I have a new book out, and it’s a memoir. Why the title Another Bend In The River? To me, life is like paddling down a wild river; sometimes it sweeps you gently along, and sometimes the fast current comes out of nowhere. Whatever the case, there has always been something waiting for me around the next bend.
Some of the stories may surprise those who know me only as the Happy Camper. This is my account of dealing with high anxiety throughout my life, and how going out into nature has become a cure for it all. It is thoughtful, humorous, exhilarating, sobering, always honest, and encouraging.
Here’s a sample:
High School Confidential
By the time I was sixteen, instead of riding my bicycle, I was borrowing my dad’s car, a brand-new silver Pontiac with red leather interior (my father loved that car). I was exploring fishing holes beyond the neighbourhood, fishing more bona fide trout streams with deep pools and larger fish. I also graduated to a graphite rod and a spinning reel. Next was the canoe — a 14-foot three-keeled fibreglass canoe complete with patches held on by globs of marine glue.
I survived high school by some kind of miracle. In grade nine and ten, I was a pimple-faced kid known only as the “little brother” of my three older sisters, all of whom who were popular in school. My sister Michelle was only two years older than me. She got a lead part in the Wizard of Oz play — the witch. I got to play one of the monkeys. She partied with all the cool kids. I played Dungeons and Dragons with the not-so-cool kids.
Things improved for me a year before high school graduation. I had gained a good group of friends, and even had a girlfriend for a couple of weeks. She said she’d date me if I took disco dancing lessons with her. I was the only guy in the dance class, and she broke up with me the day after we finished the course. But I became a good dancer, a great dancer, in fact; I even won the best male disco dancer award at the prom.
Then I bought my first car — a green 1968 Mercury Montego with a belly full of rust — and graduated to a fly rod. Fly fishing isn’t easy. It’s a lot like golf. The more you try, the worse you get. But the moment you give up and don’t care if you strike the darn ball or not, you get a hole-in-one. Or so I’ve heard. By then, you’ve figured out the groove.
My anxiety had lessened. At the same time, by the end of high school, I had become a somewhat well-liked kid. I wasn’t a jock or a nerd. I was somewhere in between. I felt more sure of myself, more confident of my abilities, and, more important, more of my true self, beyond the wall of anxiety.
I had to make a career choice as I neared the end of high school. I had gained a good work ethic, always having some kind of part-time job since grade eight. I handed out hockey equipment at the local arena, stocked shelves at a grocery store, flipped pizzas, gathered hay at farms and sold record albums and stereo equipment in a department store. My father started working at an even younger age than I did, to help his mother out after his father’s early death. He worked at a factory most of his life, after his boxing career, and I don’t ever recall him liking his job choice. Maybe that’s why he never pushed me to do the same.
The only time my father suggested I rethink my career plan was just before my high school graduation. I didn’t do well in school academically. But I loved to play drums. The answer was obvious to me. I’d be a drummer. He suggested I should have a backup plan. He had attended the Christmas assembly where my band — a punk group with two leather-clad female singers — performed. He told me about the person sitting beside him asking who the terrible drummer was.
What I remember is that the singers had named the band Santa’s Syphilis. The principal insisted we change it before going on stage, so we became the Bran Muffins. We serenaded the audience with a one-note Sex Pistols version of “Deck the Halls.” It was epic! But yes, I was the lousy drummer. My dad had a point.
So, after I graduated in 1982, I went to college to be a forester.
My New Book Another Bend In The River: The Happy Camper’s Memoir is available on Amazon and most bookstores.