"Canada 2003" story # 8

Tupperville, Nova Scotia           June 28, 2003

Dr. Jim, I would say, was a likeable character.
     He was about fifty, and tall. Gray hair stuck out from the sides of his head - not so much on top - and it cycloned around itself to points like Krusty the Clown's; it was overgrown. He had thin-frame spectacles and wide-open brown eyes.
     When he told you something, his eyes opened wider like you weren't going to believe what he was telling you. His voice was nasally and helium-like. He spoke like an owl, in that way Canadians turn many of their vowel syllables into "ooh"'s like in "hou-oose" or "aboot." His favorite expression was - the words spoken slowly and deliberately - "That is goo-ood." He began his transitional sentences excitedly with: "Oh-oo ..."
     When you told him something, he laughed. In the time we stayed with him, he was never not incredibly happy or incredibly nice, even when hungover. He stood with his arms down. One took a sharp, 90-degree turn across his stomach, like Bob Dole, and it held his coffee mug. The coffee mug held usually his rum and diet coke.
     During the first day or two we Canada-trekkers were on Dr. Jim's apple orchard, we were told some stories regarding Dr. Jim's wit and know-how. They were best told by eleven-year-old Kaitlin, Dr. Jim's long-blond-haired daughter with a black-cage necklace and sun-blue eyes that glistened.
     First, Kaitlin told us a story from apple-picking season. Dr. Jim had been high on a ladder in an apple tree. He was trying to teach someone how you spin your ladder around so you don't have to get down to move it. But, he made a bad spin, hit an apple, lost his footing, and ended up on his butt on the ground below.
     Another time, Dr. Jim was sawing some boards at his family's "camp" (Canadian for "cottage") on a lake. He was having a tiff with his wife, so he stubbornly ignored her when she told him: "Don't cut the board while you're standing there! Don't!" He proceeded to use his circular saw to cut beneath him the very board he was standing on. He stood on the part hanging over the lake off the dock, and he obviously fell right in. He stood in water up to his neck, holding the saw above his head, listening to his wife say, "I told you so."
     And finally, Dr. Jim saw a baby skunk once and thought it looked cute. So, he went right up and tried to take it home as a pet. - He could smell the error of this idea for almost a week.
     Kaitlin and Dr. Jim's wife, Loretta, love laughing at these tales.
     Loretta is an excellent match for Dr. Jim. She's blond with a bird nose, and she needs her glasses to see.
     She pokes fun at herself and talks like an airhead. She refers to people's private parts as their "naughty bits." However, if you're around her long enough, you see that her humor and ditzy comments are actually quite sophisticated.
     Once, my buddies Johnny and Adam were trying to make some spaghetti. Loretta stood by in her kitchen, overlooking the operation and inserting pointers in at each opportunity. Dr. Jim noticed she was hawking over them and said, "Now, Loretta, let's see if you can't let them go this entire meal without telling them how to do something, or else we'll have to put you in the basement."
     Loretta apologized, "But, I already ha-ave," cute like a giggling air-head.
     Once, we were playing cards, and I and Johnny got into a play fight in which he accused me of cheating, and I dissuaded him from accusing me. "Yeah, but, don't let him accuse you of dissuading," Loretta took it a step further.
     And, one morning when Johnny, Adam, and I slept in past when we were supposed to be working, Loretta played a joke on us. A horrible, horrible joke. She parked her Durango next to our cabin. She blasted over her speakers some Shania Twain, the Canadian answer to all the crap pop music the States have. Loretta laughed, and we boys had Shania's "I'm Gonna Get'cha" in our heads all that morning as we whipper-snipped.
     "You're a fine piece of real estate, and I'm gonna get me some land." - Shania Twain. Ewww. That's terrible.
     Loretta and Dr. Jim enjoyed having us around. They were big fans and true appreciators of our group's "Johnny"-talk. They noticed how everyone called me "Johnny," and I called everyone else "Johnny," even though that name isn't any of ours. They called us their three "Johnny's." I was "Big-Johnny," Adam "Medium-Johnny," and Luke "Johnny" "Little-Johnny."
     I also came to be known as "B.J.," short for something else. It happened one night, due to an event that seemed to be Dr. Jim and family's favorite story from our stay.
     We'd headed to their "camp," the family's get-away on a beautiful brown lake. Rocks came out of the water, surrounding the large lake, as did pine forest of various shades of green and brown.
     After playing a while, we returned home in their van as the sun lowered. Like so many times before, I told all proudly of what a great animal-chaser I am - even though this amazing skill I possess rarely equates into an actual caught animal.
     Just then, Dr. Jim spotted a bunny on the dirt road ahead. All right! I wanted to get out of the van and chase it and show off. They let me.
     Using an animal-chasing manoeuvre employed in olden days by Canadian Inuit indians, I tore through the van door and raced down the road ... after the bunny. I stopped. I realized I didn't actually see the bunny. I went back to the van and asked where it was. My eyes are pretty bad.
     Those fools, they erupted into laughter. They pointed me at the bunny. I raced again, but the bunny moved into the off-road bush. I didn't pursue it, because I didn't want to get mauled by any bears. Or stomped by any moose, for that matter.
     I went back to the van, but I probably should've walked home. They let me hear it. The falling-over-taunting of Dr. Jim's twelve-year-old, bleach-blond skateboarding Luke, especially bullied my confidence. They started calling me "B.J." for "Blind-Johnny."
     Johnny "Little-Johnny" joked, "Bunnies know what to do when a Johnny approaches. They know its senses aren't too good."
     I had to redeem myself. "I came closer than you!" So, Dr. Jim - himself forgetting his poor success the last time he'd tried catching a skunk - taught me to catch a porcupine. "You just punch him in the nose."
     "Say no more!" I boasted. I'd serve everyone a porcupine dinner before they knew it.
     "Tell me how many (porcupines)," said Adam "Johnny" "Medium-Johnny" "Call Me Anything But "Rohr-ski" Because I Don't Want To Be Polish" Rohr - who's great at impressions - imitated me. "(of porcupines to catch) Give me a number."
     I got no chance at catching porcupines on this day - so, there are no foot-long quills sticking out of my face - but festivities continued into the night.
     Dr. Jim drank his rum and diet coke. Johnny dealt cards. Adam made jokes. And, Loretta, the house cook, let us eat from her large menu of marvelous desserts.
     "I've had six desserts today!" I calculated one night. We weren't exactly roughing it on the farm. I'd had: rhubarb coffee-cake, sherbert, ice cream, sex-in-a-pan, natural strawberry shortcake, and rhubarb crisp. Sex-in-a-pan is mousse-y and creamy with shaved chocolate on top. It's nothing like its name would imply; it's awesome. Actual sex, taking place in a pan, would be awfully uncomfortable.
     Dr. Jim played us music from his prize record collection. He was often drunk, so he said the same things every night then forget he'd said them.
     "Who likes The Rolling Stones?" he introduced his favorite band every night.
     "Who knows 'Midnight Rambler?" he introduced his favorite Stones song every night. "A lot of people have done this song before, but I think their version is the best.
     "Thrust my knife right down your throat ..." he quoted his favorite 'Midnight Rambler' line every night. He danced. When he danced, he still stood with his coffee mug across his stomach. His only motion difference was that he lifted his other arm a bit and waved one finger to the music and said, "That is goo-ood."
     Dr. Jim could get a little routy some nights. One night, he spilled his coffee mug contents all over the floor two consecutive times while fighting over spoons for a card game.
     Dr Jim, this character, was an entertaining story-teller. He'd never hitchhiked across Canada before, like us, but he told of crossing a long, northern Nova Scotia bridge and getting stopped by the mounties.
     "They nearly turned me back." He was with other young friends in a car, and they had lots of alcohol in the trunk. They'd gotten stuck in line with The Hells Angels cyclists in front and behind them. The mounties suspected young Jim of carrying alcohol for the bike gang. "The real Hells Angels," he said incredulously, opening his eyes wide like an owl.
     The best story, though, was Dr. Jim's explanation of why his hair's overgrown.
     "I only get my hair cut once a year. Oh-oo, I had a traumatic experience. I was in an airport, right, and I was in a hurry, and so I went to get my hair cut.
     "So, this lady was cutting my hair quick. And you know how sometimes they trim your nose hairs? Well, she decided, without telling me, that she was going to trim mine. And so, all of the sudden I look, and she's got her scissors pointed right at my face. And that scares you. I heard a "snip," and that scared me so much that I quickly inhaled, breathing in the nose hairs. I've never liked hair-cuts since."
     I love that one.
     We had some fun nights. One night, I remember, Adam and Johnny and I and all of Dr. Jim's family, including his son our age, Jamie, and his grown-up daughter that looks like Loretta, Kelly, were drinking and eating rhubarb crisps and getting rowdy. The kitchen sink was over-flowing with a pig-sty of dishes. The only house-member who wasn't partying with us was the nice Japanese WWOOFer, Junko, whose farm duties often took place in the kitchen.
     It definitely should've been our responsability to clean those dishes. But, late in the night, I stood at the sink and shook my head. "Boy, Junko's got a lot of dishes to do."
     Dr. Jim laughed. "You can tell you're a man for saying that!"
     Oh-oo, Dr. Jim's apple orchard was a memorable time ...
     "Who knows 'Midnight Rambler?"

More to come. - "B.J."
with "Little-Johnny" and "Medium-Johnny"


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