When I was a kid, Tom--probably 20 at the time--brought home a second-hand aluminum canoe, and it was a beaut.
The canoe was called a SportsPal and was like no canoe you've seen.
A lot of stuff Tom brought home fell into that category. I suddenly remembered a record called "The First Family;" a whole LP of a guy impersonating characters in JFK's White House. I was around six when that showed up at our house and I'd sure bet it came courtesy of Tom. He also arrived home one night with a dog he won in a poker game. We named it "The Grump."
Back to the boat.
The SportsPal's most distinguishing feature? Bolted along either side were 10-foot long black styrofoam floatation thingies; sort of like noodles. You couldn't swamp this boat if you tried.
The craft measured 12-feet, tip to tip, which is unremarkable until you know that across its middle, the SportsPal was at least a yard wide. You couldn't tip the canoe either.
Flat-bottomed and aluminum, we ran the SportsPal over weeds and sand and rocks sticking out of the river and it emerged undamaged. And the SportsPal weighed about the same as a case of beer.
At some point, somebody decided to take a black magic marker and write, in block letters, on either side of the SportsPal's bow, "Titanic II."
Another feature was Tom's own innovation. I forget how, but on the back of the SportsPal, Tom mounted a small electric motor powered by an actual car battery that sat on the bottom of the canoe.
I'm having a hard time believing this myself.
The unsinkable untippable unwreckable SportsPal that we had so many good times with was not only perfect for Tom, it was a lot like Tom.
He loved water but never learned to swim. He told me if he was on a boat and it sank, he'd just drop to the bottom and run.
Which brings us to why Tom's biopic should be titled "Striped Paint."
SportsPal canoes came with a distinctive paint job. Tom's was blue-ish, with three-quarter inch long black flecks. Hard to describe. (See what I mean about Tom and the SportsPal sharing traits?)
Tom was generous with his boat too. He let me and my pals fart around with that canoe as much as we wanted. We probably got as much use out of it as he did.
He was like that with everything. Fact: When I was in the early grades of school and Tom worked at a copper refinery, almost every day he'd arrive home after work, hand me his lunch pail, I'd open it and find money he left in there for me. Maybe he loved me so much because we shared a bed for many years and you should love the one you sleep with but that's a different blog altogether. I also trusted Tom and believed him when he told me that the composers Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey were born and raised in Levack, Ont., which is a tiny village north of Sudbury.
After a few years of being paddled, beaten up, thrown around and left out in the bad weather, the old SportsPal started to show its age. Tom said it was time we touched it up.
I hate to admit how old I was when this occured but Tom handed me a bunch of money--I already knew I was going to get to keep the change--and told me to go to Cochrane's Hardware and ask for striped paint.
Tom also once told me there was a restaurant in Toronto that was so exclusive that after the server brought you food but before you took a bite, a person from every country in the world had a tiny taste of the meal to make sure it was prepared correctly.
I've been in Toronto since '85. I'll let you know when I find it.
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