coloured pencil and do a bit of work; guess he's got the bug.  The rest of us just chatted and sipped on our rusty nails.

Lonesome 50 sat alone.  I think we were wearing him out...especially Sweaty.  The Tavern was quiet, but French rhymed off his latest tales.  We all listened.

A cute little brunette came in around midnight.  Pancake said: "Ain't that your hot neighbour from when you was a kid?"  Sure enough it was.  She was my first crush. I was 13 she was 25; it never worked out.  She went by and said: "hi boys".  I just grinned like I was a teen again.

PD said: "That my friends is a beautiful woman".

She went over to Lonesome 50 and the left together moments later.

We all looked puzzled. Pancake said: " How do they know each other"?

French said: "They are dating."

We all did some mental math. The hot neighbour of my youth was 51 and Lonesome 50 was at least 80.

French piped up: "Look guys it is a simple rule that he has followed his whole life.  The perfect woman is always half your age plus ten".

We pondered that for a bit.

Saturday 11 December 2010

Mean Dean Rides Again

French and I were talking about odd jobs recently.  You know those brutal jobs you had as a teen.  He had his little liquor raffle to avoid the rigors of work.  Our friend Mean Dean had his own method as well.

We were at a huge field party once where Dean's job was revealed.  The cops raided the party around 10:30 and we all had to bolt.  Pancake and Sweaty took off in their cars; they each thought the other had picked up French and I.  The two of us ran through the forest to a side road trying to avoid the police.  We walked for about 20 minutes when a huge truck with a dented steel bumper pulled up.  Dean was at the wheel and we jumped in and headed into town.

Dean said that he had a job to do on  the way, but then we'd grab some beers and shoot some pool at his grandma's place (she had a beautiful table, at let us hang out if we "kept it down").

Dean pulled into a parking lot in an old steel factory.  Dean said, "buckle-up". He reved it up and did a brake burn, a donut and then sided swiped an Oldsmobile.  He said, "there that oughta do it".

I said, "what the hell was that?"

Dean replied: "That my friend was a hundred bucks".

Dean, on occasion, would take money to do little crashes to get back at bad bosses, cheating husbands and general bastards. 

We headed off to see his grandma.  French broke into Dirty Deeds by AC/DC.

Thursday 2 December 2010

Of Lingerie and Truckers

Pancake's dad is a long haul trucker.  He climbs into his rig and heads out on the road for days, even weeks, at a time.  (We've taken to calling him PD.)  So PD was telling us lads some stories from the road.  He says that, "He has a hellavuh lotta alone time.  I've fine tuned my mind; I see myself as a trucker mystic, but lately I've been thinking about lingerie".

Pancake tried to get him off the subject.  He often gets embarrassed by his eccentric father.  Sweaty started to tease him.  Pancake was getting really riled up.

We all piled on Pancake and PD, but then French said: "No guys I wanna hear more".  We all shut-up.

Turns out PD really has thought about lingerie a lot.  When he gets off the road he grabs a pencil and paper and sketches out his designs.  Teddies, lace skirts, boy-shorts, bras, g-strings, name it PD has drawn it.

We all piled on again. Laughing at red-faced Pancake and his smirking father.

PD said:  "I've sold some designs".   French replied: "No Shit?"  PD handed him a folded cheque from under the brim of his trucker hat.

French read the figure: "Thirty Thousand Dollars".

Thursday 25 November 2010

getting in

We went to the Sens game this week, but we had arrived a little late. We could not get into a restaurant or, more importantly, a bar.  Sweaty was getting snarly; he kept saying: "I need one a them big beers and a straw" -  over and over again.  French told him to "shut it" each time. Pancake was hungry and looking a little faint.  Bruce Fish stood in awe with his usual dazed/bemused expression.   We stood in line for 10 minutes.  The line was not moving at all and the wind was ripping fierce across the parking lot.

French just took off and said "be right back".

A couple minutes later we saw him inside the restaurant gesturing for us to come in.  One of the staff members actually came out and brought us in - somehow we had gone from schmucks to V.I.P.s.  We came in, brushed the snow off our coats, to see French chatting up a pretty little waitress.  He was sitting in a huge booth with two pitchers of beer waiting.  We all piled in and Sweaty started pouring.

He had snuck around the back through a service entrance, worked his charm,  and snagged this great table.

Monday 15 November 2010

Pure Olsonomics

French gave us a fine display of high school economics today in the staffroom  He mentioned that he had overheard a student who had a little financial operation going.  The students would cut a deck of cards in half on the bandsaw.  Then he would sell the cut cards for two bucks a pop as tickets.  This student would collect at least $104 dollars - more if he sold the jokers.  At the end of the day on Friday he'd pull a card out of a hat and give the winner, who held the matching half, a 20 ounce bottle of booze that he had stashed in his locker.

Solid economics - the kid would clear around $80 - depending on sales.  Underagers would gladly gamble two bucks for the chance to win some hard to come by liquor.

All the teachers that heard French tell this story reacted in disgust and proclaimed the fall of humanity.  One teacher even said: "I weep for the future".

The bell rung and they all left.  I burst out laughing.

French said: "Good on yah...keeping a straight face".

This story of the card cutting booze supplier was fully biographical in nature.  French pulled this deal whenever he was low on cash in his high school days.

Wednesday 10 November 2010

Lonesome 50 and the Big One

We were having a few beers with the usual crew: Sweaty, French, Bruce Fish, Pancake, Lonesome 50 and me, Old Ollie. Usual group, usual place, usual beers - until sweaty finally coaxed Lonesome 50 to tell a story from World War 2.

Sweaty kept buying Lonesome 50 his favourite, and namesake, Labatt 50 quarts. He just jumped into the story after being silent for most of the night:

I was in Italy, and damned tired of walking.  The Captain asked if anyone knew how to drive a motorcycle.  They needed a new FOO (forward observational officer).  The former one had been taken out by sniper fire.  I put up my hand and went up and took the bike.  I didn't know how to drive it, being a poor farm kid, but I learned that night.

My job was to drive up ahead and do a bit of scouting; avoid German and Italian troops and report back.  I'd go ahead to the next village and buy up all the wine and spirits, and hide it.  I'd resell it to our lads as they caught up. 

By the end of the war I was a liquor tycoon.  I'd just repeat that process over and over.  I just tried to survive, make a bit of coin, and supply me brethren with fine booze. When the war was over I went straight, worked the trains; but that was a damn fine business.

We bought him another round after that fine tale.

Tuesday 2 November 2010

Bench Seat

 A strange pick-up truck pulled into my driveway tonight.  It looked old, but clean; rust free.  The horn honked and French got out grinning.

"So whadya think?", he said.

"Cool old truck...but why?", I replied.

He explained that he had bought it off Lonesome 50.  He had lost his licence because his sight had faded.  French promised to drive him around, and had paid him a healthy market value.  French went on with his explanation.  I'll paraphrase: "This is the important has a bench seat.  And nothing makes picking up girls easier than a bench seat.  You put a solid mix; these days it is Taylor Swift along with a few old classics.  Your lady friend can slide right over.   This is the beauty of the bench seat."

He pulled out soon after to pick up his current girl; the one with the Johnny Cash tattoo.

I think I need a new old truck.

Thursday 28 October 2010

This is a Bombtrack

I was about to watch a very early morning hockey game last weekend.  French and I were sipping a cup of coffee, topped up with just a dash of Canadian Club, up in the chilly stands of the local arena.

French pulled out an earphone splitter jack and plugged in his headphones.  He told me to plug mine in as well.  French had made a mix for the game.

He waited for the exact moment for the kids to step out on to the ice and start skating their warm-up.  When the first kid touched the ice the words: "bring that shit out" nailed me.  French continued the audio assault with a crazy mix of Rage Against the Machine hits and a smattering of P.O.D.

It was sweet when my son scored on a massive slap shot during the ripping power chords of Bombtrack.

When the game wrapped up and the kids were shaking hands French said: "that is pretty much the only time rap-rock is acceptable".

Saturday 23 October 2010

38 years old

Phone rang early ... real early.  All I could hear on the other end was the sound of 38 Years Old by the Tragically Hip.  The line "never kissed a girl" was sung with massive gusto.

This was followed by whoops and hollers from Sweaty, Pancake and Bruce Fish.  The song ended and French said: "happy birthday yah fucker".

They had stayed up till 4 am just to "get me".

I was up giving Gunnar a bottle  - jokes on them.  Good lads though...good lads.

Thursday 14 October 2010

Lock Down

There is a series of codes, forms, and protocols that swing into effect in case the school gets threatened.  The trend seems to be to throw a mountain of bureaucracy at the threat to vanquish it.  In fact, tomorrow we have a Lock Down Drill.  French deals with these "threats" in his own way.

A young guy in his early twenties came in to our computer lab a while back.  This intruder was soaking wet with sweat, his hair was long and stuck to his face; the worst part was that his knuckles were bleeding.  He came in, sat down at a computer and started to check his email.  He acted like this was the most normal thing in the world; very casual.

This young fella had been spotted coming in and had taken off from the admin team.  The school went into full lock down: doors locked, windows covered, huddle in the corner...police on their way.  French stepped up.

French went right up to the guy and asked to speak to him in the hall.  They talked like they were old buds.  French handed him a handkerchief for his bloody hands and walked him to the back door.  The intruder left the building and French locked the door behind him.

Once a school is in lock down it is a long process to get it off that designation.  As we waited for the official all clear French regaled everyone with "the story" (even though it was "all clear").  Everyone asked: "What did you do?"  He answered each question the same way: "I talked to him".

The lock down and police sweep continued for three hours.  I like French's direct method better.

Posted to this fine site: Imperfect Prose

Thursday 7 October 2010

The Rules

French has been in a lot of trouble in his days.  I've been there as an observer, witness, participant; in those fist swinging moments.  I've waved to French as he waves back from the back of a cop car, but he has stayed out of trouble for the longest stint I can remember.

He still looks the rebel: sleeved, punkish hair, cowboy boots, and he sticks a cigarette behind his ear and ducks out for a butt as the bell rings at school.

I asked him - what gives? - How come he has kept it on the level the last few months?  He replied "the rules".  He continued:  "When I see trouble brewing I follow them religiously".


1.  Look surprised.
2.  Deny everything.
3.  Seem sincere.

I asked: "Those are the rules of life?"

French said: "No those rules are totally fucked for life, but they are to be followed at all times at work".

Fair Enough.

Tuesday 28 September 2010

The Alan Doyle Story

French finally made it up to the staffroom this week. He had been hiding out most days in the basement. French had found a little unknown nook to sneak a quick pull from his Benson and Hedges, but that day he felt social.

The teacher ladies were talking about seeing Robin Hood - it had just come out on DVD. French piped up how he knew Alan Doyle, also of Great Big Sea, who played a role in that film.

As usual, French's story got a little gritty. He told the story of the time that he had partied with Alan at the Edmonton Folk festival. Doyle had needed to "hang a piss", but he was holding two pitchers of beer. French held the beers. The grateful Doyle invited us to "party". French and I partied with the rest of the boys from the band and a couple of lads from Blue Rodeo. French did not spare any of the debauched details.

When he finished the story every teacher had left the room. He turned to me and with his big grin said: "I guess they don't like Canadian music".

Friday 17 September 2010

Notebook Poems - Two Sides of French

These are a couple of poems from French's notebook.


little fashion risk taker
boots, heels, skirts, flair
loving and hating the stares
so deeply fragile
beautiful, but breaking
in front of the class


blood in tiny splatters
a red mist
a fight unfaded
jumped and suckered in '92
tides turned
heads faces pulped

evidence blackened
above the urinal
years later

Monday 6 September 2010

Teacher's New Year

Just got off the phone with French. He is a little nervous about tomorrow. All teachers get a little nervous on Labour Day. This truly is the teacher's New Year. Forget about January 1st.

French has bit more weighing on him than the average teacher; coming back as a teacher, at the same school, after being off with a year's suspension. It was about a year ago when he took off in a hot air balloon and started a year of adventures. I've tried to comment on most of them in this blog.

It was pretty boring without him around last year, so I'm looking forward to being his colleague again.

Back to the phone call: French asked me to go out for lunch tomorrow. I said "Sure." Even though I had already packed a lunch. He was glad that I agreed because his fridge was pretty bare. He only a had a beer, some salsa, a bag of rotten oranges and a bottle of pre-mixed Margarita. A new year, but the same old French.

Wednesday 1 September 2010

Raccoon Baseball

Raccoon's can be a real problem. I throw in some compost and they troop out of the forest. I took this picture of a demon coon in the spring. Crazy bastard.

French had a way to deal with pesky coons. I may have to give it a try...again. There was a big pack of raccoons up a tree above the camp gunge pile. This heap of left-over food attracted them in droves. We chucked a few rocks half heartily to shoo them off so that we could dump some more scraps and not get attacked.

This American lad wandered up while we were doing this gross task. It was his first day on the job. French said: "Hey bud - heard you were a baseball player?" The new guy agreed with that assessment. French challenged him to "plug a raccoon". The new guy was a little hesitant, but French egged him on. The American picked up a fist sized rock and absolutely laced a fat raccoon right between the eyes. It fell bouncing off several branches.

It landed twitching at the feet of our boss, who had wandered up to see what was taking us so long.

We both pointed at the new American guy. The boss didn't go for it. He just looked and French shook his head.

Monday 23 August 2010

Sunday Night with Johnny Cash

There was an open stage down at this little bar called Raw Sugar Sunday night. Couple of us decided to check it out; plus they had Beau's on tap. It was a tiny little place with only one beer tap. There was also only one girl working. She got a little scared when French asked her: "How rowdy can we get in here?"

We listened to a couple of fine singers, and we started buying rounds like we did back at university. French finally took off his cowboy hat and hit the stage with his guitar. French had everyone take off their hats as well. Then he told everyone to stand up. Pancake, Sweaty, and I all got up right away; everyone else followed suit. He then sang I Shall Not Be Moved Johnny Cash style. French had 'em all singing and clapping. Excellent finish to the night, or so I thought. There was one more little adventure worth mentioning.

Pancake was hungry - as usual. We hit up some stale pizza then headed out into the rain. Outside French immediately started to talk to a homeless man who was missing one arm from the elbow down. The homeless guy said: "Can you spare a little for a fella that just had the worst day of his life"? French looked at his stump, handed him some money and said: "Worse than the day you lost your hand?"

That was damn good point. We all gave him some cash and a few slices too.

Linked to Imperfect Prose - Redemption.

Thursday 19 August 2010

Perpetual Yard Sale

French and I went to see the new baby. Rose and Bruce have their first; a little girl: Destiny Fish. We pulled up into the dump and drove up to the shed. Bruce Fish had a display; all kinds of girly items from the dump that spelled out "It's a Girl". We chatted for a bit and then went to visit Rose. She was at her perpetual yard sale.

Rose has spent the last couple of weeks with her two constant companions: her ever present bible and Destiny. She sits in a big lazy boy chair under a tarp. She even has a little school desk with a cashier sign.

Rose comes to the dump and wanders around pulling out the best items. Bruce cleans them up does a few repairs, and they truck them back down the highway to their place. Today Bruce had just finished repairing a Microwave; which he called an easy twenty bucks. Their front yard is a never ending yard sale. They have rows a tables filled with items. They put the best items up front. Many cottagers and campers buy the old dump gems back. Bruce said that sales went up 23% when he put up a sign that said ANTIQUES in huge block letters. He even got this sign out of the dump.

On their days off Bruce and Rose drive around and pick up stuff off the curbs on garbage days. They usual bring back a full truck of "goods" from the streets of Kingston. Bruce calls these days his tinkering days. I questioned him once about this habit. " Don't you get enough of junk and trash at work?" He said: "I sure do, but the dump can't keep up with the demand".

Monday 16 August 2010

The Funeral Tie

Just got the news from French. He got his old job back: teaching high-school. He'll be back at HHS this September. His resume and experience is just what they needed. French is teaching one section of guitar, media, metal-shop, gym and two English classes.

He said: "I'm the filler inner".

French had been bowling with the superintendent. They became good buds. Their team was called the "Tap-Benders". French is now back in the board.

Since he was last in the classroom he's sleeved his left arm in tattoos. He never wears long sleeves so that'll create some controversy with the PTA.

He has a solution. French keeps an old tie in his garage. We came back from a friend's funeral back in 2007 and he got out of the car and he took it off and hung it on a nail before going inside. Over the last three years it has got a little beat up and cob-webby. He calls it his "funeral tie'. French never wore it teaching before.

French rubbed it down with a swiffer and said: "this touch of class will make up for my tats".

Monday 9 August 2010

Garth Brooks Friends

Pancake often calls Bruce Fish our Garth Brooks friend: "I've got friends in low places....". This is a reference , or rib, to his job at the dump. I think it is excellent to "know someone" at the dump.

I went to the dump after a few days at the cottage and a new guy was working. Bruce Fish was at home with Rose (she had just given birth). This new guy wanted to know where my dump tags were; after closely inspecting my garbage bags. With a big grin on his face he said: "The rule is one tag per bag - and each tag is a buck - and you have to buy them in units of ten - and you have to be a property owner in the county to buy them - and the stickers need to be clearly affixed to each bag". Son of a bitch.

Bruce Fish never checked for tags with me; good deal. This substitute dump dude was in his glory. A true bureaucrat of the dump. I went in to town and bought some tags. The dump was closed when I got back.

I went back a few weeks later with dump tags. Bruce Fish was insulted that I had bought the tags. I hung them on the fridge and there they'll stay.

Tuesday 3 August 2010

Art Explosion

Had a great holiday weekend with the lads and the Fams - swimming and fishing at the cottage.

Seems like some of the guys have got art on their minds. Bruce Fish is tinkering away, as always, on his projects. Sweaty calls himself "the Artist of the Grill". Funny - he only cooks back bacon. We have this ancient Ranchero BBQ - rusty, beat-up and full of hot and cold spots. Sweaty kept the bacon grilling regardless.

And French spent the whole holiday weekend taking photos through beer bottles. I've posted one of the shots that French took as the header.

Pancake and I spent most of the time pulling sunfish off hooks down on the dock. He made this observation: "Fifteen years ago we came up here, got drunk and passed out...things have changed".

Rose looked up from her Bible and said: "Its nice".

Tuesday 27 July 2010

The Fishing Hole

As kids: French, Pancake, Sweaty and few other lads would always be on the hunt for the perfect fishing hole. We lived on a road where there was a power dam at the far end. We'd bike down and fish all Saturday. It was a true fishing hole. We'd be pulling out pike, bass, crappies galore, and some fat catfish too. It was easy and fun...but now it is illegal to fish there; no fishing near dams!

We needed a new spot.

Bruce Fish will never go out with us. He always thinks that it is too ironic for a guy called Fish to fish. Rose Fish come out in the boat; she likes it, but clutches her (Ziploc bagged) Bible tight.

We fished all day - no hole. Barely a bite.

Pancake's dad laughed at us and said: "you need to fish where the fish are. Come on I'll show yah".

We canoed out to the shady side of a bay. He told us to cast out towards shore. We hit bass. It was excellent to fight those feisty small mouths and those big fat large mouths. French started to string up some Perch with Sweaty. We all caught the max and headed back for a big butter and garlic fish fry. Sweaty and Pancake are both pros in this field.

French looked at Pancake's dad and just shook his head.


Wednesday 21 July 2010

The Dumpbot

The road up to the cottage is twisty - as you get over the crest of one curve you can see Bruce Fish's dump. Cars all slow down to see his latest display. This week he had five empty frames set up on easels. Behind each frame he had placed various items from the dump. Each "picture" or sculpture was created from some rare items from the dump. One was a robot made out of various electronics. It was amazing.

I head over to the dump most days while I'm staying at the lake. I try to time it so that Rose is there too. She bikes up with his lunch everyday.

When I drove up I noticed that the robot was gone from the day before. I thought "damn kids". I asked Bruce Fish about his missing art. He said: " It ain't missing bub, some old lad from Toronto bought it for $1000". He had jokingly said that he couldn't let it go for less than a grand. The "old lad" had handed him a stack of bills and said "deal".

We had some lunch. Sweet Rose had brought me a sandwich.  Rose kept her distance as we drank a cold lager.  When we were done drinking, she had us sit down and read us a chapter of Proverbs.  She then biked on back home.   Bruce Fish and I go started on making another robot.

Monday 12 July 2010

Of Pots and Worship Bands

I spent last week hosting/directing  97 boys at Camp IAWAH (Proverbs 3:6). Some of these boys came with so many troubles. One boy loved that there was "so much food". Other boys kept their dukes up because that was their paradigm. Another lad, of 11 years, was so stressed that he habitually twisted and pulled his hair right out of his head. We are all broken, but it is hard to see such angst in children. God bless 'em all.

French was there too. I saw him in the very back of the kitchen hovering over the steaming pot sink. Tough work in a heat wave. He'd drink litres of water out of an old yogurt container then hammers away at the pots again. I didn't even know he'd volunteered for the week.

French would take one "break" each day. French would pick up his guitar and play in the worship band. They'd play 5-6 songs, then he'd put his soaking apron back on and head back to the pot sink.

I didn't get to talk to him too much, but it was encouraging to see his hard work and hear his rock steady guitar playing each day.

Thursday 1 July 2010

Beer Pancakes

Last night I missed Graven at Zaphods. Tragically they were shoved to the 8:45 slot, rather than the anticipated 10:15. The Dox, Gavin and Fisheye Lens revelled regardless. Billy "two fists" Henry poured many a beer to ward of the gloom. Beaus beer was as delightful as always.

On to Canada Day: I heard a rumble and some banging pots all too early this morning. My wife sent me down to see what was up. Was it the kids? Was it some inbreaker?

It was French. He had a 2-4 on the counter and he was pouring one of the pints into a big bowl of flour. Both of my kids were involved; they were covered in flour, eggs, and beer. He handed me a cold beer and said: "happy Canada day buddy - I'm making beer pancakes".

They were glorious.

Tuesday 22 June 2010


French and Sweaty sometimes got into it. It was pretty rare, but occasionally things would get a little heated and the brothers would start swinging. French usually just got Sweaty in a twisted up wrestling hold and that would be the end. Once we were at Pancake's house and Sweaty caught French with a low blow in one of these rare scraps. French snapped and pulled a knife out of his sock.
He was brandishing it around and threatening to stab Sweaty. Pancake' dad came over real slow and took the knife and closed it up. He said; "I'm gonna take this knife. It is still yours but I'm going to put it away somewhere. If you need it you'll find it."

Weird, but Pancake's dad always talked like that.

Several months latter we were in a fenced off schoolyard playing basketball: Sweaty, Pancake, French, Bruce Fish and myself were having a good game of hoops. During the game two cars drove up and blocked off the gate. We were penned in. Five dudes got out of each car. They were from Perth and the had a beef with us because we were from Smith Falls. We were outnumbered 2-1 (worse than that because Bruce Fish refused to fight as he was a declared pacifist). These Perth boys were bigger and older than us so it wasn't looking good. The ten of them started to move forward.

Pancake made an observation: "What the hell is Bruce Fish doing?"

All 14 of us looked. He was systematically stabbing the tires of the two cars.

French took advantage: "I'm telling you boys he'll stab you next." Bruce Fish musta looked crazy. The Perth boys were pissed, but scared. We all slipped out of the gate past Bruce Fish and sprinted away.

A couple blocks later we stopped running. Bruce Fish handed French the knife. It was the knife that Pancake's dad had taken from him. Bruce Fish explained: "I found it stuck in that tree by the swings."

Monday 21 June 2010

Are those wooden lacrosse sticks?

French and I took in a game of lacrosse recently. His son's select team was playing in Cornwall versus a team from the Mohawk reserve.

The game went well. Lil'French scored three goals in the first half. He is one fast n'feisty son of a bitch. As the Ottawa team scored the "chippiness" increased. The Mohawks were adept at these little flicking slashes across the wrists, but lil'French kept scoring.

I thought a fight'd break out, but it didn't - just more slashing and crashing. After half the Mohawk team came out, and they looked different. French said: "Are those wooden lacrosse sticks?" They were. The Cornwall boys started to lay in the lumber and some crushing body checks. They were no longer trying to win. They were trying to exact some physical punishment. Near the end of the game a full out fight ensued. Helmets and sticks flew.

French surged forward, but the ref put a stop to it...briefly. The fight resumed moments later in the parking lot. French and I were trying to extract lil'French. Since he had scored so many goals; everyone wanted a piece of him.

I was holding this one guy and French was about to deck him - he uncocked his fist - and said: "Dean?...holy shit...Mean Dean?" The guy I was holding said: "French?" They shook hands and started laughing. In the midst of this crazy brawl French and Mean Dean were introducing their kids. Mean Dean's boy and lil'French had been the boys that started the whole mess.

French said: "Remember that time you punched that guy in the truck?"

Dean: "I remember.'

They both stood there grinning. The brawl carried on without us.

Thursday 17 June 2010

Mean Dean

Mean Dean was the only guy that ever beat French in a fight. This is something that French disputes, but it was at least a draw: nil -nil. He would hang out with us every once in a while. French had a lot of respect for Dean. He always referred to him as "a stand up guy".

Dean's full name was Dean Medicineshield - he was 1/2 Arapaho and 1/2 Cree. I credit him with "the best fight ever". French refers to it as "the quickest".

Pancake, French, Sweaty, Mean Dean and I were walking home, late one night, down main street; when a pickup truck with a couple of rednecks drove by. This one good ol'boy yelled at Dean: "Hey Dean - you an apple - you a bush nigger". Then he laughed like a maniac and high-fived his pals. They all started to hoot and holler and make tomahawk chopping motions.

French took off running after the truck, but Mean Dean held him back and said: "he's mine". Dean slipped out of his cowboy boots and sprinted after the truck. I could see the look of fear from the boys in the truck, but they didn't go fast enough; he caught up. Mean Dean climbed up over the tailgate, grabbed the good ol'boy by the neck and absolutely hammered him in the face. I could hear the fleshy thud down the street. The good ol'boy was knocked out and slumped to the floor of the truck. Dean jumped off the side as the truck still rolled and walked back to us in sock feet.

French handed him his cowboy boots. All he said after this brief fight was "thanks French".

Friday 4 June 2010

Sweaty's Monte Carlo SS - the mobile party.

Sweaty felt that he needed a car (a sweet ride) to level the playing field with French and his Mustang. Sweaty did so by getting a 1986 Burgundy Monte Carlo SS. It was big and pretty cool, but it wasn't a Mustang Cobra Jet.

Bruce Fish had the solution. He found a pair of huge wooden house speakers and a stereo system in the dump. Sweaty and Bruce installed them in the trunk of the Monte Carlo. Now it was sweet. Sweaty would role up to one of the many field parties, pop the trunk, pull out the speakers, set them up and crank some glorious hair metal. The first time he did it the crowd surge forward in awe and wonder to the sounds of Bon Jovi's "Living on a Prayer". Sweaty was the man!

One day we were heading home from a big bonfire. Sweaty, French, Pancake, Ollie (me), and a couple of girls piled on our laps drove down this old dirt road. It was really foggy and dark. Sweaty slowed down. He'd seen something ahead. He cautiously inched forward. We couldn't see a thing. He moved the car forward a bit more and there was a metallic bump and grinding sound. The car had hit a train. The train was going really slowly as it slid into town. He tried to back up, but we were hooked. We scrambled out of this two door death trap. I remember puling the last girl out as she screamed.

The car slowly got pulled under. As each wheel hit the car would be dragged further under. We watched in silence - looking at each other as each new piece of the Monte Carlo was destroyed. The car was getting eaten. As the wheels struck the trunk Sweaty yelled: "not my fucking speakers"!

Monday 31 May 2010


French and I went to church together when we were teens. Our attendance was a bit hit or miss, but when we were both present we usually caused some hi jinx. We'd clap off beat, make up new actions for songs, or create actions to songs that didn't have actions, we also would balance hymn books in elaborate stacks, and more often than not sleep. French always said "that he came for the girls".

I was thus very surprised to see French at church on Sunday. I haven't seen him darken the door of a church since he was 18 - (he is 39 now). French had on a white shirt and a black tie, he sported a tweed jacket that I recognized as his father's (it fit a bit big on him), his pants were rumpled, and he had on his standard Chuck Taylors. He sat down with my family. He barely looked at me out the side of his sunglasses. I noticed that there was a cigarette behind his ear, and I could smell a warm boozy scent.

He waited for a bit and said: "I felt that I should live in community today".

I just said: "sure".

A few moments later he said: "I could use some baby therapy". My wife handed over my 6 week old son. French sat there for an hour just thinking and holding the baby. He never even stood for the hymns.

At the benediction he handed back the baby and slid out a side door.

Tuesday 25 May 2010


I saw French on the weekend; wheeling around the market on an ancient 10 speed. This is a system that he has had in play for many years.

He couldn't always keep the Mustang on the road, so he'd revert back to his bike. You'd often see him on an old, dirty, junky bike. French would snag old bikes from people's garbage, or pick one up from Bruce Fish. You'd see him ride up and then unceremoniously just lean the bike against a tree, drop it in an alley, or even just roll it down a ditch. He'd retrieve it later and bike home.

His theory was that he didn't have to lock it up; it was totally stress free bike "ownership". French actually found it funny when his bike would be missing or wrecked by vandals. He'd just round up another and be on his way. He has never paid for a bike...or a lock.

At one point he had three "junk-cycles" hidden around the town. He'd always have access to transportation, be it a 10 speed, an BMX, or a rusty mountain bike. Some bikes he'd have to stop with his feet Flintstone style. He'd roll up and lament the lack of brakes. Other times you'd see French with a 2-4 balanced on the handle-bars, heading out for the night. It was a great system.
I'm thinking of making this a junk-cycle summer.

Sunday 23 May 2010

Graven - Spring Tour - Anecdotes

Graven - and the Zaphodic night.

Matty pulled out his well stickered guitar - strummed a few chords. Ben followed with a some quick banjo licks. Brandon plug in - you could hear the electric pulse, and the smooth flow of feedback. I've seen and heard this before, but something was different. There was a sonic beat flowing over and through the sound and weaving into the song. St. Cat was there - riding his stool - king of the the drum kit. It was a great show.

Graven did good -the bachlorette party girls surged forward and flung garter belts toward the boys. The just strummed harder and better than ever.

SQ slowly drifted to domestics - he shunned the imports for the bitter bang of a cheap 50. Fisheye followed suit, and Dox popped a few more caps off some quarts.

We kept our eye out for French all night. After the show I saw his bike outside of the Barefax strip club. I waited for a bit and Sweaty and French came out. They had meant to go to the Graven show, but they'd stepped in for a peek at the peelers - and got distracted.

I gave Sweaty a lift - (he crashed on my couch before heading back to the Falls tomorrow).
We saw French moments later. He had a stripper sitting on the handle bars of his dirty old bike, weaving through the drunken market crowd.

Monday 17 May 2010

Cigarette Run

French got me started on cigarettes.

He'd always have packs of various little mini-cigars (Colts). We'd spark these at parties. And he used to sell American cigarettes out back of the school (Marlboros). Also, his dad hand cranked his own cigarettes with a little rolling machine. His dad would crank them and say: "I'm getting my exercise". Somedays we'd smoke those.

In gym class we had to do this run called "the run". It was a 4 mile course up a dirt road. We would run down the road to the train tracks, that were up the top of a hill, and then turn around and head back to school. Somedays we'd take the whole period to get it done. Other days the gym teacher would ride behind us in his Chevy Bronco and yell and honk at us; on those days we'd actually run.

French held the school records for "the run". French would put on his beat up Chuck Taylors, run to the tracks, smoke a dart, and then run past us heading back the other way laughing like a maniac. Every year, on the day of "the run", we'd see him at the top of the hill blowing smoke rings waiting for us to catch up. This convinced me that smoking was okay.

I quit cold turkey 15 years ago, but every once in a while I'll crave one those bitter American Cigs that French prefers.

Thursday 6 May 2010

Mustangs, Mixed Tapes and Making Out

I was looking through French's journal from high-school and came across a list of songs entitled Mix Tape for the Honeys:

Try - Blue Rodeo
More Than Words - Extreme
Don't Know What You Got... - Cinderella
Every Rose Has It's Thorns - Poison
Angie - Rolling Stones
...and a Tonne of Phil Collins

Weird mix. I remember asking him about this tape. His response was that it was a "deal sealer". I asked him to explain further. He said: "That when he was cruising with the honeys he'd put it on and the honeys'd be happy, maybe even think they were in love".

French had a 1968 Ford Mustang 428 Cobra Jet - the tape was just for back-up I guess. I had a 1986 rusty Honda Civic, or my grandpa's Chevy truck with a comfy bench seat.
I needed to get a mixed-tape of my own.

Monday 3 May 2010

French, Fists and Cottage Rock

We gathered a fine group of lads for the latest Graven show on Saturday: Japan Dan, Bill "Double Fist" Henry, the Dox, Old Ollie, and Sweaty.

Things got warmed up early with Texting Mackenzie - a little power trio from Guelph. Sweaty musta yelled "Gay-welph" a dozen times; laughing like it was a great new joke each time.

Graven hit the stage - we hit a few more Baltikas.

Matty was in fine form. Yelling, whooping, humming and singing - then dashing in some Gord Downie like improvised lyrics. At times he pulled out some Plaskett-style falsetto; all the while pumping out original Graven vibes.

A noted irony of the night was watching a fine creative band sing, and in the background, through the window, hordes of teen dancing queens lined up to get into some throbbing club.

Sweaty was anxious all night because French never showed up. After the most excellent show we all headed out to the street. There was French with his guitar, harmonica, and an open guitar case. He'd been playing just up the block; busking a few bucks from the kids lined up outside the dance club.

French plays pretty obscure songs. Turns out the kids gotta little sick of hearing Fred Eaglesmith tunes all night. This big lad tried to push his guitar case closed. French handed Sweaty his guitar, grabbed the goon and twisted him up tight and quick into a brutal wrist lock, tossed him down to the sidewalk, then stepped on his head and packed up his gear.

A couple of the goon's buddies tried to step in. Double Fist surged forward snarlin'. Dox held him back by the collar. Lucky he didn't slip outta his coat.

Japan Dan snapped a few pics. French picked up the goon and kicked him the ass for good measure.

Dox spoke to the goons and his pals: "Don't you boys have a home to go to?" The look on his face said more than his words.

Matty handed the head goon a Graven CD and they shuffled off down the street.

Monday 26 April 2010

Taylor and Martin

Bruce Fish wanted me to come by a couple of summers ago to meet Taylor and Martin. When he mentioned this I thought it'd be his usual good-natured weirdness; maybe he'd named the dump bears Taylor and Martin. I swung on by to meet him and his new friends soon afterwards.

I sat in his little shelter on the crest of the massive chasm of junk. He said, "This is Taylor". He handed me a beautiful beat up guitar from a grimy case. It was a Taylor acoustic with quite a few dings in her. I looked at him and he held up "Martin". This was a 1970's Martin dreadnaught guitar. Well worn: There was a hole below the pick guard that made it look like Willy Nelson's guitar. There was also a smaller hole top side.

He'd found them deep in the dump pit. They'd rolled off a truck that had been used to clean out an abandoned cottage north of Kingston.

French had come by a few weeks before and had carefully reset, re-strung and re-tuned these beauties. They were kept in in locked steel shed. "Cuz they're special", said Bruce Fish.

He continued: "Now you boys got guitars to play when you come by. I'm hoping someone will throw out a drum kit soon".

Rose lit a fire in an old oil drum. Bruce Fish handed me a pick and we sang and strummed a few old songs from our high school days. Those guitars had a warm full tone. Bruce Fish and I sounded pretty good, for a dump band.

The dump has opened up for cottage season this past weekend. Time to head up and see Rose, Bruce Fish, Taylor and Martin.

Saturday 24 April 2010

Battle Warrior

My wife had a baby on Monday: we call him Warrior. You gotta be a warrior in this world; sometimes with words; sometimes with prayers; sometimes with fists.

He has a big forelock of white hair. A distinct birthmark that flows back at least four generations in my family . I was worried at first. Nobody likes to get teased, and this mark will provide a lot of fodder (I know). Playground bullies can be rough. My oldest son said: "They can tease him; can't stop that, but how many kids have two big brothers that are going to be at least 6'5. They won't tease him long, or often".

French added: "Yeah any of these lads get in trouble and ol'Uncle French will show up".

I feel better.

Post Script:

French's boy is doing well. He is playing Lacrosse, so we'll check on him this summer. Bruce Fish promised to build a playground in the dump for all my sons to play in. This could be fun summer.

Post Post Script:  Warrior is good - almost a year old.

Check out this fine place:

Wednesday 14 April 2010

Circa 1987

Last night I was flipping through French's beat-up journal (he takes a lot of pride in this fact) and I found this poem. I try to use these insights, and my on recollections of being a teen; as I teach day to day. Too many teachers seem to have forgotten that they were ever teenagers. It was one of the first ones he wrote

yes bathe
in the simmering

I feel it,

in this broken desk
in this moldy school

two girls
i dumped
hate me
hate each other

makes me hate this class

by "French" April 1987

Fair enough French - Fair Enough.

Tuesday 13 April 2010

French's Journal

French and I were shooting a few hoops last night. Part way through a game of American 21 (gritty game) French says: "Seen your fucking blog". There was a pause. He drove past me and threw down a dunk (net was at nine feet) and said: "fucking like it". Moments later he handed me his journal and said: "use this".

It was literally covered sweat, rain, blood and beer stains. I flipped to a poem. There were drops of blood on the page. He saw my reaction and said: "It makes it more authentic; poetry is experiential". I can't argue with that. I read the poem.

duct tape n'cardboard
covering the glass
smashed with bloody fists
with the loss of a girl

garbage cans
set ablaze
smoldering outside
the gym

heads broken
on locker doors
a glorious week
of school

French waited 'til I was done: "Remember that week? That was a good one".

Tuesday 6 April 2010

Economics (of beer)

There is another blog out there called Olsonomics...odd. It is about economics. I thought that I'd give the economics theme a try.

A couple of the dads back in the Falls taught us about economics. One dad thought up this policy and the other fathers decided to adopt it as well. This was the deal: you could take all the beer from the garage or basement fridge, but you'd have to put back 2 for every 1 beer you took. Damn sure they all kept a tally.

I see the flaw in this plan now, but somedays we'd be having a little party, or a campfire and we'd need a few beers. Sweaty, Pancake, French and I would see this as a solution to our lack of beers. The more beers we drank the more we took - a dumb vicious cycle.

One day French and I were putting 2 two-fours into my dad's beer fridge. Bruce Fish piped up: you boys been suckered.

Bruce Fish and my dad taught me a very valuable lesson in economics that day.

Monday 29 March 2010

A Call from Bruce Fish

Bruce Fish has never called me. He actually still has a rotary phone, but rarely uses it. I was thus surprised to hear from him this morning around 6:30. He had just had a dream and wanted me to hear it. This is more or less how the call went:

"I had a dream last night. I'd just watched Wrestlemania with Pancake and Rose. I went to bed and dreamed that Kane and King Kong Bundy were fighting a tag team bout against Job and Jacob; you know from the Bible. At the end of the match Jacob hip tossed Kane into Bundy, knocking him flying off the ring. Job tagged in and caught Kane in move called the "gird up your loins", a sort of a sharpshooter type move. They won the belts. Double J are the new champs".

I told him that that was a crazy ass dream and that I was jealous of his vivid experience. He interjected that there was more:

"We fight them in a title match at the next pay per view. The Dump Disciples versus Double J. Me and you buddy; title match. Go gird up your loins...anyways...good bye."

A title match eh?

Check this out...

Thursday 25 March 2010


Pancake's dad never stared at goats as far as I know, but he has split clouds. Pancake's dad, like French's dad, always sat on the front porch. Sweaty, Pancake, French and I were all playing a very chippy game of basketball. A lot of knees and elbows were smacking around. (French liked to play tackle basketball.) Bruce Fish was sitting on the porch, as well, and he called out to us: "Lads finish your game...rain's a coming".

There was this huge anvil shaped cloud coming down from the valley. Pancake's dad got up and said: "Don't worry about it boys; keep playing". He stood at the end of the driveway with his hand choppping like he was at a Cleveland Indians Game. He was concentrating hard, and sweating worse than Sweaty.

We all stopped playing. The basketball rolled down into the deep ditch. The cloud slowly started to split in half and drift off into the east and west.

French said: "How in the sweet fuck?"

Pancake's dad let us in on the secret:

"I just imagine a huge hand chopping, a huge hand of air, but strong, solid, but air. I've done it a hundred times. I'll split clouds for roofers, for a small fee."

Bruce Fish asked him what else he could do.

"I can stop my bladder on a cross country long haul in my rig and I can see potholes and rabbits miles ahead. Nuff about that. I split that cloud so you can play. Don't you little bastards waste my effort".

I climbed down the ditch to retrieve our ball.

Wednesday 24 March 2010

Lonesome 50

We didn't have dance bars in my small town. Hell, we had taverns. They were all dark and scary. The floors worn down in a trail from the door to the bar. As teenagers we'd dare each other to go into the Rideau, or the Russell Hotel. These taverns were tough. Dozens of eyes would dart up from their drafts and whiskeys. We'd turn and leave before the regulars kicked our asses in the back rooms.
The only one we ever had any luck in was the Lee Tavern. We had a few adventures down at the Lee. I got served in there when I was fifteen; the best part was that I was wearing a high school jacket at the time. Another time we were there at 11:00 am, because that is when the taps opened.
There was a regular that was always in the Lee. He sat in the darkest back corner. He'd always be drinking a pint of Labatt 50. When he finished his beer this pretty little barmaid would fetch him a fresh one automatically and take away the empty.
He didn't socialize, at all; he never talked to anyone. He never even looked at the pretty bargirl. All our eyes'd follow her as she walked to the back of the bar. This guy was a legend; and everyone had a theory as to his behaviour, each more bizarre and sad than the last.
I must have gone in there twenty or thirty times and every time he'd be alone: Lonesome 50.
I popped into the Lee last weekend to bend a tap for old times sake. There was 50 sitting there: a little older, a little greyer. Someone was sitting with him: odd. This someone turned around. It was French. He waved me over and ordered a round of cold Labatt 50 quarts.
That Lonesome 50 is a pretty good guy.

Friday 19 March 2010

Of Johnny Cash and Tattoos

Sweaty and I sat together all day watching the NCAA tournament. I picked Kentucky and he has Kansas to win it all. 16 games in one day is excessive, but we have a case of beer riding on our brackets.
During one of the overtime games French showed up. He never played much basketball, he'll only ever watch UFC or Wrestling. He had some big news; so he said. Sweaty and I were glued to the screen. We both kept French waiting (double overtime). Too long too! French got up, sick of being ignored, and said "fuck yahs both". I looked at Sweaty and we both got up and followed him outside to his truck.
Sweaty said: "Sorry, what is your big news?"
French replied: "Never mind go watch your basketball".

It continued back and forth:

"Is it about a girl?"
"Yes it is about a girl".
"It is always about a girl with you, French."
"This is different."
"How so?"
"She has a tattoo of Johnny Cash".

Damn, this is different.

Friday 12 March 2010

Snow Beers

French and I were drinking a few Beau's beers out on the front porch last night. Just sitting, talking, strumming our guitars and enjoying the first spring warmth.
We kept a few beers cold in the last of the snow.
I brought up the point that when we were younger we'd drink, fight, fall down, get-up, drink more and even shoot guns out the back door of Pancake's garage. Once we even tried to chase some dump bears with Bruce Fish. We did a lot of dumb dangerous shit.
I finished my lament with this: "French we are getting old, bud".
He paused, strummed a few chords an replied: "yeah it's fucking great".

Monday 8 March 2010

Number 13

French was by on the weekend. He said we really outta go out and see a Hockey Game. I was thinking NHL - Major Junior, no, French and I went to see a couple of Junior B teams smash it out. I was reluctant, but what the hell?
We downed a few pints and went down to the rink. Cumberland was playing Rockland. We sat down at the Rockland end; even though we were in Cumberland.
He kept a keen eye on the Rockland team. We went out at the intermission and snagged another pint. He told me to watch number 13 during the next period.
13 was good; he'd come up the ice pound a few heavy checks, then blast shots from the point.
At the next intermission we went out to the car for beers again; as per tradition. I said to French: "the kid plays exactly like you, he even skates like you". French replied: "That's because that is my kid".
My can of beer slipped out of my hand and exploded in a frothy bomb: "Dude, you have a kid"?
"Yep now let's go watch the last period".
Turns out an old flame of his turned up back in town: this super cute french girl that he dated about 17 years ago called him up and gave him the news.
We went back in to see the end of the game. This time we were both huge Rockland fans and we were cheering hard for number 13 - or Little French as I was calling him.

Wednesday 3 March 2010


Our art teacher loved to take us on trips. We went every semester for a big day long bus ride.
One trip to Montreal was most memorable. We were going to see some museums and take pictures for our photography unit.
French, Sweaty and I headed down into old Montreal; and like all good high-school students we went straight to a the first fast food chain that our little town didn't have. The museums could wait. We slammed a few burgers down and headed into the john.
There was someone in there when we went in. We watched this slick looking dude in a fancy suit snorting cocaine right in the McDonald's bathroom. He had the coke lines on top of one of those cookie boxes you always got with the happy meal. He snorted the coke through a drinking straw, stuck it back in to his super sized coca-cola, took a huge swig, looked right at us and said: "okay, much better, back to work". Oddly, he shook each of our hands before he left the bathroom. He even gave French a quick brotherly hug.
That is pretty much all I remember from that field-trip.

Thursday 25 February 2010


French, Sweaty and I took art class every year. We had some cool artsy teachers - they basically let us sit together and draw, or paint what we will. All three of us filled pads upon pads of sketches. Such a great class. I'd look forward to sitting at a table with the lads: chat, joke, and knock out a few pictures.
We could never convince Bruce Fish to take art; he always took shop. Odd, because the guy creates art all the time at the dump. After class, though, Bruce Fish would flip through our drawings and critique every aspect of our work; then he'd be off to welding or machine shop.
French had this great system where he'd convince the prettiest girl in the class to pose for him. He'd pick out his mark then he'd sweet talk her just right. French had really honed his "sweet talk skills"; we were in awe watching him work the girls. Once the teacher came in late, and French had this cute preppy girl (white leggings, skirt, and a Ralph Lauren t-shirt) sitting on a chair that he'd placed up on a big art table. The three of us were positioned around the table sketching and complimenting her every trait and fashion choice.
The teacher was shocked: "Guys get her down, health and safety boys, health and safety". French was ready, he replied: "Sir I'm working on my composition and use of angles and perspective".
The teacher ate it up. The cute preppy girl was thrilled to be the centre of attention and told the teacher how she was glad to help out. She was in her glory, and so were we. The teacher shut the classroom door, chuckled, and walked to his desk. We got back to sketching. French had a big grin on his face and said: "You can thank me later boys".
I'm pretty sure I have some of those sketch pads around, I'll have to dig them up one of these days.

Wednesday 24 February 2010

Tape Hiss

I was cleaning out some "junk" on the weekend; and I came across an old "ghetto-blaster". When I got this thing at age 11 I thought it was the best. I'd load up 6 huge D Cells and rock the neighbourhood with some Van Halen and later some Guns and Roses. Now it was about to land in the church yard sale.
At one point I bought a mic for it and we'd record little comedy bits, or songs that we'd write and sing in sheds and basements.
I looked in the tape deck and could see that there was a casette still in it. I lost the adapter ages ago, but I loaded up some batteries, scrounged from flashlights, and pressed play. It was 60 full minutes of French, Sweaty and I playing and singing all kinds of songs. Every once in a while you can hear Bruce Fish just killing himself laughing. He said: "that's a good one" after every song.
We usually just sang funny songs: Falling Down in the Falls, Boot Circle Blues, and a crazy one called: Naked in an Alleyway. Most times we'd crack up halfway through the song.
The tape was full of hisses, crackles, and the heavy thuds and clicks of the record button being pressed down, but it was the best stuff I'd heard in a long while.

Thursday 18 February 2010

Little Brunette 2.0

I met up with that little brunette again at the Spring Dance. French and I had a few nips of Vodka and headed down to the dance. In our small town the dance was a good night out. When we got in French said: "Look I am gonna hook up with that little red headed runner". He pointed to this tiny 5'2 girl that was an amazing long distance runner, she had a mass of curly red hair that went all the way down her back. He continued: "Problem is my little brunette may show up. I'll keep my red head over by the stage; your job is to keep the little brunette over by the gym office". French took off through the crowd and started to dance to "Shook Me All Night Long" with his new girl. He picked her up and whirled her around; red hair flying.
Sure enough, the little brunette showed. She was so pretty and sweet; I thought this was a pretty good gig, at first. I held this nice little thing, perfect in a jean skirt and Aerosmith t-shirt, through some awkward dances. I spotted French a couple of times and turned "my date" away and worked her further away and deeper into the crowd.
I took her out to the drink stand and bought her a Coke. Telling her that French maybe out here. This went on for a while, once I saw French wink and raise a thumbs up over the back of his little runner. French then signalled that he was leaving and I saw him leave hand-in-hand with little red out a side door.
During the next slow dance the little brunette said: "French isn't here is he?" I said "No sweety he's gone".

Little Brunette

To set the scene: Monday morning - the next school day after the big Valentine's Dance. French had had a nice cosy weekend with his new girlfriend...the little Brunette. I met with French at his locker. He poured me my usual "early morning coffee" ( a dash of rye in my java). He always had a bottle in his locker. We'd meet before school and have a special coffee. The little Brunette was early for school as well. We were chatting a bit; I kept calling the little brunette the "little brunette" or "sleeping bag" or "tomcat". She was getting pissed at my ribs. I never did learn her real name.
This big fella was coming down the hallway punching lockers and pushing little grade nine kids outta the way. He was a head taller than French and broader too. Big fella said: "French that's my girl". French just laughed a big ol'crazy laugh and said: "not any more bub". Big fella chucked a massive sweeping haymaker, French ducked and came up hard - upper cut right to the chin - "bang". Big Fella's eyes rolled, he swayed and fell into me and rolled down the lockers to the floor.
I said "time to get a new punch".
The grade nines started in to chanting "one punch - one punch - one punch". French walked off down the hall to his welding class; all the while holding the hand of the prettiest little brunette in town.

Tuesday 9 February 2010

French, Bret Hart, Bubbles and Their Cats

Bret Hart used to grab a cat a night to keep him warm when he tucked in for the cold Calgary nights. Bubbles of Trailer Park Boys fame had a whole shed of cats to keep him warm.

French did the same thing. One day I saw French with a little red wagon collecting the yellow pages off of people's driveways. He'd bring them back to his garden shed. We'd toss them into the wood stove to keep warm. But we'd always run out of wood, or scrap lumber, and the phone books and yellow pages were only "available" once a year.

When he ran out he'd always snag one of his cats. He slept in the shed more often than not. Who wants to share a room with Sweaty? Plus his dad got drunk, played guitar and sang country western songs most nights.

Late one cold February night after the Valentine's Day Dance at school I knocked on the shed door. I went in and I saw a stack of yellow pages; the fire was going. There was also a pile of sleeping bags on the floor.

I gave French a kick, and said: "you got a big ol'tom cat in there with you"?

This pretty little brunette popped her head up and said "hey" in a very pissed off tone.

French looked up, as well, and said: "she's no tom cat - now get the hell out".

Monday 8 February 2010

The Hard Done Bys

French once told me that he'd like to be in as many bands as it took: "when a band sticks I'll know - I gotta be happy in my band". I got to jam in a lot of bands because of French's stance. Most of these bands lasted at least a couple of gigs. Also, French has punched out or "stretched" at least one member of each of these bands.

Godzilla and the Liquid Sound Dragons

The Post Hole Diggers

The Chinese Pot Stickers

The Fall Downs

The Hard Done Bys

French and the Sweaty Bunch - also appeared as just the Sweaty Bunch

The Shed Bangers

Fishy Dumpers

French had this plan to some day play a huge show at the dump. Never happened, but it was a good dream.

The other dream that we always talked about was managing an All Girls Rock Band! We always put that down in school when we had to do those little surveys about our future. French told his co-op teacher to get him that work placement - maybe this was French's greatest idea.

He called from Edmonton last night asking about getting the Hard Done Bys back together. The all girls band is looking like a no show, so maybe it is time to get the band back together.

Wednesday 3 February 2010

"good sh*t"

I used to go out to the dump when I was a teen and into my twenties to a degree. It was always a good time. Bruce Fish would show me all the "good shit", as he called it, that he had pulled from the dump. He had a vast collection on this "good shit": microwaves, stereos, books, furniture and a big whack of comics. He'd let me take a look, but he'd insist that I listen to a couple stories and read a passage or two from the "good book".

Bruce Fish loved the book of Proverbs, so I always felt a little wiser when I left the dump; and his stories were funny and odd, but I loved them. Bruce Fish always talked about how he could sense the dump; he knew what was out there in the heaps. He'd say things like: "I even know what animals are coming and going - I know when they live and die, or move on to another dump".

I don't see Bruce Fish as much today, but he has gained a popularity like never before. Bruce Fish only ever had few scattered friends in his younger days. Most kids at school just wanted to bully him. They'd look for Bruce Fish to get a cheap laugh. Today people drive by the dump to see what art display he and Rose have created. Bruce Fish puts up amazing pieces of wild dump art; people slow down along the highway to see the sights, or maybe even catch a glimpse of the crazy dump man and his wife working away.

This past summer he had a huge teddy bear in a lawn chair, with dozens of other stuffed animals gathered around his feet. Bruce Fish added to this display week by week. When I saw him he was putting a sombrero on the teddy bear.

I had to pull in. It had been many years but it was great to hear his stories, discuss a couple of verses from the Bible and sift through some of his "good shit".

posted to

Friday 29 January 2010

Being Tragically Hip

I've been into the Tragically Hip since the first time I saw them live. Getting to see them live, for the first time, was a beautiful accident.
Sweaty and I played on the basketball team together, and we had a tournament in Kingston. This was perfect, because French had moved down there in the summer to live with his girlfriend; a 23 year old nursing student (he was 19).
We played our games versus KCVI and Regi - I don't remember the scores, but I do remember the coach talking about a curfew, sleep and good eating habits. Sweaty and I, regardless, snuck out to see French.
French had lined up a great night. The Queens nursing students were having a pub-night and this local band called the Tragically Hip were playing. French knew the bouncer and got us in and we started to bend taps. Sweaty was double fisted all night, as usual.
I was really psyched about the wall to wall nurses...then the band's set really got rocking. This dude with really long hair started to lay down some hard driving chords. His hair totally covered his face and dripped down over his guitar. He never looked up and I never saw his face. The other band members joined in to create an oceanlike wall of sound. Their sound just filled every space.
The lead singer was very intense - he would sing the lyrics of Highway Girl or Cemetery Side Road, then bust into a stream of consciousness story/poem in the middle of a song. The band would just have to follow along, and be ready when he finished up his story. In the middle of one song he told a 10 minute tale about being the guy in charge of cleaning killer whale tanks. Awesome story.
Part way through the show someone threw a hockey helmet on stage; only in Canada. Gordie, the lead singer, put it on and started to sing Werewolf Baby - then another nurse threw a suit coat on stage, he put that on too, and he sang about how much he liked, loved, and needed this jacket.
We drank a few more beers, chatted up some nurses; then Sweaty and I hitched back to the hotel at 3 am. French had disappeared a couple hours before.
The next morning we played Bayridge Secondary - I kept smelling booze out on the court. We really lost that game bad.

Friday 22 January 2010

The Dump Guru

Life would get a little boring without French. One summer he went on a Motorcycle tour of the States with his cousin, and his current girlfriend (he dumped her, literally, in New Mexico). I took a job at a summer camp; not quite as exciting as French's summer.

On my days off I'd usually go visit Bruce Fish. Once, I picked up Sweaty in my old Honda Civic and headed out to the dump. Sweaty thought it would be better to "screw the dump" and head right to the cottage.

Regardless, we popped in at the dump with a lot of complaining from Sweaty. Bruce fish was sitting by his little shelter using an old railway signal lantern to read by. There was a red light being cast over his face from his lamp. I noticed that there was a young lady with him. Bruce Fish said, "Allow me to introduce my lady friend, Rose". He added, with a big grin, "she is the rose of the dump". 

Sweaty said, "G'day, whatcha reading?"

Bruce Fish responded, "I'm reading the Bible...the good book...Revelations."

Sweaty started to laugh, but we all joined in the study as Bruce Fish read from his ragged Bible. He got to this part and got kinda stuck on it and kept reading the same part over and over: "He'll wipe your tears away...He'll wipe your tears away".

Rose had been quiet up to this time, but chimed in: "I like that part".

I agreed.

Sweaty and I said good-bye. As we were heading out Sweaty hung half his body out the moving car window and banged on the car door yelling: "See ya later ya old dump guru". Plus a couple "yeah babies!" for good measure.

Years later, I still see Bruce Fish and Rose Fish walking up the road heading for a days work at the township dump.

Story posted - check out these redemptive tales.

Thursday 21 January 2010

Where's French?

French missed a lot of school back in the day; and like me, took an extra year to finish up High School. In grade 14 we called ourselves the Oldtimers Club. Both of us ended up being on the honour roll, but we sure took the long path to get there.
Once he was away from school for a couple of days. Every teacher asked the class: "Where's French?" A couple of them even added comments like, "He's just skipping again." or "He is throwing his life away". As a teenager, I thought they shouldn't talk so much shit.
I went to check on him; in person (massive paradigm shift when compared with today's kids). His dad was smoking on the porch, as usual, and said that French was "out back". I knocked on his shed door, and French yelled "come". He was sitting in a lazy boy chair with a burnt arm that Bruce Fish had brought by. French was reading a book called Big Sur by Jack Kerouac. He had a couple dozen books in a stack of milk crates. He was smoking an America cigarette and taking short pulls from a bottle of Crowne Royal.
He tossed me a book called Dharma Bums, also by Jack Kerouac, and said: "Read this, it is good shit".
I read for a while. Pretty cool book. I could see why French liked it. Good tales of parties, poems, and big jugs of wine. French was like the characters in the novel (dharma bums), but he sure had more of an edge.
My mind wandered at one point and I asked: "Why do they call you French?".
He replied: "Read your fucking book".
I missed school the next day reading with French, and I finished my first Jack Kerouac novel.

Tuesday 19 January 2010

Lanterns, Dumps and Kim Mitchell

There is this massive dirty old dump out near our family cottage. The locals chose this huge ravine as a place to chuck all their refuse. Eventually it became the official township dump. Bruce Fish has worked there for 21 years.
French and I would sometimes swing by the dump on the way to the cottage to see how Bruce Fish was doing. Every time we went he would point at the rocky hole filled with and junk and he'd say: "That is the valley of death". Sure looked like it.
Over the years Bruce Fish has salvaged some pretty good stuff out of the valley of death. He built a little shelter and kept all the best finds inside.
We pulled up early one summer evening and he had put together a little patio, a lawn chair, a beaten up Molson Golden umbrella, and a huge cooler of beers. He asked us to lend him a hand with a project. We put up some poles and then he revealed a set of 1970's era patio lanterns. They looked to be in pretty good shape. Bruce Fish said: "these bastards still work, and they'll keep the bears away". We set them up and plugged them in to an old diesel generator; luckily we found a really long cord it was crazy loud.
Bruce Fish said: "it gets better". He popped a cassette tape into a filthy ghetto blaster. Kim Mitchell's song "Patio Lanterns" started up. French and I grabbed some old kitchen chairs and had an icy can of beer with Bruce Fish.
French kept saying: "this is art...fucking art".