The Memoirs of Gerard P. Pas
These are the autobiographical writings of Gerard Pas.
They have been written in non-sequential order.
All texts and images remain the copyright of Gerard Peter Pas ©
Read all of Gerard's written memoirs by clicking here.
Continued from ďStreet Kid Daze to Suburban Haze.Ē April 23, 2005. (Click here to read) Dazed by the Haze of Adolescence. 1971
Now some anecdotes from those horrible 2 years 1971-1972, and why I considered it such a haze clouded by my hormonal change into manhood. I have the privilege of 20/20 hindsight now, time has moved down its corridor to change us all. Whatís new Ė a hell of a lot in 35 years. I really donít want the following texts to be construed as gossip. If youíre mentioned and feel maligned, I will gladly edit these writings to take you out. Just give me a call. These are some of the people I met in those horrible years that made a large and lasting impact on my life, in ways they probably couldnít imagine today. If I am made of my experiences, they inform who I am, and then even in my failings can be a lesson to be learned from. I did learn but the schooling was hard. As clichť as it may seem, it was ďThe School of Hard KnocksĒ.
I begin with the summer of 1971 and my new friends from London North. When the troubles in my own life started to manifest, I couldnít go to them either because I wanted to be seen as cool: the downtown kid that could shoot dope like a man. Remember I was a kid that didnít see anything of wealth except from my fatherís truck as I watch or waited for him to collect bills from his landscaping customers. I always felt my dad stayed in his customerís houses too long and he always came out smelling of drink. Sometimes it would even make me cry, begging him to hurry up and take me home, I was 10 or so at the time.
The fact that I had started lying to these new friends about were I lived probably didnít really matter, none of them were coming to my house. A lie, it festers other characters in the host that it preys on. In me, it created a fear of being found out a liar and that had all but hamstrung anything I could do to call out for help to anyone. Deceit is in itself a deceitful thing. When the lying started at Banting that late fall, I had already slowly started to remove myself from that circle of friends in North London, it was easy as most of them went to A.B. Lucas H.S. in Londonís North-East. At this point using the term friend makes me feel like a hypocrite as what kind of friend was I -- friends do not lie? For that matter, what kind of a son was I to be ashamed of my parentís hard work and their own personal sojourn as immigrants separated from their families back in Holland. Nevertheless, I feel strongly even to this day, that I built some sincere though ephemeral friendships in that group of young people. What I did do was learn some vital life lessons!
In that first summer when Scott _____ brought me up to his home from summer school (read my earlier text) introducing me to his circle of friends I met some interesting people and they titillated my sense of discovery. Scott was wild man, he partied hard and fast, and all of life was one big party. A party to which I through him had also had been invited. This boy was a meteor racing through the night sky and like a meteor; its streaking light through the star infested sky is short lived. Scottís dad was an executive with General Steel Wares Limited, a large London plant that made fridges or something like that and closed during the 1970ís. Scott came and went through my life like a meteor shower. However, in that short expanse of time Scott would change my life like seeing the Aurelia Borealis the first time. From poor kid to a vision of the Great Gatsby my life would pivot on its ears, sadly it would lead me to humiliation and self-degradation before understanding many years later. I heard a few years after not seeing Scott for a time that he had become a young businessperson for the Krishna Sect. You know the salesperson wearing a fine Italian suit and shoes with a sensible silk tie, selling Krishna products. At least Scott had the courage to search and attempt to find meaning in this superfluous life of self-indulgence that wealth provides. I met Scott a few years later and it had indeed changed him, he had a woman and I believe there was talk of children. Scott had a good soul and maybe his sojourn out of that community of London North, to find even me and change my life, was the beginning of finding understanding for him. I say that because I think in some ways, the rich do like to be voyeuristic and that is often why artist can cross the class divides without prejudice. Scott coming downtown and bringing me up meet his friends was in and of itself a statement to that affect. He was searching for something different and by presenting me; it was his own sojourn out of the box of wealth that was so accustomed to him. Almost as though he was bragging to his peers in the North that there was another world outside of the walled in community (we didnít have walled in communities in London during the early 70ís, but I like the metaphor for today). Scott was the first person I knew that ďgot religionĒ.
Through Scott _____ I meet a number of very interesting people. Thank you Scott, for reaching out to me with friendship that summer we both had to redo grade 10 mathematics at summer school.
The one person who Scott introduced me to and whom I really connected with was Bob Deadman, the son of a prestigious London Orthopedic Surgeon. Bob went to A.B. Lucas H.S. Bob and I hit it off and immediately and became the best of friends. He invited me into his north London home as though I had been his neighbour all his life. Bob and his whole family showed me every kindness and generosity, inviting me to eat with them and spend many hours in their house or cottage. His sister Marg was of the same age as us, a stunning raven-haired girl, she treated me as though I belonged. I traveled everywhere with Bob in his dadís big car, a 71 Grand Marquis or a sporty Firebird ragtop; we were inseparable that summer. While Scott brought me into Bobís acquaintance, Bob introduced me to this completely different way of life in North London, one that I had not seen before living in the E.O.A. Bob also opened up to me in a way I hadnít known friends since my childhood in the E.O.A. He was one of the kindest persons I had met and neither he nor his family judged me. Bob had a smile that went from ear to ear and he was a very enthusiastic person in showing his glee, a punch the air sort of person. I will never forget Bobís smile because it was sincere and it had a way of rubbing off on those around him.
Bob was a handsome man and had been going out with Barb Ivey, daughter of Peter Ivey of the London Iveyís (one of the richest families in Canada) so I also got to know her well at this time. Barb was one of the first persons who I met which whom you could actually hold a very intelligent conversation with; she was as smart as a whip and a very beautiful girl as well. I was always impressed that someone with what I thought at the time to be a kingís ransom could be so generous with his or her thoughts and actions towards me. When Bob and she split up, maybe because of Bobís philandering ways, I never saw her again. I did however read about her years later in the columns of magazines, when she had her Princess Dianna type of wedding in Toronto.
Sadly, Bob also had issues but in my blinded youth, I did not see them because my eyes were transfixed more on the fact that he seemed to have everything a person could possible want, he must be happy. I guess TV had influenced even me in jaundicing my vision of the world to be one of materialism and bourgeois aspirations. Bob also liked to use hard drugs and we spent many a time together doing them. Bob opened a door for me to see another lifestyle. Later in my own stupidity, I would judge myself in the fact I didnít come from wealth or have any chance of attaining it through my parentsí meager existence. I learned from Bob that pain could be transmuted through escape and he and I made every attempt to live by that rule, looking down a bottle or at the end of a fit (syringe). Sadly, what I didnít understand was that escaping pain doesnít solve the problem it just shoves it aside for a time or it takes you further into oblivion.
On going to Banting that fall, Bobís and my relationship started to drift apart. Yes, weíd see each other from time to time but it started to fade until I lost all contact with him. I would learn years later that Bob had committed suicide by throwing himself of a parking garage roof in Montreal. I donít know if it was a parking garage or if it was even Montreal as by then I heard it from a friend of a friend and I had lost contact with his family. What I do know is that this seemingly gleeful man, who I think by the time of his death, had children and wife finally gave up or realized he couldnít escape anymore and took his own life. I feel some guilt writing this now because I wish I had of kept in touch with him. I would have told him that his pain had meaning and that there was hope. That his family cared, that friends cared, that I cared for him, and so does the living God love him. I donít know that it would have changed anything but I feel bad that Bobís scream wasnít heard until he was falling to his death. I will always remember Bob and his smile and I hope that these few words will stand as a testament to him and his own search for meaning in life. I miss him and will never forget Bobís generosity to me I learned from him and survived unlike him.
Scott also introduced me to a very bright young man and the son of two prominent doctors at the University of Western Ontario, Jan Haust. Jan was also a fine connoisseur of good Hashish and we would spend many hours whiling away the time smoking Hash and listening to music.
Jan first introduced me to so many elements of music I had there-to-fore never heard before. Jan was a nice enough person and accepted me for who I was. Inviting me into his family home, introducing me to elements of counter-culture that I had not previously known, he was one of the first people I knew back then that had his finger on the pulse of what was coming our way in cultural terms. I think that in hindsight because Jan truly did pursue his passion and his insights into music, it not only enriched me but it has also benefited many in this county and worldwide. In some ways, his work has gone unnoticed by the cultural mandarins of our modern times but as I can attest, were it not for his hard work some of Canada’s greatest musical assets might still be unrecognized. I totally respect his knowledge of music and am grateful to him for introducing me to those works of the early 1970’s.
I would like to emphasize my points above by providing just a little more history on Jan. I would see Jan from time to time when I first started making art in the downtown in my late teens and twenties. He worked at this record store or that record store. Jan moved to Toronto and started a record label called “Other Peoples Music”. He came to me in the early late 1990’s because in my early years as an artist I worked with many of the punk bands locally, in Toronto and knew many of the bands personally in New York. Jan Haust had already put together a compilation record of The Curse, an all female Punk Rock Band that I was not only associated with but also helped get some of their first gigs through my affiliation with The Center for Experimental Art and Communication or C.E.A.C. in the late 1970’s. Jan kindly credited me in the liner notes of that Compact Disc with my involvement of one of Canada’s first Punk bands but also a unique group of extraordinary woman. As I had done many raw videos of several of these bands, Jan wanted to get his hands on some Demics’ stuff, which I have in my archives. I had earlier recorded the Demics at their first public performance at Mike-Peter Neiderman and Michael Hannay’s studio in downtown London. The Demics Band are considered by many in the alternative music world as the greatest Punk Rock band of that era in Canada and have won many accolades through popular vote as producing one of the finest records from that time called “Talks Cheap”. That extended vinyl EP that included their smash hit “New York City” (which Keith Whittaker once told me he wrote for me) was voted in 1996 by Chart Magazine as the best Canadian single of all time. This is the kind of person that Jan Haust is his erudite vision of the complex role that culture creates and someone who often recognizes that contribution long before popular culture does. I consider him a treasure in the music world. Though we see all together too little of each other he is one person, from this mixed up period of my life that time have proven to be a long-term friend.
Bob Deadman introduced me to a tall young man named George Jackson. George was an affable person and liked to party hard, so often it was incumbent that Bob round him up which he did. I liked George as he had a cracking sense of whit and a misdemeanour of a character that was impish in style. I learned for some friends back then that George was the kid that was chauffeured up to grade school in a limousine everyday. Stepping out heíd be in short pants with a smart blazer and tie carrying his lunch box. I could picture that of George but he was now years beyond that innocent story. He was a hard a partier as ever there was one, and he loved all the things of bacchanalia, wine woman and song but in a very cultured way.You know I was also chaffered up to school in a limousine when I was a boy, ironic when you think about the humble neighbourhood I grew up in the E.O.A. It seemed that whenever my leg-brace needed a mend or repair, the charitable people who watched over me would send a limousine to take me to-and-fro from school. Thatís were the similarity stops. George went in his own private car with driver. I on the other hand was bundled into a car that had several severely handicap and mentally challenged youth in the back with me. I hated it, not because of them but it made me feel separated from being a normal kid as we pulled up to the school in this big black car. I would have used my bike but the powers-that-be wouldnít let me and thus nor would my folks..
Iím not sure but I think Georgeís dad was a prominent Senator in Parliament: he was in politics but I'm not sure. I would see George from time to time, even years after these post-pubescent days in the downtown and he always had a smile and a laugh on his face. George was grooved in and enjoying his life then as boys. He fitted the vision of that upper-middle class life that I thought must be heaven and was willing to sell my soul for with lies or any other deadly sin.
I mention George because as time marched on and as my career expanded as an artist, I became friends with his mother Barbara Jackson. She was a woman with class and an overwhelming generosity. I owe her so much as a young struggling painter in this town. This woman showed me such support in those earlier days of my twenties heading into my thirties. She came to my parentís house when I had moved back from Europe and was working in their basement.
The Forks of the Thames by Gerard Pas
From the Richard and Beryl Ivey Collection
She brought my watercolour painting of the Forks of the Thames to the attention of Richard and Beryl Ivey who purchased the work for their collection. Just a side-note or digression: several years later, I was talking to a mutual and respected friend a photographer here in town. He told me the secretary of Ivest Corp., where the painting hung in the front lobby behind her desk, told him on enquiring about it ďThat it was a shame that the artist no longer painted this way and had returned to some other kind of art.Ē Barbara Jackson invited me many times to critique the watercolour paintings of the London Volunteer Womanís Committee of the then London Regional Art Gallery and Historical Museum. She assisted in selling or having works purchased by that committee for what is now Museum Londonís Collection. In essence, she helped me to provide for my very young family and her believe in my work of that era. I respect this woman as one of the people behind the scenes who makes things happen but takes little or no glory for it Ė a very charitable woman indeed Ė bless you.
Sadly, as in so many of our lives hers is also not without misery. I donít know if she has the strength to carry it but whenever I saw her, she seemed to at least on the outside.
George had opened a successful restaurant business in a smaller tourist city very near here. I donít know why and I donít have any insights on how because I havenít spoken with George in some twenty years. George somehow got involved in a heinous crime of passion, which turned his life on its ear. Iím not trying to open old wounds and I worry that my even mentioning it will be seen as disrespect towards a woman I have such admiration. I feel nevertheless that I should at least speak to it in passing as it did happen and joins my story to these North London youth as time unfurls for all of us. For me George was a lad that had everything in spades and a cutting-whit to go with it all. I honestly donít know why or how he lost focus. Then I have also put myself in a position were passion makes all things seem worthless next to it. I am empathetic to the degree that I truly understand that in love and war all things seem reasonable. Human love is often not unconditional, as only God has this ability or supplying us with it. In many ways when I think on George, I think that there but for the grace of God go I: happily, Godís love for me never let me go that far astray, even when I was pulling and screaming to do so. I to look back on how my own passions have caused me to act in ways I never thought I could both negatively and positively. Iíve done some real stupid shite in my time driven by passion. The head informs the heart and if the heart began to think, the head would begin to feel. There are no medals pinned to my chest but there is hope in my heart.
I first met Tim Robarts through my circle of friends in North London. At first, Tim was just a casual acquaintance from any number of parties we all joined. Tim was the adopted the son of John Robarts, previously a Premier of the Province of Ontario. I actually got to know Tim because of my own investigations into student politics at Banting. Tim and I found ourselves as representatives from London Student Council to the Provincial Students Council. As this provincial body of students was gathering for its annual meeting in Toronto, Tim asked if I wanted to go along with him and that I could stay in his fathers suite at the Holiday Inn Hotel then located next to Torontoís City Hall and near the Provincial Legislature. Holiday Inns British Commonwealth, Canada had their National Headquarters located in London and I think his father was one of their corporate lawyers after his leading the Province as Premier - this may be wrong but he had the suite nevertheless. This is where I truly started to know Tim. He was a timid boy whose smile was accentuated by braces. I was impressed by the fact that he was one of the first kids I knew that drove a BMW in a time when they were rare in Canada as a foreign import, it even had a sort of personal license plate (with numbers) long before Ontario started handing them out. Through mutual acquaintances, I had heard many rumours about Tim's family; thus conjecture. What I heard was that his mom really liked to imbibe and was often in need of help by him when she put her self in jeopardizing positions with her car or at home. This is not me pointing one finger out with three pointing back as I had similar experiences with my own dad, which also angered me. I remember once for example that my dad had been next door with the neighbours when they called my mom to come pick him up; he was drunk and unconscious. I offered to go and fetch him. On arrival what I saw was, these men our neighbours, who were so happy to have my dad drink in access with them, had thrown his listless body in the back mudroom amongst the plastic bags filled with garbage. He had been thrown out with the trash for me to recycle (I love my dad, and as my own texts prove, I'm not pretending to be better. He's had to work through his own demons.). Far be it from me to judge Timís family for something, which was happening in my own. Tim coming from a family of privilege had to suffer the indignity of people talking where as no one ever spoke about my dad and his addictions so publicly. I was very sympathetic to Tim, although in youth we just didnít talk about it choosing to bury or hide away from it. I wish now that we had of talked about it, both for him and myself as it can be so helpful to know you are not alone in misery. Unfortunately, like another set of principles that ties alcoholism with a genetic pattern to our parents we took on the same careless role for ourselves with drinking and drugs. We went to the student council meetings in Toronto together and then went back to the elegant suite at the hotel.
Another young friend of Timís named George DeVeber went along with us. George was a candle burning at both ends. I came to know all of the DeVeber family as time went on seeing his father and mother only a year or two ago, while I was playing my tin whistle at a local ceilidh in a bar downtown. I very much hold his family in high regard as years later I saw how his dad helped so many children suffering from cancer; in particular a brilliant young violinist and daughter of a friend. His more studios sister Gabriel is today a respected doctor following her great fatherís Barrieís example.
Nevertheless, back then George was along for the ride as was I, and what a wild ride it was.
The three of us went back to that room high above Nathan Philips Square in Toronto with our arms brimming with Tequila, limes and other pockets stuffed with less harmful drugs such as grass. We drank and drank until we needed to vomit and typical of the male psyche turned this into a sport of sorts. We would expel the contents of our stomachs from the edge of the hotel roomís lofty balcony, down the side of the building towards the square below. In the morning we went down to the square to see whose puke had gone the furthest as we all maintained the same spot from which to disengorge ourselves. Sure enough there they were, three exponential triangles smeared against the walls, pointing up to the suite of the corporate lawyer and ex-Premier of the Province. I donít remember who won as it doesnít matter. It was as though we were all, each and everyone one of us from that circle of young friends, hell bent to destroy our selves and anything else that came in-between. I know now that maybe those arrows pointing up to that room were more likely signals calling out for help than barometers of our own self-indulgence or maybe a bit of both.
Iím not telling this story to in anyway soil Tim or Georgeís reputation. I think in and of itself, there are probably a million such youth stories of excess from around the world and as such not that special. The reason Iím telling it is that at 21 years of age Tim took a revolver and went up to a local stream north of our city and blew his brains out. His father had just left his mother for ďnew loveĒ of just a few years older than Tim, his dad was thus largely absent from his life and Iíve already spoken of his mother as she had not changed. Tim had everything but in the end, he was alone to face the world with only money, drugs and no answers or family to cry for help. Tragically, his own dad committed suicide just a short while after. What a sad legacy! Iím not judging Tim here, as by twenty-one I was the same, although I had no money or access to firearms, instead I elected to take the slow train of heroin addiction.
What I learned from these North London friends that summer was that none of us was alone in our despair. I realize that much of it might be seen as spoiled children lead astray by drugs and Iím sure some of it was. But what does that say of our society? What does it say of how we young children of 15, 16, and 17 already preoccupied ourselves with trying to escape and finding a means to do so in debauchery and drug addiction? We were a ship of fools sailing off to oblivion. If life is a stage by this time, I had taken the role of court jester, the tough but smart kid from downtown. How sad I feel today with hindsight, I couldnít make a better impact on these vital souls. In truth, I always thought Iíd be the one they find dead and here I am today writing my memories, praying that they are not seen as merely dragging up mud or letting the dead rest in peace. Funny, that at that age, I would become ashamed of my financial status in life but essentially there was no difference to how we arrived at our ends, except that they may have had nicer cars to get there. I have a T-shirt today that says, ďThe one with the most toys in the end still dies.Ē My life was spared by a God who literally reached down and dragged me up kicking and screaming from the edge of the abyss and I went unwillingly. I know now that were it not for God Iíd be just a faded memory and not in someone elseís memoirs except maybe as a fleeting passage of unimportance Ė ďI did dope with this crippled kid from downtown who once was a Timmy (Easter Seal Poster Child)Ē.
These people taught me that inorder to be happy; I had to find a reason to live. I did, unfortunately I had to drag my sorry ass across the pavement for so long that it has left too many scars. These were just some of those scars and each has a name like Bob, Tim and J.M. Basquiat? (No he wasn't in London. Yes, that's another story from my New York City days in the mid and late seventies - it is for later).
In my next entry, I will talk about my time at Banting H.S. itself. How I found art, which for a short time gave my life meaning but did break me from the chain of lies that I created for myself.
Gerard Pas, April 25, 2005. London, Canada.
Comments and Links
To read the continuation of this story ďAmazed by a short break in that hazeĒ please click here. STILL TO COME!
Contact Gerard Pas — Memoirs Library at email@example.com