Chapter 3: Son of a dancer

January 25, 2020

The VW Beetle buzzed down the street in La Jolla, California, past rows of palm trees. My mom was driving and I sat in the passenger seat. I was four, but who had heard of car seats or booster seats (or even seat belts) in 1966?

The car stopped in front of a school. My mom took me by the hand and brought me in. She told me she would leave me there with all the other nice little kids in the nursery school.

“No!” I shouted.

“It will be fine, Peter,” my mom said.

“No! No! No!” I shrieked. I lay down in the schoolyard and pounded my curled-up fists into the ground.

Finally my mom gave up. She put me back it the Bug and we drove away. I never did go to nursery school.

My violent protest is one of my earliest memories. I can’t remember much; piecing it together in hindsight, I guess I had just been moved around so much by then that I finally hit my limit. There was no way in hell I was going to put up with this further indignity.

I was born June 25, 1962 in New Westminster, B.C. My two elder sisters had been born in 1958 and 1960. We lived in a little rented cottage on the grounds of what is now Simon Fraser University. My father had bought some land in North Vancouver, which would be worth millions today, and had plans to build a house there.

But in 1964, when I was two, my parents broke up. There had been some partner-swapping at the Happy Trails nudist camp in Vancouver, where my parents were members, from what I heard; they just couldn’t make it work. My mom decided to gather up her three children and flee to the San Diego area. She figured her elder sister, married to an influential physicist and ensconced in a red adobe villa with terraced gardens, could help her out.

Mom had lots of training as a dancer, so that is the profession in which she found work. We lived in a little house on a street called Silverado.

One morning I stood at a window on the second floor. On my tip-toes, I could just barely look over the windowsill and see the street. There stood two of our friends. I went downstairs. 

“We’re going to the beach,” someone said, and so we all set out walking; my sisters and I and our friends. In about 10 minutes we arrived one of the kids looked at me.

“Peter,” she said. “You are still in your pajamas!”

It was just another day in my free-range childhood.