Upon my return the following night, I was informed of the incident involving the former-bus boy on his first as Door-Security. Those fellows were subsequently banned, and things returned to business as usual, or so I thought. The following week, there were the odd skirmishes, most with the exception of a few were taken outside. One occasion took all but a minute, a student who ‘called-out’ a biker hadn’t noticed him carrying his helmet with him and the conflict was over tout-suite. The house, which had emptied out for this occurrence, returned after their brief exodus.

One odd occurrence took place when I came upon a scuffle, and was requested to let run its course, contrary to establishment policy. There was also the fact that my intended motion to put a stop to it was blocked. Upon inquiry, I was informed the former-MC of a friendly gang was defending my honour. The losing biker had made a racial comment about my person and this MC took exception. The remark was demanded retracted, which was refused, and so physical confrontation was the result. The matter was settled and I’d made an unexpected enemy, not that the remark was not an indicator as it was. There were a couple of other such utterances, which I overheard but chose to let it go considering the sources.

Things were getting overwhelming, and the popularity of the establishment grew,, so a second doorman was hired. This time, an ex-police officer, or so I was told, and he appeared genuine enough. Physically and characteristically, he fit the bill and we began a trusting relationship. As this was a requirement for working in such an establishment if one was to feel as secure as the patrons, considering the incident with the bus-boy who was still in recovery.

The establishment was running smoothly, taking turns on the door and touring the premises was the routine since it was quite a large place now that I think of it. The front was a ‘Steak and Burger’, with a Gentlemen-and-Escorts room where older gents would imbibe, an upstairs lounge, and the larger downstairs drinking drinking hall with background music provided by a jukebox. How I had done it on my own for all those months, with only a few incidents, was most likely due to the co-operation of our clientele, what may have been my easy-going nature, and the lack-of-abuse that was a staple prior to my hiring.

As luck would have it, there were interests of the fairer sex, which included a young lass I was beginning to favour, and whom I believed favoured me. She wasn’t altogether forthcoming with being monogamous, but we were in the early stages of getting to know each other. Such was my naive thinking. I was invited to an after-work visit where I had hope to be spending the night. That wash not to be the case, and after a quick turn on the couch I was out the door. Instead of taking the elevator, I elected to take the stairs down to the lobby, to reflect on what had just occurred. To my chagrin, what was I to see but a fellow exiting the building whom I recognized, and whom she’d told me was no longer in her favour.

I wasn’t one to leave matters incomplete, so spoke with her about the subject on a later occasion. It was during that conversation I overheard the voice of one of the ‘fired/banned-fellows’ in the background. He asked who she was talking to, and when she told him, responded with a racial expletive which surprised me. I had always considered him a friend, but it appeared my sentiments were one-sided. The conversation ended, and I continued my job as doorman, alongside my trusted partner who appeared a competent and friendly fellow. Things progressed smoothly, with a few minor incidents but nothing too serious. After all, with five bike-gangs, a combination of university students and citizens rounding out the mix, all seemed in harmony.

One night after closing, I made my last rounds downstairs and proceeded to lock up. As I climbed the stairs, approaching the first landing, a darkness overcame me and I stumbled on the stairs. I caught myself from falling, took a breath and proceeded to close up. I was to be given a ride home on the back of my new colleague’s motorcycle, and although I noticed a gathering crowd I paid no attention. My ex-police partner showed no concern, so neither did I. As we rode off, he on his motorcycle, I was pulled from the back by a bystander who turned out to be one of the brothers.

He, the younger of the two, then proceeded to hit me amidst my requests for him to stop. After his fifth punch to my face, I agreed to his intention to mix-it-up in a fight. As I was getting the better of him the older brother joined in from behind and we began to mix-it-up. A blow came from behind as I was turning to add him to the conflict and I slipped, due to the momentum from one of his punches and I struck my head on the curb, lights out!

A later account of what followed was that they proceeded to ‘put the boots to me’. The ‘observing service-staff’ intervened so as not to have to attend a funeral, and experience a probable crime investigation, on the event of my death as one had exclaimed. It also came to light, that these brothers had acquired two other fellows as back-up, just in case I was a ‘street-fighter’, because no one could figure out how I was so successful in keeping-the-peace at this establishment on my own. Incidentally, a passer-by had tried to intervene on my behalf during my assault and received a crushed cheek-bone for which charges were laid.

The last thing I remembered, was falling backwards before unconsciousness. I regained consciousness while being lifted onto the backseat of a car by two passers-by. The street appeared dark, possibly from being on the shadow-side of the automobile, accompanied by a numbness. These unknown fellows drove me to the Emergency at the Mount Sinai Hospital on University Avenue, waited with me until my sister and mother arrived to retrieve me after I was checked out by the hospital and police.

In my bewildered state, I asked my mother how it is that those I considered friends could turn on me thus? Her response has stayed with me to this day. “Well”, she said, “not everyone goes to the same Sunday school.”

I was two-months in recovering and received periodic visits from these total strangers, enamoured by my concerned lovely sister and my kindly mother.

It appeared I had experienced yet another unrecognized/unacknowledged bigoted/racial incident amidst a kindness acting as counterbalance. What I considered fortunate in remembering this incident was, I wasn’t run over while lying unconscious in the middle of this darkened street, at 2:00 am in the morning.

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As it was, we were underaged drinkers returning form a local watering hole, months shy of my 21st birthday, and experimenting with a social expression that  emerged as the outcome of a risk taken. As Life would have it, upon gaining unquestioned access, I frequented the establishment making it a regular hang out. Somehow, I was so accepted I was offered a job as a doorman of same said establishment, possibly having frequented the place, and a ‘nice guy’, I was pegged a complement to what the owner required.

Taking the compliments as the mainstay of the offer, and not the minimum wage offered which presented more savings than money for my services, I accepted the position and began my six-nights/week occupation. I was living within my means, didn’t go out much since I was working most nights and adapting to life as an upcoming adult.

Two fellows, who were brothers from Halifax that were fired, the result of being abusers of authority with the clientele. What I didn’t know was that they’d pick fights with inebriated patrons and subsequently beat them up. I didn’t know that side of them, as they seemed to treat me kindly when I was there. Not to say I was keeping alert to fights in such a large establishment. It was a place to behold, larger than one would realize as the space was divided into floors and each floor was sectioned. Only the downstairs drinking level was of ‘open’ concept, like a saloon.

Then, as luck would have it, the clientele was in a state of flux. A variety of bikers: Black Diamond Riders, Paradise Riders, Satan’s Choice, Vagabonds, and the odd Hell’s Angels would frequent the establishment. Some of the aforementioned I’d met in my earlier years as a parking-lot attendant while in high school at my night and weekend gig. A few of these fellows would drop their bikes off, leave me instructions to keep an eye out as they were important to them, and I was always referred to as ‘kid’. They’d take a liking to me, regale me with fanciful tales going and coming from wherever they went. I certainly did not ever consider meeting up with any of them again, after I went away to university. Life’s funny that way.

In addition to these various echelon of bikers, there were the general public and college/university students. I was expected to do the ‘carding’, maintain cohesion and security for the three-areas of the establishment while people celebrated and became inebriated as the evening progressed. This I did from January to April while I lived in the basement of my step-father/mother’s home. After learning of his failing health, due to cancer, I assisted with his rapid deterioration up to and including his subsequent death.

The process was something to behold, and I did not expect what occurred during his final weeks. He rarely remembered me, and and as he went from a lively 185 lb. man to what appeared a 95 lb. figure of skin and bones, he became fearful at the sight of me. I rationalized it as the surfacing of the ‘fears taught about black people in childhood’. That feeling, of remembering a caring, giving and supportive man suddenly, upon seeing me turn and run in fear shocked me to my core.

That and the toll of the loss on my mother, her early stage of mourning was an especial time for our family. We never did speak of it as a family, my sister and I together with our mother. She spoke to me whenever possible, but she may have spoken more to my sister, her being female and could relate more. Although, some things were relegated to me as the man of the house, the one on whom they could depend during trying times. A post I was conscripted to from early in life, both inside and outside the family. 

It appears, unbeknownst to me, my reputation as ‘Marshall’ of the establishment because nary a fight would erupt. There was but one rule. Should you wish to fight, it would be best to take it outside, otherwise banishment would ensue and most enjoyed the camaraderie that was part of this unusual gathering of mindsets. The fellows who lost their jobs became ‘regulars’, without incident, forgive and forget. What I was to discover, and to my surprise, there was a plan afoot to take me down.

The staff was Greek in ethnicity, and we’d all gotten along, or so I thought. There was an odd occasion I was invited to one of the fellows home after work and told an likely tale about the hygiene of women. Something that was unclean and I best be cautious. I left in a most confused state, but eventually thought it through and let it slide.

There was a bus-boy who was slightly bigger than I, and management wanted to give him a shot at manning-the-doors, since I had been so effective on my own and they believed he could simulate me. They wanted to see, so they told me, if he would be an effective edition. I didn’t realize he could’ve been seen as one to eventually take my place, whereby I’d be out of another job for especial reasons.

I hadn’t had a night off since I began working there, some four-months, and management felt I was due. Unfortunately, as it turned out, his first night on the job was the night the two brothers chose to take-me-down. They presumed since I’d been working every night they were safe in picking any night that suited them. I was absent for the first time, an anomaly, and they cornered him in the men’s washroom. Not to waste the intention of the evening, he would have to suffice as practice until such time as I was present.

This ‘incident’ took place in April of 1970, recently after the passing of my step-father from cancer, our mother’s second husband and love of her life. The events leading up to, and affecting subsequent events, began some years prior.

One Sunday morning, after I turned eighteen, my mother entered my bedroom with her usual, ‘Wake it it’s time to get ready for church’, announcement. For some odd reason, and out-of-the blue, I turned and uttered, ‘No, I’m not going to church’, and turned over to return to sleep fully expecting a discussion or argument. To my amazement she simply turned and walked out the door, shutting it behind her and saying, ‘Okay’. My amazement didn’t last long, for I was off-to-unconsciousness without further consideration, at that moment.

Times passed, my life resumed its regularities of school, after-school team sports, after-school/weekend-and-evening jobs. We were living around St. Clair and Christie, but that didn’t last long for before the second year had ended we’d moved to the Bathurst and Eglinton neighbourhood for my final year in high school. The year was 1967 and the school was Central Tech. Curiously, we moved in on a Friday evening/night, and while in the lobby of this fine establishment, I might add our first ever apartment-dwelling, our presence was questioned.

It turned out we were the pioneering people-of-colour to get into this building. It seemed our mother had once again scored lodging in a better-than-average neighbourhood through her light-complexioned appearance, blended with easy British-like speech pattern. Our response, ‘We live here’, to which an odd expression was served but being teens the matter would be addressed elsewhere. Nothing further was made of the encounter and, as the weeks passed, we’d not given any reasons for our alarming presence and we became like furniture after a time. We were greeted whenever encountered and a peaceful calm ensued in spite of our social gatherings engineered by my loving and socialite sister, possibly because we’d engaged a mixed group of well-behaved young people, which fit quite nicely with the building’s usual demographics.

I graduated high school and went off to university on a probational acceptance, a student-loan with part-time jobs financing, acquired for weekends in that university town. On odd occasions, during holiday season, I’d find myself back in Toronto attempting to salvage what I considered a budding romance. It was just my imagination getting the best of me.

Nearing the end of the first year of university, at which I was unsuccessful, I learned that our mother had fallen in love with an Englishman and had wed while I was in school. Upon my return, I was no longer to reside at that first apartment, which I quite enjoyed, but to reside in the basement apartment of the house of my new step-father. It was cozy, as well as self-contained with its own entrance with dining a family occurrence in the upstairs. There was also a ‘family’ room, a new construct for me, while my life continued on its quest-for-independence path. In my failed attempt at post-secondary education, I was now out-of-school for a minimum of one year, the probationary condition of the university.

I was standing at yet another crossroad: failure-at-university; a new step-father; new residence in another ‘new’ neighbourhood; a loss of friendships due to the aforementioned; and, being a person-of-colour in need of a job, in 1969, with a student loan to repay until I resume university, if ever. Interesting times, to say the least! Things were in the offing for which I was unprepared, unsuspecting, to say the least.

The following year had incidents which involved jobs based on the connections of my late step-father, prior to his passing, which I was too restless to appreciate due to overlooked unknown factors in my upbringing. This will be for another tale’s telling.

One job offering was as an accountant for the Consumer’s Gas Company, which I departed to utilize my high school training as a surveyor with the Department of Highways. Now, this particular job could’ve been a longstanding vocation had I not taken the tales of the experienced surveyors, and subsequent occurrences, to heart. Namely, the job being subject to being outdoors anywhere in Ontario, in all kinds of weather. Well, the summer and autumn months were manageable, come rain or shine. However, as the chill began to emerge I found myself on a survey crew taking measurements at the top of the Don Valley, the path to become the Highway 404 extension. A decision had to be made. So, on December 31st 1969, I became unemployed, and was looking out on freshly fallen snow in 0 celsius weather ,in the New Year.

It was during this time I became aware of my step-father’s health condition. At that time I had intended to become more social, primarily with people I’d been meeting in my expanded job circle, which included accounting, parking attendant and surveying contacts. It was during this period I was introduced to hashish and marijuana, only to discover my altered-state experiences was outside the realm to the others who’d made the introduction. It was a brief love affair as I had other things developing, which was to keep me occupied for some time.

One night I was out with some fellows and encountered a conflict situation which resulted in me being punched on the chin three times. The incident drew a crowd whereupon the attending police officer chose to take the assailant’s side in spite of witnesses accounts to the contrary. I was still becoming aware of the 2nd-class citizenship based in ethnicity when it came to ‘serve and protect’ situations of which I was unfamiliar, since I came from a police family in the islands. The fellows accompanying me were Jewish, and surprisingly, backed into and blended with the gathering crowd for their own protection, which they later explained and I didn’t hold it against them, too much.

Yet, another lesson in social constructs I had yet to comprehend and connect to my person.

Fateful Destinies

10/12/2013

Many early civilizations have developed methods of comprehension, acceptance and philosophies to manage the physical anomaly/mystery called ‘death’. Yet, with each civilization there was the strain on personal experience in wrapping one’s consciousness around what concept was offered.

In what I’m about to relate, there are periodic and timely Life offerings on the subject throughout my ongoing existence.

 

[Noche+estrellada]

 

 

My first Life memory occurred very early. I was about four years of age, but by all accounts it could possibly be three. In any case, it was at a great-great someone’s funeral, and my ways of meandering were unrestricted throughout the venue. What I do remember is ascending a number of steps, three to five, onto a podium or platform whereupon rested a casket. From all appearance, to my memory, this casket had a glass-top, or was entirely of glass.

The floor was carpeted, red or some deep maroon tone, with deep-blue or purple curtains. There was a chair nearby and arrangements of flowers, and I meandered amongst the people who gave little regard to this little person moving between their legs. One thing did gain my attention during this period of observation was the odour. This I considered directly related to the person lying within the casket.

I stood looking into the casket, pondering the meaning of what I was seeing there. I was without emotional reference, or confluence, so I continued on my walkabout among the living.

That may have been the earliest reference/remembrance of a body laying in state. It was not to be the last. There have been many ever since, noted family members and accident victims in news media of the times, until I emigrated to the country called the Dominion of Canada.

Upon arrival, I was exposed to a different kind of death. Different, as my mind-scape began to seek references to goings on. There was the usual accidental deaths, deaths instigated by crimes of passion and the like; but, nothing prepared me for the deaths by hate. I was to be introduced to these in conversation concerning civil rights and slavery. A shock to my open mindset.

Still, those deaths were not in my immediate sphere of existence so the days moved on. Then, the first memorable one came a-calling quite unexpectedly. This death came in the form of a friend’s younger sister when I was 18, she was 15. Our families had gotten quite close, unusual given the social times where families of diverse cultures were not readily accessible. You see, his family was Italian and ours Jamaican. It may not seem like much, but in the sixties many friendships were on an individual basis, even though the community were of multi-national European preferences. We were a minority among minorities, which may have made it a mite easier. We posed no threat as we were a single parent family, matriarch dominant, the only one of colour in each neighbourhood we infiltrated.

This episode stands out, although there may have been others. Rocco and I were friends, and he had a crush on my sister. We were introduced to his family and spent time in each others’ homes. One occasion, his sister’s 15th birthday I believe, we were all enjoying the celebration and I was introduced to homemade wine. I excused myself and sought refuge in one of the bedrooms to take a nap. Everyone was wondering where I was, but soon forgot as it was a birthday celebration and I, like Rocco, was more like a chaperone for the younger one’s enjoying the festivities.

Two-weeks after the party I received word that there was a sudden death in Rocco’s family. I was surprised to hear it was his little sister whom I’d only just met, and had grown fond of her pleasant manner. I had not known my impact on his family, but was asked if I would be one of the poll-bearers at the funeral? To honour our friendship, I accepted the request and experienced my first Italian funeral, not one I could have been prepared for on so many levels.

The grief was unbearable, more so that I did not feel the depth of it as they which I gather is understandable. Then, there was the carrying of the casket, a weight I’ll always remember as I did not comprehend the magnitude of its composition. It was an expression of her value to the family. I did not understand ‘loss’ in that capacity at that juncture in my life.

I continued on with my life. And sadly, as the grieving subsided to manageability Rocco and I lost connection and drifted apart, due mainly to my growing discontent with my life and home, and moving away to university. I continued my insular existence, unknown capacity until my present condition.

The year was 1968 when I departed for university and, upon return a year later, I discovered I had a step-father. There was much adjustment to be made, the worst of it was discovering he was dying of cancer a year later. I watched/experienced this vibrant man, 186lb., devolve to 90lb as he succumbed to the malady. In the days remaining to him he reverted to his early-childhood conditioning, by my thinking, as upon seeing me was startled and ran yelling fearfully through the house where I was monitoring him. He was the loss that was to grieve my mother for some time.

Two years later, I met a young man about my age at a place I patronized, then later was employed. We were becoming close friends and, to solidify that friendship, planned to play tennis. We’d met two lovely lasses, and we four were chummy albeit platonic, at the time. Our tennis match was never to be actualized, as he kept postponing our dates for one reason or another. Then, after a postponement that involved a visit to a girlfriend in Ottawa, his auto was side-swiped by a transport truck on his return, as I was informed by the lasses we had befriended. Another sad turn of events in 1970.

 

 

Memoriam

Memoriam

 

 

I was to have a reprieve for a time, the deaths that occurred were of family/friends I was unable to attend in person. Others were in the form of grandparents during the eighties and early nineties. Some, unexpected yet expected, were the result of failing health and so taken-in-stride, as some would say. But, there were a few in the nineties that I learned to accept. They were that of students in a new school where each summer deaths were a common occurrence, and I became deflated but kept an optimistic countenance while awaiting summers where no deaths were reported. There were the odd serious injuries, followed by accidental and other untimely deaths through medical anomalies. Then another reprieve save distant notices of same.

 

4. GrandMother Malcolm

 

Then came 2001 with the passing of my father, which predicated the worldwide memorable 9-11. Then in the mid-2000s, there were information of deaths that came upon arrival during trips to visit family members, and other friends. The year I collapsed and had to retire early, before I could entire retirement fully, I was to attend a soccer player’s funeral who died by accident while celebrating his 18th birthday. I went away to allow myself some space from that entry, but a year later was to be inundated by an average of one-death/month of the subsequent 12 months. It was a trying time from October 2007 to October 2008, from the deaths of friends and family member of friends whom I’d befriended over the decades. Their ages were from 22 through 91, reason being that of the usual accident/health/age. The grief that was endured by their family members was immeasurable, but I forgot the I was not having enough time to process the mounting scope to which I was being exposed, especially with the knowledge of ‘how’ the deaths occurred.

 

3. Father- Victor

 

Since 2008, the deaths were more sporadic occurring less frequent, but still unexpected in the sense that many were younger than expected, and others with discovered illnesses.

 

5. Winston Malcolm Sr.

 

Then, in the last five years, relatives young and old were leaving this mortal coil. There was my mother’s older brother around 2010, now my father’s older brothers, one of the brother’s two sons and an aunt, all in the past year 2014/2015.

 

1. Uncle Lyn

 

I have lost count and, worst of all, knowing It’s not over I have little to cheer me as I await the inevitable in a quietude that cannot be shared, save here in this entry. I trust you’ll accept my apology, and indulge me, by taking a small peak into the abyss without fear as you hold the hand of your loved one as you journey here.

 

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