Canada Pavilion | August 29 – November 25, 2012
I was born in the old family home on Allen St. in the west end, where all the Italian steel workers lived. Then we moved to Garson. Then back to the Soo to Auntie Inez's house. By then Uncle Lawrency had the Allen St. house. Then my dad married this woman I didn't really remember much and we moved up on the hill. There was bush at the end of the street, and fields and all the streets dead ended but there were gravel lanes joining them. And between the streets there was enough land that some of the yards had a ration of bush in the back yards. Some of the yards had no fences and you could cut thru. I used to go in the bush with Little Son. He was my step mom's husky. Eventually he kinda became mine. When we first moved there he would run away for days at a time. By the end of that summer I didn't even need a leash anymore.
By the time I was fifteen my dad and I had had enough of each other and I went to Montreal to live with my mother and her husband. That was a real fry pan to fire kind of mistake. Within six months I was on my own in a rooming house on Bishop Street. Then I started a fire using a candle for light to look for something under the bed. They kicked me out. I borrowed a friend's packsac to move my stuff to a locker in Gare Central.
I ran into a couple of guys who asked where I was from. We became partners and hitched around Ontario and Quebec for a while. I got in the habit of going to Quebec City in the summer, and then to the east coast. I stayed downtown Montreal in the winter. We panhandled in the tunnels and skywalks telling bizarre stories about why we needed money. Folks go to know us and had fun with it.
One time we were in Halifax and one of my buddies disappeared. Left his pac behind and was gone. Never heard of him till a few years later a ride recognized my ring and said he saw one like that… in England of all places. That was Billy.
I had this job at the children's hospital in housekeeping. When Billy disappeared I went into the office to quit wearing my pac and dragging Billy's. The boss gave me his keys and told me to go to his place. He called his wife to let her know I was coming. I got a pattern of going to Halifax, working for a couple of weeks, getting fired, collecting my pay and taking off.
Then the boss, Wayne, wanted to buy a house and asked me to work for a few weeks and lend him my pay. He said I could come back and collect it in a month. When I came back he didn't have it. Then things got nasty. I left for PEI and said I would be back in a week.
That's where I met my first wife. She and two of her friends were out on a weekend adventure camping on PEI. The guy at the gate told them to avoid a certain area: there were some trouble makers there. Well, they camped on the other side of the campground and then beelined for that cook house. I got a ride back to Halifax with them. Judy and I shacked up for year, then got married.
She was a bank teller. I told her I wasn't done drifting yet. We went to Calgary for the oil boom. Then we went back to Halifax because they told her her father was dying. The operated on him while we were flying back. He had dinner at home the next day. It was only a stone in a saliva gland.
A year later we still weren't working. One day I was hungry and went to eat something. She said that was for supper. I asked what I should eat. There was nothing else she said till the cheques come. I said ok then, let's go west again. She said no. I left and went back home to the Soo. Two weeks later she followed. That didn't work out too well.
A year later I got picked up by a rock and roll band and dropped off in Winnipeg when they went broke. That band toured east and west, all the way to the west coast.
And that's the story of my migration. From the middle to the east, to the west, and back to the middle.
I've been here 31 years. The last few have included 2 heart attacks and a cancer. I still go icefishing, on canoe trips and ride my mountain bike. And I do watercolours.
It's not so bad.