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.


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