In the old days life was definitely a whole lot simpler. For one thing, we all wore newer shoes and we didn’t have the foggiest notion about what was REALLY going on.
I remember things from those early days. Things like my first beer. I was fifteen when I bought my first six-pack at the Curtis Gordon Hotel on Henderson Highway in Winnipeg. I think it was made by Molson Canadian. I looked older than my age. You had to be eighteen to buy booze in Manitoba and by then I looked nineteen. We took the beer across the street to Midnight Bowling at the Rossmere Lanes. I don’t think Kurt had one; he was always a teetotaler. Me, Johnny, and the Headman split the six-pack, caught a buzz, and had a little fun. Big D, a guy I’d known through Junior High and on into High School, was more interested in the bowling. Man, could he ever send that ten-pin ball flying down the alley. The damn thing must have been doing sixty-five miles an hour by the time it exploded the pins at the lane’s far end.
Memories. Good ones. Firsts. Aren’t they something? Like the first kiss. That would be Lorraine. I remember she had a last name that could have been put on the side of a can of mosquito spray. She was something else, though. We had a ton of fun until I screwed things up royally by getting drunk and kissing someone else who happened to be a friend of a friend. You know how that one goes. What would we do without hormones?
The first time I drove a car was amazing. For whatever reason my old man decided to buy sixty acres of a farm on the edge of the city and decided to drive his Olds Delta 88 with the rocket 455 engine through his wheat field. He let me get in behind the wheel. I guess he figured I couldn’t wreck anything out there in the middle of all that wheat. Freedom. That’s all I remember feeling. Fourteen years old and I could turn the wheel, punch the gas pedal, and go anywhere.
There was the first time I stepped into the ring as a heavyweight fighter, adrenaline running as high as the jet stream. I looked across at the guy in the other corner as we were getting ready for the bell to sound and I asked myself what the hell was I doing here? Because it was Jimmy Hoffa’s nephew standing across from me. I won that one by the way. Thanks, Ed. You were a great trainer.
The first time I smoked pot I loved it. I’ve been smoking it ever since. It is sheer madness that the assholes we pay to look after things made it illegal – for the money. But that’s an entirely different story.
And then there was the first time I took the escalators up to the fourth floor cafeteria at the University of Winnipeg. I was at one of the lowest points in my life. Lost in a sea of madness all around me, I finally asked myself if I could be completely selfish in my life and do anything – the one thing – that made sense to me, what would that be? I sat down at one of the tables and wrote the first three quarters of the first page of THE MONEY HOUSES. And that one single moment of utter clarity changed my life forever.
I recall reading about the time someone once asked Stephen King – after he became Stephen King – if he ever hung around with any of his old chums from the days he was struggling with life. With no hesitation he said no. This always puzzled me because I guess I always had a firm faith in the sanctity of friendship. Later on the scales would fall from my eyes.
I was very much in love and the timing couldn’t have been worse. I was still making a living doing stuff I couldn’t stand doing, and I could see the disaster coming down the road. If I said yes to her there would have been a whole lotta hurting going on later on. I loved all of us way too much to put anyone through that, so I said no. Man, that was so painful, you can’t even begin to imagine. We both moved on, she to a marriage I hoped would give her everything she needed, and I, well, I was going to be a writer.
Right around that time the sequel to Taxi was charting. I definitely could relate to Harry Chapin, the taxi driver. Even after he checked out in that horrific crash on the Beltway. I know you’re still flying, Harry. Farther and faster than ever. God bless you for making this world a better place. For me, it’s always been about the writing. Because of this, just like Stephen King, I’ve had to move on. I never left anyone behind. That would be way too cold. But we all walk the path we choose, and most don’t go too far down it. That’s life. It’s cube-world at its finest. I thought about what Mr. Peck wrote and I believed him. It was scary at first, taking the road less travelled, but now it’s like a well-worn, comfortable baseball glove. It works for me. I’m comfortable in my own skin, and with the notion that I continue to emulate Harry and the taxi driver.
So now I’m well on my way to becoming one of the world’s best selling writers, proving once again I knew a little something way back when that few others did. I ran with the ones who knew what I knew. I can’t begin to tell you what a difference it’s made with respect to the life I’m living. I want to thank these few rare people who had the temerity and courage to see things the way they could be, the way things ought to be, and not accept the circumstances of their lives as they were. Sometimes it requires a hell of a lot more umph deep down there where it counts the most to stay the course. The mediocre, desperate thing sucks.
I tip my hat to every one of you who would rather know, than blindly believe. God bless each and every one of you. I’ll see you all in my next novel.
Calgary, June, 2013