part II 1971-1977


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on the French-Italian border- drove thru Monaco, Nice + Cannes and stopped at Orange (France), Auxere, and for 3 days in Paris. When we arrived I gave Mike a call but he wasn't home, called again after 2 hours. We talked and made arrangements to meet the next day. Le Vesinet where he's been staying is about 15 miles from our camping ground. His father drove him over the next day and we took the train into Paris (the distance between Paris + where we were staying is about the same as between Pointe Claire + Montreal). Spent the day in Paris then went to the campsite then back to Mike's. I slept there and the next day we drove to Amsterdam & the Hague. Visited my aunt & uncle, got the key to my cousin's apartment. Yesterday we visited my grandfather on his 80th birthday. I met a friend of my grandfather's who was a really nice old man, talked to him a bit. After we left I found out that he was dying of cancer of the kidneys.


So that brings me to today, and me writing this letter that is almost. Anyway, so much for my brief account of what's been happening.


I'm going to write big now to use up the rest of the paper. Waste not want not and all that shit.


Give my regards and otherwise say hello to everyone for me.


So until I either write or see you again, which ever comes first,


See ya-


Ralph (122)


Letter from Sue Essiambre and Heather Cashin [to Ralph], dated 2 August 1974, and sent to his uncle's address in The Hague.


[Heather] Dear Ralph


I hope this letter can reach you in time. Europe must be a beautiful way to spend the summer. I think you ultimately lucky. I'm really glad your having a nice time. ([Sue] Not as fun as us.) I hope you don't mind that Sue let me read the letter.


Its pretty boring around here. ([Sue] Hee hee.) I went to Long Sault for a second time with Allen [sic] and Patti. ([Sue] Sounds like fun.) It was really fun (Whipee!).


[Sue] Hi Ralph


Sue here! Don't you love my writting. ([Heather] NO! It can't be as hot as mine Sue! H.C.) Ralph- that last statement was from Heather. Anyways thanks for the letter it was pretty funny ([Heather] oh it was thrilling alright). Do you always write letters in the can (potty)? I have not much to say because I have been stuck up in the wilderness (my cottage) for about three weeks. But now I am home from Thursday to Monday without parents ([Heather] Sound the trumpets). Danny's going to drive me up then with Maggie and Ernie. ([Heather] WEEEE!)


I know I'm boring you but tough shit! Bear with me. There's no love affairs happening [marginal comment from Heather: "Oh ya, what about you and {scratched out} Sue?] or anything worth gossiping about so I'll leave for Heater [sic] to finish up her little letter so I can get on with my work and shall finish my little letter after. -Sue-




122. Ralph's note:

That trip to Europe was something of a watershed for me. Being almost 18 now, I remember not having much of a curfew on the boat going over (the SS Michelangelo of The Italian Line; it was a two week crossing, New York-Lisbon-Malaga-Marseilles-Messina-Palermo-Venice-Athens-Genoa) and getting drunk a lot on gin&tonic in the various bars around the ship. Also had a mild flirtation with a girl of Russian descent named Alexandra, although I had a crush on her sister Katja. This was also the year of the collapse of the Greek dictatorship and the Turkish invasion of Cyprus- in spite of which we convinced my usually hyper-cautious father to drive down there later in the summer. In Athens we witnessed mass demos and police raids and ran into a friend of Nicolette's from John Rennie- John MacDonald- who had a bizarre story about being arrested in Crete for espionage (he got off after a couple of days of interrogation). This was also the last time the whole family did anything together. Greece was definitely the high point for me- it awakened my political consciousness, and initiated my obsession with all things Greek and with travel in general. I thought I would return to Montreal a changed person. And just in case this change was not immediately apparent to everyone, I bought a lot of Greek shirts and leather and bead worry beads to wear as wristbands. I don't think anyone noticed.


In the summer of 74 I visited Mike at his Father's house in Le Vesinet, a suburb of Paris. I spent a night there while the rest of my family were camping on the outskirts of the city. His father owned two houses, side by side, both semi-mansions behind high stone walls with wrought iron gates. The houses were about 100 years old and had obviously been built by the scions of well-to-do upper middle class families in the late 19th century. The second house was occupied by Mr Flahault's "housekeeper". I remember eating quiche for breakfast on the lawn.