The Quest Begins
Running on Empty…
John and I met each other in the midst of chaos, when we are definitely not at our best but rather most fragile and vulnerable….As Malcolm Kelly so aptly wrote in an article in the National Post on our story “We were two peas in a broken pod” Finding kinship in one another was a well needed comfort through such troubled times and our ability to still find humour in the black comedy of life was a strong bond and still is even to this day. With John’s quick wit and his natural sense of timing you could always count on him to cut the tension in a situation.
By the fall of 1988 our personal circumstances were no better and with little chance of improvement in the near future John candidly remarked “You know, even death is starting to look good!” Keeping this thought in mind and being naturally free spirited John decided he wanted to hit the road on his own adventure to California as I admittedly carried a lot of emotional baggage which was the last thing he needed if he was to heal himself.
With a heavy heart I packed his suitcases and in it I tucked three socks with a note saying “I always knew you had 2 left feet!” knowing he might need a laugh from a familiar friend when he arrived down there. With nowhere else to go I made arrangements to stay with my sister Glennis in Hope, BC so I could get my life in order and John was to set off on his own heading due south to the coast of California.
I will never forget the overwhelming sadness I held silently inside as I hugged John for what may have the last time in my life. I didn’t want him to know how much I would miss him, having so much on his own plate to worry about already. So with a brave smile and a loving wave I watched him as he drove off in his old Volvo until he completely disappeared from view…
Heartbroken I trudged on but I felt completely numb inside afraid if I allowed any crack in my emotional armour I would suffocate and drown in the ensuing flood of them. To my rescue once again a few weeks later I got the one phone call I had been praying for… It was John!
He had read my note and missed me and asked if I could fly to San Francisco and join him. I felt like I had just been let out of jail! Within two weeks of his call I found myself living in a converted garage turned bachelor pad in Carmel California and I couldn’t have been happier…
Just think for a moment…
Here we were 2 people who had just recently met, having experienced significant successes in our past, both of us pretty much having lost everything. Our marriages crumbled, estranged from our families, no contacts with anyone and now in a completely strange environment without any agenda or direction…
What would you do when faced with such adversity? There was no safety net and definitely no time for self-pity nor second guessing oneself… It was literally do or die… Our secret… Keeping one’s sense of humour intact and then just getting into action and do whatever is necessary to improve the situation.
John was the driving force behind us and always jumped right in with both feet wherever we went which gave me more courage to overcome some of my many fears also. With his keen eye for cars and his outgoing personality John managed to keep us afloat and I quickly became his right hand “man” Pitching in any way I could., cleaning cars, driving, and when possible finding part time jobs when needed. I remember working as a cocktail waitress in Monterey at Fisherman’s Wharf with no clue of what to do but I compensated for my lack of skills with my friendliness and enthusiasm for the job.
Knowing my awkwardness with the corkscrew anytime I had to deliver a bottle of wine to the table one of the other waiters would willingly step in for me. It worked wonders but I definitely was not cut out for the job!
We never really stayed in one place for long as John once again felt the urge to keep adventuring on being in the free spirited mindset we were now becoming used to. Our travels took us from Carmel to the east Bay area of San Francisco where I had grown up as a little swimmer and saw my old school and the pool where my Olympic dream got started. We drove up and down the coast looking for old classic cars to fix and sell.
We even started a used bike place in the back shed of an apartment building in Santa Barbara. Driving up the Ventura Highway we would buy a crate of old broken down bikes from the Salvation Army Auctions in Oxnard and then refurbish them in our shed and resell them on the weekends.
We had quickly made friends with an ex New England Patriot football player named Bill who had also fallen on hard times and he knew a lot about fixing bikes. His Dad had owned a bike shop in Boston so he volunteered to help us out with the project.
The stories he told us kept us amused for hours as we went about spray painting seats and repairing frames to make them look like new…I remember the shed was full of spiders and John donned this heavy duty breathing mask which looked like a level 4 bio suit spraying the dickens out of the place!! No matter how adverse our situation became somehow we still managed to find the humour in it and more importantly John and I saw the real spirit in one another. Without those things surely we never would have made it that far.