Saturday, December 13, 2014

thinking is the best way to travel

During the 70's when I was a kid, life in Metro Vancouver was spent outdoors shine or rain! Indoors on the West Coast to us kids was reserved for punishment. Groundings, detentions at school, brief community imposed curfews and the like.
Harry (see previous posts) instilled one of his apparent truths deep within me;  "outdoors was IN and indoors was OUT." Mum would call me and Harry "blue assed flies" due to our evident never sitting still in one place for too long lifestyles.
Next to his participation in granting me passage to Earth, to me, Harry's greatest gift was passing along this craving to breathe deep.
Looking back, we lived poor and often resided in industrial districts. My first school was a 16 block walk away from our gravel (mud) driveway house that sat inconspicuously between a large industrial bakery and a steel fabrication shop. Our Northern view of the Lions was obscured by twin cranes that would begin to groan metallic protests every day at 7 am from the metal salvage yard that lay just beyond Harry's garden teeming with runner beans, rhubarb, potatoes, swede and "good quality horse shit for me veg"
After school hours were spent walking through ditches, short cuts through people's yards, climbing trees and throwing stones.
At the week end, marvellous adventures would begin. Beach combing with friends, climbing Burnaby Mountain or all day bus passes for 25 cents that afforded us trips into Vancouver proper where we'd sneak peeks into the strip joints through curtain cracks and ride elevators in skyscrapers.
We'd steal toilet rolls and throw them off roof tops cheering loudly into the concrete jungle as ribbons of white twisted earthward.
Security guards chased us from buildings and malls, we'd gather coins tossed in fountains and watch for revealing occurrences as skirted women rounded the windy corner at Burrard and Georgia.
Our favourite meal was plunky chips from a stereotypically fat and sweaty fry cook at a place called Ben's Eat Out. The name in itself made the place a legend.
Old school police would run after us and smack us in the back of the head when we got mouthy. They'd lie to us and tell us that they were going to tell our parents we were in Vancouver if we didn't behave. We believed them.
Gastown wasn't the sad overpriced trendy smug area that you see now. It had character, history and you could feel that this city started here.
We'd look at the one or two shops selling Canada trinkets and not quite understand why anyone would buy them?
Skid row was a safer, vibrant hub of amusement for us than it is now.
The odd heroin addict stayed in the shadows of Gastown whilst the drunks staggered skid row and the mentally ill people still had glimmers of hope in Riverside hospital.
We'd chat with the rubbies and sway as we spoke in order to catch them off balance which made them fall over.
A damned cruel trick, but menacingly funny when you're 10-14 years old.
Life was spent outdoors and we were healthy, allergy free, fit and NOT fat!
Contrast today, 40+ years on. I rarely see kids outdoors anymore and they're becoming weaker and sickly.
The argument is that its not safe. We packed around in groups of 4 or 8. We were safe.
I think we're living in an age of selfishness and quick gratification. I'm not too sure that 8 14 year olds could hang together outdoors for 10 hours on a Saturday. I'm willing to bet that they'd think that they're bored.
I heard a young teen boy lamenting earlier today:  "Bra, I gotta get some money. I need money to buy things!" This kid had better clothes than me, ear buds hooked up to a device and he was holding his phone. His mate was at least as kitted up.
At his age, I needed bus fare, more time, a friend and maybe a buck for Ben's chips and a coke. We'd suppliment our adventures by picking pop bottles out of ditches and bushes and trade them for 2 and 5 cents depending on size.
Mum would give us grief because we communicated via shouting and whistling through windows, used the phone too much (never know when a call from England was trying to get through...) and always had kids calling on me and my brother even if we were already off on another adventure.
I'm older now. I can't turn back the clock nor would I. I have beautiful memories.
But I do wish I knew the secret language of today's youth that Harry spoke to me.


1 comment:

  1. I've often felt we've had similar childhoods. Reading your memories brings back so many of my own from a smaller scale city. Something that seems foreign raising children who used to love being outdoors but are 'growing out of it, now' because that is what all their friends do. I can almost hear the cheering (again) throwing random stones, junk from rooftops or the thrill of being in a group in & around Vancouver.