Strange and beautiful are the stars tonight
That dance around your head
In your eyes, I see that perfect world
I hope that doesn’t sound too weird
And I want all the world to know
That your love is all I need
Blue Rodeo was already on my radar when Lost Together came out in the summer of 1992. The various mixed tapes (and CDs) that floated within the onzaine’s fleet of borrowed cars included Try, which featured a falsetto line that everyone in a given car would sing, no matter how poorly they could hit the notes.
The onzaine, now reduced to maybe seven or eight, were back in Oakville for the summer, working part time jobs and hanging out with one another. I was in Ottawa, or to be more specific, a town called Kanata on the very west side of the Greater Ottawa Area, before you disappeared into the Boreal forest heading along Highway 7.
I probably bought the album at CD Warehouse, a massive music shop on Merrivale Road, just south of Baseline on the east side. I spent too much time (and far too much money with my newly-acquired CIBC credit card) buying new music. But CDs there were at least $5 cheaper than anywhere else, so it was hard to resist. And I needed music to keep myself going, keeping myself away from thoughts I didn’t want to think.
I was in Kanata, working for Digital Equipment of Canada, a subsidiary of the then-second largest computer manufacturer in the world. It was pretty prestigious, I think, though at the time I didn’t put nearly enough thought into it. I was, after all, a lowly co-operate education student working on a computer science degree at the University of Waterloo. This was considered “normal” for one of us. A lot of the CS students went to Microsoft in Seattle; I came to Kanata because I had a good background in technical support.
I had worked for over two years at Ark Computer, a small one-off computer store in downtown Oakville. My manager (and the store’s owner), Rob, was a fair and kind gentleman who taught me a lot about computer maintenance, upgrades, operating systems, and the tools needed to make all of that happen. I had developed my own diagnostic mindset over years of learning how to take things apart (and usually reassemble them), which had fared me well. Working a DEC Canada was elevating those skills substantially. But I had to swear a suit and tie every day.
I lived nearby, in a room I rented from a man who usually leased out three of his house’s rooms to short-term stays. One of the other renters was a 20-something woman whose name I cannot recall and whose background I can only assume to be carefully edited; she was my first introduction to a true troublemaker.
Although I lived in a house with three other people (besides the owner was an older man from Quebec), I kept to myself. I walked to and from work, I periodically drove into Nepean for CDs, I saw my friend Scott (my next-door neighbour throughout my first year at university) a few times.
But I felt alone. Which is why I likely latched onto Lost Together, because it was the (albeit distorted) view I had of the onzaine. I would see the rest of them sparingly (one actually went to Waterloo, though I rarely saw her), save for Chris, Theresa, Stuart, and Kathryn. But they were, at least in their form a year earlier, the single most important people I think I’ll ever know.
I had few real friends, people I could just call up and talk to. Few people I would just hang out with. There were other kids in the neighbourhood and we would often play together, but although our parents were all very friendly, there were distances between all of us, our respective backgrounds, where we went to school, our own self-perceptions. None of them were people I could talk to.
For me, that was the onzaine. I could talk to them, any of them. And they would listen. Not because they had to, but because they were my friends. They taught me many of the skills in life that I needed to know, or at the very least gave me the foundations so that I could learn those skills. I was still terribly naive when I went to university, but I can only imagine how poorly I would have adapted if I had not known the onzaine.
In my heart, sitting in that little room in Kanata in the depths of summer 1992, I listened to Lost Together and thought about my friends: the people who took me into their group despite my utter lack of any artistic merit (they were all musicians or artists), weird behaviour, strange clothing habits (they did try to cure me of my duck shirt obsession), and sugar-induced hyperactivity. They were my safe place. I still think about them very fondly.
I don’t know exactly when the onzaine last got together as a group, that moment is lost to time. I can imagine a few potential instances – the end of the first university semester at Dave’s house, a birthday party in the summer of 1991, most likely the West Side Story wrap party in May(?) of 1991 – but I have neither the accurate memory nor a definitive photograph. It’s a bit sad to realize that at some point, we had our last moment together without knowing the future that was to come. But such is the fate for all friends over time, that a last moment will come and pass without notice or recognition.
In a way, Lost Together became my personal anthem for them, a song I might actually sing to them, if I ever had the balls to actually try doing that. (I still have a complete lack of confidence in my singing, I won’t even attempt it outside of my car.) But if there were an occasion, I might consider it.
Maybe after a drink or two.