#884: The Long Walk Home

RECORD STORE TALES #884: The Long Walk Home

In theory, it should have taken 15 minutes for us to walk home from school.

Cross the busy Ottawa Street with the crossing guard.  Down Ottawa, left on Crosby and then right on Secord.  All the way down Secord to Hickson, Inlet and home.  Sometimes if my dad was driving home from work at the same time, he’d see us walking and pick us up.

The reality was, we usually took a lot longer.  My dad used to say that we “dawdled home”.  Most of the time, we trudged it on foot.  We began at the start in clumps of kids, who would peel off singly or in pairs for their own homes as we walked the route.

The other day I was driving that way, and decided to take a spin down Secord and the old route.  The roads were slushy and the snowbanks were high, and suddenly I had a flashback.  Why does it seem like we were always walking home in the middle of winter?  Those are the most powerful memories.  Dodging snowballs thrown by other kids, trudging through deep snow trying to make a “short cut”.  Coming home soaked and cold.  Eating some Scotch broth for lunch and then back to school for the afternoon.  I’ve driven that way lots of times, but only this one time — in the winter, with snowbanks at kid-level — did I have a flashback.

One of the only shields from the cruel outside world that I had as a kid was music.  At the moment I was driving, suddenly the power chords in “Little Death (Mary Mary)” by the Barstool Prophets hit the speakers.  “I would have loved this song as a kid,” I said aloud.

I never knew who my friends were back in those days.  A kid who claimed to be my friend one week would be a bully the next week.  There were one or two kids I knew I could trust, like Allan Runstedtler.  He was too nice and smart a kid to get caught up in that stuff, but he walked home from school in the opposite direction.  There was nobody else I could count on to stick up for me.  KK was just as likely to be throwing the snowballs at me.  Ian Johnson used to get under my skin.  “Name five songs by Iron Maiden,” he would say, instead of just teaching me about Iron Maiden like my real friends did.  But my real friends, from my neighbourhood, didn’t go to that shitty Catholic school.

The thing that I was discovering was that music like Iron Maiden made me feel good.  It made me feel temporarily bulletproof.  Something about those proud, defiant power chords.  I felt more capable of projecting pride and defiance if I had Iron Maiden behind me.  Helix, Kiss, Judas Priest — these were the bands that kept me trudging through the snow while being pelted from behind.

The Barstool Prophets song had the same effect.  As the flashbacks hit me, the guitar riff of “Little Death” pushed back against them.  Yes, I would have loved the song as a kid, had time travel existed back then.  Still working on my flux capacitor, but I’m getting there.  It’s strange, but sometimes I sit there and imagine if I had been able to allow my past self to hear certain songs.  I imagine my younger self’s reaction.  It makes me emotional.  That’s the only kind of time travel I’m able to do.  I didn’t have a bad childhood by any means, but man those bullies did a number on me.  I made it well into my 30s before being able to assess the damage that followed me right into adulthood.  I think the hardest part was not knowing who I could trust.  As it turns out, almost nobody.  By the end of the eighth grade, only Allan hadn’t picked on me.  And then I was rid of them forever as I changed school systems.

I would try to memorize songs as best as I could so I could keep them in my head while I was at school.  The teachers were part of the problem and the defiant nature of heavy metal music was, shall we say, not appreciated by Mrs. Powers.  I don’t think she commended its aesthetics, nor song titles like “Hotter Than Hell“.  She wasn’t one of my supporters as the grade school days drew to a close.  Nor was Ian Johnson, Kenny Lawrence, Kevin Kirby or any of my supposed “friends” in class.  My only friends in that cold depressing classroom were the songs by Helix and Kiss in my head.  I drew guitars in art class.

There’s a flashback for you.  Ian Johnson may have mockingly quizzed me on how many Iron Maiden songs I could name, but he vastly underestimated just what that music meant to me.  A year later he cut his hair short and was into something else.  My love affair with music never ended and only grew with me through time.  The Barstool Prophets have just shared a serious emotional moment with me, which allows them automatic entry into my soul’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  It’s a pretty serious honour.  Please takes your seats with the other immortals enshrined within.  Graham Greer, Glenn Forrester, Al Morier, and Bobby Tamas — otherwise known as the Barstool Prophets — welcome to the hallowed Hall of Fame!

 

15 comments

  1. Thanks for sharing once again. Man, u had some bad times. I feel sad every time I read one these stories and a bit proud of u too that u have me it this far. U run amazing site and I feel privileged to be one of the lucky ones who have found their way here. Struggles suck. At this age I have learned to take most of the little sunshine moments and magnify them as long as I can. Love that song by Barstool Prophets.
    Confusion continues…

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  2. Man I loved that Barstool album. Little Death is a great tune! As for the bullies… man, it’s a wonder any of us survive grade school, let alone high school when hormones enter the mix. We all had bullies, myself included, just those idiots who did things in sad attempts to cover their own insecurities. Some thought they could do their worst to me in hockey. Sometimes they caught me and I got crushed. But I got revenge by scoring a goal or making a sweet pass. We learn to keep our head up. We always remember them, because they shaped (better or worse) part of who we were. But they don’t hold sway on who we are now. Crank the metal, keep your head up, and stay proud!

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  3. My junior high school experiences were similar to yours except I didn’t have those two cool songs. Instead, I retreated into my own personal little fantasy world.

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  4. this is all kinda crushing to me. Back in the school days I was naive to believe in doing the right thing and standing up to bullies and defending the underdog was what U did. Learned it from the movies and comic books. It’s now in adult life when while running into work places like Lebrain’s record store and the people who misuse power that I’m clueless since it seems that in work places the bosses have a licence to bully and those clashes wear u down…

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    1. I had to walk my younger sister home so I couldn’t race home like I would have alone. She is four years younger so…tiny legs.

      I remember crying one day when I couldn’t find her. I was supposed to take her home and I couldn’t find her. I was so upset. One of the teachers found her and drove her home.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Have u seen the movie Standing up? https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1905042/
        Saw it yesterday, It’s about bullies in the summer camp and how the 2 kids handle the situation. I thought it was a good movie. The scene that really spoke to me was the one when the girl asks the other girl “Why are u being so nice to me?” and the other one answer “Why wouldn’t I be?”. That’s always been my approach in life. Why wouldn’t I be.

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  5. The soul’s music hall of fame is a fascinating concept – membership in that group would be a higher honour than one that was elected by a panel of experts, much more meaningful!

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  6. I hear ya on this story. I would also walk to school, in a small group. We’d frequently be picked on, have rocks thrown at us, pushed and kicked, called names…all from the same kids whom we shared a ride with when we were part of a community choir. Talk about awkward. I wanted to throw up every Thursday night in those days…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ROCKS??? ROCKS???? I never had rocks thrown at me, holy crap. That’s just evil. I was accidentally hit in the face with a rock once when I was in about grade 4. A kid wasn’t paying attention and threw a rock, hit me in the face unintentionally…still have the scar…almost lost my eye.

      Isn’t it ironic, catholic school kids, choir kids.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. To be fair the kids we were in choir with didn’t throw rocks…they did everything else though! The rock throwers were neighbourhood kids who went to the separate school up the hill from us, but we had to pass on the same pathway. Didn’t stop until I hit a growth spurt in the 6th grade and towered over all of those a-holes!

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