Day 26 - Patrick (1st person I approached)
January 26, 2015 - Patrick was halfway through eating an avocado, and was trying to extricate the stone using a plastic knife, when I first approached him. He seemed hesitant, yet he told me he’d be willing to chat.
“I wouldn't normally do something like this. Anyone pointing a camera at me usually makes me suspicious. I guess I’m becoming more relaxed as I get older,” he chuckled. He had managed to remove the avocado stone without snapping the plastic knife; no small feat.
“I’ve enjoyed music a lot, all my life. I’m, well I guess what you’d call an artistic type. I just bought an amplifier for my guitar. It’s just a single box. You can get them nowadays where they stack and connect with one another. That’s a lot of money. But when you buy a small amp, it has less bells and whistles. Less things you can do with it. It’s not just about volume,” he said, diligently eating avocado remains off that stone.
“I play tennis too,“ he says, gesturing at a tennis racket sitting on top of a sports bag on the chair between us.
“I was born up in northern BC (British Columbia). Born in Smithers, and grew up in a small town called Telkwa,” he said. Telkwa is about 15kms southeast of Smithers. Patrick is the middle child of three.
“I have an older sister and a younger brother. My father, who was from Germany, always wanted everyone to see what a tough guy he was. A tough man who liked shooting guns and hunting and being macho. He used to take my sister out with him, while he was shooting his gun. She would stand at his feet and watch. When she was about six years old, her eardrums ruptured, on account of the noise from the gun. They figure she lost about twenty-five percent of her hearing almost immediately. She never said anything to anyone. It must have been hard for her suffering through that alone. About a year later, she told me that she was having trouble hearing. I told my mother, who didn’t believe either of us. They had her hearing tested, and that’s when they found out. It deteriorated until she only had about ten percent of her hearing left,” Patrick said.
“My younger brother was born with developmental disabilities. My mother tried her best to raise him, but it was too much for her. If she turned her back for a minute, and he spilled something, or fell. He went to live in a care facility. I used to go visit him. The stench when you walk in those places, is wow, it’s overwhelming. He’s permanently like a young child. That’s his ability level. I was a kid myself, it was a scary place to go. I didn’t visit many times,” said Patrick, looking down and shaking his head.
“I guess I’m the one who came out of it the most normal. But really, am I? Who knows. My father figured because of that, and because I was the middle child that I should look after both my older sister and my younger brother. I was too young. I haven’t seen my brother in, oh. Let’s see. Maybe thirty, could be closer to forty years. I don’t think he’d even know who I am now.”
His parents separated when he was seven years old.
“My mother moved us down to Vancouver (BC). We lived in Kitsilano at first. I liked it a lot. My mother has always been very sweet. It was wonderful when we lived with her. The kids at my school seemed more sophisticated, and cooler. I spent time going between living with my mother, and then living with my father. I’d go back up there for a chunk of time, then come back to the city. I loved sports, especially hockey, and tennis. I wasn’t exceptionally good at hockey. Not like my cousins, they’re mad for hockey, and the Canucks (Vancouver hockey team), but I played enough that I became okay at it. I liked music too, and guitars. I wanted to be a musician,” he told me.
When he was sixteen, Patrick was at a school dance here in Vancouver.
“We were outside and someone had some wine. I didn’t really like the stuff, but you know, someone offers it to you, and I’m trying to be a grown up. Sure, sure give me some wine, and as soon as I put the cup to my mouth, the school's vice-principal comes walking by and catches me,” he says. Patrick got expelled from school.
“My mother said that I had to go back up north and live with my father. I had grown my hair really long. It was the sixties and everyone who had long hair was thought to be a dirty, smelly hippie. I was about sixteen. I wasn’t a hippy. My mother was always saying ‘cut your hair. Cut your hair,’ and sometimes she’d chase me around the house trying to catch me to cut my hair off. Funny enough though, my father, the big tough guy, it didn't bother him. My mother stopped nagging me about it eventually. Then I cut it off,” said Patrick.
That summer, up in Smithers, he got a job working in a small local lumber mill.
“They went kind of easy on me for the first little while, I was a new kid. Then they’d put me on the green belt. In the summer they’d speed up the process to bang out as much lumber as they could. I had to take the wood off the line and stack it. And it was in several different stacks, depending on the grade. If you didn't move fast enough, it would pile up. It got to be dangerous for a kid to be working there. It was hard work. I made $3.65 an hour then. I thought I was rich. Now I know they were using me!” Patrick had finished his avocado and was working on a cup of soup. When I’m chatting with people who are eating, I make a point of telling them to please continue eating. And most times, they don’t. I was happy that he wasn’t letting his soup get too cold.
Patrick finished school without graduating. He spent most of his life working in lumber mills, construction and house painting.
“I never had that one job, that one thing I loved to do. I never had the career,” he said.
“When I was twenty, I quit my job to become a musician. I was pretty serious about it. I had a few really good Fender guitars, and a fair bit of equipment. But I guess really I was too much of a baby. I wasn’t prepared to go hungry for music. I didn’t have the drive or willingness to suffer any hardships for it.” He did go to the Vancouver Vocational Institute (VVI) to study auto-mechanics. Before completing the course, he decided he didn't want to be a mechanic.
“I play tennis almost every day. It gets me outside, keeps me active and reasonably fit. I’m careful about what I eat and I exercise. I’m smaller now than when I was younger. I’m shrinking, and now I think my head is too big for my body.” We both laugh when he says that. Of course I tell him that’s not true.
“I used to be really good at tennis. I’m still accurate and precise with the direction I can move the ball, I’ve got a decent serve and good hand eye coordination. I just don’t have the same power anymore. But I still play. Health and fitness is important to me. I think everyone should be exercising and looking after themselves,” he said.
“I could probably put together a kick-ass group of older musicians, and form a band. And I bet we could compete with the best of them. Now it’s just about enjoying playing and the music. I just don’t know where anyone is these days,” he said. Patrick has never married.
“I didn’t want to. I’ve always been too scared of having children. Not that I’ve got anything against children. I just didn’t want to repeat the things that I endured in my childhood. I wouldn’t want to be that guy.” #notastranger