By 1977 I had been living in and around Vancouver for three years. I was working during the day with an electrician and the odd nights were taken up with music out in Kitsilano. There were coffee houses and venues one could rent to put on an evening of entertainment. People then were incredibly supportive and any new song was applauded and encouraged. I got to know quite a few of the local musicians and we became closer through playing at the coffee houses. During this time a few of my friends and I put on two shows roughly six months apart- we sold tickets and sang both individually and in groups. Both events were successes, and some partying ensued afterward with alcohol the principal ingredient. I ended up having sex with Sandy both times, flush from the applause from the events and the many scotches imbibed. Since these two happenings were (to me) unconnected I never made a correlation and merrily went on my way.
Up until then I had been sharing a house with a nice couple from Toronto but was finally getting up my courage to lead a gay lifestyle. I found an apartment not far away and had only been there a month when I got a call from Sandy asking me to come over as we needed to talk. This was news to me but I cheerfully headed over. Upon my arrival I was faced with two angry women for the price of one- her best friend who was a bitter, vengeful female Odin type whom I had not met before and baleful brooding Sandy herself. When I asked the what was wrong I was told that I needed to make up my mind- were we in a relationship or not? Did I think that sex was only for comfort and sharing? No, the R word kept being bandied about until I felt so guilty that I had missed what must obviously be some hitherto unknown arcane rules of relationships that I agreed she should move in with me (what the HELL was I thinking?) and we would give it a go. She was a beautiful singer, a great guitar player and a great songwriter; unfortunately she was a shitty person. At first things went as well as could be expected- we started getting work as a duo and at first this was a lot of fun. I did notice however if we had any sort of disagreement even days before the show she would make me pay while we were on stage, glowering and pouting and fuming, oh my! We didn’t have sex very often and this seemed to suit us both, but the endless days of resentful endless misery started taking its toll.
At the same time my boss the electrician started putting pressure on me to take over the business. He had wanted his son to become his mini me but the son had no interest in any job as unglamorous as a trade, being very happy becoming a yuppie with a Beamer. Since I understood the work and got along well with all the contractors this seemed to him a perfect solution. Unfortunately the pressures continued to mount- I found my hands and other joints aching more as time went on, and eventually my legs got so weak I started walking with a cane, and eventually with two canes. Now I know it was all psychological but at the time the doctors could find nothing wrong, and the pills they gave me were ineffective.
Since I couldn’t work anymore I gave my notice to the electrician and started preparing to move back to Ontario. Around the same time Sandy was offered a job as a musician for a play being put on in Victoria. We both agreed this was all for the best so goodbye and thanks for all the fish. I bought an old ’64 Daimler, a beautiful car, just before leaving, threw my stuff in the back and headed home. Before I left I had a musician friend who told me he wanted to move back to Ottawa so I offered him a ride. We had an uneventful trip at first- the car had electronic overdrive so we cruised through the Rockies and into the foothills. About halfway through the prairies I heard a siren behind me- a police siren to be exact. Just as I was pulling over my suddenly nervous friend confided in me that he had fifty hits of LSD in his backpack.
Years before I had smoked a lot of pot and had at one time carved out a little soapstone pipe in the shape of a whale; I hadn’t used it in years but had kept it as a memento. When I was packing to leave I had thrown it in at the last moment; it sat in the box behind my seat with the box cover not closed. As the policeman was waiting for me to give him my licence and insurance he spotted the pipe. As the back window was opened he just reached in, picked it up and asked me what it was. I told him I had kept it for sentimental reasons but hadn’t smoked in years. He seemed somewhat mollified by this response but now his partner also came up and started looking around inside the car.
When I purchased the vehicle the owner told me he had done work on the engine but neglected to tell me he had taken the engine plate off. I should also mention that a lot of people were stealing cars back then on the west coast (no rust from salt on the roads in winter) and selling them back east, and taking off the engine plate made it possible to muddle the cars’ origins. As the second cop (constable on patrol) was searching the glove box he came across the engine plate. Well, you would have thought they had found quantities of heroin or dead children; all of a sudden this was a major event. No more smiles or friendly overtures- this was getting ugly. By now I was reliving a Twilight Zone episode with everything spiralling out of control.
The next place they wanted to look was in the trunk, where I didn’t have much stuff but my friend’s backpack was in there. The policeman started searching around in the pack with his hand, and suddenly asked “What is this?” I blanched but otherwise make no comment. The cop pulled out a flashlight, looked at it and put it back. After verifying my credentials they told us to be on our way but to be careful and drive more slowly.
We sat there for a couple of minutes and pulled back out into traffic. By then my hands were shaking so badly I could hardly hold a cigarette. I drove for around five minutes, pulled over again and said “Go get your acid”. We each took a hit before heading out onto the open road. Needless to say our drive across the country had now become a chapter from a Jack Kerouac novel. Hallucinating didn’t seem to be much of a problem and the trek across the prairies didn’t take a lot of focus on the driving and there were almost no other vehicles on the road, but to ground us somewhat we bought a bottle of Scotch liqueur and sipped on this crossing the middle of Canada.. I drove non-stop from mid-Saskatchewan to Ottawa, dropped him off, then drove back to Cobourg to my parents’ place, where I slept for twenty-four hours.
I wasn’t home three days when Sandy showed up on my doorstep. She had quit her job and had decided to come live with me- oh joy. Since this was anathema to me and I was at my parents’ home where there were still a lot of kids I suggested she go live with her mother for the time being. She was agreeable to this so off she went to Windsor. Her mother was a Jehovah’s Witness and her father was gone so there would only be the two of them. Thinking that I was finally rid of her I went about the task of getting better. A few months later I moved in with a friend of mine in a very small town. I reached an entertainment agent in Toronto who booked in the vicinity.
The first place he sent me was a hotel in Belleville just before my birthday in January, during which the average temperature was -18. There was five feet of snow everywhere and the idiot had booked me into a country bar instead of a folk club. I had no money, couldn’t go anywhere and thought things just couldn’t get any worse. Imagine my surprise on the third day there when Sandy showed up, saying she missed me and couldn’t live without me. I had had it by this time and finally told her I was gay and that she should go home and leave me alone. She was hurt and asked me why I hadn’t let her know sooner. Since I had left her twice and told her to go away three times I thought this was redundant but I made damn sure to be crystal clear- I had had enough of this nonsense.
I thought I would never see her again but a couple of years later when Joan (my future wife; wait for it) and I took a trip to B.C. after dropping off a herd of my family in Grande Prairie. We took our time going through the province, stopping in Banff, Jasper and any other place we felt like it. We eventually ended up in Kitsilano in a cafe where I explained to her what the music scene had been like. We were just getting ready to leave when Sandy walked in with her girlfriend. Yes, she was a lesbian and (as far as I was concerned) had always been one. She seemed as happy as she had ever been and we parted with kind words. At that time I would have bet anything I owned that I was through with straight sex and relationships. Silly rabbit.