Sophomoric Script: Ferges in Newfoundland

I wrote the script Ferges in Newfoundland as in my third year of Film at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.

Based on my hitchhiking trip shared in Young Chronicles VII – XX of this blog, it details experiences and conversations from the Newfoundland section of the trip. I have no idea why I called the main character Ferges, except that I wanted a name that was different.

The idea was to have Ferges act as a fly on the wall for different perspectives – RCMP officers, poachers, zealots, old-timers, single mothers, ragamuffins – so that the reader go a small picture of the people of the island.

But it doesn’t work, because Ferges is pretentious and the secondary characters serve only as explication.

Nobody does anything except Ferges, who hitchhikes across Newfoundland in one day so that he can take a boat to the French island of St. Pierre Miquelon. Why? None of it is explained.

Young Chronicles: Rocks from Across Canada

I collected a rock from every province/territory on my Cross-Canada Hitchhiking trip in 1983 and described each one briefly in my journal.

Rock #1 Cavendish Beach, Prince Edward Island: Smooth and rounded, a single white stripe down the side and bit of ocean scum

Rock #2 Cornerbrook, Newfoundland: Jagged, almost gold, sparkling, a 3-D trapezoid

Rock #3 Sydney, Nova Scotia: Small, white polka dots on white, a few glitters

Rock #4 Kouchibouguac National Park, New Brunswick: Orange and broken, rectangular

Rock #5 Metis Beach, Quebec: An unfinished sculpture, black with streaks of green; looks like a bird, jagged and rectangular, when stood on one end

Rock #6 Wawa, Ontario: Dark, weathered and a broken top

Rock #7 Regina, Saskatchewan: Yellowish white of small proportions, chipped

Rock #8: Edmonton Fort, Alberta: Rounded, light brown with white streaks. Pock-marked and lop-sided

Rock #9: Grey Mountain, Yukon: Egg-shaped and worn. Covered in moss shit.

Rock #10 Wreck Beach, British Columbia: black, warped, dent in one side, speckled with grey.

I failed to get to a rock from Manitoba. Not sure why. There were plenty of rocks there.

My backpack at the base of a Trans Canada Highway sign in Manitoba

Young Chronicles: Hitchhiking Summer 1983

I hitchhiked across Canada in the summer of 1983 in search of something. I told everyone that I was looking for Canada’s soul – sad but true – but it was clearly more about me.

10,000 miles and 110 different rides later, I can’t say I found anything much but laziness and fear. Not to say that I didn’t try. I stayed at Cavendish Beach in Prince Edward Island, buying enough peanut butter, jam, bread and juice for three days and thinking, “Okay, I’m going to really dig into self-reflection now.”

Sad, lonely view from my tent at Cavendish Beach, PEI

But I didn’t. I just read, wrote nonsense and walked around, counting down until I could eat another sandwich and have another juice. I was marking time, nothing more.

Trying to look confident and cool at Mile Zero in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

I did two things with regularity on the trip: take self-portraits and write nonsense. This was my path to becoming a writer and developing a sense of self. That’s what I told myself.

Self-portrait on the side of the road in Prince Edward island

But it all rang hollow. I was closed. To myself and everyone around me. The writing was horrendous drivel, and I just kept looking down the road to see what might be next.

Young Chronicles XX: Vancouver to Toronto

August 10-13, 1983 Mileage 2896 miles

The Young Chronicles detailsĀ 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.

Young Chronicles XVIII: Saskatoon to Whitehorse, Yukon

July 20, 1983 Mileage 365 miles

The Young Chronicles details my 1983 hitchhiking trip across Canada. Having completed the journey east and much of the journey west, I head north to the Yukon.

Ride One: Saskatoon to North Battleford. Souped-up racing car. Native guy who used to be a drug dealer. Offered to put me up in North Battleford. “Fucking this and fucking that.”

Ride Two: North Battleford to Peynton. Camper. Older native guy with weathered skin. Lived on a reserve. Very friendly. Two boys work in hospital.

Open road of Saskatchewan to Alberta

Ride Three: Peynton to Lloydsminster, Alberta. Air-conditioned Oldsmobile. Stuck -up singer with goatee. Prejudiced against Native Americans. Said that they put holes in the side of their houses so that the horses and cows could drink from bathtub. Jerk.

Ride Four: Lloydsminster to Vermillion. Blue Phoenix. Mild-mannered older guy. Worked at Lakeland College, only provincial college in Canada.

Ride Five: Vermillion to Edmonton. AMC Meteor station wagon. Sausage buyer. Had a water tower for sale. Son has pessimistic dreams of being stuck working at McDonald’s.

Stayed with Lori McClennan, a crush from the year before. We went to the Edmonton Fort with her younger brother. Nothing else happened.

Looking north on the North Saskatchewan River in Edmonton

July 19-20 Mileage 1237

Greyhound Bus: $99 one way. I was scared of the immense wilderness, especially being left on the side of the road for hours and getting mauled by a bear. Laziness had a lot to do with it as well. The rain clouds have given out, letting loose a mild lightning storm in Grand Prairie.

Time flies when you’re lost in a sleepy darkness, so I smoke my way to sleep.

July 20-23 Whitehorse, Yukon. Stayed in hostel. Amazed by the late evening light, past 11pm. Forgotten old woman sleeping at railway station.

Hiked up Gray Mountain, scared again of the bears. Graffiti at top of the mountain dates bake to 1957. Moth at peak – why?

Writing Process: Not Knowing Myself

This blog has been effective at turning over the rocks from my childhood, dreams and half-realized works. The Young Chronicles in particular has been telling as it reveals my lack of identity; I distinctly remember having clarity when I was eight years old and then none on my hitchhiking trip eleven years later.

Pretending to be confident and cool somewhere in Saskatchewan

I was always on edge, unsure of where I was, scared to camp alone, scared on the side of the road, scared of riding in stranger’s cars. I wanted to be somewhere else and, when I got there, somewhere else again.

I found vague clarity a few years later in between tree-planting seasons, camping with my cat Popo in the Gulf Islands, reading dawn to dusk, but still scared of sounds in the night and the dark waters, of being alone, but nevertheless running away from others.

My little log cabin on Ahmic Lake. Scared even there.

That’s as close to a sense of self as I have ever come.

Writing Process: Lost Images

As of late, I have been scouring through old images (prints, negatives and slides) in search of material for my Young Chronicles series. However there is one picture I cannot find, that of a boy looking back through the gap between a bus seat and the wall. All I can find is this lesser shot of his hand.

Boy’s hand on bus trip from Edmonton, Alberta to Whitehorse, Yukon.

Not being able to find the image of the boy haunts me in an odd way. I don’t know how I could have lost it and look for it again and again. To no avail.

The feeling reminds me of a fruitless search as a boy at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. There had been a exhibition on the Amazon that I had loved, but it was a temporary thing and had vanished forever.

Searching for the lost Amazon exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto.

That didn’t stop me from endlessly searching the corridors and rooms, peaking behind the dioramas, looking for the secret passageway that would lead me back to that magical place. I am still looking for that.

Writing Process: My Precious Photos

I have been on a sentimental journey of late, going through old images – photographs, slides and negatives – to give visual support for the Young Chronicles section of this blog.

A early selfie with Tim Paquette at his home, the end of my first day hitchhiking.

While some shots work, like the one above, I now realize that most do not because I was trying too hard to be arty with landscapes and the like.

It’s a lot of emptiness, which does reflect my feelings of much of that summer, but comes across today as repetitive and unengaging.

The process of searching through my images and notes is the journey now; and the aim is to make it so for others.

The route out from Toronto to Nova Scotia and then back across Quebec and Ontario.

Young Chronicles XXIII: Sydney to Kouchibouguac National Park

The Young Chronicles detail my 1983 hitchhiking trip across Canada. Having completed the initial eastward bound leg, I now head west from Newfoundland through the Maritime provinces.

June 19, 1983 Mileage 292 miles

Ride One: Sydney to Kelley’s Mountain, Nova Scotia. Red pick up. Drivers works for CN Marines, dives on wrecks and has seen many sharks, whales and trout.

Ride Two: To Baddeck, Nova Scotia. Green car. Red cap, beard, knives. (Wait: 3 1/2 hours.)

Ride Three: To Truro Turnoff. Car n/a. Boring history teacher, sweaty chin and shorts.

Ride Four: To Moncton, New Brunswick. Car n/a. Beers and quarter pound of cheese. Former Mountie, works as a bartender now. Has driven Sydney to Edmonton straight.

Overnight in Moncton. No hostel. YMCA closed. Only have $15. Walked around, followed by a silver Mazda camper pickup truck. Went to the A&W and left my bags there and ran after the camper as it sped away.

No one at the A&W was willing to put me up for the night. Went to the police station to report the stalker but didn’t have the license plate. Policeman: “I don’t know what to tell you.” Asked to sleep in a jail. He called The Sunset Inn and guaranteed that I would pay the next day. Front desk clerk told me of a guy who left a gold chain as collateral and then skipped.

June 20, 1983 Mileage 61 miles

Waited outside of Moncton for a long time, looking at their signs of community pride: Moncton, You’re Okay! Hey, Moncton, Picture This! 4H Thinks Greater Moncton Is Great! Welcome One And All From Moncton With Love.

A truck side-swiped a car just past me. The sideview mirror skittered twenty feet ahead. A bystander picked up for the driver. “Sir, are you all right?”

Ride One: Moncton to Shediac. Family car. Shared Moosehead beer and cigarettes. A painter by trade.

Ride Two: To Kouchibouguac National Park. Silver Honda sports car. Comical laugh. Loved Bach’s Variations. Anti-Wagner. Teaches education at University of Maine.

Camped on the ocean side.