- Our Town
The Slow Lane Chronicles get benched
Let’s begin this week with names, each an islander: Paul Lieske (who’s my best friend on Bowen), Marcus Hondro (that’s me!), Eric Michener, Robyn Culter, Dale Casey, Erwen Smith, Kevin Toews, Duy Son, Frances Frost and Lisa Shatzky. No context as yet, but keep them uppermost in mind.
For they are the 10.
Now on to this: last week my best friend on Bowen and I were tasked with building a new bench by the cenotaph in Snug Cove. The old one was built in 1989, or thereabouts. Paul did the actual building while I fetched and toted things and took care of public relations (read: I kibitzed with ferry commuters).
Don’t tell Rondy about the kibitzing.
We faced challenges related to ground that wasn’t level and the angles of the bench, which for a number of reasons we could not drastically change. That’s technical building stuff, however, that most people won’t understand; and I have first-hand experience in people not understanding them because, well, I don’t understand them. But Paul does.
At any rate, after we’d taken down the old bench (destruction of things, here I excel), it came to me in a flash of epiphany-like proportions that the ground upon which that old bench had stood upon - had not been stood upon for 25 years. Twenty-five years!
Twenty-five years ago Trevor Linden was a rookie and Bill Vander Zalm was B.C.’s loopy premier. Sean Campbell, one of the higher-ups at the Ruddy Potato, was about a year-old, while the following islanders were not even in the world yet: Charlie Welsh, Isabella Bottay, Julian Ritchie, Martin Greyell, Annabelle Coon, Rachel Crowley, Cedar Ingram, every dog on Bowen and the Queen of Capilano (built: 1991).
So it was that I’d come upon an (albeit esoteric) slice of Bowen history: ground in a high-pedestrian traffic area that no one had trod upon for a quarter of a century. A manner of commemorating that history came almost immediately to mind and after we completed the tearing down of that old bench, I began to offer passersby the chance to be among the first 10 to step upon that ground in 25 years.
A few declined and one or two even turned and fled, but overall the response was positive. Remember the list? Paul, me, Eric, Robyn, Dale, Erwen, Kevin, Duy, Frances and Lisa: the 10. Before that ground was once again swallowed up by a new bench those 10, in that order, became the first to step upon that island earth since the release of ‘Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure’.
Further, moments before we began building the new bench, wee Isaac, Ben and Samantha Saruk, with help from Dad Graeme, became the first kids to stand there in 25 years. And think of this: if our new bench remains on that spot another 25 years we’ll be the only ones to have stood upon it in 50 years. Fifty!
I tried finding out who the last person to stand there was, back in 1989, but no one could recall who’d built the original bench (for the last to stand there must have been the bench’s builder). Rondy thought maybe Roger McGillivray, but though he built the boardwalk, he couldn’t remember building the bench. Dennis Roker said he didn’t build it.
From what I understand at the time the bench was built the cenotaph was moved to its current location from further down toward the ferry, maybe 25 yards further down, so there would have been great activity around the site. Someone must know who built the bench but this much is certain: those of us who became the first in all that time are bonded with that builder, and one another, for life.
Of the10, when the original bench was built Duy Son was an energetic boy of about 15 in Cambodia who’d never heard of Bowen. Kevin Toews was in Winnipeg, sometimes going to Assiniboia Downs racetrack to hear his father play music. Frances Frost was relatively new to the real estate industry that she has been so successful in since. I was eating bread and cheese and drinking water and wine on benches all over Europe while travelling with a Brit named Sally Finter.
Here’s this: as we were putting up the new bench I thought of all those who sat upon the last one, thousands and thousands, from all over this world. Many never to return to the bench, or to Bowen, ever again, while others lived here and returned to sit on that bench and ponder life, and people-watch, on many occasions.
Many of those bench-sitters are no longer with us.
My thirst for trivial things unsated, I next began to consider who would be the first to sit upon the new bench. I said as much to my best friend on Bowen, bench-builder Paul Lieske, and he graciously gave to me the honor. So it was that, moments after the new bench was up – plunk! I sat down upon it.
Paul went second and by fluke Eric Michener came along to once again be the third. We three lead the way and will doubtless be followed by countless more. So go ahead, become a part of Bowen Island history and get yourself benched.