Wednesday, January 30, 2019

The only sound Mom could hear was the clock ticking

These days I spend my workdays as an editor at a publication called The Lawyer's Daily. I
OLD HABITS DIE HARD: I swiped this photo from the web.
enjoy the job so much it's not fair to call it work but my point is that I am immersed in the Canadian legal system and although it's probably among the best on the planet, there's one thing wrong.

The wheels of justice turn slowly.


This very morning, while I was driving to work, I thought about some other wheels that just might make everything work a lot faster.

The wheels were on a Roll-Royce. A silver one.

A Rolls that I, in fact, stole.

True story.

A great friend of mine who shall remain nameless and I swiped silver Rolls-Royce Dinky cars from the Zellers Store on Elm Street when we were growing up in the mining community called Sudbury.

We were probably 10.

I can still remember where the store shelves that held the toy cars were; in the Zellers basement along the north wall, right near the exit that led out on to Elgin Street. That's how etched on my brain my career as a robber is.

I can't remember shoplifting much else; much else, that is, except in a lead-up to the Rolls-Royce heist--there was a job in the IGA grocery store up the street from our house...

IGA was the name of a well-known grocery chain. It stood for Independent Grocers' Association and I've since learned that some new Canadians thought the store name was pronounced "EE-GAH" which makes a lot of sense.

Anyway, the IGA stores had a customer retention plan called Gold Bond Gift Stamps; a precursor to Air Miles and Petro-Points.

The more IGA groceries you bought, the more stamps you got. You licked the back of them and put them in little books and once you collected a certain number of Gold Bond Gift Stamps, you could send away for cool stuff.

My friend who shall remain nameless and I conducted our first job at an IGA store. We each shoplifted--or as we said back then "used the five-finger discount"--a couple of "Gold Bond Gift Books."

Only later did I learn that the books themselves--empty of stamps--were free.

But never mind that, that was where we sharpened our thieving skills in preparation for the Zellers job.

I wonder if big-time criminals remember their every caper as clearly as I recall slipping those Rolls-Royces into our pockets.

I also wonder--in awe--at the economy of a town like Sudbury.

One the same block as Zellers was a Kresge's which was kittycorner to Woolworth's which in the other kittycorner direction was across from a department store called BoniMart. Further to the west was another huge store named Eaton's, which I really liked because they had in one section ride-em lawnmowers. Us little boys loved climbing on those and pretending we were driving something.

Imagine. All those competing department stores within spitting distance of one another.

There was also a motherlode of special interest joints.

Melody Music sold instruments and sheet music as did its competitor Prom!

And Wolfe's Bookstore, was in Sudbury's version of a flat-iron building.

Wolfe's was shelf upon wooden shelf of wonderful reads. I can still, if I close my eyes, remember what Wolfe's smelled like and it's one of the reasons I love books so much. I'm pretty sure it  had a spiral stairway joining the main floor to the second and Wolfe's is the standard by which I've measured all bookstores since.

We didn't have video games but we sure loved exploring downtown Sudbury.
FORGET SUPER MARIO: Running from department store to 
department store was our entertainment.

But never mind that either. I'm here to tell you about stealing Rolls-Royces.

There we were, in the Zellers basement, very certain that none of the salesfolks could see us, as we pocketed our Dinkys.

And we made a safe getaway.

I have to admit I--because I grew up in a house virtually buried in toys of one kind or another--was pretty surprised when  few days later my mom noticed I had one tiny little extra Dinky car and,  out of the blue, asked me where I got it.

She never asked about any of the other stuff I played with.

I told her my friend (who shall remain nameless) gave it to me. She let on she believed me.

Then I told my buddy how I almost got busted.

He said the same thing happened to him.  His mom--who also happened to be a Maritimer who'd seen a thing or two--enquired where his Rolls came from and he said he got it from me.

I'm sure she was like,  "as if." But that was the end of the discussion.

Fast forward to now.

The Canadian legal system could save a whack of money and time if we just put moms on the judges' bench.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

A Hill of a Place to Grow Up In

UPHILL FROM HERE:  If we didn't have hills we
wouldn't have known where anything ended.
Sudbury, the mining community I grew up in, is very hilly. When we were kids, almost all our friends lived in houses on hills of one steepness or another. We Carters walked up a hill to school and church and down the hill to where my dad's bus garage was.

Our street, Eyre, was a north-south incline and because of that, I still sense that if a place is south of me it's down a hill and whatever's north is up. East and west are flat. I used to think that's why ocean-going ships travel those directions mostly.

In Sudbury, there are quite a few places in town where parts of streets are literally staircases.  My sister Bertholde lives on such a street.

I like to think those hills prepared us for whatever ups and downs life tossed our way. Guys like me know when climbing is required but we're also just as happy to throttle back and let--when it's possible--gravity do the work. 

STOPPED TO STAIR: Yes, I actually drove to
 the Douglas Street stairs to shoot this picture.
The Sudbury landscape is full of hundreds of sizeable rock outcroppings--small mountains, in our kid eyes--and these were our playgrounds and hideouts. 

We called them "the rocks." 

Closest to us were the "Little Rocks," a rockpile about half the size of a city block beside my friend Roman Stankiewiecz's house. North across the street from them--the "Big Rocks", virtual Himalayas where we could go and hide and play army 

and practise mountain climbing. 
GEM AMONG THE STONES: Google-searching
this beaut was no walk in the rocks, I'll have you know.

A few blocks to the southwest? The Princess Anne Rocks, named thusly because they were adjacent to the Princess Anne protestant school. They were big enough to toboggan on. The Princess Anne Rocks were also the gateway to  the scary and dangerous "Pit"--a private industrial property belonging to INCO, the mining company most of the town's dads worked at.

The Pit was mostly sand and rock and  home to a few small reservoirs which we weren't supposed to hang around because legend had it there'd been some drownings, which of course made the Pit all the more alluring. 

Which reminds me. It was in the Princess Anne Rocks where I first saw porn. 

I was probably seven.

A classmate named Joe and I were farting around in the Princess Anne Rocks when we found one of those old "natural living" magazines and Joe, who was a few months older than me, said I was too young to look at the pictures. He even had the arrogance to suggest I didn't know what girls' parts were called. 

However. When Joe said I didn't even know the names of things, I outwitted him. The first thing he challenged me on was--get this--plural. "You don't even know what ____s are," he said. Clearly, there must have been two of them. So I knew what to point to.

The next girl part he mentioned? Singular. This was easy.
THE STEPS I TAKE:  I, too, am just as amazed as you that I went to the trouble of taking this
photo just for this blog.

"Wow Carter!" Joe said, "You know!"

But back to the rocks.

These hilly streets and rocky playgrounds made us all very surefooted. 

Here's proof.

We now live in a three-storey house in west Toronto. 

I sleep on the uppermost floor, which is connected to the second storey by a precipitous but still legal stairwell. We've lived in this house some 17 years. I've successfully navigated those stairs perhaps a twice a day, which adds up to something like 6,000 ascents and 6,000 descents. And I've done so:

* late at night;
* so early in the morning it could count as night;
* three-quarters asleep;
* bare-footed;
* sock-footed:
* hungry;
* on the verge of barfing;
* after awakening from a bad dream;
* trying to single-handedly carry an unwieldy mattress; 
* carrying a child;
* in a silly mood;
* listening to an iPod;
* halfways through a crossword puzzle with a pen sticking out of my mouth;
* mad at something;
* laughing at a joke that I was the only person who thought it was funny;
* drunk.

And I still haven't brained myself.

If I hadn't grown up on a hill in Sudbury, I'd be dead.