Van Chronicles – Chapter 5

’Cause You Got It in Your Soul

It was going to be another seven years before Van’s and my paths would cross again. This was definitely becoming a bad trend. Living in the cultural capital of Canada wasn’t turning out to be much help at all. Canada – in its entirety – turned into a No-Van-Zone. But finally, in 1985, whatever was wrong with Canada turned right again and a show was announced for May 16 at Massey Hall.

This is where having a music secretary would have come in handy. As luck would have it, by the time I saw the ad in the paper, the show had sold out. I couldn’t believe it. The numbers just didn’t add up. In the eight years I had lived in this town, I could count on one hand, even if three of the fingers were amputated, the number of people I knew who had even heard of Van Morrison. I made a mental note that maybe it was time to start hanging out with a new crowd – the kind of crowd that was getting tickets to see Van.

By the time 1985 had rolled around, my misspent youth and my equally misspent 20s were a thing of the past and I was staring my 30s right between the eyeballs. I was still with the same bookstore and despite a few failings on my part (all of which I didn’t look at so much as failings as learning experiences), I had been promoted to manager, and there I toiled. I thought I’d died and gone to book heaven. I was getting paid for this?

And while I was in book heaven, my older brother Scott was in music heaven. Scott had also headed in a westerly direction but he’d done a much better job in the distance department. One day his thumb landed him in Edmonton, Alberta. As far as towns go, it’s not my cup of tea – too far north, too long winters, too cold too often, but it was considerably more westerly than I had managed. His career trajectory had put him in the main store of Capital Records in downtown Edmonton. So there he was, in his little dream come true – surrounded by music. He did music and I did books.

I wasn’t really cut out for management, though. But I did it – because I was a sucker for books. A sucker with wages that left me thinking that maybe I’d been left behind when the “careers that make money” bus pulled out. But other than being overworked and underpaid, it came with its perks – like the people who would come in and say, “I was over at a friend’s house the other day and he was showing me this book about fishing; it’s a skinny pink book and I think the author was a guy, do you know if you have it?” It was my punishment for what I’d done to that guy in the record store with my loves to love refrain. But luckily, I’d read Richard Brautigan’s “Trout Fishing in America” and I knew what the guy was talking about.

By 1985, my illustrious career in politics had begun and ended. Ah, the heady days of youth – thinking we were making a change, were going to make a change. I only wished it had been true. Much as I expected, I wasn’t really cut out for politics either. But we were fighting the libertarian fight for freedom. It’s odd, because none of the people who congregated in the party were remotely interested in being politicians; when it comes right down to it, the phrase “libertarian politician” is a bit of an oxymoron; but somehow, somewhere, someone had decided that that’s what we were going to be. I even ended up running for parliament twice.

The second time was in 1980. The year before, the Conservative Party had rousted the Liberals from office – there must have been some sort of scandal that had caused the country to want to teach the Liberals a lesson. But apparently not that much of a lesson, because nine months later, Joe Clark and his Conservatives lost a vote of confidence, and the governor general had called a new election.

The one good thing about being in politics was I could really vent my spleen about the powers that be who governed the country. I liked that part of politics a lot. Libertarians love to complain about government any chance they get. So when it came time for one of those all-candidates debates, when all the candidates would stand and address a roomful of local residents and assorted party faithful, I thought, why not take the rant public. The night before I had taken out a toilet paper roll and began writing down every pork-barrel, money-swindling, overblown white elephant that our country spent good money on – such waste. It was aimed directly at the Liberal candidate, who was probably going to win in the love-fest Canadians had and have with the Liberal party, but he was facing stiff competition from the Conservative, who had won the year before.

When it was my turn to talk, I took the roll out of my pocket and held it over the lectern, with the roll in my left hand, the right hand pulling out the lengths as I recited the litany. When the bell rang to indicate my time was up, deep into my diatribe against the post office, I concluded my remarks with “Oh, no, I was just getting started,” while I let the toilet paper roll fall off the stage and roll down the aisle. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to put me over the top: in the end it was Liberal 19,000 votes, Libertarian 426.

to be continued …

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