Barclay Dowd

Barclay Dowd

Toronto, ON

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My best friend in Grade 5 was Bryan Eddy. He played the Captain and I played the Admiral (the Captain was the better role) in Cedar Street Elementary’s probably painful production of H.M.S. Pinafore. In Grade 6 Bryan started missing a few days of school, then a lot of school, then he was in hospital. I didn’t know what was wrong with him, just that he was tired all the time. Then he was gone. Dead. At some point someone told me it was leukemia, but as a kid that meant nothing to me. All I knew was that, somehow, my buddy was dead. I didn’t understand it as a kid, and the unfairness and arbitrary nature of the disease doesn’t make it any easier to understand as an adult. I’m dedicating my ride to Captain Bryan Eddy.

I volunteered as crew for last year’s cross-Canada ride. My expectations, founded on camp counsellor movies, were to work as many as two hours a day, possibly in fifteen-minute increments, with long, leisurely meals in between and more than two but probably less than six sightseeing excursions for every 24 hours spent on the road. What I got was kick cancer’s ass boot camp: sleep deprivation, steely-eyed determination, and OMG commitment. I still bear the psychic scars from our crew chief bringing me up to speed, but it was worth it. Like cancer, there’s no halfway with the ride. The intensity of the experience crushes (mostly for the better) interpersonal boundaries and forges lifetime friendships and comfort zones. It’s a good thing.

Since this is a rider’s bio, allow me to give you a few details of my life in point form:

A Brief History of Barc

Born in Montreal, Quebec on June 23, 1959

Dad was an old-fashioned, overweight, cigarette-smoking family doctor who worked out of his home, did house calls, and raised four boys with my mom, Betty. The family moved from Quebec to Ontario, with all the other Anglos, when the Separatistes took power in the late seventies.

Graduated in 1982 with a B.A. in Honours Business Administration from the University of Western Ontario (now referred to as the Ivey School of Business). The undergraduate business degree at Western (HBA) takes place during the third and fourth year – students apply at the end of second year – and is just a younger-person (which I used to be) version of the traditional two- year MBA.

After graduation, I ran away to the circus (again) to continue a summer job I began in 1980 as an advance man and billposter (2 weeks ahead of an Ontario-to-Newfoundland route, speaking to sponsors and arranging advertising, as well as putting up posters everywhere) for Martin & Downs Traveling Tent Circus. By 1983, the show had morphed into an arena circus, Super Circus International, and I was lured away from the only full-time job I ever had, as assistant box office manager at the Shaw Festival, to become marketing manager.

Over the winter of 1985/86, I built my first 18-hole semi-portable mini golf (“semi” because, despite my brilliant design, it was still stinkin’ heavy and awkward to transport and assemble), and settled at the Upper Canada Mall in Newmarket, north of Toronto. The first season was generally successful, with the possible exception of the $9000.00 embezzled by my sole employee: Weird Les. A one-time university roommate of my eldest brother, Les came recommended to me with the words “He’s weird, but honest.” Oops. Through the assistance of a police officer friend and a deeply-chagrined brother, we were able to recover $7000 of the money, but the experience resonated deeply as an eye-opener into the psychology of temptation.

After stops in Brampton and Burlington (Ontario) the following two summers, the course settled in Belleville, Ontario, at the Quinte Mall, where it has grown (36 holes since 1992) and thrived for 25 years and counting. Along the way I’ve built, operated, and sold 2 portable glow-in-the-dark courses, as well as building another full 18-hole outdoor course, opened in Kingston last summer.

Some of the things I’ve done in the on/off season that have helped to shape me….

Married (still) for over 25 years to June, wherein, by means known to many, we produced 2 boys and a girl, all apparently healthy and reasonably bright (the oldest is Fine Arts, middle child Health Sciences, and our 16-year old daughter is majoring in Facebook)

Five years ago, with all the kids in French Immersion, we yanked them out of school for October and November and spent two months in France, living in a beautiful home in a picturesque village in southern Burgundy. Using the home as a base of operations, we explored France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Ireland. Positive cliches abound with respect to family cohesion, shared new experience, and overall isn’t-this-cool-ness. Oh yeah.

I had power-of-attorney for both my parents and was principle caretaker for my dad, after Mom died unexpectedly.

To continue with the new theme, I’ve sung at two funerals in the last little while. I sang tenor in a quartet for a few years, and getting together with the boys and guitars and songs is still a regular feature of my life.

Shifting gears, let’s talk volunteerism: I’ve ridden the Ride to Conquer Cancer for the last three years (in Ontario it’s a 200km bicycle ride from Toronto to Niagara Falls) as a bike tech, helping broken-down, broken-assed riders; coached high school basketball; performed as one of two males “allowed”, by special dispensation from the playwright, in a local production of “The Vagina Monologues”, a fundraiser for the local Sexual Assault Centre; did school bingos; did school field trips; organized charity tournaments at my mini golf; helped  run a non-profit folk club; and once or twice held the door open for a complete stranger.

That’s enough to go on with. If you wish to read more light-hearted writing, I’ve created a daily webcomic as a fundraiser for the ride – see coasttocoastcomics.tumblr.com.

While the writing may or may not be funny, the goal is serious. Let’s get to a destination beyond cancer. Please support our ride in whatever way you can.

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