Thursday, May 31, 2012

Here's to you, Mr. Robinson.

If ever there was a shit-eating grin it belonged to Gary Robinson. And because, over the years, there was occasionally spillover – from his birthday, on to mine – I always wake up on May 31st and remember to say, "Happy Birthday, Gary Robinson".

Shortly after my parent's marital shit hit the fan, my brother and I found ourselves living miles from our comfort zone, in the ski resort area of Collingwood, north of Toronto. Gary was one of the "city" kids, or "skiers" – a group of supervision-free teenagers, displaced for one reason or another, to our respective shag-carpeted ski chalets north of Toronto.

There was Stephen Rawn. And John Laughlin. The Sterio kids. And Reggie Margesson. The Bryce boys I remember fondly because Andy, the eldest (now a Priest) used to climb through my bedroom window. And then there was Michael Moore, who came to live with us shortly after the Toronto School Board strike, and never went home. I love Michael Moore.

Together, we rode Mrs. Dawson's school bus – the stereotypical bright yellow tube of hormones that would pick us up from Blue Mountain and Georgian Peaks – hang a serious left to pick up a few country kids on gravel roads overlooking the Bay – before looping back toward Georgian Bay Secondary School, where we would quite often eat a muffin, then hitchhike back home to go skiing.

But that's another story.

Gary and I were just pals. Gang members of a Club drawn together by place and time. Besides, he would never be interested in a tomboy like me. Like a sister, I think he took me to dances so he could ditch me and go after someone a little more "fun". I haven't seen Gary in years, and I hope he is okay. Last time I saw him was at a funeral – and it was a funeral held at a bar – so it was a fitting place to bump into someone like Gary, who always enjoyed a beverage or two.

I tried to find him on Facebook just now. Apparently there are thousands of Gary Robinsons in the world – but none of them appear to be mine. Anyway, the Gary I know wouldn't be sitting at a computer desk, reaching out for cyber friends. Unless he'd changed. Alot. If there was a Laughbook, I bet could find him. Gary had a 1940's gangster's laugh. More of a rolling, sinister, chuckle – and as you can see from the above photo (if you can get past the glare on my forehead and that centre part and hey, note how fucking perky I was) – his laugh was always accompanied by a grin.

A wonderful, shit-eating grin.

Gary and I share this birthday season with Inkwell Boutique on Market Street. In these days of hasty emails and text messaging, maybe it's time to slow down, and catch up with old friends the old-fashioned way: Drunk dialing at 2am. Or write them a letter on Inkwell's custom letterpress stationery. This unique little shop is celebrating their first year of business, this Saturday from noon until 6. They are promising cupcakes, and who doesn't appreciate a good cupcake.

If you happen to bump into Gary today, tell him I said Happy Birthday.

Tell him, I hope he's happy. Tell him, I am sorry I don't get "home" very often. Tell him, I regret losing touch. Tell him, I hope he has plenty to chuckle about, and healthy kids (and a healthy liver) and good friends who love him. Still.