It seems like writers’ biographies inevitably must include some period of childhood misery, alienation and isolation. They were always sick as children, or locked in their rooms or, something even further afield, like the young Jerzy Kozinski wondering through war torn Eastern Europe, orphaned and mute. I was definitely a sickly kid and super phobic about other children who I saw as tormenting bullies. I really just wanted to hang with the grown ups–smoke a few cigs maybe, soak our hands in Palmolive, discuss the ups and downs of the stock market.
I endured childhood and then–like a meteor of good luck–was somehow struck by popularity just when legend told I should be the most miserable: the eighth grade. Throughout high school, my social stock rose incrementally just as my grades (no coincidence, I’m sure)steadily sunk into mediocrity.
Then, in a startling twist of fate, I was plucked from my groovy social scene at my city high school and dropped on the eve of my senior year into an environment so unimaginably foreign and hostile that I thought I’d been dropped into hell. One day my dad took the bus home from his downtown job where he was an exec at a big pulp and paper company (Canadian readers only: MacMillan Bloedel) and said,”We’re moving to Nanaimo.” A few short months later, my city gig was up and I was mill-town bound.
Canadian readers, hurriedly doing the math and realizing the year is 1978, are gasping, realizing the sensitive narrator is moving to the crank capital of Canada in a time of unemployment, inflation, Debbie Boone’s You Light Up My Life, Rod Stewart’s Do Ya Think I’m Sexy and flannel lumberjack shirts. American readers: Let’s see. Ok, think: George W’s Texas with heavy rain and a labor movement.
For some reason, my parents were not able to move over to Crank City in time for the first week of school so I moved for a week into the Port-O-Call Motel on Townsite Road with my suitcase, newly acquired tweed skirt from my summer exchange in Montreal (let me warn you how this will NOT be the right thing to wear the first day of school), and my dad’s Renault (American Readers: An uppity French car–something akin to driving a Miata in George W’s Texas (but with driving rain and a labor movement)).
Oh, Readers, I just glanced at the time—am due somewhere in just minutes….this story of woe and my phoenix rise from these mill-town ashes must continue tomorrow…