Dear Fellow Travellers:
I miss a few things about being away from Canada. Besides family, I miss hot lazy afternoons at the Bamboo Club, thumbing through Now Magazine at the bar with a Corona and lime slice. There was always soft reggae music in the background and the staff were friendly. I miss their Thai Noodles. The Bamboo was my Margaritaville during good times and bad. The Club closed shortly after I moved to New Zealand. Tena koe katoa to the staff and times spent there.
But I miss me mates most of all.
There are turning points in everyone's life. In my life, the important punctuation points revolved around the people I have met and the friendships that have endured. Well, you've met the Captain. But the most significant friendship I have enjoyed is the one with Duff.
I met Duff shortly after beginning work at the City of Toronto in 1981. I was working for Public Works as a temp, manning an old PBX switchboard at "the Western Yard." This job was famous as the starting point for a lot of important bureaucrats. The incumbent, Dave Tait, was going back to university and I was hired to replace him. Dave was a fun, smart, gracious fella, who took care to brief me on how little I needed to do to get by. The desk we worked at held a number of items in it. Things like: Take out menus, a couple of half-done crosswords, a pocket novel, and a binder with the word "Blazer" written on the cover. I asked Dave what the binder was for.
He explained that it was the manual issued to all the players on the Blazer Softball team that played in the City Metro Softball League. This binder was a bible for what was required of a Blazer. It contained a philosophy and mission statement - there was a dress code - exercises one should do before a game - plays(such as "what each player should do on a bunt, or a line drive to centre field).
An example of the philosophy went something like this:
A Blazer always puts the team first.
A Blazer keeps his uniform tidy with the shirt always tucked in and hat on except when batting.
A Blazer always shows up early for practice.
Well, you get the message. I was keen to become a Blazer. These guys must be champions, I thought. Dave said I should call a guy named Rob Butterworth. Butterworth was my boss's counterpart in another yard of Public Works. I called him and mentioned I was interested in playing for the team but he interviewed me and expressed doubts as to whether I was good enough. Finally, he relented to say I could come out to a practice and if things worked out - that if I humbly took care of the gear and filled the water bottles, I might one day aspire to actually play for them. Fuck him, I thought.
My boss, Bernie German, suggested I talk to Paul Curtin, another Chief Clerk, if I wanted to play softball. Paul managed a rival team. I called Paul and he invited me to an indoor practice his team held at a local community centre. I arrived on the assigned night and met my new team called the Cowboys. We formed two lines opposite each other and started throwing the ball back and forth, finding the nice easy rythym and flow of a game of catch. Anyhow, Paul released a throw as the guy next to me said something. I glanced over and the ball caught me square on the chin, opening a nice little bleeder.
The fella who had diverted my attention was Duff and as his attempts to show concern over the stream of blood on my jersey, shoes, and floor, were made while he stifling laughter. The other guys were having a snigger or two as well. We all went for a beer afterward in Parkdale, I think it was the Parkdale Tavern. The place was famous for having a gentleman's entrance and holding fast to those ancient rules of use, much to the ire and venom of local lesbians and feminists.
(Traveller note: I have had an enduring affection for lesbians...my mindset at the time was that they presented an interesting challenge. Needless to say, this conduct always put me at odds with their political allies - the feminists.)
Through later years the Cowboys became the Coasters, but the core unit of the team remained the same. We were a team, and some of the fellas became close friends, and others tolerated my excentricities and mediocre play with a grain of salt. They were good players and we won some championships over the years. I was an enigmatic sort of player. I had good speed and stole the odd base. I banjoed the ball beyond the grasp of leaping infielders once in a while, or bunted with two strikes on. Defensively, I was a question mark. An easy pop fly to right field was always an iffy prospect. I sometimes dropped the ball because of the unnerving silence as both benches and the people in the stands held their collective breath. Duff always lobbied to keep me in the lineup, citing my speed and anything else he could think of. I would have been an MVP if we just played against the Blazers, though. Unfortunately, the Blazers folded soon after. Some say it was because their key players wanted to wear white spikes and white spikes were not in the manual.
So Duff began to invite me along to social events and he introduced me to other great people - people like the Captain, Warren, Ron. In time Duff and I became closer and remain friends to this day. I called him last week and he reminded me that the test of a good friendship was the ease with which they could just pick up where they left off despite a long absence. Thanks, pal. My life would have been much the less richer had I never met you.
The picture you see above was taken in a cabin somewhere near the French River. We fished some..(the Captain laid down strict rules about sobriety on the water) opting mostly to eat, drink, and tell stories. Duff is the guy top left, the Captain is beside him, bottom left is Warren and Ron is on the right...fellow travellers all.