I hitchhiked 3,726 km (according to Google) or 2,315 miles for you oldies … by myself when I was 14 years old. I lived at the height of the Greco-Roman empire (without the male dominance mind) in these modern times and now Rome is falling and I can’t imagine what it must be like for kids now. My youth, while (obviously) not idyllic, was, in retrospect friggin’ amazeballs! I grew up in the late 70s, 80s and 90s so I got THE BEST music and because I love so many different kinds of music I went to every venue there was. I danced to disco, live punk, love rock, djs playing rock, house, techno, soul … OMG you name it, I danced to it. In the early 80s I was the only white, female security at the Concert Hall for all the hip-hop shows, that was an experience!
The pandemic has put the kibosh on this and it is tragic that people are not able to go out and let loose – not that they really can these days with everyone with their camera phones out, everything getting filmed and people so disjointed there is no capability to actually lose yourself the way we did. Very sad. I was thinking that we should start creating immersive events where part of the deal is you are not allowed to bring your phone in so people could actually relax and experience it without feeling judged and put upon – so you could well and truly dance like no one’s watching. Even once the pandemic isolation is over, the days of dilapidated warehouse parties and punks living in falling down, abandoned buildings are over in Toronto. As with most things, ruined by money – our skyline rivals NY with all it’s condo skyscrapers, etc., but I digress.
Yeah, so I ran away a lot when I was young – starting at 11 years old! I used to hitchhike with a friend from Mississauga to Hamilton and back when I was 12 for something to do on the weekends. We’d get guys to pick us up, we’d smoke weed with them and hang out and then get out, simply cross the road and hitchhike back. Mississauga is a huge city now but when I was growing up there, there was literally a horse farm at the bottom of the hill where I lived and exactly two malls – Woodchester Mall and Sheridan Mall to hang out at. I also spent a lot of time hanging out and getting high with the gas station attendant at (I think) Sheridan Mall. Suffice to say my memory’s not the greatest (don’t look at me like that, it’s genetic not the weed (which ironically, now that it’s legal, I cannot smoke at all anymore) – my Mom has never smoked, drank (very occasionally and I think I’ve seen her drunk once in my life) or done drugs and my memory is stellar compared to her). Because of always having a shite memory and being aware of this I’ve actually developed some techniques over the years so I don’t spend time looking for stuff that I’ve misplaced as much – that has saved me a lot of sanity. I must have wasted weeks if not months in my twenties looking for my house keys … ah well, better late than never!
My childhood was hella lame, will not get into details or the blame game, almost everyone has their “stuff”, no need to go into it – let’s face it, our traumas are only relevant and interesting to us and maybe shrinks or psychologists – anyone else listening is liable to zone out and fall off their chair while I (or anyone) was on with the ‘woe is me’ story. So I started running away when I was 11 and by the time I was 13 was in a group home for truancy; don’t worry kids, I’ll wait while you look it up. Back in my day, this, in fact, was a huge issue and yes, punishable by incarceration in a juvenile facility. While I was happy to no longer be the whipping boy at home, this was a whole ‘nother level of abusive. When I first got there I was put on “hand hold” – like you had to hold the staff’s hand ALL THE TIME, then it was room check, floor check and then you got outside privileges. They were called Viking Houses (here’s a cite for you Attorney General (Ontario) and Viking Houses v. Peel – SCC Cases (scc-csc.ca) 😉). Although my address was 35 Tyndall Avenue, although it’s been fixed up and remodeled, the façade is much the same as it was back then which is kind of interesting. I’ve gone by a few times and just walking by the house gives me butterflies.
They were eventually shut down because their methods were considered too controversial, i.e. if a kid acted out and had a tantrum they would do a “holding” where they would literally physically restrain the person until they calmed down. And being on handhold in public was excruciatingly embarrassing to a young teenager, but then again, isn’t everything lol. Honestly, I don’t know what I think in terms of how this impacted me psychologically. I do know that it was leaps and bounds above being in a juvenile detention centre. I’ve never tried to remember or reach out to any of the other kids that were there with me. I still remember my lawyer’s name though – Barry Edington.
I was there for a year and a half, got all my privileges and promptly ran away again – (that was the 3,700 km trek by myself from Toronto to Alberta – would not recommend). Although I was pretty well-versed in the safety aspects of travelling by thumb I got picked up by a trucker who wanted something I wasn’t willing to give and he dumped me off, amidst a huge snowstorm, on this bend where you couldn’t really see me. I stood there for nearly three hours thinking “oh great so I die by freezing to death on the side of a highway”. My hands and feet were numb as hell and I was going into hypothermic shock I’m sure when a Datsun truck finally came into view (the first vehicle in the three hours I’d been standing there), I stuck out my thumb hopefully and watched as it zipped by. As I was just about to give up hope I heard the screech of tires and the truck backing up. A lovely hippie guy (long brown hair, glasses and a wonderfully warm smile) came to a stop and flung the door open for me and greeted with “I almost missed you there, that’s a horrible spot to be in, you can barely see you!”
I clambered in and put my hands up against the blasting heat, so thankful. That man saved my life. But the best part of all was he had one of those 1970s tartan thermos with the red lid and he opened it up and asked if I wanted some coffee. Best coffee I have ever had in my whole life! I have no idea where he picked me up or dropped me off for that matter. I don’t remember his name or anything of pertinent value but I do know that was one of my many lives that got saved that day and I am forever thankful for karma being on my side that day. I wonder if I had died out there if I would have even made the news … luckily I will always have to wonder.
Alberta was another experience all unto itself but that is a story for another time.