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.