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Chrissie Hynde reminisces on formative trips to Canada

Chrissie Hynde poses for portraits at a north London recording studio on June 10, 2014. Though most of Chrissie Hynde's romantic dalliances have been reported to an exhaustive extent, one has perhaps escaped public notice: her long love affair with Canada.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Invision - Joel Ryan
September 05, 2015 - 9:00 PM

TORONTO - Though most of Chrissie Hynde's romantic dalliances have been reported to an exhaustive extent, one has perhaps escaped public notice: her long love affair with Canada.

As she writes in her fearlessly candid new memoir, "Reckless: My Life as a Pretender," she first journeyed north at 18 as a Kent State college student hungry for adventure.

She told her parents she was going to a cottage in Port Carling, Ont., but instead flew with a few friends from Cleveland to Toronto, exploring southwestern Ontario with only their outstretched thumbs and the kindness of motorists to guide them.

"When I went to Toronto, it was the first really big city I'd been to," Hynde recalled in a telephone interview recently from her home in London. "Some guys from Kent State, they'd call it 'T.O.' like it was this really cool place. And they'd go up there and have boots made or something — stuff you couldn't have in Ohio.

"When I went to Toronto at first, I just fell in love with it. Walking around the streets it was a real, real city — and it's a beautiful city."

Hynde was sold. She rented an apartment with the guy she was seeing at the time and talked her way into a job as a waitress at an Indian restaurant. But her Canadian dream was crushed when her aforementioned beau feared emigrating from the U.S. for good would have him branded a draft dodger.

It was, she writes, "the only time in (her) life that a guy would make a decision" on her behalf.

But she gets it now.

"From a guy's point of view, the reality was you'd never be able to go home again," she said, nevertheless enthusing that conscientious objectors to the Vietnam War were "heroes."

It wasn't Hynde's final formative adventure in Canada.

Shortly after her first northern sojourn, she returned to visit a Canadian guy she'd befriended during a trip to Mexico. They parted ways suddenly and, facing a night with nowhere to stay, Hynde approached a stranger walking his dog and asked if he had a place to crash.

As it turns out, he happened to live at Rochdale College, the alternative education co-op that began life in 1968 as an experiment in free learning and living, but devolved into a notoriously dodgy drug den.

Hynde was impressed.

"Rochdale was mind-blowing," she said. "I'd never seen anything like it. It was a big community and it was taken over by the people and they had their own police system and radio station and drug dealers and everything.

"For me, it was this paradise I stumbled upon," she added. "It was much more experimental than anything you'd ever find in the States. I thought it was the brave new world."

There was one final occasion when Hynde pondered a move to Canada.

After three years at Kent State, she felt the itch to split. She was accepted into the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto — even though her portfolio amounted to "a meagre collection of half-finished junk." But her parents, increasingly dismayed with her druggy wandering, refused to pay the tuition.

She moved to London instead, where she fell into a job writing for NME, worked as an assistant at Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood's Sex boutique, and assembled a social circle that included members of the Sex Pistols, the Clash and Motorhead.

It was in London, of course, that she formed the Pretenders, and where she's lived since.

"I didn't think about it at the time, but (Canada) certainly seemed more English than Ohio. It was like a step in the right direction," she mused.

"At the time, being from Akron, Ohio, I thought Toronto was really far away. But now when I look at it globally, I see we were neighbours."

News from © The Canadian Press, 2015
The Canadian Press

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