While strolling along Queen E a few weeks ago, Nada and I caught sight of a unique and very cool car. I actually got into the middle of the road to get a low angle shot of it, and Nada took some too – so imagine our delight when the car actually stopped right in front of us. We were, it seemed, his destination!

Low angle – high style (top photo)

I was on my haunches taking a close-up of the grille and hood ornament, when the big cheerful grizzled driver got out and said, “You like that, eh?”

As a guy obsessed with psychology, anthropology and history, and in love with original characters, I think a lot about what people used to know, and how much we used to know how to do. We’ve had very capable brains and hands for a long while – minds that can now discern the quality of an app at a glance, could once tell which plant was food, and which was tool or shelter, and when to pick them for best effect.

I’ve met and learned about many wonderful people over the years, with an old-world independent approach to life. What do they know how to do? Pretty much everything that they’ve ever needed or wanted done!

Pour a foundation? Figured it out. Grade a road for drainage? Learned the hard way. Framing, planting, trading – hard knocks school, but mastered. Rebuild, repair or hybridize your own transport? Naturally – and with extraordinary gusto!

There is a group of Northern Ontario brothers of whom tales are told, who have legendary DIY skills of this type – I still have a photo someplace of their cheap and dirty version of a monster-truck, based on a VW beetle, an old tractor, and some unquestionably Mad Max inspired TIG-welding.

Nada has told me great stories about characters from Serbia with this same sort of fantastic do-everything-for-themselves initiative and resourcefulness – but I despaired of ever having a chance to introduce her to a Canadian specimen (the city drives most such people out – space to tinker is just too pricey here).

Genuine Original

And then all of a sudden, the very man I’ve been hoping for, pulls up in front of us and introduces himself with a smile! Drove out from Alberta in the beast, and as we talked about his projects and interests, it was clear both that he was into just about everything – and that he greatly enjoyed his hands-on participation with so many aspects of the world (the priceless dividend of all this extra bothering, that many lazy mopers can’t ever understand).

In this particular example, he’d taken this lovely old late forties barn-cruiser, got her road-worthy from stem to stern, and then dropped a vintage nineteen sixties eight-cylinder Corvette engine into the beast!

Remember that old novelty song? “Beep-beep, beep-beep, her car it went beep-beep” (little old lady keeps overtaking surprised kid in a muscle-car).

Well sure enough, there are few pleasures he enjoys more than pulling up at a stoplight next to some snarky young jerk who can’t stop gunning the engine of his shiny and expensive toy – and then leaving the kid shaking his head and slack-jawed – eating dust!

Just the way he wants it

Of course, as intelligent people who instantly enjoy each other do – we three gleefully talked our way all around the world, going first decades, then hundred of years into the past for history, did some political triangulation, too – and just when I was thinking he was a perfect Canadian to compare to the northern Ontario fellows, to prove to Nada that we weren’t all overspecialized city-types, he mentioned that he was once told his face could be seen all over Belgrade – mom’s side was Serbian!

That’ll teach me to try to make a silly point about Canadian people to my Canadian friend (who already knows at least as many inspiring oddballs as I do, anyhow)! ;o)

Then again, that’s kind of the point about so many Canadian stories, isn’t it? The Canadian story is also a Serbian story (and a Syrian one, for that matter).

There is only one group of people here who were not immigrants, and they are the only people here who are almost universally treated worse than the lowest. Please, no more moral high-ground on the immigration file, folks – we simply do not have it. Discussion must be founded always upon modesty and gratitude for our own previous good fortune.

And until our first citizens have clean water, rights and dignity – no more griping on that file, either. A driveway easement is not a multi-century betrayal and lasting stain upon a nation’s honour. Just a demand for patience.

A key human skill at which they’ve been forced to become far better than us.

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