Thursday 27 October 2011

No Small Town Bringdown

I hated my small town. In high school I used to drive to Ottawa on the weekends to see my girlfriend or to party with some Nepean lads.  Or I'd drive to Kingston when French was going to college.  I don't hate my town anymore.

The only guy that never left Smiths Falls was Pancake.  On Thanksgiving weekend he drove me around to see some of the other guys that were home to see their parents.  He still drives the Honda Civic that he had in high school.  It has over 250 000 kilometres on it.  Pancake doesn't know exactly because the odometere doesn't roll anymore.

We had to drive a bit outta town to see Sweaty - we were meeting him at his in laws.  Pancake reached under his seat and pulled out a battered blue CD case.  It was the Tragically Hip's first album.  He said most of the songs still work; despite the scratches.  Like his car, this was the same CD he'd owned for over 20 years.  I was surprised to see it in a case.  He also still had about 10 more CDs tucked in his sun visor; all of them were familiar from the old days: Def Leppard, Van Halen, Blue Rodeo, Neil Young, Bryan Adams, two more from the Hip, Johnny Cash and Stompin' Tom Connors.

We listened to Last American Exit and then Small Town Bringdown.  We sang every word.  I started to think about how soulless my city is, and the community I left behind.  Just a burst of nostalgia?  Temporary?  In the meantime I'll listen to Gord Downie's rock n' roll warble.

Wednesday 26 October 2011

My Dog Job

Bruce Fish has spent the last three weeks trying to coax a dog out of the ditches of South Frontenac Township.  He finally had success.  The same dog he'd been chasing showed up asleep under his porch.  Bruce Fish gave him some bacon.  My guess is that him and that dog are friends for life.

Turns out the dog loves nothing more than to climb up and sleep in the truck when Bruce Fish goes out on his garbage runs.  They love to tour up and down the roads. I hear the dog is a true mutt.  He is now all cleaned up; after living in ditches he needed it.  Rose tied a red bandanna around his thick neck...pretty cool.

I forgot to put anti-freeze in the water line at the cottage, when I closed up originally.  So I took the two hour drive up to get this done.  It was also a good excuse to see Bruce Fish and his new dog.   I visited with Rose and the baby until Bruce Fish came home. 

He jumped out of his truck and the dog followed.  Bruce Fish was grinning ear to ear and the dog's tail was wagging and it kept looking up at his new master. Good looking dog...bit of shepherd to be sure.

Bruce Fish shook my hand and said: "meet my dog Job."

Tuesday 18 October 2011

Mean Dean and Bruce Fish

Mean Dean did the rounds as long as I can remember.  He'd stroll around school shoving people into lockers, stealing milk money (45 cents from everyone), and every Halloween he seemed to terrorize the whole town.  I got off paying him my milk money because of French, but I still had him bully me from time to time; before French and I started to hang-out more regularly in high-school.

I managed to keep my Halloween candy one year because I held on for dear life to my extremely full pillowcase of candy.  Luckily a police car swung by and I sprinted home.  Another time I was fighting Mean Dean and pushed him over a chain that surrounded a garden.  He fell into some juniper bushes.  I was on the run from him for the next coupla months.

Mean Dean eventually became an ally, but he was not a fun guy to be around in Junior High.  I asked him once why he never beat up or bullied Bruce Fish.  I thought it was because of French's protection.  Mean Dean said that that was not the reason.  He said, "The real reason is that when we said the Lord's Prayer in class Bruce Fish was the only one with his eyes closed and his head bowed. I just couldn't beat up guy like that."

Tuesday 11 October 2011

Of Church and Parking Lot Smokes

This was a very different Thanksgiving than usual. Everyone came back home; from Ottawa to Kingston and beyond.  (Everyone: French, Sweaty, Bruce and Rose Fish, Pancake and even me.)  There has always been at least one of us missing in action over the last twenty years.  Even more impressive is that somehow Rose got us all out of bed and to Church for a 9:15 service.  Ouch.

All us lads had been in Renfrew at a independent wrestling event and had gotten home just after 1:00 am.  Rose must be a saint.

This old church holds a lot of memories, but it was so strange to look around the congregation and see faces that were now twenty years older.  I did the usual routine of standing, sitting, and saying Amen at the appropriate times, but mostly I tried to see who I knew from the old days.

Around 9:45 I realized that French was missing.  He must have ducked out during one of the hymns.

The pastor seemed pretty stoked to have such a big turn out and made the most of it by preaching until 10:36.  Man I was tired.  When he finally said the benediction I went outside to look for French.

I found him in the parking lot. He had the tail gate down on his truck and was sitting there having a smoke.  I asked him if he was bored waiting for us he said, "no."


He explained: "Yeah some guy, called himself an elder, followed me out and we had a chat."

I asked: "What about?"

French exhaled then said: "community."

Tuesday 4 October 2011

sit the fuck down

I'd looked for French in the shed; it was empty.  I saw a light in the kitchen through the screen door.  I went up the cement steps.  French's dad was sitting at the kitchen table changing a guitar string.  A cigarette was dangling from his mouth.  He looked up and said: "take a picture, it lasts longer".  He then told me to come in. I asked him, "if French was home"?  He shook his head no and tightened the string a bit more.  I then said: "Sweaty?" He just said: "naah".

I stood there like a typical awkward teen thinking about what to say.  French's dad looked up again said: "sit the fuck down".  I did.  He put a tea cup in front of me and poured in some really dark tea.  It looked like coffee.  He then tipped in a healthy splash of Amaretto. 

He picked up his guitar and finished tuning the string that he had replaced.  He opened the fridge.  There were hundreds of bread and milk tags hanging on a rod inside.  He picked out a larger than normal plastic bread tag and started to pick out a little tune.  Soon the pace picked up and he blasted into several songs by Neil Young; mainly from his Crazy Horse years.  Every coupla songs he'd hot up our tea and splash in some more liqueur.

He was singing Cinnamon Girl at the top of his voice when his wife came in.  She smiled and put the kettle back on.  He packed up his guitar and said: "I'll tell French and Sweaty that you came by".

I wandered home with a lingering warm buzz.