My Special Friends: A Short Select History Thereof

Winnipeg childhood:

Hugh, my longest and earliest friend. We started in grade 1 in 1955, later going to the same high school and university. We lived on the same street. We are still friends today and have exchanged visits. We continue to talk about the past, our old school friends, cultural trends, the arts, and music. Hugh is a bright guy and was the first friend I looked up to and deferred to, knowledge-wise. (With a special nod to Dave, his car bud, who joined us in high school daze.)

Winnipeg high school:

Wayne, musical friend. Wayne and I started hanging out in grade 11, playing in his basement for 3-4 years. I memorably broke his house’s back door window carrying in a rented Vox amp. We also sat in my cousin’s beater which caught fire in Wayne’s backlane on a trip to Lundar, which was not destined to be! Wayne and I re-established contact in Calgary where he worked as the main computer guy for the city. We did demo tape recordings of my 20+ songs in the ’80s which were praised by the likes of Jack Richardson (Guess Who producer), Rita McNeill, and Glen Campbell’s manager! Wayne and I last played together here a few years back and saw him and his wife in Calgary when we were passing through last summer. The bond and spirit are still palpably thick and deep.

Winnipeg teachers:

Betty, my gr. 5 teacher, still living in Winnipeg. We reconnected during the 100th anniversary of my elementary school at which I was the main speaker. She was the first nice teacher I ever had. Still a nice lady who e-mails me humor from time to time.

Brian, my funny, witty gr. 11 teacher. who influenced me in choosing English as my major in university and in choosing English teaching as a career. We were just talking this morning (he was humming a song from Madame Butterfly in the background as he looked for a pen) and I’m sending him my last two books of poetry. Brian was the first adult I showed my poetry to in 1967 during my first year of university.

Edmonton teachers:

The late Professor R. Glenn Martin who taught me Ed CI English at U of A. Glenn said I was the only person who ever sent him a Christmas card each year. He was a very interesting guy who knew Robert Frost at Harvard. He also talked with me about Emily Dickinson, Louis Armstrong, Fred Astaire, and Beethoven quite often. One winter I escorted him several times to the Edmonton symphony. We had many great conversations about music and the arts at a nice restaurant downtown before the shows. When I last saw him in hospital, he was whistling a piece from Beethoven. I gave his eulogy at his funeral. One of his poems, “Winter Weather Forecast”, is elsewhere on this blog.

The late Stu Millman, supply teacher and jazz bassist in Tommy Banks and Charlie Austin bands. We had many wonderful conversations about jazz during jazz shows. Since he passed, there has been no one to replace his veritable fount of jazz knowledge and information. “As Good As It Gets” is a poem dedicated to Stu on this blog. I read it with his last group the Charlie Austin Trio at the Yardbird Suite.

The late Dean McKenzie, English teacher, musician, artist, and poet. He was the closest thing to Walt Whitman and Allen Ginsberg this city has ever had. Dean-o aka ‘Fada’ was 1/3 of Spiritus, a poetry trio I read with in the ’80s and ’90s. Dean dressed in a tutu as a wrestler in a play I co-wrote for the Edmonton Fringe called 60 Minutes Live from Loon River. In short, he remains Edmonton’s closest thing to a poetic legend. I gave a eulogy and read one of his poems with the Andrew Glover jazz combo at his truly remarkable celebration of life.

The late Glen Kirkland, English teacher extraordinare. The head of English for Edmonton Catholic and one-time president of Alberta’s English Council. We met in 1977 in a night grad class of three Ed CI students, and went on, in 1980, to write and edit the Connections textbook series. We later did 40+ textbooks and guides, appeared at scores of teacher conferences, talking to thousands of teachers up to 2010 (the last 10 years by myself). We edited an anthology of Alberta teacher poetry and also appeared in Spiritus, a performance poetry trio. Significantly, I learned to write free verse poetry from Glen. He always gave me solid feedback on my work. Glen is also the only friend I have cried for while giving a eulogy for him. That probably says it all re. his relatively young death.

Gerry, another English teacher and one-time music teacher. Gerry is/was always there for people he worked with or was friends with. He is the most knowledgeable person about film and film history I have ever met. A true friend, he got me post-retirement work at Alberta Film Classification. We had one very memorable trip to Slave Lake which likely sealed our friendship for life. On the way back, he twisted my arm to stop at an A & W for a “cold frosty” (root beer). We still meet whenever we can at Smitty’s on quiet evenings and the conversations continue about American history, England and Scotland, film, and books.

Jerry, another retired English teacher. Jerry took over textbook writing with me after Glen passed in 2010. Our best book might have been Inside E-Media (2010), but the publisher that commissioned it backed out. He is as knowledgeable as Glen (and then some) was about English and its teaching. I learned much more about the subject area thanks to Jer. But he is also very astute about many subjects. We continue to bemoan Trump and the decline of standards in culture and grammar via our steady, ongoing e-mails and occasional meetings.

Ken, a retired Social Studies teacher I first met in 1975 at McNally. He was the first teacher who memorably befriended me and we instantly became bar pals, getting into numerous scrapes, sharing many books, and going to many movies together. Ken is a very funny fellow who considers me his personal comedian. I always manage to find something to kid him about. Ken is very interesting and has travelled the world widely. Our only trip together was to Grand Centre, to which he had never been to before. We get together with the wives (his wife was a nurse and has had many colorful stories as well) twice a year.

Edmonton Stroll of Poets Friends: Kadrush, Clint, and Gerald. I continue to meet with these guys at Stroll of Poets readings; they are a lot of fun to chat up.

Kadrush is an Albanian poet living in Edmonton who has used my editing services. I wrote an introduction for one of his books which he also translated into Albanian. I appreciate the bottles of Kosovo wine he has brought me back from his trips home.

Clint is an ex-principal, retired educator with the Spirit of the Great Heart. He is also the best reciter of poetry in Edmonton and a bona-fide prairie boy. I recently gave Clint my rare signed Wallace Stegner’s Wolf Willow in appreciation of his friendship.

Gerald is currently the top male poet in Edmonton. He was in charge of Interdepartmental Studies at the U of A and has a broad-based knowledge of many subjects, especially poetry. His transition from science to the arts began with a haiku book he read on a flight to Japan. I will be bestowing a coffee table book on Wisdom, a topic he has been writing about, the next time I see him.



Ken, ever-youthful music teacher, pianist-vocalist, and co-founder/member of Fudge, my teacher duo/trio that played live at Strathcona High functions–teacher and student from 1990-2003. Ken and I were very close (another musical soulmate) and gigged many times. He loved the ‘old music’ and went the whole 10 yards with anything we did together. Playing-wise, you couldn’t ask for a better alter ego/soul brother than him or (above) Wayne. We were very ‘tight’ and on the same page musically speaking. What larks, eh, Fudge?

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