The Canadian years, 43,Gordon Lightfoot and Shelley

Door San-Daniel gepubliceerd op Friday 26 December 18:54



POP’s soda shop was a kind of cafeteria, you could order slices of bread, which were called sandwiches, which were made into delicious unhealthy combinations. My favorite was bacon and tomato. In retrospect that was not even  a bad combination, the bacon was fried into crispy fat salty strands and together with the tomato it made a delicious bite. The bread was cowardly white bread and you could ask for a toasted tomato and bacon, and then at least it kept your sandwich together. I was not often there, because I went home to study or to fill Safe ways shelves. But the times I was there came I was met by the cozy atmosphere brought on by the students. Friends who briefly took a Coke or a milkshake at the hard uninviting formica tables and who once more let the day pass by. The joint was lit by bluish cold neon light.

Pop did good business, you could no longer buy soda's, it were all soft drinks which he sold from bottles and with a practiced motion with one hand, he’d move the neck of the bottle by touch along an opener underneath the counter and  the cap would fall in a container, while with another hand he grabbed a glass for you. Everything with a fluid motion which betrayed the opening of many bottles. This is where I stepped inside.

‘Hi Pop’, I said, ’Good afternoon, young man,’ he replied, what shall it be?’ ‘ I'll wait a minute,’ I said, my lady love will come by soon.’ I will  come past your table,’he said with a wink. ‘Then you can talk undisturbed.’ ‘Thank you,’I said, ‘that's very kind of you’. ‘Ha,’ he laughed, I was not always 300 years old, I was a young man once, like you. And although there is snow on the roof, the fire still rages in the fireplace, if you understand me.’’ I understand you completely,’ I grinned and walked over to a table by the window. There was a magazine that I looked at without reading. I glanced at the songs on the juxebox machine. The Juxe box stood in the middle, leaning against a pillar and each table by the window had a nickel Odeon stand on the corner. It was in the form of a mini juxebox and there were titles and push-buttons next to it. The convenience factor, you did not have to walk the juxebox, you threw your 5 cent coin in the slot and if your nickel had found its way, then you could for example, press a2 and what was in the main juxebox at a2 was then played next. I assumed that only the window tables had that service as you could work away the cables easier. You could select a number anonymously.


I saw fire by Arthur Brown and children of the city of the only Indian band that had ever broken through: Mashmakan. Red bone, would be given a chance in America only years later. For such a small nickel Odeon there was surprisingly much choice. I assumed that once a month someone came along to update the repertoire. I searched for Gordon Lightfoot and found him at the ‘L’  of Lightfoot at No. 4. I found two nickels and they disappeared into the first slot, and punched L4 and repeated the process immediately. If Shelly walked in, the juxebox would play twice in succession the same song by Gordon. He was at that time a Canadian poet / folk singer who was similar to his American counterpart Leonard Cohen or the emerging Donovan. Flowerpower broke through and the time of minstrels who exposed themselves flourished.

Gordon Lightfoot had a fascinating voice and introduced you to the centre of his guitar picking music entering in a dream world of word pictures that made you forget about the cold and misery. He reached out and everyone knew what he meant, he hit you in your being, with lyrics that touched  you unexpectedly deep. Texts of melancholy. The man was a troubadour. I would have never bought his records, because I only spent an x amount of money on records and I had other stronger preferences. I chose him because he was of the French Canadian part, like Shelly, and he expressed very well what I felt for her, a courtly love, not primarily sexually explicit, but just love, regardless of whatever banal angle.

I chose 'if You could read my mind love' because it hit so on us and she would understand that. The stanza was beautiful, he continued, "what a tale my heart would tell, just like an old time movie .... '' the heroe would be me, the heroe would be me .. 'It was not a dragon of a text and the images were evoked images of melancholy and splendor. Now after so many years, I realize that it has passed the passage of time and not lost any of  it’s quality or magic, which is a criterion for good music. I saw her coming and she glanced around and then her eye fell on me and a smile beautified her lips. The record before me came to the last groove and Gordon began to strum and sing: If You could read my mind love. ‘Hey that's nice, really nice’, she sighed as she sat down.’ It will soon come again the second time, I've entered it for you and for us,’ I replied. ‘ Silly boy,’ she said, but she liked it, her eyes betrayed her.

Pop came from behind his counter, ‘see me as the guy from ‘the old time movie,’ he laughed, ‘what shall it be?’ ‘Say it Honeypie’, I encouraged her.’A coffee,’ she said, and I joined her in that. So we sat there while time froze and before we knew it was Pop coming back beside us with two cups of coffee.

 A tear welled up in a corner of her eye and she grabbed a napkin and dabbed it away carefully. ‘What's the matter, Shelly’, I asked leaving the whole Honeypie and sugar lips rite behind me. ‘Ah,’ she said, ‘first drink some coffee. I want you to remember me as I am and not as a snivelling broad. Take a good look at me like I am.’ I took a sip of coffee that burned my mouth but swallowed it, because in front of your lady love, you do not spit your coffee back into your mug. While I observed her with attention, the burning sensation stopped halfway up my esophagus. She was beautiful!


‘After tomorrow you will not see me anymore, I am going to Toronto’, she said bravely. ‘How long will you be gone for’, I asked, as I felt a harbinger of an answer coming on, as I looked at her like that. ‘For always,’ she replied, ‘I am not coming back’. ‘How can that be’, I asked, as I felt the reality of that message sink in and didn’t you know that before?’ Toronto was a good 3,000 kilometers to the East.’ I heard it this weekend, my dad has taken a job at Dupont and we are simply going.’ ‘ But surely not right away tomorrow, I said upset?

‘No he’ll start next month and he’ll remain to finalize some things and arrange the moving, but I'm going with my mother, on the way, we can use the opportunity to visit some family in the French part.’ ‘Holy cow’, I said, ‘what a disaster’, and I meant it from out of my toes,’ let’s stay in touch.’ ‘No,’ she said, ‘things do not work that way. I want to be honest with you, I will always remember you as my sugar lips and I'll never forget you. But I reckon that we will never see each other again.’ ‘I will never forget you’, I said, and I meant it from the bottom of my heart, ‘you were my first ladylove and could have always remained that way with me.’ ‘Oh sugar lips,’ she smiled through the tears that really started to come now, ‘you were my first boyfriend, and you will always remain my first boyfriend, it will be difficult for others to stand in your shadow’. There would be others, I knew it, for her and for me and it was unfair, because if you are happy, why search about?’


You only realize what you have got until it’s gone! ‘I'm going now,’ she said, ‘look at me again and thanks. Do not come after me, because that makes it harder’. Gordon Lightfoot wailed the final stanza from the juxebox, ‘the feeling is gone and I just can't get it back.’ For me, he could have dropped dead at that moment with his guitar.’ What are girls like women and boy, women are wise. How many light years are they ahead of us, unbridgeable, I suppose. There she went, she did not turn around, she did that only outside, her lips formed the word sugar lips and she blew me a kiss and walked out of my life and left me torn in half with two coffee cups.

San Daniel 2014

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If you could read my mind ... great song.