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Friday, September 27, 2013

Very Long Ago and Far Away

By: TH

An immigration officer advised me to take a taxicab from the airport when  I inquired and showed the address given to me by my brother-in-law.  This was the address of the rented house occupied by two of his cousins where he arranged for me to share a furnished room.   He also gave me the name, home address  and telephone number of a lady friend he knew growing up in the same small barrio.  It turned out as one among the most promising possible contacts that I jotted down in my address book.  I looked her up as soon as I got over my jet lag and she invited us three housemates over to her house for dinner that same night.  It turned out that  she worked for a Chartered Accounting firm, the equivalent of our CPA.  Over dinner, she encouraged me to apply for work with her employer which I did the following day.  Her boss interviewed me.  He was a partner in the firm and  had previously worked with a highly  reputed Filipino accountant so I came in the wake of this extra-ordinary Pinoy who left with him an exceptional impression.  He spoke of him in admiring terms.  He offered me my first job in Canada right after that interview, just within days of arrival.

My job was made interesting by the travel involved.  We did audits and prepared financial reports for clients all over rural Alberta.  Depending on the size of the business, some jobs required overnight stays, some up to two weeks and upwards.  They sent a team of us as the size of the job warranted.  I was always teamed up with a student in his final year of articling, somebody who has written the uniform exam and just awaiting the result or someone who has passed the exam and waiting to reach twenty-one for their CA designation.
They came from all sorts of backgrounds, mostly rural and farming families or urban middle class. They were quiet, kept to themselves and showed no curiosity about anything outside of work.  No wonder, people assume accountants are boring and Canadians are typically reserved.  Not surprising either that they did not awaken any amount of amorous interest in me although it could not be said that I was not constantly on the look out. We lodged in motels and inns and after work, instead of watching TV, I usually went out and explored the surrounding countryside taking my prized camera along to take pictures.  Most of these towns are perched along the foothills of the Canadian Rockies and set in ever dramatic changes of seasons so there were always plenty of new views for me to photograph.

My first year anniversary with the firm quickly came and as the files of my first few jobs came around to my desk once more, the picture of my role came into sharper focus.  I was providing the continuity that clients want to see.  Sure the partner in charge was always at his office at their beck and call but  rarely did he ever get to personally meet the client unless it was a matter of dire importance or the scheduled annual meeting.  With the rapid turnover of personnel in the articling students’ pool, I, along with the files, were about the only ones clients get to  see in their place of business from one year to the next.  I felt proud that it was an important  function and with the frequent traveling, the company was practically taking care of my living expenses too.  I was only glad to fill the niche.  It  conflicted with my social life and fitness regimen but I had wised up to adopt a few of Augie’s routines using chairs and tables and I made good use of hotel fitness facilities whenever they were available.   Besides, I reckoned that the walking up hill and down dale taking pictures was also giving me my needed cardio workout.  With regards to my social life, well, it was about to change.  I was mulling over these things  on a Friday noon break when my boss came by carrying the files of a two to three week job I did when I was just starting.  He told me in  very impressed tones that the client inquired if they may have me back to do the job again.  He strolled into my cubicle with an articling student in tow to introduce to me.  My face must have glowed like a turned on lightbulb with just one look at  the boy’s appearance.

Hal was tall and big.  Six feet two and not fat big but beefy big.   Bright handsome boyish face, unblemished by the all too common among them freckles, the bane of white skin.  Dark blue eyes with brush cut bristle blond hair  making him look even younger than his twenty-two years.  He was wearing an office dress code compliant white oxford dress shirt, burgundy grenadine tie, navy dress pants and shiny black leather shoes but they clung on his body like football jersey.  They looked like half a size too small on him.  Maybe the cleaner shrunk them or maybe he grew more muscles since the time he bought them but his physique appeared to strain the fabric of his clothing.  He stood straight with a wide stance, as though he just alighted from a horse.  The hand he proffered to me was ginormous though smooth and felt stranger to physical labor, definitely dwarfing mine that was darker and still feeling thick with the fading vestige of manual work.  He carried himself with a ready smile, quite apparent ease and zero care in the world.   The big surprise though was when he spoke.

“Hal... kumusta ka?”

I reflexively thought uh oh, a Mormon, but replied instead:

“Mabuti, salamat, ikaw?  Where did you learn that?” 

“My dad’s friends.”

My boss had to be really dense if he did not detect my instant fascination and obvious enchantment with my new team partner but thankfully, he no doubt chalked it all up to our surprise Filipino exchange.

Minutes later,  my boss asked me if it was alright to schedule the job for the following week so he could call the client back.  Yes it was.  I then got together with Hal to go over the files and tentatively allocate two weeks of field work to finish it.  I gave him an overview of the business, what we plan on accomplishing,  divvied up the tasks between the two of us and gave him the name and address of the hotel nearby I made reservations with, two separate suites for each of us.  As he had his own transportation, I also gave him driving directions.  I was going to drive on my own and pass by the office to pick up the files.   I left the city after Sunday lunch and checked in at the hotel at around four.  Freshened up and took a nap.  I had gotten up and was getting ready for dinner when there was a rapped on my door.  I opened it and it was Hal.  I told him I was just on my way out to the dining room and would he care to join me.  He said yes quickly not hesitating even for a mini-second.  This was a first because for over a year I have always ate alone even when I came as a member of a team.  He was wearing a weathered collegiate leather jacket over a white tee, faded jeans and cowboy boots, pretty common footwear in that neck of the West.  He came on his motorbike, a BMW which he promised to show me in the following days once I inquired.   That accounts for the cowboy gait, I silently told myself. 

The hotel’s restaurant of this remote rural town was busy on a Sunday night?    Umm, that’s odd.  As she was seating us, the hostess announced the evening’s special,  prime rib roast which partly answered my puzzlement.  That’s what Hal and I ordered.  My dining companion seemed to draw the two young waitresses to our table like a source of light attracts bugs.  They hovered over our table a tad too much and it was my first time to experience serving wenches that fucking solicitous, they were usually scarce when most needed.  We dug in with dispatch and din’t let  the two get in the way of us getting to know each other.  I led by asking about his dad’s Filipino friends.   They were workers in his dad’s air duct fabricating shop as it turned out.  A few years before, his mom came down with a serious nerve ailment and had to be confined in a hospital for extended periods.  The Filipino workers and their wives took turns in helping out at their home after work, doing housekeeping, keeping company with his mom  at the hospital and cooking for him and his dad.  He said he loved everything they cooked and ran off a few...  adobo, pancit,  lumpia, barbecue, lecheflan.  His mom had recovered now and one of the wives who is a nurse was helping in her rehab at home.  They are family now more than just friends, he added. It amazed me how exposure to a different culture can open the mind and the mind once opened can lead to an open heart.    

A succession of fortunate events brought me to Canada.  It started with mother enrolling me in our area’s first private school instead of with the old public school where my two older siblings graduated.  The new school offered the commercial high school syllabus that included typing, shorthand and business English.  Typing of course was the equivalent of keyboarding now for those too young to know what a typewriter is.   Shorthand turned out a dud and a complete waste of time since no businessman I knew ever dictated a letter.  Business English was something else though.  It proved to be a boon because it was taught by an eminently qualified teacher from my town.  He drilled us into writing concise, readable and to the point sentences that avoided insider shoptalk and circling in the air around the airport prose. His pet peeve was non-idiomatic translations from Tagalog.   Incidentally, he also handled Filipino and English literature and although feared and avoided by many students as a terror, he gave  the most inspiring survey of literature in either language I ever sat for or listened to.  I would have enjoyed attending his classes immensely if only for his teaching style but he also roused every student’s  interest in literature with enticements of extra final grade points, the only thing I have really been competitive about.  He goaded us into reciting important passages by heart.  Thanks to him Balagtas’s introduction to Florante at Laura has remained in my memory and ready recall through all these years along with a couple of Shakespeare’s sonnets and whole stanzas of Keats, Tennyson , W. B. Yeats, T.  S.  Eliot and José Corazón de Jesús, etc. 
This early training in business writing must have carried over to my project reports and exam essays because halfway through my senior year in college, my professor in Marketing called me aside and asked if I typed and when I answered “yes, I touch-type,” he offered me a job at a precision spare-parts fabrication shop he was running for his uncle.  There I did administrative work in the office, correspondence, accounting, answering the phone, counting stock inventory, running errands to the city, etc.  One of the girls showed me how to use the calculator correctly and in no time at all, I was punching in numbers at lightning speed without looking at the keys. The bulk of the plant’s employees were machinists, most of them lathe and milling machine operators.   There was basic housing in the yard across the street provided for the benefit of out of town employees.  It was clean, secure and free so I moved in and immediately became buddy with all the other occupants.   I continued working toward my Business Admin degree in the evening.  My professor’s aunt who ran the cafeteria left my suppers with the security guard in his outpost at the plant’s gate.   She rotated fried tuyo and tomato, menudo,  chopped steak and onions, gulay ampalaya or guinataang sitaw at kalabasa, guinisang munggo, tortilyang talong, etc. to make it just so not boring.  It was simple, nourishing and cheap.

Working in the office of course gave me access to a typewriter, copying machine and letter head stationery.  I soon started doing occasional favors for my barracks buddies.  Letter of recommendation here, proof of employment there, etc.  For them it was a lot easier and much more hassle-free to ask me than to go through the proper channels.  In the end, it avoided the awkwardness of explaining to members of management that they were planning on leaving the company and were applying for admission to Canada as immigrants.  A great number of the machinists I helped were successfully obtaining their Canadian immigrant’s visa.  I felt no guilt in that so many of them were leaving because it meant they were giving way for a lot more others to find work in that so well managed enterprise.  It did not take time for me to figure out that I should apply too, as a machinist.  I got hold of a copy of Audel’s Machinist’s Handbook and studied it from table of contents to index as preparation  before presenting myself for the final interview.   Within two months I received their requirements for medical examination and in just over another month my immigrant’s visa arrived by registered mail.  Mother quickly assembled enough funds to enable me to leave without delay.   When I bade goodbye to my professor and boss, he expressed his awe in my rapid progress and said he was glad he and the company could help.  It swelled my heart and made me tear up.

In the few hours of my plane’s lay-over in Hong Kong, I was able to fulfill three of my silly youthful dreams: own a cashmere sweater and a suede jacket and acquire a Nikon camera.  It has been my dream to own a Nikon rangefinder ever since I handled my uncle’s old Leica that my grandfather bought while studying in pre-Nazi Germany.   Uncle hid it well during the Japanese occupation and actually foiled  a platoon of Japanese soldiers that showed up one day to search their house to confiscate it.  He told them that the tip they got was wrong and what he had was really a fake. They minutely went through the whole house and yard anyway.  What he finally handed over to them was some cheap Polish  replica instead. Their officer was so enraged he took a crystal punch set out of its cabinet, threw it on the floor and stomped on it to smithereens. Big relief for the officer and for my uncle since that stopped them short of dragging  him to Fort Santiago. The real Leica miraculously resurfaced after the war to everyone’s delight and astonishment.  Surely a wild dream on my part but I was determined to have one.  Having a non-existent budget until that moment however, I could hardly afford even a used cheap Japanese imitation for a long time.

As agreed at the end of dinner, we joined again for breakfast.  He looked very smart in business attire similar to what he had on when we first met so it must have been the motorcycle riding that molded his clothes onto his body like a football jock’s getup.  We rode the short way together to the client’s place.

“You drive a stick shift.”

“That’s what we learn  back home.”

“You ride a bike too?”

“No.  My brother had a Honda but I never got close to it.  He wouldn’t   let me.”

“Why, how big was it?” He laughed at what I said.

“Four fifty, how about your bimmer, what model is it? ”

“It’s an R100, 750 cc, I’ll show you how to ride it.  I spotted a place around here where we can practice.  I’ll bring an extra helmet next week.”

I love conversations like this.  Mechanical stuff, engine specs, handyman tools etc.  makes me think, imagine, fantasize how straight men talk among themselves.   Perhaps the equivalent of the earnest discussions about antiques one often overhears in leather bars.  We were just a short drive away from the client’s place of business.  The client and his secretary appeared pleased to see me again as I introduced Hal to them.  We took our positions on either end of a boardroom table and started work.   No chitchat.  We paused for lunch at twelve and drove back to the hotel for their noonday special which was nothing really special.  Then back to work until four.  He suggested we dine together again and asked me what I did in the evening.  I told him about prospecting around the vicinity taking pictures. My Leica story must have come back to mind because he chuckled.

“Do you do model’s portfolios?” 

“I haven’t yet but I can start.  I have all the equipment and  lots of guidebooks.” 

“Practice on mine then.” 

“Yes, Why not?”

“I’ll bring lots of films and my full gear with me next week.”

Same routine the following day though I went over his work before turning in the previous night and found he was doing great work and at an equally great pace.  I complimented him for that.  He said he had been doing similar work since high school after his mom trained him to do his dad’s books.  He was ready to take over the family business after high school so his dad could  be with his mom more.  He was planning on expanding and diversifying the business to include contracting for heating and air conditioning installations when he received the sports scholarship offer from university.  He figured he better take it since his mom had come home from the hospital and was already on her way to full recovery.  Since he felt he already learned enough about business and accounting,  he opted for Phys Ed instead.   Only after hearing all this that it dawned on me what set him apart from all of my other teammates before him.  He had all the confidence of a secure future and was plainly quite sanguine about it while those poor souls were under tremendous pressure,  studying for the uniform exam, anxiously awaiting the results, hanging by a thread in uncertainly, pinned right on the pivot of failure and success.  It took a toll on their mood and behavior. 

By Friday afternoon our work was three quarters done. We only needed to come back the following week to  tie  loose ends,  fill out questionnaires and clear queries with the client and clean up.  We made other plans, personal plans, for once we finish the assignment.  Something to do with shooting his model’s portfolio for me and  teaching me ride his motorbike for him.  For that we agreed to come back a day early.  Got back to the city  just to pick up fresh office clothes, my suede blouson and shoes suitable for motorbiking, the required photography gear, enough rolls of films, etc. I  left the city after Saturday lunch arriving at the hotel around the same time as the week before.  He arrived a bit later and went straight to my room lugging a huge duffle bag.  He set it down in a corner and we proceeded to his room down the hall to drop his weekender bag on our way to the restaurant.   The two young waitresses spotted us right away as we walked in and seated us at the same table.  They closely reconnoitered our table the whole time just like the previous Sunday.  We ordered beer with our dinner, three bottles each serially, since we were officially still off-duty that Saturday night.  

“What’s in the bag?”

“Football stuff.”

“Oh you want some pictures in them?”

“Yes, because I don’t have any football picture so I thought of getting a few taken before I get rid of the gear,  and the extra helmet for you.  Open the bag and try it on.”

“What you have on looks hot to me.”  He had newer and bluer jeans on and a white tee that looked like second skin on him.   His built had a way of making anything he put on look snug.

“Did you bring your hat?”  Every guy in that city owns a hat and I thought a Stetson would look neat topping the blue jeans, white tee and cowboy boots.

“As luck would have it, yes, it’s in the bag too.”  He grinned a wide grin at me.

“We’ll see.”

I did check the bag when I got back to my room.  There was the cowboy hat, the extra bike helmet for me,  another one for  football, a football and a set of jerseys with all the protective doodads, a pair of shoes in a separate pouch, some socks and a tangled treasure trove of jock straps.  I picked up one and held it close to my nose, they were newly washed and smelled faintly of laundry detergent.  “Damn,” I swore disappointedly under my breath. 

After a leisurely Sunday brunch, Hal  drove his BMW with me as passenger to the place where he was going to train me.  It wasn’t very far.  It was actually the driver’s examination center for the region which was closed on weekends and deserted when we arrived.  That’s where they actually test drivers for licensing so the motorcycle course was ideal for learning.  I already drove standard transmission so it was just a matter of learning to transpose clutch pedaling to hand clutch action, same principle.   All you have to keep in mind is gradual release, specially in the lower gears, same as in any car, Hal explained.  Same transposition with the throttle too, from pedal to manual.  Hal was very encouraging and patient.  After roughly two hours of starts and stops, twists and turns on the motorcycle track, he suggested we put  our helmets on and move over to the four wheel vehicle track which was made up of longer and wider loops on which we could go faster.  It was Hal’s turn then to be my passenger.

My right hand on the gas adjusted quickly to the additional load of his weight on the engine.  I figured him to be two hundred pounds, give or take.  What shook me to the very core of my being was the feeling of absolute heaven that spread over me as he nestled down to fit around and over my back drawing his inner thighs to tuck against my legs.    It felt as though I was being body checked by a very protective guardian angel.  It  got way  better when he reached around  and meshed his fingers together to anchor himself on my trunk.  As he gradually gained confidence in my driving, he grew more audacious in exploring my front.  He would often part his hands and slip them under my jacket to explore my chest with one and then with the other.  I fought hard from keeling over when he pinched my tits and he must have felt that but he continued.  I could not verbally respond because of the helmets we were wearing and the full concentration I needed as a just beginning biker, not that I wanted him to stop.  He alternated his hands stroking and massaging my inner thighs inching closer and closer to my groin.  Towards the end, he was practically ransacking my crotch to feel my hard dick through my jeans.  I could not tell if it was the going round and round the loops of the track, the recently experienced bare sensation of great speed on the open vehicle or Hal’s shenanigans with his hands that was making be lightheaded.  Likely the combination of all three.  It was toward two o’clock when he motioned me to stop.  He suggested we head back with me driving.  But I din’t have a license nor did I even hold a learner’s permit.  He insisted that  it was just a short stretch of highway that hardly ever held traffic all day and  it was  safe.  Once we were out in the open highway, his  mischief resumed, his hands became restless and kept busy exploring every part of my body within reach.  As we got closer to the exit to our hotel, he was also dry humping my back  but I was too nervous to appreciate it.  In a few moments we were rounding the hotel parking lot and taking off our helmets  as we entered the restaurant.  We ordered a clubhouse sandwich to share, a glass of milk for him and a cup of coffee for me.

“So, what do you think?”

“I think that was reckless.”

“You enjoyed it din’t you?”

“Not at that speed.  The point is we could have ended in the ditch or worse.”

“Tell you what, I shall let you get even.  Next time you piggy back on me,

you can do whatever I did.  What do you say?”

I said nothing.  A win-win?  How could I refuse? 

The two of us both went up to my room after the late lunch.  I started setting up my photographic equipment while he lay on the sofa with his joined palms pillowing his nape watching my every move from the other end of the suite.  It must have been the luscious license he displayed with me in the motorcycle course I was turning  over and over in my head that got me started wondering about the recent turn of events.  Could it be that he had been planning this all along?  Not that I would have objected.   In fact,  I would have willingly gone along with it if he had broached the subject openly.  But who the hell does that?  That would have torpedoed the mystery and  surprise, the romance of it all out of the water.  I  backtracked to his actions of the last few days. First locating a good spot to teach me to ride his bike even before I  asked.    The way he coaxed me into agreeing to take his pictures. Then the way he gradually  and confidently eased himself into intimate familiarity with me, choosing the opportune time when I could not balk which reminded me to thank him for the  riding  lesson.

“You’re welcome.  I should thank you.” then he smiled broadly and let out a wicked laugh.

“Are you planning on sending out this portfolio to agencies?” I changed topic.

“No,  this is for our eyes only.  The truth is I am thinking more along the lines of artistic nudes.  Would that involve the same camera set up?”

“Yes, the shooting, yes.  For developing, nudes are better done in private.”

“And you do that?”

“I can set up a dark room in the basement of where I live.”

The hotel building was only six stories high but broad and long.  It had a rooftop terrace which was a favorite venue for local receptions in fair weather and had green astroturf floor covering. We could shoot Hal’s football outdoors pictures there.  Down the basement, there was a fitness room served by separate change rooms for men and women.  It would be  vacant on a Sunday afternoon and sure enough it was as we entered.  We used the rows of lockers  as  backdrop for shots of the successive stages of Hal putting on his football gear.  I din’t realize that it took so much time and effort.  It was more elaborate and ritualistic than a tranny donning his gay apparel although I must quickly add that Hal’s  costume change was nothing of a drag.   Far from it... Hal was a joy to work with.  Natural, easy-going and unselfconscious, he could ham up any pose with little or no direction from me.  Plus he was simply gorgeous, a pure joy to watch.  When not working with a tripod, I had to prop my hands constantly against walls and furniture to get a steady grip for my camera.  Watching him up close in various stages of dress and undress  made my hands quiver uncontrollably.   We worked undisturbed too when we climbed to the rooftop.  It had become overcast so lighting was a lot easier to handle.   We finished in no time and headed down back to my room.

Doing the reverse took as much time and effort though infinitely more exciting and provocative in its effect on me.  Hal carefully arranged and folded each item with care as he peeled them off and then placed them back into the duffle bag.  First the shoes into its own pouch, then  the shirt, the shoulder protection and the pants, but I was just watching this time without the camera getting in the way.  When he got down to the nitty gritty of just the white athletic sport socks and the jock strap, I kneeled on one knee and hunkered down to get behind the camera I mounted on the tripod at its lowest position to freeze the action on film.   This is the iconic erotic fantasy that every gay man would give up an eyetooth for just to be close to.  Hal instead of fixing a pose for the camera took a few steps toward it, picked one of the tripod legs, folded it close, turned around as when I twirled my index finger at Augie oh what seemed a lifetime ago and set it down on a side table.  I could hardly focus my eyes quickly enough on his beautiful behind when he turned back  once more to face me.  I, frozen in my kneeling position just awaiting Hal’s next move as he got closer until the full pouch of his jock strap ever so gently then bumped my nose.  I buried my face in it sucking a deep intake of air and was not disappointed.  He smelled like a magic mix of musk and milk, so absolutely intoxicating  it went right into my head.   I reached around to  mold my two hands around his round buttocks and felt the hair as I graced my palms over his skin.  My fingers eventually felt the waistband and pinched it up and then pulled it down finally revealing the prize  between his legs that I have been trying to visualize ever since we met.  It was even more impressive bare, up close and within reach than when it was just filling and stretching the pouch of the jock strap or as a vaguely promising prominence on his jeans.   I would have been content on remaining in that position if time and space had collided at that point but he picked me up.  Lifted the hem of my tee and pulled it off me, unbuckled my belt, sat me down on the sofa and pulled off  my jeans.  He kneeled down, between my legs and dove towards the tent of my briefs.  He pulled it down to get it out of the way and went back right to what he was doing.  He started with a cursory kiss on the head, then a lick to pick the beading pre-cum and then delved deeply with his face for a fleeting moment.  He then stood and pulled me up to him and kissed me so deep it felt like he was sucking all the oxygen from my body and making me swoon.  He then lifted me up and deposited me on the bed.  We  continued our burning kisses as if that was the only thing that counted in this world.  As far as we two were concerned, that was all that mattered.

The hostess seemed to have sensed something different as she smiled at the two of us approaching.  She seated us at the same table announcing roast turkey dinner as the Sunday special.   We told her how delicious we found the prime rib the previous week.  She said prime rib roast was actually the specialty of the house and was always available specially on weekends.   The two young waitresses seemed to have detected something else in the air too, they were scarcer and more businesslike this time around.   We opted for the prime rib again and selected a good bottle of red to pair it with.  I’d say it speaks well for the place when they pour no more than half full on each glass and come around just in time to not leave them standing empty for too long.  We did not stretch our dinner to talk as in all our previous meals. We were aching to rush back to our floor going down the hallway first to Hal’s room to empty it of his belongings to move them to mine.

By noontime on Monday, our work at the client’s  was done.  I called my boss to update him on the status of the job.   I asked him whether there were things at the office that required my or Hal’s immediate attention, he said there was none he could think of.  He quickly caught my drift  and suggested we  take the rest of the day and Tuesday off.  Show up here on Wednesday,  he added ending the call.  I relayed this to Hal who asked me if I had been to Banff.  I said no, I had been living for just over a year in Alberta at the time.  That’s when the idea of spending the night in Banff quickly hatched.   Hal asked the secretary for permission to use the telephone and called a hotel in Banff for reservations then we took our leave with the client.  Passed by the hotel for a quick lunch and took the files to my room, changed to casual clothes,  picked up our doff kits , a few items of clothing, the helmets and off we went.   Hal drove and I piggy-backed. Deal or no deal, I was a well behaved passenger all the way unlike somebody I knew who shall remain nameless.  It was already late in the afternoon when we checked into our hotel.  We freshened up in a hurry and quickly went back out again to catch the remaining light of day walking along the shore of the lake which was intermittently dotted with benches.  We took an empty one,  sat down and quietly marveled at the fantastic view set in rapidly changing colors being projected by the setting sun.

Business success dictates setting a clear goal and demands a detailed plan to achieve it.  It even cautions that a plan without a time-table is just a wishful dream.  Yet we all have heard of many best laid plans still going awry.  One of my brothers believed in dreams coming true.  He passed by an imposing medical center each day on his way to work and dreamed of landing a job there which he eventually did.  My life thus far  has not been guided by any apparent planning.  Each tiny fragment seemingly fell into its slot and fitted together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle until I ended up here in Canada.   Sometimes even without any scheming on our part, the unseen tide that runs in human affairs silently carry us away  to deliver us to that destination we  only reach in our most exorbitant dreams which brings me back, way way back, to my Lolo Monching’s estancia on my first visit there.  He allowed me into his book-lined study and showed me a book with his name on it as the author.  That was when he taught me how to use the abacus.  He then left me alone after the brief Chinese calculator lesson to let myself loose among his books.  I picked up an issue of the National Geographic magazine from a tall stack and it randomly fell open  between my hands to a page featuring the Canadian Rockies that showed a view of Lake Louise at sunset.  I marveled at the view  tracing it slowly with a finger  murmuring a little softly to myself  “that’s where I want to go.” I was barely six years old then, here I am a fully grown man and twenty-four, on the shore of Lake Louise, at sunset,   and now with Hal here right beside me.

Long Ago and Far Away

Jerome Kern and Ira Gerswin

Long ago and far away, I dreamed a dream one day

And now that dream is here beside me

Long the skies were overcast but now the clouds have passed

You're here at last

Chills run up and down my spine, Aladdin's lamp is mine

The dream I dreamed was not denied me

Just one look and then I knew

That all I longed for long ago was you

Jo Stafford’s version is definitive.  Check Youtube.