February 15, 2015 - Doug (1st person I approached)
Doug was sitting on a low concrete wall, a guitar case open on the ground in front of him, his guitar in his arms, strumming. On a sunny afternoon, it was a safe bet that he wasn’t planning on leaving anytime soon. I told Doug about my project and asked if he’d chat with me for bit. He wanted some more information about where the story would be posted, and what I would do with his story. I answered by telling Doug why I had started this endeavour, and where I post the stories I've collected. We talked about how telling the stories of others that can help shift perspectives of people reading them.
“Sure, I’m in,” he said, enthusiastically.
Doug was born in Edmonton, Alberta.
“I was born in Edmonton, but we lived about thirty miles away. My Dad worked on the (oil) rigs, which meant we moved around a bit. The families used to move wherever the work was, because back then transportation wasn't the same as it is nowadays,” he said.
“I went to nursery school in Montana, when Dad was down there working on a job, but then we moved back to Edmonton.” He is the oldest of five children.
“We were and still are close as brothers and sisters.”
As the oldest child, Doug helped out whenever he could.
“My parents separated when I was seven, and my mother had all five of us by herself. So I certainly helped out with the kids. That was a tough time, them getting divorced. It went on for a couple of years,” he said. Doug’s father remarried and his stepmother had two children of her own.
“My father was spending time with all of us. He wanted us to go live with him,” Doug told me.
“I just lost my baby sister. Chipmunk was fifty-five. We lost her to cancer,” he said. When they were children, they had gone on a camping trip with their father and his wife. With his stepmother’s kids included, there were seven children in all.
“My little sister was sitting on a log and there were a couple of chipmunks running around. She had what looked like little chipmunk teeth herself. And I started calling her ‘Chipmunk,’ and it stayed with her throughout her entire life,” he said, smiling fondly. “We called her Chipmunk or Chippers, for short.”
All of his schooling was done in Edmonton.
“When I was in Grade eleven, a good friend of mine had gone to San Francisco, and came back a hippie. It was big at that time. He told me he was going to meet a bunch of people in Banff and wanted me to go. I was a week away from my final exams in school, for grade eleven. I told my friend I couldn’t go, that I had to stay because of school,” said Doug.
“He told me education was a waste of time and that I should take off with him. So I went to Banff for a week. I still passed my exams. I had a pretty high IQ and was a good student. But I never went back to school for Grade twelve after that.” Doug became a hippie, telling me he fully embraced the lifestyle.
“I worked so many different jobs, I wouldn’t know where to start," he said.
"But I certainly have lots of stories from all the things I’ve done over the years,” he said, laughing. Doug met a woman named Patty and got married when he was twenty years old.
“She was a hippy as well. We had a great time. Then when I was twenty-seven, I went to the University of Alberta. I was doing a lot of reading and becoming interested in philosophy, and that’s what I wanted to study,” he told me. Two years later, his wife persuaded him to move out to the countryside.
“I left university, we left the city and went to live in the countryside. We started our family, and had two gorgeous daughters,” he said.
I could see pride all over Doug’s face, and hear it his voice when he spoke of his daughters, both of whom live here in Vancouver. His oldest daughter is a successful makeup artist, and his other daughter is a senior radiology administrator at a large local hospital.
“They’re good people. And they’re both such strong women too. They loved growing up in the countryside,” he said in complete admiration.
Doug told me that he had come to Vancouver in 1967 for the first time and fell in love with the city.
“I had come back quite a few times over the years, and I always said that one day I would live here.” When his teenage daughters started to get interested in the Alberta cowboys and farmers, Doug sat them down for a talk.
“I said that I hoped before they made any commitments, that they’d go live in Vancouver, sometime. I suggested going for at least a year, to see what the world was like outside of rural Alberta,” he told me.
He and his wife Patty divorced after twenty-seven years of marriage.
“Patty and the girls all moved out here to Vancouver together. Now they’re thirty-five and thirty-four and I’ve still not got any grandchildren!” he said loudly, and laughing.
Doug had gone back to college when he was in his late thirties.
“I got interested in marketing and advertising, and so I went to college for a couple of years,” he said.
"There was a lot of writing involved. So much writing. I remember that the school invested in some 512k computers that Apple were selling to schools for cheap. Oh man, I loved that. They had a word processing program. Some of the others at school didn’t like that we were using them, but I loved it,” Doug told me. He continued with his writing after that, and went on to become a freelance journalist.
“I've been into photography for some time. I would travel around and cover different events and because I could take pictures and write, I managed to actually support myself working freelance. That was hard to do back then,” he said.
“My Dad was fixing up their house, getting it ready to sell. He suggested I go live with them for a few months and help out with the work on the house. I spent some time with my parents. That was when I decided it was time for me to make the move to Vancouver,” he told me. Doug has been here for eight-and-a-half years.
“I had some karma to deal with when I first got here. But I love it, and I’m not planning on going anywhere else,” he told me. His sentiment was easy to understand, especially today. It was one of those special Vancouver days when a tshirt and light jacket were sufficient. We sat in the sunshine chatting, looking at the blue skies over the mountain tops. And the rest of the country is experiencing record low temperatures.
For the most part, Doug's retired now.
“I picked up a guitar about three years ago. I’ve always liked music and I decided that I wanted to learn to play,” he said. Doug taught himself.
“It’s actually going pretty well. I’ve even been doing some singing, and, I sound okay!” he said, sounding surprised.
“I spend time down at the Carnegie Centre, in the Downtown Eastside. There’s a couple guys I know down there who are involved with the music program they have. They suggested I try singing. I told them I didn’t know how to sing. It didn’t seem to matter. Turns out I sound pretty good,” Doug told me.
“I told my (oldest) daughter that I was taking up singing. She said ‘Oh Dad no, please don’t!’ Then she heard me and now she’s my biggest fan!” #notastranger