Perhaps the best present I've ever been given was the one I received for my eighteenth birthday, from my friend Aidyl. A year ahead of me, I missed her presence at Martingrove during my final year of high school while she was enjoying her first year at Ryerson, where she was studying Radio & Television Arts. Having access to a super cool studio and the equipment it housed, she made me a cassette tape that played like a radio program for my birthday.
Aidyl and I were friends for the duration of my time at Martingrove, first becoming acquainted when I was in the ninth grade, in a tiny room where members of the Auditorium Facilities Crew hung out during lunch hour. Our friendship varied in degrees of intensity. Both of us were social creatures who were comfortable and friendly with a number of diverse groups of people, but where her friendships often included the sportier set, mine eventually leaned towards the smokers who congregated outside of the cafeteria in an area commonly referred to as "the outback"; and particularly those smokers who were especially eccentric and determinedly unaligned with the extra-curricular activities that I (and Aidyl) also enjoyed, such as the Martingrove Stage Company and the aforementioned Auditorium Facilities Crew. Aidyl and I would go for long periods of time, immersed in our own, separate things, and then reconnect for a week or two of near constant companionship.
Aidyl and I both loved to sing, and this was one thing that definitely bound us. It was with her that I started my first "band." In actuality, we were a duo who performed once, on the stage in the auditorium at Martingrove Collegiate, during the annual "Martingrove Jam," a glorified open mic.
We called ourselves 12 Eagle Road, taking the name from the address of the "crazy lady" who lived on a side street near Bloor and Islington. Our friends and ourselves used to delight in driving slowly and repeatedly past the paranoid woman's house, and in watching her increasingly insane reactions to our presence there. She would yell, "Get off the road, you sons and bitches!" which would always put us into hysterics. She was always threatening to call - and actually did call - the police. She took our photographs and even brought out a video camera, for which my friends and I performed Monty Python sketches on one occasion.
For our debut - and final - performance as 12 Eagle Road, Aidyl and I had each written original songs. Here, I will boldly include the chorus from the first song I ever wrote with my guitar. Much of my high school existence having been defined by being painfully and unrequitedly in love with one of my best friends, Tim, it is of course appropriate that my first song would have been about him. The stupid, embarrassing chorus went, "Well it's hard to be your friend / When my feelings aren't correct." Aidyl's song was better, but I'll let her decide for herself whether or not she wants it exposed.
We listened to and sang along to so much music together. Particularly fond are my memories of singing along to the Les Miserables soundtrack. We collectively, particularly, dug then-popular CanCon fare like Blue Rodeo, The Waltons, Barenaked Ladies, and - yeah, really, ugh - Moxy Fruvous.
Lik My Vacuum is the name that Aidyl gave to the cassette she made me - a take-off on The Waltons' Lik My Traktor. It was a record of our high school experience together and a testament to the endurance of memories, if not location or musical taste or even enduring friendship. I don't even have Lik My Vacuum anymore. Along with all of the other cassettes I used to own - and many other valuable possessions of mine - they disappeared from the basement of a house I used to live in, which is another story altogether. I am almost over these things that I lost, but I still don't like to talk about it.
It was Aidyl's birthday yesterday, and I was reminded of all the birthdays that we shared together during high school. I thought about the surprise party Tamie and I hosted in my basement - the one that Charlie showed up to drunk, a short while before I really had friends who drank, or drank myself. I remember one year Aidyl gave me a diary for my birthday, and the good use I made of that over the following year. And most of all, I remembered how impressed and delighted I was to receive Lik My Vacuum. I listened to it all the time. I couldn't believe someone had gone to so much work to show me that I meant something to them. It sucks that it's gone, but I can't imagine I'll ever forget the majority of the songs on Lik My Vacuum. In fact, I bet I could still sing along to every one of them.
*Aidyl and I did not look that old when we were in high school. That picture was taken last December.