Ralph was a guy I’d cross the street to avoid when I was a kid because Ralph liked to pummel other kids just for fun. That’s what greasers did in small towns. Pummel. Or pretend they were going to pummel.
So it took me another 15 years before I liked the guy. When I felt my health wasn’t in danger anymore.
Ralph was as greaser as you get. Slicked-back hair, leather jacket, chains, foul-mouthed, uncouth, liked to fight.
He also had lousy childhood – was poor, probably started fights as soon as he could walk, who didn’t fit in in most places, and if it wasn’t guys he was fighting out on the street, it was cops he was running from or getting handcuffed by.
I really wanted nothing to do with him. My life was about counterculture, something Ralph didn’t get whatsoever.
In our 20’s, Ralph and his new maniac wife Collette ended up living in Ottawa at the same time as me, and we all became friends somehow. He made me laugh like crazy. I was always laughing. I remember at my stag Ralph stuck his head in a container of ice and water until he was almost blue, and the next day I was driven home and Ralph fell out of the car and swam around in mud in the driveway.
We decided to make a night of it once, which meant taking Ralph and Collette to a fancy steakhouse, something which neither had ever been to before. They had never had a decent steak.
At the restaurant, Ralph’s steak came, a lovely little bundle of expensive meat, coming the way it usually comes. Ralph looked at it on his plate and asked the waitress where the steak was, that he wouldn’t pay two cents for a little turd like that. We convinced him to try it and when he did, his eyes lit up, dove into it, and declared the steak to be the finest thing he’d ever eaten.
The best thing that ever happened to Ralph and Collette came next, as we drove across the bridge to Hull to see the Olympiques play Trois Rivieres. Ralph and Collette weren’t big hockey fans but came with us anyway.
During the game a fight started on the ice, and Ralph yelled and probably shouted obsenities, but then that one small fight escalated into possibly the biggest hockey brawl I’ve ever seen. Every player, fans, blood all over the ice. Kind of like an old Habs-Nordiques donnybrook.
How beautiful was this for Ralph and Collette? They stood and shouted and laughed and threw phantom punches, and they were in seventh heaven as the thing went on for a long time, and kept Ralph and the old lady entertained liked they’d never been entertained before .
What a night for Ralph and Collette. They ate expensive steaks for the first time and saw a huge brawl at the game. Kind of a perfect evening, I suppose. I know I enjoyed it.
Eventually everyone went their separate ways but I would hear various pieces of news now and again that kind of closed the chapter completely – first Ralph was in jail, then Ralph and Collette divorced, then Collette died, and Ralph joined her some time after that.
It’s too bad it ended like this but somehow I’m not really surprised. Ralph and Collette never really had their shit together. I wonder if they had ever tried that steak thing again after that night? Or thought sometimes about the huge brawl in Hull that made them so happy.