Moments , some high – some low

Moments I just want to remember; or not !

If you don’t have yours; you have not lived at all !

* * * * *

1967 – 1979 Scandinavian Imports Ltd. in Gastown. I was young. Successful at times. Twenty five, had furniture stores in Gastown, Victoria, Guildford, Kelowna and Kamloops. Twenty-five employes, most of them dedicated. Leo, a retired French Canadian, run the warehouse and organized the delivery trucks. He liked to start very early, and by the time his crew came to work everything was ready to go.

 This young, skinny, sad looking fellow from Quebec, got a job, because he asked. It looked as he needed it. All was fine, for several weeks. I kind of knew that the name he gave us, was not his real name, but he was honest in his work with us.

When I got to work this morning, Leo was yelling at everybody. This kid had not showed up for work, one delivery truck was still at the read delivery dock, idle, customers waiting. With some switching of crew we got the truck out on the road. The kid showed up an hour late.

I had told Margaret, the accountant, that if he came in, he was fired, and she had his pay in an envelope, in cash, ready to go. He told her a sad story, took his envelope and left.

My counsince have been bothered ever since. I could never get in touch with him and say that I was sorry. Sure, he had used a false name, but, I was to regret for ever.  The story he told Margaret,  was that his older brother was killed that night in a hit and run accident. He spent all night at the hospital, then later at the City Morge, then later trying to contact his parents in Quebec, to tell them. The he hurried to get to work.

He was an hour late, and I had let him go, without ever hearing his side of the story. Forgive me son,  I am really sorry !

* * * * *

Dec. 11th. 2010 just outside in the blistering cold, wet sleet, with icy foundations, rainy sleet on top, late evening, Wilson wanted a trip out, he collapsed on his hind legs on the ice, I might have to put him down soon, life is a bitch, the Norwegian handball girls team just lost to Sweden, not a fun day coming up tomorrow. Have to make the best out of it !

 * * * * *

Dec. 13th. 2010. “When you arrive at your workplace for the last ten years or more, and your desk is gone, no pc. and the phone is disconnected, you should get the message”. Good news: The key worked !

* * * * *

Dec. 20th. 2010. Donated blood today for the 130 th. time. A new nurse was impressed. I have donated blood since I was 17 and feel good about it. I have not kept the count, but it is much more tha 130; and approximately the same amount as I have shed in tears over the same time period !

* * * * *

Dec. 24th. 2010. Cold winter. Just like last year. Except last year on Christmas Eve, my mother decided to go to heaven.  After 89 years. I had the ten of her last years with her. Good years. She waited until the Church bells rang the Christmas Evening in. I am convinced she planned it this way. Her last months and departure was dignified. The funeral was fulfilling. Her chapter on earth was over, but she will always be with us, forever. She have  made her presence known to me a couple of times since, but I keep that for my self.

* * * * *

 My first meeting with the Devil. About 1975?. Looking after the house and crazy dog of Bjorn and Sylvia Andersen, then living in West Van. (please contact me, I can not find your new address anywhere). I asked Bjorn to help me in my furniture business for a couple of weeks, he had just lost his business, and it was like a favour. He worked for me for the next 11 years, a most valued employee, but more a good friend. I volunteered to look after their vicious dog while they were on a trip to Sweden.

The dog knew me well. I was often at their house, and I like all dogs, and they me. They left the key under the door mat and when I came that first evening, the dog did not like my approach to the door mat. It became a truce, I slept in the hammock, just out of reach of the dog, throwing him some bones, and he protected the house and property within the reach of his heavy chain. By the morning we became friends.

The next evening I took him for a walk in the neighborhood. That was a mistake. Even on a tight leash, he bit the ear of a German Shepard that came too close, the owners not happy. I thereafter took him in my car, very late, after midnight, down to the Light House Park,   a nice walk, with a large rocky shoreline, in the view of the lighthouse, and a beautiful ocean, the Vancouver Harbour, English Bay.

This one night here was nobody, just me and the dog. The moon was shining. The water was so tempting, I lowed to swim. I undressed to the way I was born, and dived in. That was a big mistake. When I finally surfaced, I was hundreds of yards out and up the coast. The currents were so strong that I could not swim against it alt all. The undercurrent pulled me down and out from shore. The whole area are steep, high, rocky cliffs. I was dead.

I tried to swim towards shore, now far away from where I dived in. The dog was now howling, trying to follow me. I made it to the rocks, grabbed some seaweeds, each wave pushing me higher, and then pulling me back out and under. I swallowed a lot of seawater that evening. I am/was a good swimmer. The tide pulled me out, another hundred yards from shore by the time I came up. I was young, strong, and had no fear, but, I was running out of strength and options.

One more try. I made it to shore, but, the waves just rubbed my naked body up and down the barnacled cliffs. I bled from scratches all over my body. But hat was not my problem. I had to make it to shore. Alive. And I had no strength to try again. I let my body flow with the ripple tide. Trying to think before the panic took over completely.

For the very first time, the Devil was there. His presence was strong. This first meeting was like a stand off. I have meet him a few times later. It is an unconfortable situation. You have no bargaining position. He holds all the cards, all trumps. You are 25 or so, drowning in the moonlit night, just a howling dog that cares; he now had problems following the shoreline, and seeing me.

I asked the Devil if he wanted me now ? It was a fair question. He had the lead. His (we were on close talking terms by now) answer was: “Hell no ! You are not ready for me yet, by far ! You have a long way to go”. I still remember it as if it was last night. It gave me strength, courage, and a fanatic survival instinct that I have had ever since. Thank Good.

I drifted with the tide for a while, a long while. Gathering strength. Then I started a slow but steady approach to the shore, not fighting the current, using it to my advantage, getting closer and closer. I saw a hollow in the rocks, decided to go for that one, using the power of the wave, flowing up the rocky cliffs, got hold of some seaweed, and held on. The wave went out and came back. I was pushed higher up the cliffs. Grabbed new seaweed, and on the third wave I was as high up as I could get with the help of the sea.

After a rest, collecting myself, shaking the Devil off my shoulders. Because he was there, watching, waiting, curious to see how I made out. I managed to crawl up the cliffs, to a dry safe place. The ordeal was over.

The next thing I remembered, was the dog licking my wounds, for a long time. I was there for hours, almost until dawn. It took a long time to hike back to my clothes. I can not remember a thing. It was like walking on water.

I tell this story seldom, because I am not proud of it. I should never have dived into the strange waters like that. I usually say that the Devil had me in his hold,  and spit me out. It is how it felt. Not nice.

*  * * * *

But, as a note, drowning is not a bad way to die. I have been close later, and with people that have been even closer. It is a warm, fulfilling feeling, no flashy lights, no tunnels, just comfortable, as if this is the place for me ? I like it here, keep me, don’t let me go.

* * * * *

I do a little prayer every night before I go to sleep. Since Sunday School. One never know. It is always a pleasure to wake up. I only wish my extended family well. It is not a long Pryor. You all know if you are included. I do include special prayers for friends or strangers that are sick, in trouble or just need some luck in life. You know who you are. I never pay for winnings, soccer games, money, love, court cases; nothing like that; that is my life,  and I take the outcome as a man. God has never failed me. Jim Reeves can say it better

* * * * *

Dinner with King Olav V of Norway, representing The Queen, as a Canadien.

1987 in November I was, with my wife, invited to an official formal dinner at Rideau Hall in Ottawa.  The card should be framed and hung on a visable spot. 

King Olav V of Norway  was on a state visit to Canada. His Excellency came as far west as Calgary, but never visited Vancouver.

The invitation was by: H. E. The Right Honourable Governor General Jeanne Sauvé , and Prime Minister Brian Mulrony was the Canadian co-host. There was no explanation why I was invited, but it was one of the biggest events of my life. During Expo’86, the world exposition in Vancouver, I meet a lot of dignitaries and foreign officials, including invitation to a lunch with The Crown Prince of Thailand, now The King.

With my wife, we travelled to Ottawa a day early. Renting tuxedos, formal dress, and even shoes, takes it’s time. When the event started we were impeccable dressed and primed. There were about 100 guests. I recognized many of them from the Canadian and Norwegian press and TV, and knew some of them, like Bob King, chairman of the Calgary  Olympics, 

and Horst Bulau,    the ski jumper.

The reception was very formal. Each couple was announced, then presented to a receiving line, with the formal hosts, and King Olav V. Shaking His hand in the receiving line I told him that I was in the Kings Guard in Norway in 1964. He said: Then we will talk after dinner. In my service as a Kings Guard in 1964 I spent 65 days/nights guarding th King at the Palace in Oslo and at the summer farm residence at Skaugum. Seeing him often, but never meeting or talking to him. But, at the Skaugum residence he would come out on th balcony early morning and great us : Good morning Guardsmen, and we politely yelled bak: Good morning my King.

The dinner was very good. I especially remeber the treats of Canadian Arctic Char and Caribou meat. The Prime Minister Brian Mulroney held a formal speech, in English and Quebec French. King Olav V responded in his speech, in both languages, expressing the close relationships of Canada and Norway, especially in Arctic relations and shipping.

After the long dinner, and appropriate drinks, the diners were showed into a large reception hall with fireplace, comfortable chairs and a nice place to have a conversation. King Olav V was a very good listener, he also had some questions I was surprised over. He had good knowledge of the shipping industry  as related to Vancouver. He said he was sorry that he could not visit Vancouver this time. He actually said that he was getting old and did not travel so well anymore. He visited two countries, nine cities, with eleven receptions and dinners; all in one week. The next day he was having a meeting with President Ronald Reagan in Washington. That is a challenging schedule for a young man.

I thought that I was invited as a well known Norwegian in Canada.  I was profiled fairly well as Economic Development Commissioner for large areas, getting some solid result, lots of ribbon cutting by ministers, many pictures in the papers and TV. And the six months running a show at Expo’86 was a high profile. With two years prior preparation, I was in the media frequently. Also the establishing of the Canadian Fish Farming Industry, on both the Atlantic and Pacific coast, and establishing the fish expo AquaWest, a major exposition started in ’86 and then every second year after that.

Great to my surprise, there were no Norwegians at the dinner. Famous or not. I was like the others, invited as a representative of the great Canadian diversity of persons that represented business, sport and culture at that time. A fantastic honor for me. I have had some downs lately, bad ones; but my ego have been high ever since.

* * * * *

I think of you Abe !

 I think of you sometimes. I will always remember your name. We met one early afternoon. I took the lunch ferry from Horseshoe Bay  to Nanaimo On the way to Gold River for some fishing. I had worked there in ’67, this must have been in ’71.

Just before Parksville I saw you walking along the road. I stopped, asked where you were going. You answered Campbell River We talked. You said you took the first ferry to Nanaimo. That was half a day ago. I wondered why you were still walking, 1.000’s of cars would have passed by, you did not explain that. You looked some worried, and tiered. You had a job on a fishing boat, a Salmon troller from Campbell River, for the season. But, you were late.

We small talked. You hesitated to talk open to me. You had a distrust to white that I could not comprehend. This job for the season was everything for you, and now you were late. We arrived in Campbell River ,straight to the docks;  your boat was gone.

That was it. I invited you to have a beer at the Discovery Hotel in Campbell River, next to the marina. We walked to the entrance to the beer palor. It was now just a few minutes to closing time. At the entrance you said that you could not enter . I did not understand, being a squeare head from Norway. I dragged you in. We sat down at a table. The waiter arrived. There were just a few people scattered in a huge beer hall. The waiter said that he could not serve us. I did not understand. The waiter could not explain properly. You, my friend, explained to me, that if we moved over to a dark, empty part of the parlour, behind the curtains, to the Indian section, then we could be served.

I could still not understand, but I was thirsty, had a long day, and still many hours on bad gravel road to drive. In the far end of the parlour, behind curtains and dividers, there the waiter appeared with a round of beer. You explained, you were Indian, Indians could not sit with whites and drink beer. If a white wanted to have a beer with an Indian, he would have to sit with them, behind the screens and curtains, in the Indian section of the parlour. It was my first meeting with an Indian.  My first meeting with a world I never knew existed. My first meeting with reality. My first meeting with a world I did not want to be part of, that I wanted to change. Some years later I had to opportunities to work with natives all over BC. A great pleasure.

As a side note; When playing soccer for Sons of Norway, we played in Sechelt against the Band team, in the same division. If we won or lost, we dared not go for a shower in the basement of the Band Hall, we made a fast run for the cars and the ferry back home to Vancouver. I 1981 when I moved to Sechelt and worked there, Chief Stanley Joe came to me and said clearly that I should play for the Sechelt Indian Band soccer team, and I did as long as I worked there. Chief Joe remembered how it was to play against me. We became good friends later, but at that time he just wanted me on his team, not against. That is an honour that must be earned.

 Back to my friend Abe Joe. We meet some years later, Abe Joe was an artist, a good one, carved anything with just his pocketknife. In jail he had no choice of woods to carve, he carved the most wonderful eagles, totems, whales, talking sticks, from 2×4 wood scraps.

We meet again when I had a business in Gastown. We recognized each other immediately, like brothers, we had shared an event, that many years earlier in Campbell River, that was hard to forget.

I bought anything Joe carved for the next ten years. I may be paid too much, Abe Joe got money, got drunk and went back into jail. But he got messages to me, I got him the finest yellow and red cider and other wood he wanted for his carvings, and every few months we exchanged crafts and words.

We never did hug, it was not Abe Joe’s way, he was always formal in speech and behaviour. Abe Joe ( Abraham Joseph )was originally from port Alberni, but he never talked about it or wanted to go back.

I think of you Abe Joe, God Bless you. My coincidence now says that I could have done more for you. Sorry. Forgive me.

In years to come, I had the opportunity to work with and for many Native Bands all over BC. I will in other short stories vrite of Sechelt Indian Band, the first Band with self Government in Canada, I then worked as Economic Development Commissioner for The Sunshine Coast Regional District in Sechelt. (and played soccer for “the chiefs” )

Some projects on the Charlotte Islands, North Vancouver, Squamish, Lilloet,  D’Arcy and others, and for 5 years as Economic Development Officer for the Okanagan Indian Band in Vernon, BC.  There working with all the Bands, local, Regional and across the border to USA. The Columbia River salmon run is a forever ongoing case.

Some of these experiences I will write about, they are dear to me, and will hopefully give some reality to Canadian life at those times.


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