ODE TO A BRO
It took two years to plan this trip, to get our worlds aligned, but we finally pulled it off. The plan was that I would fly out to see my newborn granddaughter in Edmonton then down to San Francisco where Ian would take me on a one week train trip to Sacramento then through the mountains to Reno and back. Just as I arrived in Edmonton I got the news. When my mind cleared I decided to stick to my flight plans and spend the time in San Francisco on my own until the memorial service.
With nothing but time on my hands I enjoyed the beauty of SF. Who wouldn’t? It reminded me of when I informed Ian many years ago that Polly and I were considering moving to SF after we retired. Expecting jubilant support he said: “Peter, move anywhere South you want - Florida, Nevada, anywhere but California. This place is crazy.” Talk about bursting my bubble. I took his advice and the idea was dropped. I learned a long time ago that when Ian makes a pronouncement, however unusual, it‘s
prudent to give it some thought.
His impact on me in my formative years was huge. He was simply my cool ten year older brother. He had the first “boom box” – a massive tape machine that played hot, cool music (when father wasn’t home). He drove great cars, dated hot chicks and even spent a night in a Buffalo jail cell. Awesome. He married Beth who was so beautiful that I, as a 9-year-old, carried a picture of her in my wallet for a year. And soon thereafter when Anne was born, I became the coolest and only uncle in public school. In their house Ian had a gun collection and a bomb shelter. That’s my cool bro. When his marriage failed, Ian decided to move to Florida and drive down in a massive red Cadillac convertible – again cool beyond belief. Ian ended up working on a magical island called Nassau – nirvana to a 15-year-old. When I turned 16 I went down for a visit. The first evening Ian took me to a local chicken shack (literally) where they played dice in the
back. He explained the game, gave me $50. The joint was disgusting and full of disgusting locals. Ian fit right in and before long I did too. And I made $70. The smile on Ian’s face made me feel proud. After that thrill we went home to crash and just as I was about to fall asleep, I pulled out a tiny yellow bra from under my pillow. Too much. And Ian was even was in the movies. My bro. He was simply the man.
Soon his world hit a wall when the government changed and all foreign work permits were cancelled. Soon after that he lost his job. Fortunately the young and beautiful Meg had flown into Ian’s life at just the right time. They moved to California where Ian could start anew – a fish out of water. An uneducated fish. When I flew down to visit Ian in San Francisco he was studying electronics with the hope of fixing pin ball machines. He called himself “Teletech Electronics”. His motto was “Fix it or Fuck it.” I remember buying him a small TRS-80 computer, the precursor
to the IBM PC and spent some time walking him through the concepts of computer programming. He gave it a good shot but at the end of my visit he said “Peter, this is just not my thing”. I took the box home and ironically, it was pivotal in helping my programming business move to the next level. I think he appreciated my efforts.
Soon after that my father died and the four bros decided to take an annual cruise in his honour. That tradition lasted for ten long years. I have wonderful memories of the four of us all, all huge, stuffed into one small cabin on the lowest deck. On one trip Ian brought 4 tee shirts that we wore around the deck, 3 said “We’re not gay, we’re brothers.” Mine said “We’re not brothers, we’re gay”. Ian would wash out his pair of socks and underwear daily, and hang them on the upper bunk railing – which was not pretty. And for some reason he’d bring his oddest collection of clothing and leave them all in the cabin at the end of the cruise.
About ten years ago my programming career was in full bloom with a contract to build a web system for a Silicon Valley Dot Com firm. I would visit Ian whenever I flew down to the Valley. I remember telling him of the excitement of my world, only to get his response, “I smell a big dump coming”. Soon thereafter the Dot Com bubble burst - as did mine.
Two weeks ago when we were finalizing the details of the trip I told him I was writing a screenplay about a terrorist event that has a huge international component and that I’d like his input on the international elements when we are on the train. His response? “No one wants to hear about terrorism – that’s passé. Today they want stories about World War II.” That bubble bursting bastard. But I will not forget his comments – he may be right. He too often is.
I can’t explain what made Ian tick – that would take a legion of professionals. He would have thrived in a different era – like the Wild West. He loved Westerns
and WW II movies. Simpler times. The craziness of today’s world and especially California drove him nuts and he would rant like Father to anyone and any paper that would listen. And many did. I generally didn’t – but when I did I was always intrigued by his point of view and amused at how creatively he made his point. His humour was hard to define. He didn’t have my mouth and didn’t do the toilet humour – his humour was quite witty and sophisticated. From an odd place. In fact it was my plan on our train trip to convince Ian to setup a Twitter account and start venting with daily Tweets. I’m convinced he’d generate a huge audience over time.
Well tomorrow I’m off to join the others for his memorial service. Since I came here with nothing but a few golf shirts and slacks I just bought a black suit, white shirt, black tie, black shoes and black socks. And as a final tribute to Ian I will leave them all in the hotel room.
I don’t believe in the afterlife. But as I
sit here I can’t help hoping that someday, I will take that train trip with my bro.