Biographies

Neil McKinnon

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I have two biographies. The first is to be read only when suffering from insomnia. The second is an antidote to the puffery of the first. Both are reasonably true.

Biography # 1:

I was raised in Saskatchewan. I joined the navy as a teen and spent four years in the RCN. After my release, I tried my hand at business, archaeology, teaching, and writing. While pursuing those activities I lived and worked in Japan, China, Mexico, Canada, and the U.S., and I collected a BSc in Math and BA and MA in archaeology. I’m also an alumnus of the Writing with Style program at the Banff Centre. My travel and business articles have appeared in

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My most successful reading

Canadian, Mexican and U.S. publications. My fiction was first published in 2000, followed in 2006 by my book, Tuckahoe Slidebottle. I’ve been fortunate enough to receive and be  nominated for some writing awards and have served on literary juries. I’ve also edited and published academically. In July, 2001 I ran the Calgary Marathon and collected my first pension cheque. My wife Judy and I have been married for 52 years. We have two globe-trotting daughters, one brilliant 14 year-old grandson and one 8 year-old grandson, also brilliant. When not visiting our grandsons in Vancouver we live in Mexico. Read Mary Anne Hajer’s article.

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Biography # 2: I once entered a writing competition where I was asked to supply the sponsors with, My Life on a Page. I was quite old at the time so I needed almost two pages:

MY LIFE ON TWO PAGES

The Beginning

I was born at a young age in an old house in Roblin, Manitoba. I chose Roblin because I wanted to be near my mother. It was June 6, 1941. War was raging in Europe and Joe Dimaggio was in the middle of a fifty-six-game hitting streak. About a week after my birth I slipped across the provincial border and moved into a log house near the small town of Togo, Saskatchewan. I took my mother with me. Things were tranquil on the farm and rather than waste time in idle pursuits I decided to develop my managerial skills by supervising my parents. They learned quickly and life was comfortable. The years skipped by. The allies chose my third birthday to 

Things were tranquil on the farm

invade France. I wrote my first story at ten and it remains unpublished. In 1955, a friend and I presided over an encounter between a telephone pole and his father’s car. The incident inspired us to seek friendlier pastures. We hitchhiked to Vancouver which was not a friendly pasture for two farm boys with only $20. So we went to Vancouver Island. When the $20 was spent we camped on the kitchen floor of a friend’s apartment in Port Alberni. We were able to quit camping and rent a room when we found jobs. I became a stock clerk for Woodwards for $40 a week. One day, a Mountie came into the poolroom where I was practising hand-eye co-ordination. After a pleasant chit-chat he told me I had to go back to Togo.birthday proof

The allies chose my third birthday to invade France

I returned to my academic career at Togo High and even though I only garnered 27% in chemistry I was allowed to write a supplemental and go to the University of Saskatchewan. Unfortunately the chemistry mark looked good compared to what I accomplished at university. Although my grades didn’t sparkle, I again made productive use of time. I discovered girls and beer and through the two, a myriad of social skills I didn’t know I had. The university decided I should retire from academia. I returned to what I knew and became a stock clerk for Woolworths. There, I developed my retailing expertise by carrying freight down two flights of stairs, cutting open boxes and counting merchandise which I stored neatly on shelves in the store basement. After a suitable time, during which Woolworths did not recognise my managerial potential, I quit and returned to Vancouver. I embarked on a career selling encyclopaedias door-to-door. Following this I landed a job at the Pacific National Exhibition where I sold fix-o-gases, unsinkable boats, spray shoeshine, aqua-filter cigarettes, and one-man pool tables. Unfortunately the PNE only lasted two weeks and I only sold two fix-o-gases. I spent all my earnings on dates with a young lady who danced professionally in a tent next to the one where I sold the fix-o-gases. We went to see the movie, South Pacific. Inspired, I went straight to the recruiting office and joined the navy. The recruiting officer said they would make a man out of me.

The Middle

I had to wait two weeks before I could leave for basic training in Nova Scotia. During this time the navy developed my seafaring skills by encouraging me to sweep, scrub, wax and polish decks for eight hours a day at HMCS Discovery. Finally, I and about a dozen others embarked on the five day train trip across the country. We picked up new recruits at every stop and soon there were a hundred of us, most in our late teens and away from home for the first time. We drank, smoked, told jokes, sang, played poker, and roamed the cars entertaining other passengers. The CPR was not amused. They locked us in one car and only let us go to the dining car after other passengers had eaten. They also freed us at major stops where a collection was taken and our sole twenty-one year-old dispatched to the local liquor store. I usually accompanied him to help carry the merchandise. In northern Ontario we returned to find the train gone. As we’d spent all the money on booze we were stranded. Fortunately, we found a taxi driver who accepted about $100 worth of liquor for a $25 cab ride. We caught our thirsty mates at the next stop. HMCS Cornwallis was bigger than Togo. Our first two weeks as trained killers were spent sewing our names and numbers into every item of clothing they issued. We were locked on the base for the next four months with one exception—New Years Eve—but we had to be back before midnight. A friend and I pre-booked a cab, found a bootlegger, got drunk, attended two dances, started a fight and returned with five minutes to spare. We prepared for modern anti-submarine warfare by marching, cleaning toilets, scrubbing decks, polishing brass, spit shining boots and marching. Emerging as a lean, mean, fighting machine I was ready to defend Canada’s interests on each of the seven seas. The navy sent me to Ottawa. At HMCS Gloucester we protected Canadians, primarily by being confined to base. After a hush-hush year of learning electronic eavesdropping and listening to Russian weather broadcasts, the navy sent me to that seething cauldron of international intrigue, Victoria, B.C. Because of my sewing and marching ability they had chosen me to attend officer’s school.  The catch was they wanted me to stay in for life. The situation resolved itself when I failed two courses at UBC. The navy decided I was now a man and should retire from the military. I met Judy, the love of my life, in Vancouver. Her father didn’t understand me so we eloped to Washington. We married and raised two gorgeous, intelligent daughters. Our marriage has outlasted Judy’s father and many of history’s major wars. I went to work as a computer programmer in Vancouver, Victoria, and Calgary. Because I was not a very good programmer I became a manager. Later, because I was not a very good manager I became a consultant. When I encountered my mid-life crisis I considered three options: buy a motorcycle; take a mistress; quit my job. Because motorcycles and mistresses might be detrimental to my future, I opted to quit work. Having navigated non-stop from adolescence to senility, I returned to university to study archaeology.

The Beginning (of the end)

This time I was successful at university. I learned how to apply for grants. Archaeology was fun. I got to dig holes in Mexico, China, Tibet, and Alberta. Then Judy and I moved to Kobe, Japan where my sewing and marching ability helped me get a job teaching math, geography and political science at university. One morning, while making love, the earth really did move. Our university fell down. We returned to Canada. While travelling, I kept a journal which I turned into articles for magazines and newspapers. Some even paid me. I won some prizes. Then I wrote a book, ran the Honolulu Marathon, and collected my first pension cheque. Quick to speak, I run down slowly and people often leave the room while I am still talking. I’m very competitive and once won two cans of fried chicken in a fishing derby. I rarely listen when others talk preferring to concentrate on what I’m going to say next. As a devout Gemini, I’m open to erotic possibilities, every year during the month of June. I have never been a lumberjack, steer-wrestler or prizefighter. The old house I was born in is now a funeral parlour …

Not Quite the End

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