Sunday. Today, I started awake choking sobs, barely able to breathe. The dream had been set in another life; somehow I’d learned that my father had died. I can barely see the screen right now for my eyes being filled with tears. I was stumbling around the pylons of this highway-large filling station, just sobbing. I don’t know why I was there, but it seemed like I was working, or otherwise tied to some responsibility. A Jeep pulled up; it was like my girlfriend’s Jeep, but brown, and my brother was the pilot. He sat in his seat, watching me come up and I placed on hand on the back of the Jeep and he hung his head out the window and said, “Dad?” I nodded like a wretch and went on, leaving him in the Jeep.
With that I woke up and called my father, and barely maintained my voice while on the phone. He told me that just the other day he won $1,206 in the lottery and that snippet of knowledge meant more to me than all the world in that moment. $1,206! He hadn’t won a thing in his life, he said, and here came a doctor’s bill for four grand. One step forward.
On the way to the airport he told me for the first time of his life in Montreal. 28 years old, and I hadn’t ever heard a thing about his childhood from his own mouth. I can’t tell you what it means to me. It’s what I’ve been searching for my entire life and it’s why I write (to understand, to learn) and here is the golden fucking goose offered on silver. I mean, he just started talking.
West Island. He grew up on West Island, in the suburbs. His old man, he drank away the furniture and the cars, and they had to flee creditors. The suburb, though, in the mornings, moved like clockwork: the businessmen up and down the street, as if they were extras in Edward Scissorhands, left their houses and trooped up the street in loose file and in the afternoon, they came back in their suits and passed back into their homes.
My dad and his friends would skitch, or as they called it, like good, literal Canadians, “bumper-riding”. One person could go, he said, but if you went two at a time the driver would feel the drag and know something was up. You could go forever.
The milkman, my dad worked for him for a bit. Everything was glass then, and in the back of the milk truck was a bottle for pissing. It would be the bottle of some suburbanite who forgot to mark on their bottle what it was they wanted in exchange.
There was an all-French high school near my dad’s school. Every day, this young couple would walk out at lunch time, holding hands, and they would disappear into the woods. The boys wondered what was up with them and so one day they followed them. They were getting it on, every day, in the forest! It became a thing; the little voyeurs would take to the trees, hide in the bushes, and watch these Frenchies make the beast with two backs.
He was always outside, my dad; it was a different time, the ’60s. They didn’t sit inside and play video games. When they were inside, they played Clue, or chess. When you called somebody and they weren’t home, that was it. They simply couldn’t be reached. If their mom said they were off in the park, you’d head down to the park. If they were over at another friend’s house, you’d ring up that friend and set something up. The internet changed everything; absolutely everything. The old guard; when I think of people born before the tech explosion, I imagine a Mayan scout, treed, looking down the barrels of endless Spanish muskets; there simply wasn’t anything in the old codex to compare it to. I mean, what do you do when your gods fail you, when something so unknown clearly exhibits power the likes of which have only ever been conjecture in your culture? People born before the ’80s weren’t prepared for this kind of living.
This video, or at least the impression this video leaves is how I imagine my father’s youth to have felt.
The difference between the last generation and this one is that the last generation, by and large, had stories to tell of their misadventures in the physical world. What will my generation tell its children; how we sat in front of our televisions all day, our computers; what kind of deal we got on Amazon.com, how we narrowly avoided Craigslist fraud? This lament is not original; generations have ever been weeping for the weakness of their antecedents, but here I find myself genuinely concerned for this new digital generation who have strayed so far from the natural world. People cannot come to learn of their planet in classrooms.
In the catalyst of this event I feel as though my mission, while running itself all along, has become clear to the pilot. I am a recorder. I receive the world’s stories and write them down. I don’t know why; I just do it.