Steven at Seven (part 1)
So, when I was seven, maybe eight, I had my first best friend.
I suppose I've had five or six best friends over the years, but
Steven was the first.
We were in the same class at one of Toronto's tough-guy schools.
John Fisher Public School. Tough. Mean and tough. One of the toughest
bunch of guys at John Fisher was the Skinner brothers. I guess they
must have been a magisterial thirteen or fourteen years old. Maybe,
being as it was a tough-guy school with a lot of kids that repeated
grades, maybe they were as old as sixteen. But I don't think so.
The Skinner brothers wore really pointy-toed boots. They weren't
Spanish boots like the Beatles wore. The Skinner brothers weren't
I wore really pointy-toed Spanish boots a couple of years later,
but I wasn't that cool either. They were second-hand. I once ran
into Joan Baez browsing the jobbers on Spadina Avenue. She told
me I shouldn't wear boots like that in winter. It wasn't good for
my feet, she said. Like I say, I wasn't that cool either.
So, one day one of the Skinner brothers had gotten into a really
major fight. He had this bruise sort of thing sticking out of his
left cheek. I see it in my mind's eye as about as round as a fifty-cent
piece, black and blue of course, and sticking out about an inch
from his face. Really gross. Really cool too, in that dark, chthonic
sort of way that young boys going to tough-guy schools learn to
like. Scary, but cool. Gives you bad dreams at night, but it stirs
up the old Silverback Gorilla thing. Kind of like the Hell's Angels,
when you're their pal.
I once played a gig for the Angels. It was called Angel acres.
More than five thousand Angels and their ladies showed up for the
three day weekend bash. That was really cool. The stage set was
like a major rock concert, and the booze flowed like spring water.
When the weekend was over, and everyone had to catch the ferry home,
our ferry had about two hundred fifty Hell's Angels on it. On their
bikes. All parked together like a murder of crows on the bottom
deck of the ferry. Of course, you just knew they were going to be
first off. Had to be. When we arrived at the ferry dock at the other
end of the ride it was very quiet for a minute or so. The Angel
in front raised his arm in the air, like some dark army colonel,
and held it there for a count of ten. Then dropped it. As one, all
two hundred fifty Harleys turned over and revved up ready to go.
Grumble, grumble. Man, the air shook; the deck of the ferry shook.
The dark angel raised his arm again, held it for a count of ten,
and drove off with all two hundred fifty Harleys, in pairs, side
by side, flowing our after him like raw crude. It wasn't quiet anymore.
That was cool.
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