Saturday, February 27, 2021

Percy Leggett, again...


There seems to be a lot of interest in Percy Leggett these days, mostly by his family members. It's good to be eccentric, it will get you remembered. But I am not sure eccentricity is for all of us. It requires a large ego and a reduction or leveling out of one's interests and beliefs; health could be one of these beliefs and Percy was a health fanatic, living separate from society and wearing shorts all year. But people are attracted to folks like Percy Leggett, they might think he has found some meaning to life that they do not have or they are amused by him. Percy was also a publicity hound, not by chance was his photograph featured in newspapers but by his choice. It's good to have an eccentric in the family, it's not so good to be that eccentric; someone like Percy would dispute this because he is an eccentric and wouldn't doubt for a minute the rightness of his way of life. .

Friday, February 5, 2021

The Hermit of Spanish Banks Beach


My in-laws built a house in the Spanish Banks area of Vancouver in the early 1970s; back then it was all UBC professors and a few eccentrics including the Hermit who lived under a tarp across the road from the concession stand on the beach. If anyone has a satellite photo of this area you can see the tarp. I don't think anyone knew where the Hermit came from or who he was, you'd see him walking in the area, sometimes picking up litter from the streets. Eventually the old inhabitants moved out and their houses sat empty, sometimes for years, until some rich bastard built his mansion there. Anyhow, one day my father-in-law was out foraging for stuff in one of these empty houses, as collectors of junk are wont to do, and he came across the Hermit who asked him if he is needed food. This is the only time I know of the Hermit speaking to anyone. After that episode my father-in-law would say the hermit is the happiest man in the world, and thereafter he was referred to with some reverence. On some rainy days and rainy months I'd look out the window and wonder how the Hermit could stand living outside, I like my creature comforts. One day I was in line at the old Safeway on W 10th Avenue and the Hermit was ahead of me, buying oranges and pipe tobacco. We all figured that someone deposited money into the Hermit's bank account and this kept him going. I think he must have died about ten years ago.

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Butters the Wild Turkey, 2019 - 2021, RIP

This is Butters outside of our front door in early January, 2021. 

Butters, the wild turkey, has died; he never learned how to navigate traffic. A neighbour tells me he looked out of his living room window one day and saw three wild turkeys. So this isn't the end, just a chapter. In the local history of Covid there will be a chapter on Butters, he was a celebrity on social media, he brought people together, I would see crowds looking at Butters and talking, people loved that bird. He brought us together and then he was gone. He was everywhere, one day in Montreal West, the next day outside of Police Station Nine, he was famous in Loyola Park, he had a following wherever he went, and then he'd be back on our street sitting in a tree sixty feet up in a snow storm. But he wasn't too bright, the only reason he didn't walk on the road was that there was no food there. Butters had also become a peeping turkey, looking in people's windows. Butters, gone but not forgotten; he gave so much and expected so little.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Our last meeting, 28 January 2013

I made this video almost eight years ago, it shows when all four of us (Susan, John, Paul and myself) from our office at Champlain College in St. Lambert met together for an office reunion. The video is Paul recounting his latest travels, as he used to do every September when we returned to work. Those were the good old days! 



Sunday, January 3, 2021

More on Percy Leggett

Excerpt of an article by Paul Wilson, published in the Hamilton Spectator, 12 March 2016.

Percy Leggett — 1892 – 1965

With a reputation for hurling bricks through liquor store windows in various communities in Ontario, Percy Leggett rolled into Hamilton in the late 1950s calling himself the country's oldest beatnik. Through the '60s he was well-known in the community, walking the city in shorts in all seasons, telling people that his care-free lifestyle and non-conformity would allow him to live to be 100. "When I got my pension I resigned from the human race," he used to say." Clothes confine...let the air get at you, massage you. "

He was frequently featured in The Spectator in articles, photos and even cartoons on the editorial page. He became the talk of the town after a well-publicized dustup between Percy and the Over Sixty Club that kicked him out because his shorts were too revealing. Then one summer day in 1965 he decided Hamilton was too hot, smog-ridden and full of conformists. So he gathered up his stuff in a cart and headed northward. But sadly, in June 1965, he was hit and killed by a station wagon just outside of Orillia. He was 74 years of age, more than a quarter century short of his centenarian goal – but a non-conformist right to the end.

Source of photo of Percy Leggett:

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Butters, the wild turkey, visits our back yard

Named Butters by someone, here is Butters the wild turkey visiting our back yard about a month ago. He's caused quite a lot of excitement, from people wanting him relocated for his own safety, to comments about Christmas dinner, to seeing him in Loyola Park. He travels slowly but he's on the move. His sightings make the news on Face Book, most people around here have never seen a wild turkey and certainly not in the city. I've seen him in our backyard and at Loyola Park. He's a big topic of conversation, bringing people together in this time of Covid-19. 

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Thoughts on F.R. SCOTT

For the last six months I've been reading my way through the Montreal Group of poets who helped bring modernism in poetry to Canada back in the 1920s; the group includes four poets: F.R. Scott, A.J.M. Smith, John Glassco, Leo Kennedy, and A.M. Klein.

            It's a different experience to read someone's individual books than it is to read their collected poems. For instance, F.R. Scott's Events and Signals (1954) softens and humanizes him; perhaps this side of Scott isn't as evident as in his Collected Poems (1981). In fact, the Frank Scott in this earlier book is quite fascinating. "Departure" seems to refer to his separation from his lover P.K. Page in the late 1940s. For Peter Dale Scott his father's poems "A L'Ange Avant Gardien" and "Will to Win" refer to the artist and dancer Francoise Sullivan. We also know that Scott had a romantic relationship with the artist Pegi Nichol, one of his wife's best friends, which perhaps gives us a different perspective on his poem "For Pegi Nichol". Did the affairs have the silent approval of his wife? "Invert" and "Caring" give an insight into these affairs: it is that Scott was always looking for love but also afraid to leave his marriage with someone he also loved.  

            I also reread F.R. Scott's The Dance is One (1973). Scott is not a great poet, he's more of a "minor major poet" whose importance lies in what he did (he helped bring modernism in poetry to Canada), who he knew (Leon Edel, A.J.M. Smith, John Glassco), and what he believed (an inclusive federalist vision of Canada). I met Scott once or twice and he was a lovely person. Louis Dudek told me that Scott controlled every aspect of Sandra Djwa's biography, The Politics of the Imagination: A Life of F.R. Scott (1987); I don't think Dudek's comment was a compliment for Scott but part of Dudek's aversion to falsehood in literature. Consider that Scott did not allow certain details about his private life to appear in Djwa's biography. Indeed, Dudek seems to have had a double standard when it came to Scott; Dudek rejected John Glassco's spurious memoir but he never objected to Scott's censorship of Djwa's biography of him which included his repeated betrayal of his wife in a series of affairs, but perhaps these affairs should remain private.   

            I was also very impressed with Scott's book of translations, St-Denys Garneau & Anne Hebert: Translations/Traductions (1962), and there are more translations in The Dance is One. Both Hebert and Garneau deserve a lot more attention in English Canada. Scott's work as a translator of French Canadian poetry deserves greater acknowledgement and is a part of his literary career.

            The title of The Dance is One is from Scott's poem "Dancing" and is also the inscription on his and his wife's headstone in Mount Royal Cemetery. Another of Scott's poems that deserves greater attention is "Letters From the MacKenzie River, 1956", published in The Dance is One (1973. In this poem Frank Scott refers to, among other things about the North, the residential schools; he is prescient in exposing how bad these institutions actually were, he writes,


                                    Upstairs on the second story
                                    Seventy little cots
                                    Touching end to end
                                    In a room 30 by 40
                                    Housed the resident boys
                                    In this firetrap mental gaol.

            There are other poems of Frank Scott that deserve to be mentioned, for instance "The Laurentian Shield" which is anthologized and representative of Scott's writing. Otherwise, I am not a fan of satirical writing so those poems of Scott's hold little interest for me.


Thursday, December 17, 2020

Remembering Carol Novack

I just found these photos from 2008 when we visited with Carol Novack in NYC; she was a friend of my wife's from when they studied at the University of Rochester; the others friends, including David Diefendorf, ended up living in Burlington, Vermont, but not Carol who had a condo adjacent to 6th Avenue. Carol founded the Mad Hatter's Review and invited us down for a reading at Haven Art Gallery in the South Bronx. It was hot as hell and there was a party of bodega owners going on next door. One time Carol was visiting us and gave legal advice to Artie Gold, whose landlord was doing construction work that affected his COPD. It's a small world. She was a lawyer and also had a degree in Social Work; most of her life she wanted to write. Carol's father, Saul Novack, was a professor and dean of arts at Queen's College; she gave me some of his antique (old) clothes, a hat, a tie, they were too small to wear but too good to throw away. The family lived in Belle Harbor. Her parents, Phyllis and Saul, died on the same day, March 4th, but eleven years apart. I remember the phone call telling us that Carol had died, that was 29 December 2011.

Haven Art Gallery, 14 September 2008
Carol Novack

Carolyn Zonailo

Stephen Morrissey

Friday, December 11, 2020

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

The empty streets of March

The lock down was solitary confinement for many people; they couldn't stand the isolation. Most people are to some degree extroverts and need the presence of other people. The importance of socializing impressed itself on us; now socializing was restricted, wash your hands, wear a mask, social distance, no two cheek kisses, no hand shakes, avoid walking by anyone you might pass on the street. Arrows on grocery store floors directed people on walking in aisles, you walked in the direction of the arrow; if you lined up outside a store you were instructed to social distance from other people, two metres, six feet between people. Behave yourself, now, we don't want any trouble out of you... 


Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Can you take me back?

Can you take me back where I came from? One pre-Covid day I found myself singing this Beatle's song to myself as I walked along the street. Whatever it meant before Covid, it now has a whole new meaning.

                            Can you take me back?
                            Can you take me back where I came from?
                            Can you take me back?
                            Are you happy living here honey?
                            Honey are you happy living here?
                            I ain't happy living here baby
                            Honey can you take me back?
                                             --The Beatles, "Can You Take me Back"
Except for essential services, most stores, restaurants and schools were closed beginning around March 13, 2020. Grocery stores and pharmacies remained opened; at first there was some panic buying as can be seen by these empty shelves at our local IGA grocery store. The streets were deserted, buses had no passengers, we lined up to enter grocery stores, the fun had been taken from life and it has not returned. 

Not as widely reported was the increase in the number of suicides; there was one suicide a few blocks from here, we drove by the scene of this suicide a few minutes after it happened. I saw the body of the deceased lying on the grass surrounded by police officers. There was a second suicide also a few blocks away from where we live. Both of these suicides were at residences for old people. How could it have been otherwise? The old were isolated from other people and confined to their rooms.