Young Chronicles XX: Vancouver to Toronto

August 10-13, 1983 Mileage 2896 miles

The Young Chronicles details my 1983 hitchhiking trip across Canada. Having completed the bulk of my journey, I spent time in Vancouver before heading back to Toronto. Once I had worn out my welcome with university friends, I moved to the Vancouver Youth Hostel and paid for room and board by doing the dishes.

On the porch of the Vancouver Hostel

I had dinner with an old friend, Ellen, and her husband on their sailboat docked at the marina and impatiently ducked under a moving train to get there. The caboose man yelled after me that I was an idiot. I have thought about that moment many time since, wondering what might have happened.

I lined up early at A&B Record store where the first 30 customers got three albums for $10 and bought 1999 (Prince), Time Fades Away (Neil Young) & Security (Peter Gabriel).

I went to the inaugural concert at BC Place with The Tubes (T&A show), Peter Gabriel (great lights) and David Bowie (Life on Mars, Ashes to Ashes, Space Oddity, Fashion, Stay, Scary Monsters, China Girl, Putting Out Fires, Rock and Roll Star, Young Americans, Station to Station, TVC15, Stay, Breaking Glass, Let’s Dance, Heroes, Jeanie Genie, Rebel Rebel).

Ride One: Vancouver to Winnipeg. Van. Met group at hostel, including Obbie (owner), Stephanie and two English guys. Paid $35 for gas.

Me, Obbie and the guys from England.

Ride Two: Blue truck. Winnipeg to outskirts of town. Middle-aged man told me to open the glove box where there was a porn magazine and asked if I wanted to go to his cabin to get a blow job. “I know a lot of guys who aren’t gay but liked to be sucked off.” I declined. He asked if I just wanted a sandwich. I declined again.

Ride Three: Outskirts of Winnipeg to St. Anne. 1955 pickup truck. Dean, a Native guy who ate sunflower seeds and got me high. Offered me a place to stay. I was anxious to get home

Ride Four: St. Anne to Falcon Island Provincial Park. Two young women who were unsure of me. I confessed to them that Dean had got me high.

Heading into the hills North of Lake Superior

Ride Five: Falcon Island Provincial Park to Toronto. Brown Rabbit. Di and Wax. Listened to Def Leppard too much. Had dinner at A&W. Was asked to drive but I had never driven stick shift. Wax tended to drift into oncoming lane on winding roads and almost hit a truck. Took me right to my house. I should have invited them in but I didn’t. I was tired and being selfish.

Young Chronicles XIX: Whitehorse to Victoria, BC

July 23-25, 1983 Mileage 1468 miles

The Young Chronicles details my 1983 hitchhiking trip across Canada. Having completed much of the journey west, I head south from the Yukon to Vancouver.

Greyhound Bus: $99 one way. My fear of isolated country and bears continued, as did my complacency. My rationale was based on saving on two nights accommodation.

As I have mentioned previously, I wrote a lot of drivel on my journey. The bus ride was no exception: In despair, the mind searched for an answer, for a reasonable excuse for a positive outlet, for a viable possibility. It is hard when one is alone. Alas, the sun sinks slowly down past the horizon’s wall.

July 25 – July 31 Stayed at Marco’s house in Vancouver. Monday: Beers in hot tub with Ranald, Gareth and Dave. Drinks on Granville Island with Marco and Graham. Tuesday: Caesars with Fiona, Graham and Hug. Wednesday: The UBC Pit with Sandy, Jackie, Graham and John. Thursday: Helped Marco move. Friday: Listened to Anthem of the Sun and Blues For Allah at Stewie’s house Saturday: Lighthouse Park with Gareth, Stewie, Ranald and Dave.

Jumping off cliffs at Lighthouse Park

August 1, Mileage: 135 miles

Ferry and public transit from Vancouver to Victoria.

Ride One: Victoria to Elk Island. Big car from Alberta. Driver hit on me. “Want to spend the night?

Ride Two: Elk Island to Schwartz Bay. TR7. Worried woman. “Don’t you try anything. I have a gun under my seat.”

Schwartz Bay Ferry Terminal

Ferry back to Tsawwassen and Vancouver.

Ari Aster’s Haunting Imagery

Cormac McCarthy writes in The Road: Just remember that the things you put into your head are there forever. You forget what you want to remember and you remember what you want to forget.

Such is the case with Ari Aster’s films Hereditary and Midsommer. Make no mistake about it, these are both very well made films. Perhaps too much so. It isn’t just the visuals – although sawing off one’s own head is hard to forget – but more so in the music, especially in the majestic, almost comic finale of Midsommer,

I want to forget the images of Dani wailing as her boyfriend is roasted in a bear suit, but that damn music by Bobby Krlic keeps creeping back into my head. It’s that good.

Live as a Writer: Women Worshipped From Afar

It wasn’t just the flubbed kiss with Peach; I had a miserable record with girls throughout my teenage years. I actually ran away from a girl at a high school dance, fearing mockery and embarrassment. A year later, I did manage to dance with a girl from Branksome School but flubbed the phone call afterwards with talk of love.

That was my thing, to harp on about love and existence and hope they might think of me as poetic. It didn’t work on anyone – not Lori McClennan, Karen Spafford nor Tanis Gravenor – because I was sophomoric and stupid.

I did finally make out with a girl, Liz Howes, in Third Year at college. She was beautiful but had an awful voice; I might have mentioned that to her. She dumped me after a week. But she did give me a kitten that I named Popo and ended up having for 15 years. This remains my longest relationship to date.

Popo transfixed by a bird

Young Chronicles XVII: Winnipeg, to Saskatoon

The Young Chronicles details my 1983 hitchhiking trip across Canada. Having completed the Toronto-Newfoundland leg, I continue west from Manitoba to Saskatchewan.

July 8-10, 1983 Stayed at hostel and attended Winnipeg Folk Festival. Queen Ida and her Zydeco Band was the highlight of the event.

July 11, 1983 Mileage 356 miles

Ride One: Downtown Winnipeg to outskirts of Winnipeg. Old blue Volvo. Guy who had been to St. John’s. Had a hard time of it and has vowed to help others.

Ride Two: Highway 16 to Brandon, Manitoba. Red pickup truck. Group of Native Americans going to The Gathering. Woman gave me six cookies.

Ride Three: Brandon to Regina, Saskatchewan. Chevette with Illinois plates. Jeff Gibbs headed to Alaska. Had been stationed in Germany as a computer programmer on Pershing missiles. Went to jail for drunk driving with 1.5% blood alcohol.

Jeff Gibbs shows his Reaper drawing in Saskatchewan

July 13 Middle-aged couple. Woman said that I reminded her of the dawn. She had just won the lottery and was frying a salmon in the park. I was invited to join. Man became abusive when he was drunk and accused me of sponging. Returned to hostel, locked out.

July 15, 1983 Mileage 164 miles

Ride One: Regina to Wattrous, Saskatchewan. Old pickup truck. Wild looking man in a dirty green shirt. “No matter what you have, it always has value somewhere.”

Ride Two: Wattrous to outskirts of Saskatoon. Blue station wagon. Middle-aged woman with two kids. Drive past me but her kids insisted that she go back. “You’ve been nice company.”

Farm equipment outside Wattrous, Saskatchewan

Ride Three: Outskirts to Saskatoon hostel. Early ’70s car. Long-haired smoker. “You do your thing, and I’ll do mine.”

Young Chronicles XVI: Ahmic Harbour, Ontario to Winnipeg, Manitoba

The Young Chronicles details my 1983 hitchhiking trip across Canada. Having completed the Toronto-Newfoundland leg, I continue west through Ontario into Manitoba.

July 3, 1983 Mileage 335 miles

Ride One: Ahmic Harbour to Parry Sound. Buick Electra (with dad and Sue). Listened to Bach and Vangelis. Pleasantries.

Ride Two: Parry Sound to Sudbury Turnoff. Rabbit. Twerp of a driver who irritated another hitchhiker in the car from El Salvador and stayed quiet throughout.

Hitchhiker from El Salvador walking ahead between Parry Sound and Sault Saint Marie

Ride Three: Sudbury Turnoff to Sault Saint Marie. Sal driving from a wedding in Toronto, despondent about splitting up with wife. Picked up his brother Paul at a marina. Listened to Stravinsky’s The Right of Spring.

July 4 Mileage: 435 miles

Ride One: Thunder Bay to Wawa. Blue Custom Chevy Van. Married guy with mustache and fancy track pants. Loves Canada and understands the power of the weather.

Long wait by Wawa sign. Graffiti underneath sign included: Wawa sucks! Fuck Wawa! Jerky Fuckwell, I slept here. Truck pulled over and then took off when I approached

Ride Two: Wawa to Thunder Bay. Silver Rabbit. Alison and Jane. Very nice and happy people. “I am so happy to be alive!” Strong belief in Socialism. Big collection of pillows in the back seat with me. Stayed at same hostel in Thunder Bay.

Alison and Jane on the road to Thunder Bay

July 6 Mileage: 29 miles

Ride One: Thunder Bay to four miles up the road. Pickup truck. Kirk Douglas lookalike.

Ride Two: Six miles up the road. VW Bug. Blonde guy going to Lakehead University.

Ride Three: Three miles up the road. Brown Rabbit. Jesus lookalike. “You have to like sitting on the side of the road.”

Ride Four: Ten miles up the road to Sunshine. Old car with California plates. Mike. “You can stay the night, if you need to.” (I did.)

July 7 Mileage: 385 miles

Ride One: Sunshine to Winnipeg. Blue Colt junker. Dave and his nephew Sean. Dealer in native art. Enjoys silence and forest fire trivia. Obsessed with sex. “You never know. Maybe I’ll get lucky.”

Dave and Sean on the Blue Colt in their Winnipeg backyard

Took me to his house for dinner (chicken, salad, baked potatoes and beer) with his wife and sister-in-law. “Now you can tell people you had dinner with Indians and they didn’t eat you!”

U Turn Memory

I have a memory, if it can be called that, a moving image that bubbles up when I’m writing.

It is of a stretch of road called Marine Drive, connecting North and West Vancouver. It’s a thoroughfare, three lanes each way, thick with strip malls and autobody shops on each side.

Nothing happened there that I can remember. I just have to make a U turn. That’s the memory. I have to get back to something. Not a place, but a person, someone I left on the side of the road. And I am waiting to make that turn.

Not Marine Drive, not even close to it.

But I never make the turn because the light doesn’t change. I just wait and look at the orange and white sign for the autobody shop across the way.

Young Chronicles XXII: Fortune to Port-Aux-Basque, Newfoundland

The Young Chronicles detail my 1983 hitchhiking trip across Canada. Having completed the initial Toronto to St. John’s, Newfoundland leg of the journey, this section covers the return trip back across Newfoundland.

June 16, 1983 Mileage 35 miles

Ride One: Fortune to Grand Bank, Newfoundland. Old turquoise pickup truck. 23-year-old man with toothy grin. Wants to get out of Fortune.

Ride Two: Grand Bank to four miles down road. Old pickup truck. Toolbox. Nice man.

Ride Three: To Marystown. Pickup truck. Young guy, moose hunter, works on the oil platforms, six months on, six months off. Off to fish in Gander, Labrador soon.

Stayed in Mariner’s Lodge run by an old guy. “Been everywhere and know everything.”

June 17, 1983 Mileage 418 miles

Ride One: Marystown to Clarenville. Old car. Squeaky 200-pound moose hunter.

Ride Two: Clarenville to Trans Canada Turnoff. Blue pickup truck. Middle-aged guy with no right hand index finger. Electrician moose hunter. Loves screech and special mild cigarettes.

Ride Three: TCH Turnoff too Gander. Old Blue car. Old lady who told story of mongoloid children from a little red bible. “God bless you.”

Ride Four: Gander to Corner Brook. Old Buick. Young guy who took pictures and hunted moose. Quiet except about moose.

Stayed in Bridgeway Motel with two beds. Upcoming Red Rider concert advertised heavily on radio. Ate a hamburger at an old diner. Still cold. High of 24.

June 18, 1983 Mileage 137 miles PLUS ferry trip back to mainland

Ride One: To “a better exit”. Small car with a guy and girl. “I’ll show you a better exit.”

Ride Two: Corner Brook to Stephenville. Canadian army truck. Guy looked a cartoon character with lips jutting out. Moose hunter

Ride Three: Stephenville to roadside bar 25 north of Port-Aux-Basques. Three guys on a multi-day bender. Doug (groom-to-be, bearded, driver, calm, scar on cheek), Pat (married two years, former speed user), Brian (married three years drinker, mustache) and Tefel (fellow hitchhiker, insecure, loves high speed driving).

Doug, Pat, Brian and Tefel holding the spare tires that acted as back seats.

These guys are all moose poachers and have been jailed four times each. No back seat in the car. Spare tires instead. Shared bottles of beer. I had four. They took us to dump to look for bears and threw empties into the garbage pile. Left them at the bar.

Ride Four: Roadside bar to Port-Aux-Basques Ferry Terminal. Light brown sedan. Mustache and overweight. “Keep all your lanes open in music.”

Overnight ferry to Sydney, Nova Scotia.

Writing Process: Feel a Thought

Profound understanding is the goal in my writing. To share that with the reader. More simply stated, this might be called empathy. More thoughtfully stated, Saul Bellow put it like this: Only art penetrates what pride, passion, intelligence and habit erect in all sides – the seeming realities of the world. There is another reality, the genuine one, which we lose sight of. This other reality is always sending us hints, which without art, we cannot receive.

It’s not about thinking a thought, but feeling a thought. These are the moments that all of us have which transcend description, indelible moments that mark our existence. I was nine years old the first time I saw the palm trees of Florida out of my plane window. It wasn’t just being in the plane for the first time or seeing the lush green after leaving icy Canada; it was something more. It was magic. It was being transported to a place of dreams.

Not Florida but Turkey. Dreamlike both.

Years later, after an arduous camping trip on Brooks Peninsula, on the west coast of Vancouver Island, we were ferried back in a small boat through heavy wind and weather. The young man piloting the boat had lost sight of an important landmark, a massive rock which lurked beneath the surface. Just as he stood and wondered aloud, “Where is it?”, we rode slid into a trough and the massive boulder appeared, menacing, dripping thick algae, just behind the boat. The young man was speechless. A moment earlier and we would have capsized and drowned.

Luckily we didn’t end up like this.

I vividly recall the death of my cat, Popo as well as seeing Aguirre Wrath of God the first time on a tiny black and white television. I don’t just remember these things. It is well beyond that. And more profoundly, because it is all in my head, I remember standing alone in a dark Paris apartment the moment I realized that a character I planned to kill off, Chantal Deschampes, decided that she would not leave the book.

She not only survived to the very end of The Sacred Whore, she even made a more recent appearance in Aqaara, Part Two of The Cx Trilogy. I realized that she was not a fictional character but a spirit that had something to say. That was when I knew I wrote.

Ancient Staircase

The stairs had a tightness, coiling down into the gloom. I stepped nervously, missing a step and clunking into the wall. And then it was brighter, the light coming from above. The space was empty, full of grit and dust.

I held myself there, thinking this was the place and should stay here to find something out, something true, but went into the side room, walked across the creaking floor and opened the little door. The light changed. There was someone above, and I stayed quiet, wondering when they would find me.