From the corner of Hiltz Dr and the 48 Highway just north of Kennedy, Saskatchewan, Pythagoras’ Theorem puts Langbank 4.67 km away as the crow flies. Subtle differences between the towns – Langbank has a Co-op, Kennedy does not. Kennedy had a shoe shop, Langbank did not. Langbank has the Cargill. Kennedy had the hockey rink. Farming communities with virtually no reason to get huffy with eachother, but I’m from Kennedy – not Langbank.
Each with a separate school, it was in 1985 that they amalgamated with an agreement that Langbank would whittle away at the minds at the slightly distracted Kindergarten to Grade Sixers and Kennedy would tackle the raging hormones. So when the bus dropped me off in my ‘hometown’ for my first day of high-school (we didn’t bother calling it junior and senior) – that was a big deal.
A few things stand out about that year. Jerry Muir and Jackie Fargo were my senior initiates meaning that for one day the Grade 12’s got to humiliate the new-comers by dressing them up and ordering them around. I would have taken the Dazed and Confused plot over this any day. I was lippy, I knew I had it coming. Drag. Miss Universe – complete with costume instructions; wig and one-piece swimsuit. Walking the halls, completely inappropriately dressed for a public school – Jesus, they gave the busty grade 11’s shit for wear a little-too-low cut of a shirt but enforced my purple regalia riding up the crack of my ass. I said fuck it in the middle of third period computer class and threw on my gym pants to cover up what looked like a hiding church mouse.
That year, I was caught red handed trying to fix a window handle with Elmer’s glue after attempting to open the frozen window in November to see how far I could launch the snow that settled on its exterior. Stupid. I remember Jared Easton not giving me a head’s up that a teacher was coming…I held on to that for a few days. Easton and I were buddies even though he was a maniac Mario Lemieux fan and I constructed a Patrick Roy shrine in my locker – professional rivals that share the exact same birthdate – Lemieux and Roy, not Easton and Berglund.
It must have been a real bitch for teachers to see how much I didn’t care to learn or pay attention as I got off on cutting the girls hair and drawing AC/DC logos on everything but when the time came to hand out who was exempt from writing finals, my marks sat in a percentile that constituted a “full recommendation”. Mom and Dad let it ride on red proving their confidence in my academics and were waiting outside the school the day recommendations came out, picking me up and driving to Columbus, Ohio with a load of foals to be purchased by the Ohio State Veterinarian Program.
We crossed over into the States regularly as children making Minot, ND the family vacation destination. Three nights at the Dakota Inn, couple meals out, and clinging to Dad’s neck in the deep end of the pool. Reminded on entry, that he’ll do the talking, Dad would then instruct us to pretend that we are sleeping – an insurance that someday I will use with my children.
Big days driving. With colts on board we would have to stop regularly to water and feed which meant no time for fun, a b-line to Buckeye State. My brother and I slept and played Gameboy for three days straight, messing up our eyesight and sleeping patterns – so I was wide awake coming into Chicago on the I-90. It was half romance with the idea that I was in the same city as the setting of my favourite movie, Rookie of the Year, mixed with the emotion of “I hate the Blackhawks” due to my perverse obsession with Patrick Roy. Lights and traffic at 1 am – foreign.
“Theresa, where do we turn off?”
Holy shit, what an unfair job to give your wife. Navigation to the I65, analog-style. Lights are on, mom’s flustered, pretty sure I was crying. “Here, here, here!!!!! Take this!!!”
I remember the tension in the silence. Nobody was upset with anybody – but we were in Chicago’s west side before too long in a teal green GMC dually and a load of young, loud, scared horses. No city map. Instinct.
Why dad picked a 2 am car wash to get directions is beyond me but he pulled in, took the truck out of gear, reached for his hat – yep, I wouldn’t have done that – and walked up to a gentlemen washing his car at the ungodly hour. The man, sauntered face to face with my 6’4″ father. One sentence and pointed.
Dad’s reaction was immediate. The man stood motionless. I was crying at this point. Mom suppressed her curiosity and let Dad just drive. He had to maneuver this rig through the narrowest of streets on the darkest of nights. I rarely saw my father scared – once when my brother had a seizure and this. With an hour of heroic turns we were on the I65 – wide awake and silent until South Bend, Indiana.
It’s raining and it’s dusk. I spent the day driving and gnawing on “The Three Pounder”, a pre-made argonaut of of submarine sandwich. Unable to get my only Chicago experience in the summer of ’96 out of my head. Here I am twenty years later with emotion settling underneath my ribs. Dad mentioned at one point before I left, ‘hey, maybe I should come with you?’ – it would be nice to have him as a partner right now.
The Empty Bottle is another dive. The Hoyle Brothers have played here every Friday night for almost 15 years. I choose to leave my hat in the van.