Saddles & Spurs

by Fielding Goodfellow

 

William Temple had been called Billy T since second grade when that shithead Billy Kramer showed up at Rockford Road Public School. Pretty soon everybody was calling him Billy T, including his family, despite the fact that he hated it. But as far back as any of us could remember, he had always been Billy T. Every now and then he would hang around with us on our path of self destruction and spectacular feats of daring. We were, after all anti heroes, protectors of all that was good and right with a dark side, willing to bend or break whatever  stood in our way.

Billy T  was just a little guy who dreamed of being a jockey, although we regularly suggested that he would have made a great midget wrestler. In the days when the world was kept safe by a flying squirrel and a moose, and hipster douches kept their man buns hidden behind closed doors and drawn curtains, I had convinced myself that I had become a gunslinger, hanging around the Ok Coral, fighting off the Clantons, and then encouraging and enticing Billy’s sister, Veronica, to ride me off into the sunset.

It went back to the days of watching westerns with the old man, catching glimpses of Linda Evans in ‘The Big Valley’, and Raquel Welch in ‘100 Rifles’. I was a big fan of westerns, but even then I was more interested in tits and ass than I was in guns and horses. With a head full of pharmaceuticals that took me up and down like an escalator, I was captivated by every movement of Veronica’s body. Particularly the subtle ones, and with her tight jeans, cowboy boots, and white t shirt  that I was certain had been painted on, with the words ‘I LOVE TO RIDE’ printed across her chest, she not only stirred my loins, but whipped and beat them into a state of frenzied excitement. As she rode past, with tits heaving in rhythmic harmony to the horse’s gait and thighs tightly clamped around the mare, the salute in my pants stood at full attention.

“Interested in a ride today?”, she asked as she passed.

“Only if you’re the guide.”, I replied.

“Think you can handle one with an attitude?”, she questioned.

“Are we talking about the horse or the guide?”, I inquired.

“You’re funny.”, she told me. And while Billy T, Farberman, and Tate stood by the fence that circled the coral, Veronica and I headed into the stable to saddle up some horses.

Billy T was the first one out of the barn and man could he ride. He was almost standing with his feet firmly in the stirrups with no weight on the animal’s back. He said that it gave him more control and it was easier on the horse to ride that way but it didn’t appeal to me. Not one bit. I preferred to ride with the reckless abandon of the Spaghetti Western, to simply jump on and ride like fuck. The horses never really seemed to mind. Old cowboy tunes started playing in my head as Veronica led us through the ravine and across the creek. It happened every time I got on a horse. This time it was Gene Autry’s ‘Back In The Saddle Again’ and ‘I’ve Got Spurs’ melding together to create one somewhat indiscernible song, although I suppose it could have simply been the pills.  Not that it mattered. The sun was up, the air was clean and sweet, and Veronica was galloping towards me with her long, dark hair flowing in the breeze, and her wonderful tits bouncing up and down like balloons riding a wave, hypnotizing me into a state of total submission.

“Billy T’s hurt.”, she shouted as she raced past. “I gotta get help.” Tate , Farberman and I headed off to where we had last seen Billy T, and there he was, laying on the ground just a few feet from the embankment with his leg all bent and twisted, his riding crop still in his hand.

“You okay?”, Farberman asked.

“Do I look okay?”, Billy T responded, motioning to his leg.

“What the hell happened?”, Tate inquired.

“I don’t know.”, Billy T told us. “It was weird. All of a sudden the horse just reared up and I went flying across the field. It was like he got spooked or something. I think there’s something down in the ravine.”

Help arrived in the form of two ranch hands who loaded Billy T onto a flatbed and transported him to the hospital. Tate and Farberman headed down into the ravine in search of whatever might be down there, while Veronica and I followed the makeshift ambulance to the hospital. She was beautiful when she was worried, and despite the fact that Billy T was probably going to lose a leg, all I could think about was introducing her to the hard on I had been carrying around for most of the day. We sat in silence for a while, with me thinking about taking the official tour of her body, and Veronica probably thinking about her brother’s mangled leg, until the conversation unexpectedly took a turn that I never saw coming. “How come you’ve never hit on me?”, she asked.

“What do you mean?”, I asked her.

“Well”, she continued, “you never make comments about my body or make any rude remarks about what you want to do to me. Don’t you like me?”

“Are you kidding me?”, I asked. “Of course I like you. All day long I’ve been walking around with a hard on. Just looking at you makes me hot as hell.”

“I can take care of that for you.”, she assured me.

“Now?”, I inquired.

“Why not?”, she replied. “We’re here, we’re alone, and you’re certainly ready.”, she continued as she rubbed her hand across my crotch. We popped some Benzedrine and jumping into the back seat of the car set off on a journey of rowdy, western sex complete with the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air, and some of the dirtiest talk I had ever heard as she rode me off into a glorious sunset. By the time we reached the hospital, Billy T had his leg immobilized and stabilized, and was scheduled for surgery the next day.

Tate and Farberman found nothing in the ravine other than poison ivy or poison oak. Either way, their arms were red, swollen and itchy. Billy T. had a metal rod and several pins inserted in his leg, making it relatively useless, and ending his dream of being a jockey. He never rode again, but he wound up designing some kind of safety device to protect jockeys from falls, and is still very much involved in the horse racing industry. Tate went on to become a writer, publishing several books, and moved in with an artist named Ramona. Farberman continued with his scientific interests and found work with the government until his untimely and suspicious disappearance. Veronica continued leading trail rides at Rocking Horse Ranch, and started dating one of the ranch hands. We never slept together again, and to be honest, I was already beginning to lose interest in her. I suppose that it all just disappeared like a puff of smoke. She was an insanely fun ride, but she really had nothing else to offer me. She was somewhat of an idiot. I saw her once or twice more in passing, and while we were cordial, I had no interest in talking to her. I would have continued banging the hell out of her if she would have let me, but she was taking her new found relationship with Festus or Cleetus or whatever the ranch hand’s name was quite seriously. Years later I heard that she had joined some traveling rodeo show and had come out of the closet as a card carrying member of the League Of Lesbians. I continued my life as a gun slinging anti hero, travelling a path of self destruction while engaging in spectacular feats of daring for many years, and often times find myself inadvertently walking that path again. I’m not surprised really, I mean, we always seem to go back to what we know and who we are. The rest is all just pretense and make believe, and at this stage of my life I have no time for that shit.

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The Summer Of Crazy Eddie Appleton

Of all of the summers I have seen, the summer of 1969 remains entrenched in my memory, and I remember it with a fondness that, at times, seems a bit overwhelming. For me it was not the summer of Woodstock, or the summer of  the ‘giant leap for mankind’. It was the summer of Crazy Eddie Appleton.

That summer my family went to the cottage at Jackson’s Point. I spent my days with my summer friends Danny, Rosie, and Misha. From the moment I first met her, I was attracted to Misha. She was an insanely pretty girl, with a tight t shirt, and a pack of Du Maurier stuffed into the back pocket of her cut off denim shorts, with an attitude as contrary and sarcastic as my own. We spent our time at the beach, the arcade, and hanging out behind the old marina where I learnt how to smoke.

Across the road from Rosie’s cottage lived the Appleton’s. We knew nothing about them, but none of us were permitted to go near the place. According to everyone’s mother, Eddie Appleton was a crazy and possibly dangerous man. Other people in the Point seemed to share the same concerns, walking on the other side of the road as they passed by, looking at it as if to catch a glimpse of the crazy and possibly dangerous man in the front window. Crazy Eddie Appleton had become the Boo Radley of Jackson’s Point.

He would usually come out at night, roaming the small, summer town talking to himself, dirty and unkempt, shouting at no one in particular, dressed in an overcoat, hat and gloves despite the sweltering summer heat and an orange florescent vest that could be seen from miles away as if to warn everyone that he was on the loose. One evening, as we sat behind the marina smoking, we saw Crazy Eddie on the beach burying something in the sand. “Probably body parts of some kid he killed.”, Danny reported.

“Maybe its his mother.”, Rosie speculated.

“Why don’t we just call him over and ask him what he’s doing.”, Misha suggested.

“Oh my God. No, don’t!”, Rosie pleaded.

“Well then, why don’t we just wait until he leaves and then go dig up whatever he buried.”, Misha proposed.

“Good plan, Einstein.”, I told her. “I knew I was hanging around you for a reason.” Misha smiled at me,  lit another cigarette and gently placed it in my mouth.  “But we’ll have to come back tomorrow morning.”, I continued. “We’ll meet back here at seven.” On the way home I kept thinking about the way Misha put that cigarette in my mouth, and I was almost certain that her hand brushed my lips. I laid awake all night, wondering, wishing and hoping that she liked me too.

We all met behind the marina as planned. Danny and Rosie brought shovels, and Misha arrived carrying a large thermos which was filled with coffee that she had taken from home. None of us had ever had coffee before, but this seemed like as good a time as any to start. We sat down behind the Marina and smoked a cigarette as we took turns drinking coffee from the little cup that so conveniently came with the thermos. There were a few fisherman milling around, and an old man was roaming the beach with a metal detector. “We need to go now.”, Misha said. “Before it gets too busy.”

Once on the beach we tried to remember exactly where Crazy Eddie had buried the body parts. We dug and dug, but came up with nothing.  The old  man with the metal detector shouted “Hot damn. I found something.” We all ran over, and there in his hand, was a gold ring. “What is it?”, I asked.

“A lady’s wedding ring, I would think.”, the old man said.

“I told you he buried his mother.”, Rosie reminded us. Misha grabbed Rosie’s shovel and she began digging like a dog trying to retrieve the bone it had buried. We took turns with the shovels and dug and dug, but we found nothing except some sand crabs, fish skeletons, and some small turtles. The pier at the beach began filling up with boaters and fishermen getting ready to start another day on the water.

“We should go.”, Misha said. “We’ll have to figure something else out.” Dejected, we headed back to the marina, where we shared a cigarette. We sat in silence for what seemed like an eternity, and I suppose each one of us was trying to come up with some way we could find out what Crazy Eddie had buried on the beach that night. “Come with me.”, Misha said as she took my hand and led me to the other side the marina, behind an old Maple tree. The touch of her hand sent shivers through my body, and I knew that I probably would have followed her anywhere, just to stay near her. “You’re the smartest one of us.”, she told me. “What do you think we should do?”

“Well”, I answered. “Digging up the beach isn’t going to do anything. I think we should follow Crazy Eddie. Maybe we can catch him red handed.”

“That makes sense.”, Misha said, as she leaned in and gave me a kiss on my lips. That brief kiss made me feel indestructible and I kissed her again. We must have been there for about five minutes with our lips pressed together behind that Maple tree. When we started to walk back to our friends, we held hands. “I guess I’m your girlfriend now.”, Misha stated with some certainty as she squeezed my hand.

“I suppose so.”, I answered.  I had never really had a girlfriend before, so I couldn’t be sure.  But either way, I liked it.

Danny and Rosie were too scared to join us in our mission that night, so Misha and I decided that we would do it alone. Just the two of us. Like Jonathan Steed and Emma Peel from The Avengers. We left the marina to plan our mission, but found ourselves making out in the lane way behind the Red and White Grocery Store. It was at that moment that I realized that I really didn’t give a rat’s ass about Crazy Eddie or what he buried at the beach. All I wanted was to keep doing whatever the hell I was doing with Misha. I hoped that she was feeling the same, but I was too damned scared to ask.

That night, we waited in the bushes across the road from Crazy Eddie’s place. I told my parents that I was staying at Danny’s overnight, while Misha told her family that she would be spending the night at Rosie’s. We had a plan, and now we just had to wait for the villain to take the bait.  Eddie Appleton finally came out of his cottage, and headed off towards town. He was carrying a small black bag, and a small shovel, the kind you would use in a flower garden. Visions of Lars Thorwald began playing in my head. Maybe, just maybe Rosie was right. Maybe Crazy Eddie was burying his mother in various places around Jackson’s Point. Misha and I followed him as he rummaged through every garbage can and dumpster he could find. Every now and then he would open the small, black bag and place something in it, or take something out. We couldn’t be sure. We followed him through his journey and to the beach. We watched him dig a small hole, and bury something in the sand. He dug five holes that night, and we memorized the location of each one. When he left, Misha and I went behind the marina and smoked a cigarette. “Well stay here until it gets light. Then we can dig up the holes and see what Crazy Eddie’s been up to.”, I said.

“Okay.”, Misha replied, as she put her head on my shoulder and closed her eyes.

I woke her as soon as it was light, and we walked onto the beach and started digging exactly where Eddie Appleton had dug the night before. We dug up all five of the holes and each one contained the same thing. Fish bones. Numerous, assorted bones from numerous assorted fish. “This is crazy.”, Misha said.

“They don’t call him Crazy Eddie for the hell of it.”, I told her.

“I just don’t get it.”, she continued.

“Maybe you have to be crazy to get it.”, I replied. It was crazy, and I didn’t get it either. It made no sense. The early morning boaters and fishermen started arriving so Misha and I went back behind the marina. “Well”, I said, “the mystery is solved.”

“What a let down.”, Misha replied. “I thought we were onto something big.” I did too, and I was just as disappointed as she was.

That afternoon I saw Crazy Eddie and his mother on my way to Rosie’s. She said hello, and I crossed the road to talk with them. I said hi to Eddie and he merely shrugged. Mrs. Appleton apologized for him, informing me that Eddie had been out very late burying fish skeletons at the beach. I asked her why. She told me that Eddie was trying to give the fish a proper burial and he felt they should be laid to rest near the water. After all, that is where their friends and family were.

I continued to hang out with Misha that summer, hiding behind the marina smoking cigarettes and making out. When it ended we parted ways, writing the customary letters for a while and then, we just lost touch with each other. I haven’t seen Rosie since that summer, and Danny and I connected a couple of times when we were attending the same University. We had grown apart, blazing different trails for our lives. I spent some time with Eddie that summer and I learned that he was not dangerous. He was certainly fucked up,but he was completely harmless, a good soul who I suppose was totally misunderstood. He taught me how to look at the world with hope and patience and I was always amazed at his innocence and kindness. Eddie died many years ago. He was hit by a drunk driver while wandering the streets of a much busier Jackson’s Point wearing his orange fluorescent vest.  Truth be told, I enjoyed every minute we spent together.

 

 

 

Camptown Ladies

 

 

I spent the entire summer trying to get Marlene Gorman to leave me alone. She followed me everywhere, and I really had no interest in her whatsoever. She seemed nice enough, but there were the braces, glasses, the weird, chop shop haircut, and acne, all which seemed appropriate accessories for her scrawny, pasty skinned body, and I was, at 14 years old, an incredibly shallow kid. But Marlene was simply a pain in the ass, always buzzing around like a mosquito that you just seem to catch, but you know you want it gone.

I was spending my time with Suzie Pressman, the owner of long, dark hair, a tantalizing smile, and deep blue eyes. I suppose her insanely large breasts also had something to do with my burgeoning passion for her. We spent all of our time together, sneaking out of the camp and wandering off into the adjoining Government Fish Hatchery where we entertained ourselves with drugs, nudity, and a cruise to Muff Island. or to the nearby town.

Every evening, Suzie would come by my cabin, and wait for me to come out, pretending that we would be attending the camp;s programed social activity of the night. Suzie and I prefered to engage in activities of our own design, and would disappear into the night armed with just a joint, a blanket, and the dream of taking home a gold medal in the sexolympics. The trick, as always, was to elude the ever present stalking of Marlene Gorman.

The camp was packed on visitors’ day, with hundreds and hundreds of parents arriving to spend a few hours with the kids they sent away for the summer. My parents arrived in the first wave, and with Suzie busy with her family, Marlene took the opportunity to hover around me and my parents. My mother brought gifts of food, and as we sat down to eat, Marlene began pacing in a circle around us. “Do you think if we tossed a piece of chicken over there”, I asked, “she’d run to chase it?”

“It depends on how well trained she is.”, the old man answered. “But there’s always a chance that she’d just go get it and bring it right back.”

“Stop it!”,my mother demanded. “That’s a girl, not a dog. You two should be ashamed of yourselves.” To be honest, I felt absolutely no shame, and I doubted the old man did either.

“That girl”, I tried to explain, ” has been following me all over the place. Everywhere I go, she’s there. Its like having another shadow. It’s driving me crazy.”

“Its because she likes you.”, my mother replied. “There is never a reason for being mean or hurtful to her. Never.”

Dr. B., the camp director and well known sociopath announced that Visitors’ Day was over, and requested that all families depart from the camp grounds. I said goodbye to my parents, and as I turned to leave, the old man slipped $20 into my hands, “Do something nice with your girl.”, he said.

“What girl?”, I asked.

“The one over there under the tree.”, he said, using his head to gesture over at Suzie and her parents as they were saying goodbye.

“How do you know?”, I asked.

“She keeps looking over at you, and to be honest, that’s who I’d be chasing around here.”, he replied as he walked off to catch up to my mother and head home. I think that was the first and last time I ever truly felt close to the old man.

There was this small, but wonderfully seductive waterfall about a 20 minute walk out of the camp grounds which was forbidden for campers to attend. Everything was forbidden, as Dr. B. reminded us on a daily basis with his announcements over the P.A. system, but most of us at this camp, just didn’t give a shit. Suzie and I frequented the forbidden falls regularly, settling in the small pool of cascading water, undressing each other and then banging like bunnies. We headed there after visitors’ day had ended, and after smoking a joint, began the spiritual rite of waterfall sex. The sound of something stirring in the bushes behind us was of little concern at first as we writhed in passion to the sound of Blues Image’s ‘Ride Captain Ride’ playing on the portable radio we always took along. “Is there an animal there?”, Suzie asked.

“No.”, I told her. “Its probably just Marlene.”

:I’m gonna kill her.”, Suzie said, as she grabbed a rock from the side of the pool and threw it into the bushes.  I put my shorts on and walked over to where the noises had come from. I could see Marlene scurrying through the bushes away from us, like a rat in a maze. “Can’t that bitch find a guy of her own?”, Suzie asked. I didn’t want to say it, but I was almost certain that she couldn’t. Not with the braces, the acne, and the ‘Scout Finch’ haircut.

When the summer ended, I said goodbye to Suzie and, despite the fact that she lived 5 hours away from me, we promised to keep in touch. We really didn’t. There were a few letters and even fewer phone calls for a month or so, and then nothing. I suppose that’s just how it is. Time passes, memories fade, and life moves forward. Years later, when I was attending University, I went out to one of the on campus bars where I was introduced to an insanely beautiful woman. She was tall and incredibly hot. She introduced herself as Margot, and we sat around for hours talking. At some point in the night I asked her out. She said no. “You just don’t remember. do you?”, she asked.

“Remember what?”, I inquired.

“Me.”, she said. “You don’t remember me, do you?”

“Trust me, if we had met before, I’d remember you.”, I suggested.

“Oh, we’ve met before.”, she insisted. “Five years ago at Camp Ramah. I’m Marlene Gorman.”

“Oh hell.”, I blurted out. “You’re gorgeous.”

“I know.”, she replied as she stood. “And if you weren’t such an asshole to me, all of this could be yours right now.” I sat in silence as she walked away, realizing that my mother was right. Hell, I had been cruel and hurtful, and I was ashamed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Silence Of The Yams

 

After an ill fated attempt at minimalist living, my wife had forged ahead and dug her heels into a newfound healthy eating lifestyle. It seemed that she had gone vegan. Just like that. The announcement came as a surprise to the entire family. “She’s gone crazy.”, one of my daughters voiced at the secret meeting we held in the backyard.

“She’s not crazy.”, I told them. “Let’s just give it a try.” Desperately hoping that this too would die a quick death, we joined her in the madness of a meatless life.

Every day she would send us pictures and recipes of meals that she found on the internet, each one captioned with “What do you think about this?”, or “Doesn’t this look good?”, in an attempt to involve as many of us as possible in the meals without meat campaign she had launched. We never responded, not one of us.

“What is this?”, I asked as we sat down to dinner.

“Portobello burger.”, she answered. “It tastes exactly like beef.” She was wrong. She was very wrong. It tasted nothing like beef, and even with all of the barbecue sauce, mustard, horse radish and onions, the taste of the mushroom still jumped up and shouted “This isn’t really a burger.”

And then, after reading an article on their health benefits, my wife discovered sweet potatoes. She figured out how to incorporated them in almost every meal. There were pies, and casseroles, and pastas. There were salads, and soups, and stews. After a few days, the rest of us were growing restless, feeling helpless against the onslaught of beans and vegetables, so when she went out with friends one evening, the rest of us headed off to Napoli Vince and dined on the meat lovers platter. There was veal, and sausage, and lamb and steak, and not a bean or a yam in sight. And it was so good! “Why can’t we do this all of the time?”, a daughter asked.

I knew why, but I didn’t want to ruin the obvious joy that illuminated my children’s faces. “Why don’t you just tell her we’re not going to eat veganese any more?” my youngest daughter asked. Why not indeed!

Upon my wife’s return I was ready for the showdown. “So what did you guys do tonight?”, she asked.

“Not much, really.”, I answered.

“How was dinner?”, she continued, as she headed into the kitchen. We all started to panic. We forgot to get rid of the meal she had left for us, sweet potato and lentil stew, in our haste to return to our primal inner carnivores. “So, what did you eat?”, she stated as she returned to the living room. My daughters left, like rabbits running from the fox, leaving me alone to face the Spanish Moroccan in a one on one battle to the death. She was already wearing her battle gear, that ‘I know you did something you shouldn’t have’ face, with those dark, unblinking eyes, arms folded across her chest, and her left leg a little turned out with the foot below it repeatedly tapping on the floor in 2/4 time. I took my position directly across from here, careful not to seem too confrontational while at the same time, demonstrating a complete lack of wrong doing. My hands were in my pant pockets, and my eyes were intentionally avoiding any eye contact with her.

“Well”, she said, “what did you do?”

“Can we sit down and talk?”, I asked.

“You can sit if you want.”, she stated, “I think I’d prefer to stand.”

“No.”, I replied. “I really need you to sit down so we can talk.” When we were both seated I realized that she looked even more upset than when she was standing, but there was no way I was going to ask her to stand up again.

“We don’t want to be vegans.”, I told her. “We just can’t live on rice, and beans, and sweet potatoes.”

“Millions of people eat like that.”, she replied. “What do you mean you can’t?”

“We don’t like it.”, I answered. “We just don’t like it.”

“Well”, she answered, “I could change a few things around, and maybe use different spices.”

“No”, I told her, “its not the seasoning or the spices. Its the lack of meat. I appreciate you trying to keep us healthy, we all do, but we have to come to some sort of compromise. You can’t just dump all of this on us at once.”

“Okay”, she responded. “I guess you’re right. It is a big change to have to deal with all at once. So what did you guys eat tonight?”

“We went to Naploi Vince’s.”, I told her.

“Did you bring me anything back?”, she asked.

“Actually, no.”, I informed her. “But there is a veal on a bun that just needs to be heated up, and its all yours if you want it.” She hoped out of the chair like a jack in the box, and dashed to the kitchen, placing the sandwich in the oven, and I swear I could hear her salivating from the other room.

“We should do this a couple of times a week.”, she said.

“We can.”, I replied.

“Its so good.”, she added, with a mouth full of food, savoring every nuance of this most perfect of sandwiches. I watched her as she continued to eat, taking in all of the sounds that indicated just how much she was loving it.

“Food sex, right?”, I asked her.

“Uh huh.”, she said between bites. And while she continued to eat, I disposed of the lentil and sweet potato stew she had left for us. When she had finished her sandwich, we headed to bed and laying there, I heard her say “We have to go to St. Lawrence Market tomorrow morning and pick up some veal. Oh, and we should get some hot Italian sausages, and beef ribs. I want beef ribs.”

“Okay.”, I said.

“And on the way”, she continued, “we should drop off all of the bags of beans and legumes in the donation bin for the food bank.”

“Okay.”, I repeated. As I drifted off to sleep, I couldn’t help but thinking that I had just dodged another bullet, well not just me, but my kids too. I haven’t seen a sweet potato for a few months, and everyday I am grateful for that. I do however, spend some time, usually at night when the insomnia takes over and leaves me awake and agitated, wondering about what frightening idea from the lunatic fringe she will embrace next.

 

 

 

 

Victoria Day

 

Victoria Day. A Canadian holiday honoring a long deceased Queen of Great Britain, whose reign was highlighted by an era of sexual repression despite the fact that she married her first cousin. It was better known by for us kids as fire cracker day, the day when families, friends, and neighbors would gather in a local public park and launch ‘Willows’, ‘Horsetails’, and ‘Roman Candles” straight up into the sky, creating an array of sight and sound that was met with a seemingly never ending chorus of ‘ooohs’ and ‘aaahs’. In the time before fun and games were outlawed, we would race over to the local convenience store and purchase firecrackers, those wonderfully destructive little nuggets of joy  and set them off at will. Sometime in the early 1960s, we lived the best Firecracker Day ever.

We had been saving whatever money we could get for what seemed like forever, stock piling pennies and nickles in order to hit the stores and buy as many firecrackers as we could. The time had finally come. It was Firecracker Day. We jumped on our bikes and heading off to the local stores, stopped at the fence at Passer’s Farm. We had been coming to this spot for years, leaving our bikes and climbing over the fence. We stood on top of Passer’s Ridge, as far away from the edge as possible. When someone shouted “Go.”, we ran as fast as we could, so fast that our legs seemed to move on their own, without any thought, spinning in circles, propelling us through the uncut grass, tearing each blade like a weed whacker, until we reached the end. And then we jumped, as high and as far out as we could with arms outstretched, soaring effortlessly through the clear, blue sky, if only for a few seconds, until we inevitably landed face first into the cool water of the pond. We laughed with our hands over our mouths, afraid that old man Passer would catch us and empty a round or two of buckshot into our backsides. When everyone had a turn, we left the same way we arrived, and continued on our mission.

Mighty Midget was beyond a doubt the best damn convenience store around. Popsicles, the insanely good banana flavor, and the hard to locate white ones, that I could never identify the flavor of, could be purchased 2 for a penny. Every year, just for Firecracker Day, Mr. Simkos would have one entire lined with fireworks and firecrackers, a sort of small explosive buffet. We knew what we wanted though, as many ‘Tom Thumb’s as possible, a few ‘Five Stars’, and at least 2 ‘Smoke Bombs’. With the goods stuffed into Steinberg’s brown paper shopping bags, and the shopping bags stuffed in out shirts, we headed over to field behind The Murray House to plan our Victoria Day extravaganza. It took some thought, discussion, and debate, but a plan was spawned.

Mrs. Eisen, who lived almost directly across the road from me was one hell of a bitch. She constantly shouted at us from her bedroom window, telling us to stop playing ball hockey as she was not feeling well. Almost every time we played, she bitched. She had even gone to our parents to report that we were keeping her awake, and were often seen on her property trying to retrieve the ball. This was quite troubling for her, as she had a pretty nice flower garden that she was certain we would destroy with our wandering onto her lawn. She had threatened to call the police on us on several occasions. Mrs. Eisen was a bitch, and we hated her.

That evening,that fateful evening when most of the neighborhood was waiting at Rockford Road Park for the annual fireworks display, we slipped away with our Tom Thumbs, and Smoke Bombs. We had strung rows of Tom Thumbs together, and laid them across the garden that proudly stood against the wall of the porch on Mrs. Eisen’s front lawn, and a Smoke Bomb was placed beside some rose bushes. After the countdown, and under the cover of the sound of the Roman Candles being launched at the park, we detonated the firecrackers. The resulting explosion was impressive, and quite devastating. The flower garden was gone. The only sign of its existence were the few surviving flower petals that lay discolored amid the remnants of the firecrackers in the dirt that had only minutes earlier houses an array of beautifully colored flowers of assorted varieties. The Smoke Bomb had done significant damage to the rose bushes, and while they still stood erect, the roses had been completely vanquished. There was not a trace of them. We marveled in our handiwork, and then ran like hell, returning to the park to join in the fireworks party, and hopefully, to establish an alibi.

Sadly, once the light show was complete, and everyone returned home, Mrs. Eisen arrived at my house and stood on the porch accusing me of the wanton destruction of her beloved garden. My mother informed her that she would get to the bottom of it, and have it fixed. When I heard her call my name, I knew that the jig was up. I was busted. “Give me all of your firecrackers.”, she demanded.

“I don’t have any more.”, I told her.

“I want you to go and get all of your firecrackers and bring them to me now.”, she said. “Don’t make me ask you again.” I wandered off to my room, as if in slow motion, and returned with bags of firecrackers, 2 Five Stars, and 1 Smoke Bomb, which I handed over to her. “What were you thinking?”, my mother asked. “You blew up her garden!”.

“I was thinking that she’s a mean, old bitch.”, I answered. “She deserved it.”

“You are going to pay to replace the garden, and you will replant every single flower that you destroyed.”, my mother informed me.  “And starting right now, you will not be running around with those hooligan friends of yours.”

“It has nothing to do with my friends.”, I said. “It was all my idea. I’m the one who did it.” For some reason, my father felt that he needed to get involved. I thought my mother was handling the entire situation brilliantly, however, the old man just couldn’t stop himself from offering his expertise in punishment and justice.

“You can keep your friends.”, the old man said, “but only if you get them to help you pay for and repair the garden you destroyed. If not, they’re not your friends and you will not be spending any time with them. Am I clear.”

“Yes, sir.”, I said, afraid to look him in the eye.

“Oh”, he continued. “And I have locked your bicycle up in the basement. You won’t be needing it for a while.”

“How do you feel about what you did to Mrs. Eisen now?”, my mother asked.

I had to think about it for a moment, but it really didn’t seem so bad. No money, no friends, no bicycle and working in the old bitches’ garden for free. Yeah, it was worth it.

“Pretty good.”, I answered. I completed the garden repair and replanting in record time, and in all modesty, it looked better than it did before. As I stood from my side of the street and looked across at the old bitches’ garden, I knew that I would , more than likely, do it again next Firecracker Day. And for the record, I got my bike back in about a week or so. Mighty Midget closed up shop, and was replaced by a Chinese Food Restaurant. I was pretty sure that they could help out with the firecrackers if I was stuck. Frank Passer finally gave in and sold his farm. On the site of our beloved Passer’s Ridge, they built one of those Golden Arches restaurants, a bank, and 2 or 3 high rise apartment buildings. Passer’s Pond was drained and filled. The Murray House was destroyed, and replaced by houses and apartment buildings, and Mrs. Eisen sold her home, and moved to live with her daughter Tina, the street slut who had recently given birth to a child whose father she couldn’t be sure of. On the day she left, my brother and I headed over to that fucking garden and, using firecrackers I had recently purchased from Mr. Wong at the Chinese Restaurant, blew the shit out of every single flower.

I am significantly older now, and while I have no urge to head down to Ashbridges Bay, or Ontario Place, or Wonderland to witness the incredibly sights and sounds of the professional fireworks display this city puts on, I still have a fondness for the day. Years ago my wife was warned by my mother to keep both of her eyes on me, as I am, as she said, ‘a mischievous little shit who should not be left unsupervised’. My wife has been on top of it for many, many years, but I have always been able to keep firecrackers hidden from her. And on Victoria Day, while the country celebrates the life and reign of the incestuous Queen, I will be wandering around my neighborhood in search of a suitable flower garden to detonate.

Have Some Faith

 

By Fielding Goodfellow

Self doubt, like death, arrives unannounced, and settles in without any relief. Hiding in the shadows, skulking around dark corners when I needed all of my time and energy just to keep my head above water, I drifted through the rip currents and undertows of a life that seemed determined to keep me swimming against the tide. It was a fucking nightmare, populated with heroes and villains whose only purpose seemed to be jerking off amid the costumed tomfoolery that was believed to be necessary for the salvation of our civilization. I for one, really didn’t give a damn. By then, I had lost all faith in heroes, and I was certain that I was already being held in the eternal shit bucket with the villains.

And that pretty much sums up faith, an insanely confusing concept in itself. I struggled with this throughout most of my university life, confused and confounded by the idea that in order to reap the benefits of a loving and just superior being, one must blindly believe and accept. The questions, ‘why does God let this happen?”, and all of its variations diminish one’s faith. It appears though, that a believer, one with faith, does not and should not question. After all, isn’t that what religion, and the road to eternal happiness is about? Bishop Marino, the Papal presence in Presque Isle for years, who spent most of his life fucked up on acid, chasing high school girls in plaid skirts and starched white shirts, spoke candidly about his belief that Blind Faith, despite having released one hell of an album in 1969, is not the path to redemption and absolution, and it certainly should never come as easy as the high school seniors at St. Margaret Catholic School For Girls in Mackinaw. I was fortunate enough to have met the Bishop when he guest lectured for a philosophy class I was enrolled in. Following the lecture, I spoke with him about what God really wants for us. His answer was as succinct as it was surprising. “For us to be happy.”, he told me.

And for those who were unable to find any sort of happiness, religious zealots and leaders, began selling memberships to their God fearing clubs, as they stood before the masses with a bible in one hand and the keys to a Bentley in the other. You could purchase an exclusive, all inclusive membership which guaranteed your eternal happiness simply by using your credit card, debit card or paypal. For a nominal charge, you could attend one of the many religious theme parks, take a picture with the gang in attendance at The Last Supper, and purchase an autographed copy at the gift shop.  Or perhaps, enjoy a bag of Jesus Jaffa Cakes, or an order of St. Joan of Arc flaming kebabs. Despite the temptation, I sought out my happiness through other means.

In the early 1970s, during my foray into malaise and post secondary education, I found myself discussing morals and ethics with overweight, middle aged professors who frequented the massage parlor across from the university campus. With both the time and money, they were free to jump in and out of blow jobs on the way to meet and greet their families convinced that they would be offered absolution for their transgressions in exchange for feigned repentance, three Hail Marys and a contribution to the ‘help the heavenly boys choir purchase new robes’ fund.

Belief and faith are not conjoined twins. One can believe without the necessity of faith. Faith mutes the senses, leaving us blind, deaf, and basically full of shit, and sets us off on a mission to convince others to accept our beliefs as correct. Worlds have been devastated in the name of God, and frankly, I am not certain whose God wanted entire cultures reduced to rubble in order to erect a church in his glorious name. At the end of it all, nobody seems happy. The quest for conversion, redemption and absolution continue, while the priests hearing those solicited tales of sin, shame and guilt, often arrive late following the inspection of the altar boys as they tried on their new robes.

Mei-ling was a sophomore dance major who helped pay for her schooling by working part time at the massage parlor across the road from the university. We met in a Film Noir course, and shared a passion for John Huston films, hallucinogens, and sex with the lights on. We spent many hours in her dorm room watching The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre or Key Largo, and chasing the giant alligators off of her wonderfully naked body. Sex with Mei-ling was an incredible ride that often resulted in one existential crisis after another, as I tried to give some meaning to this world within worlds, hidden yet clearly visible and defined, but undetected amid all of the rhetoric and rubbish that bounced around my head like a Holier Than Thou pinball machine, resurrecting years and years of theological brainwashing. And yet, as Mei-ling dropped to her knees, I swear that I found meaning in the overwhelming pleasure that lead to my release.  And during those moments, those wonderfully satisfying moments, I am certain that I found God, I was happy, and as close to heaven as I believed I would ever be.

Perhaps in all of those moments of hedonistic pleasure, in the throes of drug induced trips and ball busting sex, I had achieved what God had wanted for me. I was happy. I was truly happy. I was certain that I could be happy all of the time provided that I was high and getting laid. For about 18 months Mei-ling ensured that I was happy. I continued to correspond with Bishop Marino, who left the church after defrocking himself in the rectory, playing ‘hide the rabbit in the habit’ with Sister Beatrice and Sister Teresa to run Papal Radio, an international radio network broadcasting rock ‘n’ religion where he interviewed such legendary holy folksters as Peter, Paul & Mary, and notorious, hardcore Loggerhead drummer, Francis Glick, Jr., of the PolkaJacks. As for me, well, I was as determined as ever to be happy, and found myself involved in years of meaningless sex with a variety of equally meaningless women. And everytime, they would drop to their knees, I believed that I had found God, or at least happiness in the overwhelming pleasure.

 

Harland Chesterfield & The Magic Bullet

Shit happens. It almost always does. The year that should have been, never was. We had big plans. Plans that we were certain would change our lives forever. Plans to attend ten Yes concerts in 15 days during the band’s ‘Close To The Edge Tour’, but nobody had heard from Harland Chesterfield since the weather changed that September. The search for him took several days, but he was found in a motel room hours away from home, draped over the side of the tub with an empty six pack of Labbatt’s Blue and a crumpled pack of Players scattered on the floor.

Harland Chesterfield had always been one weird, little guy. He was usually hanging out at Wilmington Park in what seems like a lifetime ago, roaming around, struggling to find somewhere to fit in. He seemed a withdrawn, but  he was usually also pretty wasted.  Harland didn’t have many friends, and kept to himself most of the time. He lived his life through music, and that seemed to be the only bond he would, or could share with others. He knew his stuff though.

One Friday night, at a house party at the home of one of the many teenage tarts who prowled Wilmington Park in search of drugs, love, and sex, Harland had discovered that the best way for someone to take their own life was at a Yes concert during the ‘I get up, I get down’ section of  ‘Close To The Edge’. He thought it was absurdly brilliant. We just thought he was messed up. He had reason to be. When he was nine years old, his mother seemed to have lost her mind and stabbed his father to death in the kitchen, after he informed her that the soup she had served him was not hot enough. She looked at him, smiled, and inserted an eight inch blade directly into his heart. He was dead before he hit the floor. She was institutionalized, and Harland was sent to live with an aunt, a divorced woman who lived on my street and whose bedroom I had the privilege to visit on more than one occasion.

After the police had found him, Harland was taken to the hospital and released a few days later, apparently in good health. It seems that he had simply drank himself unconscious. The trip was back on, and we were set to depart for Waterloo the following afternoon. Harland didn’t want to talk about what happened in that motel room, and the only comment he ever made about it was simply that he had a great sleep. We attended the Waterloo show completely messed up on peyote, and  followed it with concerts in Toronto and Ottawa.  Montreal was to be the last Canadian date, before we were to set out for the second stage in Flint, Columbus, and Erie.

During the Montreal concert, dead smack in the middle of ‘I Get Up, I Get Down’, amid the dry ice and flashing lights, Harland Chesterfield fell face first onto the floor. When we couldn’t get him to move, we called security who removed him from the concert floor and took him somewhere inside the bowels of the arena. We followed the security detail, and waited outside a room they had taken him to. Paramedics arrived quickly, and they seemed to be in there for hours. Finally, the door burst open, and they rushed Harland down the hallway, strapped to a stretcher, and into the back of the waiting ambulance. Harland passed away, in fact he was already gone by the time the paramedics got him into the ambulance. He was pronounced Dead On Arrival at the hospital. An autopsy identified the cause of death as suicide by poison. Traces were found in his blood and on his hands. Harland Chesterfield had administered the magic bullet that took his life at a Yes concert, with twenty thousand fans cheering, amid the spectacle of ‘I Get Up, I Get Down’, just as he had said he would.

We didn’t finish the ten shows in fifteen days. None of us really wanted to continue. Harland’s funeral was small and short, but those who attended gave him a send off we were sure he would have appreciated. The following summer, as I dabbled around the North, neck deep in drugs and damsels in a dress, I listened to Close To The Edge every day. It continues to live on in my playlist, and everytime I hear any track by Yes, my mind drifts off to remember Harland Chesterfield.

 

 

 

 

 

The Body In The Courtyard

The view from my terrace is wonderfully tranquil. I look directly into a forested area that, in Autumn, turns into a myriad of colors that regularly takes my breath away, and a courtyard enjoyed by the 4 buildings that make up this community. But that morning, it was different. Something had happened to shatter the peace that often came with a morning on the terrace.

I stepped out onto the terrace at about 5 in the morning, coffee and cigarette in hand. The lights that illuminated the courtyard below brought the entire area into view. There was nothing out of the ordinary. At 7:30, I returned to the terrace to find 6 police cruisers parked on the courtyard. There were strands of bright yellow police tape roping off an area near one of the other buildings. And there, on the ground just beside a neighboring building, was a body. It was covered with an orange tarp, and guarded by one of the officers. Several bicycle cops, dressed in the standard issues yellow jackets, and short blue pants arrived on the scene, and were relegated to directing the public away from the area. A black sedan pulled up, and 2 men, wearing suits and sunglasses got out, and walked over to the corpse. It seemed that the detectives had arrived. This was a local CSI.

They wandered around the site, and headed into the building. From my vantage point I watched as it all unfolded. I could see the detectives step onto an 11th floor terrace of a neighboring building, and, after rummaging around, peer over the edge of the terrace. Within minutes they departed the building, spoke to a uniformed officer, and left the scene just as inauspiciously as they had arrived. “Probably suicide.”, I said to my wife.

“What if he was sleep walking and fell off.”, she remarked.

“No.”, I told her. “Either suicide, or someone was high as fuck, and thought they could fly.”

“Really?”, she questioned. “Does that even happen?”

“It does to me.”, I informed her. “Many times. But usually the gargoyles wandering around the terrace keep me inside.”

It didn’t take long for the Forensics Unit to arrive. Two Officers lugging a briefcase full of evidence gathering equipment, and a camera. Pictures of the scene were taken, and the orange tarp was lifted in order to take photos of the corpse. Once completed they headed inside the building, up to the 11th floor terrace, and began taking pictures there. They returned to the scene on the ground, and rounded up what I suspect were bone fragments, and placed them in a bag. Once they were done, the Coroner’s Office arrived, in their black van, instructing the bicycle cops to keep away, and a Sergeant on the scene dispensed the short panted cyclists to other duties off the site.

The corpse was rolled and lifted onto a series of plastic coverings, and placed on a stretcher. It was wheeled to the awaiting black van, placed inside, and driven off. I looked down at the site, and noticed an enormous pool of blood. One of the maintenance workers from the complex came to wash the blood off of the concrete slabs that creating the walkway around the courtyard itself.

“I wonder if it was a man or a woman?”, my wife inquired.

“I think it was a man.”, I said. “Pretty big corpse for a woman.”

“Well that seems a little sexist.”, she stated. “There are big women, and there are small men.”

“Indeed there are.”, I agreed. “But it took three men to lift the body onto the stretcher, so I’m going to have to go with it was a man. Secondly, I am not sure that jumping to one’s death is a method women generally make when they contemplate suicide.”

“We don’t know it was suicide.”, she reminded me. “Maybe she was thrown off the terrace.”

“Well”, I added, “The detectives were in and out in about 15 minutes. The forensics team took about 30 minutes and then left. I would suspect that if foul play was suspected, there would be an investigation going on right now. I think they found a suicide note in the unit, so, that’s it.”

The Police began to remove the yellow tape, and once this task was completed, they left, like a convoy. It was 10 o’clock, and after 2 1/2 hours, the scene was completely restored to its previous pristine condition. We all seem to react to these kind of things differently, and my youngest daughter, who had been busy taking pictures of the event, began sharing them with her sister who now lived in the suburbs, informing her that there was a vacant apartment down here that was available. My wife found it completely disrespectful. My daughters found it funny. I just found it sad.

I have seen a lot of shit go on down here. There have been multiple stabbings and shootings, drug overdoses, and a serial killer stalked his victims not too far from where I live. The intentional taking of one’s own life saddens me. We still have no idea of what transpired. There was no information in any media outlets, and no one who lives in the area has any more information than I do. I suppose that we will never know what really happened. Perhaps my wife is right. Maybe some one was sleepwalking and fell over the railing. Or perhaps someone tossed the victim over the edge. I suppose, any scenario could be possible at this time. My guess, as I informed my wife, is that the gargoyles on the terrace had left, and the dude, who was high as fuck, simply wanted to fly. It happens. In any event, I hope the poor soul finds some peace now.

Lost With A Moral Compass

 

by Fielding Goodfellow

Following my expulsion from a private, religious school which my parents truly believed would set me on a clear and direct path to a cabana on a pristine beach in the after life, I entered high school as a free man, and left as one incredibly fucked up high school graduate. Over the course of four years, I am almost certain that I was wasted every day. As a result, most of my high school memories have dissipated, much like a fog bank settling over the shore line.

While the regular cast of thousands roamed the bleak, concrete hallways, engaging in self deprecating mating rituals with assorted cheerleaders in short skirts and knee high socks, who brushed them off with a flip of their hair and a turn of their head, I was  engaged in a psychedelic lunch break with draft dodger turned English teacher and drug dealer, Mr. N., or some bizarre sex ritual in the back of a Jeep Wrangler with Madame S., the French teacher who I am certain worked part time as a stripper at The Algonquin Tavern.

I suppose it was just my good fortune to have entered the corridor at the exact moment head cheerleader and dating expert Marilyn Garland, bent over and displayed her upper middle class, wonder bread ass to Fitzroy Simmons, a science nerds who had stopped to gawk. “You can keep looking.”, she said, “but you’re never gonna get this.” After a cursory glance, it occurred to me that nobody around wanted to get that.

“Don’t flatter yourself.”, I told her as I walked by. “No one wants that pasty white, bony ass. Put it away.” Fitzroy laughed. Marilyn stormed off with her band of mindless, professional virgins who I have been led to believe went on to find success as frigid wives of suburban accountants, and I was once again in the office of school Vice-Principal, Mr. Brackett.

It was the usual exchange of ideas, one that we seemed to continually rehearse. Mr. Brackett sat behind his desk, tapping his hand with a yard stick, pointing out that I was  disrespectful, immoral, and destined for a lifetime of failure. I disagreed, and expressed my concern that he was ignorant, belittling, and an asshole. I was suspended for three days, and the customary call to my parents was made. As I went to retrieve my belongings from my locker, I ran into Madame S., and I told her what had happened. “You’re just so adorable.”, she told me. “Let me give you a ride home.” I met her at the Jeep. “You drive.”, she said as she tossed me the keys. Now, if you have never had a blow job while driving a manual transmission Jeep with the top down, I suggest you try it at least once. It was wonderfully fulfilling.

My father’s only concern was that he had been called by the school. It didn’t matter to him what I had or had not done. He really didn’t care. He just did not want to be called. “I don’t understand why you keep getting caught.”, he said.

“I don’t get caught.”, I informed him. “I just choose not to run away.”

“Well”, he advised, “that’s getting caught.”

“Not really.”, I replied. “That’s surrendering. I am trying to make a point.”

“Which is?”, he asked.

“That I am right, and they are full of shit.”, I told him. We never understood each other. He neither shared my sense of justice or responsibility. The battle was fought over many years, with his frequent reminders that he just didn’t understand me. I let him know that it was alright, I wasn’t really looking for understanding, anyway. What I was really seeking was the freedom to think my own thoughts, and to live my own life. His only request was that I lived a moral life.

Many years later, following a night out, when the paranoid delusions invade the deepest recesses of my thoughts as I attempt to sleep, I realized that I had very matter of factly pissed away most of my life. Wallowing in the effects of years and years of uninhibited hallucinogenic consumption and random acts of various erotic mayhem, I realized that I was plagued with a sense of melancholy. I had discovered, much to my father’s chagrin that morality is a sham. Behind a facade of transparency, it has been driven into the shadows under a veil of secrecy and deceit. It manifests itself as the law of the land, but in reality it is merely the masturbatory fantasies of those who sit on the far right. I have participated in enough protests to have discovered that those liberal, left wing social democrats who take to the streets and gather in the squares to voice their disapproval, wind up being corralled like cattle and detained in the name of decency and public safety. I have come to understand that morality is a word used to dupe us into conformity. It is used to stifle self expression, and entice the masses to join in and march in the great military parades. Morality is insanely immoral.

We are, after all, human beings with the freedom of choice. So whose morality are we being asked to accept? Morality does not stop us from hurting others, but in fact encourages it, provided those we wish to harm are without morals. It is not morality that should prevade our existence, but responsibility. Responsibility to ourselves, and to our fellow man. We all have a responsibility to take care of each other, that is the essence of being human. Morality gives us the option to fuck up those who are less fortunate and marginalized, once we convince ourselves that they are immoral. The white shirt, suit and tie bufoons who reign supreme by virtue of their ability to make promises that they have no intention to keep, dictate what is moral as they shove the poor and destitute deeper into the holes that have been dug in an attempt to bury all of the unwanted refuse this society has created.

Where is the responsibility we have towards our fellow man? Where is the sense of duty to help those in need? These qualities, an integral part of what makes us human beings has been relegated to land fills across the planet in order that the rich and powerful may continue to be rich and powerful. I  don’t profess to have all of the answers, but I do know that I do not screw others because it is immoral, but rather because I have an obligation to help, not hinder, to enlighten, not confuse. I don’t want what others have, nor do I need it, but the constraints of morality force even the meekest of men to become sinners. The new found morality will not lead to happiness, or peace of mind. Happiness will be found in doing what you love, and being who you really are, without seeking acceptance from anyone other than yourself. Those who expound morality are immoral.

I regret nothing, although there are times when I wish I could have said something a little more appropriate than “Go to hell, you fucking whore.”, at the settlement hearing with my first wife, but it was said and done. I have tried to spend my life as a champion of the underdog, the guardian of those who are unable to help themselves. When no one wanted to hang out with Fitzroy Simmons, who was taunted, teased and bullied his entire academic life, I looked out for him, and offered my friendship. Madame S., well, she needed to feel love, and I desperately wanted to be the one to give it to her. My refusal to knuckle under to the intimidation tactics of Mr. Brackett served to demonstrate to others that authority exists only because we give it permission to.

I went on, after University, to work with children and adolescents with mental health and behavioral issues, guiding them to a life of self reliance and self acceptance. Not bad for a disrespectful, immoral, failure. Recognize your responsibility and your duty to give back, and stop listening to the moral right. They’re all just fucktards.

Remembering Charlie Garrick

by Solomon Tate

“I guess it hasn’t really been that bad.”, Garrick said to Dr. Perlmuter, the cardigan clad Psychotherapist who bore a striking resemblance to Tim Curry. “I mean there have been many potholes, and a whole lot of wrong turns, but it’s really been pretty good.”

“So why are you here?”, the doctor asked.

“Well, out there may be okay”, Garrick answered. “But the shit in my head freaks me out.”

“Well, we’ll have to pick it up right there next time.”, he said matter of factly, “I’m afraid we’re out of time.”

The good doctor was right. They were out of time. Two hours and seventeen minutes later Garrick stepped in front of a train at the St. Patrick subway station, ending the life of a good man.

Charlie Garrick was 54 years old. He spent 30 years as a reporter for a group of small, community newspapers. He had written a book, but came to the realization that he could say everything he needed to say in 2 or 3 sentences. ‘The Decline of Modern Culture’, which he wrote in 1998, consisted of 250 pages, of which 249 pages were left blank. On the 2nd page Charlie wrote “The tyrannical web of deceit that has circumvented the universe has been left to run amok, unattended for far too long. Stop the fucking lying”. He was right about it,I mean  he really didn’t need more than 2 or 3 sentences to say what he needed to say. ‘Stop the fucking lying.’, pretty much said it all.

Charlie Garrick was my friend. We served two tours of duty together in rehab, during which neither one of us could muster the courage to achieve any measure of success. During our conversations, usually held over a couple of pitchers of beer and numerous tequila shots, he spoke lovingly about his children, and passionately about Taoism. Charlie believed that life just is. Nothing more needs to be done. If we could all accept our lives, commune with nature, and seek and want nothing, all of the world’s problems would cease to exist. I don’t really understand much of it myself, but he was certain it was right. “Be like a river.”, he said. “All it ever is is a river. It flows, and nothing more. And in doing nothing but being a river, it carves through solid rock, creating valleys, and massive canyons. Pretty impressive for doing nothing.”

We sat at The Brunswick House one afternoon, many years ago contemplating life’s purpose, as 2 incredibly naive young men were prone to do. I was a psychology major, infatuated with opportunities to delve into the psyche’s of troubled souls, and help them change to live more fulfilling and positive lives. Garrick, reluctantly chose his major in his 3rd year. He opted for a combined major in history & English. He stated that since man was destined to repeat the past, someone should know what the hell had really happened, and be able to write about the dangers of repetition.

Although  customary in these instances, Charlie left no note, leaving the usual culprits to ask why. All that they could do was to ponder circumstance and speculate in an attempt to rationalize what had transpired. I’m not sure if even Charlie knew why. More important and  certainly more relevant is  how  no one noticed the anguish and desperation that was consuming Charlie. He had friends, and family and it just didn’t make any sense. It never did. Something was eating away at him, from the inside out, and it had probably been going on for years and years.

I hadn’t spoken to Charlie in a few years, and I suppose that should have been some sort of warning that things weren’t right. But we always assume the best, I suppose. People get busy, and their lives twist and turn like a river, taking them where ever the river leads. It wasn’t unusual for Charlie to disappear, but he was pretty consistent in letting us know that he was okay. There was always some kind of smoke signal, a letter or a telegram, and more recently, a text message or an email, simply stating ‘All is well. Glad you’re not here’. But there had been nothing over the last few years.

Charlie had once told me about the time he headed north and spent 2 weeks alone in the wilderness. He said that when one removes himself from the human race, even if only for a short time, it becomes evident that you never really belonged, and no longer wish to be a member. Isolation was liberating, and in isolation, he was able to truly know himself, and to become himself.

But even in his reluctance to be a part of humanity, Charlie Garrick was always there for me, and scores of others. When my wife became ill, Charlie was there, and when my first daughter was born with a disability that required her to undergo 11 surgeries in 7 years, Charlie sat with me at that hospital every single time. He was a loving and caring man who always seemed to put others before himself. Sadly, most people didn’t notice as Charlie acted within the realm of silence and anonymity. He hated the recognition and notoriety that often went hand in hand with doing the right thing so much, that he had refused to attend 3 separate award events in his honor. Few people knew that he sat on several committees that dealt with social issues, or that he taught a creative writing course for marginalized youth in the city core. And that’s how he wanted it. He did what he did, like a river, doing nothing more that just being, and he carved a life of good deeds, touching so many.

And now that he’s gone, I regret for not being a better friend. I regret that I was not there for him when he needed someone. I feel guilt that I didn’t take the time to find out what the hell was going on so that I could at least try to help. I will miss him. I will miss the way he argued with the server at Szechuan Palace that Peking Duck is really only a chicken that swims and flies. I will miss the way  beer came streaming out of his nose like a fountain when he laughed. Most of all, though, I will miss his friendship. I will miss the commitment and dedication he devoted to being my friend. I will miss Charlie Garrick.