“Alright, first try” exclaimed Ivan. He paused for comedic effect then followed with, “I don’t know how to start”. “We all know how it’ll end,” quipped Dmitri. I was sitting spellbound at the 1979 Vancouver Folk Festival watching the Flying Karamozov Brothers vaudeville juggling troupe. This was their ‘challenge’ act where audience members are invited to hand in bizarre objects to be chosen by the crowd and then juggled by ‘the champ’.
My audacious new friend Angus had seen the act before and brought along a specially prepared offering. It was a baby’s diaper – full of poop – and naturally it became one of the items the lively audience selected to be juggled. As the K’s played professionally with the humour the prop provided, everyone present roared in anticipation of the repugnant outcome even, as they wrapped it in a plastic bag. For me the impact of that juggling diaper went far beyond all the painful belly aching laughter I endured. What followed radically changed the direction of my life’s journey.
Immediately after the show Angus introduced me to Andy, the FKB’s tour driver, and soon after they taught me how to juggle three balls. It was really hard at first, maybe because I was using solid rubber lacrosse balls, but step by step I progressed. From that day forward I became well and truly hooked on the fun of juggling, all the places it took me and all the people it connected me with.
Maybe it was because I had been a cricket wicket keeper, played a lot of basketball and had a natural affinity for ball games but I took to this new hobby instantly. I carried those lacrosse balls with me everywhere and my spare moments from that time were spent practicing and playing with my new passion. I remember waiting for a friend outside a store in Victoria, totally engrossed in learning new juggling tricks, when an elderly couple walking by then stopped and proclaimed, “ it looks like fun but you’ll never make a living doing that.” Being petrified of performing at that time, I fully concurred with their wisdom but, years later, I discovered how wrong they were!
Back in Canada the following summer I hung out with Andy and Angus and met Moshe. This new age, roving, vaudevillian hippie performed on ferries and at festivals and had children flocking around him like a modern pied piper. I quickly grew to envy his lifestyle and his magnetism for attracting kids. This dynamic trio taught me new tricks and after setting me loose with their juggling clubs and I immediately started to learn the basics of an exciting new juggling skill and ways of playing with my new friends.
I returned to the Caribbean for another year and did a tiny bit of juggling but, without the inspiration of other jugglers, I seldom practiced. One day a passing sailboat crew member busted out a four ball juggling pattern on the beach and my eyes reopened to the limitless possibilities of my new hobby. I knew I wanted to learn more but had to patiently wait a year or more, until my return to Canada, for that to happen.
When I told Angus about my plans to return to the Caribbean in 1980 and start a community in Dominica he decided to join me there. Traveling first to St. Lucia, I accepted an invitation to live with some Rastas in Anse la Raye village. Meanwhile, Angus arrived in Dominica and, attempting to fund his trip by street performing. It was then that he witnessed third world poverty, first hand, from appreciative audiences who literally had nothing to put in his beaten up old hat except their thanks. I’m guessing he was probably the very first white person they ever saw asking for money on the streets and it must have blown their minds. I still find it hard to imagine!
Not surprisingly, Angus had some tough encounters in the islands and decided not to stay long in the Caribbean. Within a year I had returned to Canada and got an offer to move to Hawaii. It was Angus who adamantly encouraged me to leave St.Lucia. After his own harrowing experiences dealing with the stresses of daily life down there, and hearing about my attempted mugging, he pushed hard for me to take the softer, kinder and gentler option of a life in Hawaii. Thanks again Angus you set me on the right path! We met again soon after when he unexpectedly arrived in Hawaii, on holiday with his parents. We juggled and swapped ganga growing stories and I sent him packing with a big bag of seeds that were not commonly available in B.C. back in those dark and distant days of prohibition.
In 1986 while traveling around the north west coast Angus invited me to visit his mining claim along the Fraser River valley. He said it was remote and he didn’t exaggerate. After driving my rental car twenty miles on dusty, potholed, gravel logging roads I stopped – totally blocked by an avalanche. Angus picked me up on his motorbike and we traversed the twisty mountain track another few miles to his abode. Sat high above the deep river gorge was ‘Mona’ an ancient camper truck that he’d somehow managed to drive in before the mountain slid down permanently closing off the road. He had a fixed abode but no street address and no neighbours but the view was worth a million bucks.
Mining had ended decades ago but the British Colombia government still issued land claims and Angus had applied and had successfully got one. He didn’t own the land but he could live there. The government presumed he would dig for gold but Angus intended to grow ganga, in peace and tranquility, and he did blissfully for many years.
While on my visit, Angus suggested we do a bit of renegade fishing. Early in the day, we careened down a 1000 ft scree face to the river valley. It was like skiing, with broken rock instead of snow and heavy boots instead of ski’s. I was rather perplexed by our lack of any gear until Angus took me into a deserted miners shack and unveiled his secret stash. He described fishing Indian-style and, taking a hooped net on a pole, he walked out onto a rocky promontory sticking into the river and swept the implement through the murky, mud-laden water. I’d fished tiddlers in lakes, ponds and rivers and caught some whoppers off the back of sailboats and even hooked a couple of silvery salmon up in the Gulf Islands but I’d never experienced this form of fishing. On his very first demonstration sweep Angus netted a twenty pound sparkling beauty yelling gleefully, “this is how we do it up here.” Well, of course, I went next and did my sweeps, again and again. It must have taken me a hundred attempts before I replicated Angus’s success and realised how amazing his catch, in one try, really was. We landed about half a dozen then returned to the mine shack where we lit a fire. Using a big boiler pot and dozens of jars, Angus magically produced, we canned his winter supply of tasty fresh salmon just before dusk.
Exhausted back at his camper we settled with fish full bellies enjoying the expansive sun set vista stretching for thirty miles across the majestic Fraser river valley and far downstream. This was the view obtained while sitting on the unique open-to-all-elements privy Angus set up on top of his mountain roost. It was a one of a kind, renegade feature.
In the early ’90’s Angus made it back to Hawaii to check out Bellyacres and became a welcomed addition to our juggling community experiment. In one of our tiny bungalows in the jungle he taught a series of Reiki classes and I became certified as a level 1 student by Master Angus. Unfortunately, soon after, his seemingly isolated mining claim in B.C. became prone to helicopter raids when marijuana eradication efforts went viral in the mid ’90’s. Angus lost his illicit crop, paid some dues and lost his freedom to travel to the U.S. which ended his involvement in Bellyacres and busking stateside. How strange that thirty years later Maryjane is legal in Canada, permits are issued to Angus and thousands of other renegade growers and, while dispensaries are found on every high street, he remains banned from visiting the U.S. and Bellyacres lost a valued member.
Still seeking a place in paradise Angus, invested in hilltop property in Yalapa, Mexico in the mid ’90’s and has been fixing it up ever since. He maintains an annual routine of spending winters there and summers in the idyllic mountain town of Nelson. Known as “The Queen City” because of its impressive collection of restored heritage buildings, from its glory days in a regional silver rush, Nelson is located on Kootenay Lake in the B.C. interior. After becoming home to U.S. draft dodgers in the Vietnam war, it has grown into a vibrant culture and arts community fuelled to a large extent by the, previously illicit, marijuana business. It’s no wonder that Angus and several other good friends of mine love living there.
Angus continues to roam from B.C. to Central America sharing his juggling and magic wherever he goes. He remains a dedicated renegade who refuses to let anything mess with his joy of living.
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