Saturday, September 25, 2021

Where we know from passwords

Eddie and me on the steps of bus #55
Halfway up one of the big trees in the backyard of the house we Carter kids grew up in, there was an assembly of boards and planks and sticks nailed into the upper part of the trunk where the bigger branches spread out from. (It's called the tree's crotch, btw.)

I and my brother Eddie and a few friends called this assortment of nailed together pieces of  wood a treehouse, which is like saying a pile of soggy old newspapers and ripped magazines is  a "body of research." But never mind that.

You had to climb a ladder to get to our quote unquote treehouse, and sometimes, to ensure that nobody who wasn't welcome got in, we would invent a secret password. Clever huh?

This next part's beside the point, but who knew back then that inventing passwords would become such a critical life skill? Ditto typing! I am a pretty fair typist, but it's because I took high school typing to get into journalism. Here's something even better: Once in j-school, I earned a real university credit in "shorthand." While other first-year students were studying molecular behaviour and, like advanced calculus, I was learning shorthand. 

Meanwhile, back at the treehouse...

Can you think of a more effective way to keep your treehouse safe from invading strangers than a password? 

Let's say a guy--let's put him in his 40s--climbs the ladder to where Eddie et al are. Just for fun let's say the stranger's wearing a white short-sleeved polyester shirt, clip-on neck tie and the sort of  trousers that reached down to just above white socks--my friend Roman Stankiewiecz used to call them "water in the basement pants." He pokes his head up out of the tree's crotch and asks to join us seven-year-old boys in our treehouse. 

OUR TREEHOUSE: (Computer simulation by the author)

We would say, "Do you know the password?"

Him: "No." 

Us: "Sorry, you can't come in" 

Him: "Dang!" and down the ladder he'd head.

I guess on the off chance Mr. Water-in-the-basement-pants somehow knew the password, we would have had to have let him in. But it never happened.

Something really weird unrelated thing just occurred to me. 

At various stages of my little boyhood, in addition to being a (lousy) treehouse builder, I was: 

  • a cub scout; 
  • an early morning newspaper delivery boy (which saw me visit all manner of strangers' doors);
  • an altar boy;
  • a 12-year-old pageboy in Toronto which meant regular commuting alone on Greyhound buses between Sudbury and Hogtown, which is what a lot of people call Toronto;
  • At one point, I spent a year at an all-boys school.

And nothing bad ever happened. 

I wonder if it's because I was really good at passwords.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

The joy of riding off in all directions at once

Google will tell you the drive from Port Hardy on the northernmost tip of of Vancouver Island south to the city of  Nanaimo should take about four hours. On Wednesday, Aug. 11, my daughter Ewa and I -- on motorcycles -- made the trip in eight. 

I just realized now -- after starting this sentence in fact-- that after several motorbike trips together, Ewa and I have practised, perfected and honed to a point where we believe it could be at least a demonstration sport in the next summer Olympics -- serendipity. 

We could teach a George Brown College Course on how to travel with no destination. Starting with "why a run that most people in cars complete in four hours takes us eight."  

The Port-Hardy-to-Nanaimo trip was the final leg of a weeklong tour that led us northeast from Vancouver to Whistler, across to Pemberton and Cache Creek, up to Prince George then west to Prince Rupert, followed by a 16-hour voyage aboard the luxurious Northern Expedition ferry boat to Port Hardy. 

Four days to get to Prince Rupert. En route, in the town of Cache Creek, we coincidentally met up with friend of Ewa's on his motorcycle biking the same distance in one. 

Some people might say that by stopping every which place to have a look around, Ewa and I lost a lot of time. But the opposite happened. 

On a journey such as ours, you actually create times: hundreds of moments you'll never regret or forget. To prove it, I started this blog intending to tell you about all those little mini-adventures, but I just now decided I don't feel like writing so instead I'll just show you pictures. 

ACME ANVIL PLACE: I forget where this antique
dealer is. I just liked the picture. Antique store visits are miracle cures to
the too-much-Internet blues.
That's what it says on her
sweater. So how could I
not start yet another
unplanned conversation?
We met Janet and Laird
 at breakfast in Smithers, B.C.
They met at University
in Minnesota where he
was frat mates with one
Robert Zimmerman; in 
'68 she worked a vote
registration desk at the
famous Democratic 
conference featured in 
the film Chicago 7.  
Her shirt wasn't lyin'. 

Ewa, in yet another delightful diversion,
the little red school house museum at 150
MileHouse, B.C. Do yourself a favour
.but not until you're done my blog. Google
"The Dunce Hat Wasn't Aways So Stupid"
Turns out it's named after a philosopher
named Duns. Such are the treasures
you'll glean, travelling with your kid.

OLD HOME WEEK: Pictured with Ewa is Michelle, who we met in the parking lot of the Oceanside RCMP station near Nanaimo. Conversation went along these lines:
Michelle: "Where you from?"
Me: "Toronto."
Her: "What part?"
Me: "High Park." 
Her: "Be specific. Where in High Park?"
Me: "You know Roncesvalles?"
Her: "My dad was the mayor of Roncesvalles." (Roncesvalles is not a place you can be mayor of really, it's just a neighbourhood but still.)
Me: "What's his name?"
Her: "Gerry."
Me: "You're Gerry's daughter?? (I was so surprised you could almost hear the double question marks in my voice.) And I hugged the now-teary-eyed Michelle, who I'd never met before. But I did know and like her dad who died in January. The coincidence of us meeting like that bordered on the mystical. And it reminded me of a few lessons that Ewa's and my little trip retaught:
A) It's never too late to offer condolences to a grieving family member;
B) You never know what turn in the road the best part of an adventure's going to be around;
 C) This wonderful country of ours? Despite being so freaking big, in some ways, it's very small indeed; 
D) When my flight was heading out from Toronto to Vancouver, I found myself all happy and taking pictures out the window, as excited as I was the first time I rode a DC-7 prop plane from Sudbuy to Toronto at age 11. Everybody on board seemed to share the vibe. The WestJet flight attendant, when he saw that the only thing I had in my carry-on was my motorcycle helmet, said "Sir you won't need the helmet. We have seatbelts." The fun and spontaneity lasted the whole trip. Post pandemic, we'll all be appreciating the little things in life way more than before. Just you watch. 



Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Today's the day the teddy bears had no picnic

 I could see through the bear's crafty ways.

Somewhere along British Columbia's Highway 16, not too far west of New Hazelton, sits a little wooden kiosk and it's home to all manner of delicious treats including fresh vegetables and home-made muffins and they're all there for the asking. 

Yes, you can leave a donation in the tin box if you like; and each piece of food has a pricetag attached, but the honour system is clearly in effect. 

Last week, my daughter Ewa and I stopped in at the Alpine-looking kiosk, en route from Smithers, B.C., to Prince Rupert. I was riding a borrowed Honda 600 Shadow and Ewa was aboard her 2004 650 BMW "Apocalypse" so named because she's ridden that machine through places and conditions like no biker that I know of, including snowstorms, across North America, around some of the curviest bike roads in the world (including on our trip around B.C. last week) and it still runs like the cougar that crossed our path Saturday and the bike merits a place in the BMW hall of bad-ass fame. 

But never mind that. 

Back at the free-food booth, I had just finished leaving a note in the visitor guest book and was walking back to my Honda when Ewa called my attention to the approach of a local resident; specifically, a black bear.

I named the bear Huena, after my late mom. Not that Huena had any bear-like qualities but one fall evening away back when I was in university, three bears broke into our house in the middle of the night and ever since, black bears have been a Carter meme, even though memes hadn't been invented yet. Well, some of my nephews and nieces call my sister Mary Meme and she's no bear either.  But we Carters kind of like black bears. Plus I'm getting off topic again.

As soon as Ewa pointed out the new arrival, I suggested we abbreviate our picnic, climb back aboard our bikes and leave. It might well have been the best decision I made during the entire 10-day trip. 

It sure beats the doozie I made 24 hours earlier. After another roadside rest, I managed to resume highway speed with my black-framed photo-gray eyeglasses not on my face where they belonged but rather on my gas tank, from which they flew off, only to land on the highway and get destroyed by a passing vehicle.

Do these frames make me look blurry? Get it?

I should add here that I do not technically need my glasses to drive. My optometrist removed the little "X" on my driver's  licence in 2019, so the fact that my frames got smooshed in B.C., did nothing to impair my vision except I could no longer do a decent Clark Kent imitation. 

Also, since we're on the topic of gas tanks, I'm reminded that the bear picnic departure action was far wiser than my decision to not keep the Shadow's fuel topped up. 

On the second last day of our adventure, a few miles south of Port Hardy on the northern region of Vancouver Island, yours truly managed to set some sort of record by running out of gas twice. In the same hour.  

I knew when we were leaving Port Hardy, where we arrived the previous night after a 16-hour ferry ride aboard the Northern Expedition ferry boat, that I was low on gas. I just didn't know how low. 
"Take me to your litre," I said.

So I putt-putted to a stop on the southbound shoulder of the mountainous highway 19 -- where the air literally smells like pine; it's sweet and almost unbelievable come to think of it -- Ewa courageously rode on ahead in search of fuel only to come across a gallant quartet of motorcyclists who roared to my rescue. One of them offered up a litre of gas he had kept for emergencies and that worked fine until we were a few more klicks down the road and the Shadow kacked out again. 

Another of their motorized cavalry offered up his spare fuel, which got me to the next gas station, in Port McNeill

With that, I'd felt I'd done my good deed for the month, outfitting those fellows with a year's supply of "those people from Toronto are so dumb" stories.

I was, however, bright enough to get away from that bear. 

Indeed, and upon reflection -- as the little booth got smaller in my rear view mirror (see what I did there?) -- I realized the little so-called free food shop was in fact designed, erected, and stocked with yummy human food, by the bears themselves, like a human mouse trap.  

But they couldn't fool me.

One more thing. 

I just re-read the above. 

Ewa ruling the road on her BMW Apocalypse
If I didn't know any better, I'd say that story made the trip seem like one screwup after another. Nothing could be further from reality. 

On our trip around B.C., Ewa and I covered something like more than 2,000 klicks through some of the most spectacular terrain on the planet. The guys who helped us on Vancouver Island were just a sample of the generosity and friendliness we encountered every day and night. From Cache Creek to Zeballos, from sea level to above the clouds--and as we rode through the clouds covered in dew I kept thinking, "being an angel must be a pretty wet past time; they probably all have great skin" and we had sunshine every day and the only negative things that happened were the ones that I just wrote about and they weren't really bad.

And can you believe I got to do all this with one of my kids? I am the luckiest man I've ever met. Sometimes, I even make myself jealous.

But I'm still pretty pumped about outwitting the bears.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Bin there; done that.

TRASH TALKING: The furry critters were in quite the fix, a 
splendid oxymoron, if you think about it.
Yesterday just past noon, my wife Helena and I were at the north Toronto park known as Edwards Gardens, walking in the drizzle. We were ready to leave when one of our umbrellas broke. I went to trash it.

Just to see if I could, rather than merely place the thing into the garbage can, I stood back a few feet, took aim, threw and bingo, in it went. Almost all the way. The hooked handle kept the projectile from disappearing into the bin

But you know how fast your ears work right?

Between the time the umbrella left my hands and the moment it stopped moving, I could have sworn I heard a rumble from inside the garbage can. I returned to the Malibu and told Helena we'd better investigate.

I steered over to the garbage can, Helena got out, pushed open the flap, and announced: “Raccoons. Two.”

I went to see, and peering up at us from the darkness, trapped deep inside the four-feet-tall almost empty commercial garbage container were four eyes, belonging to two scared-looking furry creatures huddled so closely all their eyes could have been on one face. 

Helena strode to the admin building and returned with one of the staff guys. We figured out how to remove the top of the garbage can and we three very carefully tipped it over until the first raccoon skedaddled out, loping clean across the parking lot. I’m glad the place was practically empty; there was next to zero chance of him or her getting run over.

COLD CASE: Why don't all dime store detectives start here?
But the other guy stayed put.

Even with the garbage bin almost completely upside down, he managed to cling  to the bottom, scared out of his tiny raccoon wits.  

Remember grade-six grammar?

Anthropomorphism? When a writer attributes human characteristics to non-human entities. If anthropomorphism had a patron saint, it would be Walt Disney. You’ll see why I told you that in the next paragraph.

I figure yesterday’s adventure started thusly:  Two young raccoons, probably just a few weeks old, (10 or 11 in little-boy years) were hanging out and one of them, let’s call him Terry, tells his pal, Peter, that there was lots of free treats to be found in that big green thing.

Terry: “Swear Peter. All you have to do is show up when there’s nobody around, push that flap open, reach in and see what God’ll give you.

But yesterday morning, when Pete and Ter climbed on top of the garbage can, Terry pushed the flap, peered in and all he could see was darkness. What the boys didn’t know was that this was a Saturday morning; and it had been raining. If there was anything at all to be found, it would be deep down inside.

Peter: “I don’t know Ter. This does not look good.”

Terry: “Trust me, Pete. I got this. You stay up here. Hold on for dear life and I’ll, like, I’ll climb down holding on to your tail. It’ll be great.”

Peter: “Not sure we should be doing this, Terry. Ouch, Terry… careful..”

Three seconds later, Peter lands plop on top of Terry who’d already fallen and lay at the bottom of the garbage can,  looking up at the out-of-reach flap.

No treasures. Just empty Tim’s cups and a few soaked parking-lot receipts.

Peter: “We are so screwed, Ter.  Why did I let you talk me into this?

MAGNETIC PERSONALITIES: Me and Scuzz, just cuz.

If you’re wondering why I chose the name Terry, it’s that the two raccoons yesterday reminded me of me and my childhood friend Terry who I think about almost every day because for some reason, there’s a picture of him and me stuck on our fridge door, a fact that makes me wonder: Why don’t all  crime novel detectives start at the fridge door? You could tell everything about me that you want to know just by looking at our old Inglis; pictures of all three of our cats, Mehitabel Kiwi and Iris; an old photo of a guinea pig named Bartholamew, receipts for some medical procedures, a few pictures of my grandson Mateus, a magnetic calendar, the funeral card for my late mother in law Marie Szybalski, a picture of me and Helena in Prague, all sorts of photos of our kids Ewa, Ria and Michel, some tiny magnetic tarot cards (?) and tiny scissors hanging off a hook, a notepad with a pen dangling from it and for some reason, those two pictures of me and Terry that we probably paid 25 cents for in the photo booth in Woolworths when we were in grade five growing up in Sudbury. 

Terry was always up for adventure; he was always happy and his nickname was “Scuzz” because instead of saying “because” he said “scuzz.” Wherever Terry is, I hope he remembers how much we all liked him.

Terry (in real-life as well as raccoon-life) would have been the raccoon to dart out first;  fearlessly loping across the parking lot. Peter would have been back inside the can, hanging on with his little claws, frightened to the very bottom of his little raccoon toes.

The staff guy had to use a broom to persuade Peter to leave, which he ultimately did, high tailing it back to the bushes, hopefully to pick up Terry’s scent so the two could reunite, high-five with their little raccoon feet and laugh like crazy.

And then Terry the raccoon­­­ probably would probably spy something over by the trail--a smoldering cigarette butt let’s say--and he would be like, “Pete we have to check this out!”  

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Like God and the Devil, love is in the details

LET US SPRAY: One of the reasons I never took a shine
to washing cars: Among the many nicknames I suffered
as the youngest was "Little Squirt."
For Father's Day this year, my daughter Ria came to my house and detailed my 2011 Chev Malibu. Before I share five reasons Ria's was one of the best gifts imaginable, I should tell you I'm not a car-washing type of guy.

For one thing, as long as I can remember, I've left the exterior washing of vehicles up to, well, God. 

The insides? I have a problem there. I blame my parents, for the simple reason  they went and had me last. My father, Tom, ran a fleet of buses and in some ways, it was like growing up on a farm.  There was always stuff that needed doing. But before I was old enough to drive, the only contribution I could make was using a stable broom to sweep out the buses.  

All my brothers and sisters were older and could have responsible-type jobs while I was stuck holding the broom. I was the 10th kid out of 10--I probably spent way more time than most wishing I was bigger. Wishing I could drive one of the buses; wishing I could count coins. Or shave. Or have hair in my arm pits.  

LUCKY SEVEN: Norma, Alex, Tom, Bertholde,
Charlene, Mary and Pat having a having a jolly great time
even though (maybe because?) Ed and I weren't around yet.
Not that I dwell on this much, but check out this picture. That's my siblings before my brother Ed and I arrived. They appear way too happy for my taste. How unfair is that? They seem absolutely thrilled with the world, except for maybe the youngest Alex, who appears to be eyeing our pregnant-with-Ed mom, sensing he is about to be eclipsed.  

But that's all behind me now. 

Besides, we're talking about how when Ria detailed my car Sunday, I got the best Father's Day gift ever--it was way more satisfying than I'd expected. 

Here're five reasons why.

1) The car liked it. Since I started working from home a year and some months ago, the Malibu has been sadly ignored. Time was, the Malibu and I had a relationship. We shared important moments together; we took each other for granted, and then WHAM! The pandemic hit and I walked out. Like the man in one of those terrible stories in which one night Dad goes out for a bag of milk but never comes back. These days, on the rare time I climb behind the wheel, I feel guilty. Indeed I'm surprised  the people on the radio, who I used to listen to daily, still talk to me.

 If you think I used this photo just to 
exploit that play on words, you
just might be right.
2) My vehicle got cleaned and I didn't have to lift a finger. You know when you're young and your dad says things that make you cringe? One of  Tom's was, if we were out for dinner and somebody asked how he liked the meal, Tom'd say, "Well I didn't have to cook or clean up. It can't get any better than that." Of course I now say the same thing (and cringe when I do), but fact remains, whenever I think I'm acting half the man my father was, I'm happy.

3) After the detailing was done, it was great fun to look really closely at parts of the car that usually get ignored, like the hugely complicated prism-like material around the brake and signal lights. Examine this stuff closely and you'll see it sparkle and reflect and make light dance and it'll remind you that "Hey! Somebody had to design that!" The ingenuity that goes into a modern automobile is mindboggling. I know. I sound like I just smoked a joint. I didn't. 

4) Did I tell you my daughter Ria is a licensed funeral director? True fact. Nobody knows how to shine up a car like an undertaker. But more importantly. With a few waves of her cloths and dabs of surgically applied wax, Ria made the old Chevy look like it just rolled off the assembly line. So down the road... when my turn comes to get detailed... I trust her to do just as good a job on me.

5) And speaking of time--and other things--passing, the single most important reason Ria detailing my car was so great? It was way back there in the first paragraph. I got to spend an afternoon with my kid.  

Thursday, May 20, 2021

The 3 Amis Go

ROSE AMONG THORNS: Pépé, Mateus & Pete

Last Sunday, Mateus Remy Carter Chaignet, 5, bravely and singlehandedly led both his grandfathers, (never mind their ages) on a two-and-one-quarter-hour adventure through the woods along the banks of Upper Don River in central Toronto. 

Hard on Mateus’ heels, I — Grandpa Peter — and Vincent Chaignet; a.k.a., Pépé,  marched up grassy hills and around a lot of fallen as well as healthy trees. 

We picked our steps gingerly along narrow mud trails. We hiked high above the flowing waters of the Don and descended once in a while to the slippery rocks on the riverbank. 

We climbed precipitous slopes and tailed Mateus down inclines that he warned us in advance were “wriggly” and in fact “wobbly.” 

Wayne & Shuster led the way
We pushed branches and logs out of our way and remained mindful of the poison ivy patches. I mentioned to Vincent how fascinated I was as a kid by the idea of a plant that was poisonous and he said he was just as curious about bug-eating plants; even moreso, he added, he actually bought some and fed them flies, “Just like in that play, what was it called again?” 

Me: “Pet shop boys?” 

Vincent: “Little Shop of Horrors, I think.” 

At one point, 40 minutes in, I enquired if Pépé remembered the old Canadian comedy TV series Wayne and Shuster. 


Me: “They, [deep breath] did an episode, [puff], where they went [deep breath again]
looking for the Source of the Mighty Don. That’s what I, [two huffs followed by a puff] feel like.”
Fearless leader knew where he was going.

Mateus must think his grandfathers doddering old farts indeed. 

As he led the charge, Mateus was forced to bark over his shoulder course correction after course correction.

Sometimes, to make life easier for his France-born Pépé, Sgt. Mateus addressed us in Canada's other official language, making me — the only unilingual member of our crew — feel inferior indeed. 

At one point, in a clearing, Mateus decided we should have a quick round of a game Mateus invented and calls “Lava Monster.” 

Pitifully, neither of Mateus’ acolytes could get the Lava Monster rules through their thick skulls. 

Lava Monster a blowout, Mateus shook his head and resumed the long march. 

For a couple of old guys who hadn’t trained, Pépé and I held our own. Also, had I known Mateus was going to put us through these paces, I would have chosen alternative footwear. Cowboy boots are not designed for hiking. The more I think about it, the more I believe old west cowpokes didn’t probably wear cowboy boots, especially ones they got at a discount store in Mississauga. 

Why he calls it a Ninja Tree.
I remember at one point, with Mateus in the lead, we were on the riverbank, about 10 feet above the cool Don, I was actually using the nearby trees as a handrail. 

“I bet he read The Road Less Travelled,” I breathed to Vincent as Mateus marched us through yet another in a countless series of tangled branches and weeds. 

“Looks like,” agreed Vincent.

Oh wait. I forgot to tell you about our goal. 

We were not wandering aimlessly. 

At the beginning of our trek and then every 15 minutes or so, Mateus reminded us that we were headed to his “Ninja Tree.” 

I had never seen one and neither had I any idea how long it was going to take to get there, but who would refuse a two-hour trek through the woods on a hot May afternoon if they thought they’d see a Ninja Tree? Nobody is the answer. 


After a 70-minute trek. A lone tree, sitting in the middle of a patch of grass, surrounded by a smoothly tarred parking lot half full of cars. (Yes, we could have driven but what’s the fun in that?) 

The Ninja Tree. 

Worth every step. 
he'll learn us.

Mateus ran to it. He climbed. He swung from the lower branches, hurdled the trunk, did complete flips over one of the larger arms and at one point, while perched high above his two grandfathers, attempted to orchestrate yet another round of Lava Monster. 

I can’t speak for Vincent, but I suck at Lava Monster. 

Mateus showed no disappointment though. 

For most of the trek home, Mateus deigned to let me ferry him aboard my very own shoulders. 

Little old Moi

I felt like the extremely privileged servant whose job it was to ensure that 5-foot, 2-inch-tall Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie’s feet never dangled from the throne, which meant the exact moment His Highness sat, the fortunate servant had to very quickly slip an appropriately sized cushion between Selassie’s feet and the floor so no Ethiopian would ever see what a shrimp their leader was.

I felt supremely lucky to have the important job of being Mateus’ human sedan chair. 

Blessed in fact.

Monday, May 3, 2021

Hair on my chest and other tall tales

HALIFAX ROSE:I used this picture to not only illustrate
 my dashing hairstyle but also in the 
hopes it'll get my darling cousin Roseanne to read my blog!

I cannot remember what a haircut cost at Gino's barbershop when I was a little boy;  $1.25 comes to mind.

I do remember though that I hated getting my hair cut. 

Not because I wanted to let my hair grow long either. (That came a few years later.) 

And not only because of the dorky haircuts we got: Shaved high up the neck and around the ears then left with a tiny 45-degree bang in the front which, after being dabbed with some kind of goop but never the cool-looking stuff, got combed back to the right.  (And then I went home and my mom would be like "what a handsome boy!" This is the same church-going woman who told me eating vegetables would put hair on my chest. The only time I ever had hair on my chest was when it fell there, during haircuts. I think sometimes my mother prevaricated, which is a word I just looked up, with considerable satisfaction.)

But not Gino. He never lied to me. And he always parted my hair on the left. Only girls parted their hair on the right. Girls also used one straw when they drank pop. Boys needed two. Zippers and shirts were also on different sides for boys and girls. Plus my sisters' shirts had darts. Why?

Timeless mysteries all.

Conversely the only mysteries around Gino's were the contents and purpose of all those coloured liquids on the shelf? Barbicide sounds like it belongs in detective movie.

only mystery at Gino's
Otherwise? No suspense at Gino's. My Gino haircut never varied. The style never questioned.

Not once did Gino, as friendly as he was, ask what sort of hair style I wanted. 

That's probably why I'm so bad at answering that question to this day. 

Hairstylist: "So what can we do for you today?"

Me: "I remember when this whole property was an Inglis washing machine factory."

Hairstylist: "Do you generally leave it long at the back?"

Me: "I don't know. You grow up around here?"

Stylist: "Okay we'll take an inch off and want it over the ears?"

Me: "Sounds good do you actually ever hear the radio that's playing or do you tune it out?"

Eventually the hair gets cut and the stylist holds the mirror up behind me to see the back of my head. I swear I look at everything else in the the reflection except the back of my head. A dead friend of mine, Peter Worthington, once said (before he died) "the only difference between a good and a bad haircut is three days." And the lesson here is, you never know what people are going to quote you saying so watch it.

Where was I? 

Right. It wasn't the style of Gino's haircuts that I loathed either. 

And neither was it the fact that the magazines and newspapers at the barbershop were all a: in Italian, and b: cleaner than the St. Clement's Church bulletin. The Argosys and Esquires my older brothers
In the Carter household

snuck into our house were way hotter than anything on Gino's barbershop table.

The worst part of getting my haircut at Gino's was that board about five inches wide and three feet long that he placed across the barber chair arms so we little guys could see the mirror. 

Our legs dangled and didn't reach the steel foot rests that the big guys put their feet on.

Our arms had to stay limp at our sides. We didn't get armrests, like the big guys got.

I hated being short. Especially because everybody in my house was taller than me. I was the youngest and shrimpiest of a dozen if you include my parents. 

That's a lot of people to be shorter than. Shrimp, squirt, short-stuff and Little Hitler were just a few of  of my nicknames. 

I believe I willed myself grow to six feet tall just because of all that teasing and Gino's kid board that I despised so much. 

Anyone who knows me will agree: determination and perseverance have been my watchwords.

And Gino's haircuts made me handsome.