Its 2am Sunday morning my second day back on the concrete slab after a night at Peyvand's. As the cold wind whistles' my eyes close as I travel on another magical carpet ride of meditation.
Brian Hughes the Welsh-Canadian has just passed away signifying the end of an era of unique individuals (Bob Bearpark, Bill Thompson). They called them old school. Well then, give me integrity, fight, humor, smarts, specificity of talent, class as individuals, any day. I only met Brian a half dozen times but he was as genuine a person as you could ever wish to meet.
Cosi appears, imitating a fishing rod as if he was reeling in a fish as he drops me home in 1982 - completing another 2 hour cycle of training together. He once again won the competition. I learned more about football from Cosi during those moments and times than any coach. 36 years later as I sit opposite him it was like looking in the mirror of time. He discretely slides a package which contained something as he said, "to tide me over during this tough time". Minutes earlier Trevor who was present at this luncheon of 3 old friends had provided me a similar package with the same message. It was a breathtaking moment of humanity. Two unconditional friends, who always were and who always will remain my friend in spite of any length of time a part.
I think about Mike Bourassa an U20 Canadian player back in days of 2000/2001. His emails of encouragement, support and loyalty have been exquisite in their detail of who I was as a coach and person. I never knew. His last email references Josh Simpson. How quick is the passage of time. The last moment I knew Josh he was a 17 year old and now he has completed his professional soccer career and is getting on with a more normal life. Mike states on behalf of Josh something funny. That Terry Dunfield had beaten me on a 4 mile run and I bought him a pint as a consequence. I think with a smile, "Well its Terry Dunfield who needs to sober up from such hyperbole as he couldn't beat me today nor alone 20 years ago. And the only one who was buying pints was Terry to half the U20 team in Argentina celebrating our two losses less than 48 hours before our final game against the Maicon, Kaka, Adriano Brazilian team".
As I now surf deeper on those U20 times I think of my pursuit of Owen Hargreaves when everyone had given up on him. I drove from Guelph in between U20 training sessions to the Sportsnet studios to recite a plea for Owen to represent Canada and not England. Sent a video to his Calgary home and to the Bayern Munich football club. It was of course fruitless in the end but not pointless as some others had maintained. At least we knew all we ever needed to know about Owen's character when it came to Canada which turned out to be the same as Prime Minister Stephen Harper who at the time couldn't wait to grab a photo opportunity with Owen Hargreaves when he arrived on his summer sabbatical in Calgary. A moment completely devoid of Canadian pride.
Which brings me to think of Leslie Wilson. There will only ever be one Les Wilson. As passionate devote loyal Canadian as you will ever meet. His kindness on this journey has given me the impetus to dig deeper on Les. In an era of superficiality and self entitlement what Les Wilson achieved as a Canadian soccer player back in the 60/70's is extraordinary and unequaled. Not just from what he accomplished among some, of the greatest players of ALL time and at the highest level of world football - English League Division One - but even more so because no one knows. As good as Jason Devos and Co were as players they couldn't tie the shoe laces of Les Wilson. I think of my obsession with football sticker cards back in the early 70's I would have had his card as I had ALL Division One players back in those days quite the accomplishment to assemble them all. I always thought the threshold of being considered a really good football player as being able to compete at the English League Division One. 5 Canadians have managed this which when all variables are leveled out no one matches Les. Its so Canadian that we don't know.
I see Ashley and Max as if they were next to me. I see her beautiful silhouette walking up Jarvis Street in the summer of 2010 to meet me at the Sportsnet studios and her gentle discrete wave from a distance. The day we pick up 11 week old Max appears. He was the only pup of the litter left. He turned out to be a gem of all gems of dogs. I miss him and Ashley.
I think of the car ride home with Peyvand from 3 nights ago and his anecdote of recalling his conversation with Colin Miller - my supposed best friend for many years whom I've only spoken to once in 7 years. As I'm emaciated and in the fight of my life Peyvand asks Colin to provide support to which he replies no, the last time I spoke to Jamsey he was mean to me. We both profusely chuckle at the line so unlike Colin to be so sensitive - we thought he was made of sterner stuff from warranted critique - yet not so unlike him to be so unwittingly "selfish".
As I feel sleepy my thoughts turn to the situation I am in. The lawyer I met who was a nice guy with panache and vigor but seemingly like ALL Canadian lawyers doesn't get it. The legal system and any lawyer has no credibility from what I have experienced. We are a nation with an establishment that is out of touch with the changing times. The corruptness of our justice, media and institutional systems. We are not as nice as we purport to be and we are not as brave as think we are. We lack true poverty and passion when compared to the rest of the world - with the exception of hockey of course.
People like myself don't need or want Sympathy. We need and require empathy - understanding. But to give empathy people have to listen, they need to ask the right questions and then listen again, and then finally when all is said and done they need to listen.
There is humanity in Canada. Plenty of it from average Canadian citizens. Just not in the institutions where it is required most.
to be continued.....