The time of my life
By Michael P. Gildart
About the Author Read On……..
© 2005 Michael Gildart
Copyright ÂŠ 2005 by Michael Gildart All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without written permission from the publisher. Published and edited by Michael Gildart ISBN 0-9738681-0-4 Printed and bound in Canada by: Printorium Book Works 905 Fort st.at Quadra Victoria, B.C. Canada www.printoriumbookworks.com
Out Of the Blue, The Time of My Life Time to write my life story, from the top. My wife and children left this morning, for five weeks to Indonesia, to visit her parents and relatives. It’s a hot sticky night, but I had a great lunch, was supposed to be chicken breast, but I settled for the leg. Doesn’t matter, food is food and conversation is so important in a persons’ life. I’ll let this be my way of exteriorizing my emotions and feelings. I used to be shy in expressing my thoughts and I guess that came with all the years of being told to be quiet from my parents, especially my dad. He couldn’t have known better because that was probably his upbringing also. But there comes a time when the chain must be broken and times change as they did with my children. I think I let them know at an early age, that they could tell me anything they had on their minds, even if I didn’t always like what I heard. I’ve always been a good listener, and that’s how I learned to do all the things I do now. By asking questions and learning from people that I have had the pleasure to meet over the years. You can’t change that part of life, people surround you and you must learn from them, no matter what the experience may be. It’s just up to us to use what we think is good and discard the rest. 3
Born in Edmundston, New Brunswick, the fifth of February 1957, the sixth of ten children, my parents were, Madeleine Boucher and Gerald H Gildart. My mom came from a middle class family. Her father was a member of the federal parliament and also owned the Madawaska newspaper, for which my dad worked for, as a press photographer. He worked full time for CNCP telecommunications as a teacher of telecommunications theory. My dad came from a farming town called Bathurst. I never knew his dad, and I think my dad knew him as much as I did. I remember his mom very well, since I was her Red Cap. (Red Caps are people who work on trains to carry your luggage) Whenever she would come to visit us in Moncton, I would meet her at the train station, carry her luggage and bags home and make her warm milk, which she would drink before going to bed. We would talk about anything, anytime. She was a great lady. Always smiling and in a good mood. I was thirteen when she passed away. I was the only one of us kids invited at the funeral. I was bartender at the wake they had for her. I can still recall my leaning over her body in the casket at the funeral parlor and gently kissing her, I told her” I’ll see you later Grammy”. The room became silent as I turned around and happily walked away. I used to love her house and especially the girl next door, gees I can’t remember her name, but she was the first girl that I remember ever kissing.. That was a great week at grandma’s house. I saw all my cousins and aunts who lived nearby. 4
I went for walks with Shirley, (that was her name), and fooled around in the graveyard (best place to go, cause nobody likes to hang around those kinda places). I also loved going to the beach there, when Grammy was still alive, playing with my cousin Michael and Lynn. Lynn had the kind of face that you just wanted to smack around. When I saw her a couple of years ago at my aunts’ funeral, I kind of reminded her of it, and she felt like smacking me one. Good old Lynn!!! Well enough for Grandma’s house, now back to St.Basile N.B., where we moved when I was about three years old. What a house that was. Four bedrooms and eight to ten people living in it. Across the street was a sanatorium where old people went to go crazy and die. I liked that place, because we used to make extra money going to the corner store for the people who weren’t allowed out, which was practically everybody admitted in there. They used to throw us Kleenexes, filled with money and we used to go get them 7-ups, bags of chips and chocolate bars, then throw them the bag up onto there balconies, and then, we would get our rewards, a dime. Heck it wasn’t much, but we were happy to serve our fellow citizens. I fell in love with the head nurse who worked there, her name was Annette. She was so beautiful. I remember falling down the back porch stairs while eating watermelon with my brothers and sisters one hot summer afternoon, and landing on a garden rake at the bottom. It stayed stuck in the back of my head. My mom rushed to the sanatorium to get Annette, who then came down and removed the rake and carried me back to the emergency room. 5
I was smiling all the way there. Wouldn’t you? I also had to go back on a daily basis to have my bandage checked, that was a heartbreaker, huh? I remember when I was all well that I used to bring her Spearmint gum that I would buy with my extra money that was covertly gained at the expense of my fellow citizens.
In front our house to the right was a nuns convent and a residence for the nurses who worked at the sanatorium. I still recall the summers, when the nurses used to sit on the willow treed lawns and call me over to sit with them and sing me songs. I couldn’t have been more than four years old. I guess I must have been a babe!!! Since then, I‘ve always liked being around people and enjoying their company. It was not always easy though. Since the age of five till about the age of sixteen, I didn’t do too much talking because of my stuttering habit. It caused me so much heartache, because I was too shy to speak to anyone, because of the ridicule the other kids and my dad would put me through. What confused me I guess, was the fact that my father stuttered and he could still give me hell for doing it. Now I understand that he didn’t want me to do it and go through the same things he went through in life. Still, it took me a while to figure that one out. So now, I consider it as a bad habit that can be broken just like anything else. I forgave him for that. Love you Dad.
The convent is also where I went to kindergarten. I learned quickly at school, that year I learned to read and write. They were so impressed with my progress at the end of the year, they put me straight into grade 2. I loved school. I wish I had graduated, but I didn’t, not from High school anyway. I took different roads to reach where I am today. Jewish people call it the school of Hard Knocks. But I’m happy where I am today, nonetheless. My primary years of schooling were at the St Basile Regional School, which was run by brothers. They were strict but they were good teachers, lots of discipline. I didn’t have any problems going from grade to grade. I always kept to myself and did my homework. It was also a very religious little village. My mom and I went to church every morning, in this little chapel inside the nun’s convent. We sat and prayed, although I don’t know what for. Things looked pretty good in my world. I used to get up early with mom and toasted a couple of loaves of bread and kept them warm in the oven until the others woke up and had breakfast. I also mixed the Carnation powdered milk and mixed it with whole milk to make it what we called Half & Half. We lived on top of a hill where below, was the boiler house for the Sanatorium. Behind that building were the railroad tracks where the trains would stop and unload the coal, to feed into the boilers. Men working in there looked awful scary all covered in black soot after their work shift. 7
We were always afraid to go near that place, but we always managed to sneak a peek inside and then run like hell when the boiler guys noticed us. Below the railroad tracks laid the St. John River, which I loved. I used to go pick fiddleheads there when they were in season, usually in early spring. There was also a special place we used to go to just to play. It was like a little pond where we would run our toes and fingers in the wet clay, which covered the bottom. It would tickle and we would laugh. Such a simple, yet rich childhood. We used to make our own forts and tents out of tree limbs and branches, which were abundant in that area. We played for hours. We couldn’t afford fancy toys like some of our middle class neighbours. We would become friends with them, just so we could play with their Tonka trucks. My brother Rick and mine’s idea of a go-kart, was when I took apart an old wooden radio, emptied out the guts and then put wheels at each corner. That was fun. I would push him around the freshly paved convent parking area for hours. It was in that same parking lot that Rick and I, while coming back from school one day, had this awesome experience. There was this girl that I didn’t like, who was playing in the convent yard, I looked at Rick and told him to watch this: I was going to make us invisible. We screamed all kinds of names at this girl and she turned around and couldn’t see who was yelling at her. We continued our journey home as if nothing had happened. A lot of this stuff happened in our village. 8
We had what we called the Rocher du Diable which was next to the river. Tales were that one day, a priest and a young boy were walking on the tracks, when they looked down at the river below and saw the devil walking out of the river onto this huge flat rock. As he noticed the pair walking towards him, he dropped his pitchfork and ran into the river. The young boy became blind, because he hadnâ€™t heeded the instructions by the priest not to look directly at the devil, for fear that he would go blind. The footprints and the pitchfork markings are still engraved in that flat rock to this day. Pretty cool huh? A lot of things happened near the riverside. One day, I noticed my brother Ron walking on the train tracks carrying something. I rushed to see what it was. It was a wounded weasel that he had found. I told him that I knew where there was an old cage that he could use to protect the animal. So I ran down the hill to the spot where I knew where the cage was, but just before I got there, I stepped on this old board with a huge rusty nail sticking out of it. I fell and rolled further down the hill, all along carrying this nail and board attached to my foot. I must have looked like a one legged skier falling down the slopes. I managed to pull the board off and screamed to my brother for help. He didnâ€™t hear me. I took off the board and picked up the cage and climbed up the hill to where he was waiting. I told him to put the weasel inside the cage and to help me home. He did even better; he carried me home, where my mom put some salt lard on the bottom of my foot, to suck out the rust. 9
I walked with that piece of pork inside my running shoe for three days. Then one week later, I was in the same area where I had found the cage and I saw another one. I ran down to retrieve it when all of a sudden, you guessed it. I stepped on the same board and stuck that same nail in my foot right through the same hole in my running shoe. Boy was I pissed. I yanked that board out and threw it in the river, where I was sure that nobody ever stepped on that GD thing again. I then got up and walked home, where I quietly went into the fridge and got another piece of salt pork and bandaged my foot. Mom would have been proud, if I would have told her. There were so many things to do in that small place. We had big mountains behind the convent, where we would go to pick blueberries, hazelnuts, and apples, whatever could be picked. Speaking of apples, on the convent grounds was this huge fenced area, where the nuns had their apple orchard and vegetables. They had this man looking after it. His name was Ti-Joe La Poche, mainly because he would walk around the orchard with his dogs and this big burlap bag. Rumours were that when his dogs went berserk on him that he would kill them by sticking a knife or nail in their neck and bleed them to death. Not a nice guy at all. We would still dare to go in the orchard at dusk and steal some of the best tasting apples in town, only to be chased out by Ti-Joe. Boys were we daredevils or what?
We always liked dogs, although we never officially owned one, until the day when Ron came home carrying one, back from the partially built TransCanada Highway. The dog had been struck by a car or truck and had a broken leg. We bandaged his leg and nursed him back to health. We named him Prince, a golden retriever with a great attitude. One day when he got well, Ron went for a walk with him. They walked by one of the little rich boys house down the way, and the little boy started teasing Prince with a stick. Ron had warned the kid not to do this, but he obviously didn’t listen. Prince didn’t take to this kind of behaviour from the kid and so, he bit him. The boys’ parents called the RCMP and told them of the incident. They came over and told my brother that the dog was at fault and that he would have to be put down. We cried for days. A sad day in St-Basile for the Gildart family. We didn’t have another dog for years. Winters were fun there also. My dad used to drag all of us up the mountain on a toboggan, attached to the back of his station wagon. When we reminded him of this years later, he laughed and said that he was trying to poison us with his exhaust. (Takes more than that to get rid of a Gildart dad!) Which reminds me, how many times I played with electrical things since a very early age and look at me, still glowing. I remember my first shock when I was about four years old. My dad had installed a temporary light fixture in one of the bedrooms with bunk beds. Always wanting to help him out, I climbed on the top bunk with my moms’ scissors in hand and cut the wires. Dvfffff.!!! Lights flickered and I flew off that top bunk. 11
My mom ran upstairs, only to see that I was lying on the floor and that her best scissors were hanging, welded on those two wires. I didn’t know we had to cut only one wire at a time. I guess that’s where my nickname Sparky came from. Another time, my dad, working in telecommunications, had brought home a pair of the old wind up telephones. He installed one upstairs in our bedroom (Rick and I). Bad move dad! As curious as I was about how this thing worked, I opened up the front cover, which was hinged and proceeded to crank up that sucker for at least a minute, as if I was making a long distance call and, noticing this set of loose wires. I went to re-install them in their proper location: Dvfffff!! Hell, there I went again, flying to the other side of the room. End of experiment! I should have been a pilot instead of an electrician. My moms’ clocks were also a favourite pastime for my curious mind. I used to take them apart, to try and find the jewels, so proudly advertised on the face of the clock. Couldn’t find any so, I would use the big movement gear as a spinning top. A new toy for all of us to play with. Mom wasn’t impressed! Now back to winter fun! I used to go skating at our outdoor school rink. It had a small cabana where we could go put on our skates. Inside was a small potbelly stove to make a fire to keep us warm. I had to find old papers and wood to feed into that baby. By the time it finally caught fire, I was already frozen and too numb to put on my skates. I had to walk all the way back home to warm up and try again. 12
One day Ron came home with a pair of skis. Nice invention, but not made for more than one person. We tried to get three of us on that one pair of skis. It was good for the first fifty feet, then all hell broke loose. Ron didn’t tell us he was going to turn. Ron went his way and Gerry and I went the opposite direction. Winter wonderland in St. Basile!! Then I turned seven and we had to move to the big city of Moncton, where my dad had been transferred. I still remember the day we left St-Basile in my dads’ station wagon, my sister Louise, Margaret, Rick and I. The others had gone by train. My dad had bought us bottles of Orange Crush and a bag of peanuts, for us to snack on during the trip. Not being accustomed to having such fancy treats, but since CN was paying for the move, we wolfed down those snacks, mixing BBQ peanuts inside the Crush bottle to watch them fizz, and then drinking the magic potion. Before we ever reached the village limits we were all ready to hurl. That was one heck of an five-hour drive to Moncton. I can still taste the burps of Orange Crush and peanuts to this day. We moved to what we’ll call, a mansion. Compared to our previous house, this place was huge. It was three stories high, not including the basement. Rick and I inherited the attic, as our bedroom. Pretty cool place. Sloped ceilings and all. We even had a window that overlooked the front of the house onto Weldon St. From this vantage point, we could watch all the cars and people go by. 13
One day, I remember Rick and I taking my dads’ hunting rifle, which had a scope on it, and pointing it to people as they passed by. If we had been seen, we’d still be locked up today. We joined the YMCA and enjoyed going there for family swim, playing ping-pong and look at the fights that my brothers Ron and Gerry would get involved in. Their reputation grew fast, although Rick and I were angels compared to them, people left us alone because of our brothers. Bonus! We went to Aberdeen School. A nice place and the teachers were very kind. My third grade teacher was Mrs. Mazerolle. Grade four was Mr. Goguen, grade five was Sister Caissie, grade six was Miss Beddington, grade seven was Mr. Leblanc who later became principal, grade eight was Mr.Leger, and grade nine was a tall beautiful woman called Mrs. Arsenault. I guess by the time I reached ninth grade my hormones were starting to act up. I remember a lot of my classmates although most of them probably died from drug overdoses. There was Jackie who I one day pinched in class, since she sat in front of me. She had just sharpened her pencil, she turned around and stuck it in my arm and broke the lead inside. It’s still there today. Rick joined the air cadets and I joined the sea cadets, because my dad was in the navy during the war. Always wanted to be like dad. When I was thirteen, we went to sea cadet camp for two weeks in Cornwallis, Nova Scotia. That was a great time. We learned to sail boats and cruise the girls when we visited Halifax in our navy duds. 14
My dad was pretty upset when I dropped out after a few years. Been there done that. Time to move onto something new. Back in Moncton, Rick and I learned how to play a guitar that Ron had brought back from one of his adventures. We learned how to play Stairway To Heaven, by Led Zeppelin. Took us at least six months to learn that one, up in our attic. Everything after that was a breeze to learn. We became popular that way. I used to love going to the Moncton Library every Saturday. I would read as many books as I could. I’ve always respected books and took very good care of them, because they are the roots of all learning. I’ve tried to instill this in all my children with great success. As I grew up in Moncton and my older brothers and sisters were off getting married or moving onto bigger and better lives, we moved to 229 Weldon St, a smaller but very comfortable home. In front of our house was Victoria Park, a nice place with a bandstand to our left and a statue on our right. We baptized that statue Leroy. It was a war memorial. This is where Rick and I perfected our snowball throwing techniques. One of us would stand in front of the house and tell the other one, waiting behind the house, for our signal to whether the city bus was coming from Bandstand or Leroy. Then we would time it perfectly, throw the snowball and hopefully it landed right in the buses’ windshield. What a laugh when it did. Sometimes the bus driver would stop and we’d take off running. 15
We only got caught once. One day, when wet snow had just fallen, we were standing on our bedroom balcony, when a lady carrying an umbrella made the mistake of walking in front of our house. We made these two huge wet blocks of snow and dropped it on her umbrella, just to test its’ flexibility of course. Dingdong!! Our doorbell rang. We jumped out of our snow boots and sat on our beds and pretended that we were having this serious conversation, when my mom yelled out to us to get downstairs. Coming to the front door, we saw this lady standing there with this twisted piece of metal and cloth in her hand, my mom asked if we had done this. We denied it by saying that it must have slid off the roof like an avalanche and totalled this woman’s umbrella. Whew! That was a close one!! Another time, Rick and I were walking home from school, when Rick decides to throw a snowball at a woman walking on the other side of the street. He caught her on the side of the face and as she turned to face us, we noticed she was wearing glasses and that her right eye was completely white where the snowball had wedged between her face and glasses. Time to start running, again!! While walking to school one day, Rick, Bobby and I were throwing snowballs at people’s doors, (the aluminium part where you get the most noise) just to let them know we were off to school. I decided to practice my under hand softball technique, when this ball decides to go upward instead of dropping. Crash!! Right through the window. I took off. 16
Rick and Bobby walked nonchalantly as if nothing had happened, and when the owner came out and asked them if that had seen who had done this, they said that would keep their eyes opened and let him know who could have done this terrible thing. That same day at recess, we were all outside throwing wet snowballs, when, needing to perfect my softball throw. I got Bobby’s’ older sister Rachel, right in the crotch with my throw. The most embarrassing part is that she was wearing this pair of tight, heavy wale, green corduroy pants and the snow stuck to it like, you know. I became beet red and as I melted into the schoolyard the recess bell rang. Back to the drawing board Einstein. Sorry, I don’t have any more snowball stories. I made a lot of money while living at 229 Weldon. In the summer I would mow lawns, with my dads’ push lawnmower. In the fall, I would rake leaves and in the winter, shovel snow for three or four of my fellow citizens. They were great old folks, offering me hot chocolate in the winter and lemonade in the summer. However, the best treat I ever got was one summer. I picked up this new customer a few streets up from my house and after mowing his lawn a few times; he asked me if I would like to have something to help me mow the lawns faster. I said: “Sure”. He proceeded to open his barn door type garage door and there was this old, but beautiful Iron Horse lawn mower, gas powered. He said it hadn’t worked for years but that I could have it. I grabbed it, and running back home with two mowers; I was the happiest kid in town. As I got home, my dad was pulling up into the driveway and asked me where I had gotten this lawnmower. I told him and he helped me get it started. 17
It just took an adjustment of the spark plug and some fresh gas and off it went! Now I could double my income in half the time. What did I do with this money you ask? Well, on the way to school was this pastry shop, where they sold day old goodies like danishes filled with jam and covered with white icing. I would buy a bag of these and when Iâ€™d get home, everyone would have a feast, instead of having our regular bread and molasses dip ritual. I would also go to the corner store and buy my mom her favourite, a Mars bar, so she could have a snack when we would sit, her and I and watch old movies on TV. I liked those quiet times with her. Whenever we knew there was a good old movie coming on, we would go to the kitchen and whip up a batch of hot fudge and eat it while watching the movie. I learned to cook, sew and clean with my mom. She was always there for me. We would talk about everything without inhibitions. I also had that type of relationship with my sisters Margaret and Louise. I used to sit in their rooms at night and smoke Eve cigarettes and talk about all this girl stuff, like PMS and how girls like to be treated. A good learning experience for a thirteen-year-old boy. I was sure this stuff could come in handy one day. Thanks Git and Lou! I helped with most of the chores around the house, including mowing the lawn, washing dishes and washing windows. One day in the fall when it was time to put on the storm windows, rather than letting my mom go up the ladder to the second story window, I told her I could do it. 18
While carrying the big window up the ladder and just about ready to slip it into place, I lost my balance and started to fall from the ladder. I could see my mom coming toward me as I was falling straight for her, still with this window in my hands. I told her to move away, and managed to turn around in mid-flight and land with the window on top of me. I landed like a sack of wet noodles on the ground. My mom told me after this incident, that as she saw me falling, she could hear the ambulance sirens whaling. But I was fine and the window did not break and best of all, I missed mom by a couple of inches. The job wasnâ€™t over yet. That window still wasnâ€™t installed. So back up the ladder and this time it snapped into place, as it should have the first time. Now, back to Margaret and her friends. Margaret was about two years older than me and one night, she had her friends Cindy and Monique over for the evening. Cindy was a pretty girl and I could tell that she was attracted to me, although being a few years older, I offered to walk her home that night because she lived far and she wasnâ€™t feeling well that evening. As we got to her front door she thanked me by giving me my first French kiss. Wow! I thought she wanted to wash my face. I had a hard time walking home after that. Nevertheless, I sang all the way home, feeling very strange inside. It was only later that I found out that Cindy had an epileptic seizure that evening and that is why she needed to be escorted home. Thanks for the warning there Git!! 19
I always sang when I used to walk by myself or ride my bike to the airport or to Centennial Park, which were a few miles away. I always sang the Bee Gees song:” I’ve just got to get a message to you”. I can still remember one hot summer day, when we lived at 26 Weldon, I had worked at the Esso gas station, which was on the corner of Main St. And Weldon. I had washed cars all day and helped the guys put away their things at the end of the day. As a way to thank me, one of the guys had gone to the Co-Op store and picked up a gallon of cherry ice cream and gave it to me. I ran home and we all polished off that ice cream container in no time. There is more joy in giving than receiving. I learned that early enough in life, and later in life I learned about un-conditional love. I learned this from Luce’s best friend at the time, Lucie. The latter is quite hard, if you haven’t mastered the first one. Grade nine was fun for me. I loved to hang around the school corner with Susan who eventually became my sister in law. She was a nice girl with long hair and a gorgeous smile. We all used to meet there in the morning and smoke a few cigarettes before school started, and talk. I wanted it to be more but she was going steady with this Steve guy who I didn’t like because of the way he treated her. Anyway, one day Rick and I heard that they were going to elect grade 8 and 9 class Presidents and VPs in the local church basement. This was to organize and start a Boite a Chanson, to be held every weekend, to keep the teenagers in a wholesome environment. We decided to go and attend, to see which losers they would pick for these roles. 20
We sat down and waited for the first nominations to come. First the presidents for Grades 8 and 9. They unanimously screamed for Rick and I to take on these positions. Rick and I were shocked. We were only there as observers and a few minutes later, here we are, being voted for to be in charge of this weekly event. What the heck, we participated and won. My V.P. was Francine something and treasurer was Susan. We eventually voted off Francine (Being president does have its privileges.) and Susan became V.P. and treasurer, which she handled quite well. We had meetings every Friday to organize dances and booked bands to come and play at the church. Rick was lucky enough to have Nancy and Debbie as his V.P. and treasurer, beautiful twin sisters, that we both liked a lot. We were the hit of Aberdeen. Our guitar playing also got us into all the good parties in Moncton, playing songs from America and the Eagles, Crosby’s, Still, Nash and Young. But all of this came to an abrupt end that school year, when we got the news that my dad had been transferred to Montreal. What about all our friends and all of those great memories? Well, here they’ll always stay. What about all those adventures with J.P., that time we ran away from home that cold winter day? We had decided to go to Lower Coverdale to visit Linda and some of her girlfriends. But they weren’t home, so we ended up sleeping in this old windowless shack, in the middle of a field. We had brought some stuff from his freezer, but it still hadn’t thawed out yet. The only thing we could eat were these cookies that were thin enough to chew without breaking our teeth. 21
We managed to fall asleep for a few hours, then started our long ten mile hike back home, where my mom was silently waiting and as soon as I walked in the door she asked: “Are you hungry”? Sure was. I guess she had been there done that with my older siblings also. Nothing fizzed her anymore. Sorry Mom. Another time at 229 Weldon, my mom and I must have argued about something so I told her I was running away. She said,” Fine, go ahead”. I left and walked around for hours, then went back to the park bench right in front of our house and just sat there waiting. An hour or two went by and I didn’t see any activity in the house. It was getting late and I was thinking to myself: “Come on mom, open the door, and tell me to get the hell inside the house” But no, she never would have done that. I sat out there until I started falling asleep and when I finally got up, swallowed my pride, I walked in the front door, which my mom had left unlocked. She told me the next day that she could see me the whole time. What a woman!!! Or what about the times Rick and I would go behind Centennial Park in the train graveyard and play conductors and engineer inside the old abandoned trains? I miss those days so much! I miss the night when Susan, Yvette and I had met in front of Aberdeen and I had taken some of my dads’ moonshine, which he proudly called Kikapoo Joy Juice. It was made with lemon, orange and grapefruit rinds, sugar, water and yeast. Whew! You could burn this stuff in a lantern! 22
We got so drunk and decided to smoke some nutmeg to see if it would get us high. NOT! But still a thrill to spend an evening with her. She later married a guy from high school and named her son Michael. I wish her happiness. Or the time when Norm and I overdosed on windowpane, an acid on a blotter. Pretty potent stuff!!! We were supposed to take a quarter each and ended up taking one each. We ended up in the hospital that night getting intravenous fluids and other drugs to bring us down. It wasnâ€™t our first time. But this time was our last. When we were released from emergency, we went to his house and dying of thirst, we drank a whole pitcher of orange Kool-Aid and promised never to touch this stuff again. I had worked at a drug aid centre near our house on Weldon St. at the age of fourteen. I had talked down quite a few people from their bad trips. One time I was so far gone while working there, we had ordered Kentucky Fried chicken and I ended up with a chicken leg and taking a big bite out of it, I noticed it looked like a half eaten dead rat. I kept eating, knowing I was only hallucinating. Other times, I would talk to trees and worse of all, they would talk back. But that last night was weird. While walking to the emergency, in August, there was a full moon and suddenly, it started snowing. Itâ€™s as if we were inside this glass dome thingy, that you shake and snow drifts everywhere. It was a night Iâ€™ll never forget. 23
But the inevitable had come. Time to pack and head for Montreal. My first time here was a day Iâ€™ll always remember. I came up to see my dad, who had been here for a month. He was staying in an apartment on Stanley St.. Stanley Courts it was called, just a building north of Ste Catherine St.. When I got to Central station and looked at the high ceilings, I was awestruck. This was definitely bigger than Moncton. My dad and I spent some quality time together. I followed him to his office and to the houses he wanted to buy for us to live in. We found this nice home in Pierrefonds, just behind Riverdale High School. 5027 Savoie St. I was fifteen now and had lots of responsibilities, since I was the oldest boy still living at home. So it was back to Moncton one last time. We all took the train to Montreal and stayed at the Bonaventure hotel for two weeks, swam in the window covered pool and pigged out again. Once settled into our house, it was time to register for school. We went to St.Thomas high school in Pointe-Claire. I had to repeat grade nine. With the entire drug taking and all that, I missed about half of my school year back in Moncton. I was finally even with my school friends, since I had skipped grade one. Getting back to New Brunswick for a minute, my dad and I used to tie flies together all winter long, to use for salmon and trout fishing in Beachwood, N.B. His friend Rupert had a nice fishing cabin just a little up from the river and my dad used to take us boys there, when I was about six years old. 24
When my dad would catch a twenty pound salmon, it would take him about an hour or more to reel him in, just to tire him out, and when he would finally land him on shore, he would take a big rock and break its’ neck to put him out of his misery. One day while fishing with dad and Rupert, I finally caught one. It must have been about six to eight inches long. I proceeded to do like my father would do. I grabbed this huge rock and Splat! I flattened the whole fish! They both laughed with tears in their eyes. My dad has a picture of that occasion, which I must insert here. My dad was also a very good golfer. When I was eight and living in Moncton, he used to go play at Lakeside Golf and Country Club. One day while caddying for him, I saw young people like me all in a circle around one of the putting greens. I asked my dad what was going on there, and he told me they were getting golf lessons. I asked him if I could take them too. He said they were very expensive and that I had to be eleven years old to play, but then added: “If you caddie for me for the next three years and volunteer to caddie for others I will pay for your lessons”. I was ecstatic! So off I went for three years, to learn the etiquette of golf and caddie for a lot of my fellow citizens. It was truly a great learning experience. I caddied a lot for my dad, looking for his stray balls in the high grass or in the woods, but it was all-good for me. 25
One day while waiting for my dad to tee off, I was standing behind a small spruce tree about twenty yards up from the tee box, when all of a sudden, my dad hit his drive and I lost site of the ball, only because it came right at me and hit me in the thigh. My dad rushed up to see me and yelled: “where’s my ball, where did it go?” He must have had some money riding on that hole. I pointed to where the ball had come to rest and he proceeded with his second shot, as if nothing had happened. Another time I enjoyed was at one of his company golf tournaments. This one was at Fundy National Park. What a gorgeous course. High hills overlooking the Bay of Fundy. The first tee was elevated, so all we could see was the green way down below us. What a magnificent first hole. My dad really played well at that event and came home with a trophy and a case of 7-UP for me. But the thing I enjoyed the most was to see the discipline of the people playing this sport, which I still enjoy today. Always being quiet when the others are hitting and congratulating each other when the other makes a good shot. True sportsmanship. Then one day, I turned eleven, and it was my turn to start hitting those balls two hundred yards. I couldn’t wait for spring. My dad enrolled me at the course and every Saturday morning, we would sit around the green or practice hitting balls at the range. A few weeks went by and when my dad came to pick me up before the class had ended, he notices me dozing off and gave me such a kick that I woke up in a hurry! 26
He asked: “Is this what I’m paying for, for you to sleep while the teacher is talking? To which I replied: “But dad, I already know all this stuff, I want to play.” And so we did. The whole group and my dad following, I played against the golf pro giving us our lessons and I nearly whooped him. My dad was impressed and never complained again after that. I guessed he realized that while caddying for him for three years, I had really listened to all his tips and very carefully watched his swing techniques. I never lost an opportunity to learn from others, and this was certainly one of them. He was really upset later in life that I didn’t keep it up and turn pro. He said I really had potential. But I said, “ What don’t I have potential for?” Whatever I put my mind to and with practice, I could do anything I wanted to do. Necessity is the mother of invention, they say, and that’s what I went by for years. If I needed to repair my car, I would take a course on car repairs, electrical wiring, no problem, another course. air conditioning and refrigeration bring it on. I was a learning machine, WE ALL ARE. All my life, I tried to beat my dad at golf and never did, maybe out of respect for the man that introduced me to the game and pushed me to excel at it, or hell maybe because he was just getting better than me all the time. But the day he passed away in 1997, we were all sitting in his back yard in Campbelton where he had moved to, and I started crying like a baby and Gerry, also a great golfer, asked what was upsetting me, I replied:” “ I’m so glad I never beat dad at golf.” 27
What is left after you beat your dad at something? We played golf together here in Montreal also. We mostly went to the Beaurepaire course, just off Highway 20 and Woodland. That was in the eighty’s, when it was still an eighteen hole course. We enjoyed our times together and I’ll never forget them. Our house in Pierrefonds, a split-level bungalow with four bedrooms and as in the past, Rick and I shared a room with bunk beds, again. We had our guitars and fancy lights. We had also picked up an electric guitar and amplifier. We wallpapered our walls with this wide aluminium foil, installed a parachute on the ceiling and installed a black light inside it. We painted the foil with fluorescent paint and enjoyed our creations at night time when we turned on the black light. Those were the psychedelic days of the early seventies. We were cool!!! We made new friends that summer, but Rick always had the most. I would stay home weekends and baby-sit my lawyer neighbours’ nine-month-old baby. Boy, would I pig out on his goodies!! My sisters, Mary Jane and Caroline joined a basketball team that year and I became their coach. That was a hilarious experience, because we never won a game. Firstly because my sisters wouldn’t listen and secondly, white man can’t jump, I knew less about basketball than rocket science. It wasn’t important to me. I never excelled at team sports and stayed away from them as much as I could. I couldn’t even play football or baseball because of my thumbs, which had the habit of bending backwards whenever I caught the ball. I was always a loner. 28
Not that there’s anything wrong with that! I was always best at track and field, and of course, golf. Then in the fall, I started school and met up with some great people, my teachers. Mr. Tiblin was my English teacher and he was so patient with me when it concerned my stuttering. He gave me a few breaks at the beginning of the year, when it was time for my oral exams, by letting me do them in front of him alone, after class. But then one day, he told me; “ Mike you really have to get over this fear of speaking in front of the class, and I insist you do your next oral up there like the others.” I almost fainted when he told me that. Wake up call or what? I did just that. I got well prepared as I always did, and that day I went up in front of the class, sweating bullets and I started speaking. The classroom was silent. I opened my mouth to say the first word and, well, I haven’t shut up since. It went so well. They even applauded when I was done. Mr. Tiblin gave me an A+ on that exam. I couldn’t thank him enough for that push in the ass, that I so needed. What a stupid habit that was. I know today, that if my dad or other people around me hadn’t of pointed it out to me that stuttering was bad, I never would have stuttered. The same thing happened to my oldest boy Corey. When he turned five, he started to repeat and pause on words. I insisted and specifically told my wife and her sister not to mention a word to him or anything to make him aware of what he was doing. Three weeks later he stopped, and to think that for years, I went to see a psychiatrist in Moncton to help me get rid of this awful habit. Ink blot tests and all. 29
What a waste of precious time and emotions. But I had a lot of catching up to do. Life was different from that day on, Girls noticed me. Or vice –versa. They didn’t seem so harmful anymore. I could look them straight in the eye and say hello, start a conversation, and hell, even ask one out. Had I truly become: A MAN??? The funniest was that one day, when I went outside to have lunch and a cigarette in the schoolyard (smoking wasn’t bad for you in those days) and I find out from a good class buddy of mine Gavin, that I was going out with Dee-Dee. Heck, I wish someone had told me this, especially Dee-Dee. I sat next to her and told her: “So we’re going out together huh?” We never went out and then I found out, we weren’t going out anymore. Oh well, easy come easy go. She was a cute girl, a bit strange, but cute. I saw her year’s later working at the Place-Vertu shopping centre in a record store and when I brought this up, we laughed. Then I met Lucy, we never officially went out, but we wanted to. She had to move to New York. Anyway, she was the first girl, since that time in Moncton, when I sang on stage in front of the school with Paulette and Francine, me playing guitar, to sing with me. We sounded and looked just like the Carpenters, Lucy and I. We would practice for hours and enjoyed our time together. She was the one who taught me how to dance when I went to Pierrefonds Comprehensive High School. Gavin, Ron, Yvon and Bernard, (Blueberry fields forever), were my best friends in school there. 30
Bernard got that name in Science class when, instead of singing Strawberry fields forever, he would say blueberries instead. Maybe he came from the Lac St. Jean region. A true friend he was. Rick and I still did all the parties in the west island with our guitars in hand, entertaining the girls and all that. Then one day, I went with Rick to his friend Bernie’s house, which was just down the street from where we lived. We brought our guitars to practice. While playing, in walks this beautiful girl with long brown hair and blues eyes. Her name was Nerissa. Rick told me that this was his new girlfriend. Lucky stiff!! She came from England and had the nice accent to go with it. We stared at each other all evening while we were playing and singing, then said goodnight. Rick always had the nicest girlfriends, but this one was soon to be mine. You see, Nerissa was going to Riverdale High, which was an English school. She also happened to be in grade nine like I was. She said that she needed help with her French, since that was the only subject that she was having trouble with. I happily volunteered at Rick’s request for me to help her out. That first night at her house was very special. She introduced me to her parents. Her mom was just like mine and I loved her from that first day. Her father was a different story; he was a little more reluctant to letting a strange new boy under his roof with his daughter. Couldn’t blame him, but I had a job to do here.
We became good friends later, when he noticed that I wasnâ€™t like all the other boys who had come a calling on his daughter, she was actually learning something here. A month later she broke off with Rick and wanted to go out with me. Rick grumbled for about an hour and then was fine with the situation; he always had the girls standing in line. We went out for almost a year. We had great times together. I spent a lot of time at their old house, studying, listening to music and teaching me to play chess. I would play a few games with her father, to keep the atmosphere cheery. When it came time for them to move to another house, a little further up the road, I helped her father and brother Graham to move. She also had a sister Rachel, Caroline, brother Nigel, Martin and the youngest Stephen. Such a nice family. That Christmas, I made her mother a nice serving tray made from wood and hand painted glass surface, with the word MUM painted under it. They all laughed when they saw it, especially the father, who explained that it was spelled MOM and that mum meant to keep quiet. I had broken the ice with her dad. I thought you spelled it as you pronounced it. Her mom and I always had long talks while waiting for Nerissa to come back from the grocery shopping with her older sister Rachel. Weâ€™d sit and sip tea while folding clothes and carrying on in conversation. Nerissa â€˜s grandmother was a grand old lady, who loved me at first site, having heard of all the help I would give around the house. 32
Nerissa’ s dad was starting to freeze over again. But only until the next project had to be done around the house. Nenna lived in Ottawa you see, and would come over to visit her daughter quarterly. She had all kinds of stories to tell from her childhood in England. I loved to listen and I would feel her joy and sadness, as she would tell of her memories. I still remember the first, and only Christmas we spent together, her mom made these goodies, such as Christmas logs, covered in rum sauce shortbread and ginger cookies. That winter, I caught pneumonia and had a terrible fever. Her mother would make me hot 7up in a cup and I would drink that, then the fever would go down. She took care of me as if I were her own son. That following summer is when it ended between Nerissa and I. She had gone camping for two weeks with her family, but I couldn’t make it before the weekend, because I was working at Eaton’s Fairview. Her sister Rachel and her boyfriend Skip (with whom I shared an apartment then) offered to drive me to Messina on the weekend, which was fine with me. I got there, having said hi to everyone, I asked where Nerissa was. They said that she was down by the lake with some friends. As I got there, I saw her by the campfire in another guy’s arms, kissing. I turned around and headed back for camp, mad like hell, but mostly embarrassed to how in the hell was I going to get back to Montreal. Not till the next day at least, since it was already dark and getting late. I slept in Rachel’s and Skips tent that night. 33
She never offered an explanation and that’s what hurt the most. I found out a year later that the same guy she was with treated her like crap and dumped her. Poor Nerissa, she was never the same after that. Neither was I. Why does that first heartbreak hurt so much? I guess I let my guard down. I popped a bottle of aspirin and ended up in the hospital one night, getting my stomach washed out because of that event. Wasn’t worth it though, better days were coming and everything is temporary, I learned later. Then I moved out of Skips place and moved in with this Roger guy who I had met through some friends. Then one night Rick and I went to party at a friends, I was playing an Eagles song; Desperado, when this girl comes and sits beside me, puts her head on my shoulder, listening to me play and sing all night. Not a word was said. I had a few drinks too much that night and when I awoke the following morning, this girl was still beside me with her head on my shoulder. It wasn’t glued there was it? I checked, nope! She introduced herself. Roberta. We got up at about eight o’clock and still having quite a few beer left from the night before, Chris and I decided to have a chug-alug contest. Ten beers and who can drink them the fastest. I won 6-4 unfortunately. Then came the hard stuff from his dads’ liquor cabinet. We mixed a few together and downed them. I still won. Then the bugger tells me, one last one. He then pored me this large glass of crème de menthe and, so sloshed out of my tree, I downed that one too. Did I mention I hated crème de menthe? 34
I rushed to the back yard and hurled for twenty minutes. By then I was covered in throw-up and so they decided to hose me down with the garden hose. I ended up sleeping the rest of the day off with Roberta by my side, unknowingly. She had brothers Billy, Steve and sisters Judy and Gail. We went out for six months, until her dad got a transfer to Halifax with Bell Canada. I missed her a lot. I never saw or heard from her again. Before I forget, one night when Rick and I were at a party with Nancy who was Rick’s new girlfriend and I was with Nerissa, Nancy got so drunk that she passed out and stopped breathing. I stepped in and having been certified in sea cadets to perform CPR, (not the railway) I started giving her mouth-to-mouth. I asked Rick to massage her chest area while I did this, because I didn’t feel a pulse, but he was just feeling her up instead. She came out of it a few minutes later, but for some reason she was upset with me for months after. Couldn’t figure that one out. Nice move Rick! The cover picture reminds me of another part of my life when people used to make fun of my big ears. I used to laugh with them. They (the kids in school and my siblings) used to say Mike don’t go outside, it’s very windy and you might fly away!! They would call me Dumbo the elephant, or say; “what are those on your head, Barn Doors”? One day at Aberdeen School, we had Fire Safety week and as soon as I walked into the front door of the school, I look and saw they had hung a huge banner of Dumbo wearing a fireman’s’ hat. Good thing I wasn’t paranoid. I asked where they had gotten such a big picture of me and the teasing ended, there and then. 35
Now where was I? Oh yeah! Then I get a call one day from my brother Ron who lived in St. John N.B. He said he had just become a Stationary Engineer. I said; “I didn’t know you had to be an engineer to work in a bookstore”? He didn’t find it amusing. I had no clue what that was, so he explained that he had just finished his course in Stationary Engineering and that he was now licensed to work in big boiler rooms supervising the steam engines and air conditioning towers. Cool! He asked if I would help him look for work in Montreal. I said sure. So I looked through the newspapers and found this place that was looking for a person to supervise 2 steam boilers and 2 heating boilers. It was in an industrial building. So I sent him the info and he applied. He was called for an interview. When he arrived in Montreal, it had been at least five years that we hadn’t seen each other. We spent time together until it was the day to go to his interview. I borrowed dads’ car and left for downtown Montreal. I knew the area a little since I used to meet my dad there once in a while. We finally found the street and parked in front of this nine-story building with shipping doors and everything. We went up to the eighth floor to the place where the building owners had a handbag factory. We asked for Henry, the owner. This gentle looking man came towards us and introduced himself. He asked of my brothers’ experience and knowledge. He took us on a tour of his factory, which took up the whole floor. We then visited the boiler room and I saw my first boiler from the inside, not like in St Basile where I would just peak inside. This stuff was big. 36
He then showed us the underground parking where 70 cars could park comfortably. We then visited the apartment that came with the job. It was a big four and a half. I guess at night you can play the music as loud as you want, I whispered to Ron. My brother was really interested in taking this position, at least he could get established here and not have to pay for an apartment, electricity or telephone. He even had a free parking spot.
Henry offered him the job and Ron accepted. As we were leaving, Henry asked him if Ron could start the following week? Ron agreed. He then turned to me and asked me if I was working at the moment? I said yes, in a chemical manufacturing plant in Pointe Claire. He offered me a job in his factory, so I could be close to my brother and maybe help him out in the boiler room. I fell in love with the idea. I asked Ron if he would mind? He smiled and agreed to have me move in with him.
We were so happy all the way home, not being able to wait till we got home to tell our parents the good news. We had one problem though; we didnâ€™t have any furniture for this place. No problem Henry said. He owned apartment buildings in Cote des Neiges and N.D.G. He told us to meet him there with a truck that he loaned us and we went to one of his locker rooms and picked out any furniture that we could possibly need for the apartment. I brought my stereo systems and amplifiers and especially my guitars. Mom gave us some old dishes to get us going. The following week we were settled into our new domain. 37
I had told my supervisor at Mallinckrodt chemicals that I would be finishing that week. I used to work graveyard shift there. Not anymore. I used to have fun there though. In the early morning hours, after having tested the integrity of my chemical batches in the lab, the owners nephew, who was in charge of the lab on that shift, he and I would have a lift truck race around the outside of the plant which was on Delmar St., between Hymus and the T-Can. We almost ditched one of the forklifts one day. But time to move on to bigger and better things. I then started working at Belgo Lux Handbags, starting off as a leather cutter. Henry told me that whenever Ron would need me in the boiler room or to do some work in the building or to replace him in the boiler whenever Ron would leave the building, since the boilers had to be under constant supervision, that I could assist him. But I told him that I knew nothing about these machines, he just turned and replied; so learn. And so I did. Ron had brought all of his manuals and textbooks with him from N.B. At night I would study and learn all the theory and god knows, I would have enough experience after a while that I could go and pass my exams at the government office. It took six months and I was ready, but not without a lot of pain and grief that came from living Ron and eventually this guy called Herbie who moved in with us a few months after. You see Herbie was the guy who looked after the parking lot. He and Ron hit it off and they started going to a lot of parties together, staying out late, and entertaining. 38
When they would finally get home Ron would be in no shape to look after the boilers and he would sleep it off. I would always cover for him, telling Henry that he wasn’t feeling well or that he had a doctor’s appointment. That didn’t last long though, because Henry didn’t get to where he was by being dumb. He saw what was happening and told me to hurry and get my exams completed and that he would take of the rest. I still recall that day and night as if it were yesterday. There was a full moon out and while wandering the streets close to the building, looking for a way out of this situation I was in, I looked up at the moon and promised myself that I wouldn’t give up, that this was only temporary and soon this foolishness would be over. Ron moved on St Hubert St. and started a new job at the Toronto Dominion Bank Head office downtown. This boiler room was so huge and best of all it was in the penthouse and not in the basement. I was content where I was and so was he. We said our goodbyes a year or so later when he decided to move to Vancouver and get established there. I haven’t seen him since the family reunion back in 1988. It’s now 1975 and here I am a stationary engineer in charge of the well being of a dozen companies at 5605 de Gaspe ave. Alone to face the world again. A piece of cake. This is where the real learning would start and I was ready for it. The wise counsel that I had received from Henry; to learn, finally hit me. I could be whatever I wanted to be. And the proof was there. Lucky for me I had a crash course in taking care of a building like this. It made it easier to start off on the right foot. 39
Henry had all the confidence in the world in my abilities. He only doubted me once and that was almost the end of my career at 5605. He never doubted me after that. I liked Henry and what he stood for. Henry had two sons, Stephen and Irving. His brother Hershel and his wife Mary, were also partners in the handbag business and in a few other buildings. Hershel had a son Allen and a daughter, Annette. They were very young when I first started working there. Stephen though was a few years older than me and was very active in the business. Irving was still in New York taking acting lessons, until the day Henry called and told him to come back home to learn the business, or else. Irving was a great guy. Stephen and I would later become good friends and play golf together. Herbie was also fired from the parking lot and the owner Jack, decided to look after it himself. Jack was quite a character. He had been in a concentration camp when he was a teen back in Germany, and he would tell of the atrocities that had happened. He would get caught trying to run away, and they would beat him repeatedly over the head until eventually he lost all of his hair. Pretty gruesome stuff for me to imagine. He had two daughters Gloria and Mindy and a son Mark. Whenever Jack would have to run his errands or go to the bank, he would ask me to look after the parking, and while doing so I would wash a few cars and make a few extra bucks. I then asked him if it was all right for me to wash cars every Friday, for certain people who were satisfied with the job I was doing. He didnâ€™t object. 40
I could make at least a hundred dollars each week. That was good money back then. Henry didn’t mind either, since he had told me that I could make all the extra money I wanted, as long as all my duties were completed in the building. I made sure of that. On Friday afternoons, I would meet my dad at the Windsor train station, where he’d be having a pint with his coworkers, and I would drive him home to Pierrefonds, where he would let me have the car for the weekend, as long as I mowed the lawn before. Deal! I would then bring his Olds Ninety Eight back to 5605, wash it down and wax it. That was quite a big boat. It would suck gasoline like a vacuum cleaner. It took at least a gallon just to start it. But gas was cheap in those days. About sixty-nine cents a gallon. My dad was a lot like me, he enjoyed listening to music from a good sound system. His Oldsmobile only had an AM radio. I had met this guy, on St-Viateur St. who had just opened this electronics store. He sold me an AM-FM car stereo, with an 8 track tape player and an awesome set of 6”x9” speakers, which I installed in my dads car one weekend. I brought the car back early that Saturday and asked dad if I could pay for the steaks for our regular B.B.Q. We hopped in the Olds and I brought his 8-track of Olivia Newton John, which I had purchased a few months earlier. He still didn’t know what I had done. He starts the car and going to adjust the volume on the radio, he looked and saw what I had installed in his boat. We drove off with the windows down and cruised to Sources Blvd, for steaks with the music just a pumpin’ in the car. 41
We looked like two kids out on a joy ride. A tear came to his eye, as he set the radio to CFQR (in stereo), his favourite radio station. Before I go on to the next story, I must first tell you about my dad having an alcohol problem But he would not remember the next morning, the things he may have said or done during his intoxication. One night Rob and I had gone to the riverside, with a bottle of scotch. We got loaded that night, and when I came back home, I sat next to my dad on the patio, as I would do before going to bed. My father noticed that I wasn’t my usual self. I wasn’t, as I told him I felt sick and explained why. He escorted me to the basement washroom as not to wake up mom, and proceeded to put two of his fingers down my throat to make me vomit, “but I can’t” I kept repeating to him. He stopped and asked me why I would do such a thing? As I lifted my head out the bowl and turned up to look at him straight in the eyes, I said sobbing; “because I wanted to be like you”. I had never said anything to hurt my father before and I only realized it after he carried me to bed. We never spoke of it after, but I felt like something had hit home. He was very quiet the next morning. I never drank like that ever again. And I couldn’t apologize for something that was true. I woke up early today thinking of the times when Rick, his best friend Bruce (we used to call him Beek), Bob (Muffin) and I, would go to Plattsburg with my dads car on the weekends. We would go to the local bar and have a few drinks, tell jokes and play some pool. 42
Sometimes we’d camp overnight and come back on Saturday afternoon. One day, on the road back, we pass this car with four girls inside. We drove beside them for about a mile and then Rick decides to really impress them by pulling a full moon and a pressed ham in the window. The impression he left with those girls was his butts’ imprint in my dads’ car window, which I had to clean when we got back to Montreal. Another incident happened on the way home from Plattsburg We had just gotten past the border at Lacolle, when we see this family driving beside us and one of the kids gave us the bird as we drove by. His sister was cute, but he had just started a war. We passed them, and then they passed us. On the third pass, we signalled to the father driving, that his back wheel was going flat. He slowed down real quick and we took off, taking the scenic route back home. Rick and I became more and more distant in those days, because I would be living downtown. We’d speak to each other once in a while and then one day he told me he was moving to Calgary to work in the Rockies, as a tour guide. I missed him a lot. Life was really becoming clear to me then. I was really starting to see what “being on your own” really meant. It really was like losing a Siamese twin attached at the hip. We didn’t play guitar together anymore and I missed that the most. We saw each other again at our first family reunion in 1988, twelve years later. It was held in Shediac N.B. There where only two people missing at the reunion, Mary Jane who was having a baby, and mom because she had passed away, nine years earlier. 43
She had leukemia and had suffered for two years with this awful disease. Mary Jane and I were asked to give our platelets, to see if that would help. But it didn’t do much. When I went to see her in 1979 just a week before she passed away in Moncton (they had been transferred back to Campbelton N.B. in 1976). She didn’t look at all the same. She looked like a frail bird with all the life taken out of her. Her arms looked like pin cushions from all the injections and blood tests they had put her through. She told them to stop all treatment and let her die with dignity. And so she did. I wasn’t able to go to the funeral because of work. But I babysat Louise’s kids while she went. I wanted to remember Mom the way she was, alive and smiling. She was 54. I remember when I was at 5605, she would come downtown by train, and I would meet her for lunch at the old Woolworth’s on Ste. Catherine St. She also came to 5605 a few times to meet my wife of then Diane. Especially after Lili was born. She once told me while walking on Ste. Catherine of how proud she was of me. I cried and thanked her. I didn’t get over her death until about a year later. I would wake up in the middle of the night crying and calling out her name. She is still very present in my everyday life. I wish she were alive today to see all the children with the grandchildren. Boy would I spoil her the way she spoiled us. She always had given us more than she had. Never bitching about her outcome in life and boy, she had reasons to. We can all learn from her. 44
All I can say is: take care of your parents while they are alive and around you, you may live to regret it later. See you later mom. I named one of my daughters after her. I still remember the time back in Pierrefonds. She wore a wig because of her radiation treatments. One day she washed it in the washing machine and wanted to dry it. She put it into the warm oven and I guess she forgot it there, because when she came to remove it from the oven, it looked like a melted cheeseburger on the rack she had placed it on. We laughed wholeheartedly. We had a lot of good laughs in that kitchen, her and I. Like the time when I had come home late from a party. Having had few a few drinks and being hungry, I remembered where mom used to hide her goodies so we wouldn’t eat them all in one day. There was a tin can with donuts in it under the kitchen counter and, with the lights still off, I quietly opened the door and took it out, opened it and grabbed a couple, wolfed them down and went to bed. The following morning, while sitting at the table having coffee, I asked her if we still had some donuts, pretending that I didn’t know where they were. She said; “sure, under the sink”. I got up and took out the same tin as the previous night and opened it. Oh, my, God! There were about eight, powdered sugar covered green things sitting at the bottom. They had all gone mouldy. Ahggh! I didn’t catch a cold that year. We laughed, mom and I, after I told her what had happened the night before. By 1978 I had already gotten married and was expecting my first child. 45
A beautiful girl Lili, who we named after Diane’s step mom. I remember the night she was born. It was really rough on Diane and I, as it always is for a first born in any family. After she was delivered, we held her for a while and then the nurse took her to the nursery for a clean up, oil change and to put in that silver nitrate in there eyes, like windshield washer fluid to clear up there vision. I left about an hour after, needing some sleep, from being up all day and night, but before I left, I decided to pass by the nursery to see my daughter. I couldn’t see her so I thought maybe, she was still getting cleaned up. All I remember seeing is the nurse laying down this screeching baby with puffy eyes and hair standing up like she had just caught a 600-volt shock. I said: “ I’m glad that’s not mine”. I went home and slept. In the afternoon when I returned to Ste. Justine hospital to see my offspring, while passing in front of the nursery, I peeked inside through the window and asked the nurse where my daughter was. We strolled down the aisle and passing the baby I described earlier, I said that’s definitely not mine, but the nurse stopped and looked at the tag behind the basket and re-assured me that it was. AAAAAAh! Having a bad hair day, huh Lili? Lili was a good baby and grew up to be quite a woman and mother, to her now, two children. I’m so proud of you baby! My dad had a friend who owned a summer cottage in P.E.I., and I remember one summer when he let my dad use it for two weeks. It was right on the edge of a huge bay, overlooking Charlottetown. 46
It had a well, an outhouse, and a gorgeous view. What more could you ask for? It also had a tin roof, so when it would rain, it was like music to my ears. It seemed to rain almost every night, which didn’t bother me. I would play games with the sounds it would make, certain beats would remind me of songs I knew and others I would make up words to go with them. We didn’t have a TV or radio, only a wind up grandfather clock, complete with coo-coo-bird, which was our only entertainment indoors. Outdoors was a different story. When the tide would go down we’d all go out with our little plastic shovels and go clam digging. There was an art form to this. We had to walk and look for holes in the sand and then while standing next to the hole, if water squirted up you knew there was a clam buried under about eight inches of sand. These clams would be our supper that evening. We’d also play in the water all day. One day I noticed a plastic swimming pool hidden under the cottage and noticing a hole in the bottom, I thought of doing something with it that we could all enjoy. I took a few boards that were lying next to the fence and nailed them to the bottom of the pool on either side like a pontoon. I took a couple of thinner boards and shaped them like oars, with an old axe that was used to split firewood. Rick and I hopped into our new vessel and became the pirates on the bay. We would play for hours out there, diving off and paddling around, looking for hidden treasures at the bottom of the bay. I must have been ten or eleven. Dad would sit on the shore and watch in amazement! My dad always told me, “if a man made it, a man can fix it” 47
I still live by that today. Isn’t it always better homemade than store-bought? Something to ponder on. It may sound that life is repeating itself, with every new chapter I write, but life is like that. I hope you don’t find it too monotonous. Well, back to life. Sometimes it does get boring, always doing the same things day after day, but you mustn’t let it get to you, because it has the habit of throwing you curve balls, when you least expect it. Keep you’re guard up, expect these things to happen and you’ll come through it in style. Ron gave me an anecdote to reflect on once. He said that life is like driving a car. When you drive on a long stretch of highway you notice these little back and forth sways of the steering wheel, even on a straight road. These are little bumps on the road, life’s little unexpected imperfections and if you don’t correct them as they occur, you’ll end up in the ditch. How true of the road called life. I often had nightmares in St. Basile and I still can’t figure out what they meant. I would be lying in my top bunk and there would be these huge boulders falling on top of me. If someone knows the meaning of this type of dream, please let me know. I would wake up in a panic and Patsy would bring me into her bed and rock me to sleep. I remember looking into her eyes and I would see sailboats on a quiet lake. Weird huh? Thanks Pat. This book is going to need some serious editing, I can see by the way I’m hopping back and forth in time. Wouldn’t it be nice to actually be able do that? There I go again! Back to 5605. 48
Oh no I can’t yet. I haven’t mentioned Josee. When I visited my parents in Pierrefonds one weekend, I met this girl named Josee. She was the prettiest, sweetest girl I had ever met. I was introduced to her by her boyfriend Mike????.(It’ll come back to me) Mike and I used to hang around together at Riverdale High when I went out with Nerissa. They were on their way to Josee’s house and asked if I wanted to come along. I sure did! We talked for hours about whatever popped into our minds. Mike fell asleep on the sofa as we spoke on. Your loss Mike. One day they came downtown to visit. I picked them up at the Rosemount metro station in a Cadillac Eldorado, which I had access to, from this guy in the building. They were impressed. We went up to my apartment and had coffee. I gave them a tour of the building and Josee noticed all the ladies clothing manufacturers there were and asked if she could come back with her older sister Joanne to buy some clothes? I said, anytime. I forget how it came about, but the next time Mike and Josee came to visit a few weeks later, Josee broke up with him right in front of me and told him that she wanted to go out with me now. Mike laid his head on the table, and in a perplexed manner shook his head back and forth in disbelief. I was just as shocked as he was. Why doesn’t anybody ever tell me these things? Nooo!!! I’m always the last to find out. They must tell themselves: “lets spring one on Gildart.” Anyway, Mike slowly got up and went home, alone. Josee stayed a while and we continued our conversation as if nothing had happened. 49
We went out for about eight months when, and told me that it was over between us. I guess I had bought this huge teddy bear, which was about four feet tall, for her birthday. I went over to give it to her when she gave me the news. I was so upset that I took Teddy with me for a short walk by the riverside. Teddy accidentally flew into the river and floated away as did the memories of Josee and I.. When I met her twenty years later, she had no recollection of it. I guess she forgot faster than I did. One funnier story about Rick and I and it’s off to Bobo land for me. When we lived at 229 Weldon Rick and I would baby-sit our little sisters, and one night we decided to have a fart lighting contest, as we would have in our bedroom on a regular beans and wieners night. We were sitting in the living room, in our hand me down underwear that didn’t fit so snugly and Rick said he had a winner coming. He lit the match and placing it too close to his buttocks he singed his butt hair off. So much for the flame-throwing contest. Love my new window frames. Now back to 5605. I met Diane working on the fifth floor at Mr. Sport, a ladies garment factory. She worked there as an assistant to the forelady. I wouldn’t be able to speak to this girl because for some reason, I was so shy. I don’t know how that came about. I hadn’t been like that in years. I would see her walking into the building and my heart would beat out of my chest. I would see her sitting at the counter at the restaurant, that was on the first floor and I would just go in to buy my fifth coffee that morning. Sometimes, I would just give a glance and a smile. 50
One day I was asked by the owner of her company Eddie, to go repair a piece of machinery in the factory. He showed me which one and as we got there, Oh, my, god, Diane was working on that machine. I trembled, as I walked closer and asked her what the problem was. She explained that this chalk machine was always getting jammed and that it slowed her production to a stand still. I crawled under the machine and repaired the thingy that was causing the problem. But as I came out she started laughing, as it seemed that the chalk had fallen all over my head, which was now snow white. She told me that I was going to look good as an older man. Yee hah! I couldnâ€™t wait to get older! I left and waited for our next encounter, which came a few days later. I saw her having lunch, at the same spot where she always sat in the restaurant. I built up enough courage to sit next to her and start a conversation. I was definitely attracted to this girl. But why? She told me that she was living with this guy and his mother on Deslorimier St. and that his mom was a little strange. She didnâ€™t look happy. I wanted her to be happy. Therefore, it was up to me, to make it happen. I used to order danishes and have the waitress Annie bring it up to her at break time. We saw each other occasionally and spoke openly. One day she came to see me in my apartment, which was on the third floor. She was definitely upset. She told me that she needed to get away from her boyfriend and his mom. I told her I would help in any way I could. Then I got my motorcycle. I bought it from Rick who was now on his way to Calgary. 51
I knew approximately where she lived since she hadn’t given me the exact address, and instead of walking by like I used to, I went on my newly acquired vehicle. There just happened to be a gas station, right in front of her apartment building. I knew because one night I was gassing up the bike and she was sitting on the balcony with her boyfriend and his mother. I used to gas up there often, sometimes emptying my tank in a container, just to go back and refill! Cost me a fortune in gas that summer. It didn’t matter; I was a man on a mission, regardless of the cost financially or emotionally. One day I received a call on a Friday evening. It was her! She was at some friends’ house and asked if I wanted to come over and listen to music with them. It didn’t take me long to get there. I sat on the floor next to her chair and we enjoyed each other’s company. I have to stop here and say that this outpouring of thoughts and feelings is doing wonders on my tired soul. As though I’m unloading two tons of baggage from my mind. It feels great! I’ve waited a long time to do this, and I should have started earlier, but I didn’t have such an opportunity. Now I’m taking advantage of it. Time to print this and go to work. Later!
Out of the blue Eyes are the most important part of a person’s anatomy. You can tell what a person is thinking, feeling; by the way they wear them. Happy, sad, stunned, angry, perplexed, dreamy or sexy. My mom always told me that if a person can’t look at you straight in the eye when you talk to them, they are hiding something. I love to look at people’s eyes. Something is bothering me deep down and I must release it before it kills me. Whatever happens to couples, to make them drift apart, after being in a serious relationship? Do they get complacent? Take everything for granted? Whatever happens to all those long stares, where do they go? What about those passionate hugs and kisses, that used to last for hours, bundled up together, as though they were inseparable? Where do those days go? Is there a special graveyard where they go and die? It must be a pretty crowded place! Or are they just stepping-stones, to the next level and so on, until they just come to the point when you’re just two people, living under the same roof, but worlds apart? It isn’t fair! Why can’t it be the opposite? It should get better, not worse or at least, never changing. How I long for those first days, when a kiss would last an hour. I don’t know how I would react to a woman’s gentle embrace, feeling her heart beat and listening to her shallow rhythmic breathing, tasting her lips, smelling her freshly showered hair laying across my face. It’s been too long now. There is no better feeling in the world, than the one of being next to someone, enjoying their presence and to think of nothing else. It’s hard to do, but not impossible. It’s better than the act, because in the end, that’s all it is. Because when it ends, it’s gone, until the next time. However, unconditional love is always there, it never ends.
You shouldn’t have to act. Why is it so??? I’m looking for answers here!!! Is there anyone out there who needs this too? Or am I the only one walking on this road? Where do you start looking for something like this? They don’t have stores; malls or any other place, is there? You must lie out a set of guidelines and criteria, of how you want it to be and have the person you’re with or finding, to follow these steps, to be able to achieve your common goal. Together. But what if? Then you don’t belong together. How can you even envision spending your entire life together, if you don’t have a solid foundation? You really have to discuss it with your immediate partner, to try to make it work. You owe it to each other to try, and try hard. Even to compromise, but mutually. If it’s a one-way street, then you’re the only one in the relationship and it bares no fruit. It’s not a healthy environment for either of you, and worse when children are involved. Make an effort or move on, but keep searching for the one. When you find her, be content of small achievements and celebrate them, together. Trust yourselves, follow your gut feelings. Keep your independence while still depending on each other, fulfilling your obligations and responsibilities, making each other proud. Keep the communication channels open constantly. Discuss your day, being compassionate to each other’s fears and weaknesses. Mean it when you say; “I love you” and “I missed you today”. Then, and only then, are you ready to grow old, side-by-side.
Sorry for that little sidestep! Then one day I asked her to move in with me at 5605. She was so happy! We went to her old place the following weekend to pick up her things. Her boyfriend was devastated. Go back to mommy bud! A few months went by and I asked her to marry me. We had an engagement party in our apartment and invited her aunts and uncles. Some of my family came but it was bad timing, because I think it was in this time when mom was going in and out of the hospital and they were getting ready to move to Campbelton. Anyway we all had a good time at the party. Both of our parents didn’t make it. It was hard for Diane’s’ parents to come, since her mother had left them when they were young and Diane hadn’t spoken to her father in years. He was the ogre type. He had custody of all three children, after her mother left. (I believe it was more like pushed out.) She had a brother Jean-Paul and a sister Murielle. We married June 23rd 1977. But going back six months, That’s when she called her dad and asked to see him, to introduce me to him and his new wife. Through her conversation with him she found out that he had become a Jehovah’s Witness. I didn’t know who or what they were. I agreed to meet him. I was always interested in religion. Mom wanted me to become a priest from my early childhood. I wasn’t ready. We went over to his house and we were introduced. I listened as they recalled past good times and not so pleasant ones.But before leaving he gave us some religious material to read. It arose my curiosity. 55
I had abandoned God years earlier when having gone through the Nerissa ordeal; I had once asked him to appear to me if he was really there. Didn’t happen, so I gave up and never approached him again. That is until I read this material. I really did believe that he did exist and that he would come one day to deliver us from this hellhole that this place has become. So we started a bible study class in our appt. once then twice a week. Her father then told us that if we were to continue our studying we had to get married. That’s when all this marriage stuff came about. I found out years later that what he had said was not completely truthful. We could not have been baptized Witnesses if we weren’t married. Big difference. Any way we got married and nine months later, we became baptized witnesses. I started going from door to door just a few months before my baptism. I still remember the first time it was my turn to knock on someone’s door and make my speech. It was on Coloniale St. near Villeneuve St., in the heart of the Plateau Mt. Royal district. Some rough dudes lived in that area. So I knocked and at the door and out came this gimongous man, with arms as big as my thighs. He said: What is it? It sounded like I just woke a bear from hibernation. After my third gulp, I made my whole speech and awaiting a slamming door, he invited us in to hear more. We sat for half an hour and he ended up buying almost every magazine and book I had. We walked out, very proud of me. Then Jaimie was born in 1980. She was another beautiful baby. 56
I still remember the time when Lili was in the top bunk and she was playing with Jaimie who was still in her crib. Jaimie reached out to get Lili’s hand, Jaimie flipped over the top and landed head first on the floor. In thirty seconds her eyes were both black and she had this huge bump on her forehead. I rushed her to Ste. Justine hospital. They thought that she had been beaten, but when I explained, they asked if she had vomited yet. I said no. As I said that Jaimie turns towards me and hurled all over me. This was a normal reaction to a concussion. She would be OK. She still reminds me of this by asking: “Dad, remember the time I threw up all over you?” I’ll always remember baby. I lived at 5605 for almost ten years when one day, I get a phone call from my dad, telling me that my brother Gerry was really doing well with his construction company in Moncton. He had been chosen to be on the board of directors and his company would be the one actually building the site for the Papal visit, which was coming in the summer of that year, 1984. He said he could sure use my help. I had seen Gerry the previous year at dads, on a visit with the kids. We had helped dad install new windows and doors. Gerry and I worked well together. I agreed, since by now, I was realizing that 5605 was not a good place to raise kids, not having enough room to expand. I had asked Henry, if we could live outside the building and he disagreed. I had built this huge fenced in play area on the roof. I had put up a swing set for Lili and Jaimie, and planted a garden in these big wooden boxes where I grew tomatoes and radishes, my favourite! 57
I decided to take Gerry up on the offer to come to Moncton. Gerry said he had bought this house on Shediac Rd. where we could live. Being handy, I could rebuild it to my liking. The house was five minutes from Lakeside Golf Club, where I had learned to play golf. I told Henry I was leaving. He was upset, but being the gentleman that he was, wished me all the best and asked for me to keep in touch, which I did. We packed up the kids, the U-Haul and headed for Moncton. The house was pretty cute. We got settled in nicely and I started my new job as a carpenterâ€™s helper. I met a lot of good carpenters and tradesmen in Moncton. Finally! Learning time again. My first job was at a Canadian Tire store, installing those new Propane tanks that stood thirty feet in the air. Gerry and I laid out the emplacement with chalk lines and spray paint, where the concrete base had to be poured. We then picked up a compressor and jackhammer, which I had to use to cut the existing paved area. I had never used one before. The first shot of the throttle, my eyeglasses went flying off my nose. I started repeatedly until I got the hang of it, holding the jackhammer loosely, which was the trick. Let the tool do the work. I got the site ready in no time and we finished in record time. We then had another store that wanted to install one. I was getting the hang of this stuff. A few weeks later, we visited the Papal site where we had quite a project to undertake. It was on the side of a mountain just behind Magnetic Hill. It was actually a cow pasture where we had to build roads, outhouses, which we baptized, Vati-cans. Gerry was the coordinator and I was to be foreman for the workers on the site. 58
We hired as many as ten students to cut brush and trees that were scattered all over the place. Did I mention that we had nine weeks to do all this in and that they were expecting 300,000 people? It was the best nine weeks I ever spent on a construction site. Our first major job was to fence off the perimeter of the site, to keep intruders out during construction. We thought it would take us a week to do it, but I worked with my team and had it fenced off in just less than four days. I kept my people well organized and motivated. We had some good laughs. Once the fence was up, we brought in the construction trailers and set up our offices inside with temporary telephone and electricity. It took another week to get all of the shrubs and trees cut, so we could mark the outlines of where the roads and where the corals were going to be. We also proceeded to cut a one-mile road through a forest as an emergency route. We dug four wells, one at each corner, so people could have drinking water. The ones at the top of the hill had to go three hundred feet down. As all this was being done, we started laying out the area where the actual mound was going to be built. This was a huge area, with a road going up and down the back in semi-circle fashion and would be big enough to park three thirty foot trailers for the pope and the bishops to use as changing rooms. The front of the mound was a waterfall made of concrete. Actually the whole mound was concrete covered with earth so we could plant grass over it. There was a tunnel under the waterfalls, where we would install these huge circulating pumps to pump water over the falls. 59
That was to be my job, the day the pope came. I would be on standby next to the mound, in case something would go wrong electrically or with the pumps. We worked long days, sometimes till way after dark, to get it ready on time. We had installed large flood lights around the mound since this was where the important stuff had to be done Sometimes it would rain and we would walk up to our ankles in mud. We also had to build thirty Canteens for the Lions Club, to serve food to all these people. Things were going as planned. As the day approached, we had to build two helicopter pads behind the mound, for emergency purposes. There were a lot of logistics involved. Everything had to be right. We set up an army tent as a hospital. We even had an ice cream truck parked nearby, in case someone passed away. Someone asked at one of the meetings, what happens if nobody dies, and one of the city councilors said: Hell, then weâ€™ll sell the ice cream. The big day finally came and we were all ready. The media tent was up and running, Waterfalls waterfalling, pumper trucks on standby to empty out the Vati-cans. Ben, two of my other assistants and I, all dressed in white coveralls supplied by the army base, were ready to answer to any emergency. We were all tired but excited to see all the people arriving by the busloads. The only problem is that, due to media hype, 270,000 people didnâ€™t come for the event but rather watched it on T.V. All that preparation, food that had been ordered to feed them, and only 30,000 showed up. 60
I mean it was still a great day and all, but it kind of put a damper on things. Everything went great. I was standing next to the entrance to the mound when the Pope Mobile drove by with this guy all in white, just like me, standing inside and waving here and there. The whole event lasted four hours. I was exhausted, and I wanted to get out of there A.S.A.P. but there were 30,000 others with the same thing in mind. I was driving our crew cab truck that we were allowed to park on site. But there was about a hundred feet left before I reached the main road. This police asked me to stop to let people walk up and out of the gates. I told him where he could go in both official languages. He then escorted me to the police trailer right next to where we were parked. I walked in with him and as I saw Boss Hog and Rosco hamming it up with other officials, I walked up to them and told them to tell this loser that escorted me in here, to get his act together and escort me out of here and onto the main road, which was just soooo close! They spoke a few words and we left. I was pissed! It took me a whole ten seconds to reach the road. I drove my co-workers home. I slept like a baby that night. The following day we went back to see what had to be done. We had to pick up and burn garbage for a week. I canâ€™t imagine the site if 300,000 people had attended. We dismantled and sold every item that could be sold, including the drums from the Vati-cans. In one week everything was cleaned and we were proud to find out that the Moncton site was the only structure across the country, which was going to remain intact, waterfalls and all, as a shrine. All other sites had been built in stadiums or dismountable structures. 61
A good feeling, even today when I am in Moncton, I visit that site. It was the first place where I fired somebody. One of the students hired to clear all the shrubs and trees from the site. One day I get to where he was supposed to be and I asked his co-workers where he and another student were. They didn’t know. I found them behind one of the trailers goofing off. He was a cocky little pest, who was s a bad influence on the other workers and that I had no use for. I told him to pack his stuff and hit the road. He told me: “ you can’t fire me, Oh ya? Read my mind!” He packed up and left. I knew about his little smoking habits that I’m sure his parents wouldn’t like to hear about. Things started going down the tubes, between Diane and I. I had stopped going to Jehovah’s Witness meetings and going from door to door. Diane was not the same. Neither was I. I guess that the togetherness and our different point of views were pushing us further apart. I tried to regain the spirit of going to meetings, but it just wasn’t me anymore. I saw too much hypocrisy when I went to meetings, that it reminded me of going to church, one of the reasons why I left the Catholic religion in the first place. When people go to these meeting places, just to see what the other one is wearing and gossip non-stop the rest of the week, was too much for me to stomach. I never returned. It put a strain on our lives and by the following year, (1985) Diane was bored in Moncton and missed her friends here in Montreal. Things were ok with Gerry and I, but I needed more money to survive. He couldn’t afford it then. That was ok. I decided to come back to Montreal, to look for work. 62
I would buy the Montreal Gazette in Moncton and send my resumes to companies in Montreal. I would leave Moncton Friday after work, drive all night and go to my interviews on Saturday, then make the long 12hour trip back, only to return home exhausted. I did that for three weeks in a row and on the third trip, I decided to stay one week at my sister Patsy’s place, on Queen Mary Rd. I went to many interviews, but nothing came of them. It was Friday already and not wanting to return home without good news, I decided to go back to 5605 to visit Henry and the boys. As soon as I walked in the front door, I started seeing people that I had done work for in the building during all those years and one said; hey Mike, good thing you’re back, I’ve got tons of work for you in my factory. I met another who told me the same thing. By the time I reached the eighth floor to see Henry, I already had a few months work lined up. I saw Henry, who told me that his wife Maisie had passed away the fall of 1984. I was saddened by the news because we had become close. More about that later. Henry asked what I was doing in town. I told him that Diane and I wanted to return to Montreal and that I was looking for work. He said; “Look no more, I need you to redo all my offices, especially my showroom.” I had mentioned to him that I had learned a lot of good carpentry skills in Moncton and he wanted to see me use them in his place. He asked me if there was anything I needed to help me get back to Montreal. I knew what he meant.
I said, well I could use some money to rent a truck and get an apartment, which I had visited the day before, just a few blocks up the street on Henri-Julien St. He said is a thousand enough? I said: “sure is” He went to his secret hiding spot and got the money. While he was gone, Stephen, his eldest son came to me and, having overheard part of the conversation told me; “Whatever dad said he would loan you, I’ll match it.” Bonus! So I left that building with two grand, went back to the apartment and paid my first month’s rent, went to Ryder truck rentals on the T-Can in Ville St. Laurent and rented this huge 27-foot truck. What a day that was! I hopped in that truck and by 4:45pm I was on the Met eastbound in rush hour traffic, driving a truck with air seats and all. In didn’t take me long to get accustomed to driving this rig, because of the experience I had picked up working on heavy machinery in Moncton. Which reminds me of that previous winter, while working on this building at Moncton Airport. I was doing the finishing touches on this Butler type building next to the maintenance hangar, which was on the other side of the tarmac. I had to be escorted back and forth as not to get in any airplanes way while crossing. The airport personnel would come and escort me back at five o’clock every day. But that day was different. It started snowing at about lunchtime and it was coming down like wow! By five o’clock a couple of feet had fallen. I packed up my tools and got into my truck, but there was no way I was getting out of there. First, too much snow and second, nobody to escort me back. 64
I was a bout a half a mile from the edge of the runway. What to do, what to do? I got the idea to go check in the maintenance hangar to see if there was a radio or something so that I could call the Air traffic controllers to get somebody over here with a plough to let me out. No radio in the trucks. Great! But wait, I said trucks! That’s right I was sitting in this big snow removal truck with a double flip down plough attached to it. Luckily the keys were in it. I just hoped they had tuned it up properly. Yep! They did. I started her up and let it warm-up a few minutes. But I then noticed that the dumper box behind the truck was empty. I knew I wouldn’t have good traction while trying to plough through this stuff, which was still coming down. I revved it up, put on my flashing dome lights, unlocked the air parking brakes, put it in first gear and made a short 50 foot path, then backed up and tried it again. This went on for at least an hour until I reached the edge of the runway, where the supervisors’ truck came up to me and he asked what the hell I was doing? I said that I wanted to go home. He thought I was one of his crew cleaning the road to the maintenance hangar. We laughed. I went back to the hangar, parked my rig, took my truck, and made a b-line for home. The next morning every worker at the airport had heard of what had happened and was laughing. They said: we’ll try not to forget you tonight, Mikee! Didn’t matter now, I knew what to do. Still, it was a thrill in itself.
So, I reached Moncton the following day, which was now Saturday afternoon. I had told Diane to book two tickets for her and Jaimie on the train, to return to Montreal. I had also called Ben and asked him to meet me at home to help me load up the truck. Ben was one of the workers I had the privilege to work with at the pope site. He was there waiting, when I arrived with the moving truck. Diane went to the train station with Jaimie. I stayed at home with Ben and Lili, who was now eight years old. They helped me pack boxes that Henry had given me from the factory, and we loaded up the truck. I gave Ben a lot of things that I couldn’t bring with me, like the lawnmower snow blower and other stuff. He was happy to have them, but sad to see me go. We said our goodbyes and Lili and I left in that monster truck. She was so excited. I stopped by Gerry’s’ house and picked up my final pay check. We said farewell then we headed north for Montreal. At about two in the morning Lili was tired, so was I and with a light snow falling, I decided it wiser to stop and sleep for a few hours at a small roadside motel, just outside Quebec City. At five we were back on the road. We finally arrived in Montreal at about three o’clock. Diane met us at the new apartment, which had just been renovated and freshly painted. We unpacked the truck. I returned it back to Ryder and picked up my car. I got home and not believing what kind of week it had been, I sat on the sofa and cried. I was happy to be back home. The next day I was back to work at 5605, but this time as my own boss. 66
That was in November 1985. It’s Saturday June 23rd. and it’s 5:52 pm. The power has been off for two hours now and it’s raining. I only have a couple of hours of natural daylight left to write, so I better hurry. I ‘m thinking back now to this day in 1977, when I got married. It wasn’t anything special. Just a simple ceremony at Palais de Justice here in Montreal with two witnesses present, Diane’s father and step-mom. After the ceremony we all went back to our apartment and had a piece of delicious wedding cake which I had prepared the day before. A three tiered layer cake, with cherry filling and white icing. I even put the couple on top. It wasn’t bad. (I always loved cherries. In St. Basile, we used to pick choke cherries, wash them in a tall glass and sprinkling salt all over them, we’d eat em’ up. The bittersweet taste was to die for. We ended up with a furry tongue after having had our fill.) We then got changed and packed my 1969 Chevy Beaumont, heading for an all-inclusive trip to LongSault, Ontario for our honeymoon, Camping. I loved camping there. We would fish, swim and sit by the waterfront. Halfway there my car broke down. I got out and always having my tools in the trunk I adjusted the points in the distributor cap and went on to have a nice weekend. The reason I bought that car was simple. One night we were returning from a ride on the West Island, my motorcycle that I had bought from Rick, stalled on the Trans-Canada, just before the exit for Cote de Liesse. We coasted on the exit ramp and checking for oncoming traffic, I headed for the curb. Suddenly I see these two cars coming straight for us, at full speed. 67
I turned to Diane and said; “See you later”. I knew for sure that this was the end. The first car swerved and just missed us. The second one, a police cruiser, missed us by inches. I pulled to the curb and by the time I had lit my second cigarette, the police car came back to see if we were ok. He then sped off in hot pursuit of the bad guys. The next day I sold the bike. Going back to life on Henri-Julien St., I worked hard to re-establish my company. I left for work early and got to 5605 at about 6 am. I would go to Georges Restaurant on the first floor, sit with him, and have my coffee. We would talk about my experiences in Moncton. Then I would go up to Henrys’ and fix up his offices and showroom. I painted, laid new tiles, and installed slot-wall boards in his showroom to display his handbags and belts. They were very impressed with my way of working with wood. One morning at George’s restaurant, I was sitting having coffee with Henry and in walks Allan. He owned Colonial Sportswear. He was a tall man, always well dressed. He would tease Henry and everyone else for that matter, about how they looked and dressed. As he walked in, he bursts out;” God is here”. I turned to him and replied: “I think you spelled that backwards Al.” He was stunned by my quick reply. Everyone else found it quite true and amusing. Expecting him to lash out at me with his sharp tongue, he sat with Henry and I and we had the best conversation ever. Wow! What a change! He was like a different person. We became good friends from that moment on. No more teasing, well, in my case anyway. 68
(The power came back on a while back, so I can transfer this to my PC now.) Things at home were getting worse. I could not invite any of my friends over because I was now part of the world and not the organization. No bad influences from the outside world. I guess only from the inside. Right? Not that I ever had many friends, now that I was working long days and evenings to make ends meet. I had purchased a second car so Diane could have one, to go do her door-to-door with her friends. I had asked her many times to go out and get a part time job so that I could spend time at home with the kids, for which she also complained. She used the excuse that since Jaimie wasn’t in school yet, she had to stay home. However, that changed the following year when Jaimie started Grade one. Then she had no excuse now, I asked her again. She refused. Then one October morning, I woke up, not only on the sofa, where I had been sleeping for months, but I mean WOKE UP!!! I asked myself;” what in the hell am I doing”? Here I am being accused of seeing another person, supposedly working late, while I have to work my butt off to meet all of her expectations, trips to Florida every year for three weeks, her own car, a comfortable home and new furniture. I asked her, whom she thought paid for all that. Not that it bothered me to give them all this, it was my responsibility and a pleasure to give them everything, but don’t accuse me of sleeping around”. I told her that I was moving out, She said;” you will never leave me”, I said;” Watch my dust”.
The following weekend I moved to Ville St. Laurent in a small but nice apartment. I had to work even harder now to pay child support, but it was worth it. This was now 1987. I had been offered a full time job at Colonial Sportswear, where I had their office-cleaning contract. Now Allan and his right hand man Jerry, asked me to join them in the summer of that year, when I had accepted to be his head shipper. It was a good paying job, which still allowed me to do all my extra jobs after hours. Most of them were at 5605 anyway. We were very busy there. I always got to work early and prepared for my day. You can get more work done in one hour with no one around, than in three with everybody buzzing around you. At night I had started playing the guitar, which I had not done in years, play a few tunes and would fall asleep. People were nice at Colonial. Everyone was saddened by my separation, but were very supportive. I didn’t let it affect my work. Matter of fact, it’s my work that saved my sanity. One day in November I’m sitting in the raised shipping office, cracking jokes with Brian and the guys, when I see walking into the sewing department, an oriental girl. She was beautiful. She went to the foreladies desk and gave her something. I hadn’t noticed her before. “She wasn’t new”, Allan told me. So where was I? On the moon probably. I asked the controller what her name was. She said it was Lina. That evening after doing the office cleaning, I checked the punch cards and saw hers. I kept an eye out for her every morning after that, noticing her walking towards her machine. Adele, the forelady told me that she was a very good worker. I wanted to know her better. 70
So at break time I would look for an excuse to go into the sewing area and check see if any lights had to be changed or something, anything. Then one day I built up enough courage to go sit with her and start a conversation. We spoke on a regular basis from then on. Then the Christmas party came along and Allan had the reputation in the building of giving his employees the nicest party, good food, and entertainment, which was true. I mingled with everyone. Then seeing Lina sitting on Santa’s lap, I approached her and asked if it was possible for us to see each other over the holidays. She gave me her phone number and I told her I would call. As it happened though I had Lili and Jaimie with me for a couple of days and then I caught this awful cold which left me with a cold sore from side of mouth to side of ear. I never called her. Well, when we came back to work on January 4th , 1988 she looked at me and gave me the coldest stare I had ever seen. I told her what had happened and apologized. She accepted. Then I gave her my number. (Should have thought of that before brainiac). Diane was starting to put on the pressure with the lawyers and all. I didn’t care; I wasn’t going back to a dead end relationship. A few weeks went by and after having a bad Friday, both at work and in my mind, I was thinking: Had I done the right thing and all. The kids were still young and they missed me a lot. I was tormented inside. I was torn from all sides. But they say “when in doubt, don’t do it” and I didn’t go back. It was that Friday afternoon and I was getting ready to leave for home, having done the office cleaning early, when the phone rang. 71
I answered and to my surprise, it was Lina. She had left early that day and wanted to know how things were. I explained that it had been a very stressful day. She was calling to invite me for dinner the following evening; I almost fell off my chair. I couldn’t believe it. Out of the blue, she made the first move. That was a first. I agreed and hung up (but not before asking for her address). I was walking on air. The stress was gone. I went home and played guitar all night. The following day came and I got ready for our date. I remember it was lightly snowing. I got to her apartment building at 1645 de Maisonneuve and parked right in front. Looks like my luck was taking a turn for the better. I went up to her place, a nice bachelor apartment. She was so neat. Everything in its’ place. She was in the small kitchenette cooking her Indonesian food. It smelled great! We sat and started eating when she offered me to try this hot spice that she would eat with her rice. I tried it and I almost called the fire department. My mouth was on fire and my eyes were tearing like crazy. What was this stuff? She laughed! I guess white man can’t eat this stuff! But I learned quickly. We spoke for hours. Then at about two in the morning we went for a walk on Ste. Catherine St. You wouldn’t believe the amount of activity on that street for this time of night. It was a mild winter night and a light dusting of snow was falling. We stopped at a small café and had coffee and desert. I then walked her back to her apartment and as I was leaving, I leaned towards her and kissed her lightly on the lips. She blushed.
When I got home I called her and thanked her again for the great evening, we talked on the phone for another two hours. We saw each other every evening after that. We would talk about her life back in Indonesia, where she was born. I asked her why she was working at Colonial, if she had her computer degree? She explained that she had arrived here in 1982 to finish her studies, as most easterners do, and having jut returned from visiting her parents for six months, she needed to work She had been sending her C.V. here and there waiting for an opportunity to work in her field, which was programming. She surprised me on my birthday by inviting me to stay the night. We decided that I should sublet my apartment a month later when she got her first job interview and offer. We moved to a bigger apartment on the 17th floor of the same building. She had finally got the job of her dreams, where she still works to this day. Back in early 1984 I had been talking with Stephen who told me that he had a vasectomy and since I did not intend to have any more children, I asked him for his doctors number. I went and had it done. It was a fifteenminute operation. Diane picked me up at the Jewish General after the procedure. I was fine. No pain. I went to the restaurant and picked up a French fry at the back counter and Edna, the waitress, asked me how things had gone. I said great! That instant while walking towards the cash to pay for my fry, YEOUCH!
I felt like somebody kicked me in the jewels. I walked out like a cowboy walking into the sunset. I laid down the rest of the day with icepacks. One day in May I asked her to marry me. I was as nervous as a school kid. She accepted. We then decided that we should go see her parents in Indonesia to ask them for her hand in marriage. We went in August that year. I had asked Lina what her father did for a living over there and she told me that he raised pigs and that when we would visit that I would probably end up eating pig guts. They put it into almost every dish, she added. So a few weeks before leaving on our trip, I went to Chinatown and ordered pig gut soup. I had the runs for a week. Life was going to be hell! Lina had asked me not to tell anyone; especially her aunts who were living here that I had been married before and especially that I had two kids. She didnâ€™t take too candidly to my daughters. They felt it also, when they came over a few times. I would then go see them alone. I should have ended it then, but I couldnâ€™t. I lost forty pounds in six months, I guess from eating rice and vegetables every day with hot spices. So when I got to Indonesia, I looked like a six foot two missionary. It was a real culture shock for me to be there amongst millions of people, not speaking the language and all. Especially the fact that everything over there is so corrupted. It was a strange experience for a little guy from New Brunswick, who had never been further than Daytona Beach, Florida. 74
It took us a day and a half to reach Jakarta, the capital. There her cousin Freda picked us up at the airport. We stayed at her house for a few days because we had missed the flight to the island of Matak, a transfer point where we then had to take a small fishing boat to reach the island of Tarempa. The next flight would only be on the following Tuesday and this was Friday morning. I was pissed! There had to be another way. Or else I wanted to come back to Montreal. We went to the air force base where her aunt’s husband was stationed, she said we could get on the Monday flight, if we had a letter from the base commander saying that I was a Canadian air force officer on official business there. So off we went to the see the base commander. It was already noon and all Muslims finished work early on Fridays. Nobody was there to type the letter for the commander to sign. I said: “I know how to use a typewriter”. I typed the letter and he signed it. We then had to give him some hush money. Gladly, if it meant that we would get there a day earlier. We finally got to the island of Tarempa, where her parents lived. What a beautiful place. There are about a thousand people living on the small island, water is crystal clear with huge tuna swimming in the ocean. Her father met us at the wharf. He was thrilled to see us. He didn’t speak any English, except for a few words like: Mike, beer? He was a nice man. Her mother was also very nice. Every morning she would make me these coconut filled pastry. I would eat them hot from the oven. 75
We then had to go register our presence at the local authorities, telling them why I was there, and paying a fee. Everything was under control from then on. All the villagers’ would look at us when we would go for a walk. It wasn’t often that white men came on the island. One day while walking in the village we passed by the barbershop where everyone would meet to talk the local gossip. I had been told by Linas’ grandfather in Montreal not to even step into that place because, what they do is, take pieces of your hair to make a voodoo doll and then god knows what can happen. I was so afraid to even look towards that shop, we walked faster until we passed it. Then one day, her father was approached by one of the village officials at his home. I wondered what was going on. When the official left, her father told us that we had been invited to a Muslim wedding reception. A rare place to find non-Muslim people like us and especially a white one at that. We went and watched the procession, where kung-fu masters walk on the street in front of the newlywed couple. Their role is to ward off any evil spirits that may be on the road to their new home. They were to live in the bride’s fathers home, until their own home was built. Sitting and watching the proceedings inside the house, I could see the bullet holes that were still in parts of the walls, caused by the Japanese invasion during the Second World War. I think people took more pictures of me than of the bride and groom.It was a very nice ceremony.We would go for walks up the mountainside to her grandfathers’ gravesite. The view was awesome. 76
Lush trees and vegetation, which I had never seen before. You could see the ocean in the background, truly breathtaking. The first night we were there, her mother prepared a feast for supper. Not to make it look too obvious, I checked every morsel of food for bits of pig guts. I then asked her father where he kept his pigs and if he could show them to me the following morning. By the way, at least ten people were invited to supper that night. Lina interpreted for me. Having told her father what I had just asked, the whole room exploded with laughter. He said: “I don’t raise pigs, I make tofu”. What??? I ate pig gut soup and suffered cramps, like a pregnant woman, only to find out that he makes tofu?? I gave Lina the dirtiest look I could find. I had to laugh, ha ha ha, what can I say, she was full of surprises. The two weeks went by fast and we headed back to Montreal. Happy to be home. Then months went by and in March 1989, my divorce with Diane was getting close. Just a few minor details to iron out and in April it was official. Finally. But in the interim, about three months earlier, Lina had told me in a conversation that we had, about her wanting to have kids of her own one day. Gulp! Hadn’t I mentioned to her about having my vasectomy five years earlier? Must have slipped my mind. Well the next day I was at the urologists’ office asking him if there was a way to reverse it? There was, he told me, but the fact that I had it done five years earlier, he wouldn’t comment on my chances of success. He agreed to do it anyway. That night, I told Lina about everything that had happened. She was a little stunned. 77
Then I started telling her that if it didn’t work, I could always ask Rick to donate sperm and we could go the route of artificial insemination. (Rick, I said ATM, not direct deposit). She agreed to my back-up plan. So in February, I was admitted to the Jewish General Hospital for my two-hour operation, which was performed under microscope. There was my urologist and a plastic surgeon present to do the actual cutting and sewing. There was also this little Chinese nurse that had been present at my vasectomy. I woke up later that afternoon. Everything had gone well. My doctor had given me specific instructions not to force anything and not to have any relations for ten weeks. What? That first weekend, wanting to try out my new toy, we did, and a month later she was pregnant with Corey. I went by the office of the plastic surgeon that had performed the operation, and gave him the great news! He was amazed! He told me: “ I bet you I was cutting you up and the sperm were yelling: ““we’re free, we’re free””. We both had a good laugh and I left to go tell everybody I knew. We had to wait thirty days after the proclamation of divorce for me to be able to remarry, so we made plans to go to St. Albans, Vermont, to be married, since the Palais de Justice couldn’t perform it before June or July. One of her bosses had told her that he had been married there so he gave us the phone number of city hall. We called and made plans to go on May 19th, 1989. We had brought two witnesses with us. Ina and Terence. They were our best friends, also from Indonesia. They were here to finish their studies. 78
Then on December 19th Corey was born. He was a little gem to look at. Such a good boy. We brought him back to our new home, which was now a two-bedroom condo on St. Jacques St. near Des Seigneurs St. We had purchased it that fall, since the apartment would have been too small for the three of us. It was on the terrace level. Very nice. Then the following year Linas’ older sister Lia came to Canada and we offered her to stay with us a while. She would baby-sit Corey while we were at work. Things were fine for a while. Then in 1991 Maddie was born. What a sweet girl. Big brown eyes, almost black, tons of hair and quite a character. The condo was starting to get crowded and most of all, Lia was becoming a problem between Lina and me. I wasn’t the father anymore. Lia took the decisions. Whenever I told the kids it was bedtime or some thing of that nature she would pick them up and move them away from me. Woe! Lina and I had many discussions about it and she always favoured her sisters’ side. Then one night going to the bedroom to discuss the same re-occurring nightmare about her sisters’ obsession with my kids, we started talking behind our now closed bedroom door. We argued and I told her; “Either she goes, or I go” Lina told me I should go. So I did. I moved in with my sister Patsy, who was now living on Victoria Ave. in N.D.G. I told Pat it was only for a short while since I was going to look for work in Ottawa. I was working with Paul then. 79
I had built him some machinery for dyeing and bleaching lace material. I had become his head dyer. Then he got busy and hired a full time chemist to analyze and dye his lace and elastics, which he manufactured on site. I had met Paul and his wife Gail, back in December. I had done some work in the building for Henry and finishing up I was sitting at Stephens’ desk using his phone, when in walked Gail. She asked Henry if he knew of a good plumber to hook-up a piece of machinery for her husband. Henry pointed to me in the office and that’s how it all started with Mimi Lace. I went to see how complicated of a job it was to install her piece of machinery. It was just a simple water and drain connection with a little electricity to run. I told her I’d go out and buy the things I needed and would return shortly. When I returned, Gail introduced me to her husband Paul, who I had seen a few times in the parking lot. I finished the job in no time. I asked what he wanted to do with this hot dog steamer that I was installing. He told me it was to remove material that the lace was embroidered on. It would only melt in boiling water. He would then be able to bleach the lace and eventually he thought of being able to dye it in different shades for his customers. At this moment he said: “I have these big corn boiling pots to which I can only do a few hundred yards of lace at a time. It was one of his dreams to eventually open a dye house.
I was curious of how this was going to be done. So the following day I came and watched how he was getting along with his new toy. He had already started a batch of goods inside the covered apparatus. I opened the cover and it was full of water and this lace material. He stirred it occasionally with a stick. But it would take hours for this thing to reach the boiling point with all this material inside and especially with the 500 watts heating element that was at the bottom of this thing, trying to heat as fast as it could. We continued talking further until it came to a boil, which took about three hours. Once the material had melted, he drained the steamer and rinsed it with hot water a few times. How did he make it dry? By hanging the lace material on 2x4s, which would take all night to dry. Then the following morning he took the lace, which was all attached together by small strands of threads and put it on a long table where a girl working there would cut all the small threads to separate the 15 yards of embroidered lace. One sheet would have as many as thirty or forty 15-yard strands of lace. What a procedure! “There had to be an easier way”, I told him. He said: “ If you can think of something, you can have a good job here.” I looked around the area we were in and, noticing these perforated stainless steel tubes that a friend had given him, I told him that he could use this to wrap the lace around, then installing a circulating pump to the steamer and also bigger heating elements, he could circulate the boiling water through the material.
What about the drying of this tube? he asked. Well, since we came this far in this experimental marvel, why not build a dryer that would push hot air into the tube and dry the lace. This would serve two purposes; one to dry the lace and second to keep the lace from shrinking and helping it stay its original shape with no ironing, which the girl had to do now. He asked me to build it. I had a full time job at Mimi Lace. More to come from Mimi, Pratt & Whitney, Brisk Corp., Capadco and more, so stay tuned. It took me a couple of weeks to get the machine built, but it was now ready for the first test run. It worked well, but, not to my liking. There wasnâ€™t enough water circulation. So I installed a second pump twice the size and that did it. Paul was amazed by what had been accomplished, in just a short time. He then wanted to try a batch of dyes, which had been given to him by a friend. We took some old lace to make the test. It was good on the outside of the tube but the middle was still much lighter, which meant a lack of circulation. I bought another identical pump as the first and installed it in the opposite flow direction. Then adding a timer I could control the time each pump would work. We put them to alternate the direction of flow for ten minutes in each direction. It was perfect!!! Paul still wanted to see how we were going to be able to dry this tube, covered with lace. I phoned around, looking for a blower like they use in the car washes to dry off your car. I found one, made a rack to hold the tube in place. This air pump would generate 10 H.P. of pure blowing power. 82
We took a tube that had about 500 yards of material and having bleached it, we screwed into place on the dryer. When we turned the blower on, water was flying everywhere! It was so powerful. It took a few hours to dry the entire tube of goods. Mission accomplished! He was now in the dyeing business. In about six months the dyeing department doubled and Paul wanted me to build a second, bigger model of both dyeing machine and dryer. I ordered all the parts and put it together. We were getting so busy; we had to hire extra people to keep up with production. I developed procedures to cut and roll the lace before it was bleached. I was going out with Luce, a nineteen-year-old girl then and she didnâ€™t mind moving either. Luce and I had met at Mimi, she was a great worker. Always impressing Paul and I in her methods of working. She really had a good notion of what we wanted to do and was always on top of everything, giving her point of view and often coming up with new ways of accomplishing what we were aiming for, fast production. She was having problems with her then boyfriend, whom she was sharing an apartment with in Montreal North. I found her interesting, quiet, but very smart. She was a beautiful girl. I offered to help her out, not wanting her to be miserable with someone who did not want to take care of her the way a woman should be taken care of. Why do I see the pattern repeating? One day she had enough of her loser boyfriend and decided to move out. I went with her one night after work and picked up her things. 83
I brought them to her parents place in St. Calixte. I still remember going there the first time a few weeks earlier. You see her mother and her boyfriend worked for a company that embroidered the 15 yard long lace that we would melt and bleach. She wanted me to visit her there one weekend, so I thought why not. They met us in the village and Luce got into my car and we followed them to their house. A beautiful “A” shaped cottage near the lake. We went in and we had supper and some good laughs with her brother Pierre and Andre, her mother’s boyfriend. We became good friends. Luce had a sister Nathalie, who was married to a guy named Richard. He was so funny, you know the happy go-lucky guy with a million inventions in his head. They had a daughter Isabelle and then had a son they named Jonathan. They were a nice couple we used to go visit quite often. Back to St. Calixte. We went out for a walk and slowly got to know each other in a different environment. I left that night and she asked if I’d come back the next day. I couldn’t resist. The following day, I brought my camera and while out for a walk, I took pictures of Luce and she seemed happy that I was there We had a great day together. We would talk and sit with her grandparents that had come over for the afternoon. They were such nice people and they didn’t even bat an eyelash at our age difference. That was comforting, I mean the fact that we didn’t have to lie to anyone about anything. We would also enjoy going on long drives and just enjoy the scenery. I remember our trip to Quebec City. We walked on the Plains and went for breakfast in this little restaurant in the Old city and had the best breakfast ever, french toast with a raspberry sauce. 84
We had a great time there. A few weeks later, I bought tickets to go see the Phantom of the Opera in Ottawa and asked if she would come with me. She was ecstatic. She loved music, the opera. It was on a Friday night and I knew that we would have to sleep over and she felt comfortable with that. We had already slept in the same room together before and nothing had happened and she felt safe with me. We headed for Ottawa after work that Friday. We couldn’t wait to get there. We arrived at the hotel and checked in. Went upstairs to change into our gala clothing as we called it. She was so pretty in her black dress, wow! I had never seen her this way before. I could get used to this. We drove to the National Art Centre to see the play and then headed back to the hotel for a few drinks in the lounge and talked and looked at each other with goo-goo eyes.Wo! What a great evening. The opera was amazing. It was both our first time at an opera and we were just like kids, at awe to everything that was going on. We both loved music too. She initiated me to Celine Dion back then. She wanted to learn how to play guitar, so I gave her lessons. She was still young and impatient, but still cute to see her give up so easily when she couldn’t play as fast or as clearly as I could. I asked her never to give up. She kept it up until she could play perfectly. As we left Ottawa the next afternoon after visiting the sites and having a great time, I turned and told her: “Wouldn’t it be nice to live here in Ottawa?”, not knowing what was going to happen about a month later. Now back to Mimi in Montreal.
Then, when he hired the full time dyer. I could see my days were numbered and I decided to move to Ottawa. Anything to get away from all the things happening in Montreal. I applied for some jobs and one day I got a letter from this high class building in Ottawa looking for a stationary engineer, to care for their boilers and air conditioning unit. We left, Luce and I for the interview on a Saturday morning. Halfway there, we were caught in the middle of a huge snowstorm. We made it just in time for the interview. I met the man, who was a lawyer and he had many other buildings. He was a nervous type of guy and this bothered me a bit. We visited the apartment building. I told him how much money I was looking for and we agreed that I could start in two weeks. It seemed all too unreal, but I went for it anyway. We would have an apartment on the first floor. There was also an indoor Olympic size swimming pool and spa. I came back to Montreal and packed for the move, rented a truck and in two weeks, started at my new position. The superintendent and the other maintenance people there werenâ€™t too keen on having a guy from Quebec there to do the work. Tuff! We ended up getting along when they saw that I could do more than look after the boilers and A.C. They grew to respect my opinion. They started opening up about the owner being cheap, when it came to purchasing items that they needed for regular maintenance in the building. I also found out from tenants, that since he had purchased the building, two years earlier, conditions had been going from bad to worse. Sometimes the electricity would get cut off because he wouldnâ€™t pay the bills etcâ€Ś 86
What had I gotten myself into this time? Whenever I would ask for something I would get it, the owner would always say: “You’re the expert!” Something fishy was happening here and I wanted to get to the bottom of it. My work was always done on time, but the super and his crew always complained that they didn’t have the parts needed to do their work. One day while looking for something in one of the storage rooms, I found boxes scattered here and there and inside were all the parts they needed, and more. I approached the owner and mentioned this to him. He told me that the super and his boys were a lazy bunch, who didn’t want to work. He then asked me if I would be ready to become the super and engineer at the same time, a raise would be in store, he added. I agreed. I would then be in charge of those lazy bums. The first thing I did when I got promoted was have all the maintenance people do a major clean-up of all the storage rooms that they had created and take an inventory of all spare parts from toilet kits to washers. They would all be stored behind my office, locked. Whenever someone needed something, they would fill out a request form, marking precisely for which apartment it was for. This way I could show the owner where things were going, and I wouldn’t be ordering parts I didn’t need. It covered our butts. Then one day, I spoke to the owner about my raise and that the apartment I was in was too noisy and the guy next door was a little bit nuts. He was mentally disturbed with a violent attitude. So why was he here?
This person needed serious professional attention and I saw to it that he would receive it. I made a few calls and they came and put him in an institution, where he belonged. Luce and I asked to move to a better apartment that had become available on the fifth floor. It was bright, sunny and especially quiet, which is what we needed right now. At night I would bring my guitar in the swimming pool area and would play for hours, taking advantage of the amazing acoustics of the sound bouncing off the roof and then back on the water. Quite special. Luce always had lunch ready for me and we would talk about things going on in the building. She would spend time in the lobby talking to her judge friend. She was friendly and open with all the tenants. Kind of my ear and eyes to all that was happening in the building. She was special that way, and in many other ways too. Although she was sometimes impatient in her own capabilities, she was always patient with me, although she had reason to be, my being under constant stressful situations being thrown at me from all directions. The owner said that it was going to be hard for him to raise my salary at this time. Woe! I told him I was leaving that instant. No more bull! He started stuttering more than I did. He said he would look into it. Weeks went by and no answer. Worse, whenever he would come around and he would notice me from afar he would run off saying he was late for court or something.
The next time I had to order chemicals for the swimming pool, I got an earful from the company that sold it to us that if the bills for the last six months weren’t paid in full, that we wouldn’t be getting any. It turned out most of our suppliers hadn’t been receiving their money either. We had to close the swimming pool two days later for health reasons. My next paycheck bounced and that’s when it hit me, this guy was milking these buildings to buy other real estate. My hunch was confirmed one day when a judge living in the building told me that he, (the owner) was in serious debt. Not wanting to leave all these seniors in a lurch, I decided to stay and work out a plan with the tenants association, to getting this guy out. We would have meetings and would discuss the best way to do this. We decided to approach the rental board and have them seize the building because it was becoming a dangerous place to live., and that the tenants were not getting the goods and services outlined in their lease. They did. I could finally leave. I decided to come back to Montreal. They thanked me for my help and asked if I would be a witness at the hearing. “I wouldn’t want to miss it for the world”, I said. I had already answered a few ads in the Gazette. This chemical company wanted to interview me to become their head service technician back in Montreal. We met and I got the job. Time to move back! We moved on Paris St. in Montreal North. It was a small apartment in a semi basement. Luce’s aunt owned it. I started working for Brisk the week after.
My supervisorâ€™s name was Marcel. He was an easy going kind of guy who never rushed to do anything, he would always plan things out in advance, hey, I could learn from this man! He had also been born in a small town called Degelis near Edmundston, but still on the Quebec side. The companies main income was generated by Government contracts to sell and maintain chemicals and dispensing equipment for the laundry and kitchen equipment such as dishwashers and washing machines, but I mean big equipment. We had to supply, install, and maintain the equipment that would pump these chemicals into the machines at their predetermined time. This was an easy job. I spent a lot of time on the road traveling, about fifty thousand kilometres the first year. I would be in charge of regular maintenance and emergency calls to the Federal Penitentiaries, and military bases in Quebec. I also did the Douglas Hospitalsâ€™ eight kitchens and two laundry facilities. I still remember the first time I had to go to a Pen. It was at the Holiday Inn Cowansville, one week after a prison riot had erupted. Great! We went behind the prison walls with our vehicle, Marcel and I, and it was searched from top to bottom and inside out. We were then escorted to the main entrance where guards went through my toolbox, to count the amount of tools I had inside. I had to leave the facility with the same amount or else they would put everyone in lock-up, until they found what was missing.
They told me that when I would work on the machinery, inmates would also be present so, “you take out one tool at a time, lock your toolbox, unlock it to put it back in etc… Never leave any tool unattended because either you will end up with it in your back or we will.” I got the message. Marcel and I walked through the first door and it was locked behind us. What a terrifying sound it made. As we walked towards the kitchen area, I saw my first inmates, enclosed inside these re-enforced walls, and I couldn’t but help noticing the emptiness in their eyes. As if they were dead. I guess in a way they were. But these guys weren’t altar boys either. I had to put things into perspective here. We approached the kitchens, where we met the prison official in charge of that department. He invited Marcel for a coffee. As Marcel and I followed behind the official, Marcel gave me the elbow and told me that the dish machine was that way. In other words, get to work. But, But? I turned the other way and went towards the carousel type dishwasher that was there, behind closed doors. I walked in and having been told not to start any useless conversations with the inmates, I just nodded my head to the first one I saw working on the machine. They were finishing up the morning dishes and I had to wait a few minutes before I could empty the machine and do my regular maintenance. This place was spotless, and I also noticed that our equipment was locked inside stainless steel cabinets, to prevent the inmates from taking parts from it to make weapons. I did all my work quite quickly and returned to the cafeteria where I saw Marcel finishing his coffee. 91
He looked at me and gave me a grin. I knew what he meant. He wasn’t going to be following me around from job to job. He wanted me to get the feel for this. I nodded. We went through the same procedure on the way out and having gone through our last door to freedom, the sound that the door made was the nicest I had ever heard. Quite an experience. It was a breeze after that, at all the Holiday Inns I serviced. The most troubling place I had to go to was the Douglas Hospital. People’s screams, others banging their heads on the walls repeatedly, and the looks on their faces were devastating. Here again, certain wards were locked, so patients could not leave, for their own protection. Having lunch one day with a pen pal at a minimum-security prison, he was complaining about his being locked up for three years. I told him frankly, that he knew why he was inside, and that some people are locked up in mental institutions for life, for something they didn’t do. He shouldn’t complain so openly next time. He agreed with me and we finished our lunch. I also did a lot of service calls at local restaurant chains, hotels (real ones) in the downtown area and in Old Montreal. I would do my maintenance but also noticing that they were low on chemicals. I suggested that they order soon. They would give me the order and I would mark it on my work order and hand it back at the office. It didn’t take long for the sales manager to notice that I was getting as many orders as his regular salespeople. He and the owner called me for a meeting one morning at Murray’s restaurant in T.M.R. 92
They asked if I would like to be there salesman for the western part of Montreal. It would pay better than the service job I had. I agreed. They gave a small course on all the products they sold, and then two weeks later I was on the road with a different company car. All this happened in the matter of three months. Then one salesman left and they asked if I would look after his territory also, which was the east side of Montreal. Then three months later, I was given the whole cake. My territory was now from Sorel to Cornwall, Ont. I guess they were saving money by letting me do it this way. OK, I made good money but the hours and traveling were taking their toll. I was burned out. I told them to start hiring some sales people. They hired one guy to help. Then one day the sales manager asked me to accompany him to Ottawa to go see some problems we were having at one of the hospitals. We had one salesman left in Ottawa and he couldnâ€™t do too much maintenance. Things were lacking. We arrived and I resolved most of the problems. The next day, back in Montreal, the owner and I had another meeting at the restaurant and he asked if I would go to Ottawa and help there. What? Move again? I did and we moved to Hull, or Hell, as I would come to call it. We moved into the Mont Bleu area. The apartment was nice, but the guy next door was unreal. Everyday when he returned from work, he played Achy Breaky Heart for one hour, full blast. I grew to hate that song. I wanted to do a number on his achy breaky stereo!
Luce was very supportive through all this. I guess I just never realized it. She decided to take an accounting course. At least she got out and did something with her time. Things went well for six months then things were starting to heat up at work .I was already paying two different child supports. Lina decides to have my salary seized at work. Times were really tight, but we always managed. Luce and I would travel back to St. Calixte every weekend or every second weekend, just to get away from the hustle and bustle. It was a great drive on the 158 by the north shore. We would stop at roadside flea markets and buy nick-knacks. We had such a simple life, I don’t know why I didn’t stay with her? We would have been better off, but then Jesse would not have been born. Six months went by and the salesman working in Ottawa quit. I told the head office that I needed help up here because I was devoting too much time to service calls and not enough on sales, which is what they demanded. The sales manager came up to visit one day and told me they were going to run the Ottawa office from Montreal and that if I wanted, I could go back to doing only service calls in Montreal, since they had filled all the sales positions there. I said no.So they terminated me on the spot and he left with the company car. Here I was in Hell, with no car and six months left on my apartments’ lease, listening to achy breaky heart. I had just sold my old car to Luce’s brother. What to do? What to do?
What else could I do? I had to work and get out of this rut. I took the bus for Montreal and went to work for Jack. Who’s’ Jack you may ask? Jack is one of the nicest people you could ever meet. A wise and kind man. He takes after his dad. I had met Jack back in 1981 at 5605. He owned a men’s’ coat factory and I used to do his office cleaning. A guy called Bobby worked for him as his cutter. Bob and I used to hang around together. Although he was a colored person, I wasn’t prejudice. My sisters had married men from Somalia, Haiti, and Africa. We got along, that’s all that mattered. We once spent a day at LaRonde with Lili and Jaimie. The kids remember that day like it was yesterday. We had a super time. Then, one day Jack had to move to another building down the street, because he was getting really busy. We rented a truck and four of Bob’s friends helped me to move him. Our first trip down the street was hilarious. We were five people in the front seat of this truck, four colored guys, and me. One of them said that this looked weird. I looked at them all and said;” Ya! I’m the only one wearing glasses.” They burst out laughing! Seeing very well what I meant. The move went great. I continued doing his office cleaning for years after that, always staying in touch. Then one day he called me in and had me look at a piece of machinery he had just bought from someone in the States. He said it was a foam-cutting machine to cut shoulder pads. The person he had bought it from made these in his home. It came with a small home video on how to operate it, but it was very vague. Jack asked if I could study it and see how it worked. Sure thing! 95
It didnâ€™t take me long to learn itsâ€™ functions and we made our first samples to show potential customers. Shoulder pads were in style back then. From thin ones to one-inch thick pads. A few months later, Jack closed his jacket factory and moved to open his shoulder pad factory. He is still in that building today, having been very successful. He has a wife, Fay, and two children, Ari and Jennifer. Nice family to be associated with. I set up his new factory with lights, compressor, and the new machines he had purchased to make different types of pads. I made samples and Bobby would cover them, using tricot material on an over-lock machine. Jack is the one who showed me what time meant and how long two minutes can really be. He gave us a demonstration one day in a production meeting, about employees not having anything to do for two or three minutes. He made us sit there, quiet, and timed off the two minutes. It seamed like an eternity. Try it. He wanted to make the point that we should make sure that the employees had enough work in front of them so as not to stop and hold up production. A very good point! You can do a lot in two minutes. A couple of years went by and Jack decided to purchase machinery from this other company in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. It was machinery to sew; bias and slit canvas material or any fabric for that matter. Bobby and I would have to travel there one winter morning, to see and learn how the machines worked. 96
We left at four in the morning because it was an eight-hour drive. Once we hit the Adirondack Mountains, we hit a blizzard. Bobby wanted to drive the first leg of our trip and being a bit nervous driving in this stuff. I reassured him that everything would be ok and that we could still see the road as long as he didn’t use the high beams. So what does he do, turns on the high beams. All we saw was a white wall in front of us, I screamed out, NOT NOW! We talked about that moment for years. He drove for two hours and I drove the rest of the way. We saw the machinery and decided to stay overnight. We had a great time at the Pocono’s Ramada Inn. We had a nice room and decided to try out the pool before going for dinner. We had bought a bottle of tequila and mixed it with orange juice, we had a few and went to eat. He ordered some exotic steak meal and I ordered swordfish. It was delicious, but by the time I returned to the hotel room, my heart was beating out of my chest. I thought it must have been the mixture of tequila and swordfish. This went on for hours and, having had this kind of feeling in my chest before, I didn’t pay any attention to it. (More later) We had good nights sleep, Bobby did anyway, cause he snored like a freight train and I could tell that he enjoyed that steak supper also. The next day Bobby decided he wants to go horseback riding in the Pocono Mountains. He went and I stayed and played mini putt, indoors. We left at about ten am and got home safely at six that evening. This was back in 1992. 97
So Jack and I had known each other a long time when I had returned to Montreal from Hell. He told me that I would always have work with his company, no matter what. I thanked him for those kind words. I would work for a week at his factory and go back to Hull on weekends to try and sublet the apartment. Jack never knew (until now) that I was sleeping on the office sofa and that I had brought change of clothing. After two weeks I succeeded in finding a car. I then had to work for another week and while I was here in Montreal, I searched for another apartment to move to. I rented a place in an upper duplex on Rome ave in Montreal North. I bought a washer/ dryer and installed it in the apartment before moving in. I had caught another good Dvfffff while installing it. They had mis-wired the dryer outlet. I had saved up enough money to buy a car. It was a 1978 Buick Skylark in great condition. Crushed velvet blue seats and all. A nice little middle aged Italian man had it and he had taken care of it like a baby. I picked it up for twenty five hundred dollars. At least now, I had wheels. I borrowed Jackâ€™s company truck, went to Hell for the last time, and picked up our things. Luce had just finished her courses in time. When we came back, she went to the factory where her mom worked and they gave her a job in the office. Finally things where back on track. Well sort of. Two weeks after we had moved which was in November, I woke up early to go to work. I got dressed and went to my car, and there it was, gone. Tools and all.
I thought that maybe I had parked it further down the street. It wasn’t there either. I went back to the apartment and called the police and they came and took a full report. I didn’t care if they had stolen the car; it was all the tools inside. I had stuff in there from a long way back. Special tools, a portable arc welding machine, electrical testers, tools that were very expensive and I knew the insurance would not pay for the replacement of all my tools. I sat down and that’s when my heart started pounding out of my chest again, but this time it was different. I went to the Royal Victoria Hospital where they had a chart on my re-occurring condition. The head cardiologist saw me and asked all kinds of questions. He said that I had arrhythmia, probably brought on by the stress and the events of the morning. I knew what I had. But what do I do now? He gave me Lanoxin tablets to take for a few months. I only took them twice because I didn’t like the side effects. I also knew that it wasn’t caused by stress. (More later.) I mean it wasn’t the first stressful day that I had endured, you know what I mean? I had just finished moving for the fifth time in two years. If this was the case, I should have been dead and buried by now. Things weren’t the same after that. I had called Lina about my heart condition. Don’t ask why? We hadn’t spoken in nearly nine months. She told me that her mom and sister were in town from Indonesia. I missed the kids so much and felt guilty about everything that had happened to me. 99
I couldn’t explain everything to Luce because it would have broken her heart even more. After all we had been together almost two and a half years. So I panicked and wanted to end it with her. Luce and I broke up a week later. She was devastated because I never really explained my reason for breaking up. She moved in with her aunt who lived a few streets over on Paris St. I needed to be alone for a while. That last trip to the hospital woke me up a bit. I would spend long nights in the apartment, having doubts about my leaving. I missed the kids. Our divorce still hadn’t gone through and things were dragging on. I’m sorry Luce for not explaining why I had to leave. Forgive me. I called Lina one day at work and told her that I needed to talk to her. We met that night at the pizza place down the street from the condo. She sat and told me” You wanted to talk, so talk”. Expecting me to start talking about the child support payments or something, I came out and told her: “I want us to get back together, at least for the kids sake.” She almost fell off her chair. There was a moment of silence, and then she answered: “ I’ll think about it”. That’s all I needed to hear. We enjoyed our pizza and I drove her home, in the car that I had just bought, a 1988 Chevy Celebrity. She had learned to drive and had bought herself a new car, but she only used it to go shopping since she could walk to work. We saw each other almost every day after that. She still didn’t want her mother to know that we had a chance of getting back together, and I still can’t figure out why. 100
You would think that her mom would be happy for us, especially the kids. In addition, I didnâ€™t want the kids to go through what Lili and Jaimie went through after my divorce with Diane. I finally convinced her to tell her mother and she did. One day I went to the condo and her mom, Lili and Lia were all there. Corey and Maddie were so happy to see me back home for the first time in a few years. Lia gave me the cold shoulder and started mumbling something in Indonesian as she walked away with the kids towards the back bedroom. I said: hey I came here to see the kids too! Then an argument broke out, again. But this time the outcome was different. Her mother stepped in and, having seen how Lia was treating me, she told her that I had been right and that Lia should find another place to stay. I was shocked! This was around Christmas time. Here is a copy of something I had written back then and had saved on diskette. January 18,1994 7:25 pm Picked up Corey and Maddie at Day care this afternoon and they were ecstatic at seeing me there. They were so proud to introduce me to all their friends and teachers. Maddie actually ran towards me and jumped into my arms. It felt so good. Thanks Maddie. Corey is so funny in his honest little way. When he came into my car this afternoon for the first time he says, " Hey dad your car looks like a taxi". What a guy, just like his old man.
You're right Lan, he does talk like a mature young man. We'll have some great conversations him and I. I hope Maddie doesn't feel left out in all of this. She's so beautiful and sweet. I love them both so much. I can't wait for tomorrow to pick them up and bring them home. It gives me something to look forward to and it feels so rewarding to know that they look forward to seeing me too. I guess it's only normal. Well we can't change the past but we can surely do something about the present and the future. I'm really happy we can work things out this way Lina. They deserve the best and I know we can give it to them. I just hope you are happy also. I'm sorry for the pain and the sorrow, I'll make it up to you one way or another. I promise. Just talking with you is a great comfort to me. Lets not ever stop talking, O.K.? I'll go practise my guitar now and I'll write tomorrow. See you, Mick. January 22, 1994 10:51 pm Had a super day with Lina Corey and Maddie today. We all went out and bought Corey his first pair of skates and a hockey stick. Boy was he ever happy. When we went back home, he fell asleep beside me in bed with his hockey stick and puck. He told me he loved me very much. It was so touching. Maddie was great and finally opened up after I drew her some pictures from the Beauty and the Beast book that she had. I finally found a common point with her. 102
After that she was fine for the whole day getting close to me and being herself. She's such a good girl; Corey is the son every father hopes to have, always telling you exactly how he feels. That's what I love and enjoy about them, itâ€™s that they have so much feeling, and they express them often. We couldn't ask for better Lina. Now back to last night. We had a great evening Lina and I. We talked for about five and a half hours about everything without holding anything back. That really makes our present relationship special. It always was special, but now it's the best and it's only the beginning. We plan on building the kids trundle beds for their room. We saw the exact wood that Lina wanted at Brico, and this week I'll go there and order it and have it cut so we can assemble it next Saturday. That's what we need right now, to make plans and carry them out all the way. It can only make us stronger and help us rebuild that trust and reassurance in one another, especially her in me. We can really tell each other anything and we won't get upset over it. I really enjoyed my evening too Lan. You have changed, and I love the results. Let's keep going in this direction and everything else will fall in place. I saw your Mother today and I was ready both mentally and physically for anything that might have happened. I just said Hi Momma. And she looked towards me and acknowledged it. I guess that's all I could hope for. I love you Lina and I'll prove my love to you one day at a time and this without any conditions. I have to get some rest now so I can be in shape for tomorrow, when I see you again. I just can't get enough time with you all. See you then. Goodnight. Mick. (Dad) 103
I finished up my lease on Rome Ave. and in July moved back to the condo. Things were going well. Paul at Mimi Lace was in desperate need of my services and he sent someone to find out where I was. He finally traced me back to the condo. He called one evening and asked me where I had been? I told him briefly what had gone on in the last couple of years. He asked me where I was working and, if we could meet the following day. I told him I had gone back to Jack’s and that I could meet him after work the following day. This was in December 1994. We met the following day and he told me that his elastic and dyeing departments were really busy and that he will be moving in March because his lease at 5605 was ending and he didn’t want to renew. He was looking to buy a building and he had seen a few and wanted me to come back and work for him, to organize the move and all. He made me a generous offer, which I couldn’t refuse. I left Jacks’ assuring him that I would still be available anytime after hours to come over and do his maintenance. Things had quieted down for him in the factory and, not wanting to be a burden on Jack because he was also paying me well, I decided it was better this way. I had trained some employees to operate, adjust the machines and I felt confident that they would do well. Some of my other jobs were very interesting, such as the stationary engineer position that I had at Pratt Whitney in south shore St. Hubert. It was on the site next to St. Hubert airport. 104
Airplanes had always fascinated me and now I had received the contract to replace an injured worker for eight months. This was back in 1989. It was in their maintenance plant, where engines from around the world came to be repaired. This place was huge, at least six hundred employees working 24 hours a day. They had welding departments, Chrome, and titanium plating departments, etc. They had a huge hangar where they would store Lear Jets and a Boeing 747 to run the test engines that they were building. They had test cells where they would test the helicopter engines which had come back for maintenance or for upgrades. These engines would be bolted to the floor and ceiling and run for hours to test for any variances in their performance specifications. It was awesome to see and hear the power these engines had. I was in charge of the A.C. ventilation, compressors, and four steam generators. It was an easy job. About three months after I started there, I had familiarized myself with all the hidden spots where machinery was and, fitting in with the unionized workers, an occasion arose where I could be helpful. The city of St. Hubert was replacing the water mains on the street passing in front of the plant. As they approached the plant one day they accidentally hit our water main and it broke. I remember I was on one of my routine walks back from inspecting equipment at the test cells, which were at the farthest point from the plant, and walking through the maintenance hangar.
When I passed the maintenance office where the plants fire & safety chief, Wayne and plant maintenance manager Rick were all in a frenzy about what had just happened. What had just happened, I asked? Wayne told me about how the city had busted the water main and the plant would have to shut down since there was no water for the boilers, compressors, and washrooms.. That’s when I got my bright idea. As I said before, having had time to sit in the boiler room and study the building plans, I noted to him that we we’re OK! What do you mean OK? Wayne asked. We have to shut down the plant for god knows how long, lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in parts that are sitting in chrome plating baths and all that and you say: we’re OK? I said hang on!: They didn’t break the sprinkler main did they? He said no. So? Well I said: “what if we were to run four inch fire hoses from the fire hydrants in front of the plant all the way up to the boiler room, we could get the boilers going, so we would save the parts in the plating department”? Then we could tap into the boiler room pipes that pass down to the compressor rooms below and feed them with water to cool down the compressors, we’d have air, then we could by-pass the main valve leading to the broken area and run a last one to feed water to the washrooms. Your safety issue is covered, right?” The room went silent. He then said we don’t do the bathrooms; we can rent portables for that, and get bottled water for drinking. 106
In a split second, everybody got on the phones and started calling the different department heads telling them not to let the employees leave yet cause the plant would be back in operation soon. We took all the plumbers, electricians and millwrights we had on duty and headed for the extra fire hoses that had just arrived from the city. We unrolled all the hoses needed out all over the front of the building leading to the boiler room and started cutting holes in walls, pipes and started connecting them to all the apparatus that needed water to work. It took two hours and the plant was back in full operation. The boilers hadnâ€™t had time to cool off. Not all employees were happy. They thought they would get a few days off. Tough! I had an idea and they went with it. I was later called into the Plant Managers office and thanked for the great job done that day. It took the city three weeks to change the water main. I liked working there but the only thing that bothered me were union rules. I wasnâ€™t in the union because I was just contracting. I didnâ€™t want to be in the union anyway, since most of the workers become so lazy that it was sickening. In the summer months if the humidity level would rise above a certain percentage point, all employees working in the plant were allowed fifteen minutes break, per hour. Multiply that by six hundred and then by an average of twenty dollars an hour and you end up with having lost three thousand dollars every break period. On an eight-hour shift that was twenty four thousand dollars of wasted money. No wonder it cost so much to get your jet engine repaired! 107
My last attempt at having a full time job was in 1999 with Canpro. Mr. A owned this company, which had properties all over the world, including Decarie Square. I was working at their Head Office at 1155 Sherbrooke W. It was a 17-storey office tower. There again, I was hired as a stationary engineer. Mr. A was a self made man who was very witty and sharp. I guess he didn’t get to where he is by being naïve. We spoke occasionally in his office. He was a very fair man and he was always open to any suggestions someone may have, as long as it was well thought out. You wouldn’t want to walk into a meeting unprepared. His look would send icebergs up your spine. A few weeks after starting there, they asked me if I would go to Boston, to one of their shopping centers and supervise a team of our workers from Decarie Square and Gallerie Gatineau. There was Pierre and Mario from Gatineau, myself and an electrician named Manuel, who worked at Decarie Square. It was the first time that we had all met. We had Mr. A’s Jeep to travel with. We all met on the Monday morning with our tools and got our instructions. They were for us to completely dismantle and have moved a complete supermarket the size of a Super C.The complete store was to be converted into an outlet store for a local business that was expanding. We all looked at each other and gulped a few times. And we had a maximum of 10 days to do this in, Pierre was the refrigeration expert with Mario as his helper, I would work with Manuel in dismantling all of the electrical equipment. I would also take care of disconnecting all of the plumbing fixtures. 108
They let me drive. I liked that. So we loaded up our tools and clothes in the Jeep Cherokee and headed for the border. All the way down the guys were worried about not having enough time to complete the job. I reassured them that, if it was well planned and coordinated, that it could be done. First, I told them that we haven’t even seen the job yet, so lets wait until we get there and we’ll see. They often needed this kind of talk on the way down. They were also worried about being turned back at the border. What are we going to tell them? I had brought two fishing rods and tackle boxes and my golf clubs.” We’re going on a golf and fishing trip to Cape Cod,” I told the border crossing guard. “Have fun boys” he told us. So off we were, first obstacle out of the way. I had all the monies for the trip. The hotel had been taken care of by the head office and we were allowed fifty US dollars per day for our meals. For me that was a lot of money since I only ate one meal a day anyway. We got to Boston that afternoon and proceeded to Carriage Crossing, about forty miles out of Boston on the highway leading to the Cape. We called our contact over there since Canpro had an office in Lakeville.This was Greg, a man who became a good friend to me during and later on other jobs I did in Boston. We arrived at the store and met Greg. We introduced ourselves. He said:” I guess you guys want to see the job that you came down for eh?” He unlocked the doors and in we went.
Once he opened the lights all we saw were aisles and aisles of shelving and refrigerated glass counters and shelved units. Ten cash registers with conveyors. Mario, Pierre, and Manuel looked at each other and said “ Impossible” I think not boys. We were here to work and that’s what we’re going to do starting right now. It was about three o’clock in the afternoon. We decided to evaluate the situation first. We looked at all of the electrical panels to find out where we had to disconnect, to be able to dismantle the equipment. The job became overwhelming when we saw the walk in coolers and freezers that were at the rear of the supermarket, something that customers usually don’t see. There were twelve rooms built from pre fabricated insulated panels that measured four feet by twelve feet in size. We really had to organize this and in a hurry. Luckily the refrigerants had already been emptied from the freezers and coolers, which saved us a day or two of work. We made a to do list for the following day which I thought was a good idea, since it would prevent us from getting discouraged by the workload that we had in front of us. Greg told us if we needed any additional tools or materials that he would pick them up for us at the hardware store just a few doors down. We locked up for the day and followed Greg to our hotel a few miles away. We discussed our strategy for the next day as we drove. It was overwhelming, but not impossible. This was the week before the fourth of July. We had a good night sleep. We got up early the next day and had breakfast at the local Friendly’s restaurant. 110
Greg had given me the keys and alarm code to open up that morning. I opened the door and ran to the alarm panel but I didn’t enter the code correctly. I quickly reset the alarm and entered the correct code but it was already too late. A few minutes later, the guys noticed a police car coming towards the front of the store. They went towards the back of the store and said:” We’ll let you handle this one Mike, bye!” “Thanks guys”, I replied. I unlocked the door and seeing in this man’s eyes that he was the friendly local police type, I asked him how things were, what a nice day we were having and explained that I had entered the code in the wrong order and that it wouldn’t happen again. He smiled and walked away. He knew that we weren’t locals, by the license plate on our vehicle. Eye contact is very important. As he left, the guys came out of hiding and we had a good laugh. Time to work. Mario and Pierre started on cutting the foam covered refrigeration pipes from the units. All these pipes had to be thrown away since there is no way of reusing them because of contaminants that were in the now, unsealed pipes. They piled them in a corner. Manuel and I headed for the front of the store and started disconnecting the cash registers and counters. Greg came over at about nine o’clock. He asked if we needed anything. “We sure could use some laborers to start moving the disconnected equipment”, we said. He got on the phone and by noon he had six temps there to start dismantling the shelves and piling them on pallets and wrapping them with stretch film, ready to be loaded on the vans the following week, to be stored at another one of our shopping malls. Some equipment eventually ended up in our Montreal shopping center. 111
Things were going well until the following morning when Manuel and I went to disconnect the forty-foot trailer that housed all the compressors and fans for the freezers. This trailer was parked behind the store but the wiring came from a room inside the building. A room that we didn’t have the keys for! We had to get the trailer disconnected that morning and we had to get inside that main electrical room to disconnect major equipment. Manuel went to get a crowbar inside the store and returning, gave it to me. We were just about to force the door open when around the side of the building comes a police cruiser complete with two officers. I told Manuel not to look in their direction and to continue helping me open this dam door. They drove by slowly and just kept going. Had we just become invisible, Manuel asked? As the police car turned the next corner of the building the door popped open, we were in! We did our work in there and closed the door behind us. Manuel was upset with the whole ordeal.” No sweat Manuel”, I told him. We finished late that day. On the way back to the hotel we passed this scrap yard where we saw that they paid top dollar for used copper. Used copper? We all looked at each other and started laughing. Why? Because we would be able to sell the piping that we were dismantling and make ourselves some U$ cash money. We were happier than pigs in slop. All of a sudden this job wasn’t as bad as we had thought. We had a few beer and ordered pizza that night. The following day, we stopped at the scrap yard and asked the owner how much they paid for used copper. 112
He said if it’s in good shape that it was fifty cents a pound. We were ecstatic. We were sure to get a couple of thousand pounds from the stuff we were going to dismantle. There was one problem. The copper was insulated and it was a long job to strip it off. We decided to take one of the temps and give him an extra fifty bucks for this service. He gladly accepted. The scrap yard sent a container for us to load the copper in as we went along. Thursday was a big day. It was the day we started dismantling the walk in coolers at the back of the store. It ended up being the easiest part of the whole job. There was a lot of lifting and maneuvering involved but it went well because we had ordered a gas lift truck for that specific day. We could start seeing light at the end of the tunnel. I guess because we had Copper on our minds. We hired extra temps on Friday and by Saturday noon we were done. Greg and the people back at head office could not believe that everything was all loaded on pallets and ready to be shipped. We had done it in record time. Greg was told to take us out for dinner that night. So we packed our Jeep with our gear and headed for Boston where Greg lives. Right downtown. What a beautiful city. We had told head office to book us two rooms in another hotel just north of Boston so we wouldn’t have to go back after dinner, in the opposite direction. They booked us at Ho-Jos’, in one of the suburbs, north of Boston. We changed clothes for dinner and met Greg and his wife at the wharf. We had a fantastic meal and had some good laughs about our week there. 113
We thanked Greg for all his help and his wife for understanding the situation we were in, and for keeping her husband away for those long days and nights. We left and went to rest for the journey home the following day. We got back at the building that Sunday afternoon and were joyous of the week’s events. We all went our separate ways. I went back to work two other times in Boston. I fell in love with that city. That week, Mr. A thanked me for the job well done. Another story about Decarie Square and that’s it. One day while working in their supermarket in the mall, Jean-Pierre and I had put in a full days work dismantling equipment and moving it to a storage area. It was about eight o’clock at night and we were just bringing the last piece into storage, when he looks at me and says:” Mike what’s wrong? You’re walking funny”. Something I had eaten that day didn’t agree with me and I had to go real bad. I looked at him and said in a school boy kind of way:” Mon caca y sort!” He rolled on the floor laughing! We had good times there J.P. and I. I stayed there one year with Canpro and being on the edge of a nervous breakthrough, I decided it was better for me to go into computers full time. Less stress I guess. I still visit Mr. A once in a while and speak to his daughter and Greg in Boston.When I was living in Ottawa, I would see Lili and Jaimie occasionally, but I had them on my mind every minute. I would miss their smiles and sense of humor. They were still attending the Jehovah’s Witness meetings with their mother, who had at one point, remarried one of them.
That lasted a few years and then, they divorced. She then abandoned the religion, only to have made a full 360 degrees. Back to where she started. What a waste. As I mentioned earlier, Lili, now twenty-three years old, got married and became a Muslim. She married a good man who takes care of her. I hope she will always stay in love, the way it should be. She returned to school after her first child. She finished her studies, became a fashion designer, and after her second child opened a clothing store with a friend that she went to school with. What a girl! I’m so proud of you! Twenty-year-old Jaimie had a different outlook on life. She got into some nasty habits with her peers when she was sixteen. She wouldn’t want to listen to her parents’ and social workers advice and return to school, so the fact that she was under eighteen years of age the courts had to take over and put her in a center. She went with the flow while under their supervision. I’m sorry I couldn’t help more Jaimie. I didn’t want you to go through all the bad experiences I went through. But I guess like I did, you wanted to see life your own way. It isn’t always rosy out there.Try to learn from other people’s accomplishment and mistakes. It doesn’t mean that your not being yourself, it just means that you’ll become a better person, which gets you ready for the long life in front of you. Never give up baby; I’ll love you forever!
When Lina and I found out that she was pregnant with Jesse, we decided it was time to move into a bigger place, closer to schools, because Corey was ready for kindergarten. We started looking for homes near the condo and found nothing. We slowly moved further west in our search for a good place for the kids to grow up. We found this nice modest house in Dorval, where weâ€™ve been living since 1995. It was a perfect house for a guy like me, who likes to demolish and rebuild. Iâ€™ve done a lot of work around the place. Even now, Iâ€™m building a room in an attic space, which was wasted. Then in 1997, I had my last vasectomy. My urologist told me that he was going to install a remote control valve, so I could turn it off and on as needed. We laughed! I work for myself now in computer networking, which I enjoy a lot. I do contracting work for Daniel, the brother of Shalom. A man I met twenty years ago, when I would take care of their boilers just down the street from 5605. This is where I had caught a major electrical shock one December night, back in 1983. The alarm company had called me at about eleven p.m. and told me that there was no heat in the building. I got dressed and headed out in the bitter cold with my Schneider belt. (Electrical tool belt) I went to the boiler room at the back of the building. The boiler was definitely off, but why?
I checked the basics but I couldnâ€™t find it, but there was a humming noise coming from the main burner fan motor. It was out of phase, meaning there was one of three fuses blown. I checked the fuses they were all good. It was before the fuses. I had to look through out all the maze of electrical piping to find out where it was leading. The pipe that fed the boiler with electricity went into the tenants local in the basement. Then I noticed a junction box on the ceiling just before the wall. The cover was off and some wires were hanging there. I climbed atop the boiler and, having to climb on pipes and obstacles to get there, I finally made it up to get a closer look. I checked every wire and then I noticed one had broken right at the base of the pigtail. I took off the cap protecting the end of the connection and taking my linesman pliers to redo the connection I got comfortable by hanging onto the sprinkler pipe so as not to fall off the round structure I was standing on. I reached for the wires and as soon as I touched the wires. Double Dvfffff! I saw the spark jump into my hand just inside the pliers handle. I was thrown off the top of the boiler. Luckily I landed between two pipes that were sticking up. They were my chemical feed pipes. An inch one way or another and I would have had one of them up the oisoo! I checked my pliers and saw that the inside of the insulators had been cut. Crap I had loaned my pliers to a guy at 5605 that week and he must have nicked them. I looked up at the wires that were still dangling there and took a deep breath, took out a roll of electrical tape and taped both handles of my pliers. I climbed back on that sucker and finished up what I had started. 117
I got off and flipped the main switch and the boiler started. I stayed there a while to warm up standing behind the boiler, thankful that I was still alive. I hadn’t seen Shalom in at least ten years but being that he was Jacks’ neighbor in Cote St. Luc, I saw him coming into his house one day while doing some renovation work in Jacks house. I was outside when he arrived. When he saw me he was thrilled. He asked where I had been all these years and asked what I was doing? I told him I was doing Jack a favor in renovating their home. I told him that I was mostly doing network cabling and configurations, something that I had learned in my garage, by repairing two old computers and networking them, going practically schizophrenic by sending myself messages from one pc and answering back on the other one. He told me that he had a brother Daniel that was in the computer business and that he could use my services as a cable guy. He immediately took out his cell phone, called him, and arranged an appointment for the following day. Daniel and I met and we’ve been working together for more than two years now. He is a wise man with knowledge of life and even more in computers. He has become my mentor in many ways. I’ve learned so much from him. I’m not one to argue, you’re the best. Thanks Dan. My last shock is what really did it for me. I had done some network cabling at a transport company on the west island and Vince had asked me to check an electrical outlet for him that wasn’t working. 118
It was late on a Wednesday afternoon in 1999. I should have left it for the following day. Anyway I took off the cover and unscrewed the outlet. There was power leading to it, so that meant I had to change it. I had a spare one in the van. I took off the wires and wanting to put the wires onto the new one I took my long nose pliers and wrap the neutral wire onto the screw and tightened it. Next was the live wire. Instead of looking through countless breaker panels and turning off any computers or other essential equipment, I made the connection live. I went to wrap the wire around the screw and my hand accidentally touched the barren part of my pliers and the edge of the outlet box. I got a good jolt that time. I felt it down to my elbows. The pliers went flying behind me. Luckily no one was there. I picked up the pliers and being very careful finished it and left. I always had heart palpitations and bouts of rapid heart rate in the past as you may have read, but the following Saturday would be different. I hadnâ€™t done anything strenuous that day and all of a sudden my heart rate started rising. By eleven oâ€™clock it had reached 176 beats per minute and there it stayed until about four p.m. when I decided to go to the Royal Vic to have it checked out. I was exhausted just lying on the sofa. I walked into the emergency where I told the nurse that I was having a heart attack. My left arm was becoming numb, and I was seeing double. They took me in and took my heart rate. They quickly took me to a stretcher and had me lie down.
Within seconds, I was surrounded by x-ray machines, nurses taking blood samples, and all this commotion. I knew this was more serious than the previous times. They gave me intravenous, standard procedure. But then this woman cardiologist came and having the results of my x-rays and blood tests told me they didn’t know hat was causing this, but that my heart rate had to be reduced otherwise my heart would drown in its own blood, not being able to pump this fast, for such a long period of time. She told me what the drill was. They had to give me a dose of a drug to simulate a heart attack, to stop the heart from beating so fast. She injected it in the intravenous line and waited a few seconds. It took effect and I sat up in bed clutching my chest. “So that’s what a heart attack feels like,” I told her. She looked at the monitor and the heart rate had dropped to 100 BPM, but then climbed up to 170 again. She said to the intern, “double the dose”. I looked at her and said:” Are you sure you want to do that?” They injected the drug and nothing happened. By then I felt as if things were clouding over in my world. The doctors were coming to the end of their options. She went to get the head of cardiology that was on duty in the hospital that day. He came and explained to me that they had two choices left; a new pill that they were experimenting with or they would have to call in Hydro Quebec (the defibrillator). They said they would lightly sedate me before, so that I would not feel the shock as much. I opted for the pill first. They said it would take about twenty minutes for it to take effect. 120
They didn’t know that I’m not a person that eats a lot and that usually my system absorbs medicine quite quickly. In less than two or three minutes the drug was working. My heart rate was decreasing gradually until it reached a normal 68-72 BPM. That cloudy world I was in was also starting to move away, ten minutes later I noticed where I was for the first time since I had walked in. They monitored me for a couple of hours and released me. I drove home and I was fine. The following Monday morning I went to Aztec, a company that builds and repairs computers and monitors. I was telling Simon, the technician repairing the monitors, what had happened to me on the weekend. He immediately asked me if I had caught a shock the previous week. I said yes, and that’s when it hit me. He told me that the previous year he had received a good blast from one of the monitor screens, and that he had ended up in the hospital three days later, with a rapid heart rate. All those years of getting shocks had led up to this. I thanked him for his help. Since then, I turn off the power on any electrical equipment, unless I’m just using my test equipment to test the circuits. I haven’t had any heart palpitations or increased heart beat since. I finally got the answer. A friend of mine told me the following week that he had seen an episode on 20/20, discussing the fact that most of the electricians or people working with high voltage, suffered from fast heart rates. That just convinced me even more. 121
Corey is eleven years old now, but so much older for his age. What a diplomat. He is constantly searching for new things to learn and experiment with. Sounds familiar? A few months ago he started taking apart quartz watches to see how they work. He is a good golfer and this July when he returns from Indonesia, weâ€™ll spend time on the driving range, learning the basics, so that eventually we can go play our first round together. Maddie, ten years old, is a special girl with many talents. She can pick up any arts and crafts book and instantly make the projects and teach it to others. As she did with Origami. She learned how to do it and when I asked her to show it to her grade four teacher. She was so impressed by her talent that she asked Maddie to give a few lessons to the entire class. Proud of you pumpkin! She hates it when I call her Mabaleine. We love to tease each other. Jesse, who is five, on the other hand, is a mixture of all of us. I still remember the day he was born. What a sweet child with a dimple in his cheek. Big brown eyes filled with amazement. He never cried as a child. He started kindergarten this year, at the same French school Corey and Maddie attend. He did really well, not having spoken French before. When he talks in his sleep now, itâ€™s in French. His teacher Chantal, enjoyed having him in her class. He was a leader and would not let himself get pushed around by anyone, while remaining very diplomatic. Iâ€™ve really been blessed with five wonderful children. All different and yet, the same in many ways.
Things have cooled off between my wife and I. I guess people change and since we cannot change others, I can’t see things staying status quo anymore, while life evolves. I feel a sense of emptiness and one of fulfillment while I’m writing these final words. It has been an emotional roller coaster ride. I’ve discovered a lot of things about myself, while writing this book. It was great for me to have this opportunity to write my experiences and sharing them with you. I just hope that nobody has been offended. That was not my intent. I just hope you can learn from them and enrich your lives. Take the good and leave the rest. Where do I go from here? Only time will tell. I may not have traveled halfway around the world, although in my world I did, and it was: The Time of My Life 7/1/2001 5:55AM
Dedication Dedicated to the eternal memory of my Mom and Dad, who through their love, care and perseverance, have shown us all, that life is meant to be lived to it’s fullest, during the short time that we are given. Thank you both for teaching us how to show our love, without words. You gave us all you had and we should be grateful. I’ve learned through these writings that you were always there for us, even though some of us may not have been aware of it, being too caught up in our own world. The pictures tell of all these occasions, as proof of the dedication to your children. We could not have asked for better parents. We just have to recognize that now, even if it is too late. For those out there who’s parents are still with them, please, take care of them, now. You only have this one chance. We all make mistakes and rash decisions. We can only carry the torch that was passed on to us. But during our walk through life, we should constantly be aware of where we came from, and if there are things we didn’t like in our upbringing, we can and must change them to ensure the happiness of future generations. It is our opportunity and responsibility to do so. Mom and Dad we miss you immensely and are proud to carry your torch in our hearts forever.
July 8th 2001 124
The time of my life There comes that moment in everyone’s life when you have the time to reflect back on everything that you have done, accomplished and lived. This was the case here. I never knew my mother or father’s childhood experiences and yet would have loved to hear their stories. I hope that my children will appreciate my life’s adventures so far. Perhaps they can learn a few things from my accomplishments and shortcomings. Live we must. To live and tell about it is everyone’s dream. ©Copyright 2005 ISBN 0-9738681-0-4 Can. $19.95 U.S. $14.95 128