Bookish angels

of The Umbrella

February 1973


Fifth in the Choir of Angels' (too) well ordered hierarchy come the Malakim, often called "Virtues." Apart from the obvious relevance to this story of their divine designation, they also (one source says) "presided over events of weather, including rain, snow, wind and the like," and made orders given them into "miracles for God's favored."

I pecked this into my typewriter on a winter night, Saturday, February 3, 1973, 8:30 pm -- a rather odd moment, I see. In Promiscuous Affections I called the years from 1973 to 1976 "Times between." That is, between better times: both before and after, life gave me rich inspiration. Even in these fallow years I still sought it.

And all you have to do, really, is pay attention.

I don't feel like it. But then, I don't feel like anything else except some boy, maybe, and then even that has its difficulties....

No. No I am not, as yet, drunk. But too far out of the right mood to go to The Parkside; not into any right one to see anybody, not at least that I can think of right off hand. Oh, to observe maybe, yes. Sure. Observe. And be lulled by sights. Beauty, you know, and like that.

I think what I really want to report, reporter that I am, is simply little Elgin Umbrella.


(Hoe did those capitals happen? How did "hoe" happennnnn?)

Alvyn and I had just come from lunch. It had been my day off [from work at the U of T Library], Friday, just by fluke, by a chance swap with Bob, who wanted to have Saturday off to leave the night before free for various carousings. I had gone to Hart House to see the folks for lunch, though, and Alvyn had come along.

So there we were, walking along Hoskin Avenue a little after one o'clock, and the weather was spitting, just on and off in an indecisive way; the sort of way that has been pissing me off lately, making me wish the climate would get a little real winter together for more than two days at a time. So we moved easily along Hoskin, cursing the damp.

Suddenly (although that word doesn't really fit, sounding too sudden for the real mood) there was an umbrella passing over my head and a fairly tall, innocent looking redhead passing my left shoulder, saying sheepishly, "I'm sorry, excuse me."

"Oh that's all right," I answered. "Thank you for your umbrella."

He turned to acknowledge me with a faint smile, full of innocence, totally unslick and unsure, almost apologetic. About fifteen seconds later he turned again, being by this time about ten feet in front of us, and, as if to ask if he had been somehow rude or inconsiderate, asked if we did in fact want to share his umbrella.

We did, as far as the other side of St. George, where he had to turn down to get to a class at Sid Smith.

I asked his name.

"Elgin," he said, "as in Elgin Motors" [a local car dealership]. To which I almost answered: No, as in Elgin Marbles, silly. I told him mine and my place of employ, and asked him to drop by sometime.

And if little, big, rosy Elgin can call up as much courage at some point in the future as he did there on Hoskin Avenue, I'm sure he will drop by. And I will, well -- I will be glad, as glad as I was then.

"Little" Elgin. I'm clearly too fond of diminutives as terms of endearment. Later there'd be "Little Ricky," taller than I -- if quite a bit younger.

Elgin didn't drop by. Angels often don't, not more than once -- and once was all I needed to know that Elgin was not little. And I hope not innocent. Maybe he's the angel who bestowed upon me a particular fondness for redheads.


The Parkside

Sci-Med, U of T:
the library where I worked from 1971 to 1976.
Built as the University of Toronto's main one in 1892, by my time
it housed just science and medicine collections.

Even within these grey walls -- and even in the early '70s -- life could be quite gay. Our lunches in the collegiate medieval splendour (circa 1919) of the Great Hall at Hart House were often high camp affairs. For boys of Sci-Med, see Promiscuous Affections: 1971. For lunch, 1973.

The Parkside:
530 Yonge Street, where we frequently caroused.
And not just on Friday and Saturday nights.

The Parkside was then one of the very few gay bars in Toronto, most grotty and all straight owned. See much more on it and others -- even much older ones -- also in 1971.

"Little Ricky" -- and a hunky redhead bodybuilder from that lunch bunch, Bert of Kentucky -- are among Other Angels.

Angel image: Detail from "Madonna e Santi," Rosso Fiorentino (1494-1540).

Next episode: V: Tears

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Christmas Day, 2000 / Last revised: July 12, 2003
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