In one of my music classes that first year at the University of Windsor, was a lovely young woman named Vanessa. She was a singer, and she had a beautiful, lyrical soprano voice. Vanessa told me that, although she was living in one of the residence buildings, her home was in Grosse Point Park - one of the Detroit suburbs, and only a 20 minute drive from the University. I think she told me this because she wanted to impress me… but I had no idea that Grosse Point Park was one of the wealthiest suburbs of Detroit, and so her attempt was lost on me. I had no idea what she was talking about. I did find out though, when she took me to meet her folks. Vanessa had a small car and drove, giving me a thumbnail tour as we went. We passed houses owned by some very wealthy and famous families: Ford, Goodyear, and Rockefeller to name a few.
She turned into the driveway of one building and we got out. It was an odd-shaped building and I thought for sure that it was a some kind of apartment complex, but it seems we had arrived at the back entrance to her dad’s mansion. I walked in and was immediately overwhelmed by the wealth which surrounded me - I had never seen such opulence before in my life. Her dad had made his fortune in the fishing tackle business - indeed, his Helin Flatfish was famous the world over. Go figure! I did learn one thing though, he was a crotchety, bigoted, racist, anti-Semitic man with little use for anyone who wasn’t a WASP. He was an outspoken proponent of Objectivism and truly believed in the philosophy of Ayn Rand.
On one of our Friday night visits to Detroit, Vanessa and I went to see a new horror film, “The Exorcist". It had been released a week previously, had received high praise for its special effects and, unbeknownst to me, was being viewed in its original, uncut version - something which was never seen in Canada. I had never heard of exorcism, and I had no idea what the fuss was about… but I did learn though - and I learned it very quickly. This was the most frightening film I’d ever seen - gruesome, even gory in every detail concerning the possession of the little girl in the story. The movie literally scared the wits out of me.
My roommate, Jerry (affectionately known to his friends as “Shep"), was visiting his folks near Toronto that weekend and so I was alone in our room when Vanessa finally brought me back. Every time I tried to sleep, I kept having a nightmare that I was the young priest in the film, and was falling backwards out of the upstairs window while being possessed by the demon. This happened over and over again, and I couldn’t shut out the image. I turned on the light and my radio, and I put a machete under my pillow and tried to sleep as best I could. It wasn’t until Shep returned on Sunday evening that I felt comfortable sleeping with the lights off - and it was about 10 years before I finally stopped having those nightmarish dreams. Oh, I didn’t have them all the time, but two or three times a year I’d suffer their agony.
Shep having a blank moment
I remember that Shep and I both cut our Christmas vacation short that year to return to Windsor so that we could be with our women on New Year’s Eve. I can’t remember Shep’s girlfriend’s name (Kay?), but I do recall that, after ringing in the new year with a toast and a kiss from our respective dates, the four of us collapsed on the bed with all our clothes on. Vanessa and I only dated for another week or so before we broke up. I’m not sure why we broke up, but I suspect it was because she wasn’t ready for any kind of relationship.
Despite Vanessa’s father, a year later I developed a strong love for the novels of Ayn Rand and the philosophy of Objectivism.