From Hastings to Here...
No bio yet!!! - that's gonna take awhile, with about 20 binders of past stuff gathered and now a lot of stuff on a hard drive as well, not to mention 40-odd years of stuff in the grey matter hard drive. Briefly! - born in Toronto in 1950, father about to graduate from medical school, mother recovering from TB. The family made a stop in a small town in northern Ontario called Desbarats, and another brief one in Oshawa, before settling in another small town called Hastings, where my parents spent the rest of their lives, dying in 1982 (mother) and 1992 (father), and the rest of us grew up, all the formative years kind of stuff. I've done quite a lot of work on the family history, find that kind of thing interesting and important - better grounding if you know some of this stuff. In the family I was the oldest, with four younger brothers, who now live in Ottawa (2), Fredericton and Swift Current. Typical sort of pre-teen, top of the class through public school stuff - read a lot, a bit introverted, physically active, if not a star at any of the sports I participated in. Then came 64 and the Beatles, just after I started "the change", and my teen years were one long fight with authority, starting when I grew about an inch of hair on my head and everyone panicked - kicked out of high school many times, taken out of town on at least two occasions I recall by the town cop and told not to come back until I got a haircut, etc and etc. Seems like small stuff, but it had a big impact on the young brain - from a life of security to a life of ostracism because I refused to cut my hair. I think it was a turning point though - for some reason, the Great Authority Figures demanded my bending of the knee, resigning me to eternal servitude at their pleasure, at that tender young age before I had a chance to learn what or who they were, or what options there might be, just pledge eternal fealty NOW or face the consequences!!! - and I told em all to go fuck themselves. I've never regretted doing so.
Anyway, that was the first turning point - I was still young and stupid (the brain was ok, but in terms of the "ways of the world" I had no learning, and no teachers and no advice outside of "cut your hair and get a job and you'll be happy"), and stayed that way for a lot of years following - but I was walking my own path, doing my own learning, and making my own mistakes - a lot of that over the next couple of decades. I spent my late teens and most of my 20s playing music and writing songs - pretty good at it too - and absolutely certain my life would be spent thusly - but the break never came, and somewhere in my mid-20s I realized that making it in music had dick-all to do with the quality of the music, but there was more involved - a willingness once again to bow down to the Man, and be an Entertainer for the Masses. I didn't understand well what all that meant, but it was a piece in the puzzle, a step in the learning process.
By the time I was 30 I was pretty much resigned to the fact I was not likely going to be a rock star, and had better get on with something else. By then, through too much beer drinking and a bit of indiscreet buggering about with other women during some of the beer drinking times, I had caused my common-law wife to leave me, with my two kids, and figured that if I was going to make a new start, it was going to have to be somewhere else besides Hastings, where I was unlikely to either find any good opportunities or live my reputation down - I think I was somewhat of a better person than the gossip made me out to be, but you can't really get away from the gossip, and few people look beyond "long hair, no job, drinks beer too much", and the dreaded "womanizer!!!". I liked playing euchre too much too. So I packed up my stuff and headed for Halifax with a new girlfriend, determined to become a marine biologist - the reasons I wanted to become one of those are lost to me now, but that was the plan. Dalhousie U in Halifax wanted more money and paper than I had, so I went off to Prince Edward Island, and they took me in at the university there, where I spent a very happy 4 years getting a biology degree, graduating "cum laude" in 1985.
During those years I also started my "real" education, getting involved with the so-called "justice system" on PEI a few times, a real eye-opener. I had had dozens of encounters with the police and courts of Ontario before coming to PEI, but the laws were clear enough about booze and driving, and I didn't think much else about it, just developed a life-long pleasure of driving on back roads, and an equally life-long aversion to the sight of flashing red lights in my rear-view mirror. But in PEI I started moving into the bigger world through a number of instances where I felt I was being treated either very unfairly by some part of "the system", or encountering outright corruption in high places, and being brushed off like the annoying ant I eventually came to understand was all I was, all talk of "citizenship" and "equality" in Canada notwithstanding (until that time, I had been a firm follower of the central "democratic Canada" dogma - that Canada was one of the very best, fairest, most equal democratic societies that ever existed in history - really, I was. Like I said - stupid.). I've written about The Beer Story elsewhere - not a big deal, a few pints of beer, but very indicative of the way "justice" actually works - and if you can't trust somebody on the small stuff, you're not very likely to trust em on the big stuff. There was also the matter of CN rail having my car towed, after having given me permission to park it in their lot, which was another eye-opener, as I got all the way to the Supreme Court of PEI on that one - and learned some good lessons about how "judges" conduct themselves once again, covering each other's mistakes, and simply ignoring evidence that undermines whatever it is they want to do. I got involved with mounting legal challenges against the new seat-belt legislation there as well later on, lots of extra-curricular learning. And those were my introductory sessions to how the legal system worked. All during the same time I was studying biology in university and maintaining good marks. (in case you're wondering - the beer drinker was drinking a LOT less beer in those days, beer story notwithstanding...)
Following graduation from UPEI, I got an Ontario Grad Scholarship to go to Trent University in Peterboro, where I took the first year of a two-year program in Watershed Ecosystems. That sort of fizzled out - they wanted me to do some very reductionistic work along the lines of looking at PPM of some heavy metals in some beaver ponds, whereas I wanted a more holistic type of experience, the life and times of a beaver pond sort of thing, so that experiment in higher ed ended after one year. But it was a great year for learning in many other ways. I was renting a room at a farm house in the country a few miles away from the university, and had a lot of opportunities to read and study on my own, and walk and think - I read a lot of scientific stuff around the watershed course, and also started a lot of reading about things that were wrong with our society, and others who were trying to do something about it. It seems very strange to say now, but up until that time - 1985, I'm 35 years old - I had known next to nothing of other people in the world who were actually thinking that things were wrong on a big scale, and working on ways to make things better - I just had not been exposed to anything along those lines, either in Hastings or in PEI during my university years (I don't want to paint too incorrect a picture here - there was undoubtedly some stuff available during these times, but I was too self-centered to be aware of it). It seems very odd indeed to think that, given my earlier years as a "hippie" and musician - but that's the way I recall it. I recall it was like an epiphany, an actual rebirth (my second rebirth, the first being zonked by the Beatles and dealing with the reaction to my hair), reading a book called The Aquarian Conspiracy, by a lady named Marilyn Ferguson. I remember it clearly still, reading that book mostly sitting in the front porch of that old farm house, the fields out in front of me, that summer or early fall of 1985, and being absolutely astounded at the things I was learning about the way our world was run, and about alternative societies past and present, and the other people who had been thinking the same thoughts I had been slowly finding around my brain for the last several years. It was a real eye-opener to understand that not only was I not alone in the world, but there were so many others who had been down this road before, and thus were obviously much, much further along it.
So I read and read and read. Finished the year at Trent (withdrew in good standing was the official transcript, did a lot of tramping over deep snow that winter, but never got much interest in PPM of cadmium, zinc, lead and copper - but the isolated beaver ponds, frozen in the winter, were something to remember, and the deer that followed me one day, some things like that), and went back to PEI, full of new ideas and thoughts about our country and society.
And now it was 1986 - the Mulroney years just getting under way with the new panic about the National Debt, and I started doing a whole bunch of reading and studying about what was going on in my country, Canada, following on from the earlier eye-openers of the "justice" system, and then my readings of the year before about what things were wrong in my world and what people were thinking about it all. During this time I started a long series of "Letters to the Editor", mostly to the local main Island paper, the Guardian, on any number of things I was reading about that I thought were wrong or required some sort of alternative commentary than the paper was giving it, who actually published them for a couple of years - big scrapbook somewhere. I also did a column for a year or so, nature writing mostly, called "Birds 'n' Stuff" - which met an end around the 88 "free trade" election when the editor informed me that nature writing did not include political commentary - I contended that if a government activity ("free trade") was going to have a major environmental impact, then it certainly was grounds for "nature" commentary. The newspaper, of course, won - another lesson about who runs things and what they require of people. Another voice silenced. But only for awhile. But I had gotten the letter-writing habit, and have been writing them ever since (the great majority of letters to editors since that time have gone unpublished, needless to say - but I can't keep quiet, I just can't !!! - and I figure I'll let em know someone is watching, anyway (those from the last year or so can be found here). This may prove to be a bad strategy, as when it comes time to round up the dissidents, I'll be in every file. But I guess one reason I fight, with others, is to try to see to it that that day never gets here.)
And it was around this time I also started getting more interested in the reality of propaganda - the national "debt" was so obviously being "made" into a big issue, with very political realities following, and then shortly thereafter we had the 88 election, the so-called "free trade" election, and the issue of propaganda in our society suddenly became much more obvious (as Big Business in Canada did all they could to influence the vote) - at least to me - and has been one of the main things I've considered in my writing since. And the media are obviously a central part of the propaganda - so I had to start looking at the role of the media in what was wrong with our society, and the role of Big Business (again, I know that nothing I say is "new" - but it was new to me, on my voyage of discovery - I have certainly learned a lot, as I have said, from the many who went on this path before me).
And so it went through the last half of the 1980s. The lady I came to PEI with had found another boyfriend during my last year of university, and I subsequently found another lady friend. "Work"-wise, I spent a year with a Canada Council grant writing a book on the Natural History of PEI (finished but not published), a year (most of it) working in aquaculture on Tracadie Bay (hard at times, and I don't think I will EVER be a "get up at 7 am" type of person, but it was a great time being on the Bay so much), some time washing dishes (do all writers do this??) and doing income taxes (leading to the 3rd big legal battle for me of the decade, getting screwed around by UI, and took an appeal right to the Federal Court of Canada (took me over two years, but I actually won that one - talk about vindication! the judge (a lady) actually said, quite indignantly, to the tableful of lawyers sitting across from me "What have you been doing to this man?!?") - a story I gotta get written down someday).
I did my only "officially" published books during this period, 1990-91, a couple of kids books.
Another failed attempt at "true love" saw me moving to a small cottage in the country in a community called Harrington in 1990, where I spent 4 very happy years, overall, writing and thinking and gardening and playing my piano, and a couple of them with probably the biggest love of my life, some amazing times. The brutal PEI winters were really starting to get to me though. I got my first computer (thanks Mike!), and did the weekly newspaper called the Alternative Voice for a few months until I ran out of money. I got my ideas about how a society ought to be run together in a pamphlet called The Prince Edward Island Revival Plan, and then worked for a year for Mel Hurtig's National Party, a real eye-opener that was. I ran at the end of the year as a candidate in the 93 federal election, and learned first hand how deep the suspicion of anyone even thinking of politics is among the general population - they are so cynical and sick of being lied to they just can't bring themselves to trust anyone who promises to try to make things better.
And after that, burned out from the 18-hour days of the election year (my job was basically the "organiser" for the Maritime provinces), heartsick at the love of my life leaving me, still feeling the effects of my father dying the year before, I joined CUSO in 1994 and came to Thailand, both running from and to something, I think. For the next 3-4 years I did not pay much attention to things in Canada - couldn't, really, as there was no widespread net available, and the local newspapers carried about as much news of Canada as Canadian newspapers do of Thailand (one very memorable moment came when Chretien was at a G8 meeting or something in Russia, and in the picture of the heads of state, he was identified as "unknown"). Anyway, I was supposed to be paying attention to things here, and was busy enough learning to live in a new culture. I was working with NGOs, my first direct experience with such a thing, and my education concerning things international got a big boost at this time, and gave me a lot of new stuff to put into the equations of what was going on everywhere. And then by 97-98 we were starting to get some net stuff, and I was starting to find my way around it, and then the MAI campaign got underway, and I (with no arguments I must admit) got sucked right back into caring about what was going on in my country and trying to do something about it. Talk about a Don Quixote complex!
And that's probably the main sort of steps that got me here - there is, of course, a huge amount of stuff left out, a lot of people and experiences and places - but this isn't meant to be a book, just some background stuff in case anyone is curious about the person calling Canada such a mess, and suggesting we need to be doing something about it, rather urgently - I still think the Titanic analogy is about how it is - all the passengers just having a big party, thinking everything is just fine, right up to the last second before the iceberg rips the guts out of her - she could have been saved quite easily before that - but after - no hope. I hope I'm wrong. My first foray into this type of web stuff ran for a little over a year, called The Rude Macedon, from which I learned quite a bit. I put it aside for a few weeks, but found I just could not turn my brain off from wanting to comment on the continual lies I was seeing coming from the Canadian media, taking my country into places I am sure no-one really wants to go. I don't know if I can have any impact or not, but I know I gotta try.
I've written four kid's books, two published, two not yet, and am working on a fifth - you can peruse the first chapters following (there's a bit more on each of them at the end of the chapter; the pic to the left is from the first one - taken at about 7 am one morning as I was on my way to Tracadie Bay....):