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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

New Street New School New Life; Onward to St. John's

After dad moved to Toronto, we left the Prospect Ave fourplex and moved to an apartment, number 803 in the relatively new building at 2386 New Street, which had a second building across the courtyard at 2400 New. The best thing for me was the outdoor pool, which I had missed since we left Nottingham Road in Kitchener. I remember spending days in that pool, swimming dozens of lengths and playing water games for hours on end. The two-level parking garage made for a great jailtag area, and there was a lot of fun to be had. I hung out with good friend Peter Walker who lived in that building, as did Trevor Smith and another friend, Mike Barnes, who lived across the court in the other building and whom I'd met when we both lived at 640 Guelph Line.

I started riding the daily bus to St. John's School on Brant Street and soon discovered I had classmates living in my new neighborhood, such as Greg Campbell, Brian Bedini and the Tielmans brothers, Derek and Tony. Music was becoming a more important part of my life, and my sister and I would buy as many 45s as we could afford each month. By this time I was selling chocolate bars, mixed nuts and newspaper subscriptions door to door, as we were never really flush. My mom had a steady job at the bank, but pops was not even close to reliable with regard to support payments.

Around this time my dad had left the firm managing Bobby Hull and went to work for the Miss Canada Pageant full-time (he always had inspiring jobs). One day he received about a dozen boxes of brand new pop and rock records as a gift for the girls, from a major record company or distributor, a show sponsor. He designated ten boxes as welcome gifts for the girls, then set aside a couple of boxes for Debbie and me and when he brought them to our apartment we nearly went crazy. After my dad left my sister and I spread every record out across two beds, about 56 albums or more in total, and had a pick, taking turns until every single LP belonged to one of us. Before that, we only had singles. Now we had entered the big time!

I remember walking to church on Sundays, all the way from Guelph Line and New St to St. John's Church on Brant Street, as I kept going for a couple of years after my mom and sister stopped, and even after that would stop in for some major masses like Christmas Eve. A couple of streets away Tony Tielmans used some of his paper route money to buy the White Album by The Beatles, and kids in Burlington started knowing each other by the music they liked and the albums they had. I didn't know either of them yet, but two guys who were to become good friends in later years also lived close by, Dave Ricciardi and Keith Herschel.

A mix of Canadian and international rock acts were to permeate my consciousness over the next five years, including The Stampeders (whom I saw perform at Burlington Central Arena in one of my first concerts), Led Zeppelin, April Wine (also saw them at Central Arena), The Rolling Stones, Crowbar, Steppenwolf, The Who, The Guess Who, The Doors, Lighthouse, Jimi Hendrix, Cream. In my mid-to-later teen years Rush was paramount, as was Todd Rundgren, and increasingly, the likes of Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and Leonard Cohen. Then came punk!

When I was out west I happened to help the roadies unload at a Dead Boys gig, and got to go backstage and smoke hash with the crew before the show (leaving the backstage area when the actual band arrived). This was my first punk gig, and seeing Stiv Bators railing away with his sack hanging out of his leather pants was hilarious, rebellious and revolutionary. In my experience only DOA gigs approached that level of energy and chaos that The Dead Boys provided, so Vancouver's Kings of Punk, Hockey and Beer became my favourite band in my early twenties, along with the Sex Pistols and The Clash. Back to when I was twelve years old and moving to Maple Avenue, hockey was still big in my life, and girls were coming into focus. When Anne Blanchard arrived in Burlington (from Belleville I think), our bus to school was a brighter trip and she was to become the first serious girlfriend of a close friend of mine.

Somehow I ended up on a couple of crappy hockey teams when I lived in the New Street apartment building, so when we moved to 455 Maple Avenue (#603; my soon-to-be best friend James "Burnsie" Burns lived in 303), I was fortunate to get to play on the same team as close buddy Mike Sobala. I played left wing and he played center, and if could get him the puck we could usually win, so there you go. we won a lot of games in the two years we were teamed up. Mike and I were close friends throughout our teen years, and when I went off travelling (Maritimes, BC, California) before eventually rocking out in Toronto, Mike was progressing to become Ontario snooker champion and a second place finish in the Canadian championships. He even tried playing on the UK tour to learn from the best, and though the competition over there was usually formidable, he had given it a shot and played with and against the best on the planet.

Mike worked a long time for the LCBO and Anne ended up marrying our friend Rick Kachmar and having kids with him. Maple Avenue was a great place to work through puberty, and it was there I went from playing road hockey to playing bass in my first band (with Burnsie on drums and Billy Bishop on guitar). Mike and Victor Morley lived in that building, as did Mike, Bill, Sue and Sharon Furlong, Bob Thibeau, Chris and Debbie Morrissete and others, while Anne Blanchard's best friend Teschla, a Guyanese beauty, lived in the building next door.

Schoolmate and friend Mike Gauvin also lived in the area, as did Jim Renda, Gary Marinacci, the Bishop family, Randy Hoffman, and more I can't remember. Chris Broderick, Danny Broderick, Kathy Bettger, Jennifer DaCosta and Eva Gneth were part of our circle at this time also, but they lived closer to school.

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