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Monday, 28 January 2013

Puerto Vallarta 1980

The first time I went to Mexico was in 1980, about 33 years ago. The furthest south I had ever been was to Florida a year or two earlier. I chose Puerto Vallarta partly because I had seen the movie The Night of the Iguana with Richard Burton and read the stories about Liz and Dick in Mexico in the newspapers and it seemed like an exotic place. The movie was made in 1964 and by 1980 the town had grown a lot but it still had the feel of a undeveloped tourist destination.
There weren’t a lot of high rise hotels back then. The biggest hotel was probably the Holiday Inn at ten or twelve stories. It was a common sight to see the locals washing their laundry in the creek by the “new” bridge. Donkeys loaded with firewood could be seen being led through the streets. On Sundays the local men would get their shoes shined and take their families for a stroll along the waterfront after mass.
Shoe shine guys
City square with Catholic church
I made my trip plan to Mexico with a Vancouver travel agent. I probably went about it a little differently than most others. I wanted to drive down to San Diego and catch a plane to Mexico from there. This is pretty well what I ended up doing except that I caught a plane from San Diego to Los Angeles before catching another one to Mexico.
I left Vancouver around the third week in January. I was driving a chocolate coloured Camaro at the time.  It took me about 2 days to get to San Diego. Mostly I travelled on the coast highway, route 101, through Oregon and California. I ended up at a giant motel in La Jolla that had over 100 units.
I can’t recall much about the road trip south other than seeing the waves crashing against the shore. I know I heard the Spinners singing Working My Way Back To You and the Pina Colada song a number of times on the car radio. I also got a speeding ticket in Northern California.
Speeding ticket from California
The plane landed in Puerto Vallarta and a young guy who worked at the hotel I would be staying at, the Playa Los Arcos, greeted us. On the way into town he told us the dos and don’ts about vacationing in the tropics. When we got to our hotel I was a bit surprised that the front desk was open to the elements and that the building didn’t have glassed windows but had shutters. The hotel was only three stories high. It had a plain looking swimming pool and a gate that led to the beach.
Playa Los Arcos
Playa Los Arcos swimming pool
In the week that I spent at the hotel the weather wasn’t that great with only a few bright sunny days. I remember seeing stewardesses stretched out on the beach chairs trying to get a few of the evasive rays of sun. The Hotel was not an all-inclusive and I had to fend for myself as far as eating was concerned. I ended up with a case of the Mexican trots or whatever they called it and spent a fair amount of time reading in the bathroom. Bottled water wasn’t as prevalent at it is today.
Crappy weather day
I read about a book a day that week. One was an abridged history of Mexico. Man those people revolted a lot. Sometimes I would be up in the middle of the night reading. Up on the ceiling there appeared to be things that looked like wads of gum. It took me a bit of time to realize that those wads of gum moved about. I never did figure out what they were. I almost freaked out when I saw a gecko disappear behind a heavy mirror on the wall in my room.
I checked out a local nightclub called the “City Dump”. There was a short line-up to get into the place and they seemed to let the locals in and any single women. After waiting for about an hour I was finally allowed in the joint and was surprised to find the place wasn’t crowded at all. I figured it out that they had some kind of deal going on where the locals had a better shot at the single “Gringo” women if the Gringo men were left waiting outside.
I ran into the local guy who had given us the lowdown when we arrived at the airport. Not knowing a soul in town, I offered to buy him a drink when he recognized me. He ordered a Courvoisier cognac. He later told me he spent his nights sleeping on whatever rooftop he could find. He didn’t have 2 pesos to rub together but apparently had discerning tastes in alcohol when some tourist was buying.
Air cooled VW
Back then they had the parachute rides off of the nearby pier. It didn’t seem like the way I wanted to end my life so I just watched. The beaches were always crowded and you could drag a lawn chair from the hotel pool down to the beach if you cared to.
I hung out with an American gal at the beach for a day or so but that never went anywhere. I remember another American gal who was into yoga. She did a kind of handstand thing not knowing that part of her pubic hair was sticking out. There really wasn’t any acceptable way of letting her know.
I had brought my tennis racket with me but never noticed any courts around. One day I asked a taxi driver if he knew where there were any tennis courts. “Sure” he said. He took me for a long drive out in the jungle and when we got to our destination the place was padlocked. It was a complete waste of time and cab fare.
I watched the Super Bowl in a bar with a number of Canadians and Americans. The TV picture would disappear from time to time. The windows in the joint were covered up to make it easier to be able to focus on the TV. The Piitsburgh Steelers beat the L.A. Rams 31-19.
I checked out the local popular watering hole and hang out, Carlos O’Brian’s. Beer in a pail of ice. What a concept! I never could figure out why Corona is such a popular beer. It seems like it is pretty watered down stuff. Maybe it is the lime wedge?
Carlos O'Brian's
I got to the point, what with spending so much time in the bathroom, that I started to buy canned juices and packaged cookies. I didn’t have any faith left in chowing on the local cuisine. The funny thing is, out of all of the trips I have taken to Mexico, this was the only one where I had back end problems.
When the week was over I caught a taxi out to the airport. I was standing on the tarmac with the other tourists when a well-armed federale approached us. He asked me “You pack a knife?” I thought about saying “Not today Jose.” but thought the better of it.
I got back to La Jolla, California at about 11 p.m. in the evening. My taxi driver was a flustered British guy. When we got to my motel where my car had been stored we discovered that the place was shut down for the night and that there wasn’t anybody around except a security guard who was no help. To top it off there was a Shriners convention going on and it was very hard to find a motel room anywhere. We drove from one place to another without any luck. It was about 3 a.m. before I finally found a vacant room.
The next day, after recovering my car, I decided to check out the San Diego Zoo. I must have been sleep deprived because almost all of the photos I took of the animals were out of whack. I also went to Disneyland in Anaheim.
It wasn’t a perfect trip by any stretch of the imagination but it was interesting never the less. In few days we will be going to the Mayan Riviera for a week. It will be our 5th and Linda’s 6th trip to Mexico in the past 6 years. Linda went to Cabo twice last year. Apparently that first trip, some 33 years ago, didn’t scare me off.


Tuesday, 22 January 2013


I’ve played golf for about 45 years, badly. Over those 45 years I’ve hacked my way down fairways from Webhannet in Kennebunk Port, Maine to Crown Isle on Vancouver Island and as far south as a golf resort in Innisbrook, Florida where the sight of alligators is not uncommon. I’ve seen a herd of deer come out of the woods at Upper Canada Village in Ontario, strolled a course in Saskatchewan with sand greens and small cacti where you stuffed your green fees into a mailbox kind of thing on the honour system.
Innisbrook Golf Course, Florida
To me, golf courses are some of the more beautiful places on the planet. A regulation par 72 golf course takes about 3-1/2 to 4 hours to play and being with others in a foursome for that amount of time you get to know a bit about who you are playing with in ways you might not ordinarily pick up on.
Something like 1% of people who play golf rarely break 100. When you consider that most professional golf tournaments are won by a pro who finishes the four days under par (72 is par on most courses for 18 holes) you kind of get the idea that is a fraction of that 1% who are the crème de la crème and even they have really bad days.
Before starting my golf stories let me get a few golf jokes out of the way.
Why is it spelled G-O-L-F? Gentlemen Only, Ladies Forbidden.
Why is it called “golf”? Because the “F” word was already taken.
When I was a kid in the 1950s, I used to caddy at a golf course in the well to do district of Montreal called Hampstead. Hampstead Golf Course was a bastion for white Anglo Saxons. For a number of years there was an unwritten rule in the community that houses were not to be sold to people who were Jewish. While caddying it wasn’t uncommon to overhear anti-Semitic jokes. In the early 1960s, the golf course was bulldozed and today the Town of Hampstead is mostly Jewish including the mayor. Revenge is sweet I guess.
We used to sit on a bench amongst a grove of trees several yards away from the pro shop on hot summer days waiting sometimes hours on end for a golfer to come along and say he needed a caddy. Sometimes the whole day would go by with nobody looking for a caddy and we would take the long walk home dejected but still found ourselves back on the bench the following morning. Every now and then some older boys would turn up and let us know in no uncertain terms that they were first in line. The going rate for a caddy back then was about a buck for 18 holes. I’m not sure if we should have been admired for our persistence or pitied for being gluttons for punishment.
Back in the 50s nobody wore a bicycle helmet and if you were thirsty on a hot summer day and not close to home you simply got a drink of water from the garden hose tap at the side of someone’s house. It shouldn’t be surprising that there was something on golf courses back then called “shagging”. Shagging was chasing around and picking up the golf balls that a golfer was driving off a practice tee. There is a reason that driving ranges today have covered carts that are used for picking up practice balls. I think I got winged a few times back then. At least an ambulance didn’t have to be called.
One early evening I was out shagging golf balls for some guy and at the dinner table that night I told my father that I had made a fairly quick 50 cents shagging balls for a guy named Ben Hogan. I could easily be duped at that age.
Ben Hogan
I bought some golf clubs when I was about 21 years old. I had 3/5/7 and 9 irons, a putter and a driver. The first golf course I ever played on was a 9-hole place called Grovehill which was near Dorval on the west side of Montreal Island. I remember hitchhiking there. For some odd reason I found that the most comfortable way to swing a golf club was to do it cross handed. Over the years this type of grip was commented upon more times than I care to remember. I once had a guy in Kamloops who had finished in the BC juniors close to the top of the leaders list try to help me change my grip but it just wouldn’t work. I am stuck with it.
A few years later, I was living in Toronto with two roommates who I had gone to high school with in Montreal and they were both into golf. A lot of English speaking young guys had moved to Toronto and for a few years there was kind of an unofficial golf tournament for ex-Montrealers. I remember seeing rats as big as cats near the Don Valley Golf Course. I also remember seeing one guy throw his ball over some trees so that it landed on the green.

I moved on to Banff and played the course at the Banff Springs a few times. Once I nearly brained some old ladies on a park bench nearby with an erratic tee shot. Golf and I were not simpatico. I like the game but I’m not very good at it. My cross handed swing didn’t help any. I don’t think I ever played golf more than 10 times in any given year.
I finally settled in the Vancouver area and tried my hand at golf again. I knew people who were really into the game and found myself playing with them on mostly public courses in and around Vancouver. Fraser View, Langara, Musqueum and other courses like Green Acres, Hazelmere, and Country Meadows. I even went across the line to Washington State to play a few times. I never progressed very much. Occasionally I would hit a decent shot or have a nice putt and that seemed about all I could hope for.
One summer I went down to Lake Okanagan to visit a friend at his country place and we ended up playing golf at a beautiful course near Vernon, BC called Predator Ridge. It was a brutally hot day and the course was a bit on the hilly side you might say. I was really struggling in the heat and shanking a lot of shots and I could see that it was throwing the other guys off a bit. When we got back to the clubhouse I made the decision to forget golf for a while. I didn’t touch a club for about 5 years.
I was a businessman in Vancouver and from time to time I would get freebies like tickets to the Vancouver Molson Indy and the Canucks. Once I even got floor seats to a Vancouver Grizzlies-Seattle Supersonics basketball game in Seattle including dinner. I wasn’t a big golf fan but did take advantage of yet another freebie which was tickets to see the Greater Vancouver Open golf tournament at Northview Golf Course in Surrey, BC.
My supplier was in the paper business and they set up an entertainment tent on some scaffolding near the 18th hole.  I saw more than a few chunky guys who were in the printing business work their way through the buffet and booze bar.  Mostly we just hung around the 18th hole if we ventured away from the tent.
 I saw some of golf’s greats in the early 90s. People like Mike Weir (he won his first pro tournament at Northview) Sergio Garcia, Mark Calcavecchia, Rory Sabatini and the late Payne Stewart. The road up to the clubhouse at Northview is now called Payne Stewart Drive. It is a beautiful course but unfortunately the skyline is spoiled a bit by power lines.
Just for the record, Dow Finsterwald won the British Columbia golf championship in 1955. Dow Finsterwald. Now there’s a name.
I started to dabble at golf again in the late 90’s. I was hardly anything more than a dabbler at any time in my life. Around 2005 I sold my business and retired to Vancouver Island. I played golf a number of times with my son. One weekend he brought some friends over to the Island and we played a nifty executive course called Arrowsmith about an hour away from where I lived. A few years earlier my son had caddied for me on the same course and he kind of slowed things down by hunting for turtles in the ponds.
My son has a friend named Lucas who is kind of a slight looking guy with a wry sense of humour. One weekend my son brought his friends over to play golf. Lucas hit a nice tee shot over the water and I followed him with a drive that ended up within feet of his. “Looks like you are in Lucas country.” Lucas said to me. Priceless!
16 year olds at Arrowsmith Golf Club, Lucas putting, my son Dean in blue.
Vancouver Island has some really great golf courses. Olympic View is impressive in Victoria. Morning Star and Glengarry are two really nice courses near Qualicum Beach. Crown Isle up Island in Courtenay is as good as it gets. The clubhouse even has a cigar room that overlooks an antique car collection.
For the past few years I have played on an executive course called Winchelsea View that is close to where I live. From the back nine you can see the small Winchelsea Islands below. Last year my girlfriend gave me my first Big Bertha. I always was and still am a hacker but every now and then I can put 2 or 3 shots together in a row. I’m still cross handed but…I can whack that little orb over 200 yards once in a while. My girlfriend joins me on the course now at least once a year and I have pointed out that I’m not the best guy to get tips from, but she continues to ask.
Linda swinging away.
Winchelsea View Golf Course
Winchelsea Islands in distance.
So…what do I know about golf other than that I generally suck at it?  Well I know it is great way to spend a sunny day for a start, a decent way to get some exercise. I know that most golfers have a weakness to their game. Maybe they have a tough time with their putting or short game. Maybe they have trouble with a hook or a slice. For some it is just focussing. No disrespect (well maybe) but I have come upon more than one golfer over the years who thought he was a lot better at the game than he actually was.
I’ve always like the idea of turning up at a golf course and joining complete strangers for a round. You meet some interesting folks out on the links. Last year I turned down the opportunity to share a joint with a guy I was playing with even though we were about the only 2 people out on the course. For some reason, on this particular course during the week, if it gets really really hot out nobody turns up for a round. Or maybe it is that the green fees are slightly higher than other places?
Years ago I played golf with a British guy who was a very good golfer. He told us that shortly after coming to Canada that he was hanging out in a pub and someone asked him if he would be interested in washing windows. He ended up starting a business washing windows on some of Vancouver’s largest buildings and had become so successful that he spent most of his time playing golf.
Another time I was playing golf with another British guy and his son. The other person in our foursome was a young guy in his early twenties with a bad temper. He would curse and yell when he screwed up a shot and there were quite a few screw ups. Finally around the 6th hole the British guy took him aside and told him that he would have to ask him to leave if he persisted with his behavior. The little chat seemed to straighten him out.
Golf, almost more than any other game is about etiquette. Most that play the game are aware of the dos and don’ts. Unfortunately, there are some that are oblivious to anyone other than themselves.
One day, my son and I were playing golf with a padre. I can’t recall his denomination. He was only going to play the first nine holes. Around the 2nd hole he got into some religious stuff and I pointed out to him that I am an atheist. I told him that he was welcome to have a crack at my son for the next 7 holes if he wished but that we were cut from the same cloth and his chances would be slim. Nobody was converted that day.
I have a friend who watches a lot of golf and I used to tell him that I didn’t get watching golf on TV. Now I find myself watching the same stuff. There is something kind of soothing listening to that Irish lilt from David Feherty. Oddly enough, for such a cheerful guy, apparently he has had a long battle with depression and alcoholism.
About 10 years ago you could see old Bobby Jones short golf instruction movies on TV every now and then. They were made in the early 1930s and are truly amazing in that a lot of the tips Mr. Jones offered way back when are still relevant today.
Bobby Jones
I remember the good old days when Palmer, Nicklaus, Player, and Trevino were ripping it up. When Tony Lema died in a plane crash When you would see names on the leaderboard like Dr. Cary Middlecoff and Julius Boros. Chi Chi Rodriquez pretending his putter was a sword.
Tiger had his run and now there are guys like Adam Scott, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Steve Stricker and a lot of others are giving him a run for his money. What is in your head has a lot to do with being the best and my guess is that Tiger is still working on that.
Today, women’s golf is clearly dominated by women with Asian backgrounds for some reason.
Let me add a little comment about the US Masters. First of all the word “Masters” isn’t a particularly good choice for a tournament in the deep south. Secondly, why do the caddies at the Masters have to wear overalls? Aren’t we a bit past that kind of stuff? And thirdly, last year the Augusta Golf Club in Atlanta, Georgia where the Masters is held, invited 2 women to join the club. Is this really what one would call opening things up for women?
In closing, let me add on a list of some of the great golfers who have come from Canada. As Canadians, we sometimes like to point out that we have accomplished a few things.
Mike Weir…won the green jacket.
Stephen Ames…making a come-back this year?
George Knudson…once served him dinner at the Banff Springs Hotel.
Gary Cowan…forever the amateur.
Dave Barr
Jim Nelford
Moe Norman
Stan Leonard
Richard Zokol…Disco Dick.
Al Balding
Sandra Post…I think I once ran into her in a bar in Vancouver.
And not to forget a guy named Gord Lariche who once told me in the 1960s in Montreal about hustling golfers in Texas and ending up with a new Avanti sports car. Then again that might have just been a BS story like many others told out on the links.



Sunday, 13 January 2013


In some ways it is hard to define who hippies actually were. It is easy to say that they were anti-establishment and could be identified by the way they dressed. Just like there are “drugstore cowboys” who have never been on a horse, back in the day there were many young people who believed in the hippy kind of culture but never made the full leap. Some just lived the lifestyle while in college while others lived at home in their parent’s house or held down 9 to 5 jobs but smoked a bit of reefer and listened to the music of the times in non-working hours.

When I left (quit) high school in Montreal in late 1964 I didn’t know anyone who smoked pot. The Beatles had been around for about a year and their songs like Can’t Buy Me Love and I Should Have Known Better were hardly what you would call deep. There were a few guys around town who tried to look like the Beatles and let their hair grow a bit so they had a mop top. There was one guy I would often see in downtown Montreal who looked a lot like Ringo Starr.
The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show 1964
The following are my own opinions as to how the hippy era came about. I am sure there will be those that disagree with me.
In late 1963 John Kennedy was assassinated and for many it was like a hard punch in the stomach. Many thought at the time that he represented a younger approach to things, the Peace Corp and the fact that he was in his forties and had a pretty wife. Previously to Kennedy, American presidents had been older men often with frumpy wives.
It was just a few months later that the Beatles first came to North America and they were a welcomed distraction, something fresh. It was kind of like there was still something out there to get excited about.
For the first half of the 1960s a lot of things were similar to the 1950s. There were drive-in movies, a cleaned up Elvis, hanging out at the local diner, Friday night dances at the high school, The Beach Boys and surfing music, spending a day at the beach, white jeans and madras shirts. We were dancing to songs like Woolly Bully and You Can’t Sit Down.
Most of us grew up in rather conservative homes back then. Rocking the boat in almost any fashion was considered a threat to the status quo.
But there were other things going on too. Most people were aware of who the Beatniks were. Bongo drums and goatees many of us thought. The pill had been introduced. Folk music and the messages about the downtrodden and injustices were popular around 1963. We saw the pictures on TV of black people being fire hosed in the deep US south. The Viet Nam war was beginning to rage.
The post war baby boomers were starting to go off to college, many with financial help from their parents who hadn’t done too badly in the previous decade. Kids rebelling against their parents weren’t anything new but this time a lot of other things seemed to come together at one time. This wasn’t the crowd of ex- soldiers coming back from WW2 and trying to get ahead in life by getting a post-secondary education. These were often kids who had pampered childhoods.
Many college students started to think for themselves for the first time. They were reading books written by Herman Hesse, John Steinbeck, Gunter Grass, Kurt Vonnegut, J.R.R. Tolkien, John Barth, William Golding, Ayn Rand, and others.
There were 2 books in particular that had a lot of influence, particularly on young men. One was J.D. Salinger’s frank and graphic description of a character named Holden Caulfield’s coming of age. It pretty well kicked conservative thinking right in the teeth. Some had already read it in high school. The other book was Jack Kerouac’s On The Road. Kerouac became a hero to many. The book also opened some people’s eyes as to a search for spiritual enlightenment. Kerouac was a pretty handsome looking dude but was a mess as a human being. Alcohol and heavy duty drugs destroyed his life. Dying young seems to be an attractive thing to some for some reason. A few years later, dying young would happen to a number of rock stars.

Jack Kerouac
A lot of people like road trip stories or movies, the adventure of being in places unfamiliar. Being mixed up with junkies, whores, and criminals may be interesting from a distance but is truly sad to see up close. I did my share of hitch hiking in the 1960s. I saw the poverty of Indian reservations, a wino with dried puke on his clothes waiting along with me for a day labourer’s job, I sang for my supper once at a city mission along with a number of other men who were down and out, I once got a restaurant voucher from the Sally Ann. It isn’t a pretty life.
The first time I noticed hippies was in the student ghetto area of Montreal near McGill University. I remember seeing a gal running barefoot to a small grocery store braless. It left a defined image in my mind. You would also see some of them in coffee houses like the New Penelope and the Yellow Door.
I knew a few American guys who were at McGill whose fathers were with the CIA. I also knew a few guys who got up on ladders on St. Catherine Street and gave political harangues. I ran down alleys with the rest of the crowd pursued by the police with batons when they tried to put an end to a Seperatiste march on Sherbrooke Street.
I remember seeing my first psychedelic light show at the McGill Student Union building in around 1966. I spent about 4 years living in the McGill student ghetto area. I never really thought that the people I knew or saw in the area were hippies because long hair and army surplus jackets had become the norm.
Very few of those that I had gone to high school with had embraced the alternate lifestyle. Most were either going to university or had found a 9 to 5 job with hopes of moving up the ladder in the business world. Hippies were always a small part of the general population.
I remember seeing a guy who looked like Jimmy Hendrix complete with a vest with fringes and a wide belt with silver looking things on it in a bar in Lake George, New York on Labour Day Weekend in 1966.
Jimi Hendrix
1967 was pretty well all about Expo 67 in Montreal. I didn’t have much of a clue about the “Summer Of Love” other than hearing Scott Mackenzie’s “If you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.”
In 1968 I was out on the west coast in BC for a short bit of time. I was pretty well broke so I never could really afford to go to the nightclubs like the Retinal Circus that were showcasing psychedelic music. I did notice the posters on telephone poles with wavy fat letters. Head shops were starting to open up on 4th Avenue.
I did a lot of hitchhiking in the late 60s and early 70s and would often run into hippies out on the road, More than once did I hear “Got an extra smoke man?” There were a number of times where I would leave some town and find as many as 20 or 30 hippies with their thumbs out hoping for a lift. Sometimes they had a dog with them. I was relatively clean cut and each time I would see these groups I would walk past them before sticking my thumb out. In most cases I would get a lift long before they did. I think it was because we were kind of living in an “us and them” time. After passing the hippies on the road “straight” folks including families would often pick me up as though they were rescuing me. Whatever, it worked for me.

Hippie VW van.
The shit really hit the fan in 68. First Martin Luther King was killed and then Bobby Kennedy. The draft was in effect in the US and American boys were being shipped home in body bags from Viet Nam at an alarming rate. There were anti-war protests everywhere. Racial tension was high and parts of cities in the US were burned to the ground. In the fall the Yippie movement surfaced in Chicago in riots and demonstrations around the Democratic convention in Chicago. 1968 was like the peak of craziness and madness.
Martin Luther King
Whether we were hippies or not we were listening to Simon and Garfunkle, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and a lot of British groups. We eagerly awaited each new Beatles album. We were getting messages from the music. The musical Hair opened on Broadway. Songs on the radio were no longer 2 minutes and 10 seconds.

Joan Baez and Bob Dylan
I totally missed out on Woodstock in the summer of 69. It wasn’t until the album came out that I became aware of what had occurred. It was probably the pinnacle of the hippie era. Over a half a million people, many wacked out on something, all getting along for the most part and a feeling that they were all on the same page.
It wasn’t until 1970 that I smoked my first joint. I had always been suspect about things I wasn’t that familiar with. I was living in a frat house at the top of University Street in Montreal at the time. The frat life wasn’t that popular back then and most of the boarders were students who weren’t brothers. A German guy named Klaus who lived down the hall lit me up for the first time.

Klaus was an interesting guy. I have no idea what courses he was taking. He converted his room into kind of a hippy pad. He bought a roll of burlap and covered the walls with it. Almost all of the furnishings in his room were close to the floor including his bed that was just a mattress. He had a rich girlfriend who had an old sawmill on her family’s property and Klaus made little tables out of split logs he got from there. Fat round rice lamps hung from the ceiling. He had psychedelic posters on the wall. In some ways his room seemed like a kind of shrine.
In the summer of 1970 the students all left the frat house and I was kind of left in charge of the place. I had lost my job because of cut backs and decided to rent out the rooms for my own personal profit. Some of the renters were hippy types including some guys from Sweden. A guy I had met in Nebraska the previous year turned up in his VW van. One day he brought home two hippie gals. One for each of us I guess. I remember renting a room to a big black guy from New York. He had two fat white girlfriends with him. Sexual values had kind of changed for some over the years you might say.
On day a hippie looking guy turned up at the front door of the frat house along with his girlfriend. He wanted to rent a room. I thought he looked familiar and it turned out he was at Westmount High the same time I was. I remembered him as a 14 year old with a blackwatch sports jacket. Now he looked a lot like Charlie Manson. He got behind on his rent and I decided to check out his room to see if he was still around. He had pushed two dressers together and placed a mattress on top of them. Weird.
Like the 16 vestal virgins I headed out to the coast again, British Columbia and Vancouver. One day I took part in a student demonstration out at UBC. It was more like something to do than being for a cause.
I also spent some time in Edmonton. One night an old friend from Montreal invited me to go with him to see Abbie Hoffman at the Edmonton Field House. I will always remember one really gutsy guy yelling at Abbie and asking “How much are they paying you Abbie?” That took a lot of balls considering the crowd.
Abbie Hoffman
In 1970 the Kent State shootings occurred, Nixon was president, the Viet Nam war was still raging and the first Earth Day happened.
Kent State 1970.
In late autumn of 1970 I found myself in downtown Toronto on a cold night. I was just passing through town and decided to phone an old friend from high school from Montreal. He came down and picked me up in his car and for most of the next year and a half I was a roommate along with another guy from high school. My friend had a pretty decent job as a sales rep but away from work was into getting stoned on weed or hash and chasing women. He had let his hair grow and had a droopy mustache. (I have to write a story about those days in TO.)
From time to time we would go down to a place in Toronto called Rochdale that was basically a large apartment building that had been taken over by hippie types. We used to joke about how the building dwellers scattering when we turned up in shirts and ties after work to buy some grass or hash. That never really happened but we were looked upon as being a bit suspect. We did learn about the accuracy of scales there.

The former Rochdale Builiding in Toronto
We were stoned quite a lot during that time. I remember my roommate driving down the Don Valley Parkway and not understanding how he could manage to steer the car so well. It seemed like we were almost inches away from the lighted guard rails. Paisley shirts had become quite popular. We were listening to stuff by Iron Butterfly, Janis Joplin, Moody Blues and a new album by Neil Young called Harvest. I thought my heart was going to burst a few times hearing In La Gadda Da Vida.
I went out to Banff in the summer of 71 and my roommate’s parting gift was a bit of hash rapped in some tin foil. Sometime later my roommates moved on to a penthouse in Don Mills and I found myself living in downtown Toronto. One night I was invited over to the penthouse and we did some hash. A plastic candle holder that had been swiped from a nightclub caught fire and the whole place was covered in burnt fibreglass residue. We were all asleep when the fire started. Luckily it was discovered  and there was hardly any damage other than to the coffee table.
Several months later I headed out to western Canada for good. Smoking weed kind of became a thing of the past for the next several years. I did another tour in Banff. Local businesses weren’t thrilled about hippies and it was made clear to them by the cops that they should move along to some other town as quickly as possible.
I spent some time in the early 70s in places like Vancouver, Victoria, Kamloops and Port Alberni.
In Vancouver I would often see the Hari Krishna folks outside the Bay store on West Georgia Street doing their “Rum-dum-dum-dum” thing. When I learned more about them I started to despise them. Mind control is one of the more disgusting things that people can do to one another as far as I’m concerned.
In the early 70s Vancouver had a very conservative mayor, a guy named Tom Campbell. He tried to shut down the underground newspaper The Georgia Straight and had cops on horseback break up protests. He also wasn’t thrilled about the hippie panhandlers in Gastown. “Got any spare change? I’m saving up to buy a Cadillac,”
For a few years there were “be-ins” at Stanley Park. Huge crowds would turn out. One year the newly formed Bachman-Turner Overdrive was the entertainment. We saw a few hippie streakers that day running through the throngs.
Easter Be-In Poster Stanley Park, Vancouver 1970s.
There was a “folky” place where hippies and others would sometimes go to on weekend nights that was located in a small town on the road to Whistler called Brackendale. There was also a church on the eastside of Vancouver that put on events that catered to counter culture kind of things.
Some hippie types headed out to Long Beach on the west coast of Vancouver Island where they spent the summer months as nudists. When I was living in Port Alberni some friends invited me to go swimming at a place called Jingle Pot mines on the outskirts of Nanaimo. Probably the only time I’ve been nude in public. Some guy on a ledge was playing a flute and even though I wasn’t stoned at the time I had images in my mind of Greek mythology.
I spent about a month in northern B.C. planting trees with a bunch of hippies from Victoria. They were pretty nice guys and few of them could be very funny. They were hard workers and would put in overtime as this type of work was a large part of their annual income.
There are a number of reasons why I never aspired to be a hippie even though I agreed with a lot of things they seemed to be about like being concerned about the environment and being anti-war. I didn’t like the assumption that one should identify with another person by the way they dressed. I didn’t care for the idea that someone had an immense amount of knowledge because they had a bushy beard and wore granny glasses. I also knew that a lot about what they talked about was second hand bullshit often meant to confuse you.
I had also come to the realization not long after I left high school that I felt a lot freer controlling my own direction rather than being a part of a crowd.
I have often thought that some of the reasons people banded together as hippies was partly because of previous unhappy events in the households they grew up in that many were the introverted types who had felt that they were on the outside from the time they were kids. Poverty also could make people band together. It wasn’t always about disillusioned middle class youth.
By the early 70s a lot of hippies were now in their mid- twenties and some had figured out that they needed to survive in another fashion other than living on a commune. Some found jobs like delivering the mail where it didn’t make much difference what you looked like. Some went back to school and got into teaching. Many got government jobs and joined a union. Still others had another look at capitalism and started small businesses like making clothes, candles, soap, and got into the burgeoning industry of health food.
We were all getting older.
Most hippies kind of packed it in eventually and joined the mainstream. Some kept their core values while others did a totally right turn and became conservative. There were still some holdouts but as the decade of the 70s continued they became less and less.
Around 1976 the Disco craze was going on. One night I decided to look for a place that had some other kind of music and discovered a place on 4th Avenue in Vancouver called Rohan’s. It was an interesting evening. I got into a conversation with a drunk guy at the bar who told me he was a pusher. To prove to me that he was who said he was he showed me a wad of bills that he claimed was 10 grand. That was strange enough but when the music started I saw a couple of hippie gals out on the dance floor. They kind of danced like whirling dervishes with their heads twisting and their waist length hair flying about. I thought to myself that I had discovered the last holdouts from a long lost tribe.
By the 1980s it was very rare to see anyone who looked like a hippie, at least in in the circles of people that I knew. As many other boomers I had gotten married and lived in the burbs. Every now and then we would go to a house party and the people I always enjoyed the most were the ones out on the back porch sharing a joint.
Over the years people became divided by politics. Most who had years before been inclined towards some of the hippie values are on the left. Some men, as they grew older and often balder, grew pony tails. In some ways they could almost be stereotyped. In their homes or apartments you could very well find floor to ceiling bookshelves, with titles that included topics like gardening, health, and spiritualism. They might have a large collection of old vinyl jazz records. On the reclaimed hardwood floor you might see a faux or real Indian rug.
Some had decided to get involved with charitable work or protecting the environment. Others gave up on any fighting about anything to do with politics. I have always had a lot of respect for those that volunteer their services to help out the less fortunate.
In the past few years I have written a lot of stuff in the comments section of the left leaning American Huffington Post. Times have changed. The fire in the belly has gone for a lot on the left. There are just as many or more things wrong about society in the US today but there seems to be a sense of futility sometimes in how the left has reacted to these things. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert organized a march on Washington a year or two ago with no signs allowed. No signs? WTF?  I have suggested a national sales tax a number of times of 1-2% to offset the increased costs of Medicare. Some argued that this would hurt the poor instead of seeing the possibilities.
Another thing that has changed is today’s youth. Many now spend a good part of their days staring at one screen or another. The Occupy Wall Street thing seemed to just fizzle. I guess on the upside there is the fact that gays now have more rights and Obama was re-elected. On the other hand a number of things like Roe v Wade and entitlement programs like SS and Medicare are under attack.
We could do with a lot more people like Chris Hayes, Rachel Maddow, and Matt Taibbi.
You kind of get an idea of how much time has passed since Woodstock when you hear a commercial on TV with Canned Heat in the background singing….”Going up the country….”
 And out!