Day 309 - Mark (1st person I approached)
November 05, 2014 - Mark was sitting behind a transit station, smoking a cigarette. He looked like he was waiting for someone. I explained to Mark what this project is all about and asked if he would chat with me. He gestured towards the space next to him and said
“Take a seat.” Just as I finished showing him the Facebook page and making sure he’d be okay with me taking his photograph, his phone rang.
“Ah. This will be the evil partner,” he said, with a large grin. I sat quietly and waited.
“Ok,” he said.
“I really should be leaving now, I’ve got to head downtown to meet my friend, but if we don’t take too long, that should be alright. I can still chat for a minute or two.”
Mark was born in Edmonton, Alberta.
“My father is French and my mother English. So it’s Mark with a ‘k’ but at least my Dad got the middle name choice of René. I have an older brother, he’s four years ahead of of me. He did well in school, went on to university and has always been a teacher. As kids we went hiking, fishing, hunting and camping a lot. The beauty of growing up with nature all around you,” he said.
“I went to school until I finished Grade eleven. I went back for Grade twelve. On the first day I looked around at everyone else, and decided, ‘nope, I’m outta here.’ That was my last day in school,” said Mark.
“It just didn’t suit me. I went out and got myself a job.”
His first job was as a milkman.
“I did that for about a year. It was alright. Back in the day when people had milk delivered. I remember one time getting into a bit of a fender bender. I had to slam on the brakes and all the glass bottles shifted and there was broken glass and milk everywhere. I wasn’t hurt. I still had to complete my delivery route though. Go back to the dairy, reload and then head out. It wasn’t the best day I ever had,” he told me.
“People used to leave tokens they had bought, to pay for the milk. I was supposed to collect them and hand them in a couple of times a week. I hadn’t been doing it for a while, and our house got broken into. They took a bunch of stuff, including the bag that had about $200 worth of milk tokens in it. That was the end of my career as a milkman. They let me go after that,” he said.
The next job Mark got was working for CN Railway (Canadian National).
“I loved that job. Working out in the bush working on the rail bridges, doing maintenance work. It was scary at times, some of those rail bridges are a long way off the ground. It was all ropes and rigging. I’m almost sixty years old, and I’m still not sure about heights!” Mark said with a laugh.
“Working outdoors was great though. After a while I got transferred to Victoria (Vancouver Island) and worked on the line between Victoria and Nanaimo.”
“They used to say Victoria is for newly weds and nearly reads,” Mark said. I told him I had lived there for a time and had heard that as well.
“It was a nice place for a while, but it was a little too quiet for me after living there for some time. Coming from Edmonton, then to Victoria, i wanted to experience a bigger city. I transferred to Vancouver,” he said.
“I changed jobs and went to work on for the highways department. I didn’t have any experience in road building, but in those days, you went to work and learned on the job. I did have to do a test. I think they asked me what end of the shovel was the handle. That was it. I worked in North Vancouver between Lonsdale and Horseshoe Bay. It was a good job and I made decent money,” he said.
“I made friends with this big burly guy from the roads department. He and I saved our money and took off to Central America. We drove down there. We were like a couple of bandits, getting in trouble everywhere we went. I think growing up learning how to camp and hunt, made it easier to take off on road trips like that and travel to places I had never been to before. We stayed for about six months. That was one wild trip,” he said. His facial expression told me he was flashing through some memories that I wasn’t going to hear about.
“We drove back to Vancouver and I worked for another six months, saving my money again. Then I took off and drove to Belize. This time I went with a couple of women friends. Drove straight on into Belize City and had a good time partying and having fun,” said Mark. This was to become Mark’s method of travelling. He would go somewhere and enjoy himself for a few months or more. Then he'd head back to Vancouver, work and save his money, before setting off on his next trip.
For the last twenty years, Mark has been a house painter.
“A friend of mine knew I liked to paint and was kind of artsy. I tried painting pictures and things, but wasn’t any good at it. My friend got me connected with a guy he knew that needed someone to work with him. So I took up house painting. I work all spring and summer. Right about now the season is done, so I might look for some interior painting work. Head down to the Olympic Village with my hard hat, my work boots and some white pants. Find a job site and ask for some work. I go in clean shaven and not smelling of booze. You’ve got to look respectable if you get a job in someone's house,” he said.
“But, that’s not for today. Maybe tomorrow. We’ll see what the day calls for when we get to it, in the morning.”
It was time for Mark to head off to meet his friend. I asked if it was his girlfriend.
“No, she’s like my half girlfriend. We’re best buddies. I’m going to go meet her, and buy her some shoes. I’ve got a great view from my apartment, so we’ll cook up a nice dinner and spend the evening together. She’s got her heart set on someone else. She might even spend the night, and we’ll cuddle, but that’s it. I like and need my own space, so this works out well. We’re good friends who enjoy each others company, without being physical. But cuddling is good for everyone.” #notastranger