My West Seattle - How many Canadians does it take to change a light bulb?
By Marc Calhoun
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
Over the past year in this column I've described several childhood adventures I had with a friend named Larry Coleman. Larry was proudly Canadian. To rile him up I would make Canadian jokes, something like, "Hey Larry, how many Canadians does it take to change a light bulb?"
"None. They don't have any."
Larry would usually fire back with something much better. "Hey Marc, what does the average American get on his IQ test?"
Going to school assemblies with Larry at in the early 70s was great fun, as he would usually get in trouble. The assemblies at Madison Junior High always started with us standing, placing a hand over our heart, and saying the pledge of allegiance. Larry would go part way, he'd stand, but that was it. No hand over heart, and definitely no saying the pledge, and neither should he have. But, some eagle-eyed teacher, who didn't know Larry was Canadian, usually assumed he was being disrespectful. They would chew him out and tell him to "Go to the office young man." To put this in context, you have to remember this was near the end of the Vietnam War, when the Army recruiting office at the corner of California and Juneau had its windows broken out on what seemed a weekly basis.
Larry's descriptions of Canada were intriguing. There was a lake where hoards of thirsty leeches would attack you, and there was a mysterious creature called Ogopogo that haunted the waters of Lake Okanagan. All I had in my American monster arsenal was Sasquatch. Larry claimed Bigfoot was probably Canadian. But, if he wasn't, he'd better stay on his side of the border or Ogopogo would eat him for lunch.
More mystery was evoked when Larry told me of Canada's relationship with China. This was back when the maps in our schoolrooms showed mainland China as a great empty void, a place never discussed. On one exciting visit to Vancouver B.C., Larry led me through the crowded streets of Chinatown to a store that sold Mao's Little Red Book. We 'smuggled' our contraband reading material home across the border. For two 13-year-olds it was all very exciting.
There was a period when we were into making 8mm movies. For one of them Larry dressed as a psycho killer. He donned a big hairy wig, put on dark ski goggles, gripped a bow and arrow in one hand, and held a giant machete in the other. I filmed him running through the streets of West Seattle in this outfit as he shouted blood-curdling screams. I still have that wonderful footage. If kids tried something like that today a Swat Team would be called out and they'd be tasered.
When staying overnight at Larry's I always looked forward to breakfast. His mother made this delicious fried dough, something they called 'kikla,' though I'm not sure of the spelling. I have not been able to find the recipe, and I would dearly like to. Hot out of the fryer we'd smear it with raspberry jam and then munch away. It was great stuff.
Larry and I drifted apart in high school, as childhood friends often do when their interests start to diverge. We were best buddies from fifth through ninth grade, and what a great five years they were. We would go fishing off the Fauntleroy ferry dock (until warned off). We'd fly model airplanes in Lincoln Park (until warned off). We'd fling paper airplanes off the Space Needle (until warned off). We'd launch Freon powered rockets high into the skies above Fairmount Field (always expecting to be warned off). And, in the summers, I made several trips with his family to British Columbia, where he took me swimming in his Leech Lake. I was almost disappointed when I didn't come out covered with leeches. Larry blamed it on my American blood. "It must have scared them away."
Larry disappeared in the late 70s, and I don't know what became of him. He may have moved away, but someone told me he died in a traffic accident. I never found out for sure. To honor him, in my own way, I still like to make Canadian jokes. So, Larry, if you're out there somewhere, here's one for the road.
Hey Larry, how many Canadians does it take to change a light bulb?
None. They don't try to change light bulbs in Canada. They accept them as they are.
Marc Calhoun may be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org