Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The Big Push-Off

And so we agreed to be married in Lawrencetown in my aunt’s beautiful garden by the Juan-swept remnants of forest, in a circle of friends and family, after a windswept week of last minutes and paperwork swirling around familiar family functions for stress induced heavy drinking. We gathered at the Dooley’s and there was Calder and Kenny, Scooter and Lee, Jeff and Mike, Sweet Skanes, and even Krazy Kim’s long-time ex. Everyone had stories of macromanagement projects on microislands, children brewing and other wedding announcements, young men getting older and drinking less, except me but even I was more mature in my way. And all these young men tilting boozily toward racier things were enamored with you in different ways than I, especially Kenny who was brought to another time place girl by your audacious drive to be free in Scarborough of all places.

The photos flashed relentlessly all week in all errands we shopped and said “we only get married once” was the excuse the line of convenience that hailed forth the plastic money the disposable product that ensured we celebrated in a certain style the fact that this was a journey we hope goes beyond Bob Hunter’s 2030 apocalyptic predictions and even ensures that the children we produce in a few years will enjoy it as much if not more as we did have and are, and we’re just warming up here. I don’t remember much from that week except the burning in my guts – I just wanted the payoff and not the work and I wanted it to work out right for me, to accede and flow with the mild currents of Barrett Lake instead of fighting tsunami’s of regret and uncertainty about things better left in the past, if one is being reasonable which is only one small part of what we are anyway. You were the rock upon which family is built in that you weathered my storm with serenity granted to very old – I mean 10-digit old rocks – things, that is until your own band of merry lunatics arrived and jumped into the foray. But it was amazing how well they all got along together, I guess matter/anti-matter isn’t such a bad combination in some ways, regardless of what my cousin the physicist might have to say about that.

I do remember decorating madly with you spraying orange dollar store paper hither and flat, playing with malfunctioning audio at the hands of my feline brother the chords came undone, reversed, out of synch, and mistracked but we cut the chord and powered down while the women went shopping and the other men put their minds to bigger questions of solitude and love, and we enjoyed the greatest sandwiches anywhere and relaxed, in a manner of hours all would be awed giving themselves the pleasure of watching us that night, but not before our final fight as a couple living in sin because you didn’t want a poetry reading and I felt like being a brat with my last minute demands for alterations but of course, cooler heads prevailed outside the Downsview Motel, and we had our moment alone in starlit water and submerged skin, we were determined to be free in Beaver Bank of all places.

And everybody cried: reminiscences of ancestry, those not there that showed a certain something we hope is in us, my great great great grandparents celebrating 60th in ’37 when most people didn’t even live that long – the importance here of forging and maintaining familial relationships and community that give us strength as a team and partnership and married couple, thanks Grandma for profound articulation you do brilliantly - and those we wish made it like Lauri and Steve, Tommy and Aunty Peg. Prayers put forth for ecology (by my Dad) and second chances, honesty, safe surefooted journeys, and Remembrances: getting lost and finding the way back home (Grandma again), making things real by loving them and always believing them beautiful (and saying so), and that fateful day I told Leah: “I feel so alive” and you told Leah: “Imagine if we got married” because that’s what we wanted almost from the very start and nothing much has changed, except the very important thing that we made it velveteen rabbit real, and now we can burn with the germs and it’ll still be real, and things can change and so they say it’s up and then you know where down yes that way but it’s still real and our families no matter how disparate far away and such are one united under gifts exchanged tartan and poetry, hand-woven rugs and precious blankets and better still even all those beloved joyful ones surrounding us, closing in closer, touching us all at once with words and hands, the pastor’s hellfire and brimstone voice but more importantly the beloved made it so for us by sharing in it and toasting it with father talk, advice from Dylan, and 1969 red wine, among other really fine selections.

And the party was much more than that though Aunt Judy felt the ceremony to be the main event I’m glad we could make the party more than fiesta and I’m glad we made them all cry again, and laugh as well when we created our husband-wife goofy dance in response to any utterance of such powerful words. A mother’s son worth committing to come together with someone who managed to share more than material possessions with those in need (which is after all all of us) something of herself and when they so came together there was apparently pleasure in just watching them, and I felt so honoured and alive in that this mostly my community had made it special for me and you even thanked them for it.

Jeff my best buddy from home noted my integrity and everyone spoke of writing and your support for and how did they know that truth of your supportive energy and strength and unfaltering belief and best of all unbelievable that hardest thing of all is inspiration that is yours that you give me like an unselfish muse and it is consistent and certain and best of all: true. And so it is true when I toast you: the best thing that ever happened to me. And can it be true what you said about me while tears left slug-trails on cheeks: I’m the best lover of life you know. You are the best complimenter I know. Through stories of crazy dancing through internet portals from Central American intermittent connections came this unbelievable collision of all these folks from afar in this little (not even a town really) road with subdivisions sporadically spewed from the sides to say nice things about us and make it all so real in a way even music (the sound not the bear) never even could, not alone anyway, and play cheesy-fun games and watch us dance dance as we always have we started this party right quickly and such with dancing and could finally stop crying joy and joyously jump kick hoola-hoop (but in a way which was really quite pathetic compared to my father’s generation and my parents in particular whom I had no idea had such a hidden obscure talent but that bedazzled all 70 guests in a way that would make even a pogo stick jealous I’m certain) shake twist boogie dip kick shout move and smile and laugh relieved oh but what a feeling of joy and Kevin’s making jokes on the mic and me and red rapping the only Irish rap song we know but it’s for a second there almost like we’re cool but the best thing is it’s you and me and it’s just the beginning – I’ve always wondered why so much effort for a day and a party but it’s just the beginning and now here’s why: it’s the big Push-Off, there you go you crazy kids you’re sort of on your own but of course we’re here and you’ll have your you know ups and not-ups (okay downs) and it’s a long trip but we have faith in you and you’re not the first ones and we did it surely you can and we love you and here’s hugs and words from everyone you wouldn’t normally get and maybe it’s partly the booze hugging but more so it’s the high of this event’s enormous magnitude that the Richter scale can’t accommodate. And with all that we were stripped of our fancy suits you your nymph of the mist me my top gangster in the big city looks both gone back to grunge and gone for the hotel (baggage gone oh well) and ready for phase II.

which was a large (shall I say it? It’s kind of private in a way some might not expect so no. But I’ve told everything else even the fight so) (no) (well, what the hell I’m into it now) uneventful 2 days of recuperation, albeit blissfully in a big big bigger than Queen I’ll be your King bed, and educational television programs on feral children and animal-men fighting for ultimate supremacy in a cage, greasy greasy food, swimming in the pool playing dodge the middle monkey at the expense of the kids (and their less than amused parents) standing poolside fetching shanked balls for the giant-sized tykes four of whom managed to hog the whole thing (this when Conor and Leah visited), and much lazing around Halifax. Maybe…but who knows…when big C bounded in early Monday morning and we met cousin Julie to break our fast over a barrel of apples before reuniting with another high school chum on the way to almost paradise in a car that would have matched my gangster suit had it not already hitched its way back to Toronto. Swapping songs all the way we made our goodbyes with Big Brother, who everyone loved immensely for his charm, humour, and enlightenment, and drove a long long way past fast food chains, into Acadia and out again, past even inaccessible to Israelis registration camping, through a near-hurricane that turned me into a tent sandwich, through raging lightning storms of axe-grinding anger and the making of a “passionate love” in which your body was revealed to me in spastic flashes of light and believe me, lighting suited you too, to the end of civilization (then take a left and go over a bridge) another 10 kilometres where the road turns dirt and another 10 k still, where it’s just hardcore hikers, and us, with our 3-week food supply on my back and everything else on yours and the Viking Mule’s, and we hike hike hike north north north along the coast, and this is where all those up and downs come in and it seems since we did that trail 4 times we’ve had enough to last and it’s all flat from here but knock my head and 2 hours later we reached a mirage where a stream flowed and a fire smoldered. We rested there, and then kept going. Mooses and eagles marked our trail, and more streams to cross, and the occasional cows and bull blocking the path just to keep it interesting until the final descent when your knees our knees all jello with a vibrator jammed in the middle jugjugjugjugjugjug all the way down a 90 degree slope a thousand miles long until O the glory it’s where three mountains converge and a stream hits the ocean and wild horses graze but remain tame enough to take your carrots and demand more and pilot whales follow seals toward a giant school of mackerels, over which circle clumsy graceful cormorants (otherwise an oxymoron but only cormorants and maybe herons can pull that off). And there we stayed in the rain for two days, escorted our pack mule friend back to the car and drove him to where he might hitch a ride to the airport, and chowed like fat munchies in Acadia on lobster sandwiches, fried haddock and smelt, and sweet salted poutine.

Then one soft night in a BnB overseen by the German-Swiss couple, one of whom told us “food is the only pleasure that isn’t forbidden” and the other who told us “running a small business in Canada means working for the government.” And we read.

Then back to paradise where we met the Ethio-Indian Caper Paul Schwartz, whose family borrowed its name from colonialist refugees in Africa before he himself immigrated to New Waterford as a teenager. Paul was the man who’d showed me paradise in the first place and built a poorly functioning Canadian tire sweat lodge from beach debris tarp and duct tape where I’d purged a virus I’d hosted too long and he’d told me that his mother was with him in this paradise for the first time – that was 6 years ago now, and here I was again with you, my wife (insert goofydance here) with me in the formidable flesh for the first time after all those years of circulating through my nebulose desires, and we sweat lodged again but it worked well this time and became the metaphor for my life and six-year healing process, climaxing in a nirvanous naked nude where-the-sun-shines roll on the shore to show the horses how it’s done, so that we could return first to Halifax for a day of wandering where even I felt like it was the discovery of something newly scientific: the North End, where houses are affordable for now (until the oil barrens have their way according to Uncle Winnie) and the traveler’s hostel provides a cheap (but not too cheap) source of fair trade coffee and books, but we’d already found a whole box of freebies on the road side and were later directed to a bioregional organic restaurant made of wood naturally felled by none other than hurricane Juan – then to Barrett Lake to find a strange euphoria ventilating my childhood home as we dined delicately in the backyard and finished the rest of the beer there before my father drove us across the county line, then another one, and left us in Milford Nova Scotia by the Tim Hortons, where within 25 minutes (as predicted) we received our first of many short rides from a cab driver and an off-duty RCMP officer who informed us hitching is legal in those parts but walking against traffic is not, naturally. They were a jovial pair joking their way to the wildlife park near Stewiacke (home of the woolly mammoth from which my friend David Cribbs had once hung for a photo when he and MikeyZ visited me in 1998) to chase animals with golf clubs. Douglas Adams’ ghost smiled on us in Stewiacke in the guise of a trucker who was already pulled over getting coffee and hailed us to hop in. He loved our ‘Just Married’ sign because he himself was celebrating the second anniversary of his second marriage, so he drove us to Truro chatting happily (mainly just him) the whole way, and dropped us in a bit of a rough spot but compensated by sharing with us two apples – easily spared from the thousands he was hauling in the back of his rig.

After an hour of fearing the highway’s split we lunched PB&J style half-assed hitching a side-road route through no where, the kind where you meet locals, in this case the retirement village crowd, Yogi Bera’s ghost shouted at us from his pickup truck to take the damn fork, and pointed out an easy way to cross one lane of highway to get where we wanted. 175 vehicles later (almost half of them Cape Breton-bound) we met Chris the Electrical Technician on his way to Parsborough to fix a cement paver, dreaming about being a rocknroll star the whole way and regaling with tales of his groupie-like trips from city to city, “just poking around” learning all the local acts and sometimes following the biggies halfway to nowhere before finding an alternate route back to his home province, where he’d stay until Montreal. Chris left us just before Amherst for another long wait short ride as the rain started up again and a PEI bound man brought us all of five kilometers up the road where we resumed our game of throwing rocks at street signs until a child anthropologist drove us across the New Brunswick border and gave us a big bottle of Propeller beer as a souvenir. Of all those short rides we agreed we liked this kid best but we weren’t sure why, just the type you’d want to share an adventure with on a chance wind, if you could.

But it was a trucker who listened to loud rock and roll, loved his family more than god or science or money, and hoped to buy his own truck soon even though his employer was the best one he knew of for good wages and fair hours, who drove us into the outskirts of Fredericton (more town than city) as the sun rose on the world’s flipside. That was when you finally rested your heavy-hike sore back in his back bunk and took a slightly embarrassed nap while I made sporadic small-shout over the blaring radio – he wasn’t much of a talker but straight driving son of another trucker who’d never wanted to drive for a living and even got certified as a welder and landscaper before he figured out where the money was that he needed for the fam and that he could somehow strike a better balance than his old man, and the man who offered us an unprompted ride into Fred-town was a younger more tattooed version of the same, dry smart-faced humor about his military stint saying “you learn to tow the line on the job and say yay military, cheeva! But what’s scary is how many guys get brainwashed and don’t know how to leave that stuff behind and still have a real life outside of the work.” He was a universal soldier who knew that “around here you either cut trees or join the military, and I got tired of cutting trees.” The best he could hope for was Haiti; he got Afghanistan.

The Fred-town hostel was nice and you instantly charmed the place as usual and somehow gave Israeli tourists a topofyourhead guide to the Maritimes, your new home-to-be, so they souped us up in return and won the lifelong love of some west coast Mike who you saved with a 20 dollar loan, and the whole place sang our praises as we headed into the next morning’s drizzle, but first a lingering breakfast with Aunt Nikki, and coffee coffee coffee though we try to stop exploiting the third world with cash crops it is heavenly and it’s double rich and it’s a ceremony of birth every morning when your blood picks up its pace with a caffeine kick in the pants. Nikki drank decaf and we caught up while she offered insight on certain challenges that are mine and more so hers, but that can circulate in a family and she felt were more nature than nurture, but regardless health problems can cause depression and depression can make you damn sick and with a medication medical system of the diagnose medicate formula it’s damn hard to find proper healing these days and it was only by sheer luck (and maybe time and average laws) that saw me through to find the likes of Paul Schwartz and the love of Toronto’s prisoners happy inhabitants (and the Big Great Big Celebration with those bunch is still to come!) and ultimately you my Wife (goofydance) that I’ve recovered from the ills of Canada’s socialism – not to focus too much on such things as there was more to it than that anyway and it was great to see Nikki and we had a championship breakfast before she drove us to the highway and wished us good luck, which was granted licketysplitly by Fatima and Brenda, two wondrous Mali-Canadian women who floated us to Montreal on waves of French African songs, while you got to practice your French when not entertaining me with 3-guess games. Also we slept and read waited and waited and waited to pee and eat – in all a 12-hour ride with only one pee and eat break during which we made our Montreal accommodations at Kylikki and Michael’s – those Finnish connections boys they always come in handy and what’s more is that Kylikki was so warm and their condo in the castle so beautiful and the guest room so thoughtfully prepared, how could we not accept their offer to stay for three nights while they went to the cottage and we watched sports desk and ate everything we could find that seemed French even Burger King after the Alouettes game (first down – Mon-ray-al!), and Sushi-Thai-Chinese after that Brazilian movie about upper-class musicians inspired by barroom bandits and other folk heroes, with English subtitles that was so enchanting with its rhythms and family mythology. But the best were the baguette sandwiches, chausson aux pommes, chocolate mousse and café au lait times café au lait, O that high French life and the Gazette and John Wyndham’s sweet short 1960’s novels that we could both read in a two-day span because we had finished all our reading material what with all this unexpected free time but it finally did come to an end but not before, my Wife (goofydance), “now THIS is honeymooning!” and VIA carried us all the way home, me cranky from too much Wyndham (not to mention that Pearl S. Buck crap) not enough sleep and losing badly at Hearts, you sweet and comforting and feeding each other cheese and sandwiches, sculpting a thousand year old man from well aged cheese-wax who made all our electronic images, until it felt surprisingly good to be home, on our bikes feeling breeze, our kittens now cats practically running to us mewing purring they do still know us, roommates warm and receiving, bed firm and inviting, Toronto multiculturalism on the palate plate that we missed in the East, and our lives really are different now somehow, even though quite the same: we’re married. Married.

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