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Just Outside of Hope, the sequel to Road Without End, moves through the early years of the 1980s. It takes us from the Canadian Prairies to the pubs, bath houses and nude beaches of Vancouver, British Columbia.
It is now September 1980 and ex-Lieutenant Jim Whitelaw is dealing with the guilt he feels from the fall out of a military tribunal, and lingering family issues which make things worse. But just as he feels he's getting his life together, cracks appear once more and he has to make some serious decisions.
Meanwhile, in a matter of a moment, Jim's friend and sometimes lover Bert Gilhuis, finds himself trapped in a serious situation that eventually sees him set off on new adventures in Vancouver.
These are two more stories in the continuing series of the lives of gay men who lived through the most exhilarating and terrifying of times.
Bert stares silently down at the table. This moment of silence seems like forever.
“I’m going to miss the hell out of you, Jim. It’s too bad you’re leaving. We could have had something really good together.”
Then he takes a deep breath. “What does it matter though? I’m probably going off to jail for the next little while, and even if you stayed here, I probably wouldn’t be seeing much of you for God-knows-how-long anyway.”
We’re silent again.
“I think it’s good that you’re going back to help your family in their time of need,” he says. “I really hope your father will be okay, somehow, and I really hope that someday you can come back to Calgary.”
I smile at him and nod.
One of the guards knocks then opens the door. “Five minutes to count Gilhuis!” Then he shuts the door and goes back behind the counter.
“Count?” I ask, “What’s that?”
Bert looks at me sadly. “That means I have to go. They stick us back in our cells just to make sure we’re all still here,” he says with a sigh. “They do this to us about three or four times a day.”
We’re momentarily silent again.
“Bert, I won’t forget you.”
“Jim, I sure as hell will never forget you. Promise that you’ll write to me?”
I smile sadly and tell him I will. I slowly get up from the table. I look into Bert’s eyes wanting to say something, anything that won’t sound trite or superficial. But what do I say at a moment like this? I want to kiss him, to hug him, but I don’t dare, not in here.
It’s as Bert is reading my thoughts. “You don’t have to say anything, Jim. Just go. You have a life to live.”
I bow my head and leave the room. I open the door I look back to Bert. He has a sad but stoic look in his eyes.
My voice cracks as I say, “Goodbye, Bert.”
I turn and walk through the door.
I feel overwhelming sadness. It’s strange where time brings everybody. I think of my life and twists and turns it’s taken over this past year and a half. I think of Bert, my father, Glenn, Bryn and Marcel, the military and the tribunal. I think of Cliff who has made a special trip out from Manitoba and is at my place packing some boxes for me. I think of how every change in my life seems to be more dramatic and comes at me more quickly. Somehow though, I seem to muddle through those changes and manage to carry on. I don’t know what these next years are going to bring, but I can tell you this much, I’ll conquer every single one of them. This I promise myself.
What’s the Best Vacation I Ever Had?
I love to travel, and it hasn’t mattered to me what kind of trip I’ve taken: a weekend away, a road trip down the coast, a flight to Puerto Vallarta, or a three-week coach trip through New Zealand. I’ve loved all of those experiences. But there is one trip that really stands out as my favourite: my third trip to Europe in 2016.
It was a trip where I experienced a lot of “firsts.” It was my first trip to Europe without my late, long-term partner. I took off from Vancouver on the first anniversary of his passing to be met by a good friend in Frankfurt. For the first few days we travelled through the northern regions of Germany around the city of Kassel. This is where the Brothers Grimm were inspired to write their fairy tales. I saw the castles that inspired the stories of Sleeping Beauty and Rapunzel, and the forest where Hansel and Gretel got lost.
From there, wetravelled toLondon, and my friend, who knew the place really well,helped me book into a place called Bankside House, which was only a block from the Thames and within walking distance to many of the tourist sites.Every morning I’d watch the Olympic Games coverage from Rio while having breakfast, and then he and Iwould walk for miles, and took the tube when we were tired. I saw so many sites in central London, as well as venturing to the outskirts of the city.
From London, I took a train to Liverpool for a couple of days to see a special exhibit of one of my favourite 1970s/80s groups, The Jam. I explored the city, which was smaller than I had expected, and yes, The Beatles were ubiquitous. One of the interesting things about Liverpool was it seemed to have its own micro-climate. When I left London, the weather was hot and sunny, and Liverpool, a two-hour train ride away, was like arriving in November: cold, windy, and raining.
When I went back in London, I met with my buddy and we took the Eurostar Train to Paris, a place I had always wanted to visit.We stayed at a small boutique hotel on the East Side, only a couple of blocks from “Little India.” We ventured there just on time to take part in Celebrations to Ganesh, the Elephant-Headed God. The streets were blocked off and filled with music, powdered paint was being poured on offerings to the God, delectable food was being offered, there was dancing and singing, and my friend was in Heaven because he was raised in Sri Lanka. It brought back a lot of memories for him.
We did some touristy things like: go up the Eiffel Tower, take a boat down the Seine, A walk through Saint Germaine, some galleries, and small shops. One of my favourite memories is sitting at a small sidewalk café drinking espresso, eating a croissant, and looking down the street two blocks to Notre Dame Cathedral where the bells were peeling. I felt like this was a dream come true.
After four days, my friend travelled back to Germany, and I went on to Budapest to visit another long-time friend. We spent a couple of days in the city, andthen we took a train to Timasoara, Romania. Just as we got over the Hungarian/Romanian border, a family of Roma boarded, sat at the far end of the car from us, and once the train was in motion they began singing. They brought food on board and were eating and singing all the way from the border until two stops before we disembarked. It was fantastic!
What we found in Timasoara was a very poor but energetic city which really desired to be a tourist destination. The first thing I noticed upon leaving the station was the Mid-Century, Soviet-style architecture inmany places I looked. This was the original epicentre of the Romainian uprising in 1989 and there was a lot of history and tourist potential. I was concerned there may be a problem communicating, but the folks in the service industries spoke English very well.
Then, all too soon a whole month had gone by, and it was time for me to return to Canada. I didn’t want to leave, and I couldn’t believe just how quickly that whole month went by! It was a wonderful trip, and to this day it ranks as my favourite.
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Ron Kearse lists travelling, photography, art, reading and history as his main sources of inspiration.
An artist, broadcaster, actor and writer, Ron has a colourful and varied work resumé.
Having lived a nomadic life, Ron has finally settled in Victoria, BC where he lives with his partner James Howard.
Just Outside of Hope is the second installment in the Road Without End Trilogy, he has also published a photo book of Vancouver Street Art in the mid-1980s called Lost History.