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Posts Tagged ‘memories’

I was sitting on my recliner watching TV wondering what my next post was going to be about when out of the blue I got a message from my old friend Richard. “Hey, you ever think about writing about your fathers train set in Hampstead?”

Suddenly I have an entire post written out in my head. But as I started to write I realized I had nothing. My memory of the train set is only a whisper, an image sitting at the very edge of my mind.

I emailed my father asking him what he remembers about the train set. He did not recall a train set in Hampstead, neither did my mother. They did however remember one in Cote St Luc that took up a quarter of basement. We moved out of that house in 1968, I was three. All of which makes sense. The train set Richard and I remember took up a large portion of the basement. And while Davey Crocket may have “kilt himself a bear when he was only three” I was not so advanced and rather than out killing bears I could have very well been trying to stand on my toes to look at a train set.

The problem is Richard, we met in elementary school there is no way he was ever at the house in Cote st Luc.

Any way one looks at it memory is a fickle beast.

The other day the song “Me and My Bobby McGee” was playing on the radio, the second Roger Miller got to the line ‘windshield wipers keepin time I held Bobby’s hand in mine…’ I was transported to my youth. Vivid images danced through my head of my father and one of his friends sitting in the country house, fire roaring in the fire place guitars in hands singing and playing that particular song. It is a Norman Rockwell moment forever etched in my brain.

The smell of gasoline conjures up memories of my fathers speed boat he had back in the day. I remember having to fill the two little red gas tanks that sat behind the back seats. And from these memories others spill forth. They are wonderful, the good the bad and the ugly.

I love photographs, I’ve got an ipod an ipad a camera many sd cards with loads of photograph’s on each one. We have boxes and albums after albums of photos. And I will keep them, add too them and eventually they will be passed along. But at the end of the day the memories that mean the most to me are not the ones in the photo’s. They are the ones forever etched in my brain regardless of how fuzzy or inaccurate they are.

I’ll forever remember my polar bear teddy bear, (I still have it) and how Teddy saved me from the dark nights and bad dreams. I’ll never Forget the t-shirt with Flipper the dolphin on it. Or how about my brother scaring the crap out of me with the large paper mache indian mask. Or the time the steering wheel wouldn’t turn the wheels on the bumper cars and I was stuck in a corner of the track. Or the theme from the six million dollar man running through my head when the orderly was wheeling me into surgery.

When all is done it is not the photograph, it is not the object. It’s the mind and the feelings that are evoked. I don’t think we can control preserve or dismiss them. They just are.

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Hit By A Truck

Okay the title is a little misleading.  My friend Richard drove into a truck.  With his bicycle, the truck was not moving.  He didn’t really even hit the truck.  In fact he drove up the ramp and right into the back of a moving van.  No, he did not do this on purpose.  We were riding down the street side by side talking about whatever we happened to be talking about.  Parked on the side of the road was a large moving van.  Rich, did. not. see. it.  All I am saying is good thing there was a ramp otherwise he would have smashed right into the back-end of the truck and the outcome probably would have been a trip to the hospital.

I’m not sure why this is a pick on Rich post, but it is.

Rich, Steve, (Richards brother) and I spent a lot of time riding around on our bicycles.  Often times we experienced technical issues.  I was hit by a car, (nothing serious), Steve lost his front wheel, it just kind of rolled on ahead of us.  On this particular excursion we were headed to Mt. Royal.  Before the journey even began Richard proclaimed; “He who gets a flat tire walks!’  Richard got a flat half way down the mountain.  Steve and I were the ones that ended up walking.

Richard and I survived high school together, I honestly don’t think I ever would have survived if he wasn’t there.  People would look at us in an odd sense of wonder as we would argue and bitch at each other most of the day, yet we always walked home together.  We were in a lot of ways opposite. Richard is a blue-eyed blond german.  His father is direct from ‘The Mother Land’  he was not a nazi, not even close but he did fight in the regular army.  If I remember correctly Richards grandmother was pretty close to Hitler possibly a secretary.  I don’t know it was never really talked about.  Richard will correct me if I am wrong.

I on the other hand am Jewish,  not hard-core, but jewish enough. My great-aunt had the numbers tattooed on her arm.  I don’t like to think about the holocaust I don’t like to think about that particular war.  I’ve never seen Schindler’s List.  It is a sore subject with me and I can’t honestly say why, enough said. Regardless Rich and I were/are very close.  But we had our moments. 

Richard: “Bri, let’s go to McDonalds”

“Okay”  We would get there, order the food.

Richard: “I forgot my wallet, I’ll pay you back”

Richard currently owes me $2,723.36.  I’m starting to think he left his wallet at home on purpose.  I also have come to the realization that I’ll never see that money again.  I did get even.  Richard and I built an HO scale railroad in his garage.  While Rich would work on a particular part I would plug the track in at the exact right moment.  It is amazing how much electricity runs through a model railroad track.  It was kind of fun to watch the sparks fly from his fillings.

Richard built a model rocket, okay we both built model rockets.  The difference is Richard launched his INSIDE his basement.  His reasoning?  He didn’t think it would fly.  Man was his father pissed when he saw the ceiling.  Of course we do have Steve to thank as he sat there staring at the ceiling until his father looked up.

Richard and I purchased some lumber for a deck we were building onto his folks house, (it is a great deck) we strapped the wood to the roof of the car.  How does one secure wood to the roof of a car?  Why rope of course!  The employees at the lumber yard had a good laugh as we looped the rope through the windows and over the roof (and the wood) in the process we tied the doors to the frame of the car.  Of course we only realized this when we tried to get into the car.  Eventually we did the dukes of hazard thing and went through the windows.  unfortunately there was no Daisy Mae waiting for us when we got home.

I think that ends my little walk down memory lane.  Rich we will have to do the Skype thing one of these days.

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Seeing as Bullying is once again the hot topic I thought I would share my bullying experience.

Brody was in grade seven, for the second time around.  That in itself would not be bad, but he also spent two years in grade six.  He also tried to jump out of the second floor library window.  They should not have stopped him. 

I had known about Brody for a year or two before we came face to face.  Due to my dyslexia it was decided rather than repeating a grade  I would take remedial classes to make up for the classes I had missed while dealing with the dyslexia.  It was not a great idea, first, going to the remedial classes forced me to miss yet more classes.  Secondly, Brody was taking remedial classes, and that is how I became a large blip on his radar.

It wasn’t too bad a first.  I’d leave school and waiting for me at my bicycle would be Brody who would want to ‘borrow’ my bicycle. 

“Brian, unlock your bike I need to borrow it”

“Brody I can’t let you borrow it I need to go home”  At which point Brody would try to pick the lock and failing that he would threaten me, perhaps shove me around but eventually he would ‘give up’ and leave.   I fell for that once, he really didn’t leave, he hid in the bushes around the block and at the last second he would jump out from behind the bushes and throw me and my bicycle to the ground.  I soon learned that I could leave out the back door and go to my friend Roberts house for an hour or so, then go back to the school get my bike and head home.  For awhile I simply stopped bringing my bike to school, Shane, (another friend) was Brody’s other target.  Shane and I lived two houses apart, and we would walk about a mile out of our way so Brody could not follow us home. 

Andrew and I had identical bikes, Brody did not know the difference and would lay in wait near the bike thinking it was mine.  When he realized it was Andrew’s Brody would be so upset he would shove Andrew around.  Andrew also stopped bringing his bike to school.

Often times I would walk home with Brahm.  Brahm was rewarded for his friendship with me by getting a kick in the shin by Brody. Sorry Brahm, and thanks for sticking with me.

Eventually I told my mother about the situation.  She had my brother, (who was in high school) talk with Brody.  My brother spoke to the wrong guy.  That guy told Brody and my life became even more difficult.  I wish there was something I could type here that would help parents help their kids.  But I have no answers.  Thanks for trying mom, and Mike.  But seriously the situation only got worse. 

The odd thing about the situation is that Gail, Brody’s sister and I were pretty good friends, and my life may have been made easier if I had dissolved that friendship.  But I was far to stubborn for that kind of nonsense.  Gail and I had been in the same class and friends for three years before Brody started to target me, and until that time I didn’t even know they were brother and sister.

So, you may be wondering, how did it end?  Before I answer that I want to point out that the way it ended will not work for everyone. In fact I can’t really recommend it as a solution, but sometimes…

Anyone who knows me knows I am not a sports guy.  Sure I’ll watch the occasional hockey game on TV.  I used to play pool and darts.  Living next to Penn State you pretty much have to have at least a partial interest in football, or at least Penn State football.  But if it all went away tomorrow, it wouldn’t bother me in the least.

At lunch and recess we used to play hit the bat.  One person would be at bat and hit the ball,  if you catch the ball, the batter places the bat on the ground and the person who caught the ball would roll the ball towards the bat, if you hit the bat you became the batter.  (Naturally I played to lose seeing it wasn’t until high school when I could actually make a connection between the bat and the ball, it would have been a very long, dull game).  My father who was a terrific ball player and played on some sort of league had purchased a new glove and allowed me to borrow his old one.  In truth I think he gave me the glove, only I didn’t know it at the time, we will have to wait to see if he comments, I do know that later he did give me that glove, and I kept it for a very long time.  There is a part of me that wishes I still had it.

So what does all this have to do with Brody?  Be patient, I’m just waiting for the words to be typed.

Peter is at bat.  I am trying to look like I want to catch the ball along with a bunch of other guys.  Out of the corner of my eye I see Brody heading towards me.

“Brian!  Brian I want to play, give my your glove”  I knew if he got my glove, I would never get it back.

“I can’t it is my fathers, I can’t lend it out”

“Give me the glove now!”  In my 45 years I have only been absolutely sure of three or four things in life.  At that moment I knew one thing, Brody was not going to get that baseball glove.  “Brody, please, I can’t.”  At this point I was quickly scanning for a teacher, I knew this was not going well, a crowd of kids was starting to form.  Peter stepped in to try to resolve the situation,   “Brody…”  Brody punched Peter in the face and Peter went down like a sack of potatoes.  Remember, Brody was at least two years ahead of us.

“Give me the glove!”

“Brody, I can’t”

Brody came at me, and suddenly everything slowed down.  It was very surreal, he raised his fists and kept coming at me full tilt.  But for me it was like watching a movie in slow motion, I was aware of the crowd but in a very limited way.  I also saw the flaw in Brody’s approach,  as he came at me I ducked low, my shoulder caught him just below his ribs and he went up and over me and landed hard on his back behind me.  As I turned he started to get up, his eyes bulging, his face red.  He was saying things I couldn’t quite hear and he came at me again. The exact same way.  Again I ducked down, again he flipped over me, again he landed on his back, again I turned and again he started to yell things at me, but I looked in his eyes and I knew he was done, I also knew he just couldn’t give up but I prayed he would stay down of course he didn’t.  He almost made it to his feet but my knee got him in the chest, hard! Now Brody stayed down and he wasn’t yelling anymore, he was too busy gasping for breath.

I sat in the principals office.  Mr. Russell just peered at me from over the top of his glasses.  I don’t know how long we sat that way. I thought he had phoned my folks, I thought that is what we were waiting for.  I wondered how much trouble I was in.  Eventually in a very quiet calm voice Mr. Russell spoke to me.  “Brian” he said, “I’m sorry, you are not in trouble, go back to class”.

I didn’t see Brody for a few months.  In fact I never saw him again in school.  One winter day I was walking home with Anna who lived not far from me and Brody appeared from behind a snow bank.  Anna started to run but she was safe, Brody was after me.  He tackled me to the ground yanked off my hat and started pulling my hair.  “Now who is stronger?”  I clasped my hands above my head and then thrust my fists forward when my fists hit his head he let go of my hair, I hit him again making contact with his chest.  He flipped onto his side.  I rolled him onto his back and landed with my knees in his chest.  He was still lying there when Anna and I walked away. 

A few weeks later Gail told me that Brody was going to another school and was no longer living at home.   Spring eventually came.  School ended for the summer and I never saw Gail or Brody again.

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Picking up from my last post,  Vancouver, like everywhere else has its share of characters.

The Sweeper:  he was an odd dude, nobody was sure about him.  He would just stand there. Now and again he would put his hand out.  Occasionally he would get upset if you didn’t give him money,  I call him The Sweeper because I was in my office and I heard the manager of the video store ask him if he would like to earn a little cash by sweeping up the sidewalk in front of his shop.   “No” came his response, “I really don’t want to work”.  I guess begging pays.

Braveheart: I was in the shop one day cleaning the display cabinet and this guy walks in.  I knew he was schizophrenic the moment I saw him.  It was a cool cloudy day and he was wearing really dark wrap around shades, when he walked his knees hardly bent, his arms did not swing, his back ramrod straight.  Not only was he schizophrenic he was off his meds.  We had the following conversation:

Me: “Hey, how you doing?”
Him: “I am Braveheart and I’m afraid of no man”

 Shit

“Well Braveheart, that is good to know.  Can I help you with anything?”

All I could think of was my cousin who works with schizophrenics I really could have used a little help. I also remember the bandage on my cousins face when one of his patients punched him in the nose.

 “What type of magic do you have?”
“Magic tricks, for entertainment.  Here let me show you.”

I showed him a trick, there was no response his face never showed any emotion. He didn’t move, when he spoke only the lower part of his face moved. It was spooky.
 
“Is that a trick?”
“Yes, did you like it?”
“Has anyone been bothering you?”
“No, everything is fine.”
“Well if anybody does, I am braveheart and I am afraid of no man”
“Thanks”
“You do good magic”
“Thanks”

Months later this guy comes into the shop he introduces himself as Steve, he looks familiar, but not.  He tells me he just came in to say hello and to say he was sorry if he scared me.  He then explained that he came in earlier in the year calling himself Braveheart!

The Con:  Once again in the magic shop. This time there were two other magicians with me.  This scruffy guy who hangs around the mall comes in. 

“Do you have a fiver for five loonies?” 

Loonies, for my non-Canadian friends are Canadian dollar coins

“Yup” as I reached for the cash register I noticed he was holding his loonies like they were poker chips so I couldn’t really see them. I held out my hand for the loonies but he refused to part with them.

Him: “Give me the fiver and I’ll give you the loonies?”

“I don’t think so!” but I was curious, so I held the fiver just in front of him where he made a grab for it, at which time I pulled the fiver back and knocked his hand that held the loonies, four loonies and a washer fell to the counter. I looked at him, scooped up his money and his washer and handed it back to him while motioning him towards the door.  The other customers began to chuckle, “Dude, look around, you are in a magic shop!  Did you actually believe that was going to work?”

Of course I can’t leave good old State College out of the picture, after all, State College is called the Happy Valley.

Table Thrower:  Early in my short lived banking nightmare career I had to go stand outside the bank at a table we had set up with giveaways for returning students.  This greasy long haired freak of nature, complete with tattoos, bad body odour, scars and more than a few needle marks comes weaving up the street and of course he is heading straight for little ole’ me.

“Hey, you have to do this shit for your job?”
“Yeah pretty much”
“Wouldn’t catch me doing this shit!”
“Ahh, well, bills to pay family to feed, gotta do what I gotta do.”
“You get paid extra for standing out here with this shit, you should you know’
“Well, it just goes along with the territory, it is not so bad.”
“I’m telling you, this is just shit, shit work, shit pay, you should quit! Lets throw this table and all this shit into the street.”
“No really its fine thanks”
“Whatever but I’m telling you its shit!”

 In the end he was right.

Benny:  I know we already had a Benny, but this guys name was Benny. Everyone in downtown State College knows about Benny.  He has an orange jumper and is harmless, but crazy.  So he walks up to the teller next to me, “Miss, do you have 4 quarters?”  Katy, being new, young and naive gives Benny the quarters. Benny thanks her and walks out of the bank.  The rest of us are busy laughing.  Katy, looking at the empty lobby with that bewildered look in her eye, “But…b…but he didn’t give me a dollar!”  Yes Katy that’s why you get the money before you give the change, especially to the staggering, swill smelling homeless guy!

 And then there was David. David and I were buddies. David is also the topic of my next installment. Street Urchins: The Saga Continues.

 Thanks for reading.

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The other day I had a freezie and suddenly I was 10 again.

Perusing through wthe grocery store in search of something different for our BBQ party my wife picked up a pack of the of the dyed, artificially flavored, frozen sugar-water sticks, I looked at them, looked at my wife, I sort of shrugged and in the cart they went.

The next night I took two out of the freezer snipped off the ends handed one to my wife, I sat down put the end of the frozen treat in my mouth and WHAM! I was 10 again.  I was not excepting such a visceral response. I was expecting nothing more than eating a flavoured icicle and getting a cold headache.

But suddenly it was lunch time at elementary school and a few friends and I were running down the street to Hampstead Park and with a dime or three.   We would get a pack hockey cards, (complete with gum) some candy and on the hot days, we always got a freezie.   Now I’m 44 years old, living a lifetime away from Hampstead park but I swear, just for a second there was a rip in space and time and I was back to that place. 

It is funny what triggers these responses.  The smell of gasoline brings me back to a country house where we used to spend our summers when I was a youngster,  we had a black speed boat, with a red interior, we used to fill the two little red gas tanks that were tucked behind the back seats.  The smell of gas just takes me back to filling those tanks, takes me back to the lake, the peninsula at the end of a friends property.  I’m not sure where the peninsula fits in with the gas but it does.  I still remember talking into the CB on the boat I believe our call letters were XM52101.  Don’t ask me how I know this or why gasoline triggers these memories.  And really I don’t care why, I am just glad they do.

And in case you were wondering, we kept the freezies to ourselves and never even offered them to our guests, but if anyone really wanted one they were in plain sight in the freezer, not that we advertized that little fact.

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Gallagher has a great routine about the english language. English is hard, odd, inconsistent and there are so many ways to speak, write and even hear it.  Me?  I like the literal approach, perhaps it is because I’m dyslexic so I started off at odds with the language. Perhaps I’m just odd. 

I don’t really take things literally, I just like to act as though I do, and most people understand this about me,  although I’m sure I can be frustrating, but then, isn’t everybody?   As I’ve said before in these blogs, my wife often accuses me of having my ‘Mr. Literal cape’ on to tight.  But I like my literal cape, it makes me happy, it amuses me. 

So I’m working on some paper work while my co-worker is eating lunch and watching some police type show over the internet.  Some woman is holding up a corner  store.  A guy on the street looks in the window, sees what is going on and calls 911.  The cops arrive and the following conversation ensues between the two parties:

 Guy on the street: “Over there! That store, I started to walk in and a woman was holding a gun on the shopkeeper and there are some other people in the store and she kept telling them, don’t make me shoot!”

 Police officer: “Sir, are you the one that called 911?”

Guy:  “Yes”

Cops: “How did she sound?”

Guy: “Really nervous and she was shaking badly.”

 Perhaps it is just me, but I would have answered the ‘how did she sound’ question by saying, “She sounded confident, obviously knows her job, very professional, she kept me on the line while she called you guys and kept me informed about how long you would be.  She did an excellent… oh, you mean how did the holdup woman sound?”

It just so happens that during one of the re-writes for this blog I used the word ‘aspect’ and I suddenly realized from whom I learned to play with words.  My Dad!  In elementary school a teacher gave us a list of words which we had to use in a sentence, (I’m sure most teachers have done this).  I took my list home and was struggling over the word ‘aspect’ my wonderfully helpful father suggested, “If you sit on an eagle’s nest you get your aspect!”.

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I don’t like painting, actually I don’t like the prep work or the clean up.  Fortunately they have made technological leaps and bounds in paints since I’ve last painted.  We got a paint with no VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) so it doesn’t have that toxic smell.  Paint also dries quicker, perhaps it is just me but the paint itself makes less of a mess.  For the most part you don’t have to use primer, the good people who manufacture the paint now found a way to mix it all together.  But as we all know, you cannot have a light without a dark to stick it in. 

First you have to move everything, sand and clean the surfaces then tape everything you don’t want painted, put plastic on the floor.  It is tedious work that takes forever.  Eventually you get to paint.  An hour later you have to clean it all up.  It is frustrating that the main event takes the least amount of time.  Is everything like that? Could very well be.

Even though they mix the primer in with the paint there are certain surfaces that you simply have to prime first, and of course, we had two such surfaces.  Unlike paint, primer has not made such leaps and bounds in technology. Not only is it messy, it stinks. If you ever find yourself asking, hmm I wonder what they did with all that VOC in paint? The answer is, they put it all in the primer.  Now you have done all the tedious prep work, you have messed up the brushes and the rollers you have white crap on the walls, on your hands, your clothes, your hair! You have to clean it all up and  YOU STILL HAVE TO PUT PAINT ON THE WALL!  Talk about injustice.

Volatile Organic Compound.  I don’t recal ever having a headache that bad, I couldn’t move my head.  I’m not a hypochondriac but just a few days before we painted I saw that Gary Coleman died from a brain hemorrhage!  After listening to Brett Micheals talk about his near death experience due to a brain hemorrhage I was reasonably sure my brain was bleeding.  I was wrong of course. But it was bloody painful.

I don’t like flying,  but like painting, it didn’t take me long to figure out it wasn’t the flying, it was the airport.  The packing, the trip to the airport, all the people running around like bees in a hive,  finding the ticket counter, checking luggage, security, finding the gate it is all too much.  Once I’m on the plane I’m fine, I don’t have fear of flying I can’t control what happens so why worry about it?  I take two Benadryl (because two puts me to sleep) So I snooze, watch a movie, eat and sleep a little more. What could be better?   

In the end the airplane got me where I wanted to go and the room is looking great. While you can’t have a light without a dark to stick it in, it’s all good once you can finally turn the light on.

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