The unlikely story of a septuagenarian zinester
by Kelly Anderson
Terry McAdorey always wanted to be a bum. As a boy, he idolized the hobos he met during the Depression that would wind up eating sandwiches on his parents’ stoop in Niagara Falls. He would sit with them and listen, wide-eyed, as they recounted adventures that seemed as unlikely as they were maddeningly exciting. To his boyhood self, they were the ultimate story-tellers. Now 78-years-old and long since retired from his job as a real estate agent, McAdorey’s finally channeling his long neglected dream of becoming a drifter raconteur.
Cornelius P. McStone — McAdorey’s alter ego — was born eight years ago when McStone wrote an indignantly hilarious letter responding to a note his daughter received from a neighbour requesting she cut down a tree. All his life he’d used birthday cards to his family and letters to his children (addressed from Santa Claus, God or their dead grandmother) as his medium. But after reading the gag letter, his daughter insisted that he should be compiling his writing and graffiti-style art into zines. Of course, she had to explain what a zine was first.
Since his first zine, As I Sat On My Dead Grandmother’s Knee (reviewed in issue 26 of Broken Pencil as “positive proof that you don’t have to get all boring and stuffy as you age”), McAdorey has published three others on his own — This Little Piggy Went to Hogtown, No Time to Waste and The Amazing Adventures of Arlington Lyndon Milkowski McPie — and one in collaboration with his eight-year-old grandson Arlyn, Amazing Adventures of Silver Eagle (pictured above). (“He has about a 70 year start on me as a [zinester],” says McAdorey about his grandson, with whom he shared a table at Canzine last year.)
McAdorey’s zines are filled with the kinds of poems that make you wince as much as smile. Consider the classic “A Gentleman of Independent Means” from No Time to Waste: “If you hear rumours/like that all I ever do is hang downtown/farting through polyester and/
swapping lies with other downtown bums/they’re not really true/I never wear polyester.”
A piece from the same zine, entitled “Where Is Murray Westgate,” takes a different tone, commenting on the fleeting nature of time and mortality. In the long poem, the zinester lists long-forgotten musicians, broadcasters, writers, jazz clubs and pubs whose fading legacies belie the mark they once left on Canada. “I bet if I asked 100 people nobody would know who Murray Westgate was. He was on Hockey Night in Canada,” he says. “And it goes the same for so many of the people in that poem. I wasn’t trying to name drop, but [just communicate] the idea that so many of these people were huge when they were here and now they’re gone. Just enjoy yourself because you might be gone.”
Harkening back to his one-time dream of being a Depression-era drifter, he’s presently working on a new character: a street person who’s had a long and varied life. His next work will likely be more of a short novella than a zine, says McAdorey, who thinks the work will have “so many pages I won’t know how to staple them!”
In retirement, McAdorey claims to have finally fulfilled his unlikely boyhood ambition. “Basically I am a bum. That’s what I’ve always wanted to be, but you can’t raise a family and be a street person.”
Kelly Anderson gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the Ontario Arts Council’s Writers’ Reserve Program.