Sunday, November 11, 2012


Dear Reader,
My father, who fought in World War 2, always referred to Remembrance Day as Poppy Day.  This is a past post --  slightly edited from last year:

I am thinking of getting a tattoo. A tattoo, I think, will add grit and mystery to my busking persona. I’ve got my banjitar, my guitar, my didgeridoo; I’ve got my playlist; I’ve got my buskspots; I need a tattoo.

The first tattoo I ever laid eyes on was on my Dad’s left bicep. It was a portrait, a head shot, of a girl donning a sailor cap. The name, Norma, was printed beneath – My mom's name is Marlene. All my friends and anyone I knew who ever saw that tattoo were impressed. My Dad had guns for biceps, no doubt resulting from the heavy lifting in a Macdonalds Consolidated warehouse where he had labored for thirty years.

My Dad left the village of Vanguard, Saskatchewan, Canada, to join the Royal Canadian Navy during the Second World War. Overseas, my sailor Dad, got his tattoo while on drunken shore leave at the Port of Barcelona. My Dad served as an Ordinary Seaman on the anti-submarine war ships, the HMCS Restigouche (Destroyer), the HMCS Antigonish (Frigate), and the HMCS Aggasiz (Corvette). Basically, his emerging adult years were spent chasing German submarines in the North Atlantic. My Dad returned home with a war chest of medals.

After the war his namesake nephew, Jackie, too, needed a tattoo, just like his Uncle Jack’s. Instead of getting a Norma, he chose Mickey Mouse. Jackie was fifteen years old. Jackie flexed this tattoo on his left bicep until he was 72 years old. At 72 his newest girlfriend did not like men with tattoos and so Jackie snuffed out Mickey with three laser treatments. Jackie is alive and well at 78, but Mickey Mouse no longer hangs on his arm.

And I know exactly the tattoo I want and where I want it. The very first time I had to officially identify my busking-self, I used the name Seahorse. I am thinking I’ll have a larger-than- life seahorse inked on my left side, starting with the head on my shoulder and ending with the tail on my left bicep. Like Norma, my seahorse will be donning a sailor cap. Unlike Norma, my tattoo will be surrounded by a marshall's star (to exemplify my cowboy busker persona).

I can easily imagine the perceived mystery and grit of being one who is tattooed. I shall represent that sense of alterity that many of us so desire. Being tattooed I shall no longer be just another button-down busker pounding out tunes in the parking lots. A tattoo shall surely enhance that ever present busker charisma. A tattoo demonstrates one who is doughty, not pouty. And finally, I can finally be that desired doppelganger of me, myself, and I.

Today is Remembrance Day. When I was a kid we used to call it Poppy Day. My Dad’s pop (George Child, my Grandfather) is buried in the Veterans’ section in the Regina Cemetery. I never met my Grandfather. He died in 1931 when my Dad was just ten years old. I’ve seen pictures though, one where he is on horseback and armed with a rifle, when he was a cavalryman of the British Dragoons in the First World War.

Fittingly, my Pop, Jack Child, is buried in the village from where he went off to war, Vanguard, Saskatchewan, Canada. Beneath a sketched sailor cap on my Dad’s headstone it reads:
Home is the sailor, home from sea.

Jack Child sailed home on Valentine's Day, 1994.

And, of course, I wrote a busking song about him:

D                                 A
Jack was every inch a sailor
Sailed with Columbus to America
On the Nina and the Pinta
A7                  D
And the Santa Maria

D                                 A
Jack was every inch a sailor
Sailed to Galapagos on the Beagle
Sailed to the North on the Arktika
A7                                     D
Sailed to the South on the Fram

D                                  A
Jack was every inch a sailor
Scrubbed ol' Rusty Guts at seventeen
Chasing German submarines
A7                                 D
And blowing them to smithereens

D                                   A
Jack was every inch a sailor
He met his mermaid Norma
At the Port of Barcelona
A7                                 D
Had her tattooed on his bicep

D                                A
Jack was every inch a sailor
A North Atlantic Able Seaman
Jack was every inch a sailor
A7                                         D
He sailed away on Valentine's Day [x2]

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