Friday, July 7, 2017

Surely to goodness, someday, my dad will understand

CLOSET ZAPPA FANS: That's probably where my folks wanted to hide when Eddie was playing his records.
Doing some math this morning I realized I am exactly the same age my late father Tom was when I was 14.

That's the year my new friend Rick Hummel and I rode a Greyhound Bus from our hometown of Sudbury 350 klicks south to Toronto to attend a Frank Zappa concert. Rick and I stayed at my newlywed sister Charlene and her long-haired hippie husband Al's Toronto apartment then Greyhounded home the next day.

Rick Hummel is a guy I met in grade 10 at my new school, Sudbury Secondary, or, as I call it to this day, Sudbury High.

The previous year, I had spent at the all-boys Catholic School, St. Charles College, but for a variety of reasons--most of them having to do with the fact that it was all boys--I switched to Sudbury High.

I know my father Tom was very disappointed with my move. He and my mom had financially and morally supported the building of St. Charles and its sister school Marymount College in the hopes that their kids would be the beneficiaries of a Roman Catholic secondary education. (As disappointed as he was, he certainly didn't stop me from changing schools.)

A funny guy,  my dad.

St. Charles College was situated almost exactly halfway between our family home and Sudbury Secondary. After I made the switch, on several occasions, when Tom was driving me to school,  he would stop at St. Charles and say the equivalent of "Have a nice day.  Do you have some money for lunch?" and I'd be like, "DAAAdd.. You know I don't go here any more."

Tom let on that the fact I'd switched schools had slipped his mind. I always thought, "someday he'll learn."

But  yes, he frequently drove me to school, even though it wasn't that far. It's just the kind of guy he was. He usually left home for work at about 5:00 a.m. but found time to nip back to pick me up and make sure I had an easy trip to school, then he'd return to work. He worked a lot.

But back to me.

Here's the reason I still called the school Sudbury High. Not because a lot of students showed up that way but rather that's the old name of the place.

Until the year I arrived,  two separate institutions--Sheridan Technical School and Sudbury High School--with separate teams, separate principals and separate programs--shared one building.

When the Board of Education decided to amalgamate the schools, the students, predictably, objected.

At one point, as part of the protest, I owned a t-shirt that had, emblazoned across the front, the satirical proposed name of the new place: "Sudbury High Institute of Technology." We were, you can tell, extremely clever when we were young.

In fact, and I hope I'm sitting down as I write this because it's unfreakingbelievable: I seem to recall one of my older brothers who went on to Laurentian University to earn a degree in Philosophy (specializing in Kant) leading a student walkout against the amalgamation, and in the course of that walkout, walking ahead of a parade down Sudbury's main street, Durham, which would have taken him directly past our bus station, one of the many places my dad worked so hard to support his family. So Dad--or maybe my dad's brother and business partner Ed, who happened to have the same name as the Kantian scholar, saw my radical big bro bravely leading a protest, while he and Dad worked their butts off to make sure we had good lives.

I really hope I'm remembering wrongly. But if there's one thing I know for sure, it's that I've digressed so far I've forgotten why I started telling you this story.

Oh right. Rides to school. After pretending to forget that I'd left St. Charles, Dad would continue to Sudbury Secondary, make sure I had lunch money, and then go back to work at the bus garage.

He also footed the bill for the Greyhound and Zappa tickets DESPITE having been confronted with Eddie's Frank Zappa music coming from the beautiful Phillips console stereo he had worked so hard to buy for our home.

Have you ever heard "Willie the Pimp?" Or "Mudshark?"

My dad was forced to. He was forced to listen to all sorts of stuff through the years.

Eddie and I were only one fifth of his 10 kids.

Why he didn't slay just a few of us to scare the others, God knows. The most threatening thing I remember him saying is, "If you're going to fight in here, go outside."

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