The Cambridge Don who discovered life, and herself, at our basement grad party

A picture from the 1964 Kenogami Protestant High School graduation party at the Lovelace household
Like all celebrities who come clean when they can’t suppress damaging images about to be launched through social media, I have a confession to make.

This is not an easy thing to do. Because I know it will be disappointing for all of you out there who think of me as a kindly pensioner tending his little garden after a grey-flannelled career and a personal life that pretty well set the standard for moderation in all things.

Not quite true.

There was a time in my past, a minor period of character lapse that so far hasn’t lasted any more than maybe 49 or 50 years, when I was considered a “party animal”.

That’s right. Under this public façade of legendary propriety beats the heart of a sinner who has been known to get down and boogie with the worst of them. I admit that some of the elements of this spiritual failure featured sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, although never in the volumes credited to me. This, I deeply regret (not the sins—just not enjoying the frequency to live up to the rep.)

The funny thing about this mea culpa is that I’m not even in this party photo pasted on Facebook walls all over the virtual universe (I missed the shoot because I was outside rolling drunks to get the cash to cab them home.)

But enough blackmailers have sent me the image to suggest there are too many witnesses still standing who would yell bullshit if I tried any lame denials.

Call off the Dick Cheney waterboarding crew. I’ll confess that the photo in question was indeed taken in my basement 48 years ago during a post-graduation bash so outrageous that it took me 25 years to find one guest who disappeared on my watch.

A little ancient history is required to put this all together, of course. I was raised in Kenogami, Quebec, and almost all of my learning took place at Kenogami Protestant High School (KPHS), which had a student population about 90 in 11 grades, until a whole pile of little schools around the region were amalgamated into a big one in neighbouring Arvida back in 1962.

Somehow, I graduated in 1964—along with a fair number of the black sheep from our much-mourned home-town KPHS—and it seemed appropriate to have a party for the locals after the official ceremony and dinner-dance at the still-unfamiliar regional pile of brick.

That was the whole point of the party—to unite the maybe 10 hometown KPHS buddies and their 10 dates for a little dancing, roaming-hand-slapping and harmless illegal drinking in the legendary basement Lovelace pool room that had already seen its fair share of bacchanals.

But somebody spilled the beans and we were ultimately invaded by just about everyone from the regional graduation class until our little half-double was action central for almost 100 hormonally-overloaded teens let loose to spend their first overnight out.

Everyone had a mickey to bring a little magic to the officially-sanctioned soft drinks and the garage, already well-stocked with beer, filled up even more as additional cases emerged with the occupants of each arriving cab.

With all the essentials in place, we enjoyed as wild a coming-of-age piss-up you could have in a time and place where drugs were unknown, girls still wore impregnable girdles and you could do serious jail time buying a black-market condom in priest-ridden Quebec.

The local police report by Chief Inspector Maggie Macdougall (actually our busybody neighbour) claimed wide-spread upchucking in the bushes, loud Negro Music and animated conversations involving noble guys claiming to only be interested in their dates’ minds while trying the utmost to change them.

At any rate, nobody died, although some neophyte drinkers were certainly imploring Their Maker to put them out of their misery as they awoke on hard floors with harder hangovers. My sainted mother called in reinforcements from the local Sainted Mothers Club to cook dozens of breakfasts to revive the battlefield casualites.

The natural maternal instinct toward the fallen did not extend to me because I got blamed for everything and everyone, especially one delicate young thing we’ll call Nora to protect the once-innocent. Nora wasn’t from Kenogami, rather native of a neighbouring anal-retentive town where her strict parents wouldn’t even allow her to VISIT depraved Kenogami.

As a matter of fact, she wasn’t allowed to visit anywhere or do anything except study to be at the top of our class at the regional school. No dances, no drinking, no smoking, no boyfriends, no fun. All very un-Kenogami-like. I think her parents figured her first night out ever would come to a proper end when she dutifully came home from the official school dance before her coach turned into a pumpkin at midnight.

So why were they still calling me two days later?…

The answer to that question walked into my Senate office in the late 1980s after security called up to report a “someone identifying herself as Nora from your old school” begged an audience.

She looked great after all those years, albeit suggestive of a winning horse that had been ridden hard and put away wet. Her eyes sparkled as she entered my private office, but I suspect that the object of her gaze was not me the old school chum, but rather the world-class bar behind my desk.

With the first of many drinks in one hand and a chain of smokes in the other, she flipped the calendar back a quarter-century with my subtle query: “What the hell happened to you after the basement bash?”

It would take much bandwidth to tell her story, which involved three lost days breaking many commandments, taboos and societal standards. She had not only lost her virtue, but had thrown it away with great enthusiasm at a number of parties that emerged like mushrooms from the torn-up ground of our subterranean pissup.

The whole episode can be summed up in her response to her hysterical parents when she arrived home as well-worn as her much-abused white prom dress: “I told them to fuck off and then went to sleep for a week.”

Ah, we all know the wages of sin, don’t we? Yeah, well, in Nora’s case, these took her to a doctorate and the post of Don at one of those prestigious colleges in England (I’m pretty sure it was Cambridge, but could have been Oxford or Hogwarts.)

But that journey was all the more rewarding because of all the newly-discovered vices that fueled such a great ride, leaving a host of heart-broken lovers and well-tipped bartenders in its wake.

As she took her leave to head back to her hotel (she was in Ottawa as a keynote speaker at a scientific conference on sub-particle interactive dynamics in relativity theories suggested by the Horowitz-Dander Conundrum), she paused at my door to note:

“Who would have thought, Gord, that a whole new world would start for me at your crazy party in your crazy basement?”

Who, indeed?!

That is why, if you check my resume under “education”, you’ll find the item that says: “Provided social and spiritual mentoring to world-famous Cambridge Don” ….

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