Friday, August 12, 2011

CC Rider: An Essay on Defining Moments

In the summer of 1967 a skinny, brilliant, and bespeckled Clark Henderson and a not-so-confident self rode our two-stroke candy red 80 cc Suzuki motorcycles out of the village of Vanguard straight north to the town of Herbert, where there was a rodeo and a couple girls waiting at our journey’s end. Clark Henderson was the mechanically inclined kind of guy who could fix anything and therefore could venture anywhere without fear of breakdown. His summer job (and fall and winter and spring job, too) was at his dad's store, Henderson Bros. Hardware. It was Clark’s idea to go for the ride, and what a sweet ride it was!

The way the crow flies, Herbert was 100 kilometers straight north of Vanguard, and we rode that trail directly beneath that flyway of the crow. We cut straight north, through Turkey Track Ranch. Turkey Track Ranch, at that time, was 27 sections of range land, containing more than a few historical sites, one of which being Sinking Hill, where we stopped and ate our packed baloney sandwiches, swished down with our shared thermos of Adam's ale. Riding cross country through the range land I got a front tire flat, and had to push my motorcycle more than a few miles to the Turkey Track homestead. Once there, cowboy Bob Ostrander, ranch owner and foreman, fixed my flat. Through the kindness of Bob, we were soon again in our bike saddles and the rest of the trip happened as planned, riding through the villages of Hallonquist and Neidpath. We made it to the rodeo in Herbert on time, and more importantly, we met the girls and made some time and that was that.

Not surprisingly, this was one of those defining moments in my life. I am thinking for pragmatic purposes, generally and statistically, a defining moment ought to be regarded as one of those epiphanical experiences, though within the realm of most anyone’s capabilities, yet is only accomplished by a select few.

In retrospect, I’ve more than a few defining moments and apexes of which I shall annotate somewhat.

1976. I received my scuba certification through NAUI (National Association of Underwater Instructors) from Cariboo College, Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada. We (other class members and myself) did our desk work right at Cariboo College. Though it was wintertime, our water work was done in the scenic British Columbia Shuswap Lake. We started with twenty some students; in the end only six of us became certified.

1985. My book, A Wishbone Epistolary, was published by the Guidance Centre, University of Toronto. This originally was a just another academic paper submitted for one of my graduate classes. Though essentially academic, it read like fiction. I had created a couple of fictional characters and set them off to work in a high school guidance office. My professor, Bill Ewart, insisted that I send it off to a book publisher. I did so and voila! (My royalties were a typical 10% take on sales and I made more than a few bucks.)

1990. I complete my first official marathon. I'd run a couple unofficial ones before this point (extended relays, extreme cross-country runs, etc.), but none that were sponsored by Timex. My running buddies, Burt and Jim with whom I'd run at least twenty half-marathons, and self stayed at the Bessborough Hotel in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Jim ran the half, and when Burt and I crossed the finish line of the 26 miler in just under four hours, Jim had a glass of rye whiskey waiting for me. (Long since those running days, Jim stamped SKI YA on his licence plate and moved to Vernon, British Columbia, and Burt quit running due to health concerns. Burt and I still do coffee and I still run.)

1994. Finally, I defended my Master’s thesis, One Hundred Days At The House Of Concord: An Ethnographic Study of Young Offenders in an Exercise Programme. En route, driving to my scheduled defense, my anxieties were to the point that I was in a cold and nervous sweat as I timidly entered into that room of the external examiner, my thesis committee members, and a few casual observers from academia. My, rough start ended with a magnificent finish – a flying pass complete without rewrites. My buddy Jim (the same Jim that fed me whiskey after running a marathon) was there with a coffee and a donut and a handshake immediately following my defense.

2003. I pounded on the steel keys of the glockenspiel with our band, Sharie and the Shades, at thee Knox Metropolitan Christmas concert in Regina. My bandmates were on the main stage; for special effects I was strategically situated in the loft section of the cathedral, seated among hundreds of audience members. The television cameras were, seemingly, on me the entire duration of our very stylized Do You Hear What I Hear. I really did just want to run away at the time.

2009. For most of that summer, my oldest son, Baron, and I went busking on the mean (in terms of take) streets of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. My daughter, Natika, was there and studying at the University of Victoria, and my other son, Travers, too, was there and studying at the University of Victoria. Though we at first played and sang in angst on those city sidewalks, it prove to be a most glorious time! (This was my first real buskation.)

2011. This summer I've had the privilege to busk for CMHA (Canadian Mental Health Association), the Schizophrenia Society of Saskatchewan, SEARCH (Student Energy in Action for Regina Community Health), and Amnesty International. We Westerners tend to measure things in a linear fashion, and in keeping with tradition I shall present the act of busking. On the extreme left there is selfish; on the extreme right there is selfless. Oftentimes, to pay for petrol and lunches and Americano decafs, I busk for selfish (far left). Other times, and I'm approached on a regular basis, I busk for selfless, others' needs, (far right). Admittedly, when busking and making lots of coin, selfish does have its happy moments; even so, selfless busking for social causes, too, has its equal moments of happiness.

Nevertheless, what do these self-called defining moments have in common? They were all, indeed, adventures that begat with capriciousness and angst, and that ended in gladsome accomplishment. They were all deeds that were within practically anyone’s capabilities, yet statistics repeatedly determine that for most people, it just isn’t happening much. They were deeds that have partly defined and determined who I am at this very moment. I still swim; I still write; I still run; I'm still in academia; I still play musical instruments; I still busk.

Admittedly, I am an anachronism that reflects my 50’s and 60’s and 70’s past, though a bit more debonair than in those wistful days of yore. In my CC salad days I can recall Billy Roy Puckett (a Vanguardian teenager) telling a bunch of us (other Vanguardian teenagers) that he wished he could go back into the days of the wild, wild west with a Honda and a semi-automatic. As sinister as this might sound, at the time he was merely commenting on the current technology, that of the 60’s. Commercial motorcycles and smaller hunting rifles were being manufactured en masse at that time. Afterall, we were living in the 60’s in rural Saskatchewan, home of hunters and fishers and … Easy Riders!

And what did these defining moments define, exactly? The definitive answer (pun intended) is … me. It is from these defining moments that I've grown to realize that I am the sum, rather than the prisoner, of my experiences. It is from these defining moments that I've grown to realize that my only adversary to practically anything I choose to do in my life is ... me.

Such defining moments are really the creations from a life lived not lived in an Augean stable nor in a cage that is carceral; rather, defining moments are the creations from a life that is lived in a circuitous exploration for pearls in an oyster world.

1 comment:

  1. Nice post Neil! Really enjoyed these the last few weeks!!! Keep em coming. Look forward to the weekly read.