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The first point about Wesley is his bourgeois background. Yes, I’m saying his family is rich. He supposedly renounced them. Let us know early on he could have had a comfortable job in his father’s boat company but he’d opted out of it. To be free and easy, like us. We were impressed by that back then. Not that we used to care much where anyone came from. It was just in the back of your mind when you thought of Wesley. Rich dude who’d dropped out. His image. Remember, this was back at the height of our counterculture days. What, all of three years ago? It was different then, even two or three years back. Someday when people look back they’ll think of this whole period as all of one piece. Just as we look back at the roaring twenties or the Great Depression or the fifties and we have a label for each period. But when you’re living it, connected to what’s happening on a daily basis — I can tell you every one of the ups and downs of the past three years. The movements, the little revolutions and counter-revolutions, the changes of direction, the slight shifts of thinking, the expanding and shrinking, movements within movements. Then later some newspapers and historians will lump them all together and say, oh, that was the psychedelic sixties. They make it seem inevitable, how everything turned out. You follow me? Back in sixty-seven, sixty-eight, we were getting into posing as so free and easy and we were impressed by someone like Wesley opting out of the establishment. It proved the movement went across class lines. None of the old social divisions applied any more. Everyone would eventually tune in and drop out like us. I was living with a man here then. So when — Yes, here in this same house. Shacked up. But we called it a trial marriage then. Now people just say they’re living together. It’s almost assumed if you see two people together a lot. We lived on the income from my freelance photography plus rent from a boarder named Norbert. Correct, same Norbert. Which turned out to be lucky for me because it ended badly with the lying, cheating asshole I was with and I was lucky to have Norbert around. Embarrassingly badly. Humiliatingly badly. Tears and screaming and furniture out on the lawn, the whole works badly. I wasn’t strong then, bit of a space cadet in fact. And Norbert turned out to be a good friend. My only real friend at the time. Helped me put it all back together again. In the middle of everything going on, he was solid. So after the asshole left for good, we started having relations. Yes, Norbert and I. And in about four days we both knew it was a mistake. It wasn’t right for us, those kind of relations. We were correct to keep it as friends. And we have been that ever since. And, note, I’m not saying just friends. No, not because it was more than friends. I’m not saying just friends because that would imply being friends is less than some other kind of relationship. Being friends can be better than almost any other way of being together. We’re comrades, though Norbert hates that kind of talk. So we had our ridiculous fling and after it was over we stayed living in the same house. And one day Norbert brought another friend in to stay over, I don’t remember who now, and later the friend told someone else who needed somewhere to crash and one thing led to another and we ended up with a full house every night. And then some. This became a famous crash pad around these parts. People were coming and going all the time. Word got around and we had freaks knocking on the door day and night. Or forget about knocking, just walking in. They were crashing on the floors, in the hallways, anywhere there was space. And that was cool. We were all into it. A few of us were paying regular rent and board and anyone else paid if they could. We kept a vase — here’s an image for you — a big vase made for flowers, we kept it just inside the front door for people to put money in, their loose change, to contribute to expenses. Yes, it sounds cool and it was cool. For a while. Except Norbert and I had to clean up after everyone. We were the only ones who did. I never thought of myself as a cleanliness freak but when a dozen people come and go every day, two dozen on the weekends, and they all leave a mess for you to clean up, you start getting a little uptight about it. And the craziness — this was sixty-eight now — it got so you never knew what you’d find in this house. You’d walk into your bedroom and some guy would be shooting speed on your bed. Or there’d be a half-naked teenybopper, some runaway you’d wonder how old, huddled up with a guy ten years older. Some freaks even tried to start a fire in the house — Norbert heard this chanting and he found them in a bedroom doing this pagan religious ceremony, sacrificing a goat or some such. No, not for real. They never got further than burning some sticks on the floor, but who knows how far they would have taken it? And we were always being ripped off. Everything was being ripped off. Record albums, utensils, the toaster, Norbert’s tools, anything not nailed down. Personal items in drawers in my own room would disappear. It got so the vase by the door was being emptied as fast as anything went into it. We had to replace the vase itself a couple of times because it disappeared. I taped a little sign to it, saying it was cheap, not worth anything, so please don’t rip it off. The whole scene was getting to us, Norbert and me. It was great as long as everyone was full of the spirit of the times. Do your own thing, everything is beautiful. Which lasted about four months. So when it got crazy, too crazy, Norbert and I put our feet down. Me especially. I became a real witch. I’m sure a lot of people thought so anyway. But we were going to lose our lease here. Not enough people paying into it and everyone taking out. You can’t have a little socialist society working inside a capitalist one. There’s no material basis for it. Am I correct? Take it from me it doesn’t work. It didn’t work. So we called a meeting. Held it in the backyard. Seemed like half the freaks in town were sprawled over the yard, sitting on the fence and the shed. And I made a speech, first time in my life. Explained how this couldn’t go on. We were going to lose our lease and then there wouldn’t be a place for people to crash. Everyone listened to me and everyone sort of agreed they should all contribute what they could to the upkeep of the house and I would make a schedule of work to be done around the house for those that couldn’t contribute cash. Many of them came up afterwards to contribute what they had right then and there. It was great. Norbert and I felt we were changing society. We were changing society starting right in our own backyard, literally. And I organized a schedule of little jobs for everyone and it was great and of course after a week no one followed it. A month later nothing had changed, the craziness just continued. So we called another meeting and about a quarter of the number of people at the first meeting showed up. I got angry then. I was very angry. So I made a list of everyone who showed up and said from then on nobody whose name was not on the list would be allowed to crash at this house unless in dire need and everyone would have to contribute time or money on a regular basis or their names would be struck from the list. I was on fire. I think everyone was a little scared of me because no one argued against it. Then afterwards…. Well, it was tough to enforce. But we did it. We had a few ugly scenes when we had to eject people or keep someone out. But we managed to do it. And without calling the cops once, which we were proud of. Some folks in the house stood by us and helped in the difficult situations. We had some long nights of discussing what was ethically acceptable and how far we could go in setting down rules. It felt as though we were drafting the Magna Carta at times. But we came up with a more-or-less workable system. And eventually we ended up with what we have now — six regulars — Norbert, me, Loren, Rog, Wesley and a guy we called Money because he never had any. He worked off his rent, until one day he vanished without warning. So his place was taken by Picket. Who also never has enough money and works most of it off every month. Rog has had his problems too, since his parents cut him off and he can’t work because of some disability or perhaps bad drugs wrecked his nervous system, so in any case he can’t support himself, but Norbert has a friend in a social agency got Rog on something like a disability pension. And that’s it, that’s how we have lived together almost two years without major changes. Except once when Wesley said he was going on a trip for a few days, told us to hold his place, and he was gone a year, sent us a few dollars just to keep a spot for him, until he showed up with you. We figured he was gone for good. So, long story, Wesley was just one of the freaks who crashed here and stayed, except when he didn’t. Come to think of it, no remembers when Wesley first showed up. He was with all the other freaks that came and went in the crazy days. But he began to stand out. For one thing he had this big bush of hair that stood out to here, his Afro was much bigger than now, like on the cover of that album? But, more than that, he talked. And in those days he was the political one. He was the one with all the books and the posters and the ideas. Especially in the days before we organized the place. Wesley would stay up all night talking to everyone who came through. Get them to go to rallies. Join his guerilla theatre group. Start newspapers. You had to see him in action then. A whirlwind. A lot of us were getting into activism but Wesley was the one with all the words and the contacts and who went at it as though our lives were at stake. He got on all the organizing committees. He was one of the people at demonstrations with a bullhorn. Always collecting money to print some leaflet or other. I know, it doesn’t sound like the Wesley you know now. I think he was sorry the chaotic period came to an end in this house. He thrived on it. But he went along with our new system. He stayed on and we’ve been wondering about him ever since. About what? Well, for one thing, he’s one of the people who’s always paid cash. Which is good, except he’s never worked, as far as we could tell.


Petra got up to pour more coffee and spied someone in the yard. She opened the backdoor. “We’re having coffee in here.”

Shit. Middle of this great talk and she’s asking someone else in. I didn’t know how long it would be to the next time I could get her alone.

Gus came in and threw newspapers on the table. “Want these? I can’t use them.”

“Why did you buy so many?” asked Petra.

“For the job ads,” said Gus.

“Find any?”

“Not much, not without experience.”

“So you are serious about looking for work.”

“Me too,” I said, since she seemed to like it.

“So perhaps I won’t have to kick you two out a few weeks from now.”

“I don’t plan on sticking around much longer anyhow,” I said. I knew I was contradicting myself as soon as I said this.

“I doubt I can get something that fast,” Gus said.

“You mean there aren’t a million jobs in there?” She pointed to the papers. “One for everyone who’s unemployed in this country?”

“I musta missed them.” He pretended to flip through the pages again.

Now they were being funny together.

“Whadya think, Mark?” Gus said. “Should we hit the fountains?”

“Fountains?” said Petra.

I helped her cut and butter some rolls and she put sliced cheese and lettuce in them. I poured Gus some old coffee and sat down with my own cup. “You know we were riding with a rich guy?” I said to him.


“Used to be.”

“How rich?”

“Strangely enough, I know,” Petra said. “After Wesley took off on us — Do you want the whole history and prehistory?” she asked Gus.

“I’ll pick it up,” he said.

“Wesley lived here with us and was involved in all kinds of political activism and then he disappeared for a year. There was speculation that he’d gone underground with some political group plotting terrorism. I thought it was more likely he was a police agent.”

“Narc?” I said.

“Anti-subversive. RCMP.”

We laughed. “Wesley? A Mountie?”

“You think they don’t do that?” said Petra. “To divert and split political movements? You think it doesn’t happen?”

“Not with a bullshitter like Wesley,” said Gus.

“You didn’t see him then. But, fine,” she held up a hand. “I wasn’t convinced Wesley was a police agent either. But it wasn’t impossible. So after he disappeared I thought I’d check out his cover story. I looked up his family in the library and it turned out the family was extremely well off. To put it mildly. They not only had their name on a company that makes boats, the part Wesley told us, but they owned a chain of clothing stores across Quebec, seventeen percent of an international appliance manufacturer, which is enough for control, and minority interests in a whole range of corporations that provide products and services that you probably can’t get through a day without using in this country.”

“Their name’s not Cruikshanks, is it?” Gus said.


Hearing all this made me feel good in a way. Sort of a thrill that I knew a real rich guy, I admit. But also it gave me a good reason to be against him despite him being kinda good to us, against him along with Gus and Petra and most of the world who didn’t like rich kids. For a few minutes, right then, as we sat in that kitchen talking about Wesley, everything was fine with us. Gus and me listening to Petra, sharing her story. I wasn’t jealous of either of them. We were in something together.

“Which may or may not explain certain aspects of his history as we know it,” Petra was saying.

“Like what?” said Gus.

“Remember I was telling you — telling Mark — how Wesley was this big political organizer, involved in everything?”

“Up and coming leader of the movement,” I said.


We did call it the movement for awhile, picked it up from earlier political times. As if we were all just one big family under the same umbrella, everyone with the same aims, forget our backgrounds or political agendas, as long as we were in “the movement,” this thing that was happening everywhere, that was going to shake society to its foundations and build it back up on the basis of people loving one another, or some such nauseating nonsense. Actually I’m being glib. I still believe much of it. Except the love part and everyone below a certain age automatically having membership. And it won’t happen the simple way we thought back then. Many of us saw this after a while. We had to get serious. Not just go around flashing the peace sign and sticking flowers in guns. You couldn’t defeat armies and the state and the billionaires who ran them and the whole system with flowers and peace signs. So we were getting more political, a lot of us. Right around then, Wesley changed too but in another direction. This goes back, say, a year and a half, two years, sometime after we straightened out this house. He went to California for a while. Said he wanted to see how the movement was going in the heart of the beast. Berkeley, UCLA, Haight-Ashbury, all the places in the news as the so-called centres of the movement. And when he came back, he started spouting a different line. All organizations are inherently oppressive. People should be encouraged to express themselves spontaneously. We should show we were liberated, free to do as we felt, and this would undermine the establishment more than anything else because they were tight-ass repressives who needed liberation themselves. Make people laugh at authority and authority would collapse. I don’t know if I have to explain all this. It’s one of the big trends in the movement, still a major diversion. Yes, like wearing cartoon masks at a demonstration, you heard about that one. Or trying to pull Richard Nixon’s pants down in public. Throwing a pie in someone’s face to protest a massacre in Chile. But that kind of yippie thinking never caught on as big here as in the States. Most of the serious political groups kicked Wesley off their committees. But then the famous faculty club occupation happened and Wesley became famous with it. You likely never heard of it but it was well-known around here. It started as a rally at the university. For student participation in decision-making, democracy on campus. Student power. There was a speaker from an American student group up here for the rally. All of us from this house went, most of us were students or dropouts. Loren even brought Jesse, just a baby then. So, because Wesley knew this activist from the States, he got to make the introduction at this rally. And he was good, in a not-much-substance, rabble-rousing kind of way. All fiery, got everyone clapping and cheering for the American speaker, who came on and said some wild things about the war, revolution in America, needing to change the world starting right here in Vancouver. We want the world and we want it now, you know the kind of thing. Some good things, some wrong, the usual mix of confused Marxism and pop music. But we were all cheering. There was supposed to be someone else speaking and then a march on the main administration building. But Wesley grabbed the mike again and, picking up on something the American had said, started shouting freedom and how there should be no boundaries. He asked where on campus students weren’t allowed. And someone called out the faculty club. At least we thought someone did, because Wesley said, so that’s it, the faculty club, that’s where we go right now. See, the faculty club was for professors. Just a couple of rooms in a building, but posh and dignified like an old-fashioned men’s club. So we took up the cheer of Liberate the Faculty Club! Power to the Students! I suppose we had visions of breaking through barricades of campus police and chasing out the musty old academics who stood in the way of democracy, something like that. Raising the people’s flag over the last bastion of privilege on campus. Loren and I were a little worried because we had Jesse, Loren was still nursing, and here we were going into a battle. Well, not to worry, when we got to the building with the faculty club, with this big crowd of students and activists cheering and chanting, there was nobody there. It was deserted. They’d even left the front door of the club unlocked, so we wouldn’t break it down. So we went in and whooped it up on the plush furniture and went through the office files, looking at them and throwing them around, and put up banners all over. You could have seen that on TV. The occupation was in all the media. Pictures of us hanging out the windows. There was one of Loren breastfeeding Jesse under a painting of some university chancellor, and all of us sitting around singing Bob Dylan songs. We were pretty full of ourselves. Though I think we were disappointed there was no opposition in sight. And there was nothing important in the files. Someone told us they’d seen people leaving five minutes before we arrived, carrying file boxes. We wondered how they knew we were coming, but we never pressed Wesley because the police pulled up then, and the whole media circus of television and newspapers followed. The cops never tried to come in. They just hung back, talking with administration. But we let the media in and Wesley spoke to them about the significance of us occupying the faculty club. And the funny part was that all the time he was talking to them he was wearing this long, black academic gown he’d found in a closet there and one of those mortar-board hats . He had the gown on backwards and with his beard and his Afro hairdo with this flat board perched way up on top of it, it was hilarious. Theatrical, like from a comedy sketch. I guess the media thought it was cute, because they all took his picture and filmed him for TV. One of them called him the Professor of Hip and that stuck for a time. Even we called him Professor for a while after that, kind of mockingly. But the media ate it up and our occupation made the national news. We watched it on TV in the faculty club itself. There we were, singing our serious songs and Wesley telling the cameras we were going to stay until the faculty club was made open to all. We cheered ourselves delirious when we saw that on TV. That was day one of the occupation. By day two we realized the university didn’t care about the faculty club and our occupation wasn’t helping change the educational system, which is what we were supposed to have been rallying for in the first place. Our numbers dropped as people left for jobs or classes. To make a long story short, on the third day those of us remaining voted to declare a victory and leave. That was it. No one bothered us when we left either. Which we told each other was another sign of how we had scared the administration. The only lasting effect was that the student paper ran the picture of Loren feeding Jesse and Jesse’s father used it in court to help win custody, saying it showed she wasn’t a fit mother, getting her child involved in dangerous, illegal activity. Not kidding. That’s how she lost Jesse. The only other effect of the famous faculty club occupation was Wesley begins showing up in the media on a regular basis. For all sorts of different issues. Throwing his anarcho-yippie ideas in the way of what was developing. And we wondered where his money came from. I challenged him on that once. And guess what? He had a good answer. Believe it or not, he was writing a book. He was getting advances from a publisher. Seriously. He got it published too. That much at least was genuine. I couldn't say how he conned a publisher into it. Hard to tell what kind of book, even after seeing it. One of those mosaic jobs with graphics and different-size type running every which way. I think it was about the connection between political liberation and liberation of the senses. Lots of graffiti about revolution and sexuality. I still have a copy somewhere. I don’t think it sold more than a few hundred copies. It couldn’t compete against the same garbage from the big American names. Probably didn't even make back the advance he’d tricked out of the publisher. And that’s the story of, that’s the glory of, Wesley Arnold. We’ve all gone through a lot of changes in the two years since the occupation fiasco, or the occupation victory, depending on how you look at it. When the media lost interest in Wesley and his book went nowhere, he dropped out of sight. Said he was on a sabbatical — I think the Professor nonsense affected his mind — and he took off again, a year ago. At first we thought it would be a couple of weeks, similar to when he went to California. But months passed and we eventually figured he was gone for good. Gave up his room. Then after a while we started receiving a few bucks from him, every now and then, not enough to pay for board but to hold onto his things and keep a space open for him. Then the other day he shows up with you. A brand-new Wesley. Another new Wesley. I’m not sure what yet. A mystic for the seventies. Likely he’s getting money from his family after all but he doesn’t have any cash to pay for the past year’s rent. That’s what he told me when I asked him. We won’t make him pay, since he wasn’t here. Not the whole amount anyway.


Gus said he should call his folks. “They might send me something for our rent.”

“Another rich kid,” said Petra.

“No. It’d be hard for them. But they’d try if I needed it.”

“You wouldn’t, would you?” I said. “Ask them?

“If we got desperate.”

Petra said she had to get ready for work. Whenever she said that, you never knew if she meant work work or political work. As she got up, I had this feeling our time was over again for a long while. She’d given me a lot of attention and would probably make up for it by keeping away from me for a while. Even though the attention had been shared with Gus which wasn’t fair.

Gus was looking away. Going past, Petra squeezed my shoulder.


Continued >



Part I





Part II





Part III






Part IV





Part V







Part VI







Part VII















Part IX



Part X