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  • Writer's pictureWade Bell

Updated: Apr 10, 2023

1950s diner

Born and bred in Canada, and thankful for it, my roots, which I am also thankful for, go back centuries in the U.S.

One of my most memorable experiences was a family trip to visit the American relatives. My mom organized the tour as a gift to my father’s parents.

Spreading from Boston and New York City, the family colonized the interior with the vigor and persistence of the imported English Sparrow.

Our itinerary included North Dakota, where my grandmother attended university, and Minnesota, where she was born; Iowa to visit my grandfather’s brother; Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas; Colorado and Wyoming. Then Idaho and Montana and north to where we started.

I was sixteen. With my precious, just earned license in my wallet, I shared the driving with my father. The distances were great but as a new driver I found them anything but tedious.

Most of the relatives were elderly, the visiting boring. But in Texas, after endless reminders of home, the immense farms and ranches, the oilfield pump jacks slavishly pushing and pulling sucker rods, I struck teenage gold.

I want to make certain things clear. There are fundamental aspects of the cliched Texan character that do not appeal to me. I am not a fan of rabid political conservatism or country music. Nor am I religious in the Southern Baptist sense.

But this is about what I like, not what displeases me.

At sixteen, I was a car freak and hyper aware of girls. So a ride in my cousin’s shiny yellow, chopped and channeled ’32 Ford coup, top down in the warm evening, produced a cache of memories that has lasted a lifetime.

I can almost feel the thrilling acceleration and drag strip speed reached on a highway from Fort Worth into Dallas, my left arm around Dan’s sixteen year old, extremely alluring sister who was squeezed between us on the narrow bench seat.

Jill’s dress was yellow, a shade lighter than the car to both match it and be distinct from it. With the air whipping past and the exhaust rumbling, the rod was not designed for chatting. (Did I say that at sixteen I was hyper-aware of girls? And, really, she was a second cousin, not a first.)

Dan dropped Jill and I off at a Tex-Mex restaurant. As we stepped from the vicious rogue masterpiece we were the coolest couple in Dallas.

Sitting face to face in the restaurant, sparks of attraction flying from my eyes to hers and from her eyes to mine, we forgot to be cool.

We giggled joyously at each other’s accent. That released some of our excitement and we settled in to talk spiritedly over the hottest, most punishing food I had ever eaten. (But I ate it. What the heck, I was enchanted. Would have walked through fire to prove my fearlessness.)

Oh, young love. So innocent yet fraught with adult fervor.

We knew we were fated never to see each other again so we compressed what became a life-long captivation into a burst of acutely lived moments.

Catching each other’s eye, holding the gaze a few beats longer than normal - a glance that could have told our parents everything - we talked about sixteen year old’s stuff. I don’t remember what. But our words expressed just one important thing: that with our swollen emotions and heightened awareness we were completely alive and enfolded in the moment.

Dan came for us. Reluctantly we left the table that had become our nest.

We drove back to Fort Worth, taking the highway through the dark green belt sedately. Under the sky’s narcotic rapture of stars, I sat beside her, my left arm in front of me but our shoulders and upper arms pressed together more tightly, more erotically, than the car’s dimensions made strictly necessary.

And that was it.

With Jill, her longish hair, comely face and teenage vivacity, with a hot rod of the kind I had only ever seen in car magazines, with insanely spiced food, even just the coddling summer air, how could I not still be in love with my Texas?

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Updated: Apr 10, 2023

Poet, teacher and friend to so many, Robert Hogg.
Bob Hogg

The literary world has lost an icon. Poet, teacher and friend to so many, Robert Hogg has died. We met over fifty years ago. I see us in our first conversation. We leaned on his car or mine: his a green Volvo, mine the same make, model and year but red. He was new to Carleton, just up from Buffalo. He soon had a clan in Ottawa. Fellow poets and students. We had great parties after readings by poets he brought in. Paul Blackburn, Robert Creeley, Allen Ginsberg, The Four Horsemen, from Toronto, among others. The party for Creeley was held at my place and went on far into the wee hours. With his grad students, his wife, Leslie, and mine, Laura, we had memorable nights of poker and refreshments. He was instrumental in having Coach House accept my first book. I owe him much but mostly I'm indebted to him for friendship that lasted until he died. Thanks, Bob.

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  • Writer's pictureWade Bell

Updated: Nov 16, 2023

A wind swirling over the ice-clogged Arctic Ocean gathers itself and takes aim at the sprawling river delta then the barren lands. It conquers them both. It riffles the tree tops in the vast boreal forest. It menaces sleep in work camps. It whirls snow devils like life-size children’s tops on runways where trainee fighter pilots take off and land.

Thousands of kilometers south of the ice mass where it was spawned, the wind invades my city. It stings the eyes. It tries to scrape the skin from the cheeks of those cheeky enough to confront it.

I think of my ancestors who left the United States over a century ago to homestead on the treeless prairie of the brand new province of Alberta. The first winter they spent in a hastily constructed sod-roofed abode. They survived the isolation by treating it as their lifetime’s grand adventure. They sang. They kept diaries. They wrote long letters home that they wouldn’t mail until the wind softened and they could harness the horse and get to the nearest post office. Long, long letters that filled the evening hours.

I have laboured in the open air in winter. I empathize with workers on high-rise construction sites who have no protection from the wind’s assault. I see the homeless on TV. People wandering aimlessly in the streets of bombed out Ukrainian villages. Around all of them the ground is white.

Access to adequate shelter should be a human right. But what’s a human right? Sometimes not even the right to live, as a child, a parent, an amour.

Where I live, we adjust to winter. Even enjoy it. It’s our weather; it’s just the way it is here. Don your skates. Get out the skis. While the dog is taking you to visit his/her favourite tree, enjoy the sight of your breath floating away fast as time.

My website has launched. I think it’s beautiful and to judge from the comments I’m not alone. Please have a look. Enter in your search engine.

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