“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less travelled by.
And that has made all the difference.”
- Robert Frost. “The Road Not Taken” (1916)
When I think about my life, my mind settles on “The Verger” by Somerset Maugham. If I could have grasped the complexities of Math 91, no doubt I would have gone to university right after high school and become a school teacher. As it was, I was shunted into the non-university stream, which proved to be a good thing as I learned skills that allowed me to join the workforce immediately upon graduation. And that was the beginning of my peripatetic life. First stop: California.
In San Francisco I started off as a legal secretary. Then, with the desire to do some travelling, I realized I could not stay stuck in one permanent position. That started me off temping, where I met some interesting people. One convinced me to become a flight attendant whose wife was the Chief Stewardess (that’s what they were called in those days) for a local airline serving California, Oregon and Nevada. This was an even worse situation as I had to be on call every day in case someone couldn’t make a flight and I had to fill in. It was a bumpy ride, and didn’t last long. But it got me to my next stop.
In Los Angeles, I took a secretarial position at Erwin Wasey, a national advertising company with a head office in New York. I showed some creative promise and soon worked my way into a spot as an advertising copy writer. After a couple of years, I learned that a man doing the same work as I, was making far more money than I. I wrote to the head of EW in New York and complained. Some chutzpah, eh? When I didn’t get the expected raise, I quit in a huff.
My next “impermanent position” was with a film importing company where I spent several months in Rome viewing some pretty awful “spaghetti westerns.” It was a wonderful and crazy experience.
On returning to Los Angeles, a friend convinced me to join her at the ABC television network. This involved the legal end of production. After Rome, it wasn’t very exciting. She soon left for Paramount Studios and I joined her not long after. This led to the creative part of the business and was right up my alley. After working for Story Editors on “Love, American Style,” I had one television script accepted for production just before the show was cancelled. So I moved over to “The Odd Couple.”
During these years, I had been taking various courses at Los Angeles City College, and when I took one specializing in script writing, I got bitten by the higher education bug. I realized a university degree was essential to my happiness. So I packed up and returned to Canada, enrolling at Simon Fraser University as a mature student. I didn’t need Math 91 for that! My university experience was enhanced by History courses at the University of London, Chelsea Campus. It was a profound experience, and led to many return trips, mostly to tour the great art galleries and cathedrals all over the U.K.
Travelling, singing, writing and life-long learning have been the mainstays of my life. I have been to many countries on my own, through work and with choirs. When the Vancouver Bach Choir sang "Aida" in Tokyo, I had a unique run-in with a student struggling to understand the famous seduction scene from “The Graduate.” This led me to two years teaching English in Sendai. Funny how things work.
My last professional position was as copy editor and webmaster for the Centre of Excellence, Research on Immigration and Integration in the Metropolis (RIIM) at SFU. During those years, I had my own website on which I posted short articles of interest on a variety of topics. I have included them on this website.
About singing. My first public appearance was at the age of five. My brother played piano and I sang “Buttons and Bows” for a local amateur hour night. The second one was on my twelfth birthday. It’s alluded to in one of the chapters of “Too Late for Redemption.” I sang “Whispering Hope” on radio station CKNW in a live show. After high school musicals, my singing came to a halt. It wasn’t until I returned to Canada that it became a large part of my life.
I’ve had many wonderful singing teachers, and they have all brought something to the mix – Audrey Leonard Borschel, Sophia Alexandrova, Seiko Fukuda. Fiona Blackburn was responsible for my becoming a member of the Vancouver Bach Choir, of which I was a member for 25 incredible years. She also gave me the opportunity – because she was unavailable – to be the Vocal Coach for Port Moody Senior Secondary’s production of “ West Side Story.” The young people were totally professional in their approach. Their voices, dancing and playing were superb. What a success that was! I should also mention two trips taken with Consort Caritatis, a choir composed of people from across Canada and conducted by Howard Dyck. On the first tour to the Czech Republic, Austria and Germany, we sang Beethoven's "Missa Solemnis" as well as excerpts from the Rachmaninoff "Vespers" during a Mass at the Salzburg Cathedral. The second tour was to St. Petersburg, Novgorod, Tallinn and Helsinki, performing the Brahms "Deutsches Requiem."
I do have to say something about Seiko Fukuda. While I was living in Japan, I was introduced to her at the school where I was teaching English and told that she was an opera singer. Seiko was totally unlike any other Japanese woman in the whole of Sendai. And I can say this with impunity. She was a colourful dresser wearing purples and oranges and other bright colours.This among the conservative beiges and blacks and tartans (yes, they love Scottish tartan in Sendai) commonly worn by women. Even her car was chartreuse. Nothing about her was muted – even her speaking voice. In addition, she wore a lot of make-up and jewelry. She got me into the NHK choir – the only gaijin, of course – and they always put me closest to the audience. I was on display. They sang “Messiah” and “Ode to Joy” as well as Japanese songs. Seiko had a ton of students – not just vocal but piano – and I took part in their annual recital. It was a memorable time.
My feet are now firmly fixed to Qualicum Beach, British Columbia where I sing, garden and write. I am currently working on my third Britannia Bay Mystery, entitled “The Devil's Foothold.”