Jim and Johnny: A Tale of Bikes, Music and Our Shared Imperialistic Past

I’ve spent a lot of time out on the porch this week. It’s been great. I’ve discovered that I love puttering around in the fog, talking to myself and the dog while listening to fifty cent records. I got a few things done too: I finally finished work on my bicycle (pictures coming soon), and I’ve had the opportunity to meet many a neighbor since the bike serves as perfect fodder for small-talk (“Still polishing that old thing, eh? By the time you’re done, there will be nothing left!”).

One of these neighbors calls himself Jim: other people call him that too. Jim’s a good ol’ boy. We hung out at the most recent housing co-operative feast and when the party was over he apologized for “talking my ear off”, even though I loved every minute of his long and detailed monologues. I’d guess Jim’s about eighty years old– he walks with a limp.

One morning, as he walked past with his dog, the sound of Jim Reeves‘ voice from my stereo above stopped him in his tracks.

“You like that old country music, young fella?”

I dropped my wrench.

“Yeah! I’ve been listening it a lot as I’ve come upon some hard luck recently. I love Reeves, especially, his song “Bimbo” inspired my alter ego-DJ handle.”

Jim was confused at first, but he quickly shook it off.

“Well then lad, I’ve got something for you to take a look at. I’ll be back in ten minutes”

He came back, proudly carrying a Johnny Cash album under his arm. I’d never seen before. It’s called “Bitter Tears“.

“I had to confiscate this from some young guy when I was working for the RCMP ’bout fifty years back. Took it home though, and I’ve been listening to it ever since—some good stuff on there, you should give it a spin.”

I’ve been dropping my needle on the album continually since then. I am amazed, not only by the music, but by Cash’s deep and abiding sympathy toward aboriginal peoples. These songs are just as, if not more, relevant now than in 1963, when it was released. Lots of talk about poisoned water, about pillaging, and about destruction toward aboriginal peoples.

I’ve since discovered that Jim agrees that aboriginal peoples were mistreated in the United States. He is quick to emphasize, however, that “Canada is a different story”. I’ve been playing dumb, biting my tongue, a lot. I hope to talk with him about Canada’s own, sordid story one day, when the time is right: I’ll let you know how it turns out. But in the meantime, give the album a listen and lemme know what you think.


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