The first time I ever met my friend Stephen Good (who, at the time, confusingly enough, was named Stephen Elliott) was on the lawn of 107 Hazlitt Street in Peterborough, Ontario.
Stephen was spreading out a collection of soaking wet ephemera that belonged to the absentee owner of the house. The previous tenants of the house had fled in mid-winter, leaving the door wide open, causing the pipes to burst, causing there to be 3 feet of ice through much of the house for 1/2 the winter. Which encased said ephemera in ice, and rendered it soaking wet come spring.
And this just wasn’t any ephemera. The owner of the house collected everything: telephone books from 1973, endless reams of newsletters, books, brochures, and so on. He was a linguist. He was a pack rat. He was weird.
And somehow it had fallen to Stephen to be his agent. Stephen was the guy who had to dry everything out, and was under strict orders not to throw anything away.
The reason that I met Stephen that day was because my friend Simon Shields (who is still named Simon Shields to this day, but who used to eat meat and was a militant vegetarian storming the gates of Marineland last time in checked in) had decided that it would be a good and cheap idea for the two of us to move into the sodden shell of a house.
And it was cheap. And in its own special way, it was good: the house sat right on a beautiful park, at the end of a street, within view of the Otonabee River, over which you could take a foot bridge and be in downtown Peterborough in 5 minutes. If you squinted your eyes, you could imagine that you were in a country estate.
But of course you were also living with a collection of soggy, moldy 1973 telephone books, in a house with plumbing held together with duct tape. You had to squint your eyes a lot.
Simon and I had many interesting days at 107 Hazlitt Street, culminating in a shocking robbery on my last day of residence in which nefarious criminals broke in, stole all of my cassette tapes, my late grandfather’s Philishave, and my other late grandfather’s Olympus Trip 35 camera, and then poured strong smelling aftershave over everything else I owned, following up by sprinkling it all with sea salt. I spent several years de-encrusting my life’s possessions and living in a salty tasting, Old Spicey world.
As that summer played out, I met Nancy, Stephen’s wife at the time, and we spent many happy nights watching thirtysomething
and It’s Garry Shandling’s Show together in their little house around the corner.
Fast forward 15 years: Stephen’s changed his last name, has divorced and remarried, has 4 kids (one of which, Anna, I am the God Father of), has trained as both a librarian and a lawyer, and is living and working in Lubbock, Texas. Oh, and he Found God.
For years now Stephen has been sending me long letters with no paragraph breaks. Originally these were written on manual typewriters, then on electric typewriters, and finally via email. The only downside to the conversion to email is that he can no longer send me vintage Heaven Can Wait laserdisks and old copies of the Whole Earth Catalog.
I have known and kept in touch with Stephen longer than almost anyone else I know. At times it’s been a challenge — it’s hard to be a Godless heathen when you’re corresponding with someone who is prone to starting sentences like “I remember what Jesus said about bowling…” But we’ve worked out a common ground (he leaves out direct God references and I leave out my constant questioning as to the actual existence of God), and I’m sure we’ll be friends until we die.
This is all a very long introduction to GoodStephen.com, which I created for Stephen late last week. He’s just getting warmed up. Watch that space.