Transcript: Memories of My Brother | Jul 18, 2019

Nam sits in the studio. She's in her early forties, with shoulder length curly brown hair. She's wearing glasses, a black blazer over a blue blouse, and a gold chain necklace.

A caption on screen reads "Memories of my brother. Nam Kiwanuka, @namshine, @theagenda."

Nam says HOW DO YOU WRITE THE STORY OF
SOMEONE WHO WAS LARGER THAN LIFE
BUT MOSTLY UNKNOWN?
WHO WAS MAYBE A GENIUS
BUT UNCONVENTIONALLY SO?
WHO WAS YOUR OLDER BROTHER,
BUT SO MUCH MORE?
AUTHOR HAROLD R. JOHNSON
TOOK UP THAT CHALLENGE.
THE BOOK IS CALLED
CLIFFORD
AND WE'RE PLEASED IT BRINGS
HIM BACK TO OUR STUDIO.

A picture of his book appears briefly on screen. The cover features a picture of an old wooden chair missing a leg.
Harold is in his seventies, clean-shaven, with long straight white hair in two braids. He's wearing glasses and a blue shirt.

Nam continues WELCOME BACK.

Harold says NICE TO MEET YOU.

NAM SAYS IT'S NICE TO
MEET YOU.
SO I HAVE MANY BROTHERS
AND SISTERS
AND I DON'T KNOW IF I WOULD
WRITE A BOOK ABOUT ANY OF THEM
[CHUCKLES]
EVEN THOUGH
I LOVE THEM DEARLY.
WHY DID YOU WANT TO WRITE A BOOK
ABOUT YOUR BROTHER?

Harold says I LOST HIM EARLY,
AND WHEN HE WAS HERE
WE HAD REALLY INTERESTING
CONVERSATIONS,
AND THEN HE'S GONE.
AND OUR CONVERSATIONS WERE
ALWAYS ABOUT IDEAS,
AND WE SHARED IDEAS.
WITH HIS PASSING,
I DIDN'T STOP HAVING IDEAS.

NAM SAYS BUT YOU DIDN'T HAVE HIM
TO SHARE THEM WITH.

Harold says I DIDN'T HAVE ANYONE TO SHARE
THEM WITH,
SO WRITING
CLIFFORD
ALLOWED
ME TO SHARE MY IDEAS
WITH AN OLDER BROTHER.

Nam says IN THE BOOK YOU WRITE ABOUT WHY
YOU SHOULD WRITE THE STORY.
YOU WRITE...

A quote appears on screen, under the title "Telling Clifford's story." The quote reads "I should write Clifford's story. The thought emerges fully formed. But how? What would the structure look like? What voice would I use. Biography. Maybe.
I have enough material. But writing biography requires following a strict form. Clifford would never fit in that form. He would come out all caricature, a false image of who he was. No, to write Clifford and reveal his true self requires that I write him as fiction."
Quoted from Harold R. Johnson, "Clifford." 2018.

Nam says SO THIS BOOK FACT OR FICTION?

Harold says IT IS FACT AND SOME OF IT
IS PROBABLY FICTION.
WHEN HE PUT ME INTO A BUBBLE
AND DIRECTED ME INTO OUTER SPACE
USING THOUGHT ENERGY,
THAT'S PROBABLY FICTION.

NAM SAYS YOU MADE THAT UP
IN YOUR HEAD?

HAROLD JOHNSON SAYS YES.

Nam says YOU WRITE A LOT ABOUT MEMORY.
HOW DO WE KNOW
TO TRUST OUR MEMORIES?

The caption changes to "Harold R. Johnson. Author, 'Clifford.'"
Then, it changes again to "Fact or fiction?"

Harold says I DON'T THINK WE CAN.
MY VERY FIRST MEMORY ON THIS
PLANET IS WALKING INTO A CABIN,
FROM BRIGHT SUNLIGHT
INTO A DARKENED CABIN.
AND OPENED THE DOOR
AND WAIT FOR MY EYES
TO ADJUST TO THE DARKNESS,
AND THE FIRST THING I SEE
IS MY MOTHER AND MY AUNT,
AND THE IMAGE IS VERY CLEAR,
BUT MY MOTHER AND MY AUNT
ARE TO MY RIGHT BESIDE A WINDOW.
AND THAT IS IMPOSSIBLE,
BECAUSE THAT CABIN DID NOT
HAVE A WINDOW ON THAT SIDE.
THAT WOULD HAVE
BEEN THE NORTH WALL,
AND YOU DON'T PUT WINDOWS
ON THE NORTH WALL OF CABINS.
SO MY MEMORY, PERFECTLY CLEAR
IMAGE, HAS TO BE A MIRROR IMAGE,
IT HAS TO BE REVERSED.
SO I DON'T TRUST
ANY OF MY MEMORIES.

NAM SAYS WELL, WRITING THIS BOOK YOU
DO HAVE A LOT OF MEMORIES
ABOUT YOUR BROTHER
AND YOUR RELATIONSHIP,
SO HOW DID YOU KNOW WHICH ONES
TO TRUST... THAT THEY WERE REAL?

Harold says I JUST TRUST THAT THEY WERE ALL
REAL AT SOME POINT,
THEY WERE REAL TO ME.
SO I JUST RELIED ON THE MEMORIES
THAT I HAVE.
I CAN'T GUARANTEE
THAT THEY'RE ABSOLUTELY TRUE.
I'M SURE PEOPLE WHO WERE THERE
WHO EXPERIENCED THE SAME THING
AS ME WOULD REMEMBER
IT A DIFFERENT WAY.

Nam says AND THROUGHOUT THE BOOK YOU HAVE
OBJECTS THAT ARE ASSOCIATED
WITH DIFFERENT MEMORIES.
YOU DRAW UPON ON A CHAIR...

Harold says YES...

Nam says A HULA HOOP, PENCIL STUBS.
WHY ARE CERTAIN OBJECTS SUCH
POWERFUL MEMORY STORES?

The caption changes to "Object lessons."

Harold says I DON'T KNOW WHY IT WORKS,
I JUST... IT WORKED.
PUT AN IMAGE TO THE READER
AND THEY WILL SEE IT THEMSELVES
AND THEN FILL IN THE EMPTY
SPOTS FOR THEM A LITTLE BIT
WITH A BIT OF STORY.
THE IMAGES ARE THERE
TO HOLD THE STORY TOGETHER.

NAM SAYS I READ THIS BOOK
A FEW WEEKS AGO,
AND IN MY MIND
I STILL HAVE THAT IMAGE
OF THE THREE-LEGGED CHAIR.

HAROLD SAYS YEAH.

Nam says WHY IS IT SUCH
A POWERFUL MEMORY?
IT'S NOT MY STORY,
IT'S YOUR STORY,
BUT NOW IT FEELS LIKE
IT'S BECOME PART OF MY MEMORY.

HAROLD SAYS BECAUSE THERE'S ONE LEG
THAT'S BROKEN,
AND YOU SEE THE CHAIR
WITH A BROKEN LEG
AND YOU WONDER
WHAT HAPPENED TO THAT LEG.
AND I NEVER TELL YOU.
BUT THERE'S A STORY
IN THE IMAGE
THAT YOU'RE TRYING
TO SEE FOR YOURSELF.

Nam says NOW, THE CHAIR IN YOUR MEMORY,
IT'S TIED TO MEMORIES
OF YOUR FATHER, WHILE THE HULA
HOOP WAS LINKED TO YOUR BROTHER;
WHY WAS THE CHAIR THE RIGHT
IMAGE FOR THE BOOK COVER?

Harold says BECAUSE OF... AGAIN,
THE BROKEN LEG IS IMPORTANT.
THE METAPHOR, OF COURSE,
IS THE THREE STANDING LEGS,
WHICH ARE MY MOTHER,
MY FATHER, AND MY BROTHER.
MY FATHER... I DIDN'T SEE THIS,
I WAS TOLD LATER BY MY MOTHER;
THAT MY FATHER WAS HAVING
HEART ATTACKS IN EARLY 1960S,
WHEN THERE WERE NO BYPASSES
AND THERE WAS NO SURGERY
AND ALL THEY COULD GIVE
THEM WAS ASPIRIN.
AND HE WAS HAVING HEART ATTACKS,
AND HE WOULD SIT
IN A WOODEN CHAIR
AND HOLD ON AND TELL MY MOTHER
TO PUT THE CHILDREN OUTSIDE
SO WE WOULDN'T SEE HIM.
AND I WAS VERY CLOSE
WITH MY FATHER,
AND THAT STORY THAT MY
MOTHER TOLD ME ABOUT HIM
HAD A BIG IMPACT ON ME.

NAM SAYS IN WHAT WAYS?

Harold says I DIDN'T SEE MY FATHER... WHEN MY
FATHER DIED IT WAS A SURPRISE
I DIDN'T KNOW THAT HE WAS SICK.
I DIDN'T UNDERSTAND
WHAT WAS GOING ON
AND I CAME HOME ONE
DAY FROM SCHOOL
AND MY MOTHER WAS
PACKING UP HIS STUFF.
HE DIED THAT MORNING.
AND EVERYBODY ASSUMED THAT
BECAUSE I WAS EIGHT YEARS OLD,
I DIDN'T UNDERSTAND IT.
I WAS TOLD THAT I HAD TO GO BACK
TO SCHOOL IN THE AFTERNOON.
SO THAT WHOLE
EXPERIENCE,
AND TRYING TO REMEMBER
MY FATHER,
WHEN I DREW ON THE IMAGE
OF THE CHAIR
THAT'S WHAT I WANTED
TO PUT INTO IT.

Nam says AND OVER THE CHAIR THERE'S AN
IMAGE OF MATHEMATICAL EQUATIONS.

HAROLD SAYS YES.

NAM SAYS WHY?

A close-up of the book reveals mathematical equations drawn in thin white lines over the picture of the broken chair.

HAROLD SAYS THAT'S THE... CLIFFORD
WANTED TO BE THE SCIENTIST.
SO THERE'S THIS... THE BOOK IS,
THAT'S WHAT THE BOOK IS ABOUT.
I DIDN'T SET OUT TO WRITE A BOOK
ABOUT GRIEF
AND THE PASSING OF SOMEONE;
I SET OUT TO WRITE A BOOK
ABOUT IDEAS AND SHARING IDEAS.
I'VE HEARD PEOPLE COME BACK
TO ME AND SAY,
"I READ YOUR BOOK
AND IT REALLY REMINDED ME
OF MY RELATIONSHIP
WITH MY SIBLING WHO HAS PASSED,
OR SOMEONE IN MY FAMILY
WHO HAS PASSED,
IT HELPED ME TO DEAL WITH IT."
THAT ISN'T WHY I WROTE THE BOOK.
I WROTE THE BOOK
BECAUSE I WANTED TO SHARE IDEAS.
I HOPED THAT SOME
OF THE PASSAGES
WOULD MAKE PEOPLE LAUGH, AND...

NAM SAYS THEY DID.

The caption changes to "Harold R. Johnson, @haroldrjohnson."

Harold says THEY DID.
AND TO MAKE YOU FEEL A LITTLE
BIT EMOTIONALLY... TO TOUCH YOU,
TOUCH THE READERS
SO THAT THEY'D FEEL SOMETHING.
BUT MOSTLY I WANTED TO BRING OUT
SOME IDEAS
AND SHARE THESE IDEAS,
AROUND PHYSICS, AROUND SCIENCE.

Nam says IT'S INTERESTING THAT WHAT YOU
JUST SAID
ABOUT WHY YOU WROTE
THE BOOK,
BECAUSE THROUGHOUT
THE BOOK IF FEELS LIKE
YOU ARE TRYING TO RECONNECT
WITH YOUR BROTHER,
BUT ALSO YOU MISS HIM.

HAROLD SAYS YEAH.

Nam says AND YOU GO ON THIS JOURNEY
WHERE YOU'RE ALONE;
I GOT THE SENSE
THAT IT WAS,
YOU WERE GRIEVING FOR
THE LOSS OF YOUR BROTHER
AND YOU DIDN'T HAVE A CHANCE TO
MAKE THINGS RIGHT BETWEEN YOU,
OR SO YOU THOUGHT.

Harold says THE WRITING OF THIS BOOK
IS COMPLETELY DIFFERENT
THAN ANY OTHER BOOK
I'VE EVER WRITTEN.
USUALLY I SIT DOWN AND I WRITE
A BOOK FROM BEGINNING TO END,
DO A QUICK EDIT ON IT,
AND BASICALLY SEND THE FIRST
DRAFT OFF TO THE PUBLISHER.
CLIFFORD
DIDN'T WORK THAT WAY.
I WROTE A BOOK,
I KNEW IT WASN'T ANY GOOD.
I SENT IT TO A FRIEND.
THE FRIEND GOT BACK TO ME
AND SAID, "THAT'S THREE BOOKS."
CLIFFORD
IS THE FIRST
OF THAT SET THAT I'VE WRITTEN.
AND I WROTE IT AND THERE'S
A SCENE WHERE MY BROTHER DIES
AND I FIND OUT THAT HE'S DEAD,
AND WHEN I FIRST WROTE THE BOOK
I PUT THAT SCENE
AT THE END... THAT'S THE ENDING.
AND ONE OF THE PEOPLE
WHO HELPED EDIT IT SAID,
"TAKE THAT SCENE
AND PUT IT AT THE FRONT."
AND SO I TRIED THAT
AND IT WORKED.
IT ALLOWED ME TO PUT MY GRIEVING
INTO THE BOOK.
SO IT WORKED REALLY WELL, AND I
COULD SAY ALL OF THESE THINGS
WHEREAS IN THE FIRST DRAFT
I COULDN'T TALK ABOUT HIS DEATH
BECAUSE THAT'S THE ENDING
AND YOU DON'T TELL THE ENDING
IN THE BEGINNING OF THE BOOK.
SO IT WORKED,
AND THEN WE GET TO THE PUBLISHER
AND THEY WANT TO MOVE THAT SCENE
TO THE BACK OF THE BOOK AGAIN,
BUT WE LEFT
ALL OF THE GRIEVING IN.
SO I'VE GOT THIS BOOK WRITTEN,
AND I'M TRYING TO BE HONEST;
FOR ME IT'S REALLY IMPORTANT
THAT I BE HONEST IN THE WRITING.
I'M WRITING FICTION BUT I STILL
WANT TO BE HONEST ABOUT IT.
I'VE GOT THE BOOK DONE
AND READ IT THROUGH
AND THERE'S SOMETHING MISSING,
IT'S NOT COMPLETELY HONEST,
AND I HAVE TO TALK ABOUT
WHEN I BETRAYED MY BROTHER
TO MAKE IT REAL.
AND MAYBE I DID TOO MUCH
OF THAT SIDE,
TOO MUCH OF THE GRIEVING
AND EMOTIONAL SIDE,
OR BUILT IT UP TOO MUCH.
AND I'M NOT GETTING THE FEEDBACK
ABOUT THE SCIENCE
THAT I WAS HOPING
THAT I WAS GOING TO HAVE,
I THOUGHT I WAS GOING
TO OPEN UP
SOME CONVERSATIONS
ABOUT QUANTUM PHYSICS
AND THE LAWS OF THE UNIVERSE,
AND MAYBE WE'VE SOLVED
"THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING."

NAM SAYS WELL, LET'S GET
INTO THAT,
YOUR RELATIONSHIP
BETWEEN YOU AND CLIFFORD.
YOU WOULD TALK ABOUT MANY IDEAS
AND USUALLY HE WOULD PROMPT YOU.
AND EARLY IN THE BOOK YOU WRITE...

Another quote from the book appears on screen under the title "Two planets." The quote reads "There were two planets, Clifford and I, that were caught in each other's magnetic field and we orbited around Dad."

Nam says USING THAT METAPHOR,
WHAT WAS YOUR FATHER LIKE?

The caption changes to "Father figure."

HAROLD SAYS MY FATHER
WAS REALLY QUIET.
HE DIDN'T SPEAK UNLESS
HE HAD SOMETHING TO SAY.
SO WE DIDN'T KNOW ANYTHING
ABOUT HIM FROM 1914 TO 1941
WHEN HE SHOWS UP
IN NORTHERN SASKATCHEWAN,
WE KNOW VERY LITTLE ABOUT HIM.
HE'S OF SWEDISH ANCESTRY,
TRAPPER AND A FISHERMAN,
WHO WAS JUST THIS PRESENCE;
THIS CALM, PEACEFUL PRESENCE
IN OUR LIVES,
AND HE'S STABILITY.

NAM SAYS AND HE MEANT A LOT TO YOU
AND TO CLIFFORD?

HAROLD SAYS YES.

Nam says AT THE END OF YOUR DAD'S LIFE,
HE'S AT THE HOSPITAL
AND HE ASKS TO SEE CLIFFORD.
HOW DID THAT MAKE YOU FEEL,
THAT HE DIDN'T ASK TO SEE YOU?

Harold says YEAH, WHY NOT ME?
I'M THE ONE WHO LOVED HIM.
HE MEANT EVERYTHING TO ME.
HE WAS THE ONE
WHO COULD UNDERSTAND ME,
'CAUSE I DIDN'T SPEAK VERY WELL
AND HE COULD UNDERSTAND MY WORDS
WHEN I BARELY HAD WORDS.
MY MOTHER... I COME FROM A FAMILY
WITH NINE SIBLINGS.
MY MOTHER WAS VERY BUSY
AND MY FATHER TOOK CARE OF ME,
AND LOOKED AFTER ME SO THAT MY
MOTHER WOULD HAVE TIME
TO DO ALL OF HER OTHER WORK.
SO I FELT THIS REALLY STRONG
CONNECTION TO MY FATHER,
AND THEN HE'S IN THE HOSPITAL
AND HE ASKS TO SEE
MY OLDER BROTHER.
AND A BIT OF JEALOUSY,
LIKE, "WHY HIM; WHY NOT ME?
I'M THE ONE WHO LOVES HIM."
AND NOW THAT I'M A PARENT
AND I HAVE CHILDREN... I SEE THE SKILL
THAT HE HAD,
PROBABLY EVERY ONE
OF HIS CHILDREN BELIEVED
THAT THEY WERE
HIS FAVOURITE.

NAM SAYS YOU UNDERSTAND HIM BETTER
NOW SINCE YOU'RE A PARENT.

Harold says YEAH.

NAM SAYS YOU ALSO WRITE
ABOUT YOUR MOTHER,
HER NAME
IS MARY ELIZABETH JOHNSON,
BUT YOU ALSO WRITE ABOUT
THE EARTH AS A MOTHERING
AND HEALING INFLUENCE.
WHAT'S THE BIGGEST DIFFERENCE
BETWEEN THOSE TWO MOTHERS
FOR YOU?

The caption changes to "A mother's influence."

Harold says WELL, MARY ELIZABETH JOHNSON
TAUGHT ME
THAT MOTHER EARTH WAS THERE
AND THAT SHE WAS HEALING.
AFTER MY FATHER DIED MY MOTHER
TOOK ME UP THE TRAPLINE,
AND WE SPENT TIME
SLEEPING OUTDOORS.
I LEARNED ABOUT HEALING,
AND SHE DIDN'T TELL IT TO ME,
SHE SHOWED ME
HOW MOTHER EARTH
COULD HEAL ME
BY TAKING ME UP THE TRAPLINE... BY MAKING ME HEALTHY
BY BEING OUT THERE.

NAM SAYS WELL, THERE IS A MOMENT
IN THE BOOK
WHEN YOUR AUNT SAYS THIS ABOUT YOU.
YOUR AUNT SAYS, "A PALE,
SICK KID WENT UP THE TRAPLINE
AND A TANNED,
HEALTHY BOY CAME BACK."
HOW IMPORTANT WAS YOUR MOM
IN FOSTERING YOUR CONNECTION
TO THE LAND AND ITS POWERS?

Harold says WE WERE
ON THE TRAPLINE
AND I WAS WALKING
BEHIND HER... IT WAS MARCH.
I REMEMBER EVERYTHING
ABOUT THOSE MINUTES,
I REMEMBER WHERE THE SUN WAS,
IT WAS TO THE SOUTHWEST,
THE SKY WITH MOSTLY BLUE,
THERE WAS A FEW WISPY CLOUDS.
THE WIND WAS FROM THE SOUTHWEST
AND IT WAS WARM.
I REMEMBER THE SOUND OF THE
SNOW, IT MELTED AND FROZEN,
AND MELTED AND FROZEN,
AND HAD A DIFFERENT SOUND,
AND THE SOUND OF HER MOCCASINS
ON THAT SNOW.
AND WE STOPPED... OR SHE STOPPED
AND TURNED TO ME AND SAID,
"MY BOY YOU HAVE TO LEARN THIS,
YOU HAVE TO LEARN HOW TO TRAP,
YOU HAVE TO LEARN HOW TO FISH,
YOU HAVE TO LEARN HOW TO MAKE
YOUR LIVING OFF THE LAND
IN CASE ANYTHING EVER HAPPENS
TO THAT OTHER WORLD."
AND THAT REALLY STUCK.
I AM NOT THE BEST BUSH MAN
BUT I KNOW HOW TO SURVIVE.
I'VE DEVELOPED MY BUSH-SKILLS SO
THAT I'M AT HOME IN THE BOREAL,
AND I'M COMFORTABLE THERE.

NAM SAYS WELL, IN THE BOOK YOU ALSO
WRITE ABOUT A COUPLE OF TIMES
WHEN YOUR FAMILY
WAS FORCED TO MOVE.
TELL US ABOUT THE FIRST MOVE
BACK IN 1928.

The caption changes to "Time to move."

HAROLD SAYS THE CREATION OF
PRINCE ALBERT NATIONAL PARK,
AND THEY CAME IN
AND BASICALLY TOLD EVERYONE WHO
WAS LIVING THERE,
"THIS IS A NATIONAL PARK NOW,
YOU HAVE TO LEAVE,"
AND ALL OF THE INDIANS WERE
FORCED OUT OF THAT TERRITORY.
SOME OF THEM WANT TO THE RESERVE
AT THE SOUTH END OF THE LAKE,
MY MOTHER'S FAMILY MOVED TO
THE NORTH END OF MONTREAL LAKE,
AND A COMMUNITY DEVELOPED
THERE IN THE '30S.
I GREW UP IN MOLANOSA...
THE COMMUNITY
TO THE NORTH END OF THE LAKE.
I'VE BEEN BACK TO THE PARK AND
THAT AREA THAT WE WERE FORCED
TO MOVE OUT
OF IS BEAUTIFUL.
IT'S ROLLING HILLS
AND BIG TIMBER.
WHERE WE ENDED UP WAS IS
[UNCLEAR]
WETLANDS.

Nam says YOU WRITE THAT IN MOLANOSA YOUR
FAMILY HAD BEEN RICH...
YES... BUT WHEN YOU MOVE
TO LA RONGE YOU LEARNED
WHAT IT MEANT TO BE POOR.
TELL US ABOUT THAT
TRANSFORMATION.

Harold says SO MY MOTHER
WAS REALLY GOOD AT TRAPPING.
IMAGINE 1966, MUSKRATS ARE
SELLING FOR 5 TO 8 dollars A PIECE,
MY MOTHER CAN GET
A HUNDRED A DAY.
SO THERE'S A WOMAN MAKING
500 TO 800 dollars A DAY
AND SHE'S EMBARRASSED
THE MEN IN HER COMMUNITY
AND THEY'VE CONSPIRED TO TAKE
HER TRAPLINE AWAY FROM HER.
THE HOUSE SHE'S LIVING
IN IS FALLING APART.

NAM SAYS THIS IS AFTER YOUR FATHER
PASSED AWAY?

Harold says AFTER MY FATHER PASSED AWAY.
AND SHE GOES TO LA RONGE TO TALK
TO THE GOVERNMENT PEOPLE
'CAUSE THERE'S A GRANT PROGRAM
TO HELP PEOPLE WITH WINDOWS
AND DOORS... AND OUR HOUSE
NEEDS WINDOWS AND DOORS.
SO SHE GOES
AND APPLIES FOR THE GRANT,
AND IN THE APPLICATION SHE
DISCLOSES HOW MUCH SHE MAKES,
HOW SHE MAKES HER MONEY,
ON THE TRAPLINE,
AND THAT SHE'S TAKING
HER CHILDREN OUT OF SCHOOL
TO GO UP THE TRAPLINE
WITH HER IN SPRING.
AND SHE'S TOLD
THAT SHE CAN'T DO THAT,
THAT SHE HAS TO MOVE TO
LA RONGE AND GO ON WELFARE
OR THEY'LL TAKE HER
CHILDREN AWAY.
SO IMAGINE AN ABORIGINAL WOMAN
WITH ONE YEAR OF SCHOOLING
BEING TOLD THAT THEY WILL TAKE
HER CHILDREN AWAY,
AND THIS IS 1966 WHEN THAT
IS A VERY REAL POSSIBILITY.
SHE'LL DO ANYTHING THEY WANT.
SO WE ENDED UP
MOVING FROM MOLANOSA
WHERE WE HAD EVERYTHING,
WHERE WE HAD GARDENS,
WHERE WE WERE WEALTHY,
WE HAD AS MUCH OR MORE
THAN ALL OF OUR NEIGHBOURS, AND
WE MOVED TO ANOTHER COMMUNITY
WHERE WE LIVED ON WELFARE.
AND SOMETIMES WHEN THERE
WAS A MAIL STRIKE,
THE WELFARE CHEQUE DIDN'T COME.

Nam says GETTING BACK TO THE RELATIONSHIP
BETWEEN YOU AND YOUR BROTHER,
COULD YOU READ ONE EXCERPT FROM
THE BOOK FOR US PLEASE?

Harold says I WILL.

She hands him a copy of the book and he reads.

Another quote appears, under the title "Just me and my robots." The quote reads "I have a memory of riding a bicycle, fast down gravel highway, and I know a truth, an absolute truth. Clifford told it to me. But it isn't until I am alone -my legs pumping, my heart pounding, wind and sun and sky- that it hits me and I know it: 'You are the only one who is real, there is only you and God. Everyone else on the planet is a robot put here by God to keep you company.'
If I was seven, he was thirteen. What kind of thirteen-year-old comes up with something like that and tells it to his little brother? Did he have any idea what that was going to do to me?"

NAM SAYS WHAT DID IT DO TO YOU... YOUR
BROTHER'S ASSERTION
THAT WE ARE ALL ROBOTS,
HOW DID THAT IMPACT YOU?

The caption changes to "Inside the mind of Clifford."

Harold says MADE ME FEEL LIKE
I WAS A SPECIAL HUMAN BEING,
THAT THERE WAS JUST ME AND GOD
AND THAT I WAS GOOD
ON THIS PLANET.

NAM SAYS IT DIDN'T CONFUSE YOU AT ALL?

Harold says NO, IT MADE ME FEEL
LIKE I BELONGED HERE.

Nam says WHERE DID CLIFFORD'S LOVE
OF SCIENCE COME FROM,
OR HIS IMAGINATION?

HAROLD SAYS I DON'T KNOW.

NAM SAYS YEAH.

Harold says I DON'T KNOW
WHERE THAT CAME FROM,
BUT HE HAD IT WHEN I MET HIM.

Nam says YOU INVENTED SOME REALLY
INTERESTING SCIENTIFIC CONCEPTS
FOR CLIFFORD TO FEED BACK TO
YOU... THE NARRATOR OF THE STORY.

Harold says YEAH.

NAM SAYS WHAT DID THIS ALLOW YOU TO
EXPLORE ABOUT CLIFFORD
THAT YOU WOULDN'T
HAVE BEEN ABLE TO ACCESS
WITHOUT THIS LITERARY DEVICE
WHEN YOU WERE WRITING THIS BOOK?

Harold says I GAVE HIM ALL OF THE SCIENCE
TO FEED BACK TO ME
BECAUSE I AM NO GOOD
AT TELLING THAT STORY.

NAM SAYS YOU SOUNDED PRETTY... LIKE
SOME OF THE STUFF
THAT YOU HAVE IN THERE
I'M LIKE, "WOW."
IT'S PRETTY SCIENTIFIC TO ME.

Harold says WHEN I TRIED TELLING IT,
IT DOESN'T COME OUT RIGHT,
SO BY LETTING CLIFFORD TELL IT,
I CREATED A NATURAL STORYTELLER,
AND LETTING HIM TELL THE STORY
IT CAME OUT MUCH MORE CLEARER
THAN IF I'D HAD
TRIED TO TELL IT.
IF I'D HAVE REVERSED
THAT CONVERSATION AROUND
SO THAT I WAS TELLING
CLIFFORD THOSE IDEAS,
IT WOULDN'T HAVE BEEN AS
POWERFUL AS HAVING HIM TELL ME.

Nam says SO HIS VOICE DOESN'T
HAVE YOUR INSECURITIES...

Harold says YEAH.

Nam says BECAUSE WITHIN THE
WHOLE BOOK IT SEEMS
LIKE THE RELATIONSHIP
WAS HE WAS SMARTER...

HAROLD SAYS HE WAS.

Harold says WELL, YOU THOUGHT
HE WAS SMARTER,
BECAUSE HE WOULD ACTUALLY TRAP
YOU A COUPLE TIMES,
AND YOU WOULD LOSE
SOME MONEY IN BETS
BECAUSE HE WOULD KIND
OF LIKE TWIST YOUR MIND
AROUND A LITTLE BIT.

Harold says HE WAS CONSTANTLY PLAYING TRICKS
ON ME.

[NAM LAUGHS]

Harold says AND I THINK
HE DID IT ON PURPOSE.
HE'D LAUGH AT... HE'D TRICK ME,
YOU KNOW,
AND I'D FEEL GULLIBLE
AND HE'D LAUGH AT ME,
BUT THAT SHAPED ME
INTO NOT TRUSTING ANYTHING.
IF SOMEBODY
TELLS YOU SOMETHING
MAKE SURE IT'S TRUE;
DOUBLE-CHECK,
DON'T ACCEPT THINGS
JUST BECAUSE SOMEBODY TOLD YOU.

NAM SAYS AND WHAT ELSE
DID HE TEACH YOU?

Harold says TO STAND UP,
TO SPEAK FOR MYSELF.

NAM SAYS AND WHEN YOU WERE YOUNGER
YOU HAD A SPEECH IMPEDIMENT
AND HE HELPED YOU WITH
YOUR DAD BE MORE CONFIDENT...

HAROLD SAYS YEAH.

Nam says AND BE MORE SURE
OF YOURSELF AND ALSO TO,
I GUESS,
SPEAK IN A MORE CLEAR VOICE.
OBVIOUSLY CLIFFORD IS NOT HERE,
BUT WHAT WOULD YOU THINK... WHAT
WOULD HE THINK OF THIS BOOK?

Harold says I THINK HE'D BE CHUCKLING.

[NAM CHUCKLES]

Harold says HE'D LIKE IT.
HE LOVED SCIENCE FICTION.
HE WANTED TO
BE A SCIENTIST
BUT HE ALSO
LOVED SCIENCE FICTION.
AND I THINK HE'D REALLY LIKE IT
THAT I WROTE HIM
AS SCIENCE FICTION,
AS AN ASIMOV CHARACTER.

NAM SAYS WELL, SPEAKING
OF SCIENCE FICTION,
WRITER ROBERT SAWYER
PROVIDED THE QUOTE
ON THE FRONT COVER OF CLIFFORD,
HOW DID THAT COME ABOUT?

Harold says I MET ROBERT SAWYER
AT A WRITER'S FESTIVAL
IN MOOSE JAW
YEARS AGO.
AND WE WERE ON STAGE,
AND I DIDN'T KNOW
WHO HE WAS WHEN I WALKED UP
ONTO THE STAGE,
BUT BETWEEN
HIM AND I
AND THE CONVERSATION
THAT WE HAD,
AND THE CONVERSATION
THAT WE HAD WITH THE AUDIENCE
SOMETHING REALLY
MAGICAL HAPPENED...
AND WE BECAME GOOD FRIENDS.
AND WE WERE WALKING
OFF THE STAGE,
AND IT WAS THE VERY FIRST EVENT
OF THE WRITER'S FESTIVAL,
AND WE WERE WALKING
OFF THE STAGE AND WE SAID,
"WE'VE GOT TO GET TOGETHER."
AND, "WELL OF COURSE,
AND WE'VE GOT THREE DAYS
WE'RE GOING TO MEET."
AND WE JUST ENDED UP ON OPPOSITE
SIDES OF THE CONFERENCE
AND NEVER MET EACH OTHER AGAIN,
AND NEVER SEEN EACH OTHER.
BUT WE'VE KEPT IN CONTACT
AND WHEN HE FOUND OUT
THAT I'D WRITTEN A PIECE
OF FICTION,
HE ASKED IF
HE COULD BLURB IT.

NAM SAYS AND HERE YOU GO.

[LAUGHS]

Harold says YES.

Nam says A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO YOU WROTE
A BOOK CALLED FIREWATER: HOW ALCOHOL
IS KILLING MY PEOPLE AND YOURS,
AND IN IT YOU WROTE...

Another quote appears on screen, under the title "Our own stories." The quote reads "There is a story that has been going around for a long time. The story is about the dirty, lazy, drunken Indian.
We once told our own stories about ourselves wherein we were the heroes. We were great hunters, providers, even warriors when needed be. We were wise grandmothers and medicine people. The stories connected us to the land and connected the land to us, and we became the same story."
Quoted from Harold R. Johnson, "Firewater." 2016.

NAM SAYS ALCOHOL PLAYED A ROLE
IN YOUR BROTHER'S DEATH.
WHAT HAPPENED TO YOUR BROTHER?

The caption changes to "Difficult territory."

HAROLD SAYS HE WAS KILLED
BY A DRUNK DRIVER.
HE WAS ON HIS WAY
TO GO TO SCHOOL.
HE HAD A NEW JOB THAT REQUIRED
SOME UPGRADING OF HIS SKILLS,
AND HE HAD HIS THREE SONS
IN THE TRUCK WITH HIM,
AND HE WAS DRIVING
TO YORKTON
TO TAKE A FEW COURSES
IN ELECTRONICS.
AND HE MET DRUNK DRIVER
IN THE NIGHT.

NAM SAYS AND AT THE TIME,
YOU TWO WEREN'T SPEAKING
TO EACH OTHER, RIGHT?

HAROLD SAYS WE WERE SPEAKING,
THERE WAS JUST... THERE
WAS A TENSION BETWEEN US.

NAM SAYS WHEN YOU HEARD THE NEWS
ABOUT HIS DEATH,
HOW DID THAT... HOW DID
YOU FEEL, LIKE,
HOW DID YOU... 'CAUSE I'M ASSUMING
THAT THIS PERSON WHO
IS SO IMPORTANT TO YOU... YOU'VE
ALREADY LOST YOUR FATHER
AND NOW YOU LOSE YOUR
BROTHER... IT'S BEYOND MENTAL,
IT MUST BE
LIKE A PHYSICAL EXPERIENCE.

Harold says IT WAS... IT WAS THAT.
THE MOST TELLING THING
ABOUT THAT TIME IS,
I COME OUT OF THE MINES... I WAS
WORKING IN THE MINES
WHEN I HEAR THE
NEWS... AND I COME OUT,
AND I MEET UP WITH
MY BROTHERS AND MY SISTERS
AND FIND OUT THAT HE WAS
KILLED BY DRUNK DRIVER.
AND ONE OF MY SIBLINGS... I CAN'T
REMEMBER WHICH ONE... SAID,
"MOM TOLD US
THAT WE CAN'T TELL YOU
WHO THE OTHER DRIVER WAS... YOU
AND YOUR YOUNGEST BROTHER,
DONNIE,
AREN'T TO BE TOLD."
AND WHEN I HEARD
THAT IT MADE PERFECT SENSE;
IF I DON'T KNOW WHO IT IS
I DON'T HAVE TO DO ANYTHING.
SO I NEVER ASKED, AND I DIDN'T
HAVE TO GO BEAT SOMEBODY UP,
AND I DIDN'T HAVE TO STOMP
SOMEBODY FOR WHAT THEY DID.
I LATER LEARNED
WHO IT WAS,
AND JUST RECENTLY MET
SOMEONE WHO KNEW THAT PERSON.
AND THE PERSON WHO KILLED MY
BROTHER'S LIFE WAS ALSO CHANGED.
HE WAS WILD AND A PARTIER,
BUT AFTERWARDS HE RAISED
A FAMILY, DECENT CHILDREN,
AND HE STAYS
PRETTY CLOSE TO HOME.
AND I'D LIKE TO TALK TO HIM.
HE HAS NO FEAR OF ME,
I'M NOT ANGRY AT HIM.
MY LIFE WAS CHANGED
CONSIDERABLY, BUT SO WAS HIS.

Nam says DO YOU KNOW YOUR BROTHER BETTER
AFTER HAVING WRITTEN THIS?

Harold says I REMEMBER HIM BETTER.
IT WAS GOOD TO GO
THROUGH THE EXERCISE.
I COULD NOT HAVE WRITTEN THIS
BOOK TEN OR 15 YEARS AGO,
I WASN'T READY YET.
IT TOOK THAT MUCH TIME,
THAT MUCH DISTANCE,
SO THAT I COULD WRITE IT
AND REMEMBER HIM CLEARLY.

NAM SAYS IT MUST HAVE BEEN
PAINFUL THOUGH.

Harold says WELL, OF COURSE.
BUT JUST BECAUSE
SOMETHING'S PAINFUL
DOESN'T MEAN WE DON'T DO IT.

Nam says DO YOU KNOW YOURSELF BETTER
AFTER WRITING THIS BOOK
ABOUT YOUR BROTHER?

Harold says YEAH.
I KNOW THAT
I CAN WRITE HONESTLY,
I CAN RIP
MY HEART OUT,
I CAN GO THROUGH
ALL OF THE EMOTIONS
AND PAIN OF WRITING ABOUT THINGS
THAT ARE REALLY CLOSE TO ME.
AND, IF BY DOING THAT,
IF I ALLOW MYSELF TO DO THAT,
THAT I MAKE
MY WRITING STRONGER.
AND NOW WHEN
I'M TALKING TO WRITERS,
I'M TELLING THEM TO WRITE ABOUT
THINGS THEY CARE ABOUT.
AND IF YOU CARE
ABOUT WHAT YOU'RE WRITING,
YOUR WRITING WILL BE STRONGER.

NAM SAYS WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW.

Harold says WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW,
WRITE WHAT YOU FEEL.
DON'T BE AFRAID OF YOUR
EMOTIONS, LET THEM OUT.

The caption changes to "Producer: Gregg Thurlbeck, @GreggThurlbeck."

Nam says I'M SORRY FOR YOUR LOSS,
IT WAS A BEAUTIFUL BOOK.
THANK YOU FOR BEING HERE.

Watch: Memories of My Brother