Ken David Stewart reads episode 44 of street dreams
Tony Barrows was starting to feel lonely. He put down the novel that he had been reading, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. He thought to himself and started to laugh,
“Most people think I’m a punk and a loser. Just another greaser high school dropout. That may be true to a certain extent, but how many greasers would be sitting by themselves on a Saturday night reading a classic novel in American literature. Not too many would be my guess,” Tony thought. “Come to think of it, I’m probably the only one.”
Tony now felt restless as well as lonely. He decided that he would give his nerd buddy Herbie Schultz a phone call.
“So what’s happening Herb?” Tony asked while rolling himself an enormous blunt.
“Hey Tony. I’m on my PC right now. I’ve got the Spotify app open and I’m downloading an album by Motorhead,” Herby replied.
“Yeah, which album are you downloading?” Tony asked.
“Aftershock The Tour Edition. I’ll tell you Tony, Motorhead really rocks out on this one.”
“I will have to look up that one myself. I haven’t heard it yet. Remember when we went to see Motorhead a couple years ago?” Tony asked.
“Of course. The concert was awesome. We got really wasted that night. Motorhead played loud enough to make your ears bleed,” Herbie said.
“Louder than everything else, right Herbie. Listen up. I got an idea for tonight. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I actually miss Whisper. I wouldn’t admit this to anyone else Herb, but you’re my only real friend. How about you and me go for a drive in my truck tonight to look for Whisper?” Tony asked.
“I thought that you didn’t know where she went after you threw her out of your truck,” Herbie said.
“I’ve a strong hunch that I know where she is. As I drove slowly down the street that day I saw an old guy come to his door and ask Whisper if she needed help. Maybe she’s still with him now, Tony said.
|”Sure. I’m not doing anything tonight. Let’s go for a ride.” Herbie said.
Tony had a good memory was able to recall the exact street and house where the old man lived. Tony parked his white Ford 150 in front of Harold’s house. He and Herbie walked up to Harold’s front door and Tony rang the doorbell.
Harold answered the door not recognizing the two young men who were standing at the entrance to his house.
“Hey guys, how can I help you? Are you looking for someone?” Harold asked.He had a weird premonition that he’d seen one of these men before.
“Yeah, I’m looking for my girlfriend, Whisper,” Tony answered.
Harold now realized that the husky young man was the male that pushed Whisper out of his truck and threw her duffle bag on the road.
Whisper overheard Harold and Tony Barrows talking at the front entrance of the house. It was not difficult to decipher Tony’s unique baritone voice. She walked up to the right side of Harold and said,”What do you want Tony? I see that you brought your little buddy Herbie along.”
“I just want to say I’m sorry for pushing you out of my truck I’m sorry about our fight,too. It was all my fault. I was having a really bad day. I had a horrible migraine headache. Still, that’s no excuse for the way I treated you.” Tony said.
Tony put out his right hand and attempted to shake Harold’s hand. Harold reluctantly shook Tony’s hand. He wasn’t sure about Tony’s intentions toward Whisper and wondered how sincere his apology was. Harold was not totally surprised to see Tony. His intuition had told him that Tony would likely come to his house looking for Whisper one day.
Harold looked towards Whisper, “Should I let these guys in so that we can have a chat with them?”
“Yes, I think that would be okay,” Whisper answered.
As soon as Tony and Herbie entered Harold’s living room he asked them to be seated on his couch. Tony looked at Harold and said, “I hope that we’re not interrupting anything sir,” He saw the whiteboard, washable felt markers and felt eraser. Tony chuckled a little and said, “Are you guys in the middle of some kind of class?”
“Oh no. We were just getting things set up for a gamee my son Ricky invented. He’s named the game Jukebox,” Harold answered. Whisper sat on a chair that she brought from the kitchen. She sat across from Herbie and Tony, but was unable look them in the eyes. She felt awkward and uncomfortable, but she was relieved that she was not alone with Tony. She knew her boyfriend well enough to know that he would not get hostile or aggressive in front of Harold and Ricky. She was also not surprised Tony could talk his way into Harold’s home. Tony might be a greaser and a loser, but he could be very charming by acting polite in the presence of people that he didn’t know. It worked in Tony’s favour that Harold was very curious about people and tended to give strangers the benefit of the doubt.
Ricky was not intimidated by Tony and he could easily surmise that Herbie was not a fighter. However, he was quite willing to act as security for Whisper and his dad if Tony tried anything. Tony studied Ricky for a few minutes and he could sense that Ricky was not afraid to go toe to toe with him if the situation went south. That did not mean that Tony was afraid of Ricky. Tony had never lost a physical fight is his life and was certain that he could take Ricky if Ricky wanted to be a hero. Still, he respected a person that did not display any fear of him.
Harold was not easily intimidated either. He had to admit that he was looking forward to the day they would get to meet Whisper’s boyfriend.
“I realize that it may look a little strange having a whiteboard in my living room. To put you guys at ease, I assure you that I’m not going to teach a class this evening even though I am a retired schoolteacher,” Harold said with a mischievious grin on his face.
This caused Herbie Schultz to give off a nervous laugh. He was used to getting into bizarre situations when he went somewhere with Tony Barrows. He realized that life would never be boring as long as Tony was his best friend.
As Rick entered the main foray of the library he was greeted by Denise Carr, the librarian. Rick had been to this branch of the library so many times that Denise knew Rick by name.
“So what are we looking for today Rick?” the attractive thirty-five-year-old brunette asked.
Rick answered in a distracted manner, “I’m not sure yet. I’ll probably be checking out the new releases. I want to see if I can find anything on the cultural revolution happening in the States.”
“You’re such an intellectual, Rick. I’ll have a look myself to see what I can come up with,” Denise said.
It didn’t take Rick long to find the case that contained the new releases. Over the summer Rick had read a variety of books, both fiction and non-fiction. Although Rick was on the university entrance track at Maplewood Collegiate he would often be intrigued by what the students in the general course stream were reading as part of their prescribed curriculum. Rick discovered that he liked the novels in the general course better than he liked his university entrance novels. Classic novels like The Catcher in the Rye, 1984, Animal Farm and Brave New World intrigued him. As far as non fiction choices went Rick was drawn to any books that dealt with the burgeoning nineteen-sixties counter culture.
As Rick checked out the new releases he found a book written by one of his favorite authors, Norm
an Mailer. He eagerly picked up Mailer’s new book, The Armies of the Night.
As Rick moved onto the regular book stacks he noticed that he had lost track of the time. He realized that he would be late for supper if he didn’t leave the library soon.
Rick looked up to check the time on the library’s clock. It read 5:03 PM. Rick put on his parka and black toque and headed out the front door of the library. The wind was strong and it felt to Rick that it must be at least twenty below zero. He pulled out a cigarette from the side pocket of his parka and attempted to light it with a pack of matches, As the wind was high Rick moved close to the wall of the library and tried cupping his hands around the cigarette and matches. It took Rick three tries to successfully light his Rothman’s cigarette.
It was already dark outside when Rick left the library. He knew that he would have to keep up a quick pace to keep warm on his five block walk to his parents’ house. The street lights were already turned on and Rick liked how they reflected off the snowbanks next to the sidewalk. He also enjoyed the crunching sound that his winter boots made as they pushed into the snow.
When Rick arrived at his house he saw his father sitting on his favorite sofa reading the paper. He heard his mother calling from the kitchen. “Supper’s ready. Let’s get moving to the dining room.”
Rick and his dad immediately walked towards the dining room. They both knew how frustrated Mrs. Miller could get if her family waited too long before they got up for their meals. Rick’s mother was in her early fifties and still retained an attractive figure. She continued to wear her dark brown hair long as that was what her husband wanted. Rick was the eldest of the Miller children. He had a younger brother named David and an even younger sister called Beth.
As the family passed the turkey, stuffing, potatoes and peas down the line Rick was deep in thought. When he passed a bowl of peas over to his father he was reminded of the dreadful experience he had over the summer working at his dad’s printing plant. His father had tried to help Rick out by hiring him as summer help. Who knows? If things had worked out for Rick, he might still be working at the printing plant today.
Unfortunately, that’s not how things played out. Rick was just not cut out to be a blue collar, factory worker. He was not well coordinated and had great difficulty performing most manual labor tasks especially those that required fine motor skills or spatial reasoning. No matter what tasks his foreman assigned to him Rick could not get the hang of it and performed poorly on these jobs. Rick worked with a small crew of other young adults who laughed at Rick and berated him as he struggled with his assignments. They told him that they could train a monkey to do his job. After three frustrating and humiliating days on the job Rick told his father that he was quitting his job. He told his dad why he was resigning and apologized if he had embarrassed his father. His dad was very understanding and was not really surprised by Rick’s decision to leave his position.
After his family had finished supper Rick told them about his plans for the evening.
“I met two very interesting people today, a couple named Peyton and Sabrina. Peyton plays guitar in a local rock band and I was invited to see them play tonight at Maplewood Community Center. The doors open at 7:30 PM so I have to leave right now to make it there on time.”
His parents told him that they hoped he would have a good time this evening. They were pleased to hear that Rick had made some new friends as Rick didn’t socialize very much. They often worried about the amount of time Rick spent on his studies at school and his hockey obligations. His parents were becoming concerned that Rick might crash under the pressure.
Rick walked the five blocks to Maplewood Community Center. As he was in good physical condition from playing hockey he was able to keep up a fast pace. When he arrived he saw that there was already a crowd of about ten people waiting for the doors to open. Rick thought that Peyton’s band, Winter Dreams must be very popular.
When the doors to the club opened even more people had arrived to see the band. Many young people were already lighting up their first cigarette of the evening. The houselights were still up while Winter Dreams set up their equipment. While checking how his Gibson Les Paul guitar sounded plugged into his Marshall amplifier, Peyton turned around to see Rick in the audience. He waved at Rick and said, “Hey man. Glad you could make it. Sabrina’s helping set up the canteen.”
‘Thanks for inviting me. I love to hear live bands. I’ll go over to the canteen area and say ‘Hello’ to Sabrina.
After a few minutes Peyton gave a thumbs up sign to the community club custodian. This was the signal to dim the house lights. Within seconds the community club’s halls, walls and floors reverberated with the heavily amplified sounds emanating from the band’s Marshall amplifiers. Winter Dreams lead vocalist sounded the sensual moan that opened Whole Lotta Love, the first track on the second LP released by Led Zeppelin. Winter Dreams lead singer Vance Chessler was blessed with the same physical attractiveness and sexual appeal of Led Zeppelin’s front man, Robert Plant. He also possessed a voice that was eerily close to Plant’s. Peyton was a very proficient lead guitarist and had easily mastered the basic guitar riff to Whole Lotta Love. Some of the audience were already dancing or otherwise moving their bodies in rhythm with the pounding repetitious beat that was greatly enhanced by the deep thundering notes played by bassist Chevy Raines. The group’s drummer, Pick Harding tried hard to simulate the sonorous beat maintained by his hero, drummer John Bonham of Led Zeppelin.
For many of the students of Maplewood Collegiate the weekly canteens were the highlight of their weekends. There would sometimes be a house party or two to attend after the community center closed down at 11:30 PM. Some of the attendees would imbibe a couple of drinks and maybe share a joint before the canteen opened.
This evening was no exception. One young male was already intoxicated when he arrived at the community center. As he staggered backwards, he almost knocked over a burly looking fellow who greatly took exception to this action. The big, heavy-set dude landed a perfect shot to the chin of the inebriated teenager who had bumped into him. The altercation ended right there as the victim of the assault was too drunk to get up and defend himself.
Painting Cars Part Two
I turned to one of my little pals, Chucky. Chucky was a cute little five-year-old with blonde hair and a buzz cut.
“Hey, Chucky, look what I found in the bushes, An open can of white paint and a piece of board that we can use like a brush,”
“That’s cool. What are you going to do with it?” Chucky asked with a quizzical look on his face. My little buddy probably hadn’t washed his face in about a week. You could almost see a film of dark grey covering his face.
“See that red Ford Thunderbird just off to my left?” I asked
“Yeah, it’s a beauty,” Chucky replied.
“It is indeed a beauty, but you know what it’s missing?”
“What?” Chucky asked.
“It needs a little white stripe along both sides of the car,” I said.
“Yeah, it would probably make the car look even cooler,” Chucky said. He was starting to shift and shuffle his feet. You’re not thinking what I’m thinking are you? Chucky asked.
“Well, we’ve got the equipment. We’d be doing the guy who owns the car a big favour,” I said. “Chucky, look in the bush and see if you can find another piece of wood that we can paint with.”
Chucky started to sort through the brambles when he spotted the handle of a small brush under a large rock. He lifted the rock up and pulled out had a dried- out paint brush. It still had partly solidified yellow paint on it. Chucky shared his find with me.
“An actual paint brush, that’s even better as it has some yellow dried out paint on it. All we need to do is find some water to loosen up the paint on the brush,” I said.
Chucky and I looked across the back lane and spotted a waterspout attached to the apartment building. In a couple of minutes, we had a suitably wet paint brush.
“You know something, Chucky? The yellow paint on the brush probably means that there’s still a can of yellow paint somewhere close to where you found the brush,” I said. In less than a minute Chucky and I were stomping through the twigs, branches and discarded garbage in the thicket. Our diligent search paid off. Covered by several copies of old newspapers was a small can of yellow paint. The paint in the can was hard. It had mostly solidified.
“How about if I paint the Plymouth and you work on the Ford Thunderbird?” Chucky suggested.
“That sounds like a plan to me,” I said as I proceeded to dunk my wooden stick into the container of white paint. Chucky did the same with his yellow paint can. It took most of my strength to loosen up the dried out white paint until I got to about the midpoint on my broken piece of wood. Although the paint was a bit waxy, I was able to make a somewhat horizontal white strip along the passenger side of the Ford Thunderbird. Chucky was a little more creative with his handiwork than I was. He started to make several different designs on the blue Plymouth. As I took a short break from my painting job. I walked over to check the car that Chucky was working on to examine his work. In a few short minutes, he had painted a symbol of a star, the moon and his initials, CB.
‘Isn’t it beautiful?” Chucky asked.
“Oh yes, the Plymouth looks so much better now. I wonder if the owners will pay us for this?” I wondered.
“Yeah, maybe the owners will give us five dollars each,” Chucky replied.
“After they pay us, let’s go over to Clancy’s Corner Store and buy some football cards,” I said.
In the nineteen fifties, you could buy a pack of CFL football cards that came with a stick of pink gum. My buddies and I had a lot of fun. both collecting and trading these cards.
Just as we were finishing our conversation, a young woman who was still in her housecoat and curlers ran out of the apartment building’s back door. She started yelling at us, “What do you little brats think that you’re doing? My husband just bought that new Ford Thunderbird last Thursday and now you’ve ruined it. I’m calling the police,” she said as she stomped back to the apartment block.
Chucky and I just froze in our spots. We immediately turned around and took off down the back lane so fast that we were almost tripping over our own feet. When I made it to my house, my grandmother met me at the door. “I see white paint stains on your hands and on your T-shirt. Where have you been young man, and just what have you been up to? Where did all these white paint stains come from?” my grandmother asked.
“My grandmother was a very imposing woman and had a very stern look on her face.
“Chucky and I found an open can of paint in the back lane and started playing around with it,” I said, as my face was starting to turn a deep shade of red. My grandmother looked very suspicious, but seemed to be giving me the benefit of the doubt. A few minutes later, my grandmother, known in the neighborhood as Bapi, was visited by a young man who was one of our neighbours from the apartment block. He was an office clerk about twenty-five years old. His face was beet red and he had tears flowing down his cheeks. He was so distraught that he was stuttering and stumbling over his own words. All my grandmother could make out of his rambling speech were a few keywords and phrases such as ‘your kid’ and ‘painting my brand-new car with an ugly white stripe’. Bapi also could hear the perplexed young man yell loudly, “Who’s going to pay to get my car fixed?”
When my grandmother stared at the young man she heard a car door slam across the street. By looking passed the man’s right shoulder, she could see two police officers approaching our house.
“How are you today, ma’am?” the older police constable asked politely.
With great trepidation, my grandmother asked. “What’s wrong, officer?”
A younger constable climbed up one more step leading to my grandmother’s front porch. “We had a report that your grandson and some of his little friends were vandalizing some cars this afternoon.”
“Yes,” added the older constable with the grey hair, “the boys began applying paint to this man’s Ford Thunderbird and one Plymouth belonging to one of his neighbours.”
Shortly after, another car pulled up. This time it was my parents. My grandmother was trying to tell them what the police officers had just said. The police constables informed them that they were unable arrest such young children and told my parents to discipline me as they saw fit. And believe me, my parents did just that. One at a time, they took turns giving me a very hard spanking.
After the third spanking, it was over. My bottom was now a bright shade of red, I still wondered what I had done to deserve such severe punishment. I was still surprised that the young man who stopped at our front door wasn’t going to pay me for the beautiful white stripe that I had painted on his new red Ford Mustang.
“No wonder you’re scared. I can drive you to the Employment and Assistance office any time you are ready to go,” Harold offered.
“That’s awesome Harold. I’m ready to go right now if that’s possible,” Whisper said.
“Let’s get going then.”
Harold owned a burgundy colored 2006 Ford Taurus. He had a lot of problems with his car a few months after he bought it. The most expensive repair bill occurred when the transmission on the Ford Taurus crapped out. The total bill for having a rebuilt transmission came to close to three thousand dollars.
Fortunately, Harold’s stepson, Richard had a friend who was a licenced auto technician who did auto repairs in his spare time when he wasn’t working for Seabrook Auto Clinic. Richard’s friend was able to charge his customers very reasonable rates as he did his part time work under the table so that he didn’t have to pay taxes.
Whisper needed to go to the closest EIA office as she needed to inform social assistance that she now had a permanent residence. She also needed to fill out the rent information so that welfare would pay her monthly rent directly to Harold.
It was a chilly twenty-one degrees Celsius as Harold and Whisper walked to his car. Whisper shivered from the cold because someone had stolen her winter coat.
“After you take care of business at the social assistance agency I’m going to take you to Hangers to buy you a new parka,” Harold said.
“You don’t need to do that Harold. I don’t want you to spend your own money on me,” Whisper said, still shivering from the cold.
“Don’t worry. I can afford it and you can rest assured that there are no strings attached,” Harold responded.
When Harold and Whisper arrived at the EIA building Harold opened the front door of the entrance. Both Harold and Whisper were almost overwhelmed by the strong odour of poverty and homelessness. Whisper waited in line for the welfare intake worker for about twenty minutes before the worker typed in Whisper’s personal information. After this task was completed the worker asked Whisper to find a seat in the crowded, foul smelling waiting area.
Harold and Whisper found two empty folding chairs. Harold was seated next to an elderly man who reeked of body odour and was having an animated discussion with himself. “Probably schizophrenia,” Harold thought. He had a cousin who suffered from schizophrenia and Harold was very cognizant of the manifestations of this devastating illness. Auditory and visual hallucinations were common symptoms of this chronic and persistent mental illness. To Whisper’s left was a wall with four pay phones. A dishevelled and agitated young man who appeared to be in his early twenties was growing increasingly frustrated as he was trying to call a phone number that he had misread. He started to loudly utter obscenities until a burly security guard intervened and asked the man if he required assistance with dialing the phone number.
There were at least twenty people in the reception area. They were all people that our society would not or could not accommodate. Most successful and prosperous people would never encounter them and would only know about them on an intellectual level, probably by hearing about the poor and needy people by way of the media.
Only the truly marginalized would end up in a welfare office. Nobody could really understand this mass of unfortunates except the unfortunates themselves. Some of the most dedicated social agency workers would do some research and attempt to educate themselves about the plight of their clients. However, very few of them had personal experience with poverty, chronic disability and illness, addiction issues and homelessness.
People with some or all, of there issues helped create a billion- dollar industry. The irony was that the most marginalized persons in society were responsible for creating and maintaining full time profitable employment for a substantial number of professional workers. Those in administrative positions made the big money. The front- line workers didn’t make a living wage unless they had a strong union. The needy people in the province were responsible for generating significant employment but the tax payer picked up the bill.