Back in Douglastown, standing in front of my 1972-7 home. In Era 5, I returned several times to my pre-1977 childhood stomping grounds.
Summer of 1987 marked the end of an era of evident acceptance by, and fun with, younger companions in suburban Fredericton. My friends, for whatever reason or reasons, left me. And simultaneous to this were bountiful remembrances of earlier times, of Era 2 especially, instilling a tremendous yearning to revisit those past events, the place where they occurred, and the people and the entertainments who/that had with me been part of them.
So, it could be fair to say that the new era commencing, Era 5, 1987-92, was not to have much to offer that was, of its own years, intrinsically new. Not like Era 4 had. Or even Era 3. Era 5 was throughout predicated on a desire to reconnect with Era 2, with as many of the friends and with as much of the imaginative livelihood and the joyousness as possible of those bygone years, along with a plaintive, frustrated wish that the defining aspects of Era 4, the relationships, the gamesmanship, the way of life of my more recent time period of happiness, could have continued- or maybe could resume. Social rewards to be had in this era were sparse. Of those what there were came in reunions, maybe a few each year, with old friends. Reunions that although eminently enjoyable and gratifying, did not lead to revival of our much-shared company of yesteryear. The majority of the really significant experiences of Era 5 were with entertainment, with return to my life of lensed works of fond acquaintance long past- or with other beloved productions that had for years been with me via periodic or frequent television rerun and personal videotape collection.
1987-92 was a time powered by nostalgia, most of the remarkable moments of the era involving venerable (to my thinking) television shows and animated cartoon shorts aplenty. Affinity for, fidelity to, such items experienced within my life era in Douglastown became ever more entrenched in me. Love for Space: 1999, Spiderman, and the like, for a long time a propelling force in my hobby of videotape collecting, increased a thousand fold, whilst my already rebuilding aesthetic interest in cartoons of Warner Brothers production melded with, was enhanced by, nostalgia- and increased as a certain rabbit's clan was shown to do in a 1988 television special (with Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck as music-video-jockeys).
There was always a nostalgic component to my attachment to the entertainments of my earlier years. Initial viewing in most such cases was in Douglastown, in conjunction with what I perceived to be thriving friendships. I always had a fond place in my long-term memory- and in my heart- for the social connections and social patterns of my childhood, and for the congeniality of the neighbourhood in which my buddies and I played, that altogether meshed with my affection and admiration for the entertainment offerings of those olden days. That my resurgent interest in Douglastown and Era 2 would compel me to re-experience television- and movies- of my most formative years and respond to them with utmost appreciation, ought to be quite logical.
In fact, many of the television shows of my fancy were intertwined with pleasingly memorable experiences and the general way of things of not just one but two eras of my life. Though my appreciation for Era 4 would be for quite some time impaired, clouded by bitterness over the apparent rejection of me that marked the end of that largely fulfilling quintet of years, deep in my soul I knew that both the second and fourth eras of my life were quality, with dear friends and many, many occasions for enjoying and collecting on media imaginative productions to which I was sentimentally and aesthetically appreciative.
Items of significance from my past returning and reasserting themselves very strikingly within my exceedingly considered mindset at this time in my life, constituted the essence of this era. True, return of old television favourites had been an enjoyable aspect of some of the best years of Era 4, but this time, the effect of reiterated connection with entertainment of bygone days was quite different, without Joey and other Fredericton friends to keep me somewhat anchored in the present. I would now not only embrace fancied entertainments of yesteryear in acquiring them on videotape and watching them but would allow myself to mentally "turn back the clock" and join, through a kind of personal temporal symbiosis, with my pre-1977 childhood. And so was I attuned to fond, longing retrospection more than ever before, recalling me to my friends and my way of life in my former community. Meanwhile, I had to live in Fredericton, where day by day I had to bear the separation from a way of life, in Era 4, from which I had been neither ready nor willing to part.
1982-7 had been the first of my life eras to finish on a "downer" that for quite awhile dismally befogged happy memory of much of its contents. The lacklustre Eras 1 and 3 had dovetailed into the developing excellence of Eras 2 and 4, and the junction in those cases was one of either cautious or unhindered optimism. And Era 2 had ended on a positive note, the culmination of five years in the socially agreeable surroundings of Douglastown. What came immediately after it may have been dismal, but that was in the wake of me moving out of the place in which Era 2 had been so much a success. Era 2 had an integrity to it that was indeed evident even when I was of ages 11, 12, 13. And my persisting, still growing fascination with and affection for Space: 1999 had in some respects been a proxy for my feeling that the years that I was a resident of Douglastown- and the last of which wherein Space: 1999 had been my primary entertainment interest- were quite special, deserving everlasting fondness. Era 2 had not ceased because I became apparently unwanted in the same place in which I had lived for its duration; Era 4, however, seemed to be coming to a close because of precisely that.
Had I stayed in Douglastown, Era 2 could, eventually, a few years hence, have ended somewhat like Era 4 did, as I can now envision. But fact was that it had not. I finished Grade 5 and moved out of Douglastown a rather popular person in my surroundings. In fact, my number of friends had doubled during my final year there. Era 2 concluded on a quite admirable level of acceptance, companionship, and social integration. Following the collapse of the way of life within Era 4, Era 2 naturally looked very sweet, the only richly positive era of my life that finished with quality intact, and in consequence it acquired quite the mystique, quite the aura. Era 4 ended on a feeble, sad note, and with, it seemed, nothing into which to proceed (in my place of current residence) but loneliness, feelings of exclusion and rejection, of losing my best friend of the era and just about everybody else, too, them evidently having come to the same, unfavourable conclusion as to my worth and that of entertainment which I held dear.
Still, regardless of its quite ignoble end, Era 4 is a highly treasured section of my timeline. There is tremendous affection in me for those years. Those people. Those particular entertainments, the obtaining and viewing of which was shared by those people. Glorious times on the baseball field and in acquiring, copying, editing, and showing prized videotapes, and so many excellent moments in the one-on-one company of my best friend. There was no way that memories of the era would forever be corrupted by the unpleasantness of its lamented end. Murky mists have lifted fully from Era 4, and it now radiantly glows as the actualisation of my Fredericton existence, which would never be- and will never be- anywhere near as good again.
I deplore 1987, then and now, because within its latter half had come the end of a sense of belonging, sought-out by my friends, in my surroundings. Frustration, alienation, depression was to be rather the norm, and though in the main I found a way, somehow, to live with this condition, I cannot pretend to be at all grateful for it.
Of course, I was, as one should expect, most especially distraught when the new post-1987 reality was first upon me, during many lonely weeks of summer of 1987. And with my feeling of having spent 10 years of my life growing friendships in an eventual cul-de-sac, it was as though the 10 years that I had lived in Fredericton had not happened and I was back in 1977. My new loneliness was so reminiscent of same condition in my first three months as an inhabitant of Fredericton that it was like time had skipped backward. I could identify with Pam Ewing in the final episode of the "Dream Season" of Dallas, wherein she awoke to discover that she had dreamt an entire season, or year, of storylines. In my case, it was 10 years of storylines.
Era 5 was immediately one of disillusionment, of profound unhappiness. And it was a first for me. To be without friends in my life not because I moved to another place but because the friends I did have, had altogether opted not to include me any further. The new era seemed at once to be defined by me being again at odds with my surroundings- like I had been at start of Era 3. Only this time, the surroundings were not those of a new home community; I had lived in them for a decade. I had therein found and evidently lost a number of friends- and was now in a no-companionship condition.
Losing friends was an effect. What was the cause?
Arriving at an accurate answer to such a question was next to impossible in my state of mind at that time. I was much too narrow in perspective. And guided by emotion instead of reason. My limited capacity for extroverting, for lucid perception of myself through others' eyes, and also for constructive self-criticism, was clouded entirely by feelings of rejection, and indeed of betrayal- and of antipathy for the people or things that now had my friends' unswerving attention and loyalty. I was perceiving the good times of Era 4 to have developed a taint of prolonged misleading- by friends who evidently never really liked or cared for me. There was a sense of depressing emptiness as those good times, my part in them, had seemed to have meant zilch to my cohorts. What had happened to my friendships cast a pall over Era 4's best years. A pall which really never fully lifted until many, many years hence.
Solace was needed somewhere, sometime, lest I succumb to a depression that verged on engulfing me as I moped by my lonesome day after day, missing friends' company while believing that they did not miss me in the slightest bit. Joey's practically total absence from my life for the first summer ever since I met him was devastating. The occasions that I did see him, on my initiative, were short, rebuffed in favour of members of his peer group. The feeling that I would never again- and presumably never did- mean anything to Joey was like an empty pit in my stomach. And I had nobody else with whom to associate as Tony had become a chatting partner of few minutes on his doorstep and was by 1987 working full-time at the Nashwaaksis Save-Easy grocery store and finding new social connections there. Tony had also diverged from me in university studies, him in Bachelor of Science programme, me in Bachelor of Arts, our paths rarely crossing on campus. No doubt, he had made friends with some of his class peers at university in addition to doing so with persons he met at work at Save-Easy. And besides, our friendship had for some years since Tony moved back to Fredericton from Moncton, been as non-committal as could be. I could not and would not expect more from Tony in the late 1980s. Not even a word on my behalf to Steven and the others who were excluding me from baseball games. Craig was working also and when not, was interested primarily in playing catch with Philip. And the two of them were soon to find baseball associates elsewhere, while Steven and his friends were more and more organising their fun outside of the neighbourhood environs, my traditional habitat. Baseball- or at least baseball inclusive of me- was becoming as scarce in our neighbourhood as healthy, green lawns in the middle of one of the driest summers ever. Was I doomed to be forsaken by everybody whom I would ever meet and befriend? It was far from encouraging at that juncture of my life that so much of my time on planet Earth had been evidently for nought on matters social.
Maybe the finding in August, 1987 of a Grade 5 class photograph speeded what would have been by then a foregone process, i.e. my hearkening back to Douglastown and to Era 2. But what really brought about the dismal status of mine in my Fredericton neighbourhood? Was it just an uncaring attitude of young friends who never really liked me, or fickleness on their part, or their total relenting to peer pressure? These things in combination?
20/20 hindsight and ability to look back upon those troubled times somewhat dispassionately and in something other than an introverted fashion have revealed much about the part that I had in the demise of Era 4. It is true that my unavailing struggles to reverse the slump plaguing me in baseball and frustration consequently felt, had me frequently in something less than the pleasing disposition of the better years of the era. While some persons present during my increasing game losses did over-competitively revel in dragging my nose through the mud, others may have found the intensity by which I was playing the sport by 1986 to be more than a trifle disconcerting. Indeed, my teeth-gritting determination to restore myself to the winning ways of 1983 and 1984 and my anger at not succeeding was probably sapping from all of us any sense of fun. That even my neighbourhood associates who sympathised with my situation may have been reluctant to be my teammate, not just because of the significant likelihood of our losing the game but also because I in that event would be sullen, disagreeable company, was outside of my scope of consideration.
I have said already that from 1985 onward, Tony and I did have a very modest rapport and minimal expectation of each other in terms of time allocated and the commitments of friendship. It should follow that, sooner or later, Tony would find relationships more to his appeal, with other people, such as peers in university courses and colleagues from his workplace- and that his brother and friends of his brother would perceive me as being blase in general about down-scaled relationships, whilst I was preoccupied with my selfish quests for videocassettes, baseball victories, and so forth. To their minds, a person just so, ought to have a bandanna across his forehead saying, "Make me a loner." Craig and Philip undoubtedly viewed me as a temperamental loser and a liability to their sought-for emergence into new baseball-playing units. All of this now looks clear as daylight to me. The expiry date for my friendship in most regards had likely been set by me and my behaviour at least as much as, and most probably much more than, terminal loyalty on the part of my friends and the actions of others around me.
Perhaps if I had been less uptight about changeable fortune, instead calmly contrite and submissive in my remarks about my diminishing baseball performance, I might not have been a "turn-off" to some of my associates. I am not sure if this would have been entirely possible, because of my sensitive nature and the taunts and the berating by other players. But maybe a slight reduction in self-important fervour could have been achieved, and may have made a difference, even if only for a short while, in preserving some remnants of a favourable social existence. I would still have had to contend somewhat with diminished- and perhaps ever-diminishing- success on the baseball diamond and with eventually fewer invitations to partake in games of bat and ball. But losing altogether the occasions to pitch, catch, and hit balls and run bases and to socialise with somewhat appreciative cohorts, might not have happened for a couple of years past 1987 or 1988, if at all. I would have had a still fairly healthy social support-structure around me, i.e. people to go to see and with whom to reliably talk and still play some games of baseball, so that I could better absorb the impact of losing Joey's presence in my life, if that did still come to pass in 1987.
But as I have said, Joey's divergence from me was not inevitable. It could have been prevented if I had only been forthright and forthcoming in earlier years in regard to his being my best friend, and if I had fussed, un-cloyingly (if possible), about being left behind when Andrew- or others- enticed him away, instead of conceding. In any case, we two were building momentum again as buddies in the first half of 1987, and that upturn, in our friendship's quality and quantity of shared social time, could have continued had I conducted myself with better awareness, astute responsiveness, and initiative, had I not gone unacceptably introvert, and had I not committed some critical errors in the early summer of 1987.
For years, I had been periodically disappointing to Joey by some lapse of consideration, self-absorbed as I all too often was. Also, in 1979, the first year that we knew each other, I returned his friendship unconditionally for a few weeks but then turned aside from him when Tony, my then-best friend, returned to my side after a seemingly long hiatus. A first impression of me was formed by that, and after Joey and I became much closer in the early 1980s and he became my closest, best buddy, I, from time to time, reinforced that displeasing initial view of me by leaving him behind somewhere or not selecting him as my videotape shows assistant. Not that I was a constant source of frustration for Joey. I did in fact, at least nine times out of ten, do right by him, by favouring him, helping him with something important to him, choosing him first as a teammate, or joining him on doorstep or in basement for many an evening's excellent conversation. But as I did stumble a few times a year, other people, same-age peers of his, gained a substantial foothold in his life, and my reaction to that was, in character for me (sad to say), to be defeatist, withdrawn, and prone to pouting or irritability. And when Joey in early 1987 was reading correctly the cause of my sour conduct and was striving to correct the problem, I was slow to express appreciation, and when I did so, like with pat to his shoulder, a smile, or speaking his name with an affectionate tone of voice, it could have appeared to him to be a half-hearted, token gesture, or perhaps even insincere.
With Joey's announcement on June 3, 1987 that he would be retiring from his newspaper delivery job, I had hope that we might go back to the way of things prior to Joey's tenure as newspaper carrier, back to our being together for whole days and wide range of activities. We had already begun cutting grass again, and Joey's final month with Daily Gleaner in hand was marked by his quite lengthy visits to my garage and basement. There was an impression of a rebuilding rapport among us over those spring weeks of 1987. But we had not as yet fully settled into new- or renewed- avenues for coming together- and staying together for hours at a time. We had not as yet become practised again in coming to each other at non-newspaper-delivery times and were, as buddies, quite vulnerable. Vulnerable to prolonged estrangement and separation should anything happen to cast doubt in either of us about our relationship. A further month of Joey's newspaper delivery route and dependable daily contact in addition to our cutting of grass on the sprawling Trainor property and increased time together as a result of that, could have bridged us into a new phase for our friendship. Without such, we were on a precarious edge, with an opening rift possible if we were not extremely careful. This I can fully discern in retrospect. At the time, I was sufficiently concerned for the friendship of Joey and Kevin, but just not vigilant enough. If that makes sense.
On Joey's first day, Monday, June 8, of retirement from bearing news-print, he accompanied his successor that day only (for guidance) and rang my doorbell to initiate a short talk, the subject of which was our teamwork on future lawn-cutting jobs. I was to call upon him whenever the occasion arose to again mow the Trainor lawn- and two days later, Joey joined me in the evening, that of June 10, 1987, to combine our efforts on grass-cutting on one of the largest properties in our neighbourhood. And as we worked, I commented that we must not diverge in any way after the ending of Joey's newspaper-delivery walkabouts, and Joey concurred. I was being quite frank and tactful, and it looked like my best pal of five years was pleased at that. I was upbeat when we parted at between 8 and 9 o'clock that evening. Yet, I did not see or have communication with Joey at any time between June 10 and Sunday, June 28. It was a severe jolt of a change in the social pattern with Joey that I had known for quite some time. My attempts to summon him to the Trainor lawn job on June 17 and June 24 (Joey's birthday) met without success, as Joey was not at home when I came to his door. On June 24, I left a message for him to come and see me, but the day passed with no trace of my best buddy of five years. Not only did I have to tackle the tremendous Trainor lawn by myself, but I had been thwarted from seeing Joey on his birthday. Thus, I was starting to revert somewhat to my "taken-for-granted" feeling and involuntary irascibility of prior months, by the time that Joey did, four days after June 24, venture to my door for a visit.
I was listening to Cross-Country Check-Up on CBC Radio after supper on Sunday, June 28 when Joey rang my doorbell. The pair of us talked in my basement for awhile, Joey enquiring as to the reason for my searching for him on June 24, me answering accurately- and, I regret to say, rather tersely, and us both hence being rather curt as our conversation, punctuated by lengthy pauses, shuffled awkwardly from topic to topic, evading issues that needed addressing. Joey perhaps was annoyed that I had not tried enough to reach him in the prior several days, and I certainly was troubled by his absence and by his infrequent overtures to me for that month. However, neither of us said what was really bothering us. There was brusqueness to our words, and as Joey broached a possible short Sunday evening car drive, the two of us in my family automobile, to Brookside Mall, I rebuffed the suggestion. My reasons were valid. My parents would never permit me to use the car and its tank of gasoline for a jaunt with my junior friend to a closed-on-Sunday shopping mall. And I did not wish to antagonise them by even going to them and making the request. But rather than explain thusly to Joey, I cantankerously said that I was not going to be his chauffeur about town, torpedoing brusquely what may have been a move on his part to foster some togetherness. Minutes later, Joey discovered a water squirter and without warning discharged its contents into my face, perhaps in hope of initiating what he thought would be a fun water fight. I had never told him about my tendency to hyper-ventilate if facially exposed to amounts of water, the legacy of a harrowing early-childhood swimming pool experience (something in which I had always been reluctant, nay, loathe, to confide, even to best of friends), and it would in any case have been a one-sided H20 tussle as I had no similar means for squirting water into my friend's direction. Rather than speak of my aversion to liquid deluge, which would have required much tactful candour, not to mention courage, that I did not have at that particular time (and Joey did seem to not be in a intimately talkative mood), I left my yard. Craig and Philip were playing catch on Linden Crescent West. I walked in their direction, somehow believing that Joey would abandon the water fight idea and follow me up the street. But he did not. He disappeared. Craig and Philip were, as was the norm by 1987, nonplussed by my appearance, and some minutes later I returned home to find Joey gone without trace.
I was oblivious to the implications of that evening. From Joey's perspective, which I can now envision and understand, I had been disagreeable. I had snubbed his suggestion that we go together by car to the Brookside Mall, and had in the end apparently chosen, of my own accord, to be with Craig, who Joey could have sometimes- or oftentimes- viewed as a rival for my friendship and favour. And there I failed totally to view my words and actions from another person's point of view. Whatever the outcome that evening and my awareness then of its events, I expected that Joey would shrug it away and continue with me as though my evasiveness of June 28 were immaterial. Wherever sprung so presumptuous, unwise, downright incorrect a thought process, I completely underestimated the effect that what occurred on that infamous Sunday would have upon my friendship with Joey- and I misinterpreted everything that followed, with my reactions to those only aggravating matters.
Subsequently, over the course of a few days, Joey declined to be with me on some previously agreed-upon projects, including a further mowing of grass on the Trainor properties. Instead of categorically saying that he was not going to join me, Joey did not appear at the appointed place and time- and I believed that to be a result of forgetfulness on his part. Forgetfulness stemming from a much diminished interest in me and in being my friend, perhaps due to outright preference by him for the company of others. I was, it seemed, no longer an appealing person, fallen from favour plainly because (so I thought) I was resolutely true to myself, my own tastes in entertainment, etc.; I was now out of place in Joey's 1987 world and had ultimately become expendable. My feelings connected with being supposedly discarded, kept me, for many, many years, from looking at any other angles to the situation that came into being in the latter half of 1987.
So unfavourable a development in my foremost friendship of five years led me to be casually indifferent toward Joey for some weeks as I noticed him observing me from a distance during one or two of my lawn-cutting labours. And the result of my behaviour may have been offence on Joey's part, and more disinclination to reach out to me. We were in another of those mutual-spurning chain reactions. But this time, with us lacking an at-present-established routine for contact, and indeed with me being out of the loop in neighbourhood social gatherings, we were not able to find our way back to each other in time to prevent a debilitating rift from opening and expanding. And of course, who benefited from the growing gap between Joey and I but his same-age associates- many of whom from outside our immediate neighbourhood. The more that I saw Joey with those people as his visits and telephone calls to me were effectively ceased, the more grim, glum, and bitter I became. And seeing Joey with Andrew, who had many times over the years enticed Joey away from me, was particularly trying. Andrew had evidently been proven to be better, more appreciated, more important buddy to Joey after all- while I had fallen by the wayside.
Fully accurate or not, such was how I perceived the situation, and instinct triggered snubbing coldness every time that I witnessed enduring buddy-buddy-ness and visiting between the two of them, Joey and Andrew. For some years, I could not rationally comprehend the stringency of my response to seeing Joey with Andrew post-1987, i.e. why Andrew being with Joey bothered me so much. But it sure did! Oh, this is not to say that the other persons whom Joey was with were much- if any- less problematic. As regards Andrew, I can discern now his part in some of those difficult times for Joey and me, but back in the 1980s, my awareness on this was not quite so clear. Andrew had drawn Joey away from me several times, and deep in my scrawny gut, I sensed, even back in the 1980s, that Andrew's connection with Joey was a perplexing problem- whilst my reasoning mind held a fairly amicable opinion of Andrew. My instinct, which I still did not understand as often as I should have done, was, post-1987, telling that Andrew and Joey being continuing buddies after I had fallen to dubious status of a former associate, ought to be sore, the sorest, territory for me.
The clarity of hindsight, some twenty years hence, reveals, however, that I had myself to blame, much more than anyone else, for my loss of good standing with Joey. I conducted myself stupidly in 1987, and most especially on the last Sunday evening in June of that year. He could have determined that the final straws had been placed on the camel's back, starting with my refusal to go by car with him to Brookside Mall and my seeming abandonment of him for Craig, and then when I compounded the offence by apparently acting like a snob over all too many of the weeks of that infamous summer. "He did it to me again," Joey may have said to himself. "Kevin left me again. Like he did in 1979 for Tony. As he did that day at York Plaza in the summer of 1982. And so on. Here I was for the past few months making the extra-special effort to do right by Kevin, coming earlier on my newspaper job, cheering him up on the telephone, helping him to get lawn-mowing work and assisting him on some of his most difficult mowing jobs, and he goes and does a stunt like this. Well, until he comes to me and apologises, I'm not doing any more for him or coming to see him or anything like that." Joey was definitely correct to respond in such a way to my disagreeable conduct, but an apology from me would be a forlorn hope. Selfish considerations still always overcame my underdeveloped capacity for empathy. I was just not capable, at the time, of surveying the circumstances through his, unspoken to me, point of view. My own slighted feelings about being left to myself on subsequent endeavours (e.g. the lawn work) and my mounting resentment for his other relationships impaired my at best limited capacity for overriding my introverted nature- and cast a cloud over my years of close and richly enjoyable connection with Joey, and indeed over the whole of Era 4, for a long time.
I must stress that my resentment came from affection for a best friend. Not from animosity. What animosity I harboured was for the persons who appeared to be monopolising his time, immersing him into a world, the Fredericton junior high school "culture" (unchanged from what I had known and detested during my time in Grades 7, 8, 9), in which, as far as I could see, I was outmoded. An "un-cool" has-been. My exclusion from Joey's life looked total. His frowning response, evidently at the behest of his mostly abrasive same-age chums, to my honest (albeit clumsy) efforts later in 1987 and in early 1988 to reestablish a bond of friendship, was received with deeply hurt feelings. Dismally lacking as I was in non-ego-centric insight, I could not help but think that my best friend had finally forsaken me and embraced a way of things that I had long regarded as being the enemy.
Decay spread as both of us ceded fully to our feelings of alienation and estrangement. To my eyes at the time, I was the only alienated party, cast aside simply because my long-time buddy did not think me to be any longer of importance.
The overall nature of the summer of 1987 did not help. I was busy for some weeks in July as I mowed the grass in several neighbourhood yards. My occupation had become fully solitary, with time aplenty for thought, and my deliberations, on social matters, were rarely of an edifying kind. I came home after each lawn job, sitting for a rest on my doorstep or cooling myself in the basement, drinking Coca-Cola or Kool-Aid as I was mindful- and mournful- of better times years previous when I was in my yard or in that basement with Joey and others. I plaintively knew deep in my soul how much I missed him, them, those bygone days- and yet how far out of reach those olden times and the spirit of friendship seemed in summer of 1987 to be. To be without friends in the summer was at variance with best remembered social traditions in both Douglastown and in Fredericton. There was no possibility of me adapting to such an obviously inferior condition without prolonged melancholia, discontentment, displeasure. And my at-home situation was to undergo a change evocative of one of my loneliest past time periods, those early days of McCorry settlement in Fredericton North. The astoundingly cogent comparison of my then-current lonely state with that of ten years prior, would be impossible not to see.
For awhile in the first weeks of July, I had some videotape acquisitions to which to look forward. A contact in Rhode Island, U.S.A., with whom I had been communicating for a year or so, and from whom I had already brought into my eager possession a videotape of Space: 1999 fan convention material (of the gathering of pundits, from far and wide, of Gerry Anderson's deep space opus, in Los Angeles in July, 1986) was providing for me some rather nice-looking videotape copy of Space: 1999 broadcasts in his area. Of particular anticipation for me in mid-1987 was his videotape-recording off-telecast in August, 1976 of a special edit of "The Metamorph", with rare footage of Maya turning into an orange tree within the Grove of Psyche and extended scenes through much of Space: 1999- Season 2's introductory episode. I was then still in my pleasant, early phase of involvement in the Space: 1999 fan organisation, but that was soon, very soon, to change. Already, I felt more than a trifle disconcerted by my Rhode Island correspondent's routine, sweeping put-downs of the second season of my favourite television series. Yes, the very season that connected in memory with Douglastown and my last, superb year there and which was on the verge of becoming mega-volted with nostalgic power.
And also was I flummoxed by an opinion poll whose results were printed in the fan club's newsletter early in 1987, them denoting a sizable slant in the loyalty and level of admiration on the part of what I will call a general fan consensus, toward Season 1. When I stated my puzzlement over some seemingly counter-intuitive aspects of the poll's out-coming data, like why Martin Landau was not lauded for his teary-eyed remembrance of Koenig's personal and painful past, in that wonderfully acted scene, between him and Catherine Schell, on the hilltop in Season 2's "The Rules of Luton", or even for his bravura performance as the nightmare-tormented Koenig in "The Lambda Factor" (also of Season 2), but rather by the first season's "Collision Course" episode. Yes, "Collision Course". Wherein apart from looking captivated by an aged alien woman's prophecy, shouting, and displaying traces of tears in his eyes as he was informing Alan Carter of an impending nuclear explosion from which the spacecraft being piloted by Carter would not be at a safe distance, and displaying his hairy chest from beneath Alphan pyjamas, Landau's acting contribution to the story at hand did not seem especially notable. I was given by my Rhode Island contact quite a history lesson, me being something of a latecomer into Space: 1999 fan circles, of what the division and the extremism of aggregate fan opinion really is, and long had been (since the earliest days of Space: 1999 fandom), on the question of seasonal preference, i.e. that the vast majority of fans prefer Season 1 exclusively, and not only that, but that they regard Season 2 as trash (a sort of disparaging metaphor that would be outdone by fecal matter comparisons in years to come). And the poll data was, he said, indicative, truly, of the characteristic attitude of the lion's share of Space: 1999 followers.
What had been my impression for three years that Space: 1999 fan "orthodoxy" was a fair mix of "cross-seasonal" and "intra-seasonal" likes and dislikes- and a level-headed, mutually respectful and open-minded group of people (albeit disconcertingly fractious- prone to reading more negativity or hostility between lines than I could see to be there- during debates on whys-and-wherefores club issues like convention location decisions)- had been false. Fandom was, my Rhode Island contact said, a practically homogeneous mass of set-in-their-ways, intractable detractors of anything and everything Season 2, for the love of some of the stylistic and finer conceptualised merits of the initially filmed twenty-four episodes of Space: 1999.
I was finding my Rhode Island comrade, who expanded his means of corresponding with me to include videotaped and audiotape messages in addition to the written word, to be quite a mixed blessing. He had much Space: 1999-related paraphernalia in his possession that interested me and was a reliable, conscientious, dedicated exchanger of communication and collectible items. I even, in a trade with him, at last had once more a Moon Odyssey Pocket-Books-edition Space: 1999 novelisation paperback, to replace my long extinct one that had been bought in Newcastle in April, 1977 and had gone to pieces some weeks later. For three years from late 1986 to mid-1989, he and I were of material benefit to one another. Yet, his unflinchingly unfavourable opinions on my beloved season of our favourite television show, his regular sorties on the differences between the two discrete production blocks of Space: 1999, his tending to react with vexation toward my positive viewpoints and insights on the subject did put under duress my admittedly not the world's greatest amount of tact, which was already rather beleaguered in the midst of depressing and embittering social-life changes around home. The long-term viability of our contact simply was not there. But I did very much admire his creativity and his craftsmanship in that he had built a full-size mock-up of a Space: 1999 Eagle spaceship cockpit inside of a neighbour's barn and with it had videotape-camera-recorded a mini-episode with himself as an Alphan astronaut en route to reconnoitre the planet Meta. He even had a Moonbase Alpha uniform (first season style, of course). However divergent in tastes on the science fiction/fantasy genre that he and I increasingly evidently were and how galled he became by my growing awareness of my love, aesthetic and nostalgic, for Season 2 and my plaudits therefor- and how irritated I was in turn, I always respected his creativity, motivation, and drive- and still do to this day. And considering how little regard I today have for fans in general of Space: 1999, this is really saying something.
In mid-1987, he and I had not as yet gone astray from cordial tack of communication, even as my world around me was in collapse. I was anticipating a videotape from him with the special, August, 1976 cut of Space: 1999- "The Metamorph", a copy of Space: 1999- "Voyager's Return" with scenes and closing credits lacking from my prior, CBIT-sourced videotape-recording of that, and a few of the first episodes of Blake's 7, a British space fantasy television series that was something of a mix of ideas of Star Wars and the format of Star Trek in the style of Doctor Who.
Blake's 7 had been conceived in the fertile noggin of Terry Nation, writer of many of the Dalek serials of Doctor Who. I had read many a praising comment for Blake's 7's premise, characters, etc. and was curious about that fifty-two episode television programme about convicts turned freedom-fighters against a corrupt, authoritarian galactic federation (with Earth at its centre). The inaugural episode, "The Way Back", was rather slow-moving, its futuristic visualisation limited- a la Doctor Who- but effective, the costumes looking appropriately of an oppressive time centuries hence, and having a somewhat lived-in look, as too did the sets. Episode one told of how the scales of justice could be surreptitiously tipped against the title character, who rediscovered his long-buried memories of his previous rebelliousness after witnessing a massacre of some dissidents by government officials. In episode two, "Space Fall", the television show's heroes, many of them convicted thieves en route to a planetary penal colony, escape their travelling prison and gain access to a super-advanced alien spacecraft with which they plan to fight back against the illegitimately ruling regime. Third episode, "Cygnus Alpha", was particularly interesting in that it had as guest actor the flamboyant, bearded Brian Blessed (of Space: 1999's "Death's Other Dominion" and "The Metamorph" episodes) playing a loud, religious-zealot leader of the dark and dreary penal colony to which Blake and company would have spent the remainder of their lives had they not escaped Federation custody. Also among the "Cygnus Alpha" guest cast was Robert Russell, who was in Space: 1999's "Mission of the Darians" episode playing much the same role as in this Blake's 7 television series entry: burly acolyte of a barbaric, human-sacrificing cult. There were also some establishing space scenes that appeared to have been lifted from episodes of Space: 1999.
My efforts to polish all of these latest acquisitions through my high standards of editing to add to my videotape collection-proper filled a day or two at least in mid-July of 1987. I do remember worrying that the package containing these would not arrive at my address in advance of an impending Canada Post employees work stoppage. But it was delivered on a sunny morning one or two days preceding the announced date of the indefinitely-long interruption of Postal service whilst I was cutting the lawn of my next-door neighbours, the Butterwicks. And I rushed through what was left of my A.M. employ so that I could delight in my new videotape-record of "The Metamorph". Complete, without commercial interruption and with uncorrupted transitions from act to act (the glorious "Metamorph" music- a variation on the theme music of the Season 2 opening sequence- over episodic title was fully intact on every expressive note)- and with additional footage, to boot. My CBHT-sourced recording of Space: 1999- Season 2's first episode, approaching electromagnetic fatality as an often-played videocassette, was now obsolete. It is certainly ironic that my new copy of "The Metamorph" was incoming from somebody who had no appreciation for Space: 1999's second assemblage of twenty-four episodes (to be fair, though, he did concede that "The Metamorph" was somewhat tolerable).
CBC French was showing Alfred-Hitchcock-directed movies on Monday evenings in the summer of 1987. I remember Psycho and The Birds being telecast on the francophone CBC on two consecutive Mondays in July. I had seen both of those movies before, in English, on Maine television stations received in Fredericton on cable television. WLBZ-TV's showing of The Birds on that broadcaster's 5-to-7-P.M. Great Money Movie had been the talk of my neighbourhood on day of telecast, and I remember a substantial amount of discussion about Psycho at school after one of its airings on WVII-TV. Seeing those two by-times-gory suspense movies again did induce me to want to have them on videotape, and I would add Psycho to my videocassette collection that summer, with The Birds descending into my assemblage of videotapes some years later.
For much of the summer of 1987, the Iran-Contra Hearings dominated weekday television coming out of the United States, and as the Canadian television networks did rely upon American imports for a bulky portion of their weekday's programming, the hot and dry summer of 1987 was an arid one, too, for Monday-to-Friday television viewing. General Hospital which I followed quite faithfully that year and for many more years hence, was in an imposed hiatus because of Iran-Contra, that hiatus lasting at least four weeks. I remember puzzling over how the writers would handle that summer's storylines on General Hospital being drastically abbreviated. If I remember rightly, before Iran-Contra attained a vice-grip on daytime television in summer of 1987, Robert Scorpio was on the trail of group of enemy DVX operatives intending to perpetrate a bio-terrorist act, and Shaun Cassidy (who was Joe Hardy in The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries (1977-9)) played a singer who was involved somehow with the DVX. I can vividly see in my mind's eye Oliver North standing with his arm in a salute amid a dazzling flurry of activated camera flashbulbs. And I remember thinking that television coverage of Mr. North appearing before a Congressional committee would be just a news brief with periodic updates through the day, only to discover that it would last the whole day and many, many subsequent days- on all three U.S. television networks. I would be heard to remark that cable television is of little worth when the same item of scant interest to me, is on every channel other than the Canadian ones that could be received with rabbit-ear antennae.
On a mid-July weekday whilst Iran-Contra was the big thing on television, my parents and I went to Newcastle-Douglastown-Chatham for the day. More on that later.
A further obtaining of videotaped material from an American fellow collector, living in Peoria, Illinois, once the mail in Canada was moving again, provided to me some more aesthetic stimulus- and videotape-editing- in the middle of August. The Jon Pertwee Doctor Who story, "Doctor Who and the Silurians", which had been lost to me on its MPBN telecast of January 3 due to adverse weather conditions, was now in my hands to complete my libraried videocassette collection of the Pertwee era, albeit as a multi-generation videotape copy of tenuous picture stability, resolution, and display of colour. But that copy was indeed in colour, unlike all black-and-white copies of the story circulated to television stations by then, and whatever my qualms may have been as to the nature of the reproduced image on my videotape, to have so rare a colour version of a classic Doctor Who story felt as a prized privilege. However, the editing process, to remove the all-too-frequent total losses of picture and to convert the multi-part version of the serial to movie format, was of significant, protracted effort and bother, and thus rather taxing on my supply of patience, even if the storytelling structure of the Doctor's unnerving and by times frightful encounter with the reptilian Silurians, was riveting. Riveting yet at the same time curiously disaffecting. A lengthy, downbeat, depressing Doctor Who tale. Altogether rather apt, I would say, considering the way that the summer in which I was then living had been lacking of friendliness and joy in my life. I remember a mid-to-late August cutting of the grass (one of my few lawn jobs that month) to the Trainor front yard on Park Street and the Trainor backyard between Park and Maple Streets as I was thinking about the portions of that long (seven half-hour episodes total) Doctor Who yarn about intelligent humanoid reptiles emerging from caves in Derbyshire, draining nuclear energy from a research facility, stalking the countryside, releasing a virulent virus upon mankind, and trying to destroy Earth's Van Allen Belt.
Curiously, before finally incorporating the second Jon Pertwee Doctor Who outing into my videocassette holdings, I had expected the caves of the Silurian creatures to be along the British coast and for the Doctor to go aquatic for much of his characteristic physicality. No doubt because the sequels to "Doctor Who and the Silurians", they being "The Sea Devils" (also with Pertwee as the Doctor) and "Warriors of the Deep" (during Peter Davison's time as the heroic Time Lord), were situated amidst watery expanses. But "Doctor Who and the Silurians" was set inland, on English moors, the titled cold-blooded creatures' subterranean base of nefarious operation wet only with a few puddles and drippy stalactites. Included also in the package from Peoria were copies of Act 1 of Space: 1999- "The Bringers of Wonder: Part 1" (for episode title, guest cast credits, etc., all of which were to be found in few collectors' possession after the shelving, by ITC Entertainment, of the two-part episode in favour of its "movie" permutation, through the entire 1980s), the epilogue to the "The Bringers of Wonder: Part 2" (that was omitted from Destination: Moonbase Alpha), and a full copy (with scenes that were missing from the CBHT/CBIT broadcasts in 1983 and 1984) of "The Exiles" to duplicate and edit/polish to add to my superlative, new videotape-record of "The Metamorph".
The parcel from Peoria was deposited in my mailbox on the sunny morning after I saw The Living Daylights, 1987's James Bond movie with Timothy Dalton starting his short stint as the globetrotting British super-spy. I am of two minds about that Bond film. On its own merits, it is an excellent Agent 007 outing, in that Dalton reinvigorated Bond with a compelling mix of somewhat youthful (i.e. on the younger side of forty-five) vitality- coming after his predecessor, the ageing Roger Moore- and an un-smirking, dark "edge" to his flippant turns of phrase. The complex, counter-counter-espionage storyline of the movie was in places demanding of more attention by the viewer than had been usual of filmic story development in the Moore era. And action sequences were abundant and efficiently choreographed, mated with an incidental music of stirring dynamism, intermixed with occasional plaintive motifs (e.g. "Where has everybody gone?"), and accompanied in some of the last parts of the movie with an impression of a somewhat distant but nonetheless somehow feeling close-at-hand optimism in the face of adversity, altogether seeming to strike all of the sound notes to which I felt most responsive at the time. The Living Daylights was in my opinion the best James Bond adventure of the 1980s. It so happened that it was also the first James Bond film for me to view in a theatre since Tony and I saw For Your Eyes Only in a matinee performance at Plaza Cinema 1 in June, 1981- and The Living Daylights was being screened in that exact same cinema.
The fact that I was now reduced to attending all movie showings without the accompaniment- or evidently with virtually no hope thereof- of a friend, of a best friend, somehow did not dampen my enthusiasm on this occasion for what was being projected onto the expansive fabric. I was aware that in all likelihood I could never again realistically aim to have a buddy at my side- especially Joey- in my visits to Fredericton's movie-exhibition establishments. But I nevertheless allowed myself to be captivated, swept away by the splendour of James Bond's missions in Gibraltar, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Morocco, and Afghanistan. Others in the rows of Plaza Cinema seats exclaimed often about the verisimilitude of the fight scenes, of Dalton's rough-around-the-edges Bond persona, and the overall breath of fresh air that Cubby Broccoli and his movie production team had injected into what had been widely regarded as a self-satisfied, flagging film franchise. There were expressions of incredulity at General Koskov walking away from a head-on collision of his jeep with a landing aeroplane on a runway. Some of the girls in the audience were nonplussed that Bond was not bedding women left, right, and centre (never my favourite aspect of Eon Films' inception of the James Bond character). And there was some quizzical commentary over the twists and turns in the intricately woven story. But overall, there was reverence for The Living Daylights among the Plaza Cinema 1 patrons on that August evening, most of whom were of my generation. Agreeing with the accolades accorded the quite consistently thrilling, adrenalin-surging movie, I felt compelled to watch my videotape of A View to a Kill on my arrival back at home at approximately 9:20 that evening to do a comparison of Moore's final Bond film with Dalton's first.
However impressive my theatre viewing of it may have been, The Living Daylights did pass before my eyes at a dim time for me, socially. At near the cusp of an unfavourable change in my social condition. It is connected, in retrospective thought, with what I saw as rebuff by Joey through the summer of 1987. I should thus have unpleasant memories associated with recollection of 1987's James Bond escapade. And I ought to be disinclined to want to revisit it via videotape or by other audio-visual media. Certainly, I would be lying if I stated that re-watching The Living Daylights does not, by invoking recall of the lonely weeks of summer, 1987, have a morale-straining effect. The rather icily dealt denial by Joey of his company on that August, 1987 evening reminded me of my one actual movie-theatre-going experience with Joey, that of our seeing of Gremlins in 1984, on which he had spoken as being anything but pleased to have me along with him and Andrew. I still did not understand his reasons for being angry at me during the week of our jaunt to the Nashwaaksis Cinemas to behold the havoc of Gremlins. I had interpreted his unfriendly words as plain dislike of being with me, as his being preferential of Andrew, etc.. And now (in 1987), rejecting my invitation to together attend Plaza Cinemas' screening of Timothy Dalton's first James Bond movie appeared to be confirmation of my abject undesirability to him as a movie-theatre-attending pal.
A most peculiar thing about The Living Daylights is that it is joined in my mind with strange but not incongruous senses of loss and of hope- whether the hope be for my reinstatement into the environs of Douglastown and with the comradeship of old friends there, or for a turnaround in my fortunes in Fredericton. The 1987 James Bond movie's release on home videotape in late March of 1988 did coincide with building optimism for my upcoming reunion (in May of 1988) with Douglastown and with people there, when Douglastown and my first rather thorough reacquainting visit there was only a couple of months away and uppermost on my mind whilst I was toiling away toward completing my year's university course load and many assignments (and a gruelling year it had been, that third annum of work toward my Bachelor of Arts degree).
For the summer of 1987, in addition to incoming videotapes from American trading partners, I was augmenting and improving my cache of videotaped entertainments from what was available to me in Fredericton, attaining, in addition to the movie, Psycho, a videocassette of the 1982 Incredible Hulk cartoon television show (the three episodes included on the pre-recorded, saleable videotape being "Origin of the Hulk", "Enter She-Hulk", and "Bruce Banner Unmasked") and persisting in my collecting of Doctor Who. MPBN was expected to continue airing movie-length servings of Doctor Who early Saturday evenings for yet some more years. Response to MPBN's transmission of the intrepid Time Lord's travels, in letters read on air by Bernie Roscetti, MPBN programme director, and in comments spoken during "pledge drive" money-support pleas to viewers periodically through each year, was still overwhelmingly positive. There had been a naysayer or two as regards the black-and-white William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton Doctor Who stories telecast by MPBN in the second half of 1986, but those seemed to be like voices in the vastest wilderness. Doctor Who's fascinating history as a twenty-five-plus-year-old science fiction television offering in the United Kingdom had my keen attention through much of the mid-to-late-1980s before the well of first-time-to-be-watched-on-MPBN, back-catalogue material started to run dry.
In second and third quarter of 1987, I was on the verge of a rather less engrossing phase in my watching and videotaping of Doctor Who, even as I was stopping often at Westminster Books en route to home from university and pouring my eyes over the covers and typewritten pages of a large array of Doctor Who serial novelisation paperbacks in quite prominent display in the science fiction/fantasy section of said bookstore, and likewise flipping through the pages of Doctor Who Magazine in stock at the Collector's Dream store on the upper floor of a building, corner of York and Queen Streets in the downtown Fredericton business district. With the exception of a few serials missed, in whole or in part, due to storms cutting MPBN's transmission or for some other reason, I had by end of summer, 1987 seen all what was then in circulation on public television stations like MPBN. Many Hartnell and Troughton serials had been destroyed in an archive purge at the BBC in the 1970s, and it was a fervent wish by many people, myself included, that some of those may still be recovered somewhere in some form. But for the time being, satisfaction was to be with what was in the BBC's holdings and in syndicated distribution to broadcasters in North America. New Doctor Who was still being produced, but the quality seemed to be lacking, with the acting calibre and screen presence of the then leading man, Colin Baker, in dispute, in addition to seemingly less and less dynamic and engaging script-writing.
The 1974 season finale for Third Doctor Jon Pertwee, i.e. "Planet of the Spiders", was shown by MPBN on the rainy evening of Saturday, May 30, 1987 (after which day my mother was being flown back to Fredericton from a conference in central Canada and my father and I went to the Fredericton Airport to receive her, me being eager to watch my "Planet of the Spiders" videotape upon the three of us' arrival back at home). Fourth Doctor Tom Baker's introductory story, "Robot", was next on MPBN (telecast thereon for the third time in four years) on June 6, initiating the third run on MPBN for Tom Baker's popular Bohemian incarnation of the heroic alien scientist. I already had all of Baker's oeuvre on videotape save for "Revenge of the Cybermen" and "Planet of Evil", the latter of which I had not as yet experienced at all. I was able to secure for myself a capture onto videotape of "Genesis of the Daleks" on MBPN on June 27 that was superior to my earlier, 1985 copy of same, and "Revenge of the Cybermen" and "Planet of Evil" on July 4 and 18 respectively brought to completion my personal stash of Tom Baker era Doctor Who (though better audio-visual quality was always desirable as I strove toward closer-to-perfection videotaped works of the imagination- and several MPBN-sourced videotape-recordings of the encounters of the good Doctor had frequent glitches in them).
"Planet of Evil" having been the only Tom Baker era serial never to have before been seen by my still rather impressionable wide blue eyes, I was delighted to find Prentis Hancock (a regular actor in Space: 1999) essaying a key role among of the guest cast of characters, whilst the heroes and their doubting hosts were being stalked by murderous alien forces near and within a spaceship parked on and endeavouring to leave a "living" planet of an unstable bi-polar nature (placid by day, hostile by night). The planet was portrayed as the gateway to a demonic anti-matter universe (which was entered into via a black pit on said planet- allegorical to hell). And there was an obsessive anti-matter researcher who, having been contaminated by some of of the planet's highly unstable elements, was changing for random periods of time into a bestial ape-man (what the Doctor called, "Anti-Man- a hybrid creature running amok"), becoming, in effect, a Jekyll-and-Hyde monster, one that was capable of sucking the life out of its victims. I recall that humid and mostly cloudy mid-July Saturday evening in which I was contemplating what I had witnessed from 6 to 7:30 P.M. on Doctor Who whilst raking my lawn thereafter, followed by a walk to Tim Horton's Donuts on Main Street for a box of lemon-filled Timbits.
With some of the proceeds from my lawn labours, I bought a videocassette player in the summer of 1987. Wired to my three-recording-head RCA-brand videocassette recorder (that was purchased from Trader MacKenzie's store in September, 1986 on the false premise of it having four recording heads), my newest video hardware acquisition enabled me at last to copy videotapes without needing to rent machinery. But apart from some Doctor Who episodes needing some video glitch deletions, there was not much else to duplicate, until such time as aforementioned videotapes from American correspondents were within my hands, ready for editing/polishing. And for several weeks late July to mid-August there was no mail due to a labour disruption by pay-rate-protesting Canada Post workers. Stasis was rather the unwelcome condition as much for my videotape-collecting hobby in mid-summer of 1987 as it was for my lawn cutting business over the long, hot weeks of much of July and August. And such was also true for my following of daytime television drama, which had been put on hiatus for the duration of Iran-Contra hearings.
Buck Rogers in the 25th Century was being rerun on Saturday and Sunday afternoons by WLBZ-TV Bangor, Maine- at my request- so that I could procure off-broadcast videotape-record of the entire episode tally of that space fantasy television opus of my teenage years- even if those younger years in which I first saw Buck Rogers had been rather mediocre for the most part. I was usually successful at videotape-recording the WLBZ Buck Rogers telecasts first generation, i.e. off broadcast. But in the summer, WLBZ's televising of baseball games of the Boston Red Sox and of NBC network-transmitted sports programming caused Buck and his fantastic future predicaments to move very erratically on WLBZ's Saturday and Sunday timetables (on most weeks no episodes at all were aired), with quite severe jumps in the sequence of the episodes, some of those from the second Buck Rogers season (with Hawk the bird-man, the spaceship Searcher, etc.) soon being intermixed with first season entries- and TV Guide magazine did not even bother printing episode synopses. I have vivid memories of mowing lawns on Saturday at 3 P.M. or later after watching and videotaping the day's Buck Rogers in the 25th Century offering on WLBZ, in June and early July anyway, before both Buck and lawn-mowing work became scarce in mid-summer.
On a weekday in the middle week of July, my mother and father were both on holiday from work for a short while, and a day's expedition to and from the Newcastle-Douglastown-Chatham Miramichi region was on our agenda. I had some finishing touches to do on my latest cutting of the Trainor lawn, specifically in the backyard area of the Trainor estate, and after my early-morning work there, my parents and I embarked in our car for the hundred-mile road odyssey to our 1972-7 surroundings. It was a humid and mainly overcast day. Not the most ideal weather for rejoining with the place of many of the brightest, cheeriest experiences of my early life. But at least it was not raining. We only looked at our former abode and the dwellings in its vicinity as we passed through Douglastown in our automotive transport. Most of that day's hours for us in our former New Brunswick region of habitation were spent in Newcastle at the home of my mother's friends, the Loggies, who lived quite far back on Prince William Street from Newcastle's downtown, close to where said street changed into a highway to the Heath Steel Mines. Ollie North was definitely on the Loggie den television, though quickly switched off (thank heavens!) by Mr. Loggie as we walked into their home. That July, 1987 visit to the greater Miramichi area, though rather insubstantial as a reacquainting, reorienting, reuniting experience for me and my friendships there, still did grease the Douglastown-and-Era-2-oriented gears of my nostalgic brain to eventually start turning potently within just a little over a month. Granted, this process still needed the help of a sinking, or rather a plummeting feeling about my social existence, what it had become, in Fredericton. And coincident as that was with the discovery of a certain school class picture from Grade 5.
Summer of 1987 may from description thus far not appear to be as poor as I claim it to have been. However, I have been referring mainly to acquisitions on videocassette and viewings of Doctor Who and other things telecast and of a quality new James Bond movie. Each of which by themselves or even combined could only do so much to lift morale. The social component to the many weeks of that summer in my Fredericton milieu was practically nil. That was where July and August, 1987 fell down to the lowest rating of all mid-year, warm-weather seasons since perhaps my pre-school era. And as I will describe, it was, for a sizable fraction of its length, very strikingly reminiscent of my early days in Fredericton.
When those proverbial dog days of summer were upon me and weeks of hot, dry weather turned lawns to fields of brittle, yellow straw and I was idle for much of the clock's plod through late-morning, midday, and afternoon hours, not even viewing my recent videotape acquisitions, or older videocassettes, on my little television sitting on a table with my videocassette machine alongside my bed, could stanch the bleed of my enthusiasm for living.
My father was now working days for the first time since 1978. After his double-bypass heart surgery in 1985, he had been intent on a transfer by Fredericton city government out of the Fredericton Transit nighttime mechanic position that he had held starting in 1978, and into something more amenable to his older, less robust condition. And in late July of 1987, he received appointment to a desk clerk job at City Hall, with a nine-to-five-o'clock schedule. Thus, both my mother and father were gone from home from approximately 8:30 each morning Monday to Friday until around 5:30 P.M.. Much reminiscent was this for me of the months immediately after our moving into Fredericton in the late 1970s. Now, in 1987, as then, 1977, I would be by myself at home through each day that my parents were working.
The first months, starting late-August, 1977, in which I was inhabitant of the crescent street Linden, had been defined by me being alone in my house on weekdays whenever I was not at school (where for much of the 1977-8 educational year I had mostly been a loner), including just about all Wednesday afternoons, school holidays, and days when I was ill. I came home from school for lunch or following afternoon classes to an unoccupied house, with nothing to do but by my lonesome watch television. And now, in summer of 1987, that my parents were again both not at home through the days and I was- as I had been in the first months of living in Fredericton- without visitors or invitations to the hospitality of a friend or to outdoor fun with a buddy or buddies, or anyone with whom to share my adoration for works of the imagination, it makes sense that my mind would be drawn back to a comparable way of things in my past, along with a feeling that all of the time since then had been proven futile.
I did have a sizable cache of collected videotape if I did become so very desperate for something, anything, of interest with which to pass the time. But, alas, watching anything on videocassette by myself was not in summer of 1987 of much appeal in my demoralising loneliness. Such was a new phenomenon for me. One would think that I ought to have turned to immersing myself in fantastic universes and such, as I had done in 1977. But this time, in a reiterated solitary condition, enthusiasm for watching favourite entertainments was starting to flag.
My father did not adapt to routines of daytime work or to the administrative duties of his new job and after 3 or 4 weeks requested a return to his Fredericton Transit occupation, despite its physical demands. So, my deja-vu of being alone nine-to-five-o'clock, five days weekly was temporary, although quite sufficient to put me in deep empathy with the way that I had lived nearly ten years previous. It was though the years betwixt 1977 and 1987 had fallen away, become irrelevant, indicative of abject failure to build in a decade-long habitat a social existence with staying power. I was certainly gut-wrenchingly aware that I had lost what I had gained in the interim. Back ingloriously to where I had begun, ten years of occasionally stumbling but overall true dedication to finding and retaining friendship seemingly for nought.
How to respond when facing such dire realisations depends on the individual. Some people, such as eternally optimistic extroverts, press onward. They move ahead, resolutely seeking new friends, new social groups, new connections with others to replace what was lost. Such a course of action is scarcely within range of my psychological make-up, though. Yes, it still can be done; I did do it after moving to Fredericton. But that was years prior. Within childhood. And even then, satisfaction was anything but quickly found. The other potential ways to go would be acceptance of what has become a lonely life (not an easy proposition, that), embracing self-pitying melancholia in its purest, most hopeless form, or a desperate grasp at anything within past experience that could serve as solace and even as optimistic foundation, realistic or no, for future social prosperity.
As August days and weeks clocked by, a nagging thought within me, that my unhappy solitude would now be perpetual, was increasingly difficult to quell, as attempt after attempt to turn around my dwindling situation as regards my best friend (including one day in early August on which, after my early-afternoon patronage of a barber shop on Main Street across from the York Plaza, I resolved to go to see Joey immediately upon my return that P.M. to Linden Crescent, did so, and met Joey on the way out of his door while he was en route to the field house of Nashwaaksis Junior High School to play badminton with a same-age pal) met with rebuff.
The more that I was turned away, in favour of others, the more sullen, defeatist, inclined to full introversion that I became. I would eventually- a week or more later- find in me faith and gumption to attempt another approach to Joey, the result being (if he was at home) further denial of company- coincident with same exclusion from the lives of others. And some such denials seemed quite abrupt, rather rough around the edges. By the time that summer of 1987 was a memory, I was dejected. Totally closed to alternative angles for viewing my predicament. Scarcely able to perceive that maybe I had brought this woeful condition upon myself. All that my then narrow outlook was telling to me was that I was being dumped because I had expired as a friend of any worth, that I was not liked anymore or deemed deserving of time and attention.
As long as I was in the vice-grip of thoughts such as these, estrangement could only intensify. I persisted, with less and less frequent attempts, in reaching out to Joey through the autumn and into the winter, until a particular rebuff at his door seemed so conclusive that I felt completely, for all time, rejected. I succumbed to unpleasantness of attitude toward Fredericton, ceased all efforts to re-affiliate there, devoted all positive mental energies toward Douglastown and a planned return thereto- this time stepping out of automobile and properly, thoroughly, reacquainting myself with my old stomping grounds and asserting myself as a presence there in that village and in the lives of my old friends. Indeed there was rather a traumatic feel to that definitive rebuff on Joey's doorstep, and I dared not go back to that place for many years hence, in fear of having to relive the same very grim and sour experience.
One thing was certain then more than ever. There was no support structure in our neighbourhood for my friendship with Joey. If anything, the structure of our neighbourhood went against us most of the time, separating us instead of bringing us together. So, when it looked like the relationship of Joey and I was in trouble, that we two were not together anymore and were growing apart, there was nobody saying, "We've got to help Kevin and Joey. We can't just stand by and let their friendship disintegrate. We've got to do something." What sort of something? Perhaps inviting both of us to their house at the same time or organising the playing of baseball involving the pair of us. See to it that a game is played and that Joey and I are teammates. Strengthen our team spirit and bond of friendship. Help to reconnect us as buddies. Such help was forthcoming nowhere and at no time. Not that this comes as any surprise. I was unlikely to be invited to anything. And my relationship with Joey never was a favourite subject for Tony or Steven. Craig and Philip, ditto. Among Joey's age group, I do not think that there ever was a resounding approval of Joey and I being together. More a quiet tolerance- if that.
Besides, by 1987, our neighbourhood was already being engulfed by a wider social sphere. Everybody was branching off into different directions, or so it seemed. And everybody had less and less connection to me. The videotape shows had been dead and buried for more than 2 years. The last one that I had was in March, 1985. And baseball games were becoming increasingly exclusive. There was not a third party anywhere who was concerned for the future of Joey and Kevin. At least not that I can see, even with the 20/20 hindsight that I now seem to have. The only person who might have been concerned for us might have been Kelly, but she was practically out of the picture by then, married or very close to being married. As for our families, I cannot speak for Joey's- apart from his sister to whom I was contemptible, but with regard to mine, my mother had a strict non-intervention policy when it came to my social life; my father never much approved of any of the friends that I made in Fredericton- and while he could not veto my choice of buddies, he did not endeavour to be welcoming of them.
The situation was not the least bit ideal at the time for us to find our way back to each other. I saw Joey with his sister and her friends near the "jungle gym" of Park Street School one evening late in the summer of 1987. I was with Craig and Philip on the Park Street School baseball field. I wanted so very much to go to Joey, but I knew that I would be razzed by Joey's sister and the other obnoxious girls for my coming over to him- and likely would be derided by Craig and Philip, too. And I was not sure of Joey's reaction. So, I "stayed put". A few minutes later, Craig, Philip, and I were back on Linden Crescent sitting on the street curb in front of Craig's house when Joey came bicycling down the street by himself, to my surprise and raised expectation. Joey is coming to me to ask me to join him, I thought and hoped. But he passed me by, glancing only for a fraction of a second in my direction. Quite a departure from what he would have done 3 or 4 years earlier; back then, he would have brought his bicycle to a stop in front of me and asked why I was wasting time with Craig. But now, he bicycled straight past me. And did so a couple of more times some minutes later. Perhaps on each pass, Joey was waiting for me to say something, but I was waiting for him to say something, anything- and was distressed that he was silent. By that time, I had come to think that he did not much like me anymore. I was desperate for any definite sign that he did still like me, and feared being ignored if I did speak first. Plus, I was none too keen on the words that I was likely to receive from Craig and Philip if I did call out Joey's name. Joey may have thought that, again, I was opting for Craig over him. Nothing could be further from the truth. Still, I can perceive how my timid reluctance of that evening might have appeared to Joey.
With the end of the summer of 1987 came the realisation that I had gone through, start to finish, the worst summer in my life since pre-school. Possibly the worst summer ever. Joey and I had never before, not since we first met, been apart so much in the warmest season of the year. I only remember playing one 1987 baseball game with Craig and company, and it was lacklustre. On countless afternoons I sat on the steps of my back patio waiting plaintively for lawns to grow so that I could have something to do, missing Joey deeply, looking toward Craig's part of the street and seeing zero activity, wondering whether Tony might spare me a few minutes' conversation between his work schedule and his plans for the evening, from time to time seeing some of the boys in Steven's peer group walking or bicycling up my street to some baseball game. As the last days of that summer were upon me, a time of the year when I can be most prone to contemplation, I could not avoid thinking about how low I had socially fallen in my community, and how seemingly it had been due to my associates all opting for a new reality in which I would never again have a place.
And it so happened that I had a definite reconnect with my past at that very time. A school class picture from Grade 5 at Douglastown Elementary was found by my mother as she was doing some house-cleaning late in August of 1987. The miserable summer leading to that picture recovery, and the finding of the picture happening in the dying days of that summer, coincident with my awareness that a whole summer had passed with me alone nearly throughout, maximised the effect of seeing that photograph of me and my Douglastown classmates. I do not think that the school class picture to which I refer had been seen since we moved to Fredericton. It could have been put in some kind of file on moving day and the file never opened in all of the 10 years hence. I had even forgotten that it existed- and there it was before my eyes! Seeing classmates and old friends in that photograph looking almost exactly as they did when I last saw them, could not have been a more sentimental moment.
I went for a walk on that sunny late-August day- a Sunday. Extensively, comprehensively remembering Douglastown again for the first time in years. And to a degree of vividness unprecedented since I moved to Fredericton in 1977.
It is astonishing how timely, how apt, it was that the picture was found then, 10 years after my leaving Douglastown, while I was feeling more in tune than ever with myself of those first lonesome weeks and months of living in Fredericton. The photograph referenced the place that I had left to come to New Brunswick's capital city, and the way of life in that community in which I had earlier lived and thrived. And there it was in my hands now, while I was so alone. At that precise time, the picture was found. Showing to me friends and classmates as they were in the exact year when I left them and our shared locale.
I pulled my photograph album out of its storage drawer. Within it were pictures mostly of me and my parents, my pets, and my grandparents, but there was some representation of my Douglastown friends among the photographic keepsakes ensconced therein. 1974 and 1975 birthday party Polaroid snapshots, plus two other school class photographs, one from Grade 1 (in black and white) with our full compliment of introductory-year pupils on the Douglastown Elementary School building's outdoor concrete steps, and myself and Kevin MacD. standing next to one another in the line of boys on the front step, and the other (in colour) of our 1973-4 Grade 2 assemblage of young learners, seated or standing on chairs to form three rows against a wall in one of the portable classrooms (not our classroom that year). The Grade 5 class photograph was lensed in the same portable classroom (again, not ours that year) but was somewhat larger, had more depth of field, and was zoomed in more, thus revealing more detail in my cheerfully expressing fellow pupils of my best school years. I had from time to time, not very often, over the 1977-87 first decade of my life in Fredericton, passed my eyes over those Grade 1 and 2 class pictures. I do not know why none such existed from Grade 3 and 4, and nor am I knowing of why the Grade 5 class photograph had not been installed into my album with the other two of its kind, but rather deposited in some obscure place to be unseen for ten years. But the fact that it was not in the album and forgotten about for as long as I resided in Fredericton meant that the finding of it at that desperately lonely time would be ever so much more affecting.
I went across Fredericton with my mother to my grandmother's Skyline Acres Bristol Street home on midday of Monday, August 31, 1987, one of the final days of my summer vacation from university, whilst my mind was definitely in past review mode, and my heart pulsing with longing for the olden times in the 1970s when I used to visit my grandparents at that same house whilst my parents and I were in Fredericton on many a weekend or other sequence of days, with Douglastown and my friends and my life back there awaiting my return home. My grandmother's house and its neighbouring surroundings was perhaps the only accessible locale in residential Fredericton in which a sizable portion of my Era 2 experience had been situated (yes, even if only in away-from-home visits). For years, I had been in that house or in the yard or on the nearby streets, etc., rather heedless of their significance to me as pieces of pre-1977 nostalgia. But now, retrospection and sensitivity to impressions and remembrances associated with places and things of long-ago, was acute. Very acute.
The sun was shining that final 1987 August day. It was shortly after lunch, as Trapper John, M.D. was being shown in rerun on CHSJ-TV in my grandmother's living room, that I ventured outside, prepared to go wherever my yen for past recollection would guide me. There was a warm breeze from the south as I strolled the streets and sidewalks of the Skyline Acres subdivision. I soon found myself in the playground and park that was adjacent to Liverpool Street School and adjoined by foot path to a brief woodland behind Scholten's 7-11 convenience store. Altogether, it was an area where my best Douglastown friend, Michael, and I had spent time with each other in July, 1977 when Michael accompanied me to Fredericton from Douglastown on a weekend's visit with my grandparents. Michael was uppermost in my thoughts that last August day in 1987 as I looked at the swings and slide on which we played on a very special, precious weekend in July, 1977. Relenting fully to the urge to indulge, to relive once more my enjoyment of a certain childhood pastime as though Michael were again there with me, I sat on the rectangular slab of black rubber that was the swing, closed my hands on the swing's suspending chains, pushed my feet against the ground for force of propulsion, and began backward-forward motion.
I must have been swinging for five minutes at least before my eyes locked onto a sector of fairly dense vegetation. Trees and shrubs. The copious foliage in my forward range of sight. In view was a footpath going through a patch of forest to Bradford Street that intersected with Bristol. It was a route followed by me in the 1970s a substantial number of times when I returned to my grandparents' house to watch television following a boy's flight of fancy in the outdoors. Somehow, a memory of 1975, in mid-August thereof to be precise, and on a Saturday afternoon, came forth from the recesses of my grey matter's storehouse of experiential imprints. It had been the day that the twenty-third instalment, routinely shown on the CBC a week before instalment 24 with "Hyde and Go Tweet", of The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour was due for its bi-annual re-circulation on Canada's preeminent television network. The twenty-third Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour instalment which contained, among other individual cartoon shorts, "Tweety's Circus". Yes, there had been some Saturdays (not many, admittedly) on which I dared separate from television for some span of time to go outdoors. I had paced myself briskly through that suburban woodland on a foot path to Bradford Street, then to Bristol Street, back to my grandparents' house that sunny Saturday afternoon twelve summers previous, intent on seeing and audiotape-recording a late-afternoon airing on CBC via CHSJ-TV on my grandparents cable-connected television, of The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour's instalment number 23. "Rabbit Every Monday", "Pre-Hysterical Hare", "Sahara Hare", "Tired and Feathered". But especially "Tweety's Circus". CHSJ-TV by each summer had always presented every CBC Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour on same day as telecast on the CBC network and CKCD in northern New Brunswick; during autumn, winter, and early spring, however, CHSJ was always a week or more behind the main CBC network- and behind Douglastown's received CKCD.
Ah, "Tweety's Circus". Sylvester's chase of Tweety in big top tent, an enraged lion in Sylvester's pursuit. It was a cartoon that had not been in the meagre 25-episode 1986-7 season of the then half-hour The Bugs Bunny & Tweety Show. I had not seen it since sometime within the CBS Saturday A.M. Warner Brothers cartoons broadcast span, awhile prior to my interest in Bugs Bunny and his cartoon cohorts returning circa 1984. Little did I know that "Tweety's Circus" would prove to be the most difficult of the Tweety and Sylvester cartoons to see or acquire over the next several years. It would not be until 1992 and a trade with an American collector of videotaped Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies that I would be able to again view the entire six-minutes-plus of Sylvester and Tweety in a carnival setting. What few glimpses and bytes of sound I did receive of it in the late 1980s were on The Bugs Bunny Easter Special, consisting of, among many cartoon extracts, just a few minutes of action within "Tweety's Circus"- including the high wire scene, in March of 1989, the music accompanying Sylvester precariously trying to walk an elevated tightrope really striking chords of affecting import. Memories revisited, tenderly triggered, of circumstances surrounding viewings of "Tweety's Circus" in my life's Era 2.
Whenever I subsequently was at my grandmother's Skyline Acres house and in that same particular place nearby, looking at that exact same scenery and compellingly receptive to nostalgic impulses and attendant sentiment, there was a vivid reminder of 1975, invoking "Tweety's Circus" within instalment 23 of The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour as viewed faithfully by me in Douglastown and during stays at my grandparents' place in Fredericton's Skyline Acres.
|"Try to remember the kind of September...|
When you were a tender and callow fellow."
-Tom Jones and the Fantasticks
On the Tuesday following Labour Day, I went through what was now my annual ritual of registration into university for the coming academic year. It involved collecting computer cards representing courses which I had chosen and walking the floor of the Aitken University Centre to search for all of the available time-of-day class configurations of each course to arrive at a workable schedule, i.e. no overlap of classroom times. For my third university year, 1987-8, this procedure was rather more complicated as I was being obliged to choose a discipline of which to immerse myself in four out of five courses per semester, or, to use the parlance of the scholar, something to "major in". Despite all of the time in the summer in which I had been idle and alone, I had not much contemplated what I was to do in the university year ahead, and I thus found myself in something of an eleventh-hour rush to choose my third-and fourth-year field of major study. Some of my best grades in the preceding year were in a modern history course, and, in recognition for those, I had been invited to honour in History for years three and four of my Bachelor of Arts. Little more than a week before registration, I opted for the History Honours programme, with three two-semester History seminars, one other History course per semester, and a minor in French. But because of my quite late decision, many of the History courses that I would have preferred were filled to capacity, and I had to "make do" with what was available.
University registration in 1987 is exceedingly clear in my mind as the greater Miramichi River area settlements had by then attained quite tremendous levels of appeal through many a mentally relived childhood experience, several of which had been in the company of friends whom I had not seen or heard from in upwards of seven years. Ah, being with friends! A pleasure which I had been almost utterly without through the abysmal summer that I had just endured. And I now had dreams in which I returned to university and there discovered my Douglastown Elementary School classmates, all of them overjoyed to see me. Yes, my thoughts were definitely with certain communities on the river Miramichi while I marched on that overcast morning to the gymnasium at the height of the hilly Fredericton campus of the University of New Brunswick- and from that gymnasium acquired my main student registration papers- and then proceeded to the Aitken Centre to search for computer cards for compatible times of day for my chosen courses. And likewise was I reticently mindful of my past of more than ten years previous as I some hours later walked home following registration exercise (pun intended) within the Aitken Centre.
For the whole of September in 1987, while I was adjusting to the seminar format of most of my third-year university courses and was staggered by the amount of reading and writing expected of me for each of those, my mood was definitely one of bittersweet retrospection as regards my personal history to which I was now profoundly attuned. This said, I did socialise for a fair amount of time before each seminar, often congregating with peers in the History Common Room and discussing world politics, etc., comparing previous seminar notes, sharing plans for our semester's essays, and so forth. But I was definitely most receptive to anything that gave to me a sense of re-rooting in spirit with my Douglastown past.
There was, for example, a commercial on television in 1987 and 1988 for Vim tile cleaner that had a passage of music which seemed very mid-1970s, like something I would have heard on television back then, and it put me in mind of being in my friend Michael's house, in the kitchen near the pantry in which his mother stored much paraphernalia, or in the outer front porch of same domicile, where there was a large floor-model freezer where Michael would extract some home-made Popsicles and offer one to me. The connection of memories such as these with tile cleaner is rather obscure and, I would say, not directly relevant, for it was the music in the Vim commercial, not the promoted product, that was fostering recall of being within the home of my closest Douglastown friend in happier times when I was accepted and enthusiastically befriended in congenial surroundings. Stirring, revivifying, indulging of fond, comforting retrospection was where any spare time for thought was dedicated whilst I moved from seminar room to classroom or whilst I walked home from university on a late afternoon following a 2:30 to 5:30 Canadian Maritime History seminar or as I made my way en route to my northside Fredericton habitation shortly after a morning 9:30 to 12:30 British Imperial History seminar or 11:30 to 1 P.M. War History lecture course. Rather than moving onward socially with my present-day life in academia, I was preoccupied with as much as possible exploring my renascent attachment to Era 2.
Languishing in bed on many an autumn morning, passing through that transitory, early A.M. state between lucid dreaming and full contemporary-reality-awareness, I had many a flash of memory. Like, for instance, memory of a sunny day in June of 1977 when I was at David F.'s house after school. I could visualise being with him in his bedroom as he showed some of his collectibles to me and then sitting in his den as we two watched a Little Rascals episode with impish Spanky and his pals striving to play football while baby-sitting Spanky's infant sibling. I had not recalled that particular afternoon for oh, so many years, and now there those images were in my mind. So vivid as though they had been experienced just a few weeks previous. There were indeed so many Douglastown memories, dormant in my brain for almost, if not wholly, as long as I had lived in Fredericton, that were now being jogged. I started missing friends again not only as much as, but many multiples more than, when I left Douglastown ten years before.
And as I continued to be avoided or rebuffed in my neighbourhood and as rudeness toward me on the part of siblings of friends or friends of friends or even total strangers was in abundant evidence, or so it seemed as I was jeered-at by persons in passing cars, there was much that was fuelling my inclination to nostalgia. Although confounded to discover that the new season of Bugs Bunny & Tweety at its mid-September outset consisted of the same cartoons as in Bugs & Tweety's decidedly meagre preceding year, I was pleased to find that the format of the still 30-minute-long means for viewing the Warner Brothers cartoons was starting to resemble The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour, with the cartoons of Bugs' "co-star", in this case Tweety Bird, becoming regularly the concluding feature of every week's instalment. In mid-October, the airing on Bugs & Tweety of such cartoons as "The Fair Haired Hare", "Weasel While You Work", and "Tree Cornered Tweety", though not exactly scarce items on the ABC television network in the mid-to-late-1980s, generated some eye mist for those days of yesteryear when I was at home in Douglastown or at my grandparents' place in Fredericton and viewing those and the other many brilliant cartoons on CBC's broadcasts of The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour. And by November, some new-to-Bugs-&-Tweety cartoon shorts started to trickle into the mixture. And the flow continued through early 1988 and the autumn months of 1988 (though still many Warner Brothers cartoons of my cherished younger years were inaccessible for quite awhile yet).
CHSJ showed The Return of the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman on an early Saturday evening late in September in 1987. I had already seen that excellent reunion television movie for the bionic-powered duo on its NBC network premiere telecast on the Sunday of Victoria Day weekend in May, the effect upon me having already been quite pronounced, though with delayed impact pending the collapse of my Fredericton social existence. That CHSJ broadcast of same television movie, videotaped by me for my collection, in September, was the clincher as regards the movie's enormous nostalgic influence. As an action opus it is an outstanding two hours of entertainment, but that is certainly not all that is noteworthy about the return to duty of the American government's two super-cyborgs. The music in many parts of The Return of the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman was extremely tender, empathetic of a desire to renew and build upon past association now that memory of such had been tapped to a resurgent degree, and particularly poignant for me was the melody played whenever Steve Austin and Jaime Sommers reconnected, and the scene in which Oscar Goldman informs Steve that as a result of a concussion in an accident Jaime now remembers everything about her years-prior relationship with Steve.
As a step toward fulfilling my enrolment agreement in the Columbia House Video Library (with which I had in 1986 purchased very inexpensive pre-recorded videotapes- with Hi-Fi audio tracks- of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi), I bought Paper Moon on pre-recorded videocassette through Columbia House's mail-order system, and on a November, 1987 afternoon after my arrival at home from university, I was seated in my television room watching for only the second time since my initial seeing of the O'Neal father-and-daughter acting duo's modest though marvellous black-and-white movie at the Newcastle Uptown Theatre in 1974. Paper Moon, being a 1930s "period piece", had nothing within its storyline or mise-en-scene that referenced the early 1970s in which it was made, but my recall of the circumstances of my life at the time of its theatrical release, and of my impressions of it within the context of childhood experience with entertainment in the early 1970s, was powerful. I definitely knew by then how very much I craved to be again in the proximity of any and all places, persons, and things (including entertainment) of my Douglastown-Newcastle-Chatham years and how influential upon my aesthetic sensibility were my triggered recollections of such a desirable period in my life history.
At the same time was I doggedly resistant to the touted charms of present-day television and cinema, particularly televised space fiction/fantasy that was, I felt, being forced upon me as something I ought to enthusiastically appreciate in order to stay current and relevant. And it did not help that I was being told that I should forsake or diminish old favourites in embracing the new, even as I thought that the latest works of the science fiction/fantasy genre were bland, bland, bland. They seemed afraid to extend their events into far-fetched areas of the imagination, and they portrayed space as no longer an implacable, mysterious, vast, wondrous, dangerous environment but rather as a predictable place of work in which people smugly go about their so-called explorer ways, so confident in their missions that they bring their children with them and that they seek insular adventure within their Starship on a holographic deck or are episodically concerned with marriages, father-son or mother-daughter or other interpersonal issues, and general humdrum human problems- or some tiresome diplomatic dispute with a humanoid alien race whose only difference from man is a crinkly forehead.
Multi-storylined episodes about family relationships and training programmes for angst-riddled young people abounded with understated music, music that was drony and tinkly and merely functional and therefore un-dynamic and un-gripping. And the soft, off-of-videotape look (rather than the richly coloured and crisply rendered nature of pure film) was visually un-stimulating. Costumes lacked much of a future-busy flair, were but one-piece, pyjama-like jump-suits that looked like they should have a cape attached to their back, and even the communication devices and weapons were toned down, lacking a spiffily futuristic style and being mere beeping metal badges or single-curved pieces of brown plastic. Shakespeare was quoted in an effort to appear sophisticated; a cerebral, English-accented commander routinely talked the antagonists into relenting; stories had convenient resolutions with aliens being revealed as going through mundane mating processes and not really being nasty at all- or with the heroes only requiring a push-button, computerised solution to the crisis of the week rather than resorting to a necessary use of applied force (and need of dynamic music in accompaniment of an action scene) in having to grapple, tooth and claw, against a genuinely menacing creature or difficult planetary environment.
Play safe and pander to the portion of the science fiction community that disapproves of far-fetched locales, monstrous aliens, ray-gun action, etc.. Tone down the music to a hum with some occasional fairy-tale jingles. Reduce colour variation and sharpness of picture. Streamline and simplify the costumes and the technological display. Devote episodes to the portraying of present-day social causes celebres in the future. This was the template for most science fiction/fantasy television for many years to follow. Theatrical films were also undergoing what was, to me, an unfavourable shift in storytelling and visualisation, accentuating the foibles of conflicted heroes who could no longer be larger-than-life, or giving to them "darker" motivations. Colours were muted almost entirely, with only dull reds, un-vibrant blues, and blacks, and much of a story's action, if any, was situated in the bleak darkness of nighttime. I deplored being expected, by contacts yet, within the group with whom I thought I most identified, to adhere to the flow of loyalty and dedication as fandom of Space: 1999 was prepared like lemmings to flit in the breeze over to the Star Trek: The Next Generation version of future human expansion into space.
And contrary to a popular point of view, I believe that Star Trek: The Next Generation grew worse and worse, not better and better, from season to season, becoming ever more staid and "soapy", all but abandoning what little nodding it had done to elaborately otherworldly space phenomena and conceptual science fiction/fantasy and relying more and more on the kinds of dramatic, or melodramatic, material that could be found in any Earth-based genre or in the headlines of newspapers. All that was left in the Star Trek "universe" following the purge of bizarre celestial orbs and weird life forms were a blatant, diluted rehash of Doctor Who's Cybermen and the shameless overuse of the holographic device or of the playful, omnipotent alien man named Q to place the heroes in historical or storybook situations. Star Trek: The Next Generation and post-1987 science fiction of its ilk made the cosmos boring; no wonder the public has declining interest in it and has retreated in exploratory spirit almost completely to Earth- or low Earth orbit at most.
One thing was certain. These post-1987 productions were at variance with my nostalgic and 1970s-entertainment-styles-inclining taste in the late 1980s. I fretted for quite awhile about the decline in interest or admiration on the part, it seemed, not only of the general public and of the fandom in which I was a member, but also of my friends, for the television and cinema that I had long loved and treasured. And this disassociation with the present-day banquet of entertainment and its adherents went hand-in-hand with my sense of alienation from my Fredericton habitat.
I did persist somewhat in trying to keep my relationships of Era 4, and that with Joey especially, going, even as I was undeniably peripheral, at best, in their lives and growing more and more alienated and unable to stifle, even for myself, my feelings of rejection and offence. And a particular turn-away on Joey's doorstep early in March of 1988 was the critical one. It sent me reeling into an aggrieved concession of defeat, bitter defeat. I turned my back on Fredericton and directed myself with nary a distraction toward Douglastown, Era 2, and hopes for reunification with old pals whom I thought to be of much, much superior calibre to anyone known and befriended by me in Fredericton. With Era 4 having come to what I saw was a dour end and there then being, I perceived, no possibility of me falling back upon any tenet, any person, belonging to that collapsed time period in my life, so it was that I became absolutely responsive to recall of Era 2.
The 1970s and my Douglastown childhood in the midst of that decade and the place of those within my sense of self do have a certain, and to some extent ineffable, ether. An ether from which I derive much comfort that others, even friends of those times, tend to be at a loss to comprehend. My soul can be both soothed and empowered, eye fluid can be induced to well up, and tingling down my spine can be felt. It is an ether keenly felt, brought to mind, represented by the incidental music of entertainment produced and/or shown on television in those bygone years. Something about the music, the rhythms, the sorts of melodies, the tuneful instruments used, evokes a two-faceted sentiment. Moody, somewhat seemingly contradictory music taps into the essence of my nostalgia. Two phrases of overlapping import. A solemn electronic organ tune mixed with an upbeat motif achieved by some other musical device, rather like the refrains in jazz musician Vince Guaraldi's contributions to the Charlie Brown television specials of the early-to-mid-1970s and other incidental music compositions of like style in entertainment presented in the 1970s. It is as though one of those combined phrases speaks to the aspect of me that feels mournful of the length of time separating me from idealised days in the past, and the other of them is giving to me affirmations that life can, in past and possibly in future, be quite rewarding. A sizable amount of Derek Wadsworth's work for Season 2 of Space: 1999 had much the same nature and effect.
What I am providing, perhaps clumsily, is the best conceivable explanation of how emotional I can become when I hear music such as is mentioned here, along with such visual things as the imagery depicted, film stock, colour palates, etc.. Popular songs heard by me on car radio between 1972 and 1977 as my parents and I went from place to place in the communities along the Miramichi River, can likewise stir me to contemplate and seek serenity in past times and associations, as too can music of the Warner Brothers cartoons, The Flintstones (particularly that in episodes of later seasons), and Spiderman as produced by Ralph Bakshi. Just about anything, really, that reminds me of 1970s Douglastown, of going to elementary school there, of playing outdoors with appreciative buddies, of being an impressionable young lad residing in a village with likewise fanciful, quite loyal friends just a house or two or a few streets away or present in the rooms and outdoor yard at a school in which I was progressively integrated as a liked and respected person.
The subject matter and styles of presentation of those works of entertainment for which I carry quite the lasting torch are today called cheesy, kitschy, risible. By slavish trend-followers with not an inkling of what it is to retain long-term appreciation for something in the face of present adversity, indifference, and loneliness. Sentimentality for the past was instilled within me at an unusually early age, channelled through my fascination with the television shows which first impressed me during a time in my life of which a part of my mind was subsequently unwilling to "let go"- and then manifest fully within my twenties and beyond, focused as it then was upon the entertainments and upon the village populace that had surrounded me when I first saw and heard the presented items. This sentimentality is perhaps what enables me to respond aesthetically, intellectually, to imaginative television shows, etc. which most people scoff at for being, they allege, artistically vacuous, or for being too 1970s (as though the 1970s were incapable of being expressive). It has kept me immune to the impulse in the lion's share of people of my generation to "move on", to reject the supposedly ephemeral television productions that they enjoyed as children, because they want to be current in their tastes, or because of the all too common wish in adolescence and early adulthood to repudiate everything that appealed earlier in life. And then when some people do perhaps choose, at middle-age or later, to revisit childhood interests of television or cinema, they have been removed for too long from those and cannot reconnect with the spirit within the concepts, are unable to suspend disbelief or accommodate the outmoded styles or limitations in production technology, funding, or whatever. So, they proclaim that they were correct to have abandoned when they did, the entertainment that they once held in high esteem.
It was not only toward televised material that I saw in the 1970s that I was now, in the late 1980s, very much responsive. Television series episodes- or indeed whole television series- that I did not even experience in my childhood, had the effect of reminding me of better days of my somewhat far-back past, thereby comforting me whilst I was the unwanted loner in my Fredericton neighbourhood of ten years plus. Their music was putting me in mind of things I used to do, places to which I used to go, people I used to visit, or of coming home from school in the afternoons to watch CBC children's television programming on CKCD (or, post-October, 1976 on CHSJ) when I was residing within a mostly un-snobby village, in vicinity of good friends. My long-past, delightful naivete of the ways of the world, the belief that I once had in the goodness of people- and the genuine wholesomeness of living as a young boy in a congenial setting- was revived from dormancy within my presumably more developed consciousness. Again, if, as was often the case, there were two strands of music mixed with each other, one overlain atop the other, the two of them together suggestive of feelings downbeat and upbeat, the effect was inspirational for me. Especially if the music did hail from the 1970s!
Not only so particular a style of melody, of course. All incidental and main television show theme music- especially using instruments popular for musicians of the time period- and many scenes, situations, entire episodes, were uplifting for me in those retrospective, past-conditions-yearned-for years of Era 5.
Of formidable appeal to me, too, were 1970s techniques of film-making together with the conceptualisation and depiction in the 1970s of future fashion and technology and of space phenomena. Almost all of these are regarded today as hokey, silly, etc. by a plurality of persons ignorant of the beauty and soul-stirring effect of fanciful entertainment specific of the 1970s, particularly for a person such as myself who spent many of his most pleasant, most gratifying, most friend-accompanied and fun-filled years in that decade while keenly immersed in what was offered on television and in movie theatres. In 1987, my mind now attuned to my Douglastown connection with such entertainments, to my introduction there to them and impressions there of them, for me to view and to hear those works was to invoke recall of Douglastown and my days and relationships there like never before, really, in the preceding ten or more years, while fond adulation for them and for that time of my life when I first experienced them became most greatly vaunted.
I had for several years watched Space: 1999, several of the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons that had been on The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour, Spiderman, Rocket Robin Hood, and much more, and been duly appreciative of their aural-visual manner, but now that nostalgia was an enormous, more cogent than ever, factor in the equation, the sum hold upon my psyche of these works of imagination was astronomical! Era 4 memories associated with these imaginative productions receded to back of brain whilst memory specific to Douglastown and to the people I knew there became predominant. Even Spiderman, which was most strongly associated in memory with Joey and of my years with him, became in 1987 more evocative of Douglastown, where I first viewed that television programme's stylish rendition of Spidey's web-swinging heroism, than of my best buddy of the most recent positive era.
There was always a nostalgic component to my steadfast attraction to the likes of Space: 1999, Spiderman, etc.. I did view them in Douglastown, in the presence, either immediate or nearby, of friends of whom I had fond thoughts, even if those thoughts were not at forefront of my awareness for a long time. That my resurgent interest in Douglastown and Era 2 and would spark an even more intense attraction to the entertainment embraced by friends and I in those years past, is really very logical.
Yes, Douglastown and Era 2 were in late 1977 and in 1988 front and centre in my mind. And with them there was, in 1988, a tremendous yen to obtain, to have at my fingertips via videocassette, as much of the imaginative fare enjoyed in the Douglastown-based portion of my youth, as possible. Although I say that being a product of the 1970s and showing all of the hallmarks of 1970s methods of making music and lensing television and movies was key to an entertainment being embraced so gratefully, so enthusiastically, by me in nostalgic times of post-mid-1987, there are noted exceptions. The Warner Brothers cartoons of the late 1940s, the 1950s, and the 1960s, as presented to me on The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour, etc., had particular scenes, incidental music, imagery, if not all aspects of their being, that stirred within me memories, thoughts, feelings of more than a decade old.
The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour, anything that was a part of that, was now supremely sought-after for the sentimental impulses triggered along with the recall of those days when I was in that Douglastown house's living room, watching cartoon action featuring Bugs, the Road Runner, Tweety and Sylvester, and the other Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies personages. And there were memories of The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour on CBC Television mated so very tenderly with those of my friends of Era 2, thoughts of whom were returned to the fore after many years of back-of-mind torpor, my fascination with television series of those times having for many years, post-1977, acted somewhat in proxy for my sentimentality for the place, time, and people of that second era of my life in which I was introduced to much that influenced my taste in imaginative entertainment.
Michael had watched several instalments of The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour with me or visited me at my home after the CBC and CKCD broadcast of Bugs and his cartoon cohorts. Evie was with me on one or two occasions that The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour was being telecast and audiotape-recorded for me a particular episode. I was with Kevin MacD. on some Saturdays in advance of the late-afternoon or early-evening airtime of The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour and copied audiotape-recording for him of my audiocassette of instalment 17 (as transmitted on CKCD). I had school experiences in which discussion of Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour episodes was integrated. With so many of my Douglastown social connections attached to The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour, it is natural, I would say, that scenes, musical passages, or whole cartoons or entire episodes and sequences of cartoons would generate sentimentality and longing to again be with those friends- and that I would crave also to be reunited with my most favourite television show of the most sizable portion of my Grades-1-to-5 part of childhood.
It became imperative to add to my videotape collection as much of that beloved television vehicle for Bugs Bunny and Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies as I could acquire, and to behold again the individual cartoon shorts, their music, etc. and enjoy the heart-warming, nostalgic sensations that accompanied my repeat engagement after a number of years, with cartoons of my early upbringing in the place and time that I now favoured.
Alas, the only televised way for seeing Warner Brothers cartoons in 1987-8 was the United States' ABC television network's half-hour-long Bugs Bunny & Tweety Show, on which many cartoon shorts were severely edited for violence, for ethnic stereotypes, and for time enough to fit four cartoon shorts into a half-hour with several minutes of commercials. Furthermore, the selection of cartoons on ABC was then mostly limited to the same approximate hundred in each season. And there was very little variation in the cartoon shorts offered from year to year. Road Runner cartoons had become scarce, certain Tweety cartoons were omitted from the very television show in which he received second billing, and even many of Bugs' cartoons that had long been a staple of Saturday mornings on CBS were inexplicably in a limbo. Meanwhile, some cartoons were being re-circulated tiresomely on ABC, appearing as many as 5 times in the 1987-8 Bugs Bunny & Tweety season. Nevertheless, some of the cartoon shorts that did find inclusion in the weekly instalments of Bugs & Tweety conveyed unto me a strong nostalgia kick, among them "Canary Row" in early 1988 and a limited run of Road Runner cartoons at about that same time.
By 1987, I was videotaping all cartoons as they were telecast, discriminating against no characters or particular cartoons. I very profoundly desired to replicate, as much as possible, the Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour package of cartoons integral to the feel of my childhood's then most tenderly remembered years. I craved in whatever way possible to "go home again", and Bugs Bunny and his cartoon friends, their appearances in animated cartoon shorts as presented once upon a time on the CBC television network, constituted one of the delectable foci of my craving.
Frustration was mounting, though, as ABC seemed determined to avoid certain Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour cartoons, while running others so far into the ground that their emerging into China was a distinct, near-to-come possibility (and no, "War and Pieces"- the Road Runner cartoon in which Wile E. Coyote tunnels through the Earth, though being shown a couple of times in 1988, is not one of the cartoons to which I refer here). I ached to see many of my childhood favourites, which did not air again in my corner of the world until the early 1990s. Especially, I wanted to complete my collection on videotape of Tweety cartoons that had been on The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour, but several of them were evidently extinct on Saturday morning since CBS-to-ABC transfer of broadcast rights, most notably "Tweety's Circus", "Putty Tat Trouble", "Snow Business", and "Tweet and Sour". "All a Bir-r-r-d" was conspicuously absent for awhile before delightfully gracing the Bugs Bunny & Tweety episode airing on October 29, 1988, along with "My Bunny Lies Over the Sea" which had also been strangely unseen since the pre-1985 CBS broadcast years for Warner Brothers cartoons on A.M. Saturday.
Plus, Sylvester-without-Tweety cartoons such as "Kit For Cat" (Sylvester vying with an orange kitten to be adopted as a pet by Elmer Fudd on a cold winter's night), "Claws For Alarm" (Sylvester and Porky Pig in spooky hotel), and "Who's Kitten Who?" (Sylvester and his easily embarrassed, paper-bag-over-head-wearing progeny discovering a "giant mouse" in their house) were likewise A.W.O.L.. I despaired of the Road Runner's scarcity on ABC. And what ever became of the Bugs Bunny cartoons, "Barbary-Coast Bunny" (Bugs in a San Franciscan casino, skillfully and luckily winning back every penny earlier stolen from him by the casino's owner, Nasty Canasta), "Lighter Than Hare" (Bugs versus Yosemite Sam of Outer Space), "Rabbit Every Monday" (a Yosemite-Sam-hunting-Bugs-Bunny cartoon ending with a party in Yosemite Sam's cabin oven), "Bugsy and Mugsy" (Bugs secretively combating a pair of criminals in a condemned building), and "The Hasty Hare" (Marvin Martian and his canine helper coming to Earth and trying to abduct Bugs)? Even the Honeymooners parody, "Cheese it, the Cat!", ("Invisible ink!!! Morton, you are a mental case!"), long a perennial offering on CBS, had vanished. I ached to see many of my childhood Warner Brothers cartoon favourites, which did not air again in my corner of the world, on English-language television or at all, until the early 1990s.
Every so often, a surprise appearance of a cartoon on Bugs Bunny & Tweety would be so gratefully received by me as to be a gift from God. I have already mentioned "All a Bir-r-r-d", the Sylvester and Tweety cartoon set on a railway train, the first cartoon in one of the Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hours shown to launch a new television year's engagement for The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour on CBC in Septembers of 1973 and 1974, and one that carried a special, personal significance to me given the keen interest that I had early in life toward trains. "Claws in the Lease", though severely truncated, had enough of its endearing story and music to bring me back to my boyhood in the mid-1970s, seated before the television with the knowledge that my good friends were soon to seek my company or would be available and inviting for me to go to their house, in the beauteous village on the banks of the Miramichi River.
Still, it frustrated me to most Saturdays find no cartoons on Bugs & Tweety that I had not recently seen or acquired on videotape. I eventually, in mid-1989, sent a letter to The Bugs Bunny & Tweety Show, care of ABC Television, enquiring why so many cartoons previously on CBS had dropped off of the radar on ABC and whether it may be possible to increase the number of shown cartoon shorts on Bugs & Tweety. Response, if it could be called that, came in a card from the New York office of ABC thanking me for my interest in the television network's programming. Whether my letter was forwarded to persons responsible for compiling episodes of Bugs & Tweety, who knows? Change, a revamping, for the U.S. television network medium for Warner Brothers cartoon broadcast, was on the horizon, but my letter having anything to do with fostering a different package of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies on ABC can at best be conjecture.
For the time being, I turned to commercial videotape to compensate for ABC's neglect of many favourite cartoons, accessing virtually every then-existing pre-recorded Warner Brothers Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies videotape for reacquainting myself with cartoons that had been part of my life in Era 2, for potential nostalgia-binging. And among them were three new videocassette releases in autumn of 1988. I rented videotapes of the cartoons wherever I could find them, and did not much care for the snide remarks of clerks at the videotape rental stores about me, a grown man, watching cartoons. One autumn afternoon in 1987, I watched my LOONEY TUNES VIDEO SHOW # 1, a videotape, with two old friends. No, not people. Cartoons. "Devil May Hare" and "Birds of a Father", that had been on The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour, instalments 17 and 2, respectively. Along with another videotape with the movie, Oh, God!, which was produced in 1977. A double "nostalgia fix"! "Devil May Hare" recalled me to my old friend, Kevin MacD., with whom I visited on a Sunday in 1975 and combined our respective audiocassette machinery to copy, for him, my audiotape-recording of Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour instalment 17 that started with "Devil May Hare" followed by "Rushing Roulette", the latter being a Road Runner cartoon for many years before 1992 quite elusive for me in my zeal to acquire as much of the filmography of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies as I could, for it was, like "Devil May Hare", evocative of the tender memory of visiting Kevin MacD. one day in 1975 and delighting in a shared interest in Warner Brothers cartoons.
I craved so very much to be able to see The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour as it had been transmitted on the CBC. All of the flourishes and the stylistic touches that had defined said means of Warner Brothers cartoon coverage on television were desired as fervently by me then as Space: 1999 had been a half-decade or so earlier. The distinctive title text on the studio lights introduction. The Road Runner song written by Barbara Cameron. Cartoon title cards and the music accompanying those. Stage scenes. Road Runner and Coyote interstitial, i.e. between cartoon features, gags. The lot. Reconstituting The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour became indeed a steadfast aim of mine, though at that particular time (the late 1980s), it was a pipe dream. Little did I expect that nearly all of the required elements for a faithful rebuilding of the twenty-six instalments of The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour as shown on CBC until 1975 would come my way through the 1990s. In the late 1980s, all that I had toward that goal was the delightfully jingly cartoon title music of Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour origin that was now being mated with the likewise vintage poses of characters and letter fonts in the rather "busied-up" cartoon titlings in The Bugs Bunny & Tweety Show. During the late 1980s, though Bugs Bunny & Tweety coverage of the Warner Brothers cartoon catalogue left much to be desired, there were many cartoons with which I became reacquainted after a number of years apart from them (rather like the reunions I now sought with old friends). I saw many of those cartoons on the ABC television network's Saturday A.M./early P.M. vehicle for the cartoons of Warner Brothers. But I also had occasion to savour a revisiting of a cartoon being currently withdrawn from U.S. network telecast for some reason or another, by other means, such as release of such a cartoon onto pre-recorded videocassette.
A trio of LOONEY TUNES CARTOON CAVALCADE videotapes appearing in autumn of 1988 afforded to me the opportunity to experience "You Were Never Duckier" (a Daffy Duck cartoon about a 5,000-dollar prize for best rooster, Daffy disguising himself as a gated, combed farm fowl, and little Henery Hawk, hoping to impress his renowned chickenhawk father, carnivorously seizing Daffy on the presumption that Daffy is indeed the type of bird in which Daffy is masquerading) after seldom ever seeing it since its last appearance on CBC television's run of The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour- and certainly not since the CBS television network relinquished Warner Brothers cartoon broadcast rights. I remember walking along the railroad tracks parallel to Main and Union Streets in Fredericton North early one cloudy autumn afternoon in 1988 to Log Home Video in the Devon Plaza, with intent of acquiring DAFFY DUCK's MADCAP MANIA, in the CARTOON CAVALCADE videotape series, and later that afternoon delighting in watching "You Were Never Duckier" for the first time in many years, in addition to "Golden Yeggs" (which had been gone on Saturday morning/afternoon television for several years), "A Star is Bored" (by the late 1980s indeed a rarity on television in my area), and some cartoons completely new to me ("The Super Snooper", "Daffy Duck Hunt", "Dime to Retire"). The other two CARTOON CAVALCADE videotapes, featuring the cartoons of Bugs Bunny and Porky Pig, respectively, had an admirable number, also, of cartoons previously unknown to me, such as "Rabbitson Crusoe", "Knight-Mare Hare", "Jumpin' Jupiter", "My Little Duckaroo", "Dog Collared", etc.. I obtained both of those videocassettes in 1988 soon after the Daffy Duck one.
ABC in 1988 did slake some of my thirst then for facets of the "glory days" of Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour by resurrecting the "This is it" Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck stage song that had begun every network television screening of The Bugs Bunny Show and its antecedents until 1984. The visualisations were a latter-day purplish neon motif on theatre set and black tuxedo garments replacing the Vaudeville-style wearing apparel for the cartoon characters, among whom Speedy Gonzales was gone, replaced by Sylvester Junior during the march of the characters across stage. First day that "This is it" was installed onto Bugs & Tweety, Saturday, October 7, 1988 to be precise, I played my videotape-recording of it over and over and over. And again, the cartoon title music on Bugs & Tweety was the same as it had been on all Bugs Bunny cartoons and some others on The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour.
And even with a limited selection of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies on ABC and much too infrequent new releases to pre-recorded videotape of the decades-old works of cartoon animators at Warner Brothers' studios, there was still a plurality of cartoons with which I was reacquainting in 1987, 1988, 1989 that were tenderly reminiscent of years of old in Douglastown and of my being in the vicinity of or being with friends there. In the 1987-8 season of The Bugs & Tweety Show, several cartoon shorts became present for the first time on ABC's late-1980s Saturday televisual vehicle for Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies. "Ain't She Tweet" in early January, 1988, and its rather soothingly sedate initiating music at the pet shop at which Sylvester is eyeing Tweety through the store window, somehow had me thinking of the houses across the street in Douglastown from my next-door neighbours, the Matchetts and the Bransfields, in particular the look of said houses and of me standing in my front yard and viewing them from a 40-degree angle. "Catty Cornered", also telecast on ABC- and Bangor, Maine's WVII-TV- in January, 1988 was a sweet reminder, especially in its music accompanying Sylvester's retrieval of Tweety from the gangster hideout and his becoming surprisingly inundated by photographers of the Fourth Estate, of sitting on the floor in my living room at home in Douglastown on a late-autumn day in 1984, with my best friend Michael at my side, beholding same cartoon in Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour instalment 9. The cartoon, "Stupor Duck", also having been in the ninth instalment of The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour, was seen by me for the first time in years in April, 1988, on one of the episodes of ABC's Bugs & Tweety Show; same appeal, same effect, i.e. jogged memories of same old friend watching with me the Warner Brothers cartoon personages and their often fantastic situations, in my living room in Douglastown circa 1974.
Toward the end of January, 1988, I was possessor of, at last, a 4-head videocassette recorder. JVC brand. And with it the process of videotaping television programmes was improved in audio-visual quality, superior tracking, apparent longevity, and ease of editing. One of the first off-broadcast videotape captures with new hardware: the contents of the January 31, 1988 Bugs Bunny & Tweety Show- most notably the Road Runner cartoon, "Lickety-Splat!". Road Runner cartoons on The Bugs & Tweety Show were at that time scarcer than running water on the desert- except for eight consecutive weeks in early 1988 whereupon the Road Runner was a dependable, if fleeting, presence in Bugs Bunny & Tweety Show cartoon selection number three. As I had done years previous on the carpeted floor before a Zenith television set in McCorry residence Douglastown, I thrilled to the action (albeit this time much-edited) of Wile E. Coyote being thwarted again and again in his Road-Runner-seizing schemes by the exploding dynamite wing-darts that he released from a balloon.
And on the first Saturday of February, 1988, in addition to "Ready.. Set.. Zoom!" (the music throughout that bringing back to me memories of seeing that same Road-Runner-eludes-Wile- E.-Coyote cartoon while I lived in Douglastown), there was as the fourth and final approximate-six-minute-long offering of the week on Bugs & Tweety, a Tweety-and-Sylvester cartoon known and enjoyed in my boyhood. To be precise, "Canary Row", of which a San-Franciscan-architecture layout, distinctively alluding to Victorian styles, and the sights within an old-fashioned hotel had been quite captivating to me in early life. And it started with a camera pan across the outside of buildings, along with a low-bass horn motif rising to a revealing, lively, multi-instrumental musical phrase as camera movement stopped at the Bird Watcher's Society, where Sylvester was peering out of a window through a pair of binoculars. This combination of sight and musical sound accentuated what the whole of that cartoon signified to me as something memorably striking from early childhood in a different, less rejecting place. It galvanised my recall of being a youngster accepted by associates and fascinated, very much so, with the cartoon series of Tweety and Sylvester.
Of particular recollect was memory of my Douglastown friend, Evie, and the favour that he did for me one weekend in March, 1975 when he audiotape-recorded The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour from telecast on CKCD for me while I was away from our village, that episode of my then-favourite television show including "Canary Row". My mind was occupied with thoughts about "Canary Row" and the attendant Era 2 memories of Douglastown, on the week following "Canary Row"'s February, 1988 restoration to the U.S. network television transmitted package of Warner Brothers cartoons (after a number of years' banishment by ABC) as I made my way to home from university in the afternoons, braving the chilly winter wind as I plodded across the Westmorland Street Bridge, sparing an occasional glance, my eyes emerging from concealment behind my blue scarf (knitted for me by my grandmother) at the dip in the woodlands where I knew the highway to the greater Miramichi area began its hundred-mile leg. Some months ahead, with grace of warm weather, I would travel that road back to my beloved Douglastown and revisit that place where several years ago I could depend on seeing Evie and my other buddies at school and/or at or around our homes. Such thought warmed my heart as I put one foot ahead of the other on those winter days in Fredericton in early 1988.
On a Saturday in March of 1988, as southerly winds brought snow-melting temperatures to Fredericton, and the countdown to my planned return visit to Douglastown to reunite with old friends was at two months, I re-experienced a cartoon aired that day on The Bugs & Tweety Show. A cartoon that I had not had occasion to view- not with much of an impression- for quite awhile. "Claws in the Lease". Sylvester and his son seeking relief from having to scrounge for food at a city junkyard and the parent cat being denied adoption by a cosy-home-owning woman while his offspring is beloved pet to that woman.
The start of "Claws in the Lease", coming after the 1984-9 format of stylised titling on Bugs Bunny & Tweety, was a camera pan from some houses to a community junkyard. One of the houses shown just as the pan began, reminded me of the residence of my Douglastown friend, Evie. Same colour. Same style of veranda and a similar distribution of windows. This plus the comforting motifs in the music. Music which put me in mind of being in Douglastown and playing or talking with Evie in his backyard in the mid-1970s. I also thought back to the first time, in May, 1974 while at my grandparents' house, that I saw the Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour instalment that contained "Claws in the Lease", and, oh, how I now envied my situation back then! The assured companionship of friends who, even when I was at my grandparents' place, were only a one-hundred-mile car journey to home!
It would not be for several more years that I would see a version of "Claws in the Lease" with its full, original titles, allowing me to discover that the music recalling me to being in Douglastown in my second life era was in fact the finishing notes of an instrumental rendition of "Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home." How very apt! Not beknown to me, at least not consciously, what little of the opening music of "Claws in the Lease" that I heard in 1988 and in all prior encounters with it, was tapping into- and empowering- my yearning to be home again. Home in the place where much of my tastes, values, and basic personality traits had come into being.
My life in Douglastown had not been without flaw. I did have some detractors and some rather less than thoroughly gratifying experiences in Douglastown between 1972 and 1977; not even my rose-tinted vision as regards Era 2 could entirely gloss away those imperfections. But, to my way of thinking in the late 1980s, any inferior times in my 1972-7 childhood surroundings were aberrations in an otherwise quite blissful part of my upbringing.
The cartoons which I was rediscovering were directing my new-found nostalgic perception toward the happy memories of Era 2. Even if it was an isolated piece of music in a certain cartoon, such as what that I have mentioned above, or, for another example, the rather pastoral tune phrase near the end of "Beanstalk Bunny" as Bugs is resting in the towering Elmer Fudd's giant carrot garden and wondering, "...whatever happened to that silly duck (i.e. Daffy Duck)." That music and the accompanying visual depictions powered nostalgic sentiment late one Saturday afternoon in April of 1988 as I passed my videotape with that cartoon thereon through the playback heads of my JVC videocassette machine. Beholden unto me was a scene showing carrot-consuming overindulgence on Bugs' part and not altogether wholesome in that sense; yet, conveyed by the music and the satisfied expression on Bugs' face as he is surrounded by a vast speciousness while he reclines against partly devoured colossal carrot, was sense of a relaxed, contented condition in a bucolic place. I thought of being a child in Douglastown, of myself reclining against a floral growth, a tree near the church hall in close proximity to McCorry-central, and of being in contemplation of cartoons viewed by me on Saturdays way back then in my Douglastown house.
More to come later on the Warner Brothers cartoons and my nostalgia for them and for my connection with them. They were certainly not all that was contributing to resurgent sentiment for my pre-1977 past and for people and things that had been part of that past. Space: 1999, too, although connected with many a fond recollection of Era 4 and even a major factor in much of what was memorable in Era 3, became ever-the-more concentrated in remembrance with Douglastown and particularly with my first-time-ever viewing of Season 2 of the future space fantasy television series in my final, quite excellent year, 1976-7, in that now very edifying village. My enjoyment and my receptivity to nuance, storyline, aural-visual style, characterisation, etc. in that television series, and especially in its second season, grew to exceedingly astronomical proportions in the late-1980s, as Season 2 became for quite awhile my preference among Space: 1999's two rather very differing production blocks. Nostalgia and aesthetic sensibility went hand-in-hand, the marriage of the two being a powerful product- and indeed testimonial- of my loyalty to both the wandering Moonbase opus and to my memories of my last year as an inhabitant of Douglastown. And this was quite a timely development in my history with Space: 1999, as circumstance would soon show.
Sensible it certainly was for me to feel an association of Douglastown and the appealing type of people there, with the humane, accessible, personable Moonbase Alphans of Season 2. The division between my experiences of the two seasons of Space: 1999 had been cogently demarcated by my family's move from Douglastown to Fredericton in August, 1977. Only a few reruns of episodes of Season 2 had remained before the CBC television network's switch to first-season-only coverage for twelve months from mid-September, 1977 onward. The CBC's way of presenting Space: 1999, in English anyway, was, apart from the telecasting of "Breakaway" to introduce the television series, transposed from what would be considered orthodox most everywhere else in the world where Moonbase Alpha's odyssey was televised. Season 2 airing and being repeated before Season 1 was given comprehensive coverage was highly unusual, and that was how the CBC chose to transmit the Gerry Anderson space opus nation-wide. I was not alone in how I first experienced that television programme, for my friends in Douglastown had known it in much the same way. Season 2 first, and then Season 1. They, however, did not form the same emotional bond with the yarn of the drifting Moonbase as did I through my experience in years to follow.
Introduction to the characters, episodes, format, music, everything associated with the second season of Space: 1999, was for me a Douglastown-specific phenomenon, and quite apt as regards amount and quality of social interaction that was then available to me in that setting. All of the twenty-four episodes of Season 2 had been seen and heard for the first and in most cases the second time while I was a citizen of the community between Newcastle and Chatham on the banks of the river Miramichi, the place whose people were mostly rather like the Alphans of Season 2 of Space: 1999. French-language broadcasts excepted, my foray into Season 1, in which Alphan society is formalised, rather less congenial, the Moonbase looking clinical and somewhat depersonalising, was during my first, socially deficient year in Fredericton. Season 2 was Douglastown; Season 1 was Fredericton. That was how Space: 1999 was imprinted upon my grey matter. And suffice it to say that in 1987 and for some years thereafter, I was to be far more inclined to watch my videotapes of the episodes of Season 2 and to acknowledge and cherish beauty of concept, visualisation, and chronological episode distribution and to want to be able to experience them as first done many years previous and to give extensive consideration to the special somethings about that space fantasy television opus that captured my interest and fancy all those years ago.
There were certain musical passages that, like those in the Warner Brothers cartoons, spoke eloquently to my longing for Douglastown and the way of things there for me when I first beheld the splendour of a favourite television programme networked on the CBC on Saturday afternoons or evenings. There were sympathetic, soul-stirring tunes as Commander Koenig and Maya were talking about their respective pasts during a lull in battle against three aliens. That scene, indeed the whole "Rules of Luton" episode, had long been a sentimental favourite of mine, for it had been in 1976 the specific outing for characters of Space: 1999 that endeared Commander Koenig to me and helped me to adjust fully to the alien metamorph, Maya (I had been rather unnerved by the potentially monstrous nature of her transformation ability and also disturbed by her laboratory surroundings on her home planet as shown in her introductory episode, "The Metamorph"). When Maya was talking about her brother who had departed years prior for pastures new and from whom she had never heard further word, and recalled her father's obsession and downfall that led to her joining the Alphans, the music became downcast yet was tinged with sense of a refreshing, positive look at bygone days- and a feeling of optimism put onto past personal loss. In 1976, such had helped to mitigate- somewhat- my haunting impressions of her planet, Psychon, and of her father's deeds in that laboratory. Once again, this was so- but I was better able to identify with that sense of nostalgia for past life, being conveyed in the music. And this also set my mind firmly into a "Whatever happened to...?" tack. I thought of old friends and what could have become of them, and I pondered on whether they may have over the years wondered same about me.
Then there was the "miraculous return" music from "Space Warp", as John and Tony are discovered having successfully passed through the "door" in space that enabled them to "catch up" with Moonbase Alpha. Such compositions were greatly empathetic in my 1987-8 rediscovery of my Douglastown roots. But so also was a sizable portion of the overall body of incidental music, written and conducted by Derek Wadsworth, in Season 2 of Space: 1999. Indeed, there was also the music of the epilogue of "The Metamorph" (and of many other episodes), the sad yet somehow resolutely hopeful motifs heard when Koenig says to Maya, "We're all aliens until we get to know one another," and his assurance to her of there being a place for her on Alpha. Such truly did speak to my yen, my need, for belonging in a humane, welcoming community such as I had experienced in Era 2. Now, in 1987 and years to follow, I had a rekindled awareness of having had a place for myself once upon a time amongst people not unlike those of Moonbase Alpha. An awareness that was with me, recalling me to living in Douglastown, whenever I came to that scene in a watching of "The Metamorph" and heard the words of Koenig and the consoling chords of Derek Wadsworth.
Because I was responding so personally to the aesthetics of the second season, and because I had acquired most of that season last for my Space: 1999 videotape collection, the Season 2 episodes having posed rather a longer challenge in procuring satisfactorily on videocassette than many of those of Season 1, my appreciation for the second production block of Space: 1999 was, toward the latter half of the 1980s, quite vigorous- before I was to become privy to a kind of appreciation for the concepts, depictions, storylines of Season 2, of which I had only rather a nascent tendency since my first viewings of the Season 2 episodes in 1976. I wanted to share and to read like-minded impressions of the subject matter of Space: 1999- Season 2. And at that time, despite some perplexing signs that all was not peaches and cream in the fan movement, I thought that there was a receptivity to several richly articulate aspects of the second season, and that although tending to poll behind Season 1, Season 2 of Space: 1999 had a lasting, positive impression on the minds of people affected by it, as in my case, and a willingly artistic fan base. Bitter experience in the 1990s was to prove otherwise...
As I walked the streets of Nashwaaksis in 1988, frequently looking northward and thinking about Douglastown, fate was sometimes bringing Joey into my view. And with him were always his peer pals, the people in his age bracket. My response was regrettably one of a friend spurned. I regret to say that I declined recognition toward Joey when he did gesture to me with a raised hand.
With the wisdom that I have since then attained, I know now that ignoring someone is a poor, poor way of expressing discontentment or contrariness about a situation. A snub perpetrated in bitterness or anger tends to be practically indistinguishable from a snub coming from snobbery. Not acknowledging a person because one is angry with him or her can be quite easily construed as not showing courtesy toward that person because he or she is not liked anymore. My own success rate at telling the difference between such two motives for snubbing is definitely not stellar. The only proper way to put across how one feels to be without a friend's companionship or favour, is to verbalise it, honestly, non-confrontationally, and constructively. If the right occasion to do so in person is elusive, then there are other options. Like a letter. An open, honest telling of what is really felt- and a thorough explanation as to why. Written with tact and with precision. Carefully worded to be positively received. Conveying an avowed spirit of understanding and proposed humble forgiveness, and with a minimum of possible interpretations to what is said in the letter. Ideally, the letter ought to be written before mutual affinity has fallen below a certain level and before too much time has elapsed. The longer that one is estranged and thus apart from a buddy, the more opportunity that others have had to gain a larger and larger foothold in his life, a more and more generous slice of the pie that is a buddy's time for socialising. Once a friend has become accustomed to being without me, to no longer coming to see me, to no longer calling upon me, while other people have secured for themselves a sizable place in his retinue, it could be too late to go back to the way that we two once were.
It is categorically wrong, wrong, wrong to snub an old friend because he is being non-inclusive. There is always the possibility that his decision to banish was the result of a misunderstanding, and my snubbing him may only be seen by him as confirming that he is quite correct to keep me at a distance and to continue doing so.
Joey had in fact been the most steadfast among neighbourhood persons of his age in keeping an association with me through 1985, 1986, and 1987. If I had refrained from alienating him with errors and if I had been consistently outgoing and forthright with him, perhaps he would have kept me in his life. I still would have, I think, needed to accept a somewhat reduced share of his time and attention during those dozens of months when peer pressure on him was at an apex. But perhaps Joey could have found a way of apportioning time to include me substantially without clashing with the expectations of his peer group. I was to be quite busy with university in my third and fourth years there and would only have had a certain number of hours available for him. A workable arrangement could, I think, have been achieved in balance for time spent together. I could have been satisfied with that while he was going through his mid-teenage years. Had I not alienated Joey first with my errors and then with my adverse reaction to his pull-back from me, maybe my friendship with him could have lasted beyond 1987- and even improved.
I see and comprehend this now. But as far as I could determine back then, in my introverted frame of mind to which I retreated, in Fredericton, I was not wanted anymore. My friends preferred the company of others to my utter exclusion. All of the emotions connected to such perception were in full force. Toward Fredericton, I had become bitter, resentful, and with 20/20 hindsight I must also say, malignant. More than a little prone to berate the place and its people. I had adopted rather a stone-faced countenance as I went about the city, mellowing only when Douglastown occupied my thoughts, while the rudeness directed at me by total strangers as they passed me in their cars was, I felt, further impetus for being anti-Fredericton. I did not observe other angles. I did not add to the equation my own frailties as they had been manifest over the years. To my faulty perspective, I was the wronged party, having invested ten years into trying to build lasting friendships and seemingly being left with nothing. Memories of the excellent times in 1983 and other Era 4 years were tarnished, it seemed, and I closed myself off to them, touting Douglastown as the only place where I ever really had real friends.
The extent, and the depth of how much I missed- and continue to miss- the presence in my life of Joey (and others) is the best indicator of the true value of the era in which their role was integral. I miss Joey most of all. His spontaneity and his unique ability to pull me out of sombre moods have been at times over the years profoundly needed. In fact, there is a correlation between how affectionate (without being cloying), tactile, inclined to use words such as buddy and pal and speaking of my name in its shortened form, and generous with compliments, supportive gestures, affinity, and social time that an old friend is, and how much sentimentality with which I look upon him and my memories of being with him. And Joey did corner the market on such prized commodities through the early-to-mid-1980s. There have not been very many people with the patience and forgiveness to allow for my introverted or self-absorbed faults and foibles and to actually want to be my number one associate and assistant-partner in many endeavours- and to persist in expressions of affinity- for five years. Not in Fredericton, for sure.
To be divested of a best buddy in the way that Joey was lost, was, for me, without precedent. It was not a result of separation due to me, or the two of us, moving away- as had been the case with Michael. And unlike the Tony-to-Joey changeover in 1982, there was no potential new best friend "waiting in the wings". Nor had I been looking for another best friend to replace Joey. I felt his loss severely, especially as fate kept bringing me into view of him in the company of his comrades. Joey had been, in quite distinguished ways, the best of my best buddies. Certainly, he was better, so very much better, as a person, than those caustic teenagers with him in late 1987 and after. Humane, compassionate, intelligently conversant, capable of a loyalty of which those same-age pressuring peers of his had no conception. For them to have privilege in Joey's life, at, it seemed, my expense, was beyond my ability at the time to accommodate. I reacted with a bitterness which clouded entirely my still underdeveloped capacity for going outside of myself to view situations from non-self-centred angles. And yes, it did not help that I was being simultaneously banished from the continuing gamesmanship of other long-time cohorts of Joey's age group, and was soon to be fully phased out of Craig and Philip's list of prospective baseball players.
Tony was the only person in my social sphere of the 1980s to stay somewhat within that. Expectations of my relationship with him had been very modest since his return to Fredericton from Moncton in 1985. A few minutes per week of doorstep conversation on Doctor Who and other imaginative productions loaned on videotape by me to him had, apart from some baseball game involvement, been the limit of my contact with Tony. But although even that was in some notable decline as Tony was working at the Save-Easy grocery store and affiliating with his colleagues, such reduction was not so drastic as to cause me to be negative in response, and Tony and I kept a scaled-down friendly relationship through Era 5 to 1992. Tony had become a rather liberal-minded, pensively reserved person. Tolerant of strange or eccentric people and ideas. I do not think he even any longer hated the Victor Bergman character of Space: 1999. If my 1979 self were to be introduced to Tony of, say, 1988, I would be at a loss to see much resemblance of him with the Tony I knew. Tony, however, still did not incline to express affinity or to allow intimate conversation or to be supportive in clearly unhappy times. And by his own admission, he did not retain very many memories of past experiences beyond a four of five-year expiry date. So, recall by me today of our childhood times together would be received with a look of near-thorough non-recognition. But he did stay in communication with me as he moved from an apartment on Longwood Drive, to a house on Lilac Crescent, to another house on Epworth Circle, to a basement apartment shared with his brother- and he invited me to his wedding in December, 1991.
I said at the start of this enormous life chronicle that I salute my friends. Truly, yes. The friends that I had in Douglastown and Joey and others in Fredericton. Their presence in my life during those first or reiterated encounters with vivid, colourful, boldly and extremely imaginative entertainment, is as invaluable as was their acceptance of my idiosyncrasies and their forgiveness, over the course of several years, of my failings. I could be quite the self-centred, temperamental, stereotypical "spoiled brat" only-child by times, disappointing my friends and not even recognising that I was doing so, and becoming sullen, even if only for a short while, about what I mistook a day or two later as their slighting of me- when in fact they were only expressing their disappointment in me- and to that, I tended in response to cold-shoulder rather than constructively verbalise how I felt.
My friends of both Era 2 and Era 4 must really, really have liked me, and liked being with me, to have been so forgiving as to continue staying with me for half a decade or more- and if they eventually opted to associate with me no longer, it is just as- if not more- apt to be my fault than fickle, changing tastes and peer group loyalties. Not that those latter things were not a factor at all. They quite probably did contribute somewhat to the adverse change to my life in my Fredericton neighbourhood in the late 1980s.
There was always a substantial amount of exclusivity among youth of my suburban surroundings, and it was seemingly augmented by the all too common dislike in mid-teenaged years for other age groups or even for persons of different interest within school society. Among teenagers in the 15, 16, 17 year-old age bracket, the tendency toward a "we"-without-the-"not-we" attitude does become most pervasive. I cannot claim to fully comprehend it, because I was not a typical teenager when I was of those ages, but I acknowledge such a phenomenon nonetheless- and in Fredericton, where cliques reigned supreme, it was even more pronounced.
There are not very many people- young people- who would choose to defy peer pressure and prevailing peer values. The outcast's role is something that any sensible person would want to avoid at just about any cost. It would be silly to claim that such a condition had been to my benefit or indeed to my liking. I may have accepted it at school in Fredericton, but I still hated it. For me to affirm that, "It didn't do me any harm. It won't hurt you either," would be foolish in the extreme, to say nothing of being insincere. I never forgot how good it felt in Douglastown when I was somewhat a part of the culture at school- and indeed how hurt I was in those early days in Fredericton when my peers treated me like so much garbage. To think that any sensible teenaged person would wish to risk being cast out of school society in order to keep company and favour with one like me who could be rather "off-putting" by times, is, to say the least, unrealistic.
But rather than sensibly considering such angles, I introverted and viewed my condition as that of a person whose important relationships had been unilaterally and decisively ended. Whilst my friends- and my best friend- were favouring others, discontinuing all visits, telephone calls, all means of reaching out to me, and quickly turning me away if I went to be with them, I seemed to have little breadth of interpretation of the situation. I concluded that my friends did not like me, never really did like me, only ever opted to be with me because I was a spare tire, whether that be in baseball games or in all other social situations. Era 4, socially, looked then to be a sham.
Once I had yielded to such emotionally-loaded thoughts, it became impossible to multi-contextualise, to rationally understand what had happened. Negative experiences of the past years in my neighbourhood were intensified in impact, while positive ones, past and present, were somehow bogus. Whereas it used to be impossible for me to stay angry with Joey for longer than a few days, now with me outside of his life, it was far, far easier for negative feelings to remain for weeks, months, or even years. And rekindled anew by each passing encounter with him as I was alone and he was surrounded by his same-age pals. Even his hand-waving as he passed me in his car- or as I passed him- was viewed by me as attempt to gain my approval of the reduction of our relationship to practically nothing, which was what I thought he wanted. With this as my perspective, my hand stayed resolutely immobile. And before long, it became reflexive for me to freeze hand and tongue when by happenstance I encountered Joey and his peers. And as chilliness toward him, toward others, and toward my Fredericton social condition and indeed toward Fredericton itself became entrenched in my consciousness, and also in my subconscious, even in my best intentions sometime later toward reconciliation, my eventually revived kind thoughts toward Joey, were overruled as I was sadly put back into my disagreeable frame of mind.
For so very long, virtually my full sum of years, I had been hesitant, fearful even, to put myself in a position where rejection by people whom I liked, who were important to me, was even a remote possibility. And I was right to have such trepidation, for I was not the sort of person to deal with rejection in anything resembling a reasoning and constructive manner. I tend to lack the vast network of friends to fall back upon at such unpleasant times. And with no brothers and no sisters meaning extraordinary reliance on friends for same-generational relationships, the full demoralising effect of a rejection would be felt as I would solitarily attend, in vain, to wounded pride. To be sure, no moral support was to be had anywhere in my Fredericton neighbourhood by 1988 to so unpleasant a turn of events in my life. But I did have Douglastown. There was one place where I did not, for as long as I lived there, become estranged to my surroundings. Solace, I thought, was a hundred miles away. And my plans for revisiting that place, its people, were in formation, as the many elements of my past life era there, including, of course, imaginative entertainment, were now of profound affection and admiration. I invested positive thought into Douglastown and all persons and things connected with it, while concentrating all of my negativity upon Fredericton.
What a spiel this must seem! Yes, it has been verbose. But the changeover from Era 4 to 5 was quite the watershed, memories of many years previous gushing forth into tender, foremost contemplation, and the whole, most recent era (i.e. Era 4) looking then rather less than availing, seemingly un-meaningful to friends and to me. How I came to terms back then with this change, the causes of it and the impact of it on me, was much different from how I today look upon that period of time. It is necessary, in order to understand how I proceeded to live in Era 5, to thoroughly describe my way of thinking then, in 1987 and 1988, from whence sprang my 1970s-Douglastown homesickness and antipathy for Fredericton. The eventual result of the often unsound premises by which I conducted myself in the last years of the 1980s, would be tribulation, quite intense tribulation, in 1990 and after, from which I would eventually learn valuable lessons in friend-making, friend-keeping, non-introverted, non-self-centred examining of relationship decline, and analysis of the part that I played in my Fredericton downfall. Helping me again through the difficult days, weeks, months, and years en route to such enlightenment, was my nostalgic and aesthetic appreciation for imaginative works first embraced by me years previous. And that appreciation was itself "in for some rough going", to say the least.
I affirm, with benefit of hindsight of upwards of twenty years, that on the whole Era 4 was of significant development for me. Though still an introvert, I did have a growing capacity, however inconsistent, for relating to others. And I was rather more assertive than before in going to friends' houses and calling upon them without summons to do so. But I could still shrink from so-doing when a less than pleasant reception from a sibling or from friends themselves was possible or even probable. It is true that I still preferred for friends to come to me- and that there was a distinct correlation between how willing, how generous a buddy was in visiting me and how much affection I had for that person. I had certainly become rather bolder than ever in expounding upon my assessment of and interest in imaginative entertainment, which had something of a "carry-over" effect into my university seminars, into which I contributed with some considerable enthusiasm. I did tend to thrive in discussion on History course topics and also the controversial subjects debated in third and fourth year university French classes. Reticence gave way to expressiveness, and then as I walked home from university at 5:30 P.M. after a seminar class, I would revert to reverie and contemplation about Douglastown and my early life there, my longing to be back there.
I could ruminate about the end of Era 4 until the proverbial cows come home, but a new era requires focused attention. Some final words about 1982-7 before I continue onward with Era 5. Joey was the best friend I ever had in Fredericton, and at superior times an excellent comparison to buddies in Douglastown, also. Yes, in age we were years apart. Yes, our interests and tastes did not always match. Yes, we were- or I was- rather constrained by circumstances around us. And, yes, my shortcomings were ultimately more of a problem for us than they had been with my friendships in Douglastown (at least for as long as I lived there), and the effect of suburban peer pressure and more numerous and substantial competition for Joey's friendship perhaps gave to me less latitude to be imperfect as a pal than conditions in Douglastown had done. But we were exceedingly good friends for very large sections of Era 4. That cannot be divested, certainly not after the dark clouds surrounding Era 4 have lifted. Just about everybody else who was a part of those years is treasured, too.
The end of anything, whether premature or timely, ought never to reduce appreciation for what actually was. I have admonished decriers of the last-produced components of television shows or whatever, for not cherishing all that they had. My advice bears following as regards my fourth life era. 1982 to 1987 had much, much, much in its favour, and as I have said, 1983 especially carries with it a myriad of fond memories. That time of my life does, indeed it does, help me to think that different communication and action on my part could have prolonged post-1987 the fourth era of my life, the relationships, the most appealing experiences therein. By acknowledging the role that I and my self-absorbed lapses in decision or judgement or my failures to say and do what was required of me in the spirit of best friendship, I can be somewhat at peace with other players in the tragedy that was the loss of what I had in my best Fredericton era. And seeing Joey in the company of others, and of certain persons in particular, does not any longer negate my good will and fond memories of him. For many years, it did. But my awareness of all angles to what had happened was insufficient during all of that time.
Whatever the reasons may have been for unfavourable change in Fredericton, Era 4 was no more. Never more a baseball game. No more videotape shows. Even when some of my young associates were, post-1989, again talkative with me, casually, on the street, in public in front of a videotape dealer's store, or somewhere, there was not the smallest possibility of a return to the "good old days". The feeling of loss was and still is potent. I responded to it in the late 1980s by looking backward, embracing fully the affection that I had long had within me but which I had seldom explored (except through proxy of my attachment to Space: 1999, etc.), for where I had lived during my most formative childhood years. I hearkened to a time and place when and where rejection of friendship and full-scale abandonment of me were not manifest to a substantial degree. Such disagreeable processes could have happened had I stayed there (in Douglastown) for another few years, but the fact was that they had not. Douglastown seemed to have a purity to its station in my history. A purity and a beauty.
That my Douglastown, indeed my entire Miramichi, experience, would have so endearing, so captivating, so nearly transcendent an allure for me is by no means nonsensical. Soul-stirring receptivity to memories, places, images, the feel of the way of life in early youth can exist for many people, for their childhood contains much that defined the essence of their identity. However, scarcely anybody in their twenties indulges this sort of thing- or is even willing to acknowledge it. There can be no disputing, though, that the Miramichi region, the beauty of the place, the relaxed congeniality of lifestyle there can altogether form a lasting hold upon a person's natural yen for simplicity and tranquillity, especially if these tenets of Miramichi life were known in early childhood. There are, I think, not many people "weaned on the Miramichi" who would dispute such a statement. But for me, attributes such as these to the Miramichi area were not all that energised my desire for a reconnection. Disenchantment with Fredericton enabled memories of the years that I had lived in Douglastown to pour forth from the reaches of my mind. No longer under constraint was the urge to mentally review the life that I had in my former community. And I did so, whilst Fredericton more and more looked to me to be the disagreeable place that it had appeared to be when I had moved there in 1977.
An enormous amount of my most formative experiences, the first significant imprints upon my brain, pounded with a most distinctive stamper and then surrounded by yet more, more, and still more indelible impressions, had occurred in Douglastown, in Newcastle, in Chatham, in the homes, on the streets, sidewalks, fields, wooded areas, stores, malls of the towns and villages of the Miramichi region. There, my nascent consciousness of the world around me and of imaginative productions had expanded with wide-eyed and easily stimulated- but nonetheless intellectual- wonderment. Quality friendship in such a time was crucial. And the place where I spent those defining years for my personality, my sense of self and view of the world (and universe), did develop an attractive mystique to it. Mainly, I think, because of my removal from it for the latter half of my upbringing. Impressions were built upon but never replaced. And they would hold an even more powerful attraction for me in a nostalgic time period of my life than they would for someone who always lived there.
What I did not consider was that my fondness was for the Douglastown of my childhood, not necessarily for the Douglastown of the present (1987). My nostalgia was founded on a quite unrealistic longing to return to that which was past and gone. I did not at that time know to what extent Douglastown had changed. Car-drives through the village had been insufficient. I had not walked the streets of my former home village since the late 1970s. I had not talked with anyone there for almost as long. But my amazingly vivid, refreshed memories of the place continued to stir in me the desire to return to my former stomping grounds and be with old friends again. Friends who, I thought, would not desert me on a whim. Friends my own age, something which I had not experienced in 10 years! I was, to my mind at the time, being shirked by younger friends, fond though I was and would yet be of younger friends.
Although bitter toward people of my neighbourhood, I was quite favourable to my university peers. We chatted often in the History Common Room. Many of my courses were seminars, in which group conversation was essential. My relationships with fellow students were cordial and friendly, but never really friendships. We helped each other, complimented each other's work, even socialised after class in the Student Union Building or at their homes. But we all had our own in-depth studies, our own priorities, and our own futures. Close, lasting friendship was impossible.
I definitely needed to go back to Douglastown, to walk around and visit as many old friends and neighbours as possible. But there was no point of doing such in the winter. I planned a Miramichi excursion for Victoria Day weekend, in May, 1988. Months in advance, I set the date and mentally primed myself for the event. By early March, I did not have any inclination to try reaching out anymore to my neighbourhood associates in Fredericton, who had, in any case, evidently abandoned me. I looked forward to my return to Douglastown and counted the days to Friday, May 20, 1988.
In late February of same year, I received a letter from Dean, a fellow appreciator and active fan of Space: 1999 in New Brunswick. He lived in Lorne, an unincorporated village in the northernmost area of the Canadian province. I was delighted! I had thought that Space: 1999 fandom had perished or never was in Canada's Atlantic provinces and that I was one-of-a-kind, the proverbial last Do-Do.
Not only was Dean a fan, but he was a serious-minded, artistically inclined, three-years-older, and far better-read man who had developed a very, very sophisticated way of looking at Season 2, the season that had impressed me on my initial viewing of it while I was in my final, excellent year in Douglastown in 1976-7. It seemed meant to be that I would in 1987 start looking back upon Douglastown with a greater fondness than ever, just a half-year before I would be contacted by someone with a very compelling type of interpretation on the subject matter of the Space: 1999 season that I had first seen so engagingly in Douglastown. It must have been ordained, or at least fated, to happen.
Dean sent to me a preliminary essay that he had written to outline the basic characteristics of three thematically distinct "regions" in the second season storyline. To my awe, I found that his ideas tended to correspond with notions that I had for years entertained, though until then never to any elaborate extent. When I first beheld Space: 1999 when I was aged ten and eleven, I had perceived, even at that very young age, a difference in the episodes from early in Season 2 from those of the latter third of same season. A difference of mood, of imagery, of concept, even of character costuming. When "All That Glisters" was sandwiched in telecast on CBC between "The Lambda Factor" and "The Seance Spectre", I sensed (yes, in 1977) that such was an awkward fit, even though I already knew that "All That Glisters" was of the episodes from early in the second production block of Space: 1999 and that the other two episodes mentioned in this sentence came later in the making and given chronology of Season 2.
I had been aware, seminally, of many more of the peculiarities of Space: 1999, such as female character and planet names to end very frequently in the letter a, gender-coding of planets as feminine, tendency for planetary caverns to be depicted, and environments often changing from placid to hostile on the Alphans' arrival as though planets were living organisms with an immune system, to say nothing of the depictions of alien societies as being Greco-Roman in their styles of architecture, wearing apparel, or naming of their worlds. And "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" was alluded-to, also. Oh, yes. It certainly was. Not just in Maya's playful transformation to Mr. Hyde in the episode, "Journey to Where". Much more than that. My personal response to the concept and depictions of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" as presented in cartoons and then re-composited in the fantastic universe of Space: 1999, had been one of my most unsettling yet most keenly contemplated entertainment experiences of my juvenile years. Even if the contemplations were not much developed beyond the nascent stage in those years or even during my renewed connections, through gratifying videotape acquisitions, with a sizable amount of that entertainment in Era 4.
There was quite a resonance in Dean's approach to appreciating entertainment as an art form; it accorded amazingly with how so many of my favourite imaginative productions had "caught on" with me over the then two decades of my life. Ideas and depictions themselves, and without necessarily explicit philosophical underpinning within the stories, had been what had impressed and secured lasting appeal to me. I liked to notice and appreciate corresponding aspects to episodes, intriguing concepts, and recurrent motifs. And without a style of storytelling that was demonstrably cerebral, pandering to a high-brow audience by intellectualising the ideas in the context of the episode, any symbolisms being directly signalled in character dialogue regarding the meaning of the story. Such a style is one way to present a sophisticated, meaningful tale, but it is, I believe, not necessarily the only way of doing so. Certain concepts, motifs, story elements, without pause in an episode's events for philosophical discussion, ought to have merit in their own right.
In a season of a space fiction television series, there can be an episode about a type of telepathy (auto-hypnosis), Earth homesickness, mutiny, and an inhospitable planet that is followed by an episode dealing with a penal colony, dominatrix warders, a deadly malady on a home world, and a clash of modes of leadership between male hero and female antagonist, with the coinciding of these two episodes being worthy of "deep thought" even though on the surface they may appear as mere action-adventure. Or a cluster of episodes in chronological sequence can deal with psychic phenomena and have nocturnal imagery or dreamy ambiance, along with much death and other dire circumstance, while another grouping of episodes may emphasise youth, incipience, and bodily beauty in juxtaposition with images of formerly life-giving planets turned desolate, life thereon requiring enclosed cities with technological means of life-support. Traditional phenomena of works of science fiction/fantasy these may be- and derivative though they may be, in being combined by Space: 1999 for the first time in an episode or in sequence of episodes and in the way that the synthesis of them was visually- and aurally- presented, they ought to be appreciated even without some intellectual speech by a particular character about what such and such has been about. There is beauty to how the human imagination chooses its concepts in an entertainment and in the visualisations (and accompanying sounds and music) of those concepts. Pretty (and sometimes not-so-pretty) pictures can themselves be an art form, and if there are underlying symbolisms to them, more is the better. And this is at the heart of my appreciation of Space: 1999 and just about everything else of the imaginative genres of entertainment that I have favoured through my life. Dean spoke of the two of us being on the same wavelength of thought, and I would venture to say that he was correct.
At last, my impressions of the television series were being validated by the work of someone else. Someone who was clearly more advanced than I was. Someone who had thought at tremendous length about aesthetic aspects to Space: 1999 whereas I had maybe only pondered for a minute or two from time to time on, say, why episodes and their phenomena were oriented the way that they were, within overall storyline. After a few exchanges of letters, Dean came to Fredericton to meet with me, for four days in late March, 1988. The sheer excitement of meeting another fan, my first ever such meeting, was complimented by his accounts of being to conventions and standing in the same elevator with Space: 1999 leading actor Martin Landau and being to England and talking to Space: 1999 creator Gerry Anderson, by the gifts that he bore (including the long-sought Moonbase Alpha Technical Manual, for which Dean said he had little need, due to the many inaccuracies therein), and by his incredibly extensive awareness of the subtle suggestions, nearly all of them probably unintended, in the episodes of the second season. Like someone who had not fully grown suddenly being given several hormonal shots, I became energised. Energised with bettered perspective, new-found enlightenment, and purpose. We watched several episodes, talked about the potential meaning of their themes, how their content accorded with those of other episodes, and what the possible implications were in this way of looking at a season that, by all accounts, was not produced with a will for injecting explicit meaning into its episodes.
His theories had to be valid. After all, I had long noticed several of the same things. But I was inexperienced and naive. I failed to heed his warnings that the world at large would be unreceptive, hostile even, to the approach which he, and now I, advocated and that I would be judged and ostracised by the very people in Space: 1999 fandom whom I was hoping to reach in sharing such insights. Second season was blamed vehemently, implacably, by fans (and, as I was to learn, by the lion's share of them) for having caused their favourite television series' supposedly premature cancellation. I failed to grasp just how closed-minded and quick-to-condemn that those people were when approached with a new and positive perspective on the less-acclaimed season. The ideas springing to mind from Dean's conveyed insight were coming to me fast and furious, and I scrambled to write them down, compose articles, and reach out to people. I advanced very extensive, fanciful speculations without much thought to negative reaction.
My haste to divulge ideas ultimately caused a rift in 1990 between Dean and myself, exacerbated by some personal compatibility issues as Dean found me to be inadequate in sociability and in personality and after awhile did not refrain from saying so, which resulted in a prolonged period of wracking self-doubt. His assessments of me and my shortcomings were by no means unwarranted; I can now perceive how accurate they were in many cases. But he had a confrontational, harshly judgemental way of stating them. And he did so during a time in my life when I was at a loss in my Fredericton surroundings, without local friends for support and companionship, and feeling unliked and possibly never having really been liked for more than ten years, and with Douglastown and my memories thereof and my search for some fulfilment there being all that seemed to keep me from descending into despair. I was not in much of a condition to be told how wrong I was as a person, especially in an accusatory manner.
There was I, desperately looking for validation of my existence wherever I could find it, having apparently lost or never having had such validation in Fredericton, relying upon occasional visits with peer friends, fewer and fewer of them still present, in my childhood home village, and still thinking (despite some less than encouraging indications that all was not kosher) that the club consisting of persons believed by me to mostly be of a similar mindset regarding Space: 1999, might be the best post-1987 place of belonging for me. To go afoul of the first fan whom I ever met face to face and for my reputation among the group to be in jeopardy, would by necessity upset me to self-esteem's foundations, such as they then were. But the bulk of tribulation involving my associations with members of Space: 1999's organised fandom had yet to come. In spring of 1988, in the immediate wake of Dean's first visit, there was a refreshing, galvanising change in my involvement with Space: 1999, one that melded with my nostalgia and growing excitement over my upcoming return to Douglastown.
After finishing my university year with an essay on the 1982 Falkland Islands conflict for my course on British Empire, I dedicated my full attention to the planned Douglastown visit. I knew my less-than-certain chances of finding old friends still at home after they had "come of age". I also knew that some of them, Michael and David F., had long ago moved away. I was wary of using Alexander Graham Bell's invention to seek out people in Douglastown because I had come to regard the telephone as a medium for bad news. Besides, I wanted to surprise my old friends, if any were still there, in person. In any case, I knew that it would feel so good to be back in Douglastown, to walk the paths and streets of my childhood, and to learn what had become of my friends.
My mother and father were adamant that I not raise my hopes to an unrealistic level, and I strived to concur. Goodness knows, the last thing that I needed was another morale-crushing disappointment in my search for acceptance and companionship of friends gained over the years. Yet, as my feelings of alienation in my Fredericton environs were showing no sign of abating, I allowed myself some optimistic consolation, my eyes often looking northward to where I knew the 100-mile-long road to the Newcastle-Douglastown-Chatham Miramichi River heartland to be. Each Warner Brothers cartoon first seen in my Douglastown years with which I became reacquainted via Saturday's Bugs & Tweety Show, the melting of the last mounds of winter precipitation and the certain arrival of 1988 spring weather, plus increased amounts of time for nostalgic thought unfettered by the mental demands of university study or essay writing work as my third-year winter-spring semester at last came to a close, and even a further repeat in late April, 1988 of The Return of the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman; all of these underscored by some unpleasant encounters in April and early May with increasingly uncouth and abrasive neighbourhood co-inhabitants and a therefore increased disaffection with Fredericton, had me in heightening enthusiasm for my upcoming revisit of my childhood habitat. I was counting the days on the calendar. And with reference to my upcoming Douglastown reconnect, my grandmother said to me, as my mother and I were departing from her house on the evening of Thursday, May 19, 1988, "I hope you find whatever it is you're looking for." To which I replied, "I hope so, too."
Friday, May 20 was forecast to be a sunny day, but I was rather unnerved by the grey sky out of the window when I awoke. It did not seem a good omen, but the plans to go to Douglastown had been made, and although a sunny day was preferable, I had persuaded my parents to chauffeur me to Douglastown for two days, "rain or shine". As we traversed by car the 100 miles north to Newcastle, Douglastown, and Chatham, the grey sky cleared to reveal beautiful, blue sky and vibrant, warm sunshine. Could it be? Was this going to be a successful sojourn after all?
Yes. Oh, yes! Two of my friends of Era 2, Evie and Kevin MacD., were there, one of them working at the Newcastle radio station, CFAN, as an announcer, the other working for the summer at the Douglastown marina.
As my parents and I in our car entered the Newcastle town limits at close to noon on that May Friday, passed the Repap pulp and paper mill, did a 90-degree left turn onto the King George Highway parallelling the beautiful as ever Miramichi River, I had, to use the terminology of Helena Russell in a Space: 1999 episode, "a warm feeling of well-being". We ate lunch at an old haunt of mine, the Newcastle Dairy Queen fast-food restaurant, located in the same place where I had known it to be, with bowling lanes behind it and across the road from it a modest pre-1950-construction house with bright green window shutters. Newcastle's Dairy Queen franchise's distinctive smell had not changed in the eleven years since the McCorry family moved out of our Miramichi surroundings, even if the dining area arrangement had been modified. As we sat in that restaurant and I gobbled a chili dog and French fries, my feeling of anticipation was in surge as my parents, and I too, realistically endeavoured to cap it. As a few other people entered the eatery, I stared somewhat at them, hoping to see if maybe they might have familiar faces. They did not, and the odds of encountering someone I knew that soon were in any case rather slim. Besides, simply being in the Miramichi area again and fully cognisant and appreciative, for the first time in a number of returns with my parents into the communities on the banks of the river Miramichi, of a very real sense of "homecoming", had me feeling comfort and contentment and satisfaction with my surroundings, something unknown by me for some time.
After browsing through the Nite Owl convenience store and videotape rental establishment next to the Dairy Queen (and on one of the Nite Owl revolving shelves was CBS-FOX Home Video's pre-recorded videocassette release of the Space: 1999 "movie", Destination: Moonbase Alpha, the sight of which bringing a smile to my face), my mother, father, and I registered at the Wharf Inn on Jane Street in Newcastle before the five-minute automobile trek, Newcastle-to-Nordin-to-Douglastown, and the closer and closer that I came to the Douglastown village limits, the more that there was a warm sensation passing through my arteries. Somehow I knew that this would be the sort of homecoming to which I had been looking forward for many months.
Evie arrived at his home from a shopping jaunt to the Douglastown mall in the afternoon just minutes after I came. My father and I were talking with Evie's father in the backyard. When Evie saw me, he quickened his pace in my direction and cheerfully extended his hand, for we two old pals to join our respective right forelimbs in an embrace, the start of a splendid reunion that moved into his kitchen/dining area and living room as I showed to him pictures from the "good old days" and parts of a videotape of Space: 1999. We chatted about our class from Douglastown Elementary School, where everybody now was, and what had happened in the years that I was in, what I then termed to be, oblivion. Yes, that was how I spoke of Fredericton and my ten years of life there. Evie said to me and to my parents that he preferred to be called Ev, and he talked about his radio announcing job and of the Belleville, Ontario college where he learned his vocation. He then drove his truck, me his passenger, and showed to me the changes in the village and the sites of some of the events which I had missed in my time removed from our once-upon-a-time shared community. We were going to stop at the Douglastown marina and surprise Kevin MacD., who had a part-time job there, with my return to our village fold, but his work shift had only just ended a half-hour previous, and we had missed him by less than thirty minutes. No problem, I said to myself, for I had a more appreciably dramatic entrance in mind for reuniting with my childhood namesake and old friend.
In the early evening after my parents and I had dinner back at the Wharf Inn in Newcastle, the three of us again entered into our car for transport to the village in which we resided more than a decade previous. They deposited me on the side of the road in front of our former house and planned to collect me at same location 90 minutes later. They then moved onward in our car to Chatham to survey that Miramichi-region township, and I by myself walked the village of Douglastown for the first time, really, since 1977. It was an experience like none other that I have ever had, before or since. Transcendental in its feel. Everything seemed strangely smaller than I remembered, the width of the main road, the distances between houses having a somewhat compressed appearance (though still quite spacious in most cases compared to Fredericton neighbourhoods). A natural impression, I suppose, for a grown man revisiting his childhood habitat. But the enormity of the event, me perambulating along the same route that I used to walk or bicycle to Ev's house (Ev was at work at the radio station that evening), past the nature trails across the road, and to the foot of Kelly Drive, and along the way tenderly thinking about, remembering, so very much to treasure, cannot be overstated. I made my way up Kelly Drive toward Kevin MacD.'s house. I remembered Kevin's dwelling, where it was situated and how it looked, how pleased I used to be to receive his invitations to visit him there, back of Kelly Drive, in 1974 and 1975- as I breathed the bracing air that May, 1988 evening, air scented with the distinctive and never really forgotten aromas of springtime in a certain Miramichi-area village, my heart pulsing with pleasurable expectation tempered with some caution for a possible dashing of hope.
I paused for a few seconds when his house was within view, preparing myself for the possibility that he was not at home or might be less than overjoyed to see me again (I had, after all, been out of his life for close to eleven years), then continued onto his driveway, on which I had stood with him thirteen years previous on one of my invited Saturday afternoon visits to his place, walked up to his door, the inner portals beyond the twin screen doors being open, and knocked. And I found him home! By himself. He came to the door, or doors, and his first words on seeing me on the outer side of his doors were, "Well, well, well." Astonishingly, Kevin recognised me instantly, even though he had not seen me for nearly 11 years! His obvious delight at my re-emergence into his life eased most of the anxiety in me in no time at all. He had not known me to be quite so outgoing as to appear at his house without invitation to come there, but apart from that, he expressed amazement at how little I had changed. I was taller, of course, though still thin-framed, my hair in the same parted, bushy style that he knew me to wear. Face structure was also the same. But more impressing upon Kevin than this was that I was, in terms of personality and interest and entertainment affection, the same person who had waved good-bye to him and our fellow pupils of Douglastown Elementary School's "Class of 1977" on the final day of Grade 5.
Our conversation on his doorstep progressed into his house's living room. We talked very comfortably, as I learned about his current university studies as a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and about how the people with whom we had been elementary-schooled for five years had later fared. Sharing with me his perspectives on the changes in Douglastown and on the then (1988) marital status of so many of our classmates, Kevin joked with an affected gulp when I remarked that these developments are altogether rather a tremendous lot to swallow all at once. He was more than a little surprised to learn that I was specialising in History at university, a quite unlikely choice of intensive study for one who left Douglastown eleven years in the past with eyes resolutely focused on the future, on outer space and man's supposed destiny to expand his knowledge, perspectives, his very being in the vast cosmos. But when I explained that I was always enamoured with the theoretical, speculative, and aesthetic aspects of the phenomena of our universe, rather than with the mathematical, Kevin understood. Likewise my contention that human experience and learned mores from the past would influence how man would regard and interact with the future. And History being my second highest grading mark in second year and the only discipline in the Arts faculty to invite me to specialise in its Honours programme courses, had also, of course, been a factor in my decision. Kevin spoke of the Douglastown Elementary alumni always having wondered what happened to me. He said that I had been the subject of some amount of conversation amongst him and my other once-upon-a-time comrades-in-pens-and-pencils. I spoke of my then-present rather-less-than-positive status in Fredericton, about what a task it had been to find a social existence there while staying true to myself, my interests, and my tastes, and how unavoidably terminal such a social existence had proven (to me then, it seemed) to be.
And it was he, not I, who was first to mention Space: 1999 and "Maya with the weird eyebrows". We talked about imaginative entertainment opuses, and to my delight, he was familiar with and conversant in many of the television and movie productions about which I had insights and opinions. After close to an hour of keen communication at the end of which we agreed to meet again on the morrow for more of the same, Kevin brought me in his car to main road and to the front of my old house, where, after a five minute wait ruminating on how superbly my return to Douglastown was proceeding, my parents appeared in our car from the direction of the Chatham Bridge, and I sat in the back seat, gushing with good news of my evening. The friendliness of two old pals had me in a tenderly satisfied, contented frame of mind as my parents and I in our automobile explored our pre-1972 Newcastle habitat, that of a trailer park, where the same mobile home in which we had dwelt in my pre-school years was still located. I heard Ev on the car radio, announcing CFAN music presentations and reminiscing about an experience that he had had in Grade 4 (gee, I wonder what put him in mind of his childhood past on that sunny spring day).
On Saturday, May 21, the three of us, Ev and the two Kevins, gathered at the MacD. house on Kelly Drive some minutes before noon for an enjoyable but rather too short chat, a handing around of photographs, and a screening of two distinctive (and one of them quite memorable) episodes ("The Rules of Luton", "Brian the Brain") from Space: 1999's second season, the season that we and others in our Grade 5 class and in our school had followed on television in 1976-7. They laughed, evidently affectionately, at the codas of the two episodes and as the ending credits to "Brian the Brain" were playing on Kevin's living room television set by way of his videocassette player-recorder, Kevin asked, with significant emphasis on enquiring tone at the end of the question, "Where did you get these?" Neither he nor Ev had seen Space: 1999 since the 1970s, and to them it had been a television programme long extinct, never to reappear in their lives. I explained about Halifax and CBHT and about fandom and videotape trading and so forth, and I gave to my two old pals copies of my videotape collection's typewritten listing, and Kevin browsed through it and remarked about my possession of "Dr. Jerkyl's Hide" and "Cats and Bruises", Warner Brothers cartoons whose titles and the wit of their characteristic playing on words or on common expressions rang a bell in his memory, that of his mid-1970s Saturday afternoon/evening Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour viewings and of the discussions pertaining to said television show between us at school on days in a subsequent week. Ev and I exchanged knowledgeable glances as we heard Kevin's speaking of the cartoon titles in my videotape listing, the two of us, Ev and myself, likewise in possession of many a memory of our lives being touched in tandem by the endearing antics of the anthropomorphised animals of the distinguishable, sophisticated Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoon stable. Planet of the Apes also arose as a subject as the three of us remembered playing the scenario of the television series about a simian-dominated world where two human astronauts and one renegade chimpanzee run from the persistent pursuit of gorillas on horseback.
I had to leave them at around 2:30 P.M. but promised to come back to them in the summer for a longer visit. It was a promise that I was determined to keep, no matter what!
We three stood in Kevin's driveway before Ev and I boarded Ev's automotive vehicle for transport down Kelly Drive to main road and to Ev's house, where my parents were awaiting, and Kevin said to Ev with regards to me, "You know, he hasn't changed at all, has he?" It was meant affectionately, of course, and it was received by me in the grandest appreciative spirit, as indeed was the general affinity and enthusiastic cheer with which my two old friends responded to my visit. I had not heard the shortened, Kev version of my first name spoken to me by a person of my generation in what seemed then to be eternity, nor had I been even welcomed at a friend's house nor bidden a fond farewell in leaving a friend in seemingly countless months. In fact, when Ev shook my hand before my departure with my parents back to Fredericton, he patted his left hand on top of my right, a gesture of friendly affection of which I had no prior experience nor any realistic hope, it seemed, of ever garnering in Fredericton. So unaccustomed was I to it and to Ev's statement on my subsequent August, 1988 Douglastown visit that he was so glad that I chose to come back to Douglastown to see him and that he missed me in all of the years since I had moved out of our Miramichi area locality, words failed to form on my vocal chords, and all I could say was a feeble, "Ditto." Not since the best times of my friendship with Joey in the early 1980s had anyone spoken appreciatively of my presence in their life.
I remember the journey with my mother and father in our car back to Fredericton that sunny Saturday afternoon, as I thought about how much same-age comradeship that I had missed from Grade 6 onward, and how comforting it had felt to be with peers of my earliest socially fulfilled time period of life. I reckoned that if only I had not moved to Fredericton, I might have prospered with Ev, Kevin, and others by my side. Perhaps I would have done so, but there is as much, if not more, likelihood of my slipping through fissures in the social fabric of junior and senior high school in Newcastle. But then, in 1988, I concentrated entirely on the positive aspects- and positive extrapolated potential- of my Douglastown life of the 1970s, along with the euphoria over my very successful two-day return to my childhood village. The Incredible Hulk Returns was telecast on the CTV and NBC television networks that Victoria Day weekend. The amazed look on David Banner's face as he beheld the return to his life of a colleague of ten or more years and the super-heroic teaming that resulted, ending with the two friends, Banner and Don Blake, shaking hands and expressing best wishes for one another befit remarkably the import of my travel and reunions of the same long weekend.
Hindsight tells that edification from that Douglastown visit was attributable to more than re-meeting some old friends. Same-age fellowship and a feeling of welcome involvement with people sharing my year of birth had been lacking in my life in second half of passage through the public school system. I had been without such fellowship for a very protracted time frame. Yes, I was somewhat interpersonal at university, unlike in previous years of school in Fredericton. However, association with peers at university was amounting only to commiserating in the History Common Room about our course workload or maybe an academic discussion during short seminar recesses or perhaps a one-time invitation with the whole seminar group to a class member's home for dinner. Not quite the same as childhood connection through shared experience in fundamental learning and in play at school and around home. In my return to Douglastown, I had seemingly found something which I had been intent on finding, on recapturing. A palpable feeling of affinity and a spiritual bond with persons same age as myself. These were some of the boys with whom I had been schooled during a time in which I did belong with members of my generation, with boys learning as I was about the world and the way of things, gaining knowledge of the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic, and of our individual, local-cultural, national, and planetary orientation within the world and the universe. They had known me in my most formative phase of life, when I developed much of my taste in concepts, depictions, premises, and representations of certain imaginative works, and the perception, awareness, and sensibility particular to my personality. They knew how I had come to be. Rather more so than had anyone who met me in Fredericton after the fact and who accepted- or not- (usually the latter) what I had become.
Young friends are valuable, too. Absolutely! But as greatly fond of them as I can be, there is still a need deeply rooted in one's psyche to belong, through interest, taste, activity, to a same-age society. Being with two of my fellow alumni of Douglastown Elementary School again after so many years and receiving from them an evidently enthusiastic welcome back was thus naturally very gratifying and comforting. In retrospect, I can see precisely why I felt the way I did about my two return visits to Douglastown in 1988. Comradeship with persons of same age being a basic need, having been without it for the whole second half of my upbringing and then at long last being able to delight again in it, was bound to be very, very uplifting. Alas, at the time, I failed to project my gratification at being again with same-age pals to understand my young Fredericton friends' preference for persons of their peer group, and I continued to resent, without mitigation, what I still saw as their hoity-toity rejection of me. I persisted in attributing the turning away from me by Joey and the others to fickleness, to a unilateral and quite determined changeability in their social pattern, even to them never really caring about me at all. The more that I continued thinking so, alongside my appreciation for Douglastown and for how my friends there had greeted me, the more my antipathy toward Fredericton and my life there grew. And so, my lonely, miserable situation in my Fredericton neighbourhood was to continue.
I derived much encouragement, much fortitude from that successful May, 1988 visit to my childhood community and reunion with friends there, sufficient to sustain morale through further months of sneers and jeers of passing cliques of partiers and reiterated rebuff and isolation in Fredericton through the summer of 1988, which was essentially, in my Fredericton surroundings, a repetition of summer of 1987- although this time within the desert of my persona non grata Fredericton condition were the oases that were my Douglastown visits. Yes, my eager expectation of a further travel to my childhood Miramichi habitat and of being again with my old friends in Douglastown late in the summer kept my spirits elevated through June, July, and early August. And with the appreciative reception for me in Douglastown, my friends there calling me Kev, and their most generous hosting of me, Fredericton looked in contrast ever more inimical, cold-hearted, and devil-may-care.
My lawn-mowing business continued in 1988, and I had the same lucrative grass-cutting jobs. I dedicated nearly every cent of income to funding a lengthy stay in the greater Miramichi area (Newcastle, Douglastown, Chatham) in mid-August. There were several other people there whom I wanted to see, in addition to another reunion with my two old friends.
My visit in August was for 4 days! My father drove our car, with me occasionally relieving him at our automobile's steering wheel, on the 100-mile journey north (I have vivid recall of seeing the expansive farms, old-fashioned homes, and forests along New Brunswick's Highway 8 as it linked with the end of the Killarney Road by which my father and I departed Fredericton on the morning of Tuesday, August 23, 1988). And my father stayed with me as I signed myself into a three-night occupancy at Newcastle Journey's End Hotel, then brought me to Douglastown, leaving me at Ev's house for me to begin my second 1988 visit to my childhood home village. He went back to Fredericton, and I walked about Douglastown for the remainder of that first day, visiting with Ev, lazing around near my former homestead, particularly on the grasses beneath some trees behind the old church hall behind my 1970s domicile, walking through my favourite nature trails (the first time I saw them or penetrated their heavenly-tunnel-like pathways since 1977), going down to the shore and skipping rocks on the river (also for the first time since I moved out of Douglastown), retracing my route to and from the 1970s Douglastown school which was now a museum (the replacement school was a modern facility called Gretna Green Elementary School situated part of the way up Kelly Drive), visiting my childhood sitter, Mrs. Walsh, and her family, who lived in the same house where I was care-taken by her in the mid-1970s, and going to the mall that had been built in Douglastown's lower end (near the Chatham Bridge) for a dinner. I then in the evening walked the four miles back to the hotel in Newcastle.
The exhilaration of being back and at full liberty of perambulating movement in early-childhood locales gave to me energy that I had never thought I had. I was able to walk from Newcastle to Douglastown and back, and meander through Douglastown, again the next day, Wednesday, August 24. Another sunny day as the distinctive smells of Miramichi flora and the feel of the warm summer breezes coming off of the river were with me, invigorating my memories of summers of olden days in the same locality of planet Earth, on my long walk across Newcastle via the downtown Newcastle core's Pleasant Street and then by way of an avenue behind the sprawling Wandlyn Hotel running parallel to the King George Highway, and along a route on the Old King George Highway past its fork-split into two roads, to an on-foot exploration of my pre-school world, that of a trailer park and surrounding homes, the mobile home in which my parents and I lived prior to 1972 still standing proudly at the back of the main entry street of said trailer park, and then pranced happily down the Cove Road to the main King George Highway through Nordin and to Douglastown, my university book sack over my shoulder filled to capacity with videotapes, books, photographs, etc..
Through afternoon and early evening on Wednesday, I retraced many a Douglastown course of eleven-plus-years previous, and in the evening I called upon the father and brother of my 1972-7 closest friend, Michael. Unlike Michael, who was then living in Toronto with his mother and sister, Michael's older brother and father, John Jr. and John Sr., still resided in the green house off of the back road behind old McCorry place in Douglastown. There I was, once again in that house in which I played so many fun games with my closest, best buddy of early childhood, my feet touching hallowed ground- or, rather, hallowed floor boards, as I stood in the very living room where, on a Saturday evening in November, 1977, I first saw, while staying with Michael for Remembrance Day weekend, the "Dragon's Domain" tentacled-monster episode of Space: 1999 that had so unsettled, terrified, and impressed me. The living room, kitchen, pantry, indeed the whole house, was just as I remembered it to have been in the 1970s, only rather smaller than my long-held impression of it through a boy's eyes. I conversed with Michael's brother and father for close to an hour, learned of Michael's life in Toronto since I had last seen him at a Fredericton S.M.T. bus station in 1980 (it brought a smile to my face to learn that Michael was studying hotel management, an apropos selection of career considering how he and I so often used to pretend that my garage was an inn). I could only think that our childhood flights of pretend fancy influenced his decision toward training and employment in the hospitality sector (but Michael, I was soon to learn, would be quite unlikely to concede to his juvenile experiences with me having any such sway over his present choices in life). My optimism verging on unbounded idealism regarding Douglastown, and all aspects, all persons, connected to my life there in those wondrous years in the 1970s, I believed that a few handwritten words of heartfelt regret over how Michael and I had parted in 1980 at the end of his last visit with me in Fredericton would be sufficient to neutralise any begrudging feeling on his part and to tap into the profusion of tender memories of our childhood relationship. For the time being anyway, I indulged myself with the thought that Michael would be as keen as I in reestablishing contact, reminiscing about the good times, and "picking up where we left off".
On Thursday, I connected with Kevin MacD., who had the afternoon free from work commitment at the marina, and arranged to spend that afternoon plus much of my fourth and last day, Friday, in the Miramichi that August with him. The skies were overcast, and there was intermittent drizzle, but I did not allow my spirits to be dampened in the least by the less than ideal weather as I walked from Newcastle to Douglastown in the morning, had lunch at the Coffee Mill restaurant in the mall in Douglastown, and walked from there to my former home zone and then to Kelly Drive and to Kevin's house. I opted to use the nature trails, of which many of the paths ran parallel to Kelly Drive, for my divergence from the main Douglastown road, and came out of the trail maze at Gretna Green school, the grounds of which I explored as the fall of rain became for awhile rather heavier than drizzle. I found what looked to be the exact clearing in the woods where Kevin and I strolled on a sunny Saturday afternoon in early June of 1974. From there, I walked toward Kelly Drive and to where Kevin's house was located on the right side of the pavement.
The two Kevins reunited again, and as the rainfall outdoors intensified, we sat comfortably in the MacD. living room, the two of us the only people in the house, as we talked at considerable length about our lives, past, present, and future, and watched more Space: 1999. First videotaped episode of the television series about Moonbase Alpha that I showed to Kevin on this occasion was "Dragon's Domain", and from Kevin's reaction to seeing that, I discovered that Kevin had not followed broadcasts of Space: 1999's first season on the CBC television network, and CHSJ-TV, in 1977-8 after I had moved to Fredericton and after the CBC's 1976-7 year of Season 2 telecasts had finished. It seemed that among our peer group at school, interest in Space: 1999 had waned almost instantly after I left the Miramichi, almost coincident to the CBC's switch from summer, 1977 repeats of Season 2 to the start of two 1977-8 runs of first season of Space: 1999. Ev had recognised the earlier season of the Moonbase Alpha opus with Barry Morse as the third leading character, but I sensed that he, too, had favoured Season 2. This seemed to be quite sensible, for the year that Space: 1999 was at the forefront of the popular culture among the juveniles of Douglastown was the year, 1976-7, when we were all still together at school and in the community, and the production block of Space: 1999 shown to us on the CBC English-language television network was with but one exception (i.e. the television series' opener, "Breakaway") the 24 episodes comprising Season 2. And my old friends' preference for the Space: 1999 season with Maya, colourful jackets, outdoor filming locations in a few cases, viscerally rousing action storylines, 1970s-specific music style, and interaction among the characters that rather matched the Douglastown own mode of socialising, was also quite amenable to my inclination, nostalgically, aesthetically, and, yes, even intellectually, toward Space: 1999's second season.
Kevin did not find much appeal to him in the Season 1 episode that I had with me amongst my apported videotapes. Certainly, the scenes with the ghoulish monster evoked the requisite shudders and looks of revulsion (he had not viewed "Dragon's Domain"'s airings in November, 1977 and July, 1978 on CHSJ and was thus seeing that episode for the first time); indeed, the octopod monster's ghastly feeding frenzy gave to him quite a start. And he also remarked about Martin Landau looking so much younger than what he had known of the actor's physical aspects through the appearance of John Koenig in Season Two. For much of the showing of my videotape of the penultimate episode (in order of production) of Space: 1999's first season on Kevin's television, we talked about our situations as scholars and young members of the work force and life in general, not paying much attention to the events transpiring on Moonbase Alpha and the Ultra Probeship. But Kevin was pleased to see more of the television show that had been approvingly received by our Douglastown Elementary peer group and was relieved to discover that the other episodes that I had brought with me, them being "The Metamorph", "The Exiles", "The Seance Spectre", were of Space: 1999's second season.
Season 2 and the sociability of the Alphans therein seemed to accord best with that of the inhabitants of Douglastown (it certainly did thus in my mind all through the years since 1977 and never more so than during my 1988 Douglastown rejoinings) and notably then- in 1988- with the mode of interaction among my same-age Douglastown associates in both 1977 and 1988. And the clinical, depersonalising look of the Moonbase, officious demeanour of executive personnel, and constrained or inhibited interrelation of the Alphans of Season 1 was correspondent to my existence in Fredericton.
After returning to the hotel for the evening, Kevin having conducted me in his car from his house in Douglastown to my hotel in Newcastle, I ran in the pouring rain to Dairy Queen for a chili dog, then hurried back to the hotel. Kevin was going to call on the telephone at 9 P.M. to arrange our schedule for the next day, but all of the walking and running of the past few days finally "caught up with me". I could not stay awake and dozed as I laid on my hotel room's bed while watching television (on which there was a movie starring The Wonder Years' Fred Savage as a computer genius). Kevin's telephone call at 9 P.M. woke me out of my unexpected slumber. We arranged to meet at the hotel on the next morning, that of Friday, August 26, and go into Douglastown.
And this we did. Kevin drove his car into Newcastle at 9 A.M. and met me at the hotel as I collected all of my luggage and prized collectibles and proceeded to the checking-out procedure, and we two boarded Kevin's automotive transport for Douglastown, where we sat in Kevin's living room (again just us two in the house) and watched the remainder of the Space: 1999 episodes that I had with me. Next, I looked at pictures on Kevin's wall, one of which showed him in a high school theatre play, and asked him to elaborate about each of the photographs, and he told me more about how much he enjoyed his latter half of public schooling while I expressed sorrow at not being with him and the others, and provided plaintive explanations for why it was not a like experience for me in Fredericton.
Our conversation moved onward from there to talk of the future, for which Kevin was doubtful that Douglastown and the neighbouring Miramichi River townships offered anything to educated young men like him and me. My talk of wishing to return to the Miramichi, and even to Douglastown itself, and recapture the sense of belonging and prosperity that I had lost in 1977 sounded emotionally appealing but not practical, and in any case, Kevin felt certain that he would be leaving Douglastown within the next couple of years and that Ev would do the same. Unless I wished to work in an industrial establishment like Newcastle's pulp and paper mill or for meagre earnings in the retail goods and services sector and seek new friends because old pals and classmates would either all be gone or married or both and thus inaccessible, Kevin advised me to entertain more realistic thoughts for the years to come than of returning to my childhood surroundings in search of ready acceptance, companionship, and happiness.
Kevin conceded that the notion of my having no friends among my peers at school from Grade 6 through to Grade 12 did boggle his mind; it was a concept that he had extreme difficulty in grasping. However, as regards my situation in Fredericton, Kevin offered some sage counsel. "Don't be so quick to condemn those friends you say you've had there- or even your school peers," he said. "They can't help being the way they are. They've lived there in Fredericton all their lives. That's all they know, the ways of that place. And besides, your reading of the way things turned out may not be the same as theirs. Try cutting them some slack. There may be hope for you and them." It was communicable wisdom that at the time my mind was simply not attuned to absorb. I heard what my old friend was saying, but I was not then, in my bitterness about the end of Era 4, anywhere near sufficiently receptive to his words about the place and the life that I now abhorred. He continued, "Try to salvage something in Fredericton. Look for something in those friendships you had there- and try reaching out to others, to people at university, for some new relationships. Because if you come back here, I won't be here. Ev probably won't be here. Those other friends you had around your place aren't here anymore. David is long gone. Some of our classmates are still around, but they're all married. You'd have to start from scratch and find new friends. I guess you probably would, eventually. But is that really what you're looking for by returning here? I sense not. So, concentrate on making Fredericton work for you. Maybe it will. Maybe it won't. But try it."
All that I could say in reply, from my then wholly closed-minded perspective on my lot in life in New Brunswick's capital city, was that, "Socially, there's nothing for me in Fredericton." To which Kevin said, "Well, okay, come back, then. But I've told you what you can realistically expect. Or you can always leave there and try some place entirely new..."
It was a solemn discussion that put me into something of a glum mood, whilst the pair of us looked out of Kevin's house's large front window at the domiciles across Kelly Drive from his place. Grey skies were slowly clearing, permitting blue sky and golden August sunshine to magnificently preside over the Douglastown-Newcastle-Chatham region as I was about to again leave the community where I was, despite our rather discouraging talk of that day, feeling most at home. Time was close for my impending bus ride back to Fredericton. With our last hour together, between 1 and 2 o'clock, Kevin and I went into Newcastle for a Dairy Queen lunch. Rain had prevented us from doing much out-of-doors on the two days that we were together, though the weather was quite nice when Kevin and I left his home to go in his car to Dairy Queen, which was across the road in Newcastle from the bus depot, the bus depot at that time being conjoined to small riverfront hotel. Conversation was again quite upbeat as we said good-bye, determined, despite our earlier talk of the future, to see each other again. I gave to him and my other friend, Ev (who was at work as I was ending my August, 1988 stay amidst the Miramichi River communities), some videocassette recordings of Space: 1999 and Warner Brothers cartoons. Kevin and I shook hands, and I boarded the Fredericton-bound S.M.T. bus.
Coming home on the bus that afternoon, I felt thoroughly pleased by my visit, believing that no matter how poor my social fortunes were in Fredericton, I could find relief in Douglastown- at least for the foreseeable future (I preferred not to ponder upon anything beyond that as regards my life and my old friends; I simply could not bear to do, with how bleak the Fredericton milieu in which I still had to live seemed doggedly determined to be). I did not know as I sat in the bus that was passing the Repap pulp and paper mill and then going under an arch and crossing the bridge leading to a highway junction that this visit would be the last time that I would see Kevin MacD.. For most of 1989, he would be backpacking in Europe. He then relocated in Canada's western province of Alberta, his annual Holiday visits to his parents never coinciding with any of my post-1988 appearances in Douglastown. And what he said to me about social prospects in my childhood environs was ultimately quite prescient. I would meet with Ev a few more times in the coming years as I continued my travels to my juvenile territory, but the best return visits to Douglastown had almost all already occurred; Kevin's prediction that my already long-gone old friends like Michael would be the way of things in the years to come, was correct.
Still, when I departed Newcastle for Fredericton in August of 1988, I dwelled only upon the positive aspects of my return to my pre-age-11 community and entertained hopes of more visits in the next year, while I continued to lament and deplore the collapse of my Fredericton social existence in Era 4. I came home on the S.M.T. bus early that Friday evening gushing with praise for the kindness, the geniality, the humanity of the people of Douglastown, telling my mother all about my four days in the Miramichi area, and remarked how gratified I was to have been so welcomed by all whose doors I approached. My tongue had grown numb and was even starting to ache with all of the muscle activity that had been required of it over the course of the quartet of days; after months and months of reticence (apart from a few occasional statements or presentations in History seminars at university), of mainly scant socialising, and then a sudden flurry of excited talk, my tongue's nearly atrophied ligaments had suddenly been strained. Truly, as I drank copious liquids to lubricate my discomforted tongue, I was in exaltedly positive state of mind, now having much more Douglastown-situated memories to treasure, among them my childhood sitter, Mrs. Walsh, telling to me that she had long regarded me as the most creative person whom she had ever known, Ev and his family having me at their kitchen table for dinner, and Kevin MacD. coming in his car to my hotel and conveying me to Douglastown and back into Newcastle to where the bus to Fredericton was loading.
My orientation, my attentiveness, toward my juvenile habitat's rediscovered splendour and toward the era of my life during which I lived there could never be said to be more precisely attuned than in the last four months of 1988 after my second Douglastown homecoming. For the time being anyway, I shrugged off from me any sense of foreboding promulgated by my old friend Kevin's future outlook for our childhood home village and its young-adult scions, and fully embraced my much vaunted sentiment for my childhood home and friends. I had a letter to Michael written and in the mail within 48 hours of stepping off of the bus at S.M.T.'s Regent and Brunswick Street depot in Fredericton (the last place that I had seen Michael- at the end of his stay with me in July, 1980).
And television programming in the autumn to come would be more evocative of the feel of my Era 2 days than perhaps any other time since then. First, there was the expansion of The Bugs Bunny & Tweety Show to 60-minute format, recalling the length and cartoon distribution model (seven cartoons per instalment; first cartoon usually a Bugs Bunny; last cartoon tending to involve the character with whom Bugs shares television series title billing) of The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour, and a dozen or so cartoon shorts unseen by me for a few years at least, were in the offering on Bugs & Tweety autumn revamp- plus a spiffily redone-in-cartoon-animation rendition of the "This is it" opening song by Bugs and Daffy, said song having been what inaugurated every Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour (aside from those that were joined in progress on the CBC following an overlong sporting event) of my early youth. And then there was the long-awaited debut of Canada's eastern Maritimes' new television station, MITV. Much talked about among videophiles and casual television viewers of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island for the preceding few years (1985-8) that it was in the planning stages, MITV was proclaimed to be, pending a broadcast licence by the Canadian Radio Television Commission (CRTC), the first truly independent, i.e. not affiliated with a network, television station in Canada east of Quebec. (ASN evidently did not meet the same criterion, as it was an offshoot of ATV and CTV). MITV was owned and operated by the Irving company, of which CHSJ-TV had always been a property.
In fact, the stated intention with MITV was to serve as an outlet for most of the CHSJ-TV programming that was not sourced from transmissions of the CBC television network, thus allowing CHSJ to increase CBC presence on its airwaves and become a rather more faithful CBC affiliate. And the remainder of MITV's programming day would be filled, one thought, with items not presented on CHSJ or CBC, long unseen in Canada east of the Quebec border with New Brunswick. At least on my part, expectation was that MITV would be rather like the so-called Superstations in the United States whose schedules consisted mainly of syndicated reruns of television series of ten or more years' vintage. It looked more hopeful than ever that Space: 1999 might find its way back to broadcast in New Brunswick, together with many other items experienced by me on television in the 1970s.
I was, however, much dismayed to find that MITV was to be for the most part a vessel for current American network television imports that the programme managers at CBC and CTV had for some reason or another chosen to forgo, while some of CHSJ's programming was bumped over to MITV, and some of it, (e.g. 100 Huntley Street and Circle Square- both of those being religious fare produced out of Ontario- and the New Brunswick home-grown children's television show, Blue Rainbow) simulcast on both CHSJ and MITV. MITV in autumn of 1988 looked more like the CBS-ABC-NBC hodge-podge WAGM in Presque Isle, Maine than it resembled, say, WUAB in Ohio, or WPIX in New York City- although thankfully there was an hour's time slot on weekday mornings and also, albeit at a different hour, on Saturdays and Sundays allocated to Spiderman and Rocket Robin Hood. Apart from Spidey and the Merry Men of the asteroid Sherwood, MITV did not seem much to be excited about, and was indeed rather a sore subject with me, as my growing resentment of current American television programmes- none of which by this time was of imaginative appeal to me- pushing what I regarded as classic off of Canadian broadcasters' schedules. I remember War of the Worlds and Something is Out There (something may be "out there", but it is not man, who is content to cling to his mother Earth and let the alien beings come and threaten him on his own turf) being promoted quite heavily as MITV's serving of science fiction/fantasy to the outer-spatially-minded persons residing along or near Canada's east coast.
Not that I should be disingenuous where MITV was concerned. Spidey and Rocket Robin were given amazingly ample screen time on eastern Maritime Canada's new television channel- and presented in much, much better form than ever had been the case on CHSJ. Gone were CHSJ's blotches of black tape on film prints preceding commercial intervals. Commercials were consistently inserted at the same, logical times in the episodes, in Rocket Robin Hood's case in between segments one and two and two and three, and in Spiderman always at a dramatic dissolve to black at 6 and 16 minutes into each episode. And all instalments of Spiderman were screened by MITV in production sequence, starting with "The Power of Doctor Octopus"/"Sub-Zero For Spidey" and going all of the way to "Trip to Tomorrow"; this was happening for the first time since Spidey was shown on ATV in the mid-1970s. All Spiderman episodes, from some of the best source film prints then available (bar one or two exceptions), were transferred to Betacam videotape for many telecasts from same copy, meaning no sudden appearances of projectionist hair on a particular airing. The first run of Spidey on MITV in September and October, 1988, although sequential, did jump past particular instalments as it proceeded, with all skipped episodes appearing together at the tail end of the web-swinger's inaugural engagement on MITV. Thereafter, on subsequent rotation of the Spidey stories, all were in their proper place in the episode order.
MITV kept to a 52-unit configuration for both Spidey and Rocket Robin, from its second run of both television programmes onward, pairing the instalments of each so that they were shown together every time that they circulated in cycle of 52 days. The "Blotto" episode of Spiderman was partnered with Rocket Robin Hood's "Dementia Five", for example. Unfortunately, there were three Rocket Robin Hood episodes not to be televised on MITV, those episodes being "Safari", "The Dark Galaxy", and "The Mystery of the Crown Jewels", this trio of omitted astral adventures for Robin's Merry Men having been replaced by redundant film prints (not transferred to videotape) of "The Storm Makers", "The Eternal Planet of Romarama", and "The Warlord of Saturn". The latter three here-mentioned episodes thus aired twice in each of MITV's 52 rotations of its Rocket Robin Hood episode inventory. The absence of "Safari" was likely due to unflattering depictions of alien antagonists, though the episode did a couple of times see broadcast on CHSJ in the early 1980s. "The Dark Galaxy" had always been withheld from CHSJ (in fact, I only vaguely remember seeing it once in CKCD in the mid-1970s), possibly because its villain is named Count Adolf, referencing Germany's notorious Nazi dictator, or maybe because of its portrayal of somewhat-other-than-Caucasian-looking barbarians. I have no explanation for "The Mystery of the Crown Jewels" being as missing as its titled gem stones.
Spidey's fifty-two instalments, including that with "The One-Eyed Idol" (which would be withheld from telecast in the 2000s), had passed the scrutiny of the censors of MITV, although "Up From Nowhere" vanished after its third MITV telecast in early 1989, replaced from then on, in every repeat run of Spidey's television series, by random instalments like "Return of the Flying Dutchman"/"Farewell Performance". A likely reason for "Up From Nowhere"'s banishment to the inky depths of non-transmission on MITV was quality of film elements. For a sizable part of the second episodic act, there is what appears to be a magnified hair stretching across the centre of the film frame. Possibly, the hair was present on the original film negative from which all 16-millimetre reduction film prints were struck, as all appearances of this third-season Spiderman episode have been marred by the hair effect; indeed, "Up From Nowhere" is one of the few episodes on the Spiderman full-television-series DVD release in 2004 not to be remastered and to bear many marks (including that of the intrusive follicle) of past-its-prime celluloid. "Up From Nowhere"'s film print quality had long been an issue for CHSJ, which though always televising Spidey's battle against Dr. Atlantian each and every time film print thereof was dispatched to Saint John, New Brunswick from the Spiderman distributor source, almost always made a noticeable, futile attempt to remove the hair, no doubt thinking that the hair originated with the CHSJ on-duty telecine operator.
Further, "Swing City" on MITV had some web-swinging scenes spliced before the title card to create a pre-title prologue. And for some reason, there was a cut from the title to "Rhino" directly to Spidey investigating a hole in a bank wall, eliminating Spidey's statement about it being a boring Sunday morning in the metropolis.
MITV being in 1988 a neophyte, some of its staff having come from CHSJ notwithstanding, its first several weeks on the television airwaves were fraught with mishaps. Videotapes would go into pause or shuttle mode in the middle of on-air playback. The entire third and climactic segment of Rocket Robin Hood- "Doctor Mortula" on said episode's first MITV showing in September, 1988 was not transmitted because MITV switched to a 10-minute documentary film, leaving viewers wondering how Robin, Giles, and Maid Marion freed themselves from the machinations of the vampire scientist and the wrath of a robot bat. And when "Sky Harbour"/"The Big Brainwasher" of Spiderman appeared for the first time on MITV, the videotape machine at MITV went into a noise-free pause immediately after Mary Jane knocks on the door to the back room of the Gloom Room A-Go-Go where the Kingpin and his goons are in criminal conference. By the time that the pause was deactivated and the camera pulled back from the door for the Kingpin to order one of his stooges to "Answer it (i.e. the door)," twenty seconds had passed. Anyone watching "The Big Brainwasher" for the first time ever would have thought that the Kingpin silently hesitated for quite awhile whether to answer the summons to his door.
Even with such bizarre occurrences, this was my opportunity to videotape-record all Spiderman episodes in order and in consistent presentation, i.e. commercials positioned in same places through all episodes, and without any of the dubious hallmarks, such as splotches of black tape on film prints, of CHSJ. And to utilise my trusty JVC 4-head videocassette machine for the task, a mechanism whose recordings had more tracking space between white noise banding and whose reliability of editing was much in advance of any of my videocassette-enregistering devices of old.
Inside MITV's commercial intervals, at least those within Spiderman and Rocket Robin Hood, were National Film Board of Canada (N.F.B.) vignettes, ranging in length of 2 to 4 minutes. The film stock, the alternately upbeat and solemn film music of a tempo or flowing melodic style common in the mid-to-late-1970s, the film-shooting and film-editing techniques, and indeed the narrator being quite possibly the same man who did the voice-overs for N.F.B. film spools seen by me and my classmates in school in Douglastown were altogether a tender reminder of the part of my life of which I was in 1988 so very nostalgic. There were animated cartoon vignettes, such as "The Log-Driver's Waltz", "Dance", "Faces", "Trees", "Bill Miner", "Spence's Republic", and "Voyageurs", or clay animation ("The Egg"), or documentaries composed of clips of very old celluloid with lively and solemn music mixes and engaging narration ("The Bluenose"), or clips of modern celluloid images utilised for the vignettes, "Bill Reid", "Flin Flon", and "Fashion Designer". All in all, the vignettes put me in mind of being back in elementary school in Douglastown, sitting with same-age friends in our school library/film screening room, or of coming home from school in the afternoons and watching the CBC television network's children's block of programming in which similar or same means of production were often manifest. These vignettes were infinitely more palatable than the drearily lensed, cacophonic, and overwrought-acted Canada Post Minutes produced in the early 1990s to litter televised airwaves of Canada for a decade-plus.
For all of the technical glitches and mostly disappointing daily schedules that heralded MITV's emergence onto broadcast television in eastern Maritime Canada, I still did regard the advent of Maritime Independent Television as a positive development- and MITV was in 1988 not the only new television channel to transmit entertainment of interest to me in my tremendously nostalgic phase in the late 1980s. An array of specialty cable television channels, a new tier above the traditional Channel 13 having already been pioneered by the likes of Arts and Entertainment Network (A & E) and Cable News Network (CNN) from the United States, was in a state of seemingly constant expansion. And Canada was granted its own youth-oriented cable television specialty channel in the autumn of 1988. Called YTV (Youth Television), the Toronto-based telecaster, utilising Earth-orbital satellite to transmit nation-wide its banquet of fanciful fare, via cable television, began its first year with a wealth of material from past, mainly non-U.S.A. television series, produced either in Canada or in Britain or in other overseas locales, that had been screened on CBC Television in the early-to-mid-1970s. YTV showed such intriguing and pleasantly remembered material from my Douglastown days as The Tomorrow People, The Forest Rangers, Adventures in Rainbow Country, and Audubon Wildlife Theatre, in addition to some rather moody but stirring "filler" vignettes showing postage stamps and melodic music, all of which put me mellowly in mind of living in Douglastown in the mid-1970s.
Meanwhile, ABC's Bugs Bunny & Tweety Show expanded to an hour, and cartoons that had not been seen for awhile, plus Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck's "This is it" song, aired on the Warner Brothers cartoon television show in its 1988-9 season. In all of these ways, past was "blasting" into and becoming present, which wonderfully complimented my two visits to Douglastown in the previous spring and summer and inspired me to think most optimistically in writing to Michael in Toronto with the address given to me by his brother. And my correspondence with Dean, the fellow Space: 1999 fan and aesthete-appreciator from northern New Brunswick, appeared to be faring admirably, with always enlightening exchanges, both on the telephone and on paper.
Buoyed by all of these, I returned to university in Fredericton in September, 1988 for my senior year. My courses dealt with European fascism and the Holocaust, pre-Revolutionary France, medieval Europe, and the causes of World War II, in addition to two advanced-level French courses, one of which, in the autumn semester, was on Monday evenings. I walked home often across Fredericton from university, breathing the crisp autumn air, and feeling gratified by the favourable things happening, even as my quite bitter desolation about my Fredericton neighbourhood and about what had become of Era 4 was still very much in force. Indeed, the warm reception that I had experienced in Douglastown had contrasted extremely with the seemingly standoffish, un-accepting, rebuffing Fredericton milieu.
I was reminded cogently, day by day in late 1988, of Era 2, of good times. I would awaken each weekday morning, watch and videotape Spiderman and Rocket Robin Hood, two cherished television items first experienced in my most formative, early stages of life, have a breakfast, and then venture forth to my place of learning, arriving back at home late in the afternoon, usually having walked the distance from the university campus to my house after a 2:30-to-5:00-P.M. seminar course, to watch my timer-recorded videotapes of The Tomorrow People (of which I was now able to view- and possess on videocassette- the entire span of its production, having seen only the first couple of serials in its first season by way of the CBC in 1977) and then The Forest Rangers, rather reminiscent of after-school viewings of such television programmes on CKCD and CHSJ, 1975-7. And there was a time-filling vignette on YTV that showed school children rushing in a sun-shiny spring day to board buses following afternoon dismissal from their classrooms. Evocative of my memories of many an afternoon as a youngster in a habitat of fond fellowship. The helicopter version of the Forest Rangers opening had music and visuals that ushered me back to 1975 and weekday afternoons then when I was at home after a day at school with Ev, Kevin MacD., and my other Douglastown Elementary classmates, just as the spirit of comradeship among the boys operating the Junior Forest Ranger fortress reminded me of the collaborative pretending practised by myself and my friends in my garage in Douglastown. Anything that sounded mellow or somehow distinctively quirky in a 1970s way, stirred me to think and to feel in tandem with myself of upwards of a decade previous- like the "Elmer theme" in the "A Man For Emily" serial of The Tomorrow People, most particularly as it was heard in the final scene of the last episode of said serial, as Elmer (Peter Davison) is working as a parking meter reader for the British "bobbies".
YTV was truly an exquisite addition to my nostalgic television regimen. It seemed so very much like a resurrected mid-1970s CBC Television! Even its signature tune in its first two years of telecasting and its ring logo seemed to denote in style a return to 1970s sensibilities. Alas, with each successive year of YTV's existence, the "1970s feel" of the broadcaster diminished as there was an ever more determined push toward trendiness and "hipness" to appeal to present-day children. But before the 1970s were more or less banished from the YTV programming timetable, there would be an astounding breakthrough for a certain television series of some significance...
So immersed was I in the spirit of my way of life in 1970s, so mellow I would become, that I sometimes forgot my deplored condition of aloneness in my Fredericton neighbourhood. One afternoon, for instance, as I was nearing the joining of Regent and King Streets in downtown Fredericton, I heard my name being called out to me from a car waiting at the traffic lights at said intersection. And I saw Joey, who was waving to me, with his father, in the driver's seat of their automotive vehicle, doing likewise. Unfettered at that moment by any negativity, I raised my hand to return the gesture. For a day or two, I permitted that pleasant encounter to generate an appreciable amount of fond reminiscence of and good will for Joey, but seeing Joey with his same-age peers while I was alone and, it seemed, never again to be visited or invited to visit by him, invoked the rebuffs of 1987 and early 1988 and all of the unhappy, unpleasant feeling that went with them, and thus I resumed my anti-Fredericton posturing. And I balked at waving back to him on subsequent encounters.
Disagreeable codger I certainly had become much of the time while I moped around alone in Fredericton. Whether I had contributed to my own downfall was not in my sphere of consideration in the late 1980s. From my perspective then, I had spent ten years in Fredericton for nought in terms of social existence and long-term friendship, and I was devoid then of hope of an improvement in relations with any of the people who had been integral to my quality of life in Era 4. I invested initiative, concentrated my time and attention, into re-establishing contact with persons with whom I had been friends before moving to Fredericton.
My final year (1988-9) in my Bachelor of Arts programme was by no means the easiest. Every course was advanced-level, and I was in the Honours programme for History, meaning intensive study for 2 or 3 seminar courses per semester, plus two other courses with mandatory participation in class. I had also chosen senior courses in French, in which professors' expectations were very, very high.
But by then, I had mastered essay-writing, presenting material to seminar classes, composing arguments and defending them to peers. My courses in European fascism and the Holocaust required lengthy essays synthesising views of historians and forming my own conclusions. While my essay on the German resistance to Hitler was overlong and muddled, I responded constructively to my classmates' and professor's criticisms by delivering a better researched and synthesised paper on the Jewish councils and their compliance with and participation in the extermination of their own people by the Nazis. My conclusion was not favourable to the councils, and I argued my case in the presentation of my essay to my seminar group. Another course on pre-Revolutionary France required me to write a synthesis paper on views pertaining to industrialisation and commerce in pre-1789 France. None too exciting a topic, but I met it with verve and wrote an essay that gained positive response from all in my seminar. Another course on the causes of World War Two required all of us to role-play as representatives of the countries involved. Participation was essential, and for that I had to research every issue of dispute leading to the outbreak of war. Most difficult was that in the second semester, I had an extremely finicky French professor, Mrs. McIntyre, who did not hesitate to give a failing mark to anyone who did not write a fully satisfactory final paper on a controversial topic. We were all ill-prepared to meet the expectations of this professor, but I tackled my topic on space exploration, writing an essay weighing both sides of the issue and coming to an effective conclusion. Although through the course, I was "squeaking by" with a C average, I must have really "cleaned up" with the final essay as I received an A for a final grade. And to receive an A from that particular professor was considered a real achievement!
My grading average that year was high enough to put me on the Dean's list, the first and only time I had achieved such a distinction. It was a quite satisfying end to my four years of study in the Arts Bachelor programme!
Michael did not reply to my first letter. So, I sent a second. No response. I then tried telephone-calling him. He was not at home. But a week later, I received a letter from him. I eagerly tore the envelope open and pulled out from it the two pages of the letter, which was, alas, not the kind of communication for which I was hoping. The letter was judging. And dismissive. A "grow up, go with the flow, and get a life" sort of letter. It began with a "very surprised to hear from you" statement, and the lack of qualifying adverb had me questioning whether he was pleasantly surprised or otherwise. As I read further, I perceived that his state of surprise was at best one tinged with indifference. Or a surprise with little or no appreciable fondness for his old friend. Michael had been my closest friend once upon a time. Indeed, he had told me that I was his best friend (albeit not in those exact words). But we had not seen each other or been in contact in any way since a rather inauspicious visit in 1980. Some bitterness about that may have been lingering in him, and the dictates for "fitting in" the big-city social environment may have changed him far too much from the person I used to know. The wording of his letter gave the impression of a condescending, uncaring, trendy, and fickle stranger. Someone whose old self- whose old self had been my best friend- I just could not reach. He told me that he did not even remember what Douglastown looked like and that he did not feel any the worse for it. Or for me, evidently, as I read his unfavourable assessment of my interests and preoccupations of that time. The letter could not come across as anything other than a judgemental "brush-off". It was a tremendous disappointment, one that would have hit where it would hurt most if I had not had two reassuring visits to Douglastown. But it still ached. Acutely.
However, a part of me still thought that Michael could be persuaded to rethink spurning his childhood buddy. I wrote to him again, but to no avail, to no further reply. To him, I was, I guess, a wretched vestige of a part of his life for which he had not much sentiment- if any at all. Someone who, in his view, was wallowing in "childish" interests and refusing to change tastes to conform to age group conditions for acceptance, instead looking backward for some feeling of same-generational connection. He regarded me, and everything, every entertainment, every value for which I then stood, to be contemptible, no more welcome in his present life than some strain of bacillus.
Michael was- and is- a vital component of my fondness for the Douglastown era of my life. The quality of his friendship back then, even considering the quarrels that he and I did have, was superlative! I have a particularly special photograph of my birthday party on January 5, 1974, with my friends and I huddling on the floor of my Douglastown house's living room, and Michael has his arm around me at the shoulders, a gesture of affinity that was rare indeed from all of my other friends, and especially those in Fredericton. Before 1988, only Joey had ever been so affectionate, and even in his case it was not an everyday occurrence and had become a much-missed thing of the past by 1988. Michael had gone to substantial effort, time, and expense to keep in contact with me in the year after I moved away from Douglastown, and I will never forget the letter he sent to me in late 1977 wherein he said that he felt bored and alone with me being gone. In that way, he was telling me that he missed me, the kind of statement that scarcely any person living in my Fredericton neighbourhood would ever utter, especially after 1987.
How can I reconcile the Michael who had been such a good friend with the Michael who was in 1988 very dismissing of me and of our years together? It is not impossible, in calm retrospection. But the hurt is still felt. Very much so. The only friend whom I ever really knew to regard me as his best buddy for a sustained time period, now just as impassive to me as had been any Frederictonian. I can now lucidly perceive the origins of that turning. Michael was always trendy. Whether that was from pure pragmatism or not, I do not know. I must admit that I find a constant changeability in people's tastes to be exceedingly difficult to relate to or to comprehend. Through the 1970s, it helped Michael's and my relationship that entertainment and other items of interest to me were somewhat current, or at least fairly often in public view on television. And in Douglastown, in day to day association with me, Michael could be relied upon, if not immediately then eventually, within a day or two, to be in accord with my imaginative fancies, be they Bugs Bunny, The Flintstones, Space: 1999, or whatever. With me gone from our Douglastown habitat in latter half of 1977, Michael still remained true to our shared tastes. But more time passed. And then he moved to Toronto, with me and his life in Douglastown behind him, beholden in reminder by no present milieu, no post-1979 cultural touchstones, etc.. With conformity to the "hip and with it" crowd being of paramount consideration, he became impatient with the likes and interests we two had in Douglastown. His visit with me in July, 1980 had not gone at all to satisfaction, and I do accept a sizable amount of blame for that. I was not at all understanding of Michael's perspective or his criticisms, and my capacity for cordially hosting his stay was strained and did break. He might have somewhat resented me for both that and my lapse thereafter in our letter contact. Granted, harbouring resentments or grudges had not been Michael's way, easy-going that he was, earlier in life. But circumstances now were different. A one-time best friendship for him had collapsed, and did so, to his mind, due entirely to me and my silly interests and my less to-him-amenable disposition.
Forsaking fondness for old Kevin was, to his thinking, the right thing to do. It fitted his disaffected sentiment toward me and facilitated his assimilation within the dictates of cliquish city life. With me no longer a daily presence, Michael allowed trendy impulse and rejection of all earlier childhood tastes to direct him. And his 1980 visit with me in Fredericton having gone awry and we two parting on far from the best of terms, Michael thought it wise to dispense with fondness for me, and eight years hence was no more prepared to rethink what was then an entrenched disregard for the juvenile years that he shared with me, than he was to look upon his life in Douglastown as being in any way meaningful to his development.
Michael was lost to me. And yet, in my heart, in the underpinnings of my sense of self and my yen for a Shangri-la, I could never quite let go of my sentimentality for my closest friend in my age 6-to-12 years. I continue to dream occasionally about Michael, about being back in Douglastown, meandering about the yards in the neighbourhood where Michael and I played, ran, bicycled, etc., and going to his house and finding him there.
I do indeed remain fond of all of my Douglastown friendships, inaccessible though some- or many- of those friendships may be in present realities. Much of my humanity, what humanity I do have, still comes from knowing that at some long past time in my life, when I was young, full of wide-eyed wonder and joie-de-vivre, I had friends with me, enjoying at my side the entertainments that so much impressed and influenced me.
Nostalgia and sentimentality are not bad things per se. Neither is imagination, nor appreciation for the works of the imagination of others. For one without a large family, with no brother or sister, old friends are crucial to a sense of life continuity, particularly to someone whose life had been split by a move to another community, and a key spiritual link to old friends is nostalgia and its attendant sentiment. I should no more expect anyone in Douglastown with a large family and a continuous and stable situation in one community during his or her upbringing, to understand this than I can expect my old friend transplanted in Toronto to understand. Friends from Douglastown and the imaginative entertainment that I enjoyed there have become an essential part of who I am, in no small way because of the jarring change in my circumstances that compelled me to hold onto favourite television productions and such, and memories of old friends.
Dean, my Space: 1999 correspondent, said that he understood. He advised me never to stop searching for kindred spirits who appreciate "the cartoons". He suggested that I watch a television show called The Raccoons, which was about a community of woodland creatures and a free-spirited raccoon who was not a slave to the in-vogue, who was unswervingly loyal to what and whom he liked.
Now, having said this, I must state that, in my outlook today, my turning, back then, to Douglastown and Era 2 for solace and affirmation of my worth as a person capable of having good friends, was beneficial to me only for a short time, and even then it should not have been regarded and undertaken as a substitute for endeavouring to put right what had gone amiss in Fredericton, for saying whatever needed saying to repair my damaged relationship with Joey- and with others, also. Michael was right in one respect. Directing myself backward instead of trying my absolute best to make my present situation work was rather a sort of folly. Circumstances proved that much to be correct. The valuable time that I lost in not reaching out to Joey and the others meant that my exclusion from their lives would be enormously difficult, if not impossible, to overturn. Meanwhile, I was pursuing an unattainable goal in looking to re-establish myself in a place where most everyone of my generation was leaving or had not much time for me even if they were "staying put". The most for which I could realistically hope were I to move back to Newcastle-Douglastown-Chatham would be essentially same as I would achieve on periodic, maybe once per year, 100-mile highway excursions thereto from Fredericton. Infrequent contact with old friends. And even that is overlooking how I and my returning to Douglastown, must have been perceived.
After the first few visits, my re-appearances in Douglastown did lose novelty value, the euphoric spirit of the initial reunions subsiding, my presence there two or three times annually becoming rather less remarkable an occurrence for the diminishing number of childhood pals still residing near the waters of the mighty Miramichi. And, as Kevin MacD. had so astutely observed, most everybody of my generation there was concerned with moving forward in their lives and with sooner or later leaving the Miramichi, each of them looking upon the place as stagnant and career-opportunity-poor, an impediment to their professional growth and future prosperity. In such a context, a dyed-in-the-wool nostalgia-lover (and a twenty-something one, yet) yearning for repatriation with his former home community and for a full and lasting revival of past friendships in his juvenile environs was an anomaly. An absurdity. A tenderly affecting absurdity, perhaps, but still an absurdity. I wanted to return to the very place that my friends were intent upon departing, and to remember and recapture the spirit of quaint, bygone times that were essentially contrary to the allure of fast-lane, up-and-coming life in Canada's urban heartlands. My old Douglastown friends and I were at cross-purposes, and my accolades for the place and its way of life must have sounded to their ears to be indulgent and fatuous babble.
Yet again, I failed to view a situation through eyes and sensibilities other than my own. I presumed the same sentimentality, the same receptivity to nostalgia, in my friends of long ago as in myself. However, by all logical criteria, people aged in their twenties are not inclined to look backward. Certainly not with heartfelt longing to regain as much of their youthful indulgence of fun and innocent wonder as possible, or with investment of substantial time and initiative in recounting the experiences of those prior years. Older people, in their autumn of life, may be so-minded. But young men only just commencing their adult existence see little- if any- justification for being longingly retrospective. I was preoccupied with my own search for solace in my past and in reconnecting with that past such that I, once again, allowed what little capacity for empathy I had to be fully overcome. I believed that going back to Douglastown would be the panacea for my current lonesome misery, in that I would be in the company of scores of old friends, acquaintances, etc., all of whom gloriously, tremendously happy to be with me again, all of them as tenderly nostalgic about my years in their midst as I now was. Realistically, I should have expected, on the part of most, if not all, of my same-generational associates of Era 2, rather a restrained, bemused, even a sceptical, reaction to me showing my face there again after my having been so many years removed.
For me to appear at their homes, more or less saying that, "Fredericton ultimately didn't work out; so, I've come back to Douglastown to pick up where I left off," must have looked rather more than a little ridiculous. Also, they had lived there in that Miramichi village for most, if not the whole, of their upbringing. And really, to them, those years in which I lived there along with them were probably not very much distinguishable, really, from times after I was gone. At least not amongst the whole of the 1970s decade, in which I was no longer living in Douglastown for its final few annui. Sure, the Douglastown Elementary phase of their education was a discreet unit of time and experiences, but it was further back in memory than the junior and senior high school part of their youth, in which they, unlike me, were socially quite integrated in their attended learning establishment. Pre-high-school times would, thus, become rather bunched together in their minds and depending on the quality and quantity of their involvement in school society from seventh grade onward, could be regarded as the inferior half of their public school experience, and part and parcel of that oft-disparaged decade that was the 1970s. Likely in any case lumped together with Grade 6, during which I was no longer among them. Besides, although I achieved some considerable progress at social integration from Grade 1 to 5, I was still not the most dynamic, most accessible, most popular, most memorable person in our class or whole school, and my around-home habitat, while very much my element, was but a one-housing-block-radius fraction of our community, and most of my friends within that close-neighbour locality were now long-gone.
All of this said, it is astounding that my old friends, Ev and Kevin MacD., and I were able to re-meet, to connect, and to accord quite splendidly for those two first, 1988 return visits of mine to the village of our shared childhood days, and how superbly gratifying that the people of Douglastown were, for the first two or three years of my renewed yen for my roots there and of my revived interest in their community. True, my compliments and my stated affection for the lifestyle and the citizenry of my childhood village had to have been of some considerable appeal and effect in the reception to my return. Indeed also, a long-ago-departed denizen of the village returning to his old stomping grounds and seeking out his friends, his classmates, his sitter, his neighbours, his teachers must by necessity be rather an endearing notion, and people of Douglastown generally always were most humane. Most congenial. Most friendly.
Early 1989 heralded another very cogent experience, another reunion with something from the past. Past was becoming present for me at rather a constant rate at this point in my life.
First, some detailing of the circumstances leading to this.
I may have quibbled with the limited supply of cartoon shorts in the ABC television network's package for each season of Bugs & Tweety, but I was nonetheless delighted at the increase of airtime for the rabbit and the canary and their associates to an hour each Saturday. And the return of cartoons such as "All a Bir-r-r-d", "My Bunny Lies Over the Sea", "Hot Cross Bunny" (these three were in the same October 29, 1988 Bugs & Tweety episode), "14 Carrot Rabbit", "Pop 'im, Pop!", and "I Gopher You", all of which had been gone from television, in my area of the world, for some years, gave to me much nostalgic- and aesthetic- pleasure in the autumn of 1988- even as I was being rebuffed by my Douglastown closest and best friend and still a pariah, it seemed, in my Fredericton home environs. I recall going to the Dairy Queen fast food restaurant in the Fredericton North housing and business subdivision called Devon with my father most Sundays at noontime, thinking as I was pacing the floor in wait of my ordered meal (usually a cheese-and-bacon hot dog and French fries) about the cartoons that I had seen and attained on videotape by way of Bugs & Tweety one day earlier, and how cartoons in the instalment shown the day earlier accorded with each other in certain respects. I was also frequently thoughtful about favourite cartoons while at or walking to home from university in the 1988-9 academic year.
Not only had Bugs and his cartoon cohorts been expanded to a weekly hour on ABC, with several long-sidelined cartoons back into the picture- so to say, but a French-language television network centred in Montreal, Quebec, added in late 1988 to Fredericton Cablevision's slate of received broadcasters, was, too, airing Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons. TVA was the name of that particular provider of francophone television programming, and CFTM was the specific, Montreal-situated TVA station for which Fredericton Cablevision had a feed via satellite. Television listings for CFTM began being printed in my local newspaper, The Daily Gleaner, in the autumn of 1988, and scheduled for one Sunday evening was something called, L'Epopee de Bugs Bunny. It was allocated an hour's airtime, bestowing unto me some rather unrealistic but nonetheless exciting hope that this Bugs Bunny item might be The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour in French. It was not. Rather, it was The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie, edited down to an hour (including commercials). My disappointment was deep, for it seemed that I must now be forever confined to ABC and The Bugs Bunny & Tweety Show and rather scant pre-recorded videotape releases of the Warner Brothers cartoons. Although ABC had reincorporated some treasures from my childhood into its Bugs & Tweety repository of cartoons, there was still much to desire. Road Runner cartoons were nowhere to be found in Bugs & Tweety's 1988-9 season, and a handful of Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour Tweety and Sylvester cartoons remained out of the loop, unseen since the CBS-to-ABC transfer of U.S. network broadcast rights to the Warner Brothers cartoons in 1985, and among those were "Tweety's Circus", "Putty Tat Trouble", "Tweet Zoo", "Snow Business", etc.. "Tweet and Sour" was another such, but thankfully I had that one on videotape from a CBS Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Show broadcast in mid-1985. There were many Bugs cartoons, and several Foghorn Leghorn cartoon shorts, plus a number of other cartoons with Sylvester or with minor cartoon personalities that were likewise not at that time (the late 1980s) presented anymore on American network television, except perhaps in truncated form on prime-time Bugs Bunny specials. But TVA- and CFTM- had a surprise yet for me in the earliest months of 1989.
To compliment its periodic Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie telecasts, TVA began showing Bugs Bunny et ses amis, a half-hour-long instalment of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies. Broadcast time slot was Saturday at 7:30-to-8-P.M., Atlantic Time, and TVA's scope of coverage of the Warner Brothers classic cartoon catalogue went often beyond the limitations of what ABC was showing. There were many Warner Brothers cartoons telecast on TVA in 1989 that I had not seen since the early 1980s, or since my Douglastown years, or since pre-school, or that had never before been experienced by me at all! Yes, they were in French. And all of them stripped of their titles. Some were joined a minute or so in progress after a series of commercials, so that 4 cartoons could be included in each half-hour with three two-minute commercial intervals. First cartoon was always a Bugs Bunny. There were no Road Runner cartoons- at least not yet. Tweety was mostly absent for some time. Apart from a few films of Foghorn Leghorn, Pepe Le Pew, Sylvester, or Porky Pig, the non-Bugs-Bunny cartoons on TVA in early-to-mid-1989 were largely those without any of the regular Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies characters.
"Horse Hare", long banished from Saturday morning network television in the United States, was one of the first Bugs Bunny cartoons in the offering on TVA. Other Bugs outings telecast on TVA in 1989 included "Baby Buggy Bunny" (only ever before seen by me in the 1970s on the Bagatelle CBC-French cartoon cavalcade), "Hare Splitter" (same notation), "Hare Do" (known and possessed by me by way of pre-recorded videotape), "Duck! Rabbit, Duck!" (a severely edited staple on ABC through to 1989 and also available uncut on pre-recorded videotape), a certain Bugs-Bunny-meets-Dr.-Jekyll cartoon of quite unsettling early-life acquaintance of mine and practically unseen ever since then, "Ali Baba Bunny" (quite familiar to me though not as yet on ABC), "Captain Hareblower" (a cartoon I had never before seen), and "Barbary-Coast Bunny" (one of those time-honoured Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour stalwarts gone from American television networks evidently permanently since the CBS Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Show days). The Sylvester and Elmer Fudd cartoon, "Kit For Cat" (A.W.O.L. on the Saturday morning U.S. network compilation television show since at least the early 1980s) was the final cartoon in an early April, 1989 Bugs Bunny et ses amis. "Cheese it, the Cat!" with those Honeymooners mice, and its precedent, the cartoon, "The Honey-Mousers", were also in TVA's serving, along with a plethora of new-to-me Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies hailing from the 1950s: "Mouse-Warming", "Boyhood Daze", "Crockett-Doodle-Do" (with Foghorn Leghorn), "Wild Wife", and "No Barking" (the Claude-Cat-versus-Frisky-Puppy-in-construction-yard cartoon ending with a Tweety cameo).
I remember many a mid-winter Saturday evening in 1989, switching television channel to TVA after my MPBN-provided serving of movie-length Doctor Who (by then, the black-and-white William Hartnell movie-version serials were once again in rotation, enabling me to videotape-record the stories that had been missed due to broadcast-transmission-breaking electrical storms in summer of 1986). So dedicated was I then to the works of cartoon directors Friz Freleng, Chuck Jones, and Robert McKimson (whose names I read in the end credits to each week's Bugs Bunny & Tweety Show along with notation of their names before the first scenes of individual cartoons on Warner Brothers' commercial videotape releases of the post-1948 Looney Tune and Merrie Melodie output), I was becoming rather adept, though not infallible, at recognising the style of each of the three aforementioned men who helmed the cartoons produced at Warner Brothers' animation studios years before my birth. So nostalgic and desirous was I of possession of magnetically-enregistered spools for any of those cartoons of great importance in my childhood, that I was videotaping the French versions of the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies telecast on CFTM. And even, often against my better judgement, renting public domain videotapes of what looked like very-early-day Bugs Bunny, Tweety, and Daffy Duck cartoons.
Although appreciative of the opportunity to witness some of the first appearances of some of my favourite denizens of the world of animated cartoons, I found myself wincing at the ugly physical designs (circular-faced Bugs; obese Elmer; pink, featherless, much too wide-eyed, overly bulbous-headed, and much too wide-beaked Tweety; squat, brown-instead-of-black Daffy), petulant and much too provocative personas, and quite unaccustomed voices, contrary to what I regarded as definitive characterisations of the personages of Warner Brothers cartoons as aired on television in my part of the world since I was a little "pup" in a mobile home. To say nothing of the unappealing simplicity (hunter in a nondescript woodland pursuing and being heckled by Bugs) and the insufficiently imaginative settings for the stories and the lack of distinctive lavishness or abstraction in milieu and background to the cartoons and the over-reliance on outrageous physical comedy and throw-away gags undercutting what should be a foreboding atmosphere in some cases. The Daffy Duck Jekyll-and-Hyde vehicle, "The Impatient Patient", watched by me from a public domain videotape in summer of 1989, was particularly disappointing, objectionable even, in its overt lack of reverence for the terrifying tale of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde".
Although very busy with essays and other assignments as my fourth and final year of my Bachelor of Arts degree at University of New Brunswick demanded more of my time than did any of its three academic annum forebears, I afforded to myself most of every Saturday for English-language and French-language telecasts of Warner Brothers cartoons, cogitation on those as, and some time after, they appeared on television, in addition to time for Spiderman and Rocket Robin Hood as these enjoyed 7-day-per-week showings on MITV, and Doctor Who on MPBN, plus acquisitions of Space: 1999 episodes from videotape-collector contacts in hope of improving upon my already completed cache on videocassette of the 48 episodes of the runaway Moon opus.
In 1972, when I was six years of age, I saw a Bugs Bunny cartoon involving Hyde formula and changes of a little man and, at the cartoon's end, of Bugs, into a monster. As I have described, it had a very unsettling and fascinating impact upon me at that early age. Although I followed broadcasts of Warner Brothers cartoons quite loyally- or fairly loyally- through the 1970s and with reiterated vigour since 1984, I did not see the cartoon with Bugs and the little man in Dr. Jekyll's laboratory again until 1989 (17 years later). And then, my second viewing was in French, from the CFTM Montreal, Quebec television station. The date was Saturday, February 11, 1989. A cold, dark, mid-winter's evening. An evening on which a compellingly horrible childhood fascination would be revived to an extent that I would never have expected!
For what had by then become rather a routine Saturday evening practice, I switched my videocassette recorder's television channel selector from MPBN to CFTM shortly before 7:30, loaded a videotape in my JVC four-head videotape-recorder mechanism, and readied my aesthetically-geared mind for what I always hoped would be a Bugs Bunny cartoon outside of the then quite limited U.S. network television contingent of 6-to-7-minute-long films featuring the heroic hare, preferably a cartoon that I had never before seen or not had opportunity to see in many years. The previous Saturday, that of February 4, had been rather a disappointment as CFTM had shown "Duck! Rabbit, Duck!", what had been a prolific cartoon on Saturday American network compilations of the cartoons of Bugs Bunny and cohorts, in addition to being readily available on pre-recorded videotape. On February 11, my two eyebrows were raised at least an inch by the first images of a shorn-of-its-title (routine practice for TVA) cartoon bearing the distinctive look, through background and layout, of a Friz-Freleng-directed Looney Tune or Merrie Melodie (though I was not one-hundred-percent certain of the Freleng style being that of the cartoon that TVA-CFTM was presenting to me to start its Bugs Bunny et ses amis telecast, this particular early-1989 Saturday evening).
A pair of pigeons flying. Some urban buildings in the background. Pigeons landing in city park to be given bread crumbs and popcorn by some kindly looking people seated on benches. My first impression was that this Bugs Bunny et ses amis-starting cartoon was, contrary to CFTM ordinance, not a Bugs Bunny film. My thoughts were that it might be one of many cartoons, heavily represented on CFTM in those early 1989 weeks, without any of the regular characters of the Warner Brothers stable. But lo did Bugs Bunny emerge from a hole in the grass on the park grounds and start talking with rather accustomed expression about the park benchers, before a man carrying a bag of carrots walked into film-picture frame from behind Bugs and was quickly seated in the park, holding in offering an orange foodstuff of known appeal to the preeminent cartoon rabbit. For some reason I cannot fathom, all through the scene in the park as Bugs imitated a primitive rabbit, was recipient of a carrot, and chatted rather ingratiatingly as though "coming onto" the man, my mind was blank, no memory registering whatsoever as to this being a cartoon of which I had prior, and more than a little disturbing, experience. Even when Bugs was in the man's arms, being carried by him out of the park, I did not clue into exactly what cartoon I was seeing- and hearing in French.
But with the sight of them, Bugs and the man, approaching a dark doorway amid some rather forebodingly rendered edifices, the mood of the cartoon seemed on the verge of stark, downward change. An urgent signal began being emitted from the deepest recesses of my brain. For some reason momentarily oblivious to conscious awareness, I tensed. Then, the camera tilted upward to reveal a hanging signboard above the dimly lit entryway, with the name of one Dr. Jekyll printed on the sign in Victorian-style typeface. And thus was my heart racing with fear and revulsion. I was tapping into a sensation of early childhood terror that had been latent for many years due to this particular cartoon's absence from my life from the earliest days of elementary school onward. In fact, I had questioned since my first years as an inhabitant of Douglastown whether Bugs Bunny coming into contact with the horror of Jekyll-and-Hyde transformations was part of the regular cartoon series of the rabbit's "doin's" or had been some weird special Bugs Bunny outing, of an usual extended length and belonging to a string of historio-literary adventures for Bugs Bunny outside of Bugs' normal, appearing-on-Saturday-morning cartoon filmography, and as such unlikely to resurface, barring some revisiting of that theoretical extra body of the multitudinous excursions of Bugs Bunny. Now, as I had done all those years before, I froze there on the floor as the rabbit was confronted with the green-complexioned, red-eyed, not at all verbose and thus all the more menacing and unnerving monster transformation of that ever so genial, little man with whom Bugs had so unwarily proposed to spend the duration of this cartoon, as the red chemical imbibed by Bugs' friend kept transmuting that formerly unthreatening man of fair face and meek demeanour into the repulsive creature that plagued my dreams on so many a night in my fifth, sixth, and seventh years of life.
I was 23 in 1989, but age did not seem to matter. I was just as shaken by the cartoon then as I had been in 1972. The French television station removed cartoon titles, and the park setting opening the cartoon had somehow beguiled me into expecting a light-hearted romp for Bugs (maybe him causing problems for the little man and the little man's shrewish spouse, a la the Pink Panther cartoons, "Pickled Pink" and "Pinkadilly Circus"). But with the revelation that the man resided in a home with a laboratory and Dr. Jekyll signage above his doorway, memories in my head were zeroed on target in full awareness, and my heart went a-pounding. It was as though I was time-warped back to that mobile home living room during that 1972 afternoon for a return engagement with the Bugs Bunny cartoon with the Hyde formula. From the French dialogue that I absorbed, I now knew that the little man was not a "rabbit-feeder", as I had thought in 1972, but Doc Jekyll himself, and the act of self-denial which he exhibits upon seeing the fizzing potion in the laboratory made perfect sense for me now. Part of him, the evil within him, wanted the potion, while the good was trying to effect resistance. Evil prevailed, and Jekyll grabbed the glass of potion with a look of ecstasy and woefully said, "Oh, j'ai tellement honte!" (translation: "Oh, I'm so ashamed!"). The dubbing of Jekyll's voice in French gave to him even more distressed-sounding utterances when transforming, and instead of saying just a French translation of, "Oh, my," he repeatedly said, "Oh, mon dieu!" (translation: "Oh, my God!"), before his changes into the monster or when he discovers that his potion glass and flask are both empty and that his rabbit house-guest was the drinker of the beastly beverage. The revolting transfigurations were so very drastic and soul-wrenching, the green, chemically induced mutation of that ever so nice, woefully distressed man imprinting upon and resonating in my mind again and again as I strained in hours thereafter to concentrate on completing an essay for my university history course on the years before the French Revolution.
As has been the case in 1972, the cartoon felt much longer than its actual standard 7 minute running time. It proved, however, to be, in length and format, a Warner Brothers cartoon like any other, evidently only by a many-year fluke not having been in a televised cartoon package viewable by me after 1972. When it was finished on that cold February Saturday evening in 1989 and CFTM went to a series of commercials (including one for an IMAX theatre in Montreal), I slowly roused my petrified limbs as my mind was in overdrive. The other three offerings in that evening's Bugs Bunny et ses smis were "Martian Through Georgia" (known to me on ABC since 1985), a never-before-seen Foghorn Leghorn expedition in the wilderness with Egghead Jr., Foghorn wearing a raccoon-skin hat (cartoon eventually learned by me to be titled "Crockett-Doodle-Do"), and a Claude Cat cartoon (later found to be called "Mouse-Warming") starting with a toy moving van parking aside a hole in a house and a delivery rodents loading tiny furniture into the dwelling place inside said hole for a relocating family of mice, the bobby-soxer girl of which being considered attractive by a youthful male of same species living "across the way" (i.e. on opposite wall within same house). I will never forget how very "shell-shocked" I was as I watched those other three cartoons that evening. There were thematic connections to the Bugs Bunny and Doc Jekyll cartoon with the other components to TVA's Bugs Bunny et ses amis instalment of February 11, 1989, such as the alien in "Martian Through Georgia" being branded a monster by a panicky populace of an Earth city, Egghead mixing chemicals as would a scientist, in his instance to produce rain, and a ploy by the boy mouse to pass Claude and reach his sweetheart involving a bogus note from a bulldog saying that he has decided to, "...give up (his) evil ways and be nice (to Claude Cat)", rather like Jekyll's pledge never again to drink the potion that turns him into a extreme personification of all that is sinful and pernicious about the human race.
Seeing that Bugs Bunny cartoon again after so long a time was bound to have profound impact! All of the years in the interim, all of the "growing up", did not desensitise me from the horrors of the cartoon and of the work of literature that it referenced. There was a sense of timelessness in the moment when I watched the Doc drink the concoction. Past had definitely become present.
In the weeks immediately after February 11, 1989, everything seemed to remind me of the Bugs Bunny Jekyll-and-Hyde cartoon that had come back into my life. The architecture of some downtown Fredericton buildings, the sight of park benches (even in the winter), even the content of other cartoons and television shows. I became insatiably curious about that Bugs Bunny cartoon. I still did not know its title nor which of the three main cartoon directors (Friz Freleng, Chuck Jones, Robert McKimson) at Warner Brothers had directed it, when it was made, or whether it would ever again be seen by me in English. Freleng's Bugs Bunny cartoons almost always involved Yosemite Sam, it seemed to me, which would tend to cast doubt on Freleng's directorship of a Yosemite-Sam-less Bugs Bunny- though the building designs and those of the park and the interior of the Jekyll home were quite like what I was accustomed to viewing in the Tweety and Sylvester cartoons known to be the work of Freleng (and Freleng, I knew then, was who directed "Hyde and Go Tweet"), while the way that Bugs' eyelids turned triangular as Bugs played Doc's piano looked to be of Chuck Jones' design, and somehow the rather impudent- and imprudent- way that Bugs conducted himself while "coming on" to Jekyll suggested Robert McKimson's less disciplined Bugs. The riddle of who directed Bugs Bunny's misstep into the terrible world of the chemically induced bi-polarity of personality of the physician imagined by Robert Louis Stevenson, was with me for much of 1989.
Plus, what was the title of that strange and compelling Bugs Bunny cartoon? If I had seen the cartoon's title back in 1972 (I probably did), I had not read it fast enough to process the words in my mind or to retain them. Through late February and early March of 1989, as I frequently walked to the Pic N' Puff store for a bag of popcorn or whilst I was completing my Rocket Robin Hood videotape collection, listening to and being rather tenderly affected by incidental tuneful cues in such Rocket Robin Hood episodes as "Cleopatra Meets Little John" (most notably the music for the climactic scene wherein Little John, on the back of the flying dinosaur, Cleopatra, drops a missile on the scheming Prince John), I mulled over some possible titles to the Bugs Bunny cartoon that was fascinating and unnerving me all over again. "Dr. Jekyll's Hare". "Formulated Hare". "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hare". None sounded catchy or amusing enough of a play on words to fit the traditional way of Bugs Bunny cartoon naming.
The Bugs Bunny films televised on TVA on the Saturdays following February 11 were "Ali Baba Bunny", "Captain Hareblower", and then "Barbary-Coast Bunny" (Bugs' charmed retribution against Nasty Canasta, the ruffian jumper of Bugs' gold claim, in a late-nineteenth-century San Franciscan gambling casino, a cartoon of instalment 2 of The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour and which had been utterly gone from my life since the early 1980s). I listened to my videotape-recording of "Barbary-Coast Bunny" off of TVA-CFTM many times as I was writing an essay on space exploration for my French course. Evidently, having cartoon dialogue in French coming at my ears as I laboured on that essay was a boon to me, for I aced that French course, achieving an A-plus grade from the most finicky professor in the University of New Brunswick French department. I also remember just an hour before the Bugs Bunny et ses amis episode starting with "Barbary-Coast Bunny", I was outdoors assisting a couple of young neighbours in breaking an ice jam over the storm drain on the street in front of their driveway, permitting accumulated water from melted snow to flow down the drain before said water could freeze that night into an awful mess. It was a good deed for which I received not a single word of thanks from the parents of those young neighbours of mine, and given my inclination then to be scathing about the unfriendliness of Frederictonians, more grist for the mill did this deficient gratitude appear to be, and was received by me to be.
The winter of 1988-9 seemed interminable. There was a snowstorm nearly every Saturday from December through March and at least once in mid-week. The Saturday of "Barbary-Coast Bunny" on TVA was a rare exception to the weather pattern of the lamentable winter of 1988-9. Accumulated snow cover did not completely melt until the second half of April, and even then, Old Man Winter packed a mighty wallop, dumping some 20 centimetres of snow on Fredericton on Saturday, April 22, 1989, the day that the Bugs-and-Jekyll cartoon made a second appearance on Bugs Bunny et ses amis, that time accompanied by the Warner Brothers cartoon shorts, "Little Beau Pepe", "Raw, Raw, Rooster", and "Boyhood Daze", the last two of those being completely new to me- and I did not then know the titles of any cartoons, including these, that had been experienced by me only in French. The snow that descended upon New Brunswick's capital city on that April Saturday slowly melted in the week to come, but then there were almost three weeks of rain and temperatures seldom exceeding ten degrees Celsius. I had completed my fourth and final year of my Bachelor of Arts degree programme, and having aced a few assignments in the second semester, I had secured for myself a place on the Dean's List. But I longed and I ached for pleasant, sunny and warm weather as I planned a mid-May 4-day stay in Newcastle-Douglastown-Chatham (I also specified Douglastown as my home community on my notation on the University of New Brunswick graduation list, as my affinity for my early childhood home place and my contempt for Fredericton were at that time very powerful), and my morale lowered severely when it looked more and more like the whole of spring of 1989 was to be a "wash-out" and that my hoped-for first 1989 visit to Douglastown might be delayed until who knows when. Even most new television programming watched by me that spring was replete with scenes of dreary weather. For instance, The Trial of the Incredible Hulk, telecast on the weekend of May 6 and 7, had been almost entirely filmed amidst rain, nighttime darkness, and, yes, also some snow.
But the third week of May looked at last to be a sunny reprieve from the cascade of chilly rain water, and that was the week that I chose to go, this time by bus, to the most populous locations along the Miramichi River. The whole province of New Brunswick was basking in sunshine on the Tuesday morning that I boarded the S.M.T. passenger transporter, mindful both of my imminent 4 days in my early childhood surroundings and of the superior videotape copy of Space: 1999- "The AB Chrysalis" that I had recently received in the mail. My parents were happy to have their often fretful son out from under their feet for a quartet of days, and I was pleased again to be in Douglastown and adjacent townships. All of New Brunswick had been in the grip of poor weather for weeks, and trees in Douglastown had not even started to sprout leaves. No matter about that, I said to myself, as I strolled all over Douglastown and snapshot many dozens of photographs with the use of the Polaroid instant-picture-developing camera received by me for Christmas in 1988. Apart from the photography binge and my decision to call at the home of the grandparents of my old friends, Johnny and Rob, whereat I was welcomed with edifying enthusiasm and indeed very interesting news of what had become of Johnny and Rob since 1977, my May, 1989 visit to Douglastown suffered in comparison with its May and August, 1988 predecessors. Kevin MacD. was in Europe. He had been in Douglastown just a week or two earlier, and no thanks to the miserable weather and my consequently delayed Miramichi sojourn, I had missed seeing him that spring, and, alas, I was to have no further occasion to see him. And Ev was working nights at the radio station in Newcastle and asleep at home and not accessible for most of the day. He and I connected once, for some minutes, on my May, 1989 Douglastown visit. I satisfied myself with that, with my solitary walks, handy-dandy camera in hand, throughout Douglastown, a shopping expedition to the mall in Douglastown where I bought a brand new videotape of the James Bond movie, The Living Daylights, to replace my decidedly inferior and much used and worn copy thereof, and updates on Johnny and Rob's current locations and vocations. Rob was working at a gasoline station in Nova Scotia, while Johnny was in the Canadian Armed Forces. After the rebuff received from Michael, I was less than at-ease in undertaking the writing of a letter to Johnny and another letter to Rob. I did so, but I would wince today at how I must have come across, considering my frame of mind at the time as regards Fredericton and my probably quite-difficult-to-identify-with, ardent-nostalgist's approach toward regaining contact with my Era 2 friends.
I persuaded my parents to come with me on a day's travel to Douglastown in July of 1989. So determined was I of maintaining a fairly steady presence there. And a further four-day excursion in August to my juvenile habitat was my firm intention. While in Fredericton, I concentrated much time and cogitation in summer of 1989, upon my entertainment interests. With the Bugs Bunny meets Jekyll and Hyde cartoon thrown into the mix, my resurgent fascination with Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies was at loftiest of levels through spring, summer, and autumn of 1989, along with my still increasing interest in the aesthetics of Space: 1999, and the second season thereof, especially. I was drawing pictures, montage combinations of images on sheets of paper, of my favourite cartoons, and I rented Daffy Duck's Quackbusters on its home videotape release in July, hopeful that among the ghoulish classic cartoons culled for footage in the feature film starring Daffy Duck as a ghost and monster exterminator, the Bugs Bunny cartoon in the Dr. Jekyll domicile and laboratory might have been chosen. Unfortunately, no. But "Hyde and Go Tweet" was included in the cartoon patchwork with a quite clever way within the overarching movie storyline of segueing into and out of it. And passages of music from the Bugs Bunny variant on Jekyll-and-Hyde were also heard through the newly-produced cartoon bridging sequences.
So absorbed, so enthralled was I by the Bugs Bunny cartoon about chemically induced dual personality which had, with a vengeance, re-emerged from my distant past back into my life, that my overall fascination with Robert Louis Stevenson's horror story began a comprehensive, astutely intellectual phase. I purchased a public domain videotape of a 1955 live-television performance, with Michael Rennie in the title role(s), of Stevenson's "bogey tale", from the Bi-Way store in Nashwaaksis Place and digested every exquisite morsel of dialogue in the hour-long production. And in 1990, I acquired in addition to the Rennie version, the Spencer Tracy 1941 feature film and, from television, Michael Caine's then-current performance as the inhibited chemical researcher and his devious, gnarly other self. I sought most of all the famous Fredric March 1932 Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde motion picture, of which I had seen only photographic stills in books and magazines owned by friends in Douglastown or on the Coles Bookstore shelves in Fredericton's Regent Mall during the 1970s. The day would eventually come when I would acquire that Academy Award-winning movie on videotape. In summer of 1989, excited about another visit by Dean to my home, I explored with much verve and with refreshed and new-found insight my original 1976 impressions of the "Journey to Where" episode of Season 2 of Space: 1999, encouraged very much in doing so by Dean who had brought with him for his July, 1989 meeting with me at my Fredericton home his some 500 photographic slides from Space: 1999- Season 2 and who was sharing ideas about the subject matter and terms of depiction of the second season stories and inviting me to respond with my own thoughts stemming from what I was receiving from him in our discussions in letters and in-person and telephoned conversation.
Flourishing under my unrestricted zeal to understand and to delineate why so many of the most influential entertainments of my youth had references to Jekyll and Hyde, my extrapolation of the motifs, themes, story structure of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" over the whole of Moonbase Alpha's unsuccessful attempt, in "Journey to Where", to teleport its whole personnel to Mother Earth, yielded an extensive, quite saliently outlined symbolism through the episode. Symbolism that astonished me in its sophistication. I was amazed and gratified by how observant I had been in gleaning aesthetically zesty notions from the story elements and the visualisations, and impressed at the articulate way that I penned the material in an essay which Dean advised me to send to the fan club newsletter, Main Computer. I felt so very pleased to have impressed Dean with my ruminations on underlying symbolism in "Journey to Where", and to find that my fascination with Jekyll and Hyde hailing from my first decade of life could indeed yield something very significant and wonderful. My augmented awareness and interpretive impulse and my yearning to find a receptive, appreciative audience went into overload. I lacked social integration in my immediate surroundings that was necessary for keeping me with a sense of perspective, of proportion, and of fully effective conscience, and by Christmas in 1989, I was verging on unwittingly usurping Dean, forestalling him, in the sort of appreciation for Space: 1999 pioneered by him, expounding notions and ideas that came to mind in me and which resembled Dean's much, much more advanced and as yet un-submitted work. A collision course was looming. More on this later...
Early in the summer of 1989, I wrote to a newspaper show business question-and-answer column and forwarded enquiries about the Bugs Bunny Jekyll-and-Hyde cartoon, its title, director, and year of release. Daily, I flipped through the pages of Fredericton's Daily Gleaner, and most memorably on afternoons when I was at Burger King, perusing the newspaper as I ate my chicken burger with ketchup and onion rings meal, hoping to see my letter and the desired answers to my questions. While none of those was forthcoming, I did become quite loyal in following the serialised Spider-Man storyline on the Gleaner's "funny pages", of which the then ongoing yarn involved Spidey and Mary Jane meeting a dishevelled Bruce Banner, who was terrified of becoming the rampaging Hulk in front of their eyes. And that summer, I mourned the death of Mel Blanc, voice of Bugs and just about every other regular Looney Tune and Merrie Melodie character, while also feeling, admittedly, more than a trifle irritated that Mr. Blanc's passing was overshadowed in the media by that of Sir Laurence Olivier. No denigration intended on Sir Laurence, but Mel Blanc's talent as a performer in his own form of entertainment was enjoyed by rather more people, I would think, and could be as- maybe even more- meaningful as/than the oeuvre of the British thespian who died on the same day.
One summer, 1989 Saturday afternoon in the company of my parents at downtown Fredericton's Westminster Books, I read passages of the Mel Blanc autobiography that was in stock at that book dealer. I had also very gratefully learned much about the Warner Brothers cartoons by way of Comics Scene magazine articles and the liner notes by Leonard Maltin on the back of the LOONEY TUNES GOLDEN JUBILEE COLLECTION videocassettes and by Jerry Beck on the videotapes in the LOONEY TUNES CARTOON CAVALCADE videocassettes line. Beck was credited on the sleeves of the latter mentioned line of commercial videotapes, as being the author of something called Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies: The Complete Illustrated Guide to the Warner Brothers Cartoons. Given my enthusiasm, nostalgic and aesthetic, for cartoons of Warner Brothers manufacture that had been shown on television in my childhood- not to mention my intense curiosity about their history, the amount of them, how many cartoons there were for each major and minor character, titles, directors, year of production of each, and so forth, to lay my hands on such a book would be much like ascending to a celestial firmament!
I scoured the city libraries through summer of 1989, looking in vain for that particular book written by Jerry Beck and by Beck's colleague, Will Friedwald, whilst several cartoons were in my thoughts, "14 Carrot Rabbit", for instance, as I was eating with my parents at Mary Brown's Fried Chicken on Main Street in Nashwaaksis on a Saturday afternoon in June, on, I believe, the Saturday situated mid-June that the Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour instalment of which Bugs Bunny's tussle with Yosemite Sam in the Klondike would have circulated on CBC had said television medium for Bugs and his cartoon cohorts still been running in Canada; "Snow Business", the Sylvester and Tweety in mountain cabin cartoon that had been unseen by me in nearly ten years and of which sound excerpts were played on CBC Radio in a Mel Blanc interview transmitted on the day following Mr. Blanc's death; "Hyde and Hare", for reasons already above elucidated; and several Speedy Gonzales cartoons, by 1989 taboo on Saturday morning television for a number of years, watched by me by way of the SPEEDY GONZALES' FAST FUNNIES pre-recorded videocassette, on the same sunny day that I went, by myself (sigh!), to the Plaza Cinemas for an early-evening viewing of the 1989 James Bond thriller, Licence to Kill. Timothy Dalton's second outing as the British secret agent, in which the antagonists were mostly Latin Americans whose utterances of "Si, patron," recalled me to the Speedy Gonzales cartoons that I had watched earlier that day, among them "Cannery Woe", a Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour ninth instalment cartoon of some substantial fondness in my memory, for my Douglastown closest pal, Michael, had been in my living room in November, 1974 regarding with me the seven cartoons (that also consisted of "Stupor Duck") in said episode of The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour.
My isolation in Fredericton as regards my generation now effectively complete, 1989 was the year when I started going to see cinema movies with my parents again. When I, circa 1989, went to movies by myself, like to Licence to Kill, the lonesome feel of the experience dulled my enjoyment of the films. My parents went with me to see Batman, The Naked Gun, and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. Unchallenging viewing each time where the films were concerned, but at least I did not have to go to the movie houses alone.
Glimpses of "Lighter Than Hare" (Bugs versus Yosemite Sam of Outer Space) were part of autumn previews for The Bugs Bunny & Tweety Show, amongst those for other Saturday morning offerings, shown on ABC in August. "Lighter Than Hare" had become as elusive as a flighty spirit on television in my part of planet Earth, never having been shown on Bugs & Tweety, the last time that I remembered seeing it having been on CBS in 1984, via The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Show (it had been in the CBS package of Warner Brothers cartoon shorts since the very first year of The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour). That a scene of Bugs elevating, utilising his ears as makeshift helicopter blades, to fly away from alien-from-space Yosemite Sam standing on a railway handcar, was amongst the rapid clips of cartoons in the ABC preview visuals queue, gave to me hope that, in the pending, new season of Bugs & Tweety, I would have more cartoon shorts from my past with which to rejoice in rejoining and which to add to my videotape collection. It was not to be, for, sadly, 1989-90 was to be a thoroughly disappointing season of Bugs & Tweety. There was not a single cartoon presented that had not been telecast on the ABC television programme in the previous twelve months, or indeed since ABC had attained telecast rights to the late-1940s-to-mid-1960s animated cartoons of Warner Brothers, and some of the last salient vestiges of the glory days of Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour, the sprightly, jingly cartoon title music, the title fonts, and character poses aligning aside the titles, were superseded mid-season 1989-90 by a rather generic format for cartoon title identification, that of Bugs arcing across screen, lifting top-hat from his head and blinking as cartoon titles were displayed in a rather uninspiring style of text.
I watched and videotaped the first seven or eight episodes of the new Bugs & Tweety season, before throwing my arms in the air and resigning myself to a useless 26 weeks of Bugs Bunny & Tweety and further 26 weeks of instalment repeats. But all was not gloom for me where Bugs Bunny and Warner Brothers cartoons were concerned, as TVA, having changed time slot for Bugs Bunny et ses amis from Saturday evening to Saturday morning at 11 A.M. (Atlantic Time), was in possession of a quite large bundle (enough to fill 39 half-hours) of Looney Tune and Merrie Melodie cartoon shorts totally different from what had been televised on that French-language broadcaster over the previous nine months or so. In the TVA 1989-90 Bugs Bunny et ses amis were such perennially elusive (in the late 1980s) Tweety cartoons as "Putty Tat Trouble" and "Tweet Zoo", Bugs Bunny cartoons that I had never before seen (e.g. "Rebel Rabbit", "Rabbit Rampage") or that I had seen but once or twice many years prior to then, and even some Road Runner cartoons, which were, in 1989 and 1990, rarer on television in my area than pools of water on the sandy dunes of the southwestern United States. It would not be until 1991, and the coming to eastern Maritime Canada's system of ATV television stations of Merrie Melodies: Starring Bugs Bunny and Friends when the bulk of my desire for reuniting, in my mother tongue, with cartoons long unseen, including many Road Runner cartoon shorts, would be satisfied.
But my hunger for knowledge about Warner Brothers cartoon animation was to be assuaged sooner than that. Disappointed not to find the Beck-Friedwald masterwork at any lender of printed matter in Fredericton, I chose to order it for purchase from Westminster Books. In 1989, I was usually disinclined to spend my money on anything besides videotape, travels to Douglastown, and some of the basic necessities of day-to-day existence. And the book of which I yearned to digest cartoon information was priced at upwards of 25 dollars, and it was not even a hard-covered publication. But in early September of 1989, I buckled to my yearning for all that was knowable about Warner Brothers' animated cartoons and went into the aforementioned downtown Fredericton book dealer and placed a special order for Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies: The Complete Illustrated Guide to the Warner Brothers Cartoons.
Less than two weeks later, on a weekday evening, a telephone call was received from Westminster Books, informing me that what I had ordered had arrived. Next morning, that also of a weekday, as rain poured down on all of New Brunswick, my father chauffeured me to the King Street book dealer, whereat I laid my money on a counter and had placed in a bag in my profoundly eager hands the book I so aspired to read. No sooner was I in the passenger seat of our car then I was diving into the pages of Jerry Beck and Will Friedwald's repository of cartoon knowledge. There it all was in front of me. More than 300 pages. A chronological listing of all cartoons, with extensive synopsis, full credit information, date of release, some occasional photographs, and even in some cases some assessing commentary. Cartoons that I had for many years delighted in seeing, hearing, remembering, and acquiring on audiotape and videotape were catalogued in an encyclopedic treasure-trove.
First pages that I saw contained entries for "Going! Going! Gosh!" and "A Bird in a Guilty Cage", two dear cartoons of long and greatly fond acquaintance. My foremost intention was to learn at long last the title, director, and year of first distribution of the Bugs Bunny cartoon involving Jekyll and Hyde, and in fervid search for headword- or headwords- for that Bugs Bunny film, I first found an entry for "Homeless Hare", a cartoon of which I had by then, September, 1989, no experience whatsoever, read the first few lines of its story summary, thought it a compelling cartoon to one day, hopefully, have occasion to savour (likewise, "Rabbit Rampage", whose title looked somewhat relevant to the last scenes of that dalliance of Bugs Bunny with Dr. Jekyll), and moved onward, determined to find the horrifying Bugs encounter with the duplicitous doctor. And I was quite quick to succeed in my search, in that my father and I had not yet arrived at home, were in fact on the Westmorland Street Bridge, nearing the Maple Street intersection in Fredericton North, when my eyes locked tightly on a cartoon title listed in mid-1955. "Hyde and Hare". I did not need to proceed to the synopsis. I knew just by the title, and what an apt title it was, so un-flowery, so accurately descriptive and yet quite "to the point" while still packing within it rather a zinger of a double-pun, that it was the name of the cartoon that had so momentously returned into my life seven months before. But I read onward, nodded with rather less than a fully un-expectant manner, the expression, "of course," passing through my mind, at the director Friz Freleng credit, and revelling in the thorough and even complimentary synopsis (Will Friedwald, I tip my hat to you, sir).
The utmost mystery having at last been dispelled, I ecstatically continued search for listed reference on so very many cartoons associated with memorable incidents or ways of things in my childhood, to say nothing of my curiosity about the names of cartoons shorn of title on broadcast in French or of cartoons I had only seen once or twice back in 1980 via WLBZ-TV and whose titles I had forgotten. And also the Yosemite Sam and Bugs Bunny on railway train cartoon telecast as ancillary to The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour on CBC that looked to be of an older vintage than the content of the weekly hour of Bugs, Road Runner, Tweety, etc.. And all of those dustier, less colourful cartoons that had been on WLBZ's My Backyard. There were so many cartoons, numbering in the hundreds, listed in that book that I had never beheld in any way, any medium. I marvelled at the sheer bulk of the filmography of Warner Brothers' cartoon division and craved to see all that I had not seen, certainly all that came after "You Were Never Duckier" (1948) in the book. The Sylvester cartoon, "A Kiddie's Kitty", immediately preceding "Hyde and Hare" in 1955 sounded rather similar in basic story material to the Bugs Bunny nail-biter in the domicile of Doc Jekyll, both cartoons involving cartoon characters thinking that they are being adopted into a happy home that becomes rather a horrendous ordeal- so much so that they opt for their former condition. I yearned to see "A Kiddie's Kitty" and ever so many other cartoons delineated in the Beck and Friedwald masterwork. There was even a section on The Bugs Bunny Show, and one on prime-time television specials and feature films assembled from footage from cartoon shorts.
I spent the whole afternoon that rainy September, 1989 day, with rather grudging pause for a speedy lunch, devouring the information within Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies: The Complete Illustrated Guide to the Warner Brothers Cartoons. I learned of the later time of production of a sizable amount of Road Runner cartoons, that they were not Chuck Jones-directed, that Rudy Larriva led the cartoon-animators on most of them, and that Robert McKimson was director of "Rushing Roulette" and "Sugar and Spies", to the bemusement of Beck and Friedwald and to me, too. I also confirmed what I had suspected, for as long as I knew of their existence, that the Daffy Duck conflicts with Speedy Gonzales were among the last cartoons to be produced with the Warner Brothers shield attached thereto, though not, as I learned, strictly native to Warner Brothers, rather the yield of a contractual agreement with DePatie-Freleng, makers of the Pink Panther and Inspector cartoons.
As regards "Hyde and Hare", at last I had a title to which to refer when referencing the cartoon, and one to "pitch" to the ABC television network. I desperately wanted to see that cartoon in English and to add it to my videotape collection. It was not available on home videotape. And ABC had not shown it. Not yet.
My impressions of "Hyde and Hare" developed over time into more elaborate ones, and the result was a highly elaborate and extensive essay analysing the cartoon's subtle touches, its shock effects, its nuances and symbols, of which my awareness became more and more sophisticated.
By and by, as Bugs Bunny et ses amis' new season had within it much for me to enjoy and YTV started a weekday, supper-hour run of all existing Doctor Who serials and commenced a Sunday at 12:30 P.M. engagement for Doctor Who's younger sibling, Blake's 7, I went into the autumn of 1989 in rather a happy mood in some regards, in a glum frame of mind in others, and with an inadvisable urgency in some particular matters. My late-August, 1989 Douglastown visit had me in rather an agitated and antsy state, resolved to achieve a breakthrough, a revitalisation in esteem afforded to Space: 1999. It amazes me how naive I still was then, concerning Space: 1999 at least. Yes, my sight could still be much rose-tinted, even after the rebuffing that I received from Michael, after Kevin MacD.'s predictions for the future for a member of Generation X in Douglastown, and with the somewhat less than enthusiastic regard of an old Douglastown friend, Sandy, for my favourite, and what was once our mutual favourite, television show. I was of the belief, based largely on my memories of the enthusiastic reception for it in 1976-7, that Douglastown was yet a haven for Space: 1999 in a mostly indifferent, sometimes hostile world. And that all I needed do was bring about a return of Space: 1999 to the television screens of New Brunswick and to elucidate convincingly, using my A-graded-at-university ability in writing, Space: 1999's aesthetic brilliance, in order for Space: 1999 to have a second heyday- and not only in Douglastown but in other, perhaps many, sympathetic, or at least abidingly interested, locales.
On my August Douglastown visit, I reached out to a younger fellow, Sandy, who used to accompany my same-age friend, David F., to Douglastown Elementary School each morning and with whom I became friends in my final school year (1976-7) in Douglastown. I remembered Sandy as having been, in 1977, as impressed-by and as enamoured-with Space: 1999 as I was. I never forgot the day that David F. and I went to Sandy's house and I saw the Mattel Eagle spacecraft and Commander John Koenig doll sitting on a shelf in Sandy's bedroom.
In August, 1989, I visited Sandy at his home in Millbank, just to the north of Douglastown. I was staggered to learn that Sandy had not held onto fascination with Space: 1999 like I had done, rather that he had left it behind him after the CBC had cancelled cross-country Space: 1999 telecast in 1978. Sandy was now enthusiastically receptive to the ever-expanding universe of Star Trek and, most particularly, to Star Trek- The Next Generation. Sandy did not recall possessing the Mattel Eagle, had sold his Space: 1999 books to a Newcastle dealer of second-hand paperbacks, and said that his Commander Koenig doll had suffered the fate of having its head blown away with discharge from a BB-gun. It was very, very difficult to contain despair at finding someone who had been like I was, turning off from that wonderful television show that continued to inspire and impress me for upwards of a decade. Sandy did, however, ask me a half-dozen very good, pertinent questions about Space: 1999, indicating some amount of interest in the television show that had captured our respective imagination thirteen years earlier. We did find a more than ample amount of common ground in other entertainment and in world conditions, politics, etc. on which to establish a healthy, present-day friendship. And we chatted outside his house on a warm, sunny afternoon for a whopping 4 1/2 hours!
But with my discovery that Sandy had not retained the same steadfast enthusiasm for Space: 1999 as I had done, there came a feeling similar to the one on my first day of Grade 6 in Fredericton. A wracking feeling of devastating loneliness. But realistically, I should have expected that Sandy would not have carried a torch of some intensity for Space: 1999. Not through his teenage and early adult years, anyway. He did not experience what I experienced in Fredericton in the last four-to-five months of 1977 and beyond. The rebuffs of schoolmates and increased dependence on the weekly broadcasts of Space: 1999 that cemented utterly my everlasting, most keen attachment to that television series. He continued going to school in Douglastown with his peers there, and they proceeded from Space: 1999 to Star Wars to Battlestar Galactica. It was an understandable, quite natural progression in that as each of these post-Space: 1999 space science fiction/fantasy entertainments became current and something of a flavor-of-the-day, Space: 1999 would be left behind in the collective consciousness of Sandy's age group. Then, many years subsequently passed, with Space: 1999 no longer viewable on television in the Miramichi area. It would be the opus least recently seen among the ones aforementioned. And nostalgic sentiment does not usually come to people until mid-life- if indeed it comes to them at all. To be sure, I was an exception to this, nostalgia (or a propensity for it) being instilled in me by the move to Fredericton and social conditions there in the months after the relocation, and then energised profoundly by my Fredericton situation ten years hence. It would manifest itself much, much sooner in life and to a greater degree. Sandy and I had been rather alike at the point in time that I left Douglastown in 1977, and thereafter there was a divergence in our experiences and tendencies.
On arriving back at home in Fredericton, I received a letter from someone in the U.S. with whom I had been corresponding, telling me about a recent Space: 1999 convention in Ohio at which nobody talked about the television show. Extremely discouraging news, especially coming at me at the time that it did. Indeed much upsetting. But somehow, in the weeks that followed, my resolve rebounded and was stronger than ever. Too strong.
What had happened to my old friend Sandy's keenness about Space: 1999 looked to me to be an indictment against the fan movement (certainly, the convention news did so-appear, also), with which I was by then, I suppose, already on a collision course over its treatment of Season 2 whilst Dean's first essays were being printed in the fan club newsletter. The fans' knives were coming out, though not fully (not yet), after three years or so of calm and apparent good will among most club members toward both seasons. But I was then unaware of just how vicious and rank and widespread within the club, the detractors of Season 2 were. And how much the club leadership must have strained to keep a semblance of respect and harmony among diminishing numbers of newsletter subscribers. Dean's interpretive work on Season 2 would need to be downplayed or even countered by newsletter articles arguing against appreciating the second season, lest the dogs of war be unleashed by those preeminent fans who loathe and detest anything and everything Season 2, especially positive analysis or commentary about it.
In 1989, and especially in the weeks following my reunion with Sandy, I opined that fandom had failed utterly to keep Space: 1999 alive in the public eye, was itself stagnating, unwilling to coopt new and exciting ways of thinking about the subject matter of both seasons, and especially of Season 2. I was infused with a sense of purpose and of urgency. The hemorrhaging of once-upon-a-time Space: 1999 admirers had to be stopped, I thought. First, by bringing the forty-eight spectacular episodes back into vogue by televised reruns like how Star Trek had been benefiting from generous television exposure. And second, by fostering an aesthetic approach of the sort that Dean was conveying to me for admiring all aspects of the richly imaginative Space: 1999 television show.
Space: 1999 had not been seen in New Brunswick in English since 1978. With this in mind, I could see some amount of logic in Sandy's stance as regards that television show. When I saw that the YTV cable television station in the autumn of 1989 was showing several British science fiction/fantasy television series, among them Doctor Who, Blake's 7, and The Tripods, YTV seemed a likely candidate for a repeat broadcast of Space: 1999. I wrote to YTV in Toronto to request that Space: 1999 be added to YTV's British science fiction/fantasy line-up and received a very encouraging reply from the lady in YTV Viewer Relations. She advised me to persuade others to write, because the more letters that YTV received in support of showing a television programme, the better the chance of finding it on the air. I accepted the challenge and tried to persuade as many other people that I could to write letters to YTV and ask to see Space: 1999. I talked Tony, with whom I still had tangential contact (on his doorstep, maybe for a few minutes once a month), into writing to YTV. Dean did so, too. I sent requests for help to all known Canadian members of the Space: 1999 fan club. Some, a few, agreed to contribute accordingly to the letter-writing-to-YTV campaign, while many of them never replied to my letter to them.
I also became a fast-and-furious column and essay writer for the Space: 1999 fan club, not sensing that the pace of my writing would cause me to lose sight of discretion, of what was and what was not my privilege to reveal, and of what was advisable to say and what was not. Club management was rejecting much of what I was writing about the episodes of Season 2, whilst the few first season episode reviews that I had penned were very promptly printed. Quite galling to me, that was. I had also begun corresponding with a young man from Calgary who was building a circle of contacts with whom to form a club of his own. I became quite favourable to his cause at the same time as I was "carried away" with the frantic pace of my writing, which he professed to be worthy of printing in his newsletter, should one such be successfully launched.
What I was soon to realise was how distinctly unhealthy it was to not have anyone of my generation with whom to spend time in my immediate surroundings. I could not rely on my periodic visits to Douglastown and on the occasional meetings with Dean for regular social contact. I needed the opportunity to socialise on a day-to-day basis. But reaching out again to old friends in Fredericton at that time (1989) was out of the question, and meeting new people in the city who were interested in being friends had typically proven to be something of a "mission: impossible". However, events of early 1990 forced me to look at what was happening, at how my lack of contact with people was causing me to "lose touch" with my conscience. I began unintentionally committing faux-pas that jeopardised all of my contacts.
It is daunting to explain what I was thinking circa 1989-90 as regards Space: 1999. It perplexes me immensely as I look back upon myself in those weeks and months how I could be so naive, so given to believing that Space: 1999, and especially its second production block, could eventually have a day in the Sun; so disposed to thinking that fan club newsletter articles written by Dean and myself calling attention to concepts and depictions in the episodes, and to underlying allusions therein to literary works, Biblical themes or motifs, chess imagery, or whatever, could impress fandom into giving to Season 2 a reappraisal; and so inclined to envisioning our favourite television show having an increased profile and popularity in the world at large. How could I have been so steadfastly heedless of the already demonstrated stubbornness in the world on the subject of that cancelled space television series? After I had known, going through school in Fredericton, how unflinchingly unappreciative the vast majority of people could be toward science fiction/fantasy at its most vividly uninhibited? After I was mocked and taunted in Grade 6 as I wore on my sleeve my affection for the television series about the runaway Moon? After how pronounced had been the negative reaction of my best friend, Michael, to finding me in 1980 more absorbed than ever with the kind of imaginative entertainment epitomised by the solar-system-to-solar-system travels of Moonbase Alpha? After the routine slating or ignoring of Space: 1999 through the long publication history of Starlog magazine? After the unwavering anti-Season-2 attitude of the Space: 1999 fan in Rhode Island with whom I had corresponded? After how approving the fans had been of a "Thirteen Years of Hindsight" article in their newsletter in 1988, an article touting Season 2 as the bastard outgrowth of faint-heartedness on the part of the Gerry Anderson's production team and the financiers and distributors of the ostensibly absolutely superior Season 1, coming a newsletter issue before Dean's work saw the light of day?
In his first letter to me in 1988, Dean outlined the sorry state of regard for Space: 1999, in terms of there being a conspiracy. I thought at first that he was simply being facetious, but he referred again and again to the notion that there was something afoot against Space: 1999 amongst the general public, science fiction buffs, and Space: 1999's own fans. People, he said, were adamant about keeping Season 2, if not Space: 1999 as a whole, in a murk of derision, criticising out of context various story elements, maligning the central ideas to episodes as being matter-of-factly contemptible, looking upon every compellingly peculiar aspect to the second season's stories and chronological sequence as some sort of production lapse, and closing ears, eyes, and mind to positive approaches to looking upon same.
He qualified his use of the "c word" by referring to something in the collective subconscious keeping people ignorant of archetypes and symbolisms of which Space: 1999 was bursting at its seams, conditioning them to viscerally deplore or hate the episodes of Space: 1999 in which artistic expression rested beneath the outward surface. He said that people by the multitudes are unwaveringly against Space: 1999. Not that they gather in rooms and plot against our favourite television programme and especially against its second set of twenty-four episodes, but because each individual has a predilection to ignore, downplay, or attack something in which the collective subconscious has implanted distinctive clusters of chronological episodes, strains of symbolism, motifs, nuances, etc.. I was sceptical about any mention of a conspiracy, conscious and calculating or unconscious and involuntary. But Dean persisted in pointing me toward examples of steadfastly blinkered attitudes. And as events would indicate to me, there was more than a kernel of truth in what Dean was asserting. People do have much to learn about the creative impulses that they have inherited, and they are opposed to learning about subconscious influence in the writing and depicting of fiction, and to being told of examples of unintentional brilliance in superficially less than cerebral work.
But in Dean's hypothesis there is a sizable contradiction. If indeed people are unwilling or incapable of recognising or appreciating aesthetic beauty in Season 2 due to limitations imposed upon them by their unconscious mind (which evidently wishes to forever obscure and deny the creative influence of the collective subconscious), then why bother even trying to write and publish observations or hypotheses about such beauty? If all we can expect is to be "shouted down" time and time again as being cranks while the symbolisms and such go publicly unacknowledged, then, indeed, why bother?
This is a problem with which I have been grappling for many years now, after I had eventually ceded to Dean's theory about the contrariness existing in most people about Space: 1999's second season. I accepted the theory as tentatively valid, at least- even though my rationality continues to dispute it because of its projected scope, while my emotional mind objects to the sheer hopelessness at the crux of it. I have in any case veered away from writing about Space: 1999, and especially its second season. Partly because it must be futile to expound upon a subject that can have no appeal, supposedly, to anyone besides myself and Dean, and also because conscience fuelled by unpleasant memories of being "in the wrong", of overstepping permissible limits where Dean's priority is involved, has also put a damper on my capacity to write about that television series. I have tried to find other entertainments held in rather higher esteem where a similar vein of artistic expression is noticeable to me and can be addressed. And of which Dean has no claim to any observation or interpretation. The Internet has, alas, revealed, to my teeth-gnashing vexation and sometimes quite deep depression, that unrelenting contrary attitudes also exist toward those other productions.
But in 1989 and 1990, I was not a believer, not even tentatively, in a collective subconscious conspiracy, concerning Space: 1999 or anything else, though Dean did convince me that a collective subconscious must have been involved in instilling artistically compelling phenomena in the second season. I thought that fandom was not the nearly monolithic hater of Season 2 that Dean described it as being. I was inclined to the stupidly optimistic idea that hamstrung beneath the stewardship of a tired and no longer inspired Ohio clique and some "olde guarde" vocal fans was a potential groundswell of receptivity to new ideas on the subject matter of Space: 1999, both seasons. And I even opined that if only my loyalty to Space: 1999 could be vindicated, I might yet bask in a wonderful, new era of social fortune. Naive. Absolutely, damnably naive.
Yet, Space: 1999 had been a major part of some of the best years of my life, and it had a tremendous hold on me, nostalgically and aesthetically- and I guess that there was a tension in me of reason versus emotion, with emotion, I suppose, usually prevailing, keeping me in a naive decision-making pattern. My friend Sandy's apparent rejection of Space: 1999, which ought to have had something of a shattering effect on my naivete, made me all the more determined to hold onto naive sensibilities, and with an urgency that powered my writing about the potential symbolisms in episodes adjacent to "Journey to Where". Lack of local friendship and social interaction through those final months of 1989, whilst I was in solitary toil as a janitor at Bank of Montreal, Carleton Street branch, and undertaking a modest amount of graduate work at university, had me in pensive frame of mind for hours at a time, day after day, overindulging on interpretive tangents regarding Space: 1999.
And so, 1990 began with an ear-bashing from Dean, who was irate with me for overreaching myself in the interpretive work that I had mistook as being a combined effort between him and I. He did, after all, encourage me to proceed with my essay on "Journey to Where" and did not tell me to desist when I moved onward with aesthetic study of "The Metamorph" and "All That Glisters" which followed from the Jekyll-and-Hyde angle used by me on "Journey to Where". And then, when the lambasting of me came, it could not have been more severely articulated. I apologised. I retracted all essays that I had written in latter half of 1989. I renounced all claim to episodic interpretation, even to that of "Journey to Where". And still that was not enough. I had forfeited any right for the near future to continue as correspondent to Dean on the nuances of Space: 1999 and was required to give an account of myself not just with regard to my faux-pas of 1989 but about my entire response to our relationship, which Dean now said had been unsatisfactory to him from the very beginning. I had flaws to my personality. Indeed, yes. And I am certainly today acutely aware of them and of their consequences through the eras of my life. But to have them confrontationally presented to me on paper or on the telephone or in person by someone three years my senior, or even by another person at all, was staggering, deeply upsetting. Admissions were being pulled out of me, admissions of being socially insecure, of having a debilitating vulnerability, of having persisting issues with events experienced in my upbringing that were impairing me in adulthood.
One of the perplexing and frustrating things about post-1987 is how every time that circumstances showed substantial promise for bright days ahead, for me turning a corner and regaining a quality of life comparable to that of the early 1980s, there would be some simultaneous negativity to endure, some intense tribulation- usually involving Space: 1999, the fans thereof and my association with them. I would be cast into an aggrieved, self-invalidating frame of mind that thwarted the positive direction in which my life was seeming to go. I would fail to "seize the day" and more or less self-destruct, what enjoyment there was to be had with favourable developments thus being of the solitary variety, with a garnishing of self-doubt-inducing hostility from certain quarters.
On the other hand, favourable developments helped me through such upsetting times, offering in most cases a greatly welcome distraction from the animosity. I do shudder to think how low my spirits might have sunk were I not to have had the positive things happening in my life.
Never was any of this more true than in 1990, a year that by all rights ought to have been a triumphant one, potentially giving even 1983 a spirited run for the money, but which became instead one of the most morally taxing, difficult years of my whole life. It was a year in which extreme unpleasantness slung my way countered the good things, e.g. the successes about which I ought to have been in a celebrating mood, with me reeling with self-doubt and anxiety attacks as I was under verbal fire from a number of directions and failing in areas of my life. What could have been a splendid year became a cacophony of strident personal assailing, bringing into question my competency to perform socially and occupationally, and my worth as a person.
Granted, the two to three years leading to 1990 had seen me chronically isolated, disinclined to reach out to just about anyone in my Fredericton neighbourhood, expecting certain rebuff if I did so, and thinking the worst about the manner and motivation of people in Fredericton. I had been quite resolute in my disdain for the all too common Frederictonian tendency toward cliquishness and abrasiveness. And of human virtues in the world in general, I was unsure or doubting. Not exactly a recipe for social efficiency or happiness. I was still rather appreciative and diligent as a visitor or as an exchanger of letters with the persons who treated me with welcome and dignity. But for much too large a percentage of my time each year since 1987, I was alone, at odds with my surroundings, and at a loss somewhat as regards my ability, never quite sufficiently evolved admittedly, to empathise with other people. Conscience was on something of a sabbatical for much of those years, and some lapses of judgement on my part as regards actions on some Space: 1999 related projects or concerns were therefore probably inevitable.
I had believed myself to be in an equal-contribution collaboration with Dean, whose interpretive work on Season 2 of Space: 1999 had captured my admiration and imagination at a time when nostalgia for the period of my life when my first-ever experiences with Space: 1999 occurred, was immense. I was now seeing the amount of suggestiveness in the subject matter of Season 2 about which he had been working on cataloguing for many years. He would point me in the direction of some symbolic content in one episode and by myself I would, based on my own now enhanced viewpoint, detect something along a similar but not entirely identical line of interpretation in another episode. Though initially encouraging me to test the waters with a wading piece of writing as regards symbolism in "Journey to Where", Dean recanted 100 percent from such a stance after I penned no less than four articles between September and December of 1989. He harshly contended that I was forestalling him or undermining purity of delivery of his intricately interwoven observations and analyses. Feeling genuinely remorseful and repentant (I had indeed been in error), I sought to right what wrong that I had committed. But the interpersonal problem that I had brought into being was not to be easily dissipated.
My integrity was in question. Allegation was that I had acted intentionally to usurp his priority, or at the very least there was a contention that I was a thoroughly maladjusted, defective human being who, being prone to unwitting offence unto others, deserved all of the "brushings-off" that he had received so far in life. These disaffirmations kept coming in my direction over the first five months of 1990, such that I was even fearful of opening my mailbox or answering the telephone. Dean invited me to stay with him for several days in March on the premise of forming an understanding with tact and candour. I was more than a little uneasy about the prospect of being the guest of someone whom I had wronged and who was angry with me, but I boarded S.M.T. bus to Bathurst, met him at the bus terminal in that New Brunswick municipality, and from there he and I travelled in his car to the rural areas along the highway between Bathurst and the town of Dalhousie, with the Bay of Chaleur and the province of Quebec within view behind the homes on the northern side of the road. In a residence in Belledune, New Brunswick, an old-fashioned abode that he had agreed to "house-sit" while its owner was vacationing in southern locales, the two of us arrived at rather an uneasy truce that seemed to hinge on me being submissive to any and all criticism slung at me publicly in the fan community and privately in letters and telephone conversation. When I did try to defend myself on occasion in weeks to follow, the truce was cast aside, and denunciations came at me afresh.
Silver lining to the dismal cloud cast over the early months of 1990 was that I was in a constructive, forgiving frame of mind regarding my Fredericton social connections and the events of 1987 and early 1988. Not that I was inclined as yet to consider alternative angles to the disintegration of my social life in Fredericton; it would be several more years before I would be developed enough out of egocentricity, to be aware of such other perspectives. However, I felt in 1990 substantially more urgent need for companionship and social existence on a regular basis in my immediate area than had been the case for the preceding couple of years. And I was willing to mellow, to soften my stance against what I still thought had been a unilaterally imperative leave-Kevin resolution on the part of Fredericton friends, and to entertain the possibility that they may have had change of heart, that they might miss me and our old times together, and that there could be a successful shared effort toward rebuilding of relationship. I was becoming receptive to positive recollection and impression of my Era 4 years, to questioning the wisdom of begrudging incidents and persons connected to the end of that on the whole pleasurable unit of time, and to indulging a heartfelt wish to break the ice surrounding my old, for-some-while-thought-extinct friendship with Joey. I found myself gravitating in my mind toward 1982-7 as an ideal time unit of my life as Douglastown and 1972-7 had been, and especially toward Joey. I desperately needed Joey's unique ability to pull me out of a down-spirited state of mind, which was definitely the case for me in early 1990.
And in April and May of 1990, there were very, very encouraging indications of a real thaw, of renewed mutual interest, in the relationship between Joey and I. He waved to me- and I responded in kind- as I was being car-conducted by my mother past his house en route to Fredericton's shopping malls or to my grandmother's house. I saw him walking by himself past my house one day in early May. And one evening in mid-May, I was trotting my way back to my home from Fredericton North's Brookside Mall where I had been browsing the K-Mart department store. I was climbing a hilly, wooded path beneath a run of power towers as I advanced in perpendicular line from Brookside Drive and past Cherry and Frazer Avenues to Fulton Avenue. And to thereafter start walking Longwood Drive toward its juncture with Linden Crescent. Between Cherry and Frazer Avenues, I encountered Joey who was bicycling in the opposite direction on the same wooded path. Even his being with a peer buddy of his did not trouble me or induce cold shouldering as such had done for the past three years. With the affectionate tone of Joey's voice as he spoke my name in greeting, I felt my heartstrings being tenderly pulled, and my tear ducts started a misty-eyed sensation, with longing filling my soul for a return to the relatively much, much simpler, infinitely preferable days of yesteryear. Before Dean. Before fandom and my involvement therewith had gone pear-shaped. Years before 1987 when Joey was with me, when his presence at my side was an eventuality upon which I could rely, when he would stand with me against those who would berate me, whenever my integrity was under cast aspersion, disappointing to him though I may by times have been. I yearned to be with Joey in the ways and spirit of old times. Much the same feeling as I had in 1987 when I saw that photograph of my Douglastown Elementary School class. I remember coming home at 9 P.M. that May evening and watching Happy Birthday, Bugs! 50 Looney Years on the CBS television network via WAGM-TV, my thoughts on Joey and our friendship and past together in addition to being on the retrospective on Bugs Bunny's fifty-year-long cartoon career.
I knew then how desperately I yearned for a return to pre-1987, when the most with which I had to concern myself was somebody enticing Joey to part from me or a not-so-good-natured ribbing by competitors during a game loss by me on the baseball field. Yes, even those kinds of incidents seemed infinitely more bearable than my ordeal of 1990. I would have gladly forsaken my enhanced awareness, fostered by Dean, of aesthetic merit, of symbolic suggestion, in my favourite television show, for an opportunity to go back to the way that my life was prior to 1987. I wanted the relative innocence of my pre-1988 fascination with Space: 1999, before Dean, before any sizable hostility within fandom was evident on the differences between Seasons 1 and 2, before there was any unpleasant change in my involvement with the organisation of Space: 1999 aficionados, and when Space: 1999, both seasons thereof, had an ineffable ether, a mystique, and it was a fun interest and a source of joy amongst myself and anyone who offered to join me in watching it, or at least were willing to abide my interest in it. Happier days. Not that I was happy all of the time prior to 1987. But I was happy most of the time- and happiest when Joey was with me.
My choice of how to approach Joey was probably not ideal, but I still felt apprehensive about walking to his door or calling him on the telephone. I put pen to paper. The intent in so-doing was to fill some of the blanks for Joey as to what had become of my life in the years that he and I were incommunicado, and confiding in him how miserable I had felt to be no longer a significant part, or part at all, of his life. The letter was in excess of twenty handwritten pages, and it did meander more than a few times away from its central purpose, became rather too heavy on introspection and self-examination. But it contained enough mutually valuable recall of how special our work, play, and talk of days gone by had been and candid statements of how much I missed all of that- and how much I missed him- for Joey to be impressed, sentimentally touched, and grateful. I reminisced about my earliest meeting with Joey, about some of our best times together in the early 1980s, and honestly, though probably not saliently enough, explained why I reacted the way I did to the split between of the two of us that had started in mid-1987. Joey proved what a unique person he is as he sat after dinner at his home on the snowy Wednesday, May 23, 1990 (a record day for there being fall of snow so late in the spring) solitarily in his room reading the exceedingly long letter that I had deposited in his mailbox and telephoned me immediately (at close to 9 P.M.) after ploughing through my protracted narrative, to say how much he appreciated the work that I put into writing that letter for him and complimented me on my writing ability. I did not accept compliment as unconditionally I ought to have done, instead criticising my vocabulary, my grammar, my penmanship in places, and thereby rather downplaying Joey's sincere praise. And it is true that in days and weeks to follow as I thought about the sheer length of the letter and some of what I said in it regarding myself, uneasy did I become. But Joey had been so very responsive to what I had penned. He talked amicably with me on the telephone that evening for 45 minutes as we two tapped into the same effortless late-evening conversational flow that we were blessed with a half-decade previous, and two days later as I was clipping the grasses on the front edge of my lawn, Joey drove his father's truck past my place and called out to me in utmost cheer as he went by me. I returned the gesture of greeting, and indeed we were very, very close to reinstating our friendship than at any other time, post-1987.
Yes, we were so very near to overturning our breaking-apart of three years earlier. Whatever issues that still needed resolving, we could have dealt with those amiably; indeed the sense of good will between Joey and I for several weeks in spring of 1990 was possibly stronger than it had been since way before 1987, possibly as far back as 1983.
When I say that 1990 had ever so much potential, I am certainly not whistling a Southern song. It was the year when I attained my first retail job on the strength, the persuasiveness, of my resume. And my job-search success was in June, only a few weeks after the excellent telephone conversation with Joey and a week or so after a good 3-day Douglastown visit during which I used my 35-millimetre camera to photograph the village of my juvenile years with stunning clarity and richness of colour, talked with Ev for fifteen minutes, went to Douglastown's Gretna Green School, which had superseded Douglastown Elementary in 1979, and saw three of my teachers, Mrs. Jardine, Mr. Wood, Mr. Donahue, and walked through the old elementary school, now a public access historical museum, peered through the window of my Grade 5 classroom from where I sat in 1976-7, and signed my name to a former pupil listing on an exhibited old-fashioned desk.
By my twenty-fourth birthday in 1990, I had had several summer jobs. I had also worked as a janitor at a bank for a few laborious weeks in autumn and early winter, 1989. But I had never been hired for regular employment as a clerk in a store- until the spring of 1990.
I had heard that Coles Bookstores were opening another Fredericton franchise, in the King's Place mall in downtown Fredericton South. And I was counselled that the best place to apply was to a business that was just starting. The new Coles outlet was a very likely opportunity, and dressed in my best clothes and my resume under my arm, I walked into the store, talked with the assistant manager, and left the resume with her. Within a few hours, I received a telephone call from the store's manager asking me there for an interview. We had a casual talk, and my stated intention to go to university that autumn for a second degree was probably a key factor in impressing the manager to hire me. He asked me to come into the store on the next day to "learn the ropes" as a part-time employee. I had a very pleasant group of co-workers and acquired my skills at operating cash register and stocking bookshelves within that first full day on the job. It was a part-time position, and I was the junior staff member. I had an employee discount on book purchases, and utilised that discount to buy Chuck Amuck, Chuck Jones' autobiography, and one or two books about Canadian politics.
Summer of 1990 was sunny and very warm. My second Miramichi-area visit late in August was distinguished by temperatures unusual for so late in the summer, and me having opted not to stay in the fully air-conditioned Journey's End but at the Fundy Line Motel, whose room-cooling ventilation systems were non-functional. I ate breakfasts in the same Fundy Line dining area where my parents and I had a meal one evening in 1975. On that sequence of days that I was in Newcastle-Douglastown-Chatham, I had our family car, and was using it to go to places, in Chatham mostly, which I had not seen, much less been in, since I lived in that New Brunswick region, and I also walked from the Fundy Line through a field to the Old King George Highway, where I called at the house my childhood sitter, Mrs. Waye, and talked with her for an hour or so. I photographed more of Douglastown with my 35-millimetre camera and saw Sandy, Ev's parents, Johnny and Rob's grandparents, the Walshes, and some of my 1972-7 neighbours. My August, 1990 time in Newcastle-Douglastown-Chatham started on a Saturday. I remember watching the cartoon, "One Froggy Evening", on The Bugs Bunny & Tweety Show as I was settling into my motel room, and From Russia, With Love on the Saturday evening while I was readying for bed, both of those telecast on the ABC television network and WVII-TV, Bangor, Maine, received on Miramichi-area cable television.
At home in Fredericton in mid-1990, I seemed to be turning a corner, first the improvement, alas only temporary, in my relations with Joey, and then an encounter with Craig one Saturday afternoon in July as I was walking Evans Street, where Craig then lived, the two of us talking for more than an hour about our lives, about baseball games we played years previous, and about some entertainment that we had experienced in the past few years. And Steven was remarkably much changed from the person who had derided me on the baseball field and eventually excluded me from his peer group's baseball games. He was reverent, cheerfully friendly, and keen to talk to me about Space: 1999 and many other entertainments known to be of interest to me. As it happened, Steven was the first person I told about Space: 1999 coming to YTV. I was walking on air when I saw Space: 1999 listed in TV Guide magazine as being scheduled on YTV for September 8, 1990 at 5:30 P.M.. I walked out of the Brookside Mall where I had been perusing the publications on the shelves of the Book Mart, felt the fair wind on my face that sunny day, Tuesday, September 4, and indulged in some joyous leaps as I exclaimed, "Yes!!!!!", clenching my hand into a fist and moving it backward and downward, a young-at-heart person's physical way of expressing profound satisfaction. "Successssssssssss!!!!!!!"
I went to see Tony, for he did contribute to my letter campaign to YTV, found him not at home, and talked to Steven about the triumph of the letter campaign that I had orchestrated. He was very impressed, both by the achievement about which I was reporting and likely also by how much like my old, pre-1987 self I was that day behaving. The aura of grim and begrudging austerity that had been about me for some years was overcome by exquisitely glad tidings! The whole disagreeable kerfuffle with my fan contacts out of mind for the time being, I was energised by the same wonderful exuberance that had been with me in 1983 when I had scored a similar victory in a quest for telecast, and for benefit from a telecast, of Space: 1999. Tony came to my house a few hours later to confirm from me the good news, as I was watching "Pyramids of Mars: Pt. 1" on Doctor Who on YTV.
Yes, in September, my letter campaign to YTV was confirmed successful. And perhaps in deference to the significant year, a fiftieth birthday milestone, in the life of the cartoon hare, The Bugs Bunny & Tweety Show, in autumn of 1990, underwent a substantial revamping. Included in the Bugs & Tweety cartoon package from September 8, 1990 through to 1992 were many dozens of cartoon shorts that had been missing from English-language television in my part of the world for nearly ten- if not more- years, and several that maybe had never been televised in eastern Maritime Canada and which were totally new to me outside of their notation, their synopsis and credits, in the Beck and Friedwald book. All seven cartoons (i.e. "Baton Bunny", "Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2th Century", "Rabbit Hood", "Rabbit Rampage", "Goldimouse and the Three Cats", "Ali Baba Bunny", "Room and Bird") in the first instalment of the 1990-1 Bugs Bunny & Tweety Show had- as far as I knew- never been aired, bar maybe some excerpted clips, on U.S. network television. I was familiar with most of those cartoons by alternative means- pre-recorded videotape, mainly- of viewing Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies, but what was offered in the September 8, 1990 episode of Bugs & Tweety sure looked promising for the coming year!
Moreover, Bugs & Tweety was starting to be offered by ATV and on most weeks simulcast with ABC's airing. No more did I need worry about picture quality problems on WVII-TV, the Bangor, Maine ABC affiliate, now that ATV, whose video reception on cable television was most dependable, was providing The Bugs Bunny & Tweety Show. Interestingly, in autumn of 1990, MITV was showing Spiderman at noon on Saturdays, same time as the first half-hour of Bugs & Tweety.
Along with all of this, I had been coming closer than I ever again would be to reconciling entirely with Joey and returning to the rapport with him that I missed so much. For several weeks in spring and early summer, Joey was beeping his car horn at me as he drove by me whilst I was walking the neighbourhood streets and beaming with joy as we met in his driveway on the day after his eighteenth birthday and talked for a much too brief five minutes. My life was on the verge of a launching into dizzy heights, a near future beckoning so bright that I would need to wear the most thickly filtered sunglasses imaginable.
1990 was a year when I ought to have been on cloud nine. Not in the pillories of the netherworld.
So, what went wrong? My expectations from my old friends were for too much too quickly. And my reactions to not achieving the fast and substantial results that I wanted were, then typical for me, to grow irritable and withdrawn. In some, or indeed all, regards, I was wrong to expect a role of consequence, of extensive time, comparable to what was true of past years, in the lives of old friends. There was no way, I think, that Craig and his present-day baseball-playing associates would readily, or even eventually, coopt me into their kith. And after three years without me in their lives, Steven and his buddies, even if they were still active in playing team sports (i.e. organised sports such as those through high school hockey, rugby, and football leagues), would have found the notion of turning back the clock and returning to their earlier-years venues and routines for recreational play of, say, baseball, to be quite unappealing. Everyone had become accustomed to a pattern of interaction not involving of me, and altering that pattern to include me in some activities was beyond what they were prepared to do to accommodate their elder associate of years past. I wanted more than a few minutes on chance encounters in front of their houses or in malls or whatever. I wanted to be visited and to be invited to visit, to at least maybe once a month enjoy a game of baseball or whatever- in the spirit of the best baseball contests of yesteryear, to be a significant part of their lives again. But where there was good will toward me and indeed a willingness or even a desire to talk with me, the glory days of Era 4 were past and just could not be had again. I could not easily adapt myself to this reality. Especially in the needy frame of mind in which I was mired under scathing denunciations of Space: 1999 fans.
But I did very much appreciate the friendliness of Steven and his friends one Sunday in early 1991. I had sought Tony that day, expecting the then-the-norm few minutes only, of conversation with him, and Tony was away at work, as Steven informed me at their door. Steven then invited me into his and Tony's shared cellar apartment in a house on Carol Avenue, Fredericton North, and to sit with Steven and a couple of Steven's friends and watch television and talk for a whole afternoon. It felt quite like old times, good old times, circa 1983. I had not been in such friendly company for years! How endowed with rejuvenating solace I felt as I returned to home at 4:45 P.M. that day! It was rather like sitting around a campfire with one's friends and singing, "Pack Up Your Troubles". The morale-boost effect was quite similar. I felt sufficiently strengthened of spirit to proceed with a fair amount of fortitude, into my teaching practicum in early February in 1991. Even if the fun of baseball games and so forth with Steven and company, Craig, and others was now long gone, I think, with hindsight, knowing what my needs were back then in terms of conversation and interested and personable companionship, I could have been content with more afternoons such as the one here described, and maybe I could have found some new people with whom to play some recreational baseball or badminton.
But most of all, my hope for better days ahead hinged upon restoring my friendship with Joey, which had indeed been possible in 1990, if only I had not faltered and then reverted to the sullen soul who had gone dejectedly about Nashwaaksis in the late 1980s. Joey had been my best friend and the old buddy whom I missed most in the largely dismal years ending the 1980s, and my response to not regaining an appreciable position in his sphere of pals, while other persons continued to be afforded the privilege of much of his social time, was to again become withdrawn, inclined to bitter defeatism. Back I went to feelings of rebuff and the attendant, sulky 1987-90 reactions to seeing Joey with other people. It had been my fault in 1990 just as it had been in 1987. I squandered what Joey and I had achieved in late May and early June in 1990. I was away to Douglastown for a week around the start of June, and then, once back in Fredericton, hesitated to telephone Joey or go to his door, fearful as I was about Joey maybe changing his opinion of my May 23 letter and perhaps deciding to stay with the post-1987 status quo. In late June, I saw Joey in his front yard, and we had a very cheerful and chummy talk, but I felt uneasy about suggesting a definite occasion for meeting further. And I dared not risk a rebuff at his door; such an occurrence would have been devastating for me with the self-image crisis in which I was mired in those trying months of 1990. But perhaps a persistent effort by me toward coming together was what Joey wanted to see, and he was patiently waiting for me to settle into a routine for approaching him as he continued to socialise with his same-age peers. But all that I perceived (perhaps incorrectly) in the weeks to come was no further movement in my direction beyond the May 23 telephone call and one passage by my house, and that there could evidently be no end to my exclusion from Joey's life. My hand refused to move one day in mid-July as Joey waved to me from his passing car, my old, 1987-90 snubbing reflexes again back in operation, and it looked like our progress of the spring and early summer had been to no avail.
My hand would not move to return the waving gesture by Joey, and he was, I guess, deeply disappointed to see me falling back upon behaviours of the dreary three prior years, for he declined to wave to me next time that his car passed me as I was strolling along Longwood Drive.
Following the example, indeed the advice, of Dean (which was the worst thing that I could have done) that I should be prepared to put my relationships "on the line", show some backbone, assert myself, and demand a better role in the lives of my friends, I, in August, presented Joey with a much too direct, blunt, even terse, second letter. In it, an ultimatum: complete reconciliation and a full return to being together, or nothing at all. And Joey backed totally away. A quite wise decision, I would say. Were I in his place, I would have reacted in much the same way (I ought to have foreseen that kind of reaction because it had been so unlike me to be so very exhorting- and such strident words being put to him on paper doubtless had the most disconcerting effect possible). I was in damage-control thereafter for two years. Joey, I think, did eventually forgive me for my having subjected him to that letter, but I remained beyond the scope of his prized and trusted friends, sometimes coming close to being reinstated to at least a peripheral inclusion in his life.
Sadly, I did not (I never did) handle with much grace the frustration of a friendship lost, scaled down, or in indefinite limbo, and the result was several more snubbing actions, these later occasions of that being quite involuntary, almost second-nature, certainly habitual, by then. There were still a few quite excellent talks between Joey and I, some over the telephone, one or two in person, that were comparable to our best early-1980s evenings together on my doorstep, conversation flowing just as freely as it did once upon a time. But we were not able to keep the momentum going for a sustained time period, as other people continued to much dominate his social life while I was still, 19 times of 20 (at least), the seeming outcast.
Along with this, there was an initiative of Dean, myself, and a contact of ours in Calgary, to start a fan club of our own while the existing one, long based in Ohio, was floundering with seven-months-late newsletters, erratic formatting of the newsletters, and what looked to Dean and myself anyway as a quelling of new ideas by an "olde guarde". The three of us were critical for some time of the state of the fan movement under the domination of what we called an "olde Ohio clique", but as circumstances would decree, I was to be the only one among our trio to proceed with publication (in our own new club's newsletter) of direct criticism of the fan movement's then-current condition. My cohorts were supposedly going to join with me in avowing that our new club would pioneer new territory and offer hope for the future of Space: 1999 fandom, state for themselves their reasons for opting out of the "olde" club, and express their resolve to move our club in a different direction. But by August in 1990, they were at war with each other, having been unable to work together in the forming of a new organisation, and Dean at least was striving to pull me into their increasingly nasty dispute- and for me to side with him. My resistance to becoming mired in their finger-pointing and their war of words, my intent (weak and cowardly though it may have been) to stay out of the fray, resulted in an end to the uneasy truce between Dean and myself. The result was a conflagration in late summer and the autumn of 1990 that had me under worded assault from the Ohio-based fan club presidents (who claimed personal offence to my indeed valid but insufficiently tactful criticism of the condition of the fan movement under their years at the helm) and from Dean, after my having decided that I had had enough of being told, by fans of a television show- special though it may be, how wrong I was. Wrong as a keen, perhaps rather too keen by times, appreciator of Space: 1999. Wrong as a disgruntled member of a flagging fan club. And so wrong as to not function as a human being of any value. Enough, already!!!
My Calgary contact recanted fully what few words of complaint he had printed regarding the "olde guarde" and advised me to submit a letter of apology so that the nasty matter would die. And I did so, determined to put aside all of the extremely disagreeable discord surrounding Space: 1999 and concentrate on such things as my one-year Bachelor of Education degree, what television was providing in the autumn months of 1990, and perhaps salvaging the good will that had been there between Joey and I in early summer, from which there might still be hope for fully restored friendship. Neither Space: 1999 nor indeed any aesthetically interesting work of imagination was worth the toxicity with which I had been living- and suffering- through 1990. All I wanted, really, was to be happy, to have social connections with people whom I liked, to have faith in my future, and if I could, to go back to the pleasant spirit, a spirit of fun, in my fascination, my love for Space: 1999. That much I knew for certain. Perhaps eventually my courage would rebound so that I might step back into the spotlight and articulate my aesthetic perception, if not regarding Space: 1999 then some other entertainment of great interest to me, "Hyde and Hare", perhaps. But for the time being, I wanted a quiet life, learning how to teach, working at the bookstore, enjoying and contemplating about television programming, and looking toward renewal of some old friendships.
But even the writing of that apologetic letter did not stay the incoming rancour as I continued to be lambasted as an ignorant, would-be rabble-rouser, an over-zealous fan deserving censure of the severest order. I questioned the friendship of my Calgary connection as he was forwarding to me copies of the letters, filled with vilifying of me, sent to him by the leaders of the Ohio-based fan club, while he knew, from me, how upset I already was over the harsh words flung at me by Dean. The contretemps with Dean had become so severe that I, desperate for peace of mind after months of being raked over the coals for an error of judgement for which I had already apologised and did what I could to correct, chose to cease contact and find a sense of peace with myself, rebuild my self-confidence, move on with my university courses, and keep my enjoyment, if any was still possible, of Space: 1999 unto myself and my local environs. But Dean was not about to allow me to walk into the sunset without a barrage of 35 pages, judging me unfit to participate in any mature forum on an entertainment's nuances- and for being a coward retreating into my shell when the going became rough. At the same time, I had botched what had been my best opportunity to reconnect with Joey. I felt absolutely vulnerable to all of the attacks coming my way. So much so that I became psychosomatically ill.
The more that I was under verbal fire from Dean and from the fan club people from Ohio, in addition to being an absurdly guileless pawn of my Calgary contact, the more that I "lost heart" and became ever more prone to fail in my quest for a revitalised friendship with the people whose company I treasured in much better times. If somehow I could have stayed positive and persevered in the rebuilding of friendships in Fredericton, then in all likelihood, I, aided by the affirming presence in my life of Joey and others, would have felt courageous enough to tell the persons berating me to stop the indignant ranting and to recognise that, all hysteria aside, I did put forth some quite astute diagnoses on what was ailing the fan movement and that if they cared not for what I had to say as regards stagnation, the unwillingness to accommodate, much less respect, a new, wondrous approach to appreciating the Space: 1999 television series, then bully for them. Thumb my nose and retract my membership and any future support of their quite narrow- or closed-minded society. And as for Dean, tell him that I am leaving aside any analysis of aesthetic, symbological-interpretative nature of Space: 1999 (which I ultimately did, anyway) and opting out of fandom for a happier life. All of fandom. Him included. And that however many pages of criticism and denunciation from him for my decision would be water off of a mallard's rear feathers.
Yes, I do indeed think it possible for me to have been so emboldened at that particular time. My success with YTV gave- or ought to have given- to me a rather convincing profile as one who had done good by Space: 1999. I had a job. I was also, through a skimming through some of the self-help books at my place of employment, starting at last to really expand the boundaries of my personality in terms of relating to others. What I needed for these to coalesce into a more self-assertive response to the rancour flung my way and dispense with it the sooner the better, was tangible and sustained showing of support from friends- and especially from the friend who had in the past stood by me and even pulled detractors off of me.
Instead, I went on to commit a litany of further errors for another half-decade. I allowed Dean's words to gnaw away at me. I stayed in the Space: 1999 aficionado organization of which my Calgary contact was president, as Space: 1999 fandom continued under the banner of what my Calgary, ahem, ally, called a unified club (unified, I would say, only in disdain for the second set of twenty-four episodes). I remained in fandom when doing so served only to expose me to an ever proliferating, implacable, anti-Season-2 negativity. Negativity which underscored Dean's theories of a rooted-in-the-subconscious, intransigent hostility regarding second season of my favourite television show- and with everything about which Dean was proven right, the more it looked like he was correct about me, my faults, and my worth- or lack thereof, also. I collaborated with the person in Calgary on guiding a fan club that he christened as being his own- no more than six months after his split with Dean, who had alleged empire-building by Mr. Calgary (was Dean right yet again?). Refusing to give credence to Dean in that regard, I allowed my false friend in Calgary to give to me rope with which he evidently did expect that I would hang myself.
I could- and should- have quietly bowed out of the Calgary-based fan club after the nastiness in 1990 had somewhat subsided. For my own sake, certainly. But, no. I stayed. For five wasted years of utterly unavailing effort, I stayed. Rather than concentrate on saying and doing whatever was needed to fully restore my Fredericton friendships, friendship with Joey most especially, to preserving and building upon whatever it was in spring and early summer of 1990 that seemed then to offer hope, I threw to the proverbial wind so very much time on a futile struggle within a fan club.
As for YTV's Canada-wide telecast of Space: 1999, if something like that had come in 1983 at the height of my best Fredericton times in Era 4, it would have been a colossal triumph! But the timing of Space: 1999's comeback to Canadian television in 1990 was, for me, far from ideal. And I also had many quibbles about YTV's treatment of what it called "classic sci-fi on Y". The opening episodes of the two seasons were still missing from the television series package, withdrawn by ITC Entertainment in favour of their encapsulation into "movies" (to which YTV had not acquired broadcast rights), although a couple of the "movie" episodes ("Collision Course", "Black Sun") had trickled back into the television series' catalogue. The first Space: 1999 episode to be screened on YTV, on September 8, 1990, at 5:30 P.M. between Roy Rogers Theatre and Maid Marion, was "Voyager's Return". First-time viewers would have been at a loss to comprehend the premise of this television show about a Moon colony. Some Season 1 episodes were edited, in some cases for content (Jim Haines confronting and becoming physically threatening to his mentor in "Voyager's Return", Alan Carter discovering a bloodied tunic in a troglodyte cavern in "The Full Circle"), in others probably for time. And about one-third of the episodes, many of them of Season 2, were time-compressed for no apparent reason as there was often thirty seconds, sometimes even a minute, of time to spare before start of the following YTV presentation. Sandwiched between first and second runs of 42 available episodes (at least the second such run had a more comprehensible ordering of the episodes, in as much as the two seasons' episodes were not intermixed) was, through the summer of 1991, a documentary about lifestyles of youngsters around the world, entitled, All Our Children. Sound levels lacked the oomph that had been characteristic of CBC Space: 1999 telecasts of 1976-8 and 1983-5. And some episodes were from old, faded, splice-riddled 16-millimetre film prints dating way back to the CBC's 1970s telecasts. I was not happy with the sequence in which the episodes were shown (especially in 1990-1) or where commercial intervals were inserted. Still, having Space: 1999 televised in New Brunswick and all of Canada after so many years for it in the wilderness of non-transmission was quite the breakthrough, a subdued one for me what with the unpleasantness of my relations then with fans.
The Bugs Bunny & Tweety Show on ABC (and starting in 1990 also simulcast on ATV) was much improved, with many cartoons unseen for years (and some I had never seen before) suddenly being shown complete or near complete. To my extreme joy, "Hyde and Hare" was in the fourth instalment of the new season, that of September 29, 1990, as the first cartoon in that particular episode. I recall that Saturday very clearly. On the episode of Bugs & Tweety the week before, there had been several seemingly strong indications that "Hyde and Hare" was to follow sometime very soon. References to timidity, one character putting himself in the arms of another, a pet adoption, and a laboratory were all respective elements of cartoons in the September 22 Bugs Bunny & Tweety Show episode. As I went to the Regent Mall and the food court therein on the morning of September 29, I had a rather powerful premonition that "Hyde and Hare" was to be the first cartoon in The Bugs & Tweety Show at 12 o'clock. Back at home at noon with my videotape recorder running, I waited through a lengthy run of post-opening-song commercials and an interlude. Then, Bugs started his arc across screen to reveal the first cartoon's title. The last letters were shown first: "Hare" came into view, then to the left of it was a "d", then an "n", and then an "a". Before the word, "Hyde", could be seen within a fraction of a second, I knew that the desired cartoon was within grasp. When "Hyde and Hare" was there, titled big as life, next to Bugs' blinking eyes, my heart throbbed. And throbbed with gratitude and edification rather than terror. The cartoon that had frightened me nightmarishly in my childhood was now a much-sought object of adoration. I would have it in English on videotape!!! I darted out of my room to tell to my parents that "Hyde and Hare" was on Bugs & Tweety. Somehow, my premonition was right. Ever so right!
I developed a taste for the cartoon titling format post-1989 as so many Warner Brothers cartoons seldom if ever known to me before then, were presented on Bugs & Tweety in 1990-1. Where I, a year earlier, despaired of the disappearance of the character poses and title fonts originating in the days of The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour and thought Bugs in top hat introducing titles for all cartoons was a mundane change in the traditional practice on the Saturday instalments of Looney Tune and Merrie Melodie delight and mayhem, all I needed was for the new way of titling cartoon shorts to be utilised for "Hyde and Hare", for me to become as responsive, as appreciating, toward that as I had been to the pre-1989 titling format. Indeed, from the first instalment aired on Saturday, September 8 to the last one to feature cartoons not repeated from earlier in the season, I was agog with what I was seeing and hearing on the 1990-1 Bugs Bunny & Tweety Show, my interest revived, all over again, with a current showing of late-1940s, 1950s, and 1960s Warner Brothers cartoons on television.
Old television favourites from The Brady Bunch to Welcome Back, Kotter to Alice to WKRP in Cincinnati began appearing in the autumn of 1990 as though a 1970s blitz was being effected by nostalgic programme directors at several television networks and stations. I also saw the original Avengers television series for the first time that autumn (1990) and was quite compelled by its style and sophisticated concepts. In terms of television, I had not been so richly rewarded since the 1970s!
But the acrimonious parting-of-the-ways with Dean over what seemed my incompetence to be a conscientious, trustworthy, and effective correspondent threw me through several loops. I was being bombarded by vitriolic negativity from presidents of the Space: 1999 fan club of which I had been openly critical- but was now doubtful of whether it had been a good idea to state my complaints in the newsletter of my Calgary contact's new club. And there was a growing uneasiness about my impending early-1991 teaching internship at Fredericton High School, a worry that I would not be able to teach effectively or maintain classroom discipline. Returning to an enormous high school where I had been a rather timid student, to now teach, naturally caused anxiety, but because I was already in a state of intense self-doubt, this prospect had me sick with worry.
I still had Bugs Bunny and the other personages of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies, their very sizable number of cartoon appearances, from which to find pleasure and upon which to contemplate. And if I could divorce in my mind Space: 1999 from the severe events of 1990, I could derive some enjoyment from YTV's telecasts of Moonbase Alpha's odyssey.
My interest in the stable of cartoon characters surrounding Bugs Bunny was uncontaminated by unpleasantness of the likes of what I was experiencing with fans of Space: 1999, unencumbered by wracking feelings of being wrong and the trauma of being browbeaten in consequence, and unfettered with the preeminent opinions of obstinate detractors holding sway by majority, glibness of expression, and outspokenness. Yes, some cartoons were underappreciated, their artistic merits unsung, but there was not a sizable amount of naysayers on the merits a large cross-section of the Warner Brothers cartoons, especially those that aired on The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour or Bugs Bunny & Tweety. Not that I could see at that time. My following of Warner Brothers cartoons flourished from September, 1990 to summer of 1992 as Bugs and Tweety in its 1990-1 season and then Merrie Melodies: Starring Bugs Bunny and Friends on ATV early weekday mornings and then on ASN weekday afternoons in 1991-2 sated my ferocious appetite for cartoons to see and hear after many years having been deprived of many of them, or to digest in English for the first time in years or first time ever, or to savour fully for first-ever occasion. And to record and collect them on videotape.
Also, the above mentioned televised vehicles for cartoons directed by animation pioneers Friz Freleng, Chuck Jones, and Robert McKimson were complimented by a few weeks of access to Looney Tunes On Nickelodeon in spring of 1991 through a television-satellite-dish-owning co-worker of my father's, by a stay for a weekend in a hotel with cable television in Bangor, Maine, and by a videotape collector contact in Connecticut from whom I acquired in April, 1992 a then-exceedingly-difficult-to-find "Tweety's Circus". In final quarter of 1992, I was near completion of my post-1948 Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies videotape library, needing but a smattering of cartoon shorts through the 1948 to 1966 years. Among the cartoons still elusive even after the 1992-3 season of Bugs and Tweety: "Kit For Cat" (oh, how I longed to have that one- an offering years past on The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour, its English-language film prints seemingly having fallen off of Earth), "Bugsy and Mugsy", "Ducking the Devil", "The Stupor Salesman", "A Kiddie's Kitty", "Lighthouse Mouse", "Daffy's Inn Trouble", "Easy Peckins", "Tease For Two". Nearly all of these became accessible in 1995 through That's Warner Bros.!, which had a format rather like the 1990-2 Merrie Melodies: Starring Bugs Bunny and Friends and which was shown on weekday mornings by MITV, to whom television broadcast rights of Warner Brothers animation transferred from ATV in September, 1995.
One of the promotional advertisements for Merrie Melodies: Starring Bugs Bunny and Friends referred to spending time with friends on whom one can depend. Bugs and the Warner Brothers cartoon characters appearing with him on Bugs & Tweety and Merrie Melodies were for me what Space: 1999 had been in my first months as an unpopular inhabitant of Fredericton. An escape from distressing, upsetting, and depressing conditions. An entertainment interest to enable me to "ride out" adversity without being too debilitatingly troubled (I shudder to think how much more my tendency to feeling psychosomatically ill would have plagued me had I not had something uncorrupted by acrimony, to which to look forward each week). In the case of 1991 the adversity was certainly more acute and more potentially devastating to my frame of mind than had been the case in 1977!
I kept working at the bookstore through the Christmas season in 1990 (and working full days then, with a constant stream of customers at the cash register), alternating with a heavy course load (seven) in the University of New Brunswick teacher training programme's autumn semester. It was when I started my 3-month teaching internship in February, 1991 that I could not continue at the bookstore, but in the 8 months that I worked at Coles- the Book People, I gained some considerable confidence in dealing with people as a clerk and came across some books of a sort that would guide me toward better understanding of people and of myself, and of my need for personal improvement and how that might be effected. Such were the main benefits of my first and, to date, only retail job.
On my twenty-fifth birthday, Saturday, January 5, 1991, the very first cartoon on The Bugs Bunny & Tweety Show was "Oily Hare", which occurs in Texas. A Texan oil baron tries to dynamite Bugs' hole, and Bugs places the dynamite sticks on a birthday cake as candles. How often are birthdays referenced in the Warner Brothers' cartoons? Seldom. The fact that this cartoon aired on my twenty-fifth birthday- and first on the network Bugs show- almost gives to me cause to think there is some kind of symbiotic relationship between me and the cartoons, in a way validating the life-long connection I seem to have with them. Stranger still, the episode of Space: 1999 that YTV showed on that same Saturday involved 2120 Texas City's contacting of Moonbase Alpha. It was "Journey to Where". Bugs' cartoon-ending statement that, "Anything can happen in Texas," would seem quite apropos in regard to the events of the Space: 1999 episode. And "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde", the most significant fascination of my childhood, is used in "Journey to Where" most obviously when metamorph Maya changes herself into Hyde as a joke. The connection I have with both Bugs Bunny and Space: 1999 and their bizarre connection with each other was never more evident than in this double coincidence on January 5, 1991.
In the months leading to the start, in February, 1991, of my practicum as a teacher, I had to walk out of a university classroom one afternoon due to a sudden onset of nausea. It is quite possible that the Burger King onion rings that I had eaten for lunch were not agreeing with my digestion, which was why I suddenly felt a turning of my stomach and a feeling that vomiting was imminent. But there was no upchuck. My stomach had always been impervious to such a reaction to food since very early childhood. Nonetheless, so began a series of incidents, over the course of more than a year, of sudden feelings of being sick to my stomach, almost always when I was seated as passive listener to a lecture, or even if I was at a movie theatre or passenger in a car. Curiously, I experienced no such nausea episodes when I was teaching, though my portrayal of that role was not exactly warranting of consistent plaudits by my mentoring teachers, university evaluator, and students.
All in all, I was fairly effective in front of high school classes, my public speaking successes in my past being tapped for a feeling of confidence and for poise before the teenagers looking up at me from their desks. But if I did have an occasional day when I floundered before a class, it was a "doozie". I was assigned at first to teach modern history to three classes of general-level (i.e. non-college-preparatory; Level 3) students daily, with my own history teacher from Grades 10 and 11 acting as my trainer. I lumbered along for two months, teaching with mostly adequate efficiency the boisterous 16, 17, 18 year-olds, before I had such a poor performance on one Friday afternoon, completely losing control of a fourth-period class, that there was a swift decision to move me to a different classroom to teach Level 2 (college preparatory) History for the last of my three months of teaching-practice at Fredericton High School. I fared somewhat better, and by the end of my practicum in late April, I was awarded a passing grade for my three-month internship, with some caveats as to my ability to maintain the attention and good will of thirty restless students without becoming tired, or to conduct myself in the classroom without appearing hoity-toity and standoffish (the main reason cited for my difficulties with the Level 3 classes). I was told that my teenaged charges probably perceived me as thinking myself superior to and wilfully detached from them, thought that I did not like them (and unconsciously, after my own often disagreeable tenure on the other side of the desk through much of my latter half of public schooling, perhaps I was transferring my lingering resentment of my peers- or also of the peers of my younger friends- onto the students whose minds I was supposed to nurture and guide), and that they were simply acting out their revulsion to the snootiness that I was seen to be displaying.
My cat of 16 years, Frosty, was euthanised by our veterinarian on Thursday, February 21, 1991. In the morning, Frosty was not eating, but she had fasted before. I did not expect that this would be her final day and went to my teaching internship on that morning with no expectation of losing my beloved Frosty so abruptly. But while teaching during that morning, I suddenly felt ill with flu symptoms, the start of a week-long illness in which I was sicker than I had been in years. I came home in the afternoon and could not find Frosty. My parents told to me that they had opted for her humane cessation. My sadness was overwhelming, but the flu hit me so severely in the next days that I was too distracted to mourn. It was strange that Frosty's death occurred at the same time that I fell so terribly sick.
A few months later, we adopted a kitten with the same black coat and big, black eyes as Frosty. This kitten had a star-shaped white spot on her belly. So, I named her Twinkles. We had Twinkles declawed so that she would not scratch the furniture. The loss of her claws left Twinkles vulnerable; so, we never allowed her to go outside by herself. A leash and harness were bought for her, and I would go on walks with her. But she never walked. She just sat in one place.
Despite some very turbulent waves in the maelstrom, I lasted my February-to-end-of-April teaching practicum and after a few Intersession courses in May and June, attained my Bachelor of Education to sit beside the Bachelor of Arts on my mantelpiece. But I seriously doubted whether the educational profession was my calling in life. It did not seem so. And as a means of coming "full circle" and reestablishing myself in the Newcastle-Douglastown-Chatham region of my province (which by 1991 had become an aim of substantially less promise or appeal for social life improvement than had been the case two, three, or four years earlier), it did not any longer appear all that compelling. I was in any case rather too down-spirited for much of the time in 1991 to think of career choice, wracked as I was by persistent, increasingly frequent attacks of nausea and panic, and disturbed by the ever-increasing animosity directed at Season 2 in the fan club that I had been assured would not be narrow-mindedly slanted or open and welcoming to fans of a blinkered, anti-Season-2 persuasion.
My feeling of upset was three-pronged. Not only was something from my younger and socially fulfilling part of life, highly cherished and still very loftily appreciated by me (and not only nostalgically), falling under persistent, apparently systematic attack in open defiance of my written pleas for that not to be so, but the sweeping dismissals of the second season, the tendency of fans toward rancour toward anything and everything in Season 2, was verifying Dean's grim hypothesis about there being something in the collective subconscious disposing people to narrow- or close- their minds as regards concepts and archetypes and so forth of Season 2. And the more that Dean appeared proven correct, the increased likelihood there was of him being right in condemnation of me. Was he ever wrong? It seemed not.
And the more that the assaults upon Season 2, if not the whole of Space: 1999, persisted and became more vicious, pervasive, and frequent, the more my loneliness in my neighbourhood seemed justified. It was as though erstwhile friends could cite what was being said about my favourite television show as proof that I was wrong and worthy of consignment to the scrap heap. I was of the belief that my friends had dropped me from their lives because I had firmly clung to my fondness and appreciation of entertainment that could only sooner or later be despised even by my long-time associates. This belief no longer holds quite as much sway, for I now possess the missing piece of the puzzle, an awareness that my own failures in responding to my friends were the crucial reason why those friends eventually diverged from me. But this is a recent realisation. Through the early 1990s, I regarded Dean's hypothesis about the collective subconscious to tie in with my social situation, and all the more bitter I felt myself becoming toward the increasingly vocal, seemingly ever more prolific Season 2 haters within the fan movement. Not only were they were emphasising a then-apparent reason for my exile from my old Fredericton friends' lives, they were proving Dean right- and the more right that Dean was, the worse I felt. Plus, they were assailing and debasing a vital component to the part of my life (latter Era 2) from which I had derived much morale in lonely times.
The longer that I stayed isolated from amiable company around home, the more susceptible I seemed to be to my memory of Dean's denunciations and to my feelings of guilt about the whole matter of my ruined relationship with him. And all the while, my inability to reverse damage to my friendship with Joey, with me walking the streets and seeing him pass me by with his friends in his chosen company, made my situation look even worse, and I fell back time and time again upon the deplorable behaviour of the late 1980s, behaviour that was becoming reflexive, second-nature.
1991 was thus a year of quite stark contrasts. It provided a beautiful summer in terms of weather. And there was a three-day stay of my parents and I at a hotel in Bangor, Maine, where I, with one of my videocassette recorders (at that time, I had three), joyously videotaped Looney Tunes On Nickelodeon, profoundly happy to have had occasion to see and to incorporate into my videocassette collection "Rabbit Every Monday", a cartoon part of instalment 23 of The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour way back when, its sight not having been seen, its sounds, its music, not having touched my ears, since probably the late 1970s when it had been in CBS' package of Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Show cartoon shorts. Picture and sound quality was virtually pristine. I do not believe that the Bugs Bunny cartoon pitting the hare against rifle-toting, would-be-rabbit-cooker Yosemite Sam in a mountainous woodland and in a cabin with an oven with exceedingly incongruous contents, had ever looked as colourful, crisp, and vivid as it did on that Nickelodeon broadcast received by Bangor Cable Television. I also stumbled upon the last couple of minutes of "Putty Tat Trouble" on Merrie Melodies: Starring Bugs Bunny and Friends, which was not as yet televised in the New Brunswick and Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island region of Canada (though it would be, come autumn, 1991), and to which I craved ever so much to have access. And in a videotape store, Suncoast, in the Bangor Mall, I was like a boy let loose in a candy vendor's shop, as I, with a hundred Yankee greenbacks provided to me as a gift by my grandmother and a further supply of U.S. currency coming out of my savings from my bookstore job, indulged myself with something of a pre-recorded videotape shopping binge. On our journey from Fredericton to Bangor, I had thought of how opportune it would be for me to find a videocassette of the 1932 Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde movie which I had sought in vain for years to view and own. I knew that it had been released on commercial videotape by MGM/UA Home Video but that Canadian, or at least eastern Maritime Canadian, vendors of the videocassette output of the major movie studios were annoyingly constricted in what went into in-stock inventory, their criterion first and foremost being how recent in production and cinema release had been a feature film. A monster movie- aside from maybe Dracula or Frankenstein- made in the days of black-and-white celluloid only, originating way, way back in the early 1930s, was anathema to the business sense of decision-makers in videocassette-selling or even videocassette-renting.
When I walked into Suncoast in the Bangor Mall and found the eye-popping, expansive science fiction-horror section, a clerk walked to my side and asked if I was looking for anything in particular, and when I specified Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde of the 1930s starring Fredric March, said Suncoast staffer's fingertip was in but one second directing my eyes at the blue-grey-green-purple (with reddish text) shrink-wrapped sleeve of the very movie that I sought, sitting plain as day on the shelf practically under my nose. I snatched it with both hands, completely in awe at how availing my fortune was that day. I can say that no matter how depressingly scarce that social gratification was for me in this era of my life, the tendency for favourable happenstance to smile upon me as regards entertainment interests was quite remarkable. I bought also the J2 Communications Space: 1999 videotapes marketed in 1991, all of them random episodes of Season 1, ineptly packaged and presented only on the grossly inferior EP-mode of videocassette pre-recording speed. Also among my purchases was a pre-recorded videocassette of the "Heaven and Hell" episode of Carl Sagan's Cosmos, my 1983 off-broadcast videotape-recording thereof having not survived the transition to better VHS-videocassette recording via 4-head apparatuses. And I was curious to view the videocassette releases of some of the Ted-Turner-owned pre-1948 Bugs Bunny cartoons and bought a couple of the most recent compilations of Bugs Bunny films licenced to MGM/UA Home Entertainment. Almost invariably, the closer to 1948 that a cartoon was produced, the more I recognised the Bugs Bunny persona on which I was weaned, and the more favourable my response, even if visually I still found the design of Bugs a tad on the unrefined, mousy-looking side and the layouts and milieu at best only adequate. In our hotel room, I was riveted to the television connected to my videotape machine, watching Fredric March as Dr. Jekyll and the initially impish and only slightly repulsive and increasingly sadistic Hyde in action before my eyes for the first time. Indeed, I had never seen March in any movie before, and thereafter I strove to experience Mr. March's other filmic travails, discovering that truly his outstanding portrayal in the notorious dual role was no fluke. I felt so very pleased to come home from Bangor with many pre-recorded videotape items virtually impossible to find in Fredericton even in that time of the ubiquitous videocassette loaner and seller.
During the spring of 1991, I was one evening browsing through the extensive inventory of the merchant known as Radioland located in the Fredericton Mall, when in the "Show Tunes" section of said store my eye was caught by THE CARL STALLING PROJECT, an irresistible audiocassette containing the musical scores of several of my favourite Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies. I was also that spring reacquainting myself with Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, that, too, through an audiocassette. I listened to both of these on the compact audiotape player in the car that I drove to and from university Intersession.
But 1991 was a year of tribulation more frequently than not. I often felt distinctly unwell. My stomach tied itself in knots on more and more varied occasions, sometimes even as was laying in bed before going to sleep. And episodes of queasiness occurred ever more consistently when I was sitting in a university classroom during spring Intersession. I was given to prolonged despondency through the summer, sensing as I did by then that Douglastown no longer offered the hope to which I had clung in the first few years of reiterated desolation in Fulton Heights, Fredericton. Douglastown had been a first-rate place in which to live in childhood, but with so many old friends and schoolmates gone or on verge of leaving or focusing on marriage and other aspects of adult life, it can only be unrealistic to expect the way of things for me there in the 1970s, or even a resonant and vigorous latter-day echo of them, to be attainable- if I were to somehow go back there to live. Kevin MacD. had been right. And my return visits to Douglastown were, understandably, losing their novelty factor for everyone there- and for me, too, inevitably. I started finding myself leaving Douglastown to go back to Fredericton somewhat earlier than planned, and my number of excursions per year to the places along the Miramichi River did lessen in the early 1990s. More and more, instinct was telling that there was not a present-day place for me in Douglastown, congenial though people still there were, and that a move to attempt repatriation with my childhood habitat on the banks of the Miramichi River could only be a backward dead end. And coinciding with this, an inner voice lamented that Fredericton would forevermore be a place of loner status, shut out of friends' lives beyond a few token minutes or maybe a rare afternoon such as the one with Steven and others early in 1991- and with Tony's coming marriage later in the year, I had a distinct foreboding that my connection with just about everyone from days of old on the true or makeshift baseball diamonds and in the living room or backyard of Tony and Steven was soon to be no more.
And, yes, summer was especially depressing, for summer used to be such a wonderful season for me, and I was not more conscious of how abysmal my life had become than I was in July and especially in August.
I slid into apathy for several months as regards employment, feeling insufficiently competent to work as a supply-teacher and having allowed my bookstore job to lapse (a decision that I would regret for years to follow). And more and more, it seemed like my sentimentally prized connections to my past were falling away. My cat, Frosty, that had been with me since 1975 in the midst of my on the whole happy and fulfilling five years of living in Douglastown, had died, and my grandmother sold the house in which she had lived since 1973 and wherein there were so very many childhood memories, those of Era 2 especially, including my friends Michael and Johnny being with me there, us sleeping in beds downstairs and watching television in the living room. And efforts to effect a substantial reconnect with my Fredericton friends and style of day-to-day living of past time were persistently confounded by a combination of factors, not the least of which being, it is obvious to me now, my own over-earnestness, proneness to feeling slighted, tendency to withdrawn behaviour and depression, and a debilitating dread- at a level unprecedented- of rejection. My grim demeanour could not have helped my cause any, sincere though I always was in my very guarded, good-will overtures toward Joey and some others.
And the more cognisant I was to the sense of failure (in interpersonal terms and in writing persuasively on artistic merit), inadequacy, and unpleasantness surrounding my favourite television show, whose airing on YTV had come about at anything but an ideal time (though the telecasts of Moonbase Alpha's spatial encounters were still something to which to look forward each week), the more under-siege I felt. I contended with my recurrent illness until late in 1991 when I decided to consult a doctor, who examined me thoroughly and found nothing physically wrong apart from slightly higher than normal cholesterol. The consensus among my doctor, my mother, and members of our extended family was that I needed present-day stimulus in a non-toxic social environment and to put behind me the whole ugly morass of 1990.
But the path to a better way of living and of looking at the world around me, was starting to be paved, for I had, during my bookstore stint, found some self-assessment and self-improvement books that I had never before thought existed. I had always walked past them whenever I was heading, as a customer, toward the science fiction/fantasy or entertainment sections of book shops, and was now giving not only credence but also extensive, constructive thought to what those bulky compendiums of sage text had to say. There was one such book which contained what I perceived to be cogent, indeed most highly apropos and profound advice: "Remember that a person's name is to him or her the sweetest, most important sound in any language." I pondered on this for quite awhile, recognising how infrequently that I had spoken my friends' names over the years, that I had virtually never called out to them by name and only referenced their names in conversation when the course of talk in a group required it. While I had usually felt distinct pleasure at the hearing of my name, especially when said by people whom I liked, I had failed to attribute the same emotional response in them to the sound of me speaking theirs. Perhaps this was one reason for my current lonely plight. And there was another wise counsel: "Be interested in people. Ask them about themselves, what they like, their activities." Introverted ego-centrist I had been for so long a time, more or less in the dark regarding the need of such a vital aspect of sociability for the whole of my upbringing- and I was at last seeing illumination from someone with no vested interest in changing me, or in tearing me down and rebuilding me on his specifications. Dean had mentioned that I had been lacking in this way, judging me for being insufficiently curious about his personal history as a fellow inhabitant of New Brunswick and another fan of Space: 1999. Although I was reading a corroboration of yet another of his criticisms, I found what the book was conveying to me to be relevant to my life's then quite lamentable state. Truly, I had been so absorbed in my own tastes, fascinations, and concerns that I failed to enquire at any length about those of other persons, instead expecting people for the most part to hew themselves to me. I remembered only very infrequently asking a friend about his weekend or his latest activities. It could be that I had at last found an answer, and not under immediate duress from Dean or someone else, to my problem of making and retaining friends. It was not that I found my friends uninteresting. Quite the contrary in many cases. But I had concentrated on aspects to them that were in common with me, not attempting to accommodate myself to some of their interests, pastimes, etc. that were different to mine. Intrigued by what I was reading, I ordered some further books via the mail.
Not an instant solution, certainly not a panacea, for my problems, but a step in the right direction, in understanding why interaction with other people had been fraught with complication and eventual partings of the ways. I really do believe that in time, without Dean forcing me to look upon myself with a rigorously, even scathingly critical eye, I would have come to the realisation, with the aid of those books, that I needed to be more inclined to call out to people and speak to them by name, to express interest, genuine not patronising, in their lives. I might have had awhile to go before such a difference in my approach to friendship would have reaped much or any dividend, for at first, my old friends would have found so pronounced a change in my behaviour to be jarring, and my sincerity might have been regarded as questionable. Was I just trying on a new persona like a new coat, or was this truly a extensively considered and resolute step in the right direction? And was it tantamount to an admission that the code of conduct governing my prior known personality, indeed that personality itself, was wholly insufficient, or defective? The latter of these questions was something with which I needed to struggle if I was to arrive at a personal peace with my bettered demeanour.
And I found that I needed to pursue self-improvement in my own time, in my own way, on my own initiative, with the acknowledgement that I have shortcomings but also that I was not defective to the extent of being a hopeless wreck of a hitherto wasted individual. Self-actualisation and self-improvement are processes that must follow their course at a speed consistent with a person's personality, the adaptability of that personality to the prospect of change and to the amount of change to be endeavoured. For another person to force the pace, and do so with biting criticism with implications that the personality with which one had lived for twenty years or more, is wholly inadequate and must be overhauled, is absolutely wrong-footed. There are tall barriers that will form in resistance to that, or else wracking self-doubt will wreak havoc on a person's health in mind and body. Self-improvement must be a decision reached without coercion. Had what happened in 1990 with Dean not come about, I would, I think, have eventually found my way to those books. It may not have been for a few more years, but it would have been the ultimate direction of my experiential path. Even if I might have regained a foothold in my friends' social spheres, I would still have found consistent success in the work force and in forming positive impressions on newly-met people to be elusive unless I refined my manner. And my capacity for self-doubt would at last have played a benevolent role in bringing me to an awareness of the need for a personality upgrade.
I would affirm that it is self-doubt that keeps an egocentric person, only-child in his family, from turning into a narcissist. Narcissism and egocentricity are not synonymous. A person only becomes a narcissist when he becomes so in love with himself that he cannot change but becomes even more and more entrenched in self-opinion, unwavering, given to not even the slightest doubt. I could have gone in that direction, in response to the verbose slamming of me by Dean, but I did not. I could not. My conscience would not have allowed that; I would have become sicker were I to have been so conceited to declare myself as "perfectly acceptable", especially after I was clearly in the wrong. I went onward to make more mistakes, though. But they were for the most part the mistakes of a person striving for a renovated self. I became an easy mark for manipulation by someone such as by my fan contact in Calgary. But lessons could be learned from that, too.
Substantial life-improvement would not prove practicable for some years yet. Era 6 was, alas, a time of inertia. A time period wherein I was, for the most part, jobless, no longer propelled first and foremost by nostalgia but lacking in much, if any, present-day foundation for fulfilment, labouring with, at best, inconsistent results, to apply what I learned in those books to my effort to form social unions, feeling frustrated by my lack of progress, bitter about the rebuffs of 1987 and 1988 continuing to be the basis of my significantly less than optimal rapport with old friends, and not as yet possessing a clear understanding of the causes of the collapse of Era 4- and lapsing back by times to embittered irascibility. It would not be until Era 7 that, at least with regard to employment, that I would find fairly sustained, though not fully regular, success. And by then, old friends were far advanced in their adult lives.
The 1991-2 television year was highlighted by the transmission in eastern Maritime Canada of Merrie Melodies: Starring Bugs Bunny and Friends on early weekday mornings to compliment The Bugs & Tweety Show on Saturdays. I saw many dozens of cartoons for the first time, and countless others again after several years. My videocassette collection blossomed as I videotaped every instalment of Merrie Melodies: Starring Bugs Bunny and Friends and Bugs Bunny & Tweety. I was at last almost entirely assuaging my thirst for reunion with the cartoons of many of my best childhood years! Again was past "blasting" into the present and becoming significant aspects thereof. The "blast" of my alarm clock each morning at 7 A.M. to awaken me so that I could videotape Merrie Melodies is symbolic of this era's propensity for prior experienced items to recur in the present a la the finale of the Dallas "Dream Season".
Every weekday morning through autumn, 1991, I revelled in the opportunities to watch and videotape the cartoons of Bugs Bunny, the Road Runner, Daffy Duck, Sylvester, Tweety, Foghorn Leghorn, and many second-string characters of the creation of Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng, Robert McKimson, Arthur Davis. For the first time in a half-dozen or more years, my ears absorbed the irresistible music and my adoring eyes were cast upon the colourful visuals of "The Hasty Hare" (Bugs versus Marvin Martian and Marvin's doggy deputy, K-9, in a woodland and aboard Marvin's flying saucer), "Henhouse Henery" (one of the definitive Foghorn Leghorn, Henery Hawk, barnyard dog outings), "Snow Business" (Tweety and a scared-of-starvation Sylvester in a snowbound cabin), "Tweet Zoo" (self-explanatory title), "Lighter Than Hare" (Yosemite Sam of Outer Space attempting the abduction of Earthling Bugs Bunny in a junkyard), "Cheese it, the Cat!" (birthday cupcake quest of those Honeymooners-spoofing rodents, Ralph Crumden and Ned Morton), and "Barbary-Coast Bunny" (the tussle of Bugs against gold-claim-jumper Nasty Canasta in a San Franciscan casino), not to mention the Rudy Larriva-directed Road Runner cartoons, many of which had been next to impossible for me to see or hear since The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Show left the CBS television network in 1985. And there were so very many cartoons being discovered by me for the first time, among them the wonderful "From A to Z-z-z-z" (daydreamer Ralph Phillips' flights of fancy in the classroom), the darkly comedic "Dough Ray Me-Ow" (parrot tries again and again to rid himself of an airhead cat that stands in said parrot's way to an inherited fortune), the soon-to-be-banned-from-broadcast "Caveman Inki" (black boy hunting Mynah bird in jungle), the hysterical "A Hound For Trouble" (Charlie Dog seeking a master in Italy), the Three Bears cartoons, "Bear Feat", "A Bear For Punishment", and "The Bee-Devilled Bruin", and so very much more! It was a sweet, glorious time to be an aficionado of the cartoons of Warner Brothers studios' creation, my retreat on many a day from the unpleasantness of memory of 1990 or from the then-burgeoning statements of antipathy for my favourite aspects of Space: 1999 and my solace then from the perennially reiterated loner status that I then seemed forced to bear without end. The final year of this era was defined by Warner Brothers cartoons acquired by me for my videotape collection from ATV's Merrie Melodies broadcasts early weekday mornings and then telecast at 5 P.M. on ASN through spring and summer of 1992 and YTV's second run of Space: 1999, which was at least in a somewhat more coherent episodic order, the two seasons being aired without a mixing of episodes of each. By the summer of 1992, change was close at hand in more ways than one.
1991-2 was the last television broadcast year for not only Space: 1999's engagement on YTV but also for YTV's coverage of Doctor Who, while the broadcasts in Omnibus "movie" format" of Doctor Who on MPBN were discontinued, too, at start of summer in 1992, just a couple of months short of the miraculous discovery of the long-missing "Tomb of the Cybermen" serial (which was telecast in "movie" form late at night one August, 1992 Saturday on the Detroit WTVS PBS affiliate transitorily available in Fredericton for cable television subscribers). Doctor Who had been a mainstay on MPBN since 1984 and was now careening into a vortex to who knows where. The Brady Bunch was gone again with WVII-TV of Bangor, Maine being replaced on the cable television dial in Fredericton with WXYZ Detroit for an ABC television network signal, while the CBC's syndicated reruns of the likes of Welcome Back, Kotter and Alice receded from view, with only WKRP in Cincinnati keeping the spark of past television on the airwaves of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (for which New Brunswick would finally have a fully owned-and-operated television station, CBAT, in 1994). And MITV's telecasts of Spiderman and Rocket Robin Hood were on the verge of termination. YTV's 1992-3 season would provide nothing of interest to me nostalgically or aesthetically, and an occasional cartoon appearing for first time ever or after a long disappearance on Bugs & Tweety was to be all that I had to which to look forward on television, as I turned my attention to improving my videotape collection through purchases anew of pre-recorded videocassettes.
And there was the then-still-usual Douglastown visit, but only one of such in August of both 1991 and 1992. While I still enjoyed being back in my childhood habitat, with old friends no longer there or not available for me to see and share memories and impressions of past and present, the attraction of the return stay in the village where I once had steadfast pals was rather on the wane by 1991 and 1992. And years to follow would see several of my favourite places in Douglastown undergo displeasing change, if not total obliteration, in the zeal of the planners of the soon-to-be Miramichi City to promote their municipality's geographic hub (Douglastown) as ripe for sprawling business districts and new housing subdivisions. I left Douglastown for return to Fredericton earlier than planned in 1992, and sojourning on the banks of the Miramichi River ceased to be a guaranteed yearly event, but embarked upon but once every two or three years, through the mid-to-late-1990s.
Frosty's death, my grandmother's move out of Skyline Acres and the house in which she had lived since 1973, receding representation of 1970s entertainment in rerun on television, and some further stark indications that I needed to turn my eyes forward to see what was ahead lest I unwittingly thwart potential new friendships, all indicated the end of my era of paramount nostalgia. I was to find some new associations in Fredericton, alas none of them very long for the world, for while I was to advance quite appreciably in interpersonal skills through Eras 6 and 7, the slightest lapse on days of lower morale toward quiet introversion was harshly judged as grounds for sweeping rebuff. I might be grudgingly forgiven after a few days of being completely ignored, but it would not be long before just one less than absolutely precise word spoken by me was received as an insult, thus bringing an end to tentative forgiveness, and I would once more be in the dog house. Two years would be the maximum life span of my latter-day friendships. The degree of accommodation to me that had made Era 2 and 4 pals so steadfast for a half-decade (or more) and thus very special, was just not to be found in the people with whom I was friends- or at least friendly- in the 1992-7 time frame, Era 6.
Indeed, the friends whom I met in the early 1990s and with whom I talked and walked (a near-decade's difference in our ages and me being in my twenties seemed to preclude much else, for instance the playing of baseball on school fields) had scant tolerance for any error on my part in the cultivation of our friendship. They were prepared at any time to forsake their affiliation with me and turn cold-shoulder for days and days following hurried, perhaps imprecise or deficiently cheery or just clumsy talk from me on an earlier encounter. While this was of help in increasing my awareness of the need for consistently considered tact in communication in addition to constant self-effacing, outgoing interest in my friends, my nonetheless being human and still at heart rather an introvert, and living yet in sometimes low-morale, lonely conditions meant that I would inevitably flounder in being synthetically extrovert, and I would fall from favour each and every time that I did slip. And as I was in the early stages of such friendships in the early-to-mid-1990s era, latent, in the main unconscious anger over losing the company of buddies of Era 4 and over my failure to reestablish for myself a place in the lives of those pals, did affect on occasion my manner of approaching or of responding to new-found company, and I could leave a first impression on some- or all- of my recent cohorts that even my best efforts to improve upon and offset that initial image that they had of me were, I would suppose, insufficiently convincing. Receiving therefore the icebox treatment from them was, after the loss of so many friends already, anything but a boost of confidence and morale. Ultimately, these short-lived friendships did underscore exactly how special that my buddies of prior years had been. And how so very much I continued to miss them.
Complicated though my relationships with friends of past eras may have been, I had logged many, quite lengthy time periods of grace and good fellowship with them. They knew me during my pre-adult years and may have understood me better and were hence more forgiving of my failings and frailties. They certainly had been very much more willing to accept me, faults and all, for a fairly significant span of years. With my new-found associates of the 1990s, it was constant uncertainty as to my standing with them, despite substantial efforts and some progress in personal improvement. There appears to have been little real and unconditional affinity on their part where I was concerned, despite my more articulately and more frequently expressed interest in people other than myself.
The 1990s proved to be, on the whole, a poor decade, ushered into being by circumstances quite traumatic and never really reaching a level of fulfilment and joie de vivre equating with what had been true of the best of times in Eras 2 and 4. But they nonetheless were a valuable time for conditioning and arriving at a sense of self with which I could comfortably live as an adult. My enduring deference for younger days and yen for simplicity and fun living of yesteryear no longer superseded all other considerations. And so, I was to find success in the workforce and in the society of my chosen vocation, though sadly not among the old friends whose presence in my life I would miss so very deeply. It eventually dawned on me that if only I had been more practised in being interested in friends' activities, hobbies, and favourite things or of calling out to them or referring to them often by name, and just been more consistently responsive to them, and not committing those errors enumerated in my telling of Era 4, the disastrous collapse of my social life in 1987 could have been avoided, or at least minimised. The time was certainly come, and overdue, for me to adjust my outlook and redefine my sense of self with the wisdom that I was gleaning from those books found at my place of work and purchased through a mail-order company. And I would also be enrolled in a Dale Carnegie course, whose objectives included the making of friends and the influencing of people and stopping worrying and starting living, in 1996. I would first need to practice the people skills that I was coopting, so that they would lose their awkwardness and fit somewhat seamlessly into my most established character traits, my ways and means of day-to-day life and expression of personality. Friends found early in the 1990s were the likeliest persons with whom to practice and refine my new persona. But it was a rough-around-edges process of change, for I still had to deal with morale-taxing failures in the friendship department, with recurring feelings of resentment over 1987 that still needed to be purged, and with my mounting vexation with the arrogant intransigence of fandom.
Nostalgia is a wonderful solace to a lonely man, but it must be contained by an immensely powerful dam. What this means is that the past is a wonderful place to visit on a sentimental occasion, but there is also wisdom to the live-for-today notion. This era started with disillusionment with my present condition, thereby rendering me receptive to memories of happier days. By 1992, I had revisited those happier days by various means and to mixed extent. But the degree of my response to the call of the past was ultimately to my detriment. Loneliness and nostalgia are close cousins. Though one of them can, I suppose, exist without the other, the two quite often go together and exert an influence upon an individual that can only be compared on a global scale to the Great Flood. Not that the influence is necessarily devastating, though the deluge of memories can drown current considerations of a social nature. In losing touch with friends with whom I might still have had fairly regular, present-day comradeship, spending instead so very much of my hours in isolation thinking longingly about the life that I once and no longer had, I allowed the bridge to others that is my conscience, and my humanity, to atrophy, to erode somewhat. The result was much interpersonal strife in 1990, with quite an adverse effect upon my health for a time. While delight in things old might have helped me through those difficult months of 1990 and 1991, a retreat from immensely absorbing nostalgia had to come onto my agenda for essential change.
I ought to have done more, much more, to keep current social connections alive. If only I had been more aware, more comprehending, of my contribution to the poor state of my relationships in Fredericton in the late 1980s, I could have approached Joey and the others and said what needed saying to keep rapport with them alive. My humanity, much of it coming from my positive outlook on experiences in my past, still needs the stimulus of fairly constant, present-day relationships, to stay reasonably healthy. Had I maintained some social integration in Fredericton through the late 1980s and into the 1990s, I might not have overstepped my boundaries on aesthetic appreciation of Space: 1999 and spared myself much of the disagreeable mess of 1990. I ought not to have relented in trying to preserve and build upon my Fredericton friendships of Era 4, even while those were floundering in the months of 1987. The decline of some of those relationships, I can now see, was due to my own periodic, perhaps even routine, failures to be a full-fledged buddy. Though returning for a few visits to Douglastown was quite a magnificent act (and I really should not have gone so very long through the early to mid-1980s without reprising my connection to my childhood habitat and my friends there), to fall back so very much post-1987 onto nostalgia and allow it to dominate my mind was quite unwise. It became too easy, in the chronic absence in Fredericton of present friend associations, for my awareness of matters of conscience and tactfulness to decline, for unconsciously (and I would today say unjustly) held resentments toward the friends who seemed to be forsaking me, to creep into my conversation with persons whom I was meeting for the first times, and perhaps also into my association with another person of a similar interest as regards Space: 1999, and for me to commit major faux-pas in my contemporary relationships. And what happened with Dean in 1989 and 1990 was not to be my one inadvertent mistake, as June of 1992 would show. I would need to pull back to some degree from my nostalgic preoccupations and concentrate both my conscious and unconscious thought processes on the "here and now", if indeed I was to have any chance of a better life.