"Jamsey we're going to start calling you Randy Ragan if you don't get a move on".
So I put my foot down. The resulting vibrations and noise from doing so made Trevor revisit his encouragement.
And so there we are. It is 1983. Cossi Commisso, Trevor McCallum and Paul James. All crammed into my Blue Mercury Bobcat on our way to training with the Toronto Blizzard of the old North American Soccer League. On the Gardiner Expressway with its roller-coaster lumps, bumps and crannies.
Walking to the training ground from the parking lot I thought was the most opportune time to deliver the bad news to my two best friends and teammates.
"Sorry I forgot to tell you. We have to move Victor Kodelja's house on Saturday".
Victor was a full back for the Toronto Blizzard team. Along with Bruce Wilson we had the two most talented wide defenders in the whole North American league. Bruce could and should have played in Europe. For the specificity of his position he was flawless. Victor was technically gifted and an odd but lovable character. From a distance with beer in hand, cigarette dangling from the side of his mouth and a Clint Eastwood squint and stare he could be quite intimidating. Only when he started laughing could you detect a playfulness about his character.
"You're fucking kidding right Jamesy!" said Trevor
"Fuck Jamesy seriously? Where's Victor. Why cant he move it himself'?", interjected Cossi.
He's out of town and his wife cannot move the house on her own.
"So why doesn't he get Movers" inquires Cossi
"Cuz he's fucking too cheap. And Jamesy's too nice to say no", said Trevor
Well I have an idea. Why don't you Know-All's call Victor and tell him what you just fucking told me. I'm sure he'll understand.
"Jamesy I'll help. But only until 12 noon". But you owe me. Jamesy, Jamesy, Jamesy" as Cosi shakes his head
That's great Cossi - we'll be done by then.
Roll on Saturday at 6.30am. The three of us arrive at Victor's house in Burlington. All baggy eyed and irritable. We couldn't spell Altruism at this stage of our lives nor alone understand its meaning and how to apply it with grace. We were boys in a man's world.
When we arrived at the house. It was not as we thought. It was one of those multi, multi layered homes. And to make things worse nothing had been packed. And each room was choc a block with items and awkward furniture.
"You have to be fucking kidding me Jamsey"
"What the fuck"
"Oh come on. Its not that bad you guys. Look you'll see. We'll be through this in no time. Perhaps not by 12 noon. But soon after."
"Fucking Jamesy. You Twat" says Cosi as Trevor starts laughing his very own irresistible laugh".
What we didn't realize it was about to get a whole lot worse. Just as Trevor was guesstimating our eventual departure time to be 3pm. 4pm tops. Victors wife appears.
"Oh boys remember the basement".
"A fucking basement. I thought we were in it", says Trevor.
No such luck on this particular day. Once we realized there was in fact another awkward layer to this dastardly home, like synchronized swimmers, in slow motion, we closed our eyes and screamed out fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck!
"Guys its just what it is. We're helping a teammate and friend. Its going to be a long day. That's it.".
After moving furniture in near enough silence for the first two hours and two trips to Victor's new house, the guys lightened up. We started chatting again which eased my angst about roping them into this, not so easy, charitable deed in the first place.
But then when its one of those days. It is one of those days.
Shortly after our fourth trip we finally felt we were making a dent into the proceedings. Then Victors wife announces,
"Phew. Boys. Almost forgot to remind you".
As she walks to the most over sized double garage I have ever seen. Opening up the door she reveals a sardine packed space full of Victors pluming materials from his previous pluming career. Box after box after box of heavy materials.
Time stopped for what seemed like an eternity.
2am in the morning driving home bruised, scarred and bloodied from the days events. I tired to make small talk with Cossi and Trevor. They were not having it. Silence was King. They couldn't even look at me. When Cosi dropped me off at my parents on Sheldon Avenue I said, "one day we'll look back and laugh at this".
Hey Bud. Hey Buddy.....Hey Buddy.....Hey Buddy....
As I feel a tap on my leg, like a tortoise I cautiously stick just my head out of the sleeping bags to see where the commotion was coming from.
I see a black haired kind man.
Hey Buddy please take this. He puts down a coffee and a bag which I determined, likely housed a sandwich and perhaps somethings else. I was right of course. Amazing how one can size up with such precision once you have starved yourself for so long.
"Thank you very much that is so kind of you".
"Hey Buddy. You have know where to stay at Xmas".
No. But that is okay. Thank you again for your kindness.
As I slip back down into my own little hood of warmth. I could not help but feel like Tiny Tim. Seeing as it was Xmas and all.
My current preoccupation with Ethnomethdology for some reason told the gift was not just random. But perhaps from someone on the other side.
As I shake free from the thought I feel tired and so I close my eyes again and doze. I wake every few minutes to drink some of the coffee avoiding to look at persons passing by. So easily embarrassed all my life. But now. Surely justified. Even my sleeping bags are torn and ripped.
A sudden feeling of Del Griffith talking to Neal Page descends upon me. About how things being not so bad as they appear. Staring at their burning car. In the freezing cold. In the middle of no where.
In spite of what appears to be hopelessness. I think about my good fortune. The kindness which has been smothered over me from so many and from so far. The humanity juxtaposed against the inhumanity. The truly beautiful people I have encountered on this strange cumbersome, grueling path.
As I stumble to my feet I remind myself I have to finally finish documenting the RUSE of December 9 and 10. It will help people to know what it is all about. I twirl my sleeping bags like candy floss into the garbage bag, along with pillow and mat. Leaving my food gifts behind I run to the garbage container to hide my belongings. Returning to collect my little satchel containing my remaining clothes and new acquired goodies I once again enter the men's washroom at the Lakeshore. Doing so, my daily routine for the past 6 weeks seamlessly kicks in. Dis-Robe from three layers of clothing and then straight to the Wall Dryer. The warmth is like having a massage and orgasm rolled into one.
After 30 minutes of this avenue of pleasure. I float to the sink to survey my aging face from the trauma of the past 8 months. As I brush my teeth I contemplate opening the package which the kind man dropped off. When I open it a few minutes later. I see a sandwich and berry custard tart from Aroma. I think. I am supposed to be on hunger strike. This tenth one is not working out as planned. I feel like I am putting on weight. Not losing it. Fuck it. Its Xmas. And how can I let such a kind gesture go into the garbage. I vacuum up what is in front of me within what seems like seconds.
I have no idea what the time is as I walk to the respite on this Xmas Eve day 2018. My last stop before the internet cafe to complete my writing. As I enter the dilapidated foyer of the community center where it is based I notice the time is only 10.15am. Earlier than I thought. Means I desperately need more sleep. And the warm swath of entering the room was like a suppressant. Straight down on the ground. Bag as a pillow. Out like a light .......to be continued......