Today is my older brother Ed’s 65th birthday. Here’s an A-to-ZEd guide to what it’s like to grow up in his wake.
|ME, LEARNING FROM THE BEST: Ed's first gig? |
Opening act for ecdysiasts at the Belton Hotel
Alice Cooper. When I was in, I believe, grade eight, Ed managed to score two tickets to a New Year’s Eve concert at Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens. Alice Cooper was the headliner, following a roster that included Edgar Winter, Chilliwack, Crowbar and a few others. Many years later I met the drummer from Crowbar; he was in charge of parking facilities at Pearson Airport.
Breault. As in Linda Breault, Sudbury Secondary School music teacher. She liked Ed. I remember being in the audience at a Sudbury Secondary School high school band concert that featured a blues guitar solo by Ed, on his Fender Music Maker. Breault introduced him thusly: “Ed may be a kid from the west end of Sudbury but he’s got the soul of a Louisiana bluesman.”
Chapleau. I’m not sure how old he was when Eddie hitchhiked up highway 129 from the village of Thessalon, to Chapleau, Ontario, to visit his best childhood friend Johnny Cosgrove but I’m thinking 12 or 13. My dad drove him to Thessalon whence Ed could thumb. Dad had more confidence in Ed than Ed did, sometimes.
Dad. By the time Dad was done dealing with Ed, he was too tired to deal with me.
|FISHIN' WITH ED: Hale and hearty Indoorsmen, roughing it.|
Ed my uncle. James Edward, in fact. Unbelievably, his very last words were spoken to his namesake, my brother James Edward. True, terrific story: Here’s how I remember the event. Ed, dad’s business partner and only brother, was visiting our house; I was in grade seven; Eddie was in nine. At one point in the evening, it was just the three of us in the living room; and Ed Sr. asked Ed. Jr. to play a little tune on the guitar. Brother Ed deferred but of course he couldn’t do so without trying to be funny. Channeling an old Peanuts cartoon, Eddie was like, “No I better not play; I don’t want to get a swat. S-W-A-T. Swat” and he pronounced the “a” like the a in “that.” You had to be there. But what happened next was unforgettable. My uncle Ed said “No Ed, you won’t get a swat tonight,” pronouncing it the same goofy way and then, uncle Ed had a massive coronary and died. Right there. In the chair. With only me and Ed looking on. In that same chair that’s in this photo!
Fly. Something Eddie would never harm. Ditto a person.
Guitar. Ed’s first professional gig? He played bass in a strip club in Sudbury as, I think, a 15-year-old, with my late brother Tom’s good friend Moe Sauve.
Hendrix. Here’s the thing: A very attractive female high-school classmate of Ed’s engaged him in a bit of flirtatious banter about who was the best guitarist. She said Hendrix. Eddie insisted it was Jeff Beck. Back and forth they went until finally, she got fed up, decided Ed was being dumb and left. Ed knows now that had he lied and pretended Hendrix was the better of the two, his high school years would have been a lot more fun. But he’s Ed. He stood his ground. And he’s right about Beck.
Indians was the name of the Little League Baseball team that both Eddie and our brother Alex played on. I was too young and was slightly jealous but remember going to watch them play at O’Connor Playground in our hometown of Sudbury. Because we weren’t a big sports family, Ed was furnished with a baseball glove that he inherited from one of our uncles who’d probably used it to play cricket before the Second World War. Knowing it was a valuable antique, Ed didn’t risk marring its surface by letting it come into contact with anything as grimy as, say, a baseball.
Joe Cocker shirts. I think Cocker liked them because he wanted to be like Ed. Joe’s dead. Ed’s not. We win!
Killing Fields the movie came out when I was between jobs and in Sudbury. Eddie and I went to see it then repaired to the Nickel City tavern to discuss. Killing Fields is about a foreign correspondent in Southeast Asia. Over draft beer, Eddie and I decided that we, too, could go on an adventure like that and Ed said he had enough money saved up to pay for both our passages. We toasted the idea and the next morning, I wussed out and took a job at a local newspaper but Ed headed out solo on a few-years long adventure that took him to among other places, Acapulco, Bangkok and Korea. Many things happened on that trek that I don’t want to ask him about.
Luck. Ed was perhaps the only Carter before my son Michel to have ever taken something called “shop” in high school. And in that shop, I remember Ed built a little wooden box that he gave to my mom probably for Mother’s Day, with a note that read a version of “there’s an ancient Indian belief that says if a piece of furniture has flaws in it, it brings good fortune. So this is a very very lucky box.”
My uncle Ed again. It’s hard to believe that story about him dying right there in the chair. He didn’t hold his chest or make any sound. First thing I noticed was he spilled his drink. Then he was gone. I’d sure be mad if my brother Ed did that when he is visiting me. Not spilling the drink. Dying.
Nehru shirts. We’re all glad photography hadn’t been invented yet when we were in high school. But Ed was the first on the block to have one.
Owen Hughes? Huh? What’s he doing on this list? Here’s what: My late mom used to sing to us, a lot, and she’d put our names into the songs. One of the songs to Eddie went like this “Eddie my love, I love you only only only” But down the street from us was a kid named Owen Hughes whose mom and dad called “Onie” and we teased Ed that what Mom was really singing was “Eddie my love I love you Onie, Onie Onie.”
Pot: When Ed and I returned to Sudbury after the Alice Cooper concert my mom who read everything—she knew about the Sex Pistols before I did — said, “Globe and Mail says that you could smell marijuana smoke everywhere at that concert that you boys went to.”
Queen. So, I introduced Ed to somebody at Carleton University and I said my brother can come up with a joke on any subject and she says “how about the queen” and Ed says “the queen’s not a subject.” One time my dad, who wanted us all to have good posture, told Ed to throw his chest out and Ed was like, “but it’s the only one I got.”
Richard Nixon. During the late 60s and early 70s, Ed was telling me about a crook in the White house and of course I, knowing better, was sure such a thing couldn’t be true. That’s the story of my life. I’m like, “Ed you have no idea what you’re talking about” then it turn out he does.
|LIKE ROD STEWART SANG: |
Do you think I’m 60?
Speeding without a licence. When I was 13 and Ed was 15, my dad let him take our Chevy Impala for a drive. Our father always said if you were a good driver, you didn’t need a licence because a good driver would never have any interaction with the police. Unless you’re Ed, who, at 15, arrived at the bottom of Regent Street Hill, and said “let’s see what this baby will do” before putting his foot to the mat. We got pulled over, Ed got a talking to and the cop sent us on our way.
Traffic (the band). For one of my birthdays, Ed gave me one of the best rock albums ever made: John Barleycorn Must Die, by Traffic. The thing is, I’d never heard anything by the band but immediately fell in love with the sound. He did the same with the Eagles. Ditto Jethro Tull. Eddie knows my musical tastes better than I do.
University. As a mature student, Ed killed his degree in philosophy. He’s a specialist in Kant. My theory is that it was because he knew all the words to the Monty Python’s eponymous hit.
Vegetables, Ed says, “are what food eats”
Weed: That Alice Cooper concert was the first time I ever met pot.
X his heart and hope to die. Eddie knows pretty much all my secrets. So Ed? Like Dad used to say, “I hope you don’t die ’til I kill ya.”
Your 60th birthday party, Ed, was so memorable. It might have had something to do with how much people like you and associate you with parties but also probably because nobody expected you to live this long.
Zappa. As I write this; I’m listening to a true rock masterpiece Frank Zappa’s, Peaches en Regalia. Ed introduced me to this ingenious music, and every carefully chosen note reminds me that it’s Ed’s birthday and I owe him the world and really, I should have, instead of having written this free list, bought him a gift. But this was cheaper.