Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll continue…
Sunday we all picked up and drove back to our respective homes. The departure was anything but early and I got back to Portland, to an extremely psyched puppy, by about 10pm. It was great to be home, but the odyssey wasn’t quite over. I was supposed to drive to Michigan to Mike and Kelly’s wedding the following Friday, but I bowed out and the couple were very cool about it. It was just too far, too soon. I really, really wanted to be there, but I was shattered. I also had something else I really needed to get done which I moved up to that weekend.
Gratuitous recent photo of Shep and Bella. Because I can.
Reiner is my first cousin and although I hadn’t seen him in 4 years, we’ve remained very close. It’s one of those relationships where you don’t really have to work hard to maintain it – it just is. It’s a family thing, after all. Reiner had been home from Spain for nearly 3 weeks by the time I finally got to see him. The deal was thus – “I drive to Hamilton and pick you up, take you to Burlington, you help move me out of my uber-expensive storage locker there and then drive a UHaul back to Portland while I’m in my car in front of you. In return I build you a 3d graphic designer (pause for the cause) website, entertain you in the country for a few days, drive you back to Hamilton and to top it off you get a 60 gig iPod“. Pretty good arrangement if I do say so myself.
We had a blast in the process – it was insanely good to see him and was like no time had passed. I hope to go visit him in Spain, maybe for a sort of spring break, and he has promised to come back to Canada about every six months to see his family. Our eventual return to Hamilton – after two long car rides spent listening primarily to the Magnetic Fields , Beta Band and Joy Division – was timed perfectly with Canadian Thanksgiving! We rolled in on the Thursday and stayed up until 3am with his parents (my Aunt Susan and Uncle Heinz) drinking, smoking and talking on their back deck. Yes, the extended Pye family likes to smoke. It’s like being in a Hemingway novel most of the time.
The late night conversation got pretty emotional, as we discussed my father and several other extremely juicy tidbits of family history I had absolutely no clue existed. In addition to stories about my father specifically, which knocked my socks off on a couple of occasions, I learned the truth about his father and uncles – who apparently ran the rackets in Hamilton during the 20’s/30’s and shipped rum and whiskey down to the USA during prohibition. They were all very large men and two-fisted drinkers and gamblers the lot. I also learned that my father’s mother’s father – who I’d always thought of as my “British Grandfather”, was actually born in Ireland. This brings my family ancestry, with the exception of my mother’s father Jimmy who was Scottish, to almost 100% Irish. As recently as 3 years ago I was under the impression that I was primarily Scotch/English. In reality… I think I’m a mick! My House of Pain and Pogues obsessions make perfect sense now! I need to call Kent.
“Thanks, but we’re set. We have 3 prostitutes back at the house.”
Friday night we went to Toronto to hit a birthday party. I managed to convince the illustrious JV to come with us, and we spent most of the night being silly and having fun. He actually said to me at one point, “Dave, stop making jokes about that girl – she’s gonna hear you. We’re too old for this shit.” I was momentarily concerned. The king of the ball-busters is telling me to lay off my brilliant “she has knees like fucking Bill Laimbeer” jokes because we’re adults? I immediately asked if his wife Amy was pregnant – and she isn’t. So what was afoot? My fears about Jason suddenly turning into Danny Glover were thankfully dashed half-an-hour later when he tuned his back to a guy and girl who were totally smushing me against the wall for no reason and walked backwards, imitating their drunk conversation until he has pushed them about 3 feet away from me. “Hey man! You’re an asshole,” they screamed. “I know” he replied. And all was right with the world.
Reiner and Dave kept their Uncle Richard in stitches. And concerned for his safety.
Saturday was the big family dinner at Aunt Susan’s and we arrived around 2pm strapped with our assigned foodstuffs – 6 bottles of red, pumpkin and bumbleberry pie, olive oil mayo, salad fixings and 2 cases of beer. I hooked up my PS3 for the kiddies – OK, me and Reiner – and slowly the family started to arrive. Aunt Rose, Uncle Richard, Kathy, Erynn, Chris and my “little” cousins Thomas, Christopher, Seth and Jakob were also on hand. It was a wonderful afternoon and I really needed it. Everyone asked about Gordo, and even more stories I hadn’t heard emerged. Particularly from Dad’s older brother Richard, with whom he shared a bedroom for many years. I think I will have to save them all for a separate post. Anyhew, the food was delicious, the laughs long and hard and we ended the evening with a viewing of the woefully underrated and insanely hilarious StepBrothers .
Sunday we drove back to Portland after picking up a friend’s Grandparents on the way back. Grandma started telling me a story about World War 2 (they are Latvian) and paused before admitting that she talks a lot. I said if you’re going to talk about history and specifically WW2, feel free to talk my ear off. I heard tales of Nazis fighting Russians in the fields of her father’s farm while they hid and watched, and was thoroughly engrossed as she continued to describe their desperate flight to England and then finally Canada in 1956. It made the 4 hour trip go so much faster, and she even brought sandwiches and cookies!
“One last shot of Jaegar and I’m cannonballing into the lake.”
That evening my Mother and I were invited to the Abele’s house for another round of incredible food. Turkey was once again the order of the day, and the Eastern European influences to the meal made the bird seem like a completely fresh notion. The awesome view of the Big Rideau in the background didn’t hurt, and they even had us back the next day for lamb. But much was to transpire before Monday, and it was to get a little bit crazy before my 7-week odyssey finally drew to a close.
“This will almost make up for all the errant charges to our credit cards over the summer.”
Vilis got a call around 8:30pm which saw the local bar, which is part of a marina and closes for the winter, inviting us all down to help polish off the perishable liquor stock. We thought about taking the boat but finally decided to scoot over in the Charger where we met Dawson, Shane and a bunch of my other new local friends. After polishing off a few half-finished bottles of wine, Vilis decided to invite the whole lot of us, staff included, for a bonfire on his soon to be developed 36 acres of beautiful property – which happens to be around the corner from my house – and the night went late. Very, very late. When I finally crawled back to their house for lamb around 2:30 Monday afternoon – I wanted to take my own life with baby laxatives. What a capper to a truly exhausting, enjoyable, heart-warming and necessary month-and-a-half long journey.
Throwing the can of boat gas on the lit match was a bad idea. But sometimes, bad ideas work.
This last weekend was the first in 7 weeks that I was actually at home, and it was lovely. However the dock still needs to come out of the lake, the boat has to be winterized – as does the Winchester. I have my work cut out for me for a while yet. But I’ll be home, and that’s always time well spent. Even if I’m up to my waist in freezing lake water with one foot cut to ribbons by zebra mussels. It’s my lake. They’re my zebra mussels. And it’s Oktoberfest Night at the cove this Saturday. I’ll raise a stein and be just fine. I’d better start resting up for American Thanksgiving as I plan to drive down to Boston again to partake. Will it ever end? No – and I thank Christ for that, everyday. Friends and family are why I get out of bed in the morning.