"You have to really be courageous about your instincts and your ideas. Otherwise you'll just knuckle under, and things that might have been memorable will be lost."
- Francis Ford Coppola
He's nearly 70 now. Lives in his RV in a trailer camp just outside Victoria. He stays busy reading and writing and corresponding with friends... mostly though, he just hangs out and enjoys life on the Island. But every now and then Fred Flores thinks of moving home. Not home as in California, the land of his birth. But home to Whistler, the community that embraced him 40 years ago.
"It's true," says the guy once known as Cosmic. "I was up there for Ralphie Jensen's funeral last year. And I ran into my old friend Nigel Woods and he said I could move into his RV Park anytime I wanted to..." He lets the words drift. Laughs. "And suddenly I realized — 'Hey, I could do that. I could move back to Whistler.'" More laughter. "It has a certain appeal, you know. A lot of my old buddies still live there..."
It's funny how life works. Strange how certain places resonate with certain people. Sometimes it's a matter of timing. Luck. You join a community in its infancy. Take part in the creation of its founding myths. You're touched by the experience. Altered. It becomes part of who you are. How you define yourself.
And the place, in its turn, reflects part of your personality as well. Each, in its way, characterises the other. Doesn't matter whether you eventually part ways. Or leave and come back. Or never see the place again. You're connected forever.
Such is the link between Fred Flores and Whistler. Although it's been more than three decades since he moved away, there's a part of Fred that will remain in this valley for all times. "A new community in God's country — that's what Whistler was back then," he tells me. And smiles. "A lot of energy was coming together up there and we all understood and appreciated it. Be love and have fun — that's what it was all about. Nature was precious then and we got to live in it. That's why we were always smiling." He sighs longingly. "I could have stayed there forever."
And then: "There is a lot of fear in the world — they say fear is the lowest level of human consciousness and the root of all evil — but there was little fear in Whistler in those years... just a community growing into what it is now."
Indeed. When Flores first moved into the ramshackle world of Soo Valley in 1972, the "community" of Alta Lake wasn't much more than a string of chalets stretched along Highway 99. It was very much an edge-of-the-world place. But there was a buzz to the fledging ski resort that couldn't be denied.