Incidentally Part 1

04/08/2014

Jamaica  c. 1949…

 

Upon entry...

Initial observations…

 

I am unique. Not unlike everyone else who has been, is, or ever will be alive on this earth. We each have our own especial ways of being, our own particular part to play in life, amidst Life’s Grand Orchestra. Some have solo parts, if not all, as Warhol is characterized to have said, have “15 minutes-of-fame” as we progress through our life’s journey.

Toronto  c. 1974

 

Championship years developing...

Developing championship status…

 

I discovered similar counterpart upon reading Sidney Poitier’s autobiography some years ago, albeit his being 22 years prior to mine with its peculiar and incomparable intensity. He emigrated to the United States in the early 40s, while I emigrated to Canada in the early 60s. Still, the similarities are there with him acquiring an international acclaimed solo part; and, I ‘the relative 15 minutes of fame’.

What I have come to realize is that my life has been a series of events framed in an environment-of-fear, not of my making but, within which I functioned and was able to develop survival strategies that has served me well. Unbeknownst to me then, but not now, was the fact that this strategy was couched in reactive-behaviours that evolved into today’s responses based-on-understanding.

Toronto 2011

 

Canadian Black Belt Hall of Fame  Induction

Canadian Black Belt Hall of Fame Induction

 

 

 

Everyone’s behaviour, my parents included, are conducted from attitudes learned through their understandings. Now, these understandings, be they conscious or unconscious, are operated in a timely fashion. We do the best we can with what we believe, from culturally learned/taught events where we are, by what we have in the society where our living unfolds. My scope began, as I have come to believe, in the city of Kingston, on a small island called Jamaica in the Caribbean, at the turn of the 20th century (1949).

Looking back over my life, I can see the wherefore’s, the what for’s and how come’s but not the purposes that unfold, and are still unfolding.

Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario   2014

 

Korean Martial Arts Master Hall of Fame  Inductee

Korean Martial Arts Master Hall of Fame Induction

 

One of my earliest recollection was attending a funeral and wandering about attempting to make sense of the environment’s sights, sounds and odours. But, what truly stuck in my mind like a dream, although it might have been scene from a movie, was observing yet feeling a male character’s emotions as he took a long walk into the moonlit sea and never returned. There was music, which brought to mind it may have been a scene in a movie. A minor major event with psychological impacts I have yet to decipher.

It’s the mundane that make a difference whether or not we take centre-stage upon leaving the confines of our homes. They also guide the decisions we make, for good or ill where we and others are concerned, directly or indirectly. I am considering a few right now, have been for some time, especially since I’ve yet to discover “what I want to be when I grow up”. Most everything I’ve done, accomplished-accumulated-acquired, have been by pure chance. At times I wonder what the fuss is all about when criticized for not actuating my potential, whatever they may be.

Don’t be confused, or surprised. I’m still learning to comprehend this Life, which I believe is rigged from the moment I began to accumulate information on how-to-behave regardless of the situations in which I find my self. I ask you, “How do you know what you know?” and “Where are you headed with all your ‘toys’, people/memories/things?”

I have a list of situations in which I’ve been a part(s), by my estimation all chance occurrences and, yet, I’m obligated to being responsible for all decisions made and acted upon. Now, tell me, where’s the sense in it all? I look back on my early childhood school days, church/Sunday school, walkabout sessions, interactions with family/friends and places; then, my teenage years with all its coming-of-age stuff, which was just about everything as all was ‘new’ and without foreknowledge or guidance; and, into adulthood early, now the middle-to-later parts from which this is the accumulated perspective. These thoughts are not recent, overnight musings. I’m simply taking time in jotting them down, while the time’s nigh.

Hmm, that aforementioned list is rather a lengthy one, after the funeral…

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.

We have been told we are all equal, although not necessarily the same. And, as such, dissimilar in every aspect yet equal, nonetheless. How do we compare notes, with our dissimilarities and differences composing our equalities? Will we discover our equality through our uniquely different tales? These tales that make up our life stories?

I have friends whose family experiences read like adventure novels, albeit episodic, very much like mine. So, at this point I’ll elaborate from first-person engagements on the ‘subject’ title.

Coming into this world is considered a blessing, yet greatly dependent on the welcoming committee to which I was not then consciously privy. Suffice to say, it may have been a mixed-blessing from the outset. Upon arrival, things had not gone swimmingly. Living conditions along the way were interspersed with peaks of joy, found in day-to-day endeavours, acting as distraction interludes. Needless to say, 10 months later a baby-sister joined the enclave and thereafter, the patriarch departed. Since then, it’s been attempts at permanence resulting in transience. Through it all, we adapted, coped, managed on the strength and determination of our matriarchal unit leader.

Like everyone else who’s experienced unease, uncertainty from their beginnings, I’m certain comprehending will not be difficult stretch. Still, spare yourself any comparisons even class association. True, our family unit had its economic challenges, to say the least; but, we were housed, clothed, fed and cared for so there were no discrepancies regarding, the have’s and have-not. Yes, there were things we didn’t have, trunks full-of-toys, clothes-to-spare and/or charity giveaways. But, hunger was not a factor, food was proportionate and sustaining, only the impermanence was a repetitious factor.

Initial Rollei exposure..

Initial Rollei exposure..

At the time of this photo session, living in different locations was accepted without question. We moved around a lot, changing household and locations. Learning how-to-adapt to new surroundings, people places and things; all the while developing what would later be known as ‘living deeply in the moment’, without the conscious awareness we would soon relocate. We were together and we were nourished on many levels of being. Unbeknownst to us, our matriarchal power-house had plans in the works of monumental proportions to which we would be called upon to adapt throughout our formative years. Less so to the understanding of my sibling, or so I thought.

Prior to was mentioned previously, our matriarchal immediate family units relocated to Canada and our mother followed suit, but to Scotland. I was privy to this plan, unknowingly, in that I assisted in preparations for the trip. I assisted our mother in studies, and in name insertions onto clothing for identification upon arrival at her new location. Of course, this activity was not comprehensible to my mind, the import of its meaning. What followed was another relocation, this time with a difference. Our mother did not reside with us as we had to be progressively weaned to the matter of her absence. In about 2 or more weeks she was gone and our communications were by mail, which included drawings from me which were interspersed with inquiries about our reunion. A painful experience for all concerned, my sister being less aware and unable to verbalize as she was able to sublimate through social adaptations more so than I. She became more emotional/sensory based as I was becoming more consciously aware of goings on, in limited fashion. All I knew was my mother, the primary care-giver and comforter was now absent and a void was beginning to materialize of which I was unable to describe, much less identify.

I was able to adapt to being alone by developing a ‘walkabout’ trait which allowed me serenity and alone time within the surrounding environment and nature. I was able to go about unnoticed, invisible while present in a crowd. A disciplinary program I cultivated when left to my own devices through my mother’s absence to which I accepted, and adapted without question or thought.

Time passed, and I was able to enjoy the transience which accompanied my aloneness amidst the day-to-day affairs between the ages of 8 – 13, my sister 6 – 11. We were able to find enjoyment in the many discards we experienced, abandonment and neglect, falling through the cracks as would be labelled today; but, to our consciousness in those times. It was Life in all its vicissitudes, not all black-and-white, cut-and-dry, as it appears to external viewing. Everyone present ‘did their duty’ where we were concerned, unaware of the lack of our emotional needs, as we were also unaware. We lived on the kindnesses we were shown, according to the know-how of our guardians, family members and other environmental contributors.

My sibling was more sociable than I, so the darkness that encroached was more evident to me, albeit consciously seen and felt. By the time we were to emigrate to Canada to reunite with our mother, the five-years that passed made a mark which is still being re-interpreted.

I was in second-form at Excelsior High School, in Jamaica and when I learned of the relocation that was to take place. Psychologically, I was hanging on to a thread as my psyche felt like it was taking a beating. There was a darkness, a veritable shadow that was overtaking my consciousness. I could visualize it in my mind’s eye, and it frightened me. But, the news created a light at the end of a tunnel, and I ran towards it as best I could.

Son/Brother  -Father-  Daughter/Sister

Brother/Son -Father- Sister/Daughter

The photo immediately above evidenced our situation. We were on the final leg of our Jamaican stay, myself 13 and my sister 11; our travelling clothes with us from five years earlier. You see, our mother’s thinking was far-reaching and progressive. Most of our clothes were purchased to last, mine as I remember. Cuffs were turned inside to be let-out as I grew, and shoes held cotton in their toes until I grew into them. A trait which I didn’t notice had developed into a conscious practice of inattention to fashion trend. I noticed not only was I not into ‘trends’; but also, I did not make garment purchases unless absolutely necessary. I still have garments purchased and unworn until necessary and often outgrown through neglect. Our mother was able to commandeer a post whereby she was able to improve herself by becoming a nurse, an act which afforded her the prospect to leave desperate conditions in Jamaica for an enterprising future available to us all in Canada.

She could have abandoned us in Jamaica, but that was not her way. We reunited as strangers with challenges of reunion and emigration, social constructs by which to learn and to adapt in the ensuing years. There are specifics which I’ll relate elsewhere, but suffice to say what followed in Canada continued the trend-of-transience, impermanence of which many are unaware as I am viewed through eyes and minds biased by individual experiences projected onto me as absolutes from the time of my arrival in 1962 through today.

Somewhere in 1970, an incident promoting a path for which I seemed destined to travel occurred, and from which much was learned. One of the many blessings and cursed gifts to be elaborated upon in time.

Championship years developing...

Championship years evolving…

From unconsciousness-to-consciousness, from collapse-to-fighting for my home. A condition that has evaded me from birth and for which I’m struggling, which I’m aware cannot be accomplished alone. Every step of my way there have been takers, but fortunately there have been timely givers albeit few and far between and I have learned to make the most of what I have been blessed.

Still connected, our times have received fortunes and misfortunes be-speckled with good and poor judgments, all the while doing the best we can with what we knew in spite of belief systems surrounding us. We were able apply learned methods to use whatever the systems afforded us, whether or not we were aware of the discrepancies.

Alas, there have been, and still are, many instances where those that know/knew better were unwilling to provide what was in their power to make things better for us due to their own biases. I’m sure many of you who’ve gotten this far can identify one way or the other. Of course, suppression persists; still, we all persevere and amble on doing justice to The Universal Plan, whatever It may Be.

Visiting Las Olas, FL  '08

Visiting Las Olas, FL ’08

The saga of continues, as I aspire to rise above biases, envy/jealousy and mis-managements by environmental currencies …

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