The Story Behind Gravel Roads

We live through these pages.

You most likely live a lot of different places.

At home with your children or grandchildren watching Bubble Guppies, depending on their age. Or playing Sim City, depending on your age.

Serving up a pepperoni pizza for one, or bento-ing a box of sushi with a pal. At the office copier earlier in the day . . . 48-49-50-51?

So what brought you here? To this place?

Were you born in the 1950’s?

Perhaps you’ve encountered a Canadian somewhere along the way, at an airport (likely) or in a bar (more likely) or on vacation (most likely especially if you visited Vancouver, B.C.).

You may even have one or two Canadians as friends and associates (very most likely).

As for myself  —  at least in spirit  —  there came a day when I knew, absolutely knew that those gravel roads would take me here, to this place, State-side.

That day was November 22, 1963.

I had just turned eight.

It was Indian Summer.

I was in a small-town Saskatchewan school pressing maple leaves. Yes, pressing. My teacher was Mrs. Turtle. Yes, Turtle.  The school bell sounded. It wasn’t time to go home, and yet it became time. Curious.

I scooted off to Auntie Tillie’s where we all watched the news coverage well into the wee hours of the morning. Hours of life and death played out in black and white. Even the local stations didn’t sign off at midnight with the usual test screen.

Until then, my exposure to the U.S. amounted to wondering if everyone in California drove a convertible like Perry Mason. And why would Hollywood name a television show after our beaver? Then of course there were the Illinois duck hunters who came by each fall to, well, hunt ducks.

Perry Mason Driving a '57 Buick Special Convertible

Perry Mason driving a ’57 Buick Special convertible.

So how did I finally get here and why?

I’m a product of the Free Trade Agreement, pre-NAFTA, between Canada and the United States, a consultant sponsored by an international systems integration firm.

Arriving at the tail-end of Miami Vice, Nintendo and Ronald Reagan (whom I still consider to this very day, one of the world’s greatest communicators).

After relocating to California, my work travels catapulted me across this beautiful country, coast to coast and everywhere in-between.

Not to mention Hawaii and the Bahamas.

I lived in California. I lived in Las Vegas. Then both the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico sides of Florida where I witnessed first-hand the bad, but especially the good, that can come from three miserable hurricanes.

Missed a crash landing in Mexico because I missed the flight in the first place.

Choppered into undeveloped parts of the Dominican Republic, had fresh coconuts cracked with a rusty machete, and stumbled upon Architectural Digest’s annual award recipient’s private retreat, at the peak of nowhere. It goes on and on and on.

All in the name of my chosen profession.

Then came my tipping point.

October 2014. After all those hectic years, I was brought down by a “this-is-where-I-see-myself-retiring-family-firm” in California, which rather abruptly, no longer required my services.

After 30+ years, no less.

Ouch!

It was time to make my move.

As a first generation Ukrainian Canadian, I was raised on a small farm surrounded by music (we even had a family band) and lively discussion, especially about politics and events of the day.

Dad was a CCF’er. My brother a Liberal. And my mother a Conservative.

On election days Orest would scrutineer, Dad would shuttle voters to and fro in our blue, four-door ’57 Pathfinder, while Mother sustained her camp with perogies and molasses cookies.

1957 Pathfinder Deluxe

From the ad, “Bar none, this elegant eyeful is Canada’s most popular Pontiac ever!”

My grandmother passed away at 103 still hoping to have had her Catholic marriage annulled, after twelve children and living apart from her husband, of 96, for decades. (They had irreconcilable differences).

I had a nun for an aunt who moved with me to California for the first few months. I was thirty-three at the time. (Try that on for size).

Family What's in a Picture

My Grandmother seated on the far left edge. My Grandfather seated on the far right edge.  The Nun in the center next to Gravel Roads. Circa 1959-60.

So what can you expect from Gravel Roads?

Current events rooted in past events, historic events. Differences, similarities, all circling behind that 49th parallel along those gravel roads. Stories. Real-life stories. Impressions. Lasting impressions. Photos. Lots of photos.

I’d always been the listener to and keeper of family tales, snoop-extraordinaire, opinionated, and above all, a closet writer. I had my first Underwood typewriter by the age of nine, thanks to my brother, Orest.

And so here I am. Which is where we started.

You stopping by. To find out more.

Stay with me. It’ll be fun.

If it hasn’t been fun already, I’m sorry. You know, it’s a Canadian thing. We’re always sorry. It’s because we’re so polite. Watching the movie “Canadian Bacon” should explain everything. In the interim, this clip will have to suffice.

Footnotes

I’m partial to good coffee, ethnic food and cooking from scratch. And my travels on the cruise ship, Paul Gauguin. Other favorites?

Authors: Jan Brett and Judith Viorst

Things to watch: Perry Mason, Turner Classic Movies, NCIS, Criminal Minds, Longmire, Blue Bloods, Lilo and Stitch, Johnny Carson and Benny Hill re-runs, BBC News

Things to read: anything by Allan Fotheringham or Bill Barry, Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie, The New Yorker, Tolkien, Macleans’s, Regina Leader Post, C-NET, WIRED, Daily Mail, Forbes, Zane Gray and Archie comic books, Narratively, BBC News America and Canada

Things to appreciate: anything about my daughter, any old-school country music, Чорні Брови, Nana Mouskouri, Bryan Adams, Strauss, Patsy Cline, Springsteen, ABBA, The Very Quiet Cricket, Bachman Turner Overdrive, The Police, art by Amber Dias

And to do: the New York Times Crossword Puzzle (paper version) and the Globe and Mail Puzzle (on-line, though it isn’t anywhere near, at least in my humble assessment, the double entendre challenge it was in the 80’s)

Movies: Scent of a Woman, Blackhawk Down, anything Bruce Willis, Cool Runnings, The Lady and the Tramp, anything Muppets, anything John Wayne, and of course, Canadian Bacon

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