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".

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