Randy tagged me for the Five Little-Known Things About Me meme. All right then.
1. My first language was Dutch. I had difficulty at school, in Grade One, so my parents stopped speaking Dutch or their rural dialect at home. I remember bits and pieces – including some expressions that my mother used to use when she was angry, but now refuses to translate. To improve my English, my parents gave me three books by Kipling for my sixth birthday: Kim, Stalky and Company, The Jungle Book and other Stories. I still have them.
2. One of my first full sentences, when I was two, in Dutch, was “the black bastard fell down there”. My father liked to shoot sparrows and blackbirds with an air rifle from inside a toolshed in our backyard. After plinking at a bird on the telephone line, he asked himself a question, which I proudly answered. He kept that shooting habit up for years. He loves to tell a story about the time when an elderly neighbour picked up a dead bird and then, seeing him in the shed, said that it was a terribly hot day when the birds were dropping dead and falling off their perches. And he still has some ideas about the language men use when we share our feelings.
3. My parents’ house was near the airport, on the edge of an industrial area. When I was very young, if I woke up during the night, I could hear aircraft engines being tested . There were jet engines for CF-101 Voodoos and CF-104 Starfighters at Bristol Aerospace on Berry street, and a variety of big engines. The flight path for the main runway used to run across that corner of St. James and I could see airliners coming in regularly from home or from elementary school. I remember the sight and sound of Trans Canada Airlines Constellations and the first flights of its DC-8s.
4. My first car was a blue Volkswagen Beetle. I think it was a 1963 model. I had frost shields on the front windows. The heat and defrost capabilities of an air cooled rear engine were modest.
5. When I was 17 or 18, in my first years of University I was invited to some retreats being run by a group calling itself the Ecumenical Institute. After the second one, I figured that it was a cult, with a private and self-glorifying heroic belief system, alternative lifestyle etc. It had progressive social ideas, and kind of progressive, existential theology. It was like Unitarianism or some New Age thing – people feeling good about their moral superiority to less enlightened and progressive people. I hadn’t read the 1967 Time article. The EI morphed into the Institute of Cultural Affairs. I found a slightly different version of the history of the EI on a Web page of the Realistic Living Institute. It’s certainly the same group that was working in Winnipeg – all the same language, the existential philosophy and immanentist German progressive theology. Quite cultish. Same wine, same bottle, different label. This page mentions the EI Academies – I was groomed but never went.