The call came before noon that Tuesday. I knew it being a call, a traditional, real-time, live call, from this long standing and in good standing friend, not a text or email, or a feat of sky writing, that somebody had probably died. The way things had been going I had an idea of somebody it might be. I was right.
There’s no plan to life and death. Right. It just happens. But to those who knew him, what had been wearing down STJR for years, despite the wiliest resources of his medical team, was likely going to kill him. The brother wasn’t going to make it. If that sounds harsh it is. And was.
I first encountered STJR in… wait. Why mention the year? He called himself “Tom” then. Welcome to Discovery Park, Mr. Tom Rossiter. I doubt I’d been there myself before that Saturday, never having had much of any business in Point Grey except for some lost years at UBC. Sob. But it was simpler times and it was a pickup friends-and-friends-of-friends softball game on a sunny Saturday in the springtime of life. That sounds ridiculous.
He was a friend of a friend of a friend, or somebody. I saw him noticing my car parked on 9th Avenue across the street south of Discovery Park and he remarked, “That’s a nice looking MG.” It was mine. I had no idea who this guy was but he obviously had good taste in MGs.
I can never remember ever actually being introduced to Tom Rossiter. I said that for years but nobody was listening. But he was a hot commodity. He was a writer. He was from Ontario. He wore an army parka and had golden locks. He was someone who just started showing up at the house. He was dating someone living there and, gradually, he seemed to be developing a bosom pal-ship with the gentleman who called me Tuesday who was also living in that house in that era, as was I.
As was I? Nobody talks like that except maybe if they’re reminiscing about something and the pressure’s on and they don’t want to fuck it up. Language.
Rossiter gave me this old, abandoned plane once. I never understood why he did that, but for years I bugged him about how the plane didn’t have a pilot. I knew it was a valid concern, especially if I was going to be flying in it.
After that, one beautiful spring evening, he showed up with a little plastic Donald Duck figurine that fit right into the pilot’s seat in the old Boeing P-12. He taught me that.
We traveled around the world in that plane and it was great. One day Sean decided to take me for a ride in his “Morgan” roadster. Like tearing down 10th Avenue hill east and at Alma Road making an insane, high-speed right turn south on Dunbar Street and landing in the oncoming lane. Personally, for myself, sitting in the passenger seat, I was surprised.
It was just a weird, speedy right turn at the bottom of the 10th Avenue hill onto Dunbar. The Morgan turned on that dime and I remember making a mental note never to ride with this maniac again. I did though. One time it was “Burnaby Hobbies”. I think Sean enjoyed the concept of going to Burnaby Hobbies as much as anything that actually happened at Burnaby Hobbies. I could be wrong, but it’s unlikely as I am so rarely. Those are the times.
Norsemans do crawl out of typewriters. I’ve seen it. Or maybe this is the only example in history. Get the heck off my flight path I’m down a couple of airlerons here. Look out.
Silly idea, but this is remembrance. And then he changed his name to “Sean”. “Seen” is the way I always thought of it. Hi Seen, how ya doin? But of course I called him Sean. And he wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
Both being writers there was one crucial difference between Sean and I. His writing was published, mine wasn’t. Went on for a long time, but we were always different sorts of writers. He was a writer whose stuff was published, I was a writer who’s stuff wasn’t. But we both kept trying.
He started showing up at my place and we watched sports on my TV because he didn’t own one. I’ve thought about it a lot over the centuries and think that, ultimately, it was some Ontarian thing. I didn’t know the guy at all, but I’d lived in Ontario myself as a child and must have blurted it out at some point, so he knew. He just kept showing up. I didn’t have to ask.
The years piled on and I didn’t live at that address on the south side of 12th Avenue between Cypress Street and Burrard Street anymore and that TV, well, curiously, that little portable TV, on which we watched a huge amount of television of the era, but mostly baseball, hockey, and football, I’m tearing up here, but that TV actually ended it’s days in Ontario.
That’s right. Right there in Toronto, Ontario. How did it get there? It got drove there. By me. And then Sean visited us in Toronto.
Then Sean Rossiter got even more super brilliant. You have to be good to be lucky, or maybe it’s you have to be lucky to be good. Doesn’t matter. Same difference. Sean was leaving it behind and getting married. His bride, that beautiful person, had a huge impact on turning him into the writer he always wanted to be.
I believe it. Not some newspaper/magazine hacker (sorry, don’t mean it) but more than that. And it’s additionally beautiful because the fruit of that hard labour, his beautiful books, will be on the shelves for a long time. So there’s something to be celebrated there.
Moving on. Years collapsing into holes the size of graves. Welcome to the show ersatz Baudelaire! What’s ersatz again? Beats me. How ya’ll doin today? We’ll writer our way into the clear. Writing’s one of the few things that’ll never give complete satisfaction, but can easily burn with a complete sense of failure. Join now! Writer! Artist! Eccentric, non-conforming visionary! Strippers!
I didn’t know where this is going. But I knew something has to be done. And you want to know something else? I don’t want to know. I knew the man in decades but I can’t say that I ever really knew him. And I know he felt the same about me. Convinced of it. He may have felt he knew me., but I knew the mystery of STJR not a whit more. Not knowing is what life is about. Arg.
I can truthfully say, and I know Sean would join me in this sentiment, because he was a tremendously supportive intellect and human being, that it’s time to wind this column up. So thank you, Sean, for the memories. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Boundary Pass Image courtesy Christo Fairnicol, Photographer & Daguerreotypist at Large