Young Chronicles VII: Der Schinken Isn’t Chicken

Young Chronicles I-IV details a 1972 school trip to Northern Ontario, while Young Chronicles V-VI offers a brief account of a family car trip to Prince Edward Island in 1974. This section of Young Chronicles jumps ahead nine years to my hitchhiking trip across Canada. The adventure took 71 days, covering over 10,000 miles in 110 different cars along with two extensive bus rides. I made copious notes, much of which is embarrassingly trite, but that’s the point of this, right? Anyway, I aim to share the most interesting and amusing bits and see where that takes me.

I had just finished my first year at university and I thought I knew everything there was to know and decided to set out to discover “The Canadian Soul”. Yes, I wrote that phrase down. My aim was to ask everyone what they thought about Canada, what it meant to them, where the country was going. I think I asked a total of five people in the end. That said, I did document every ride and many of the things I saw and thought (ad nauseum) along the way.

Day One (June 3, 1983) Mileage 0-344

Ride One: Toronto to Ajax in Rally STX van (blue) with John Hulme, who told me that picking up hitchhikers was “against company policy”.

Ride Two: Ajx to Hwy 115 Turnoff in VW Rabbit (beige) with Buecklie, originally from West Germany. He gave me a Medallion cigarette and told a long anecdote about ordering what he thought was a chicken sandwich because the word “Der Schinken” sounded so much like chicken. It turned out to be ham. He and the waiter thought this was very funny and later became friends.

Ride Three: Hwy 115 Turnoff to Ottawa Turnoff in 1977 MGB with a large red-bearded man. His daughter did Pepsi commercials but hated the stuff.

Ride Four: Ottawa Turnoff to Cornwall in a 1979 Thunderbird with Eugene Bugala who was a Catholic priest. He liked Canada because it was free and nice with a European flavor. He also considered the maple leaf a satisfactory symbol for the country.

Ride Five: Ottawa Turnoff to Montreal 1977 Dart (brown) with Tim Paquette. He lit a joint, played Peter Gabriel’s San Jacinto on his car stereo and then explained his video concept for the song which involved blue spotlights and children running through the jungle. He took me around the neighborhood as he delivered pizzas and then picked up his girlfriend Cathy before heading out to The Maples Tavern. It was a low-key place that was later busted by the Quebec police who were arrogant, their thumbs in their pockets and hats tilted back. I stayed the night at Tim’s house.

Can You See Me?

The house was long and bright, a small tour being conducted as I came home.

“What longitudinal line does the house bisect?” The guide smiled briefly, waiting only a moment before conducting the group through the sculpture gallery. “Originals, everything is an original.” Can You See MeMy clothes were missing from some shelves, moved to a downstairs room still under construction. That’s where she was, my wife, unpacking my things. I thought of just staying there, waiting for all of this to come around to a sensible point, but gathered my wits and caught up to her before her next meeting. “I need just ten minutes.”

A loose-suited man stood beside her. “I need the same.”

Her look was reserved as she glanced between us and then back at him. “Would you like to look at the garden? Why don’t I take you out to look at that?”

“We won’t have time then?” I stuttered.

She was already leaving. “We can schedule something for next week.”

I followed them down to the train, past a half naked man engaged in a complicated ritual, artistic or personal I didn’t understand. Can You See Me“Henry, we’ve talked about bringing your friends.” She turned to the loose-suited man. “It’s too much, isn’t it?”

I thought that it was but had been left at the top of the stairs.