Daily Archives: May 21, 2008

Back in the USSR

In high school our gang of girls that would hang around together, spend time at each other’s homes watching TV and discussing boys. Common wardrobe of the era and in Calgary was jeans, T-shirts and those lumberjack shirts worn as jackets, or jean jackets. Marie, Debbie, Kathy, Cathy, Robyn, Leslie, Joanne, Heather and Joyce made up the main group of girls. The guys varied; some were friends and some boyfriends. We would get together at someone’s house and the guys who played guitars would twang away, half-heartedly working on something while the girls tried to come up with band names.

None of us sang. None of us played instruments so we dreamt of our stage careers and how we could play tambourines or rattles while the guys played. It never amounted to much but jamming musically and verbally. I think my boyfriend, Randy, may have been one of the players but mostly we just had a place to hang. There was the guy with the black Beatles style haircut and the somewhat hawkish nose. There was Gordon Amsterdam who had a penchant in school for eating chocolate spread and candy sprinkle sandwiches. Gordon was blond and slim so this nutritious diet didn’t seem to do much damage to his weight. There was Lorne and…I remember so few of the boy’s names but Gordon’s always had that mysterious espionage-spy sound to it. James Bond meet Gordon Amsterdam.

One of the houses we often went to was Ollie’s. Ollie was pronounced like the “O”in Olaf not the “O” in Oliver. Where we knew Ollie from I’m not sure as he was slightly older than our high school going selves and he didn’t seem to be in school. But then my boyfriend was two years older than me, a world of difference in those days. He graduated and worked in a bar. I looked older than I was and would often get into the bar, especially if he was along.

So perhaps Ollie was Randy’s friend. Ollie was quiet, shy really. Most of our boyfriends still fit the gangly filling-out stage but Ollie was solid and muscular, well-formed, dark haired, tall and probably could have had any girlfriend if he had ever noticed them. He didn’t. Even when we were at his place (it might have been his parents’) he seemed oblivious. What mattered to Ollie, the only girl he seemed to care about, was his car. He spent loving hours on it, his head under the hood. I’m sure it was a classic but I can’t remember what it was. Still, Ollie cherished it.

In truth, while we daydreamed about being a band, hanging in Ollie’s basement on old couches and mattresses, taking illicit substances (at least for the age we were) all we really wanted was a place to be. Most of us couldn’t hang out at our parent’s without them checking in. Malls were the only option and got boring pretty quickly. We could smoke, drink, just chat and maybe neck with our boyfriends. And there was Ollie, the quiet one, the guy from Russia, who worked on his car and obsessively played the Beatles’ “Back in the USSR.”

I can’t remember or even picture most of those guys now, but Ollie was a vignette, who rarely participated in a conversation, yet still memorable as a guy out of place and time even then.

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Addendum to Racist Rage

The same day as I posted my piece on Mr. Belligerent, I had the following experience.

It was a super hot day. I was coming home from work, still mostly bleary eyed from my surgery. As i walked past Britannia School I noticed that they were parking many cars in the field. This other fellow was walking in front of me. I could see he was carrying a bottle of cider (hard) and beer and had just come from the liquor store. I though, ahh, just my kind of guy. He has grapefruit cider (though really I prefer the English style first over the fruity ones).

He turned and asked me if I knew what was going on and I said, maybe it’s their grad but it’s early in the day and no one looks dressed right. So he asked the guys directing the traffic. It turns out it was the 100th anniversary of Britannia School. I said, I bet they have everyone gathering from all the graduates of every year.

Something else was said between us but he said, I don’t have a mean though about anyone. I used to be like that but I feel much better now. I’m paraphrasing but this guy just had this great smile and a real peaceful way about him. I commented that it was just too nice a day to let anything get to you. We said a few more words before our paths diverged and wished each other a great day.

It really balanced out the man full of anger from the morning and kinda renewed my faith. I forget that sometimes it’s just these little mundane snatches of conversation that we have with total strangers that can make us feel good. So here is to sunshine and flowers and growth and healing. It was a perfectly wonderfully sunny weekend, even if it did rain today.

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