“But in looking back at the places I’ve been, the changes that I’ve left behind, I look at myself to find I’ve learned the hard way every time.” ~Jim Croce~
Journey Through The Past
Life goes on with all its shifts and surprises, but one thing does not change: The older we get the more we appreciate the place that shaped us. Everybody has to be from somewhere. I happen to hail from Canada, a small town in southern Ontario called Port Colborne. It is nestled on Gravelly Bay of Lake Erie at the mouth of the Welland Canal, which happens to be a rather important waterway.
Life Had Simplicity To It
For those who need further geographic guideposts, it is twenty-odd miles from Buffalo, New York; the place where O.J. Simpson was a hero for carrying a football before he became infamous for wielding a knife.
Actually I was born and raised in Reebs Bay, a little lakeside community three miles west of Port Colborne. Salt of the earth bedrock country. It is a place where the clock used to move mighty slow. Time had a frozen quality that is now securely framed in the shadowy context of memory. When I was growing up back in the sixties Reebs Bay was a place of innocence, though that was before sociologists ascribed capital dimensions to the decade by elevating it to The Sixties.
Life had simplicity to it. Sports, both playing and following the exploits of big league role models, had an important impact on our lives. We enjoyed football and baseball, but way back before cable and high-speed Internet connections, hockey had spiritual implications.
In our house Hockey Night In Canada meant family; pizza or popcorn night. My mother and two older sisters would be bustling around the kitchen having a low-level static argument about something incredibly stupid, while my father coaxed the old idiot-box. As my younger brother, sister and I watched, Dad would string the wire-antenna up in weird angles and positions to produce the clearest picture, which usually meant he’d contorted it into a pretzel and tacked it to the ceiling. The routine seldom varied.
It wasn’t until I started first-grade that I learned the Hockey Night In Canada theme song wasn’t the national anthem. I was ten years old before I realized that Foster Hewitt wasn’t an influential religious figure. For those poor folks who have never heard of Foster Hewitt, all I can say is that you have been deprived. He always will be the voice of hockey. Period. End of discussion. Every play by play announcer since Sir Foster are mere pretenders laboring in his shadow.
When I was a boy the Toronto Maple Leafs had class and dignity: Frank Mahovlich, Red Kelly, Tim Horton, Allan Stanley, Bobby Baun, Bob Pulford, George Armstrong, Johnny Bower, Dave Keon. Do they even make hockey players like them anymore? I still get goosepimply when I recall the last time those blue and white warriors were baptized in Lord Stanley’s silver cup. Well, those days are gone; gone forever, I suppose.
Hit the rewind button for a moment. Remember when safe-sex meant avoiding the daughter of a shotgun-toting man with a bad temper?
It was before cynicism reigned supreme; before Nixon’s Watergate plumbers; before the fall of Saigon. Before a toothy peanut farmer from Georgia moved to Washington to be ambushed by the Ayatollah. Before greed and avarice became noble; before liaisons with model-actresses became a spectator sport; before AIDS.
Before the movies of Coppola, Lucas and Spielberg; before an aw-shucks B-movie actor achieved the ultimate role and set the course for the collapse of communism. Before abortion became an international bloodsport.
Before a self-indulgent practitioner of lies from Arkansas dragged truth and the meaning of “is” through his personal cesspool; before the horror of 9/11; before an endless multi-front war on terror; before bailouts and billion dollar stimulus packages; before juggling statistics became a politician’s chief preoccupation; before the shadowy sleight of hand that is hope and change; before horse manure and the gentle art of spreading it became governmental policy.
Can you remember back that far? It was a golden time in my hometown. The world made sense because right was right and wrong was wrong. Not anymore; somehow our ideals have been tainted. My rewind button appears to be stuck, so the nostalgic tour of the past shall continue in another post.