the diary thing 
Dd - dogA BILL OUTLAWING puppy mills was defeated in our provincial parliament today. The Liberal backbencher who proposed the bill -- I won't mention his name -- broke down and cried when talking to press afterwards. The Tory government, who voted against the bill almost unanimously, said that they thought there were better ways of dealing with puppy mills. Decoded with my magic Toryspeak decoding ring, this basically means that they'd like the issue to just go away. 

I'd like to say I feel for the aggrieved Liberal MPP. I hate the idea of puppy mills myself, especially given some recent, gruesome busts of local puppy mills just this past year. As a pet owner -- from a family of pet owners, married into a family of pet owners -- I deplore the unnecessary suffering, the kind of crass overbreeding that produces hip dysplasia and vicious tempers in animals. 

K. and I would like to have a dog one day, when we have the space, and the time. K. has her eye on a pug, or a Boston terrier. I'd be happy with a pleasant little mutt. When I've visited the Humane Society, I've seen what puppy mills produce, and I know how workers there feel every time they have to euthanize rescued animals from these horrid little cottage industries. So I have sympathy for the disappointment of the Liberal MPP.

Except for one thing -- a personal thing, but something I can't forget. I know, or knew, the Member of Provincial Parliament once, many years ago. He was a teacher of mine in high school, in several classes over at least three years. I might have utterly forgotten him, if not for two things. First of all, he left teaching for politics, and I've been able to follow his career for years. Secondly, he once beat my head against a bulletin board, in front of a whole class. 

The bell had just rung, and we were all talking, when he sauntered into the room, still wearing his workout clothes from gym class: track pants and a sweat shirt and a pair of those new, expensive-looking running shoes, the ones with the thick soles that ran up onto the heel and toe of the shoe. They were something of a marvel; most of us still wore old Pumas and Adidas, in blue and brown suede, with tattered vinyl accents and rotted-out insoles. I had taken his gym class a year or two previous; I remember him sitting in the bleachers, chatting with the class jocks, while the rest of us -- the geeks, the pencilnecks, the fruits and weiners -- ran endless laps until we could taste blood. It seemed, at the time, a bit unfair.

IT SEEMS ALMOST RIDICULOUS to point out that our school was run by the jocks, or at least run at what seemed their convenience. It was a private school, reputedly the best Catholic boy's school in the city, a reputation it still has today. I think anyone who's spent time at such a place knows how regular, venerable even, this informal social order can be. At our school, it was funded and enforced by the alumni association, itself mostly composed of former jocks. There were special blazer crests, and an off-campus residence for out-of-town players on the Junior B hockey team. It was known, unoffically, as "Date Rape House". 

The school's athletic reputation was impeccable; we'd produced countless pro hockey, football and basketball players, some of them real legends in their game. A few classes ahead of me was a future NBA player. One of my own classmates would have a minor career in the NHL. In my grad year, one of our football stars -- an amiable enough guy who made the team at Cornell the previous year -- died on the field of a stroke in the middle of first term. The school went into mourning, his body was brought back for a huge funeral at the church adjacent to the school; just months earlier, he'd graduated in the same church. A monument was erected in his memory, a boulder with a metal plaque, on a quiet spot by the track. There was an obituary page in the yearbook.

"There is now less flogging in our great schools than formerly, but then less is learned there; so that what the boys get at one end they lose at the other."
- Samuel Johnson

A bad memory.

On a totally different topic, thanks to Cameron of "Artist at Large" for the wonderful quilt fabric for our wedding quilt; more beautiful silk, and some stunning ecclesiastical lace.

THE WHOLE CLASS was talking, including a big knot of jocks over by the windows, but I was sitting by the door, and made, I suppose, a convenient target. The future MPP reached over, grabbed me by the hair, his palm cupped over my ear, and slammed my head against the corkboard once, twice. He got everyone's attention, at little cost to himself or his reputation. I wasn't a popular student; I could be relied upon to suck it up. 

I never complained; it's amazing to think that there was a time, so recently, when a teacher could get away with what he did. I can't imagine it happening today -- there would be complaints, protests, lawsuits, bad press. I'm still ashamed of myself for taking it, for sucking it up. I didn't imagine I had any choice at the time. It was a different world, then, or that's what I say whenever I remember it.

And here he is, today, sobbing into a CBC microphone on the evening news, shocked that anyone could care so little about animals, ashamed of his peers, his fellow members of the legislature. 

I suppose I should be touched. It's good to know, at last, that he has a soft spot, something that can corrode through what I remember as an almost sneering toughness. It would have been nice, however, if some of that clearly uncontrollable empathy could have found its way to some of his less popular students. But then again, we were none of us as cute as puppies.

writing ©2001
Rick McGinnis
...the past
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