Category Archives: JANICE & JIM

NOT THE MOTHER’S DAY CALL I EXPECTED

POSTED: JUNE 1, 2024

Mother’s Day is a special time. We pull out the emotions we don’t show often enough and share them with the ones we love, or respect. Any regular readers of my posts will know I am not a dad and don’t have a partner or siblings. My Mothers Day experiences historically have been with my own mom and my grandmother. Both sadly passed many years ago. In recent times I have taken to calling those friends of mine I respect as moms just to tell wish them well and tell them I am thinking about them. I will often do it the day before, partially because of the time difference of my location Malta and many of them being in North America. It is also a day before the busy time of Mothers Day, and if the timing doesn’t work they call me back on their time and we can have a good chat. This was the case with my friend Janice who actually called me back the day after Mothers Day when she had more free time.

 

I know Janice pretty well, given she is the partner of my buddy Jim. Her Mothers Days always involve Jade and Jason over for the day, and often Jim makes a nice dinner and they do some things together. They do this every second Sunday so the significance of Mother’s Day is just that it is more focused on Janice than usual. This year, like others Jade always posts on social media an image of her and her mom doing something from when she was a kid. I always like that kind of remembrance as it brings to life the historical depth of the relationship. Also like some previous years Jade and Jason brought a number of flowers they thought their mom would like for the garden, perennials I think, and spent some time with their mom choosing the location and planting them.

 

 

 

But what was really on her mind, were some events that had happened during the week, largely involving Jim. I felt compelled to use the often-referenced quote of our high school principal when Jims name would come up “Oh, what has he done now?”

A few days before Mother’s Day he was planning his day around an outing to see his dental hygienist. He and Janice have a good relationship with Faye. She does a great job, and works in a very large and very good dental practice and they have been with for some time. It is a small world it seems as her grandfather started a major company making short helpful guides on various subjects for high school students. I used these guides myself.  Faye has a daughter and who is about nine and she and her partner are now expecting another baby. This is of particular interest to Jim has a sister who is nine years older than him and my other buddy Jim H. has a couple brothers, the youngest of which is also nine years older.  The dynamic of these siblings is always interesting to watch. There isn’t much competitiveness, as the age spread is so large its almost like having an aunt or uncle more than a sister or brother. Where there is jealousy its because by the time the younger one comes along the parents are now more mature and able to let the little stuff slide and they almost always are in a much better financial position so the family trips aren’t inexpensive camping trips in the car, but expensive trips to exotic locations and the meagre allowance has now become much more sizable.

Like me, Janice and Jim are getting older so need to have their teeth “detailed” as Jim says, about every four months so Jim had seen Faye just after she went public with her pregnancy and had a booking with her on her last day before her scheduled time for stopping work. While he was never really happy about his trips to the dental office this one he was looking forward to because he could get the final update on how things were progressing and the plans and wish her well.

It is with these thoughts that Jim was more than a bit put off when an event happened earlier in the day that put his dental outing at risk. Over breakfast he and Janice had watched a racoon come out from a patio table in their back garden that had not been uncovered from the winter and climb over a fence they share with a neighbour and head off to the neighbour’s yard. They were relieved to see she had left as it was Jims plan to uncover the table that day and start to do the spring yard work before his dental visit. He had just made his coffee and saw her return with a baby racoon in her mouth. Before he could collect his thoughts, she had crawled under the table cover with the little one. He called to Janice to come to see this but before Janice was out the mother racoon was off and over the fence again. This was not good. She was obviously relocating from where they had been born. Hopefully that was the entire family. Nope. The process continued for three more trips.

Janice is a very resourceful person and was on the phone with the municipal wildlife control people. They assured her that this was not their problem and that she should call a private wildlife control company. The answer there was not a very good one. Two different places she called were very clear that they could come and trap the mother and her kits, but that once they were released at a park the mother would bolt, the kits would be left on their own and either starve to death or be eaten by other animals. What the hell kind of mess had they fallen into here, they thought.

But one of the private wildlife people had made a good suggestion to encourage them to relocate to someplace in the yard that would not be so intrusive but still provide shelter and that would lead to the best possible outcome.

So once Jim saw the mom head out to get another one or to get food Jim took some gear and built them a little house in a corner of their yard.  It was an aluminum step ladder covered with a tarp and with a cardboard box below with little walls so the kits wouldn’t wander out. The next part I imagine was a bit scary. With some gloves on Jim gingerly opened the table cover to reveal the nest of babies and carried one of the little guys to the new home and went back for the next one. Once the cover on the existing nest under the patio table was exposed it was obvious there were six of them! One at time Jim did the gentle walk to their new home and placed them in the box. I was at number four when mom came back and hear the squealing from the new location and went under the tarp at the ladder house. There was no turning back now so Jim got the next one and brought it to within a few meters of their new home and set it down and went back for another. Thankfully mom heard its squealing and after making sure Jim had left came out and picked it up with her mouth and took it to the new nest. They repeated this routine until the job was done. On one of Jims trips to the drop point Janice snapped this photo. Their little eyes were not even open at that point!

 

While the drama of this was all pretty interesting Jim was at a terrible risk of not making his dental detailing appointment and called to tell the clinic he was on his way and would not be characteristically early but might even be a few minutes late. Apparently, someone had forgotten to call him to say that the appointment would need to be rescheduled with another hygienist at a future time as Faye had gone into labour and been rushed to the hospital. She and her baby boy were doing fine he was told.

Other than caring for their elderly dog Tuli, Janice and Jim have a life these days that is quite quiet and does not have big events, or even little events to liven it up much so this had been quite the day. The new nest was quite a novelty for the next few days but then there was no action around it at all. They were getting a bit stressed that she might have abandoned the nest altogether and on Mother’s Day morning gingerly pulled back part of the tarp hoping to not see a number of dead baby racoons. Nope. Nothing. Mom had relocated them to somewhere safer.

That night having a nice mothers day dinner they could hear the mom and her kits making noise from their new nest in a nearby park.

It was not the Mother’s Day conversation I thought I would have but it made my day.

Love you mom.

Django

MYSTERY SOUP

POSTED: APRIL 1, 2024

Just about year ago today I got a call from Janice. Now regular readers will know that I have a good relationship with Janice but my real history with Janice and Jim is with my buddy Jim I went to elementary school with and then high school, and after that toured around Europe with. So, getting a call from Janice instantly puts me on edge, sure that some terrible thing has happened to have her pick up the phone at a strategic hour to span a few time zones from Toronto to Malta. I was relieved to hear it was nothing like a health scare.

She was gearing up to make a nice meal for Jim and over a period of time heard a couple of people mention a soup that she had never heard of but thought it would be interesting to try as she and Jim really like soups of all kinds. I think it is the northern climate thing, where warm and cozy foods and beverages are comforting on a cool, cold or damp day. Soups, stews, hot chocolate, tea, coffee all do the job after digging cars out of snowbanks, shoveling snow, skating or skiing.

She had been all over the internet and could not find it and thought that with my history working in kitchens that I might have a lead on it or be able to reach out to some of my friends who are chefs, cooks, or otherwise working with food.

Square soup. Yeah, square soup. No, I had never heard of it but would put out some feelers with a bunch of chefs I had worked with over the years. Janice knew that having worked in the kitchens of cruise ships, I have a long list of friends all over the world who still work in kitchens, some as chefs, some as cooks, some bar and restaurant owners and some just working to survive. It took the better part of a day to get a number of responses as they reflected a lot of different time zones – Asia, America, New Zealand, Europe, Africa,  mid Pacific and mid Atlantic. Most of the responses were the same, (other than the personal updates) “nope – never heard of it”.

After spending a lot of time on this I was frustrated to not have something more definitive but sent her the two leads I had come up with.

The first was Square Meal Soup from a girl I had worked with who today was involved in a little restaurant in Reykjavik. It is a stew of meat and vegetables and potatoes or other root vegetables. It sounded like a pretty flavorful meal in a bowl and I have enjoyed some with these ingredients myself.  Nope that was not it.

My second one I knew would probably even be further off the mark: Square Grouper Soup. Now this one is not well known and is a local joke in the Florida Keys. When people would smuggle in bales of marijuana by boat and coast guard officials would come up to the “fishermen” to ask what they were catching they would often respond  Grouper, but then when the official would leave, joke about the bales of marijuana they had thrown overboard as Square Grouper. Square Grouper Soup is a soup made with seaweed. I know that does not sound appealing but there are some very tasty, and nutrient rich seaweeds out there, and when cooked in a soup all look like marijuana.

Nope that was not it she assured me.

SQUARE SOUP

She did however say she had a lead on it and would get back to me later in the day.

So just after midnight on April 1st she sent an email with the following recipe and picture and hoped I would enjoy my first day of April.

 

SQUARE SOUP RECIPE

INGREDIENTS:   You can use almost any vegetable you like, as well as various meats, seasonings etc.  Really there are no limitations.

STYLE: Consommé’s, broths, cream soups, bisques, chowders…again,  its pretty wide open.

VESSEL: This is the key. In contrast to the traditional bowl, designed for a spoon to hug each arc of a conventional soup bowl,                             square soup needs to be served in a square container.

 

Django

 

P.S. Just a few little shout-outs to:

Salute On The Beach,

1000 Atlantic Blvd, Key West, Florida  Salute! On The Beach | Key West, Florida (saluteonthebeach.com)

Square Grouper Bar and Grill

22658 Overseas Hwy, Cudjoe Key, FL               https://squaregrouperbarandgrill.com/

Matarkjallarinn  (The Food Cellar)  Adalstraeti 2, Reykjavik, Iceland.

Home – Food Cellar (matarkjallarinn.is)

 

LOST & FOUND

POSTED: December 1, 2023

I really like public buildings that are on a human scale. It doesn’t matter if they are schools or municipal buildings or hospitals. The key element for me is that they are of a size that is big enough to get the job done but small enough that they are very much the vessels for the activity, and not that the structures are so large that the structure itself is the primary focus. I posted recently about my experience with a young woman named Ofra (posted November 1st). Most of my experience with her was at a small hospital here in Valletta, Malta and it consisted of waiting in a fairly small area to find out the outcome of her medical problem and to help her back to her temporary accommodations.

I was there for many hours overnight and the whole adventure was unplanned so I had not taken a book or even reading glasses, my phone or any other distractions so the space I was in became quite familiar after a few hours. The window was close by and I could look out but it was nighttime and not much to see. I was reminded of my buddy Jim’s story about his uncle Gordon in a setting like this. Now Jim’s uncle was a character, and I think became even more of a character in Jim’s recollections of him but one story that came to mind here was that Jim’s Nana (grandmother) was in a small village hospital on the Quebec side of the Ottawa river valley, in Canada. The region, while part of Quebec, a largely French speaking province, was inhabited primarily by people with an English speaking heritage, largely from Ireland, and many of them farmed or went into Ottawa for employment.

So his Nana was in the hospital for one thing or another, and Uncle Gordon thought it would be a grand gesture to fly by in his little airplane and waive at her. For most of us, this initial plan would quickly be discarded as the small community hospital was still a busy place with lots of activities of people coming and going. Beyond this, airplanes are noisy things. In those days (the 1960’s) the small size of this little one-seater plane sounded more like a loud lawnmower than any smooth running aircraft and it might occur to most that some people in the hospital would want some calm and quiet.  But Uncle Gordon did not have the same decision making process as the rest of us and saw the flight and waving as a good plan. He was also not deterred by the fact that there were lots of electrical wires running from the poles around the building to the top of the five-storey structure – he would just fly under them. Yeah. Really. What a plan.

Well he did pull it off but in so doing lost his flying license in Canada. He did keep his flying license elsewhere however, and continued to fly around the United States and the Caribbean. YIKES.

As I sat there in the waiting area, the small commissary was close. Too close.  It had a very limited range of products during busy hours and only vending machines in the less busy hours when I was there.  It made for tough decisions for me with my efforts  to manage my hypertension – death by sugar overload? Carb overload? Fat overload? Some of the products in those venting machines liberally satisfied all three and with a lot of sodium in there for good measure as well.

I couldn’t leave to go elsewhere for a coffee or some fruit as I did not know when they would release her and at that hour there would probably not be anything very close by.  It was my first time pretending to a be a dad and I really did not want to screw it up. To keep my mind off my hungry stomach I tried to focus on some other things and one was right there within sight. It was a small cabinet with a rather ancient sign LOST & FOUND.  Now these lost and found cabinets, tables, or bookshelves in small facilities are quite the stimulus for anyone with an imagination. In some cases, the objects on display there look like they truly have been lost and would have some value, at least sentimental value,  to someone. In other cases they look like items that are not worth retracing steps for – a paperback book, beat up baseball cap, or satchel that probably was just abandoned. But other things truly looked like they were just waiting for their owners to come back through the door to reunite with.

This notion of LOST and FOUND really got me thinking at the time. I had nothing but time on my hands sitting in that waiting area, and was desperate to not think about the vending machines.

In general LOST is a negative. You might lose your way, or lose in a game. None of us like losing things, but there are some very noteworthy exceptions. Sometimes the loss of ones virginity is a negative, sometimes a positive. Most often the loss of body weight is a good thing, but sometimes if its due to a medical problem a bad thing. A friends mother was losing her memory from dementia and that was really bad, but one day went swimming as she had lost (forgotten) her fear of water. Damn, this lost business is complex.

I was petty sure that FOUND was a positive however as I began to muse about it at about 4 am. We all love finding stuff. A bit of cash in a jacket we do not often wear or finding the right partner. But what happens when we find the partner in bed with someone else, find a lump where it shouldn’t be, or find we have been scammed out of our life savings. I guess found is not universally a good thing either.

I had a few chats with others who were waiting, walked around a bit, read parts of a paper that had been left, and eventually broke down and ate a bar that had the promising name of  “only protein”. It tasted pretty good. So did the second one. The wrapper I sheepishly read after eating two of these killers:  yes, there was protein but also 12 grams of fat and 9 grams of sugar. And I had consumed two! Well, no use beating myself up over it.

As I was looking at the ingredient list on the little package when the doctor came out to tell me the news on Ofra, and my time at the hospital would soon come to an end.

I have since done a lot of walking, am back on my good diet and have generally redeemed myself for those two killer protein (and everything else) bars.

The notions of Lost and Found however, like my memories of that experience with Ofra have lingered with me.  Most stuff of life has a crazy combination of simple and complex and I seem to spend a lot of my time these days trying to sort out the two.

Django

 

ISOBEL & VERA

Posted: November 1, 2022

This week I was writing a nice post about my friend Gabrielle who has been working on a really neat wood carving. But yesterday I sat down to write about two models instead. Now before you get all wound up thinking that I am going to talk about my relationship with two supermodels, I should clarify that my topic here is not about that. Nor is it about car models I used to build as kid.

Its about two role models. When I was growing up my buddy Jim, the focus of much of my writing on this website had an amazing aunt, Vera Preston. My other buddy James (he was once a Jim as well) had a pretty cool mom, Isobel Hale.

What has sparked my writing this today is that Isobel passed on October 15th. She was born on August 28, 1919, and yes, your math is correct, that’s over 103 years old. That in itself is a rather significant feat. But the real story is what her life was and how she managed it. As one of six children in that family and growing up in several small communities in Saskatchewan and Ontario in that era, it must have been a stimulating time with so much changing in technology and society, especially with five siblings! But later when raising her own children at a time when mothers were to stay home, she was running a nursery school and growing a body of knowledge about early childhood education. That experience she went on to share and became a portion of the foundation for much of what we know today about how young minds think and how to help them grow.

Now Vera Preston was the aunt of my other buddy Jim. She was of the same era as Isobel, being born in 1916 and lived to 2004. Like Isobel, Vera grew up in a modest house in a small Ontario village. Unlike Isobel, she did not have children or marry, but was dedicated to her work. In her case, it was nursing. She went through the nursing program at Brockville General Hospital, and after distinguishing herself in that coursework and as a nurse went on to be the Director of Nursing at Brockville General and an important part of what later became the Nursing Program at St. Lawrence College.

What struck me this week is how similar both of these women were in both their personal traits and in their dedication to various causes. They grew up at a time when the only occupations open to most women were teaching and nursing and while each chose one of those very defined fields for women, they were able to not only excel at the task but move the professions forward.

And again, as they aged, in a very similar way, they both went on to teach, to participate in various boards and causes. This was not because there was an artificial goal of equality in gender representation on those boards but because they could bring important ideas, experience and insight to the table. In her later years Isobel evolved her relationship with children to designing kids clothes and Vera to more medical related charity work.

Both had a very wry sense of humour, and a restrained response to bad decision making or the behaviour of others. As a generator of serious “tomfoolery”, “shenanigans”, and outright “mischief” myself, I always knew each of these women would have a measured response to my behaviour in contrast to most adults I would encounter.

I am sorry I did not know either of them better. I would love to have asked if the experience of Vera watching her farmer father die of pneumonia while working the field, set her on the course to pursue nursing or the experience of Isobel in a large family watching her younger siblings learn and process new information set her on her path to early childhood education.

There is no better a tribute than to say it was a privilege to have known these two woman, at least a little, and that I am a better person for it. At a time when we are rethinking the statues of big men, these two small women stand pretty tall in my memory.

Django

MUGGING

POSTED: August 1, 2022

I really love Malta. It is a great place that I have adopted and many of my posts reference how nice it is. But its not perfect and like most of the world there are times when… well, shit happens.

Such was the case last week when an older woman, Isla, who lives on an old vessel in our marina was out later at night and confronted by a young woman on a scooter who tried to steel her bag. In so doing she did not get the bag but did knock Isla. She incurred a few multiple fractures from the event when she tried to regain her balance she fell over a high curb.

The marina community has rallied to help her with her chores and some financial help and I have taken over some prepared meals.

But the community has also taken to talking about their various encounters with people who attempt to rob others, and are prepared to get into a physical confrontation in doing so. The experience is quite traumatic for most of us and the effects linger for some time, even if we were not physically hurt or financially impacted by such an event.

One such experience sticks in my mind from when I was just out of high school. As regular readers know it has only been in the last year that I have connected with my old high school friends and only a few years since reconnecting with Jim. If you are not familiar with that aspect of this website you should read the ABOUT section.

But back in the spring of 1974, it was less than a year since graduating high school and I was still very much in touch with many of them and was off and on living in South Florida with a bunch of people as I was working on a cruise line that went out of there. My buddy Jim had contacted me in early March to see if I would be around as he was contemplating a trip to Ft. Lauderdale over university spring break coming up in a week.

The trip, like most things that happened to people like Jim and me and most of our friends had come together quickly and with not a lot of preparation.  The background is that Jim and another high school buddy Bo had really enjoyed their photography hobby through high school. Bo was off to college for it and Jim as teaching a rudimentary, non- credit course in it to pay for university. So with a few bucks in his Jeans from that job and doing some freelance work for UPI, the wire service that bought photographs from freelancers like him, he had been saving to go to New York to the camera district and buy a Nikon F2 Photomic. At the time, unless you were going to mid or large format cameras like Rolleiflex,  Hasselblad or Linhof, this camera was one of the best in the small thirty five millimeter film format.

Now sometimes a variety of things just come together as if they were meant to be. His girlfriend at the time had made the decision to fly to Ft. Lauderdale with a few of her girlfriends for the spring break. At the same time Greyhound, the American bus company had announced a new promotional programme. For $99 you could have unlimited travel on Greyhound busses throughout North America for seven days. Jim figured he could take the bus at midnight to NYC, spend the day shopping for the camera, then get on another bus heading out late at night for an all-nighter and much of the next day on the bus as well to get to Ft. Lauderdale. He would have a few days there with his girlfriend, see me and then get back on the bus in time to make it back to Ottawa within the seven days.

There were other motivations as well. This girlfriend was a bit of wild card and not super predictable. He thought that her time in Ft. Lauderdale would be quite the messy business.

So the plan was hatched, the Greyhound pass purchased, and Jim was off to the Big Apple.

Today NYC is a fairly safe, major city but in the 1970’s this was classic Gotham. Hoods and gangs roamed the streets. The police, city officials, some ambulance services and most of the public had given up large portions of the city to drug dealers and gangs. It is hard to believe today.

The fourteen hours overnight to New York worked out but left him a big groggy for the wheeling and dealing that went on in the camera shops of the day in the Camera District. People would bump into each other at the counter and there was a lot of haggling and brinksmanship etc. They sold lots of new gear but the haggling really came to the fore when a purchaser would bring in a piece or two of used gear. The best deals happened on buying a new camera where there was very little flexibility on price, when combined with trading in something used, or buying something used in addition to the new camera. The used equipment aspect attracted lots of questionable characters and sometimes purchasers were vendors and haggling with people behind the counter or beside them at the counter with something to sell or trade.

As Jim tells it one huge fellow who looked like Samuel L. Jackson on steroids, wearing black jeans and sweater and a long black leather cape who was pretty loaded down with gear dropped one of his cameras and Jim happened to be right there and caught it. No big thank you or shaking of hands or anything, just a nod. If you are from Ottawa this is not the amount of recognition you would usually receive for such a fortuitous catch, but it was New York and when in Rome….  The guy behind the counter told him to check to see he still had all his gear as sometimes one person distracts you while another picks your pocket. Nope, he had it all, but when he looked around the huge guy with the cape was not to be seen.

The buy went off without a problem and after walking around Jim found himself Uptown. It was late afternoon and the sun was retreating quickly and he thought he might get a chance to see the Apollo theatre before heading back to the bus station.  But as he walked and the sun withdrew the park started its evening shift. Guys were appearing from almost nowhere and they were in little groups of two and three. This was not going to go well, and he wisely tucked his new prize camera into his coat as he picked up the pace to get closer to the parks edge where he could see there were more passersby.  But his timing was all wrong and a few of the little groups had become larger and it was very clear that it was not only the loss of the camera that would be at risk.

But just as quicky as the strange falling camera events had unfolded in Downtown Camera, the guy with the cape strolled along and asked if he knew where he was. “Uptown… wanted to see the Apollo… Jim struggled to get the words out. “You’re a dead white kid in Harlem” was the low octave reply. But as he spoke, he asked “are you the one who caught my Leica in the store? ..you all look the same to me”. After establishing that yes, he was in fact that spindly white kid who had done the big camera catch, they walked together out of the park while sharing a couple of thoughts on photography. Well as Jim tells it he was chattering nervously and there was little said in response. And then after a pause as Jim turned to thank him the expanse of black leather cape moving into the subway was all Jim saw of angel.

He caught his bus, and after about another twenty hours of bus ride to Ft. Lauderdale stopping to drop off and pick up along the way, he made it to the address his girlfriend was staying at. It was clear to him pretty quickly that they were no longer together and her interest was elsewhere. I had been called up for a cruise on an unscheduled basis as someone had quit so we didn’t connect either. He didn’t have anywhere to stay and little money. I understand it was a long bus ride home for him.

My direct experience with this kind of perilous world of muggers and beatings was more recent.

Regular readers of my posts know that early in the Pandemic I went to Ireland to have a chat with a lad who was the ex-husband of my captain, Ciara. I did not say a lot about that in earlier posts and I won’t say much more here as it was a fairly unsavoury experience for all concerned.  But in my efforts to find the fellow I had not realized just a how tight the communities are in rural Ireland. If you walk into a village pub and are not recognized you might as well as be wearing a Bugs Bunny costume as the stares will be the same. If you then ask someone behind the bar if they know where to find a particular person you are quickly sized up and determined to be a long lost relative from America, which is not the best, or someone looking for another purpose, which of course is worse. You are also measured in terms of the quality of the person you are looking for. If it is any sort of low life scoundrel you are put in the same category. This was the case here of course.

So when the woman behind the bar told me he wasn’t around much, but that she would ask around and served me my pint, she gave me one of those piercing looks like film directors like to capture that cut out about a few hundred words of dialogue. I had two addresses of his relatives and decided to head off to find one of them before it got too late in the day. It was only mid afternoon but the two lads who met me as I stepped out to the street had been waiting. After a dialogue over why I was looking for their brother it was clear that they were not there to help. It didn’t help my case asking them to repeat some of their questions as if I needed a switch for close captioning to understand them.

I did not see the first punch coming. It was to the area not in my back but on my side just behind my stomach. Two of these guys were really not needed. One could have beaten me up on his own. But after falling over and catching myself on the stone wall of the pub, I nervously blurted out something stupid. “Well I guess if I have some super powers I am not familiar with, this would be a good time for them to kick in wouldn’t it.” They both looked stunned for a moment and then started to laugh uncontrollably. They both had gone through a lot of beer that afternoon I expect and I thought one of them might piss himself or have a heart attack they were so out of control in their laughter. And then after looking behind me and seeing we were being joined by a few people leaving the pub they sort of ran and stumbled away.

After a bit of searching, I found where I was going and did my business with Ciara’s ex.

I got off pretty easy on that one. The psychological effects of the actual meeting I had were worse. And that is a common result of these assaults, or attempted robberies. We are not as comfortable being out around people, we often look at strangers with more suspicion. It is a bad combination with aging where we are sometimes more reticent to get into any conflict.

My neighbour in the marina who was knocked down is certainly shaken, but she seems like a fairly resilient sort. Isla was from Utrecht originally. She is old enough to be my mom. She came here originally with her partner who was not well and has now passed and has lived on a boat for the last couple of decades so I am think she has some serious inner strength. I think she will be ok.

Django

THE EARLY MORNING PANIC CALL

Posted: July 1, 2022

We all dread the call in the middle of the night. As we move to respond and open our eyes we make up stories about what it could be about.  A loved one who is ill ….a friend in trouble…. It amazes me how many fast thoughts you can process in just a second or two. I think this conditioning is normal. Its way out of the ordinary to get a call at some ungodly hour so it must be important. And not the good version of important.

But in my case both my parents and my grandparents have passed. I don’t have siblings or children, so it has to relate to a friend. While a have a lot of friends and acquaintances I don’t have very many friends I am so close to that they would be calling at this hour. That I think is partially because I am a Canadian and living in Malta so if it was one of my friends in Toronto or Ottawa, I am not really in a position to help them get to the hospital, or to post bail in Montreal. And anyone having a problem in the middle of the night in Malta that I know well enough to be soliciting help would just rap on the hull of the boat. I looked over and Ciera was in the bed sleeping (she sometimes comes into my room for company) and looking out a porthole I did not see any special lights on.

So, in that few seconds of processing time, I concluded it would be my buddy Jim calling from Toronto. This time of year, the spread is six hours so at 4:54 am it was only 10:34 pm the night before in Toronto. That timing is fairly consistent with his questionable timing in calling me. If this remained true to previous calls of this type, he would have had a glass of wine or two and be exceedingly stressed about something. Previous all time great calls have been about Trump, the mistreatment of indigenous people in Canada, Justin Trudeau in Blackface and similar topics. I have documented this behaviour before – check out my post on September 2019, for example.

The phone was on its second ring and as I picked it up, I was already processing the topics of the day that when combined with a nice bottle of Amarone might generate such a call: Putin and the war in Ukraine, mass killings of kids in American schools and the lack of gun control…… My imagination was interrupted when the call connected.

Yes, indeed I was correct and yes, two for two, he was intoxicated and sure enough he had some big thoughts on his mind. But unlike previous calls where it is a big issue of the day that has him incensed, enraged or otherwise stimulated, this time his tone, while still with slurred speech as usual for these calls, was more subdued. “I have done something really crazy” he began.

Now beyond these unscheduled late-night / early morning calls I chat with Jim regularly at normal hours. Usually, it is during his mid afternoon so it is after my chores making dinner for Malcolm, Martha, Gerhardt and Gabrielle, Ceira and myself or by email. So when he said this I knew instantly the range of craziness it might encompass. Janice and Jim have had many lives and relationships but they have all been with each other. They change things up every now and again and evolve into new activities, businesses or pursuits but always seem to be able to do it together. I envy them that ability to change their lives but go off on the adventure together.  In some of my recent chats it has become clear that Jim in particular is really chomping at the bit do try something new, and half jokes about restoring a lighthouse on Prince Edward Island or restoring an old Airstream trailer and with Janice and their dog Tuli going on a road for a year. But these are the kinds of things they have always done – a record label, a cooking school, Janice going to grad school in her sixties, so would not be characterized as “crazy”.

In that moment I processed the other things he has chatted about recently. Over the pandemic, like much of the world they have watched a lot of films on the various platforms out there. And like most the spectrum of what they have watched has broadened. Some of it is a bit dark and I have heard him muse more than once about Ozark and what it might be like to deal with a Mexican drug lord, or what it would be like to kill someone.

“Have you taken up money laundering” I quietly asked.

There was a pause.

“No, but something equally questionable” he responded.

My mind was now fully engaged and racing. What the hell had he done? Ciera was now up and making coffee for me so I could be equipped for the ensuing trauma.

Well, it turns out that he had not killed anyone, Janice was not laundering drug money, or any of the other things that I had imagined. No, it turns out he had bought a jerk marinade and cooked up some pork and used the mixture rather generously. To hear him tell it Janice’s head spun around, steam came out of her ears and his lips looked like he was just back from a Botox convention.

My hopelessly whitebread buddy had spiced up a dish too much and this was the crisis!!!

It is not the first time my imagination had run ahead of me. I don’t know if it is age or the pandemic but I have noticed that the risks or possible negative outcomes or anxieties bubble up more often than in the past.

Ciera and I enjoyed our coffees on the upper deck looking over the other boats, listening to the sail lines singing and watching the sunrise and sharing a chuckle over my buddy who gets a sunburn when walking by neon lights and who was feeling he might need be hospitalized over the spiciness of a jerk sauce.

Django

 

TORONTO ART.ca

POSTED: FEB 1, 2022

For some time you have heard me chatter on about meaning to get to writing up a couple of sections on this website. The two in particular that I have been really bad at getting to are The Chef Upstairs, and TorontoART.ca

Well at least for The Chef Upstairs I introduced the topic in some detail in a post on July 7, 2020 about the bombing at Kings Cross in London that Janice and Jim had been involved in. No, they didnt set the bomb- they were just in the tube at Kings Cross when it went off.

But the TorontoART.ca website section has been one I have avoided. While it was a massive part of my buddy Jim’s life it had a lot of moving parts and I was not clear that I could do it justice. That is partially because it had six hundred members and whenever one would contact Jim to ask if there will be any write up he would forward me the emails.

So here we are in 2022 and I am dedicated to getting into better shape, getting a few of my short stories published and grabbing the bull by the horns on some of these tasks that I have procrastinated on.

So check out the new section TorontoART.ca in the tabs and you can see what I have done so far. As there were about six hundred active members on the site I am not going to put in images of all of them but have started with putting in some to get rolling and will be working on adding more artists images over time.  This of course is a classic procrastinators commitment.

Django

GETTING AWAY

POSTED: SEPT 28, 2021

When I started this website I just posted my pieces at random times. Sometime a month or two would pass between posts and then I would go for a while where I was posting multiples a month. Now that I am in something of a regular gig teaching little cooking classes and making lunches and dinners as a paying routine for my neighbours I have slid into a regular thing of posting always on the first of the month.

So why am I posting today on the 28th?  Well, I am in a bit of a scramble as I am off to Ireland for a day then on to Ottawa Canada for a weekend. I am sure I will probably have something to say on the adventure when I return but for now my thoughts are on the whole notion of getting away.

Early in the pandemic I had a little trip to Ireland to speak to Ciara’s ex, which was eventful/frightful (see various posts from March 2020) but other than that I have been here in this little spot in Malta and for the most part don’t go much further than I can easily get to when walking or riding my little fold up bike. Even En Plein Air only gets me out on the ocean occasionally these days. So I have not had the benefit of getting away as many people have enjoyed during this pandemic.

Most have gone to their cottages, some have gone camping and some on vacation. All of these approaches  have something of the same effect but the people who have really had it good are ones who have had a regular place to go to, whether modest or grand, whether for a few days a week or to move to for months at a time, especially if that destination is a special personal place with memories and alternative experiences.

When growing up in eastern Ontario Canada we had the wonderful benefit of a lot of little lakes all around. The population of Ottawa was not large, about three hundred thousand when I was a teenager. When Canada changed over to metric in the early 1970’s many of us joked that in metric it might be about four hundred thousand!  The result of an abundance of lakes and not a big population was that most families had a cottage of some description. Wealthier people were on the best lakes, with the best waterfront, and the biggest shoreline and beautiful classic cottages.

But even those with more modest incomes, particularly those people who had some manual dexterity or worked in the trades would get a small lot and build some kind of place to get away to.

And it is the getting away that mattered. For a kid the big change was the different activities – swimming, boating waterskiing, bonfires, fishing, canoeing. But more than this it was a change in norms and expectations of behaviour, a change of neighbors and friends, and generally a place to cut loose and not be as structured in your life. For adults it was also that change in behavioural expectations as well, where the conventions of city life were left back in the city and everything was more relaxed. Even parents in serious endeavours left their business cards at the office. And of course this predated smart phones and even the internet, so people who were away, truly were away.

The result of course was that people might change houses often, or move for a better job in another city, but the cottage – well that was somewhat sacred. It was also often a meeting place of various family members for holidays and celebrations.

In northern climates it takes on a special significance as the long winter months take their toll and the summer is a time to get outside with nature that has reappeared after her nap. Spend any time with someone from Canada, Norway or Michigan and you will soon learn of their cottage life.

A lot of cottages are handed down in the family, creating some crazy partnerships as most families would have more than one child but only one cottage.

In my circle of friends most families had a cottage they went to and imagined going there for the rest of their life, but few aspired to having their own. Not my buddy Jim.

As soon as he was working and had a bit of extra money he and Janice bought their first cottage lot. It was up on a small lake close to Parry Sound which for those who don’t know it is a community on the eastern shore of Georgian Bay, a very large  bay (190km x 80km) of lake Huron, one of the Great Lakes.

It was about 3.25 hectares (8 acres) with about 125 Meters (400 feet) of waterfront. A couple of years later with a few more bucks in his jeans the road went in, and a dock. Then one Thursday he was siting on a flight from Vancouver flying home to Toronto as he did every second week in those early days of his business, and noticed an ad in the paper he was reading for a little log cabin that was available, but it would have to be moved.  It was not expensive, but more money than he and Janice had at the time.

Over the flight he pulled the little cut-out add from his pocket a few times and looked at it. When the flight  landed in Toronto it was about 11 pm and he called the number in the ad to see if he could come to see it then. It was located about two hours away from the airport in Toronto in a little village called Mount Forest so he could be there by about 1:45 AM he told the bewildered fellow on the other end of the line.

The owner of the place was older, and assured Jim that:

  1. there was no frigging way he was letting Jim come over in the middle of the night and
  2. that on Saturday they were having a showing to all interested parties from 10 to 2 and they would then determine who they were going to sell it to. The fellows tone also suggested that they would probably not sell it to a nutbar who calls at eleven pm expecting to come to tour a house at 1:45 or 2 am.

By Saturday Janice was as pumped about it as Jim and as they drove to Mount Forest where the place sat, with little Jade in tow, they talked about the endeavor of moving a log cottage about 300 km  to their property and the tasks involved to be ready.

As they drove in the road to the place, as Janice tells it, they were so excited to see the little log cabin,  but all along the driveway in were the cars of the other potential buyers. The array of BMW’s, Porsches, and Mercedes were quite a contrast to their Isuzu Trooper with a kayak on the roof.

The little log cabin was just as represented. Built from large logs using the Scandinavian scribing technique instead of the north American chinking technique, pine floors of 2 x 12 tongue and groove planks, a little loft for sleeping, one small bathroom and a woodstove/fireplace for heat, it was an adorable little place with a footprint of about 660 sq. ft. and total area of about 800 sq. ft.

Things were a bit chaotic as the little cabin was overrun by all the people looking at it, poking around and asking questions. And then the process began. Everyone had to go outside and one by one the people who had registered to see it had their chat with the owners. Most of the potential buyers were confident they could cajole, coerce, or convince the owners to sell it on the land where it was sitting, next to a stream and idyllic pond, and one by one were rejected. The existing owners were selling it because it sat on the best part of the lot, and they had decided to build a much larger place to retire there so that is why it needed to be removed.

It came down to only a few potential purchasers left and for some reason the couple decided Janice and Jim should get the place for something less than the asking price instead of a much higher bid from another couple who were going to have to find a lot, buy it and then be ready for the move.

It was fall and over the winter Jim worked up the drawings and got the building permits and contracted with a local contractor in Parry Sound to build a foundation. While this was going on the owner of the little log place, who was an engineer and pretty handy himself, was removing the inside of the place (flooring, kitchen windows interior doors and trim) and storing it in a barn.  By spring they were ready and a log builder with a big boom truck had been hired to mark the logs, take it apart one log at time and put it on a sixty foot flatbed to be moved to its new home.

Lots of challenges occurred when for example the flatbed could not get in the road Janice and Jim had built and they needed to hire a smaller boom truck to move the logs in one at a time. But eventually it was assembled in place fully exposed to the rain that spring. So, the race was on to get a roof on it and get the windows and doors back in. Jim’s dad, Janice’s cousins husband John,  who was a carpenter, and various others worked away with Jim to get it enclosed.

J. & J. Log Cottage

For that first summer, Jim took all his holidays as Fridays and Mondays and for each of those four day weekends he would drive up from the Toronto area,  the two hours in the morning early and drive home late so he could see Janice, Jade, and newborn Jason, and did that for every four day weekend for ten weeks. He put over 85,000 km on that Izuzu Trooper that summer, but by September it was ready for them to use that winter. Over the next few years Jim worked away on it, putting in the floor, the bathroom, building new kitchen cabinets etc.

With time, and his business growing they bought the next two lots so they had 1,200 feet of waterfront, more boats came along, the “barn” was built on the next lot over they had bought, and plans were underway for a larger cottage. They went as far as designing it with an architect  but then when they could not find a builder who had the skills involved to build it, decided to build a ski place outside a little ski town that Jim had done some development work in when he was first starting out. They already had a little house there to stay in for their ski weekends. Having spent about nine months designing their dream cottage of about 9,000 square feet for the cottage lot they spent only about five weeks designing a smaller  post and beam ski house for that 15 acre site.

They went in the ground on labour day weekend and by December 31st 1999 this five thousand foot place was finished.

J & J Ski Place

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So why am I going on about these places? Well they were both pretty important to Janice and Jim, and recently there has been a real milestone in their cottaging life.  To understand the significance, I will need to go back in time a bit.

Jim retired on his 48th birthday and he and Janice thought they would try living at their big ski place and eventually downsize their home in Toronto. It did not work out well.

They felt much too isolated, particularly in the winter, and neither of the kids were coming up to the ski place or coming to the cottage. After some reflection they sold the cottage, and eventually sold the ski place and then downsized their house in Toronto. For the first time in their married life they did not have a second home, but Jim had this idea to find an old farmhouse in Provence, Brittany or Normandy and to rebuild it.

And that’s where Key West came in. Every year the artists collective that Janice was associated with in Toronto would take her work to show for the Art Basel Miami weekend and she would have lots of art sales. Each year she and Jim would tie into going to that show in South Beach a trip to Key west, a place she had lived as a child in the 1960’s. They liked France better than Key West, but with a dog, they could drive to KW from Toronto with Tuli. So Key West became the Provence project.

The right “borderline derelict” house was found, acquired, and they set about to restore it. It was from the 1880’s and had a colourful history as a private home, then a general store, then a few apartments, then back to a single home and in the 2008 mortgage mess, an asset handed back to a bank.

The first few months saw them drive down pulling a big two axel enclosed utility trailer each time with furniture from their cottage and ski place to “seed the memories”. Some trades were hired for the regulated stuff or things Jim was not up to – electrical, plumbing, a new metal roof, and pool digging but otherwise it was all about Janice choosing finishes and Jim executing the work.

J & J Key West Cottage

In the first summer Jim went down to work on it alone when the pool was under construction but otherwise it was all done when they would be there from January to April each winter for the last six years.

So that brings us to early March 2020 when at a big ceremony in Key West Janice and Jim were awarded a nice plaque for their restoration and preservation work on the house. The ceremony occurred at Truman’s Little White House where the president spent much of his time in Key West.

It was the culmination of a lot of work and when the other recipients for 2020 went up to receive their awards with their architects, historians, contractors, specialty sub-trades and consultants it was just Janice and Jim in their case.

The reason I am writing this piece today is because of what came after that ceremony. Yes , Covid really hit hard in  the next week of March, 2020 and we all got messed up by that, and in Janice and Jims case they scooted back to Toronto before the border was closed. But during this they also made a decision to sell. Difficult health insurance issues with Jim’s neurological situation, and climate change that does not bode well for a flat little island in the middle of the hurricane corridor, are what pushed them to sell a little place they loved. They had even tried to find a purchaser who would let them rent it back in the winter but that did not pan out. So a buyer was found,  their things were moved to a storage unit and they are now people without a place to get away to.

I don’t find this strange as I have never had a second place. At times I have barely had one place, so its hard for me to get my head into their situation, but I know that without a second place, and more importantly without a project, they may be feeling  a bit adrift, especially with lots of Covid restrictions.

 

Django

After writing this little post, I was speaking to Janice about the arrangements she had made for my upcoming trip to Canada and she says that Jim is looking at ads for barges and floating homes, and has also remarked at how much fun it might be to restore a vintage Airstream trailer, or to renovate a lighthouse on Prince Edward Island….. stay tuned.

MEASURES

Posted: Sept 1, 2021

I was cooking one afternoon a couple of weeks ago for our usual evening dinner with Malcolm, Martha, Gabriel and Gerhard and was watching the Olympics. I am a bit of an Olympics junkie, watching whatever event the live feed is spitting out  and absorbing all the minutiae offered whether about the athletes personal bests to date, their training regime, the diets, previous records or performing in different weather conditions. Now when the Olympics are not on, I have no interest in diving or running or throwing a shot put, but during the Olympics … well that’s anther matter.

So leading up to the Olympics I go into training. The exercise of watching hours of coverage is just the opposite of exercise so you need to be in shape. Nevertheless, by day three or four of competition my gut is large, my eyes the size of saucers and I should not be allowed to operate heavy machinery.

To offset these perils of binging the Olympics, I try to do other things while watching, like cooking or refinishing part of the mahogany on some of En Plein Airs trim. It is actually a nice combo.  While cooking and enjoying the heptathletes competing in the long jump I  realized how my relationship with measurement has changed over the years.  The Olympics is all about measurement of course. Whether it is the length they have flown through the air on a pole vault, thrown a javelin or the time it takes to run 400 meters it is all about those measures.

Growing up when I did (born in 1954) and where I did (Canada) we had a legacy of Imperial measures from before the enlightenment (when we changed to metric in April 1975) so like many of my age from Canada, I use a crazy mix of measures. I drive in Km/hr, do my carpentry in inches, think of temperature in Celsius and weigh myself in pounds. Add to this the other common  measures  – teaspoons, tablespoons, cups, half cups, B cups and C cups.   I envy the younger people who have a more streamlined life.

It got me to thinking about an old buddy who has an interest in measurement. He collects various old instruments for measuring and has a particular fixation on those measuring or calculation  devices that were the state of the art – until they were not.  Its tough to decide where his interests fit on the fetish spectrum. Watching the Olympics from Tokyo reminds me that the Japanese have a term Otaku which means: an interest that is more than a passion and less than an obsession. Good term if you don’t want to call it a fetish, I think.

Of course, he as an Astrolabe and a Sextant, the original GPS devices for sailors to determine where they were in the ocean from the location of the stars and would be seriously messed up on cloudy or rainy nights.

Slide Rule With Holster

He has several slide rules of course. The slide rule was the device that was the best tool we had until electronic calculators took over that role.  Right up to the early 1970’s  this was a compulsory math instrument for high school students. It was what many of the calculations were done on for the Americans to put a man on the moon. If you were an Engineering student in the 1960’s wearing one in a holster on your belt indicated you had a license to calculate.

This took on a competitive aspect of course when various universities would compete for doing calculations and these competitors would use both their eye/hand coordination, and muscle memory skills with much too large a mental processor to zip the sliding parts back and forth to come up with the answer in record time.

 

 

 

One of my buddy’s valued objects is a slide rule he bought from the University of Chicago Engineering School of computing.

Engineering Lab Slide Rule

It is almost eight feet long and was attached to a wall behind the instructor in a large lecture hall. The professor would demonstrate its use to the eager engineering students and they would follow along using their regular sized slide rules.

Tech Nerds In Foreplay

 

 

So what happened in 1974? Well, the electronic calculator cost had come down enough to make it suitable for general use by the public and overnight the slide rule was not only second fiddle, but was eliminated. Poof.

Some measurement devices do endure of course. He has an Omega Seamaster Professional Chronometer– the same one that James Bond had in one of those thrillers but my buddy claims his malfunctions because all it does is tell time. And the time it tells of course while not as precise as the least expensive of smart phones today is pretty damb accurate and based on a technology that has not changed essentially in hundreds of years.

I think that part of his interest in these technologies and their obsolescence is looking to find what are real measures that last and have meaning, like the measure of a person. Relationships, integrity, loyalty. It is interesting that none of these are really quantifiable yet are more highly valued as measures than the quantifiable ones.

When I worked on the food prep areas of cruise ships, we had to be precise in our measures so Mr. Mcgillicutty’s  soup would be exactly like Mrs. McGillicutty’s and so when he raved about it over cards, Dr. Garfunkel would  order it the next day and have the same dining experience.

And as a guy who likes to cook and occasionally bake, I get the importance of the use of measures, but increasingly I am drawn to those things that are more fluid or nuanced than precise. If you read many of my posts you will know of my bromance with Jamie Oliver and Jacques Pepin and the whole movement to experimentation, adaptation, and interpretation. Those concepts require some structure, and a goal but not as precise a measurement.  Now I am talking cooking here, not baking – and measures in baking are a bit fixed.

It was only after I wrote this and was relating to Ciara the focus of this piece, that Ciara pointed out the obvious.

Django’s Measuring Cup

I use a measuring cup that was given to me by my Bebe. Now, if you don’t know who that is I would suggest going back to my posts from 2020, 2019 and few from 2015 and earlier.  She is my paternal grandmother, from  a little island off of Brittany, who has now passed. She gave me an old glass measuring cup when I was first starting to work on the kitchens of ships and she mistakenly thought that my job related to making food, more than the truth of it which was working in a food preparation plant for pigs at sea. It was very tired even then, and over the years with use, and too much time in dishwashers, all the numbers have worn off completely but because it was from her it is one of the few measuring cups I have on En Plein Air, and it is what I use almost exclusively and  think of her when doing so.

But the point here is that it is reflective of my take on the world today. I know that when it is largely filled, its one cup, and when its about half full it’s ….well you guessed it – half a cup. It is important that we get things largely right and measure them properly but perhaps not as important that we be precise and beat ourselves up or beat up others for not being as precise. This “sorta measure” is where I am today in trying to understand how to move forward in understanding life, particularly life in Covid times.

After reflecting on this clear glass object a bit, I decided to introduce another item in the Django shop. It is the Django Bisous Measuring Cup. There are no measures, but you will still know how to use it. Coming soon….

 

Django

 

Measurement Park

P.S.

After posting this I received a note from the partner of the buddy who is into collecting all the measuring stuff.

I had called it an interest and his partner pointed out to me that when they moved to their current house they did so partially because the little park that is close to them is called MEASUREMENT PARK and has various measures shown on poles.

Ok, so that definitely puts his interest on the fetish spectrum.

 

 

FORTY-EIGHT

Posted: August 1, 2021

In the spring of 1973 I graduated from Champlain High School in Ottawa, Canada. That was forty-eight years ago. And about a week ago I received a note from my longtime buddy (and classmate) Jim H. who still lives in the Ottawa area, letting me know there was a movement afoot to have a reunion on October 2nd , the first for our year.

Wow.  A high school reunion. There are few things that conjure up such a mix of emotions. I know that for some the nine weeks from hearing of this until the actual event will be the period to: lose 40 pounds, get a facelift and win a Nobel prize for physics. Well, I never was much good at physics. Physics and a few of the other sciences did various cameo appearances on my high school F column with the regulars Math and French. Yeah French, and I have a French heritage. I am kind of squeamish when it comes to surgery so that puts the face lift out of the question for me as well. Forty pounds? I think it might be easier to get that Nobel prize in the nine weeks.

Now while high school is a pretty crazy time in the evolution of teenagers it was particularly strange in that period when I was there – 1968 to 1973. Yes, that is a five year period because at the time Ontario Canada offered a four year high school diploma for anyone wanting to pursue the trades or community college and a five year diploma for most people who aspired to go to university or had parents with such aspirations for their offspring. I had such parents.

And what was happening in that 1968 to 1973 period? Well at the beginning of that period the Cold War was still hot, the war in Viet Nam was heating up as both a war and effectively a civil war in the United States as well, and  Martin Luther King had just been murdered in April of ’68.  In 1969 gay rights in Canada were opened up, the Americans put a man on the moon, and by October 1970 the War Measures Act was used in Canada to try to manage the FLQ,  a Quebec liberation group. Women were fighting for their liberation, race relations were poor, particularly in the U.S., and as we now know, the Canadian Government with the Roman Catholic Church ramped up both the Residential Schools and the forced assimilation of our indigenous peoples with the sixties scoop. Shameful. It really was a very screwed up time on most fronts and many of us had parents who had no idea how to cope with the perspectives their teenagers were developing regarding many of these issues.

In contrast to those turbulent times the soundtrack for our high school life was amazing. It started with The Beatles releasing The White Album and then Abbey Road and the Stones releasing   Beggars Banquet and Let it Bleed. Led Zeppelin was formed.  By the summer between grade 9 and 10 we had Woodstock. If you are new to this website you may want to look back in the archives ( MY VERY FIRST POST,  posted December 14, 2013) to Jim C’s Woodstock experience and the recent follow up to that  (WOODSTOCK: 50 YEARS LATER, posted August 15, 2019). Every week a new album would come out that today would be considered epic. And as if to celebrate our graduation in 1973, Pink Floyd released The Dark Side Of The Moon.

Of course, that flood of new music was also reflecting growth on some amazing music from before and I have great memories of sitting at Jim H’s living room listening to Gene Vincent Rock and the Blue Caps Roll, or his fathers Dave Brubeck albums.

And that’s the really fun part of memories. It is not just the music but the link of that music to what we were doing at the time.  I have fond recollections of lounging in the dark listening to the Moody Blues in Myles C.’s basement after a warmup joint outside, and singing along to The Who, Rush  and Black Sabbath  while riding in Bo M’s amazing Datson 240Z with the music just loud enough to have the whole city turn to listen.

Ahh, the cars. Bo always had a nice ride, as his dad was in that business and Bo would clean the cars and sometimes bring them home. Jim H’s parents had the ’66 corvette stingray fastback, and Steve Z. got a brand-new Corvette for graduation. The rest of us mortals, rode bikes, motorcycles, took transit, walked, borrowed our parents’ cars or had really old junkers. I had an 80 cc Yamaha motorbike, that spit and coughed and farted all the way to wherever I was going. My main man Jim C. had saved a lot  so that in January 1970 when we both turned sixteen, he had bought a three-year-old Volks Beetle  and drove it to the driving test – Yeah, don’t ask.  He delivered pizza with it part time and loved that thing. But one sunny Sunday morning in August  of that year on a tight bend near his parents’ cottage he rolled it.  That turned him on to doing autobody and worked on a lot of other guys cars over the rest of High school.

For some of us we did not do high school well. At the time, what we now call Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder was in its early stages of identification and treatment,  and the confusion for most practitioners was that some inflicted with this had  a big attention deficit while others had not as much but a lot of hyperactivity. For most of us with it , the identification only came much later than high school, after some seriously disastrous experiences. I have ADHD but unlike my buddy Jim C. who was given an extra dollop of the H part I got an extra dollop of the AD part. It meant that I was laid back and identified as “mentally lazy”  and he was identified as “overwound”. I just cruised through high school failing stuff and for him the behaviors are as if you took  a regular kid, gave him a bunch of amphetamines, a couple of double espressos and send him off to school each day.

He channeled it into track and field – literally to run it off. I, on the other hand, would self medicate. Both of these techniques work to a degree but only partially. Each of us only figured out we had this later in life and much too late to have a very positive high school experience – at least academically.

Our high school  was a little weird as well. We had a real range on the socioeconomic front – some not very well off, some exceedingly well off and most of us in the middle. When we were in grade 10 the school board decided to turn our school into a Francophone school and the English school would be phased out. We were the second last graduating class as the year behind us was the last intake of the English students.  I think it was a Canadian application of the U.S. bussing program that had been so successful. LOL.

The result of this phase out of the school’s intake was that each year the scale of the student body dwindled, and as normal attrition was also occurring with some families who would move away, the number of students in our year also went down in size, as no new families moving to the area  could have their kids join us as this strange orphaned school.  There were positives to this small size of course in that we were a tighter group and could do some things that at the time were unique like moving the whole bunch of us (students, teachers, admin people)  to camp together, but in general we could not put together a football team or have as many extra curricular clubs etc.

Looking back over almost half a century is also scary. We look at the choices we have made, the experiences we have had since high school and how we might have done things differently. I spend a lot of time writing on this website  reflecting on life, looking back and looking forward. I think if this reunion happened twenty years ago I would have been pretty uptight about it,  but now it has been so long it is just a novelty that we have made it this far and will be fun to get reacquainted. But it has taken me this long to get to that point that I can see my high school years more  objectively and pull out those positive memories. It is as if over the years I have gone through a set of slides and year after year thrown out one or two of the bad memories only to be left with mainly slides of the good times and the positives that have come out.

Forty-eight years is a long time. That number has significance for Jim as he retired on his forty-eighth birthday and significance for me as the trip we did in June 2004  was En Plein Airs forty-eighth trip moving people to safe points as I described  in THE NEW MILLENIUM, posted March 26, 2017.

My buddy Jim C. has a lot of travel points and has got me a ticket to come over, see my doctor, dentist, and go to the reunion. The flight is by way of Ireland so Ciara is joining me for that leg as both of us need to sign statements at the police station regarding the death of her ex husband and then she is staying on for a few weeks as she needs to do something to keep up her medical accreditation. I will be in Ireland for just a day and then off to Canada for a few days of quality time with my doctor, dentist, and people I have not seen in about five decades.

I am now off to the library to sign out a bunch of physics texts.

Django

High School Django

P.S. As regular readers know I don’t usually put in pictures of myself as I like to keep a low profile but here is one of me from my high school days in grade twelve or grade thirteen. I am going to spend some time trying to find some images of my classmates and if they are cool with it, I will post them here as well.