Monday 21 February 2011

Last One in First One Out

The seniority list came out this week at school.  I'm up there; pretty safe from any forthcoming cuts.  French  is dead last on the list.  He read it over and said:  "last one in, first one out...whadya gonna do?"

He continued:  "Bureaucracy can be such a bitch".  French then went into the paint room in the auto shop and had a smoke.

To bad that job cuts weren't based on quality.  French is a great teacher.  Funny how the best teachers are often the ones that had a few struggles back in high school.  Right?

The best example of French's teaching ability was this fall when he got called in to cover a class of grade ten boys gym.  There was no plan, no class list...just 31 bored 15 year olds.  He told them to change and meet him on the back field.  French was waiting for them with a bow and a quiver of arrows. 

The boys all gathered around.  He'd show them an arrow, tell them the point value of that particular arrow, then fire it into some long grass and cattails by the soccer field.  He then told them there was a bonus hidden arrow.  All 31 boys took off into the grass; whooping and hollering.  A real Lord of the Flies situation.

Probably the best gym class those boys ever had; even if they never found the "bonus arrow".

Thursday 10 February 2011

looking into French's notebook

I read a page of French's notebook this morning.  It revealed an untold story of French and Bruce Fish; buried deep amidst the lyrics, poems and sketches.  I witnessed some of  this, but this one page showed another layer to the events.

The only money that Bruce Fish had in high school was from selling golf balls back to the Forest View Country Club.  This income source dried up, so things were really tight over the winter.  He showed up at school one really cold day with only a ragged windbreaker.  Bruce Fish was freezing after school and his bus was late.  A couple of bullies were harassing him and teasing him about his jacket.  Bruce Fish kept saying "I'm impervious to the cold - hell no it ain't even cold".  They then started to get on him about this..."There is the super human Bruce Fish".  They all scattered when French arrived to catch the same bus.

Bruce Fish put on a brave face, but he was suffering.

In the notebook there was a little scheme laid out.  French had a tally, in ledger form, that held an account of how many contraband cigarettes he had to sell to buy a winter jacket for Bruce Fish.  French sold 94 Ziploc bags of Benson and Hedges.

I remember wondering were Bruce Fish got that fancy Sun Ice ski jacket.

Also posted to Thursday's Tales:

Monday 7 February 2011

garage band

French, and Sweaty have played music their whole lives.  I've heard them both say: "don't remember when I didn't know a C chord".  Pancake is another natural.  He picked up guitar and drums in a matter of months.  Bruce Fish rounded out the gang because he had the most records and tapes.  All old - all a bit dump musty, but he had 'em.

The lads used to hand  me a spare guitar and teach me one chord, and a simple rhythm.  I never even had to move my fingers.  French would nod at me when to come in and nod again to stop.  I, in a very limited way, helped to fill out their sound when they jammed.

I finally bought a guitar of my own in second year of university.  Turned out I knew most chords, not by name, but by shape - from "jamming" with the boys back home.  I could watch people's hands when they played and replicate the movements.  Weird way to learn.

I've been playing ever since...barre chords, blues, power chords, open chords...still don't know the names.

This weekend French slapped  me on the back when we were jamming around the kitchen table, laughed,  and said:  "Dude it took yuh twenty years, but you're good enough to join our high school garage band".

Bruce Fish looked up from his National Geographic magazine and said: "Now all you need is a time-machine".


Wednesday 2 February 2011

Fancy Book Learning

One day I noticed that French wasn't at school.  He missed math and he was nowhere to be seen at lunch.  I thought he was skipping.  This was well before cells n'such so I small-town-walked over to his house and, sure enough, he was in his shed.

He let me in, but was a bit pissed off. French made it clear that I shouldn't bother him.  French laid down the rules:  I could stay and skip with him, but I had to read a book.  I laughed, (I was skipping English class) but he wasn't kidding.  Bruce Fish had found a large box of old books that had been thrown to the curb.  Bruce Fish had only kept one book: The Old Man and the Sea. French had unpacked the rest and set them up on a shelf made of milk crates, cinder blocks, and a coupla planks.

He was reading a huge book called Crime and Punishment.  I wasn't feeling that ambitious so I reluctantly picked one based on its thinness: Metamorphosis by some dude named Kafka.  I started to read the first page and said: "holy shit the guy turned into an 'effin bug".  French looked up from his cot and put his finger to his lips and shushed me.

I finished that novel that afternoon.