Monday, August 31, 2009

The Happy Hundredaire



Success is measured in inches, metres, miles, smiles and, for some, dollars. I like to think that I'm pretty successful if I wake up in the morning. That's the first 35 inches of my yardstick. Life is a one-sided coin without any obvious dollar value, that's why it always disappoints me when someone says their goal in life is to become a millionaire. They remind me of wading pools.

I haven't heard anyone say that lately, which I take as a good sign yet I do know people who want to be rich more than anything else. I have one friend who has transformed himself from an admirable entrepreneur into a lazy snake oil salesman. It's depressing to watch. There's nothing wrong with being rich, in fact, it's quite nice...trust me. I'm a happy hundredaire and beyond, without the need for superfluous zeroes. Being rich is the byproduct of a happy existence, and should not be identified as a goal.

The image above is what I see when I get up in the morning, and that particular morning wasn't anything out of the ordinary. Compare what I see to what greets the a.m. eyeballs of others: the wall of a neighbouring apartment building, squealing jake brakes from a busy highway, or the smell of sulfur (living next to Dubya)...now you see why I feel wealthy.

The only measure of wealth that I acknowledge is health and lifestyle. If you've got them both, then the money, and by that I mean excess wealth, doesn't matter much. It's nice to have a view down the lake, but real wealth starts and begins within. It's subjective. It's about appreciating what you've got...finding the silver lining. Some people love the view of the highway or the train tracks. Some people love the view of the neighbouring apartment building, especially the sight of the exhibitionist in apartment 12C.

There's more to life than money, though I'm careful not to devalue the dollar. We all need a little bit to cover the basics: food, shelter, wine, windsurfers, etc.

There's a woman who works at Pizza Twice in Fredericton who probably doesn't earn much more than minimum wage, yet she's fast, efficient, friendly and above all appears to be happy, even though she spends her days boxing pizzas for bilingual boys and girls (it's the Pizza Twice near ecole Ste.Anne...the French school). She's probably the most successful business person that I've ever met in Fredericton, because she seems to love what she does. Dollars be damned.

Business writer Peter Drucker said "“the purpose of business is to create and keep a customer.” I like that definition. Actually, I love it. It sure beats the often cited 'to make money'.

I can think of more than one business in my butt of the woods which has an owner in business 'to make money'. What a shame, for everyone involved, especially the customers. I only wish that the humble pizza girl could come down and show them how to create and keep a customer. Loonies, toonies and twenties will flock to a business that appreciates its customers, but some knuckle dragging business owners have yet to figure that out.

I believe in evolution, it just happens more slowly in Cambridge-Narrows than in other places (Minto, Jemseg and the Oromocto Mall excluded).

I'm going to go help my friend out in his vineyard this morning. Why? Because it's a happy place. My friends at Motts Landing Vineyard know how to create and keep a customer, and they're in business for all the right reasons. It's not about the money. They also know how to create and keep a friend. They're the richest people in their neighbourhood, by far. They're clever enough to get a leisurologist off the sofa and on his hands and knees rolling in the dirt, and I'm clever enough to appreciate the wealth of experience (and friendship) that I get in return.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Not Much Upstairs



Have you ever been mired in a conversation where, instead of actually paying attention to the mindless drivel crack-filling your ears, you're trying to remember the words to the Smurf's theme song, or alternately looking for a hallucinogenic toad to lick. This happens to me all the time. Sure, I could simply walk away or find a conversational fork in the road and take it, but where's the drama in that?

I'm quite happy to talk about current events, if there's some common ground on which to stand, but some people seem to go on about things to which I couldn't spare a rat's ass of interest. Current events are a safe topic with me, particularly because I haven't watched television in four years and I rarely read the newspaper. Almost anything you say to me is breaking news.

So Janet was never part of the Jackson 5? Wow, I did not know that.

I looked at a newspaper yesterday, August 29, only to discover that Ted Kennedy died four days earlier. I understood that Ted was pretty much in a coma before he died, so it's unlikely that he had much on his mind. Prior to his death, I wonder how often he thought of Mary Jo Kopechne and Chappaquiddick.

I've got a better idea of what was going through brother John F.Kennedy's brain when he died:

1) Dammit Jackie, you've maxed out my Amex Gold card again...how much did you say that hat cost?

2) Mom's going to be pissed when she finds out that I forgot to close the gate at the compound.

3) A bullet.

It's funny that the Kennedy's are so revered. JFK was a supposed philanderer. When handsome Jack checked out, Jackie married a rich old sugar daddy called Ari.

You want a new hat? Hell, I'll buy you a hat factory! Pass the moussaka.

Robert Kennedy did some good work, tackling organized crime and the Teamsters, but look where he ended up, six feet under, and seven years ahead, of Jimmy Hoffa's cement shoe prints. Ted walked away, or swam, from an accident that claimed a young girl's life, a death that probably could have been prevented by someone with a conscience. JFK Jr. tried to land his plane nose first in the ocean. It's as though the family was cursed.

It's amazing what news squeaks through the cracks and makes it my way, despite my furtive attempts to become a bastion of ignorance. Somehow I found out that it would have been Michael Jackson's fifty-first birthday yesterday, had he not sold the farm (err, ranch). I can hardly wait until next year when the media celebrates what would have been MJ's fifty-second birthday. I expect that we'll suffer through this annual ritual until someone more famous dies suspiciously. If only Madonna would choke on a sausage. On the upside, MJ's death will probably give us a break from Elvis for a while.

Not likely. Elvis will celebrate his seventy-fifth birthday this coming January, and none of us will be able to escape the festivities. Both Elvis and Michael Jackson overdosed on prescription drugs, which makes me wonder about the price of fame, and the availability of prescription drugs (someone keeps sending my spam folder some great deals on Viagra, but that's not going to cause my fall from grace). It's quite weird, really, all this drug abuse. If I was rich and famous, I can't imagine taking twenty drags from my puffer.

Michael Jackson will never be able to tell us about the pain he suffered, though his brothers can speculate (Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon, Phil, Randy, Andrew, Stonewall and Pollock).

Speaking of painful dialogues, you might wonder where this blog is headed today. I might wonder if you're hearing the Smurfs' theme song yet, or searching for toads.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

I'm Still Wind Awed


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I was out for my first sail of the year yesterday on something larger than an ironing board (translation: bigger than a windsurfer). I was guest captaining aboard the lovely Tanzer 22 christened Whisper. Never has a boat been more aptly named, especially when taking into account the multitude of stinkpots buzzing up and down my lake.
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There are a fair number of motorboats on my lake, with many of these gurgling beasts sporting transom tags like 'The Other Woman', 'Eat My Wake' or 'She Got The House'. They speak of angst.
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I, myself, used to captain a stinkpot. Her name was Maud and she was only a stinkpot by virtue of a having a 90HP Yamaha saddled to her stern. Everything about her said 'I am the lady of the lake', or 'I could be a sailboat', but she was plagued with a drinking problem. She had an insatiable thirst for fuel and there was no cure for her ailment, so eventually I sold her to a couple from the island of deer.
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I was sad to see her go, though my sporran cheered as she was hauled out of my driveway for the last time. I loved Maud. She gave me twenty-three feet of pure pleasure, almost four times the enjoyment that Wendy derives from my hull. Maud opened up a world of discovery for me. If I know my beloved lower St.John River valley at all, then it's Maud whom I need to thank (and Wendy for getting that gig at the Metropolitan Opera that paid for her).
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I still admire boats like Maud, though I don't often see lazy cruisers on my lake. Sailboats aren't lazy, they're hardworking cruisers. The best definition of 'sailing' on my radar is: the fine art of getting wet and becoming ill, while going nowhere slowly at great expense. Funny, but not as clever as the definition of golf...a good walk spoiled.
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Yesterday's adventure on the mighty Washademoak reminded me of how much I love the feeling of wind in my sails. I used to know that feeling regularly, beginning with my first sail in the early 1970s. In the late 1980s/ early 1990s I taught sailing part-time for the Humber College Sailing Centre, located in Etobicoke, just west of Hogtown's haunches.
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Teaching sailing was enjoyable, but my co-workers were even more entertaining. It was like a school where the instructors were hand chosen based on their sexual appetites (I'm referring to the other instructors). One in particular, I think his name was Jimmy, could have given Wilt Chamberlain a run for his money in the bedroom Olympics. He was a handsome guy who threw his seed to the four winds. That's the poetic way of saying he was a slut. Let's just say, slightly less poetically, that he had many hands on his tiller.
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I taught sailing basics to the animals of the concrete jungle. The sailing school had both keel boats (24 foot fixed keel Sharks, 25 five foot C&C) and dinghies (16 foot Wayfarers). It always felt great to distance myself from Toronto and get out on the water, even if the cold water was less than Speedo worthy (the Toronto beaches were often closed in the summertime due to eColi outbreaks, syringe strewn shores or mountains of goose dung). I never felt happier in my five years in Toronto than I did when sailing, although the time when the Maple Leafs won two games in a row was pretty special too.
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Perhaps I should have chosen a career that saw me on the water full-time, but I just fell into leisurology with all it's hedonistic trappings. I'm stuck happily here in Cambridge-Narrows, forty miles from the ocean's infinite horizon. The ocean is near, literally and figuratively. I can't, nor should I, discount the voice in my head that whispers like the wind...always questioning.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Lonely Leisurologist




Four fifths of August had passed. A subdued summer was offering the gift of one last loving embrace before the mists of September mornings would steel the lake water. I eagerly accepted and carried my windsurfer down the greying cedar boardwalk to the sands of a still warm shore. The mid-evening sky, blushed with maple and raspberry syrup, hinted that the curtain of night was ninety minutes shy.

The upturned nose of my windsurfer cut through the inky lake chop with ease. My board hummed happily and my sail shivered with excitement. The day was still very much alive, though the mistral of the afternoon was clearly preparing to retire. I felt lucky to have this moment to myself, yet profoundly sad that not one other soul, save a gull or two, would share it with me.

I've grown accustomed to sole ownership of Washademoak Lake. I live in a place where people may look lovingly at her waters, but seldom do they dip their oars in the uncharted evening. It's a shame, but how could my world ever compete with a hot meal and the six o'clock news? Apparently, after years of observation, it can't.

This point was driven home recently in Dartmouth. While driving along a busy residential street on a picture perfect evening, I saw the eerie glow of Atlantic Canada's most watched starlet, Steve Murphy, emanating from almost every home and apartment.
Dare I suggest that we've lost touch with the sun, sky and moon, with far too much focus on the stars. What follows the ATV News? ETalk. Nuff said, now grab a paddle and spank yourself, then start rowing.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Pecking Order For Parting Puckers




I was going to write about sex wax this morning, but I didn't have any pictures that related to its application, so I'm going to focus on fully clothed embraces.

Recently we had a visit from Wendy's Newfoundland based cousin and his family. It was a brief twenty four hours that they stayed with us, but long enough for their two little kids to reacquaint themselves with the Cambridge-Narrows Vartys, whom they see about once a year. When it was time for them to depart the Varty compound, cute little Emily gave everyone in the room a big hug. I happened to be sitting on the floor at the time. She walked up to me, carefully removed my ball cap, gently brushed my hair aside, and then....


Sweet girly girl Emily nailed me with a monster head butt. I was seeing stars, and trust me, they didn't look anything like Lindsay Lohan. Emily, herself, looked a little dazed, and she saw it coming. I was 100% blindsided. Everyone in the room held their collective breaths to see which of us would pass out first. Two minutes later we were both still standing, miraculously. Emily, looking like Jupiter, had a nice big red circle on her forehead, surrounded by swirling clouds. I was talking either gibberish, Urdu, or Scottish? I don't remember. In any event it was completely unintelligible.

Thanks for the hug Emily!

My family are not huggers. Tree huggers? Yes! People huggers? Not really. I'm not sure if our standoffedness is a British thing or we're just socially awkward, but hugs weren't part of our daily, weekly or monthly diet. Wendy's family, on the other hand are so huggy that I fear a dry humping is always waiting in the wings.

I never used to give hugs much of a thought, until one day my friend Aimée sent me, and countless others, a link to a YouTube video. This was about three or four years ago now. Perhaps you remember the video? It featured a rather 'back to earth' looking group of granolas who were offering free hugs to passing pedestrians. If you haven't seen it before, then you can watch it here. The video was expertly produced in an organic, grass root kind of way. It's been viewed forty nine million times, just two million times less than we've seen Amy Winehouse's undergarments (I'm not providing links on this one, but there's no shortage of them).

I have one friend who I greet with a kiss on the lips which, for me, is totally out of character, but somehow it feels right. I have a smattering of friends with whom I share bone crushing hugs. My ribs happily Slinky in and out like a masterfully played accordion.

A friend's sister once taught me the art of the European, two cheek embrace, though, like most art forms, it's lost unless practiced frequently. I'm not sure I could manage a two cheeker anymore, having not done one in some time. Was it left cheek to left cheek, or right to right? One false move and someone's going to have a bloody nose and a black eye.

There are full hugs, half hugs and the one armed quarter hug. There are close hugs where ears rub against each other, far hugs where you grasp shoulders and maintain eye contact (very Russian). There's also the hug/jump/spin, usually reserved for lottery winners. A few amigos hug like lazy Mexicans. We've all been given the dead fish soft taco hug before. I'm not sure what it says, other than I'd rather be in the dead grip of a amorous anaconda than in your arms.

The firm, manly man handshake is tried and true, safe and easily delivered, though it is decidedly businesslike. I hate the milquetoast handshake. I can hear my hand saying 'must break free' in stressed out Spiderman tones. Sometimes I've gone for the GQ handshake but I've been finger gripped, thus emasculating my greeting. I often wonder if finger grippers think that I shake like a pansy in the wind. I believe that's what the finger gripper wants to think...it's an aggressive power grab on their part.

Hugs make me nervous. Little Emily put me on notice. Honestly, I think that she was just 'paying me back' for what I accidentally did to her mother ten years ago. I managed to gash her mom's forehead (stitches were needed) with a flying snowboard helmet while I was doing air guitar with a broom. Don't ask.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Like Michael Jackson, my camera is dead. I took it to the Cow Bay (N.S.) shore and was attempting to photograph surfers, one of whom was a doctor. Did the doctor kill my camera, or did the camera die from natural causes, if you could call an overdose of acid drizzle natural? We may never know. In fact, I don't care.
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I had to steal a photograph from my friend's computer this morning since my Nikon is behaving like a Nikoff. At least I was able to find a picture of someone surfing in Nova Scotia. I'm not sure if it's my friend surfing in the picture, because all surfers look like Ninjas once they're in their wetsuits and crouched on their boards. I was watching this one pony-tailed surfer on Monday and was very impressed that my friend had taken her surfing to the next level. She was totally ripping up the waves and I was completely blown away by her style. As she drew closer I could see her wet locks...and her beard. Oops. Like I said, they all look the same on the water, at least from a distance.
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Most wetsuits are black because that's the colour that makes us most closely resemble a juicy, succulent seal. Uncle Whitey probably wouldn't like us if our wetsuits were pinstriped or plaid. A lot of surf breaks are getting overcrowded, so the world needs to shed itself of a few wave chasers. The wetsuit manufacturers held a meeting at Marineland, did some testing in the shark tank, and decided that a black wetsuit made the most sense. It was unanimously approved. There was some debate over the suitability of a neoprene head cover with large whiskers. Some felt that the whiskers were too obvious, so this design never garnered the manufacturer's seal of approval.
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I came to Nova Scotia to surf, and I did. Arriving on Sunday evening, I missed all of the big surf. It was so wild on Sunday, I was told, that almost no one made it out. My friends went windsurfing in a small protected bay, but after a while the winds made it unwindsurfable. The thought of windsurfing on the open ocean was unthinkable. Impossible. The waves were too violent and massive. Someone would have died.
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It was amazing how Sunday and Monday could have been so different. Here's a recap of Sunday: thirty foot waves, eighty kilometre an hour wind, heavy and horizontal rain, coastal flooding. Monday: four to six foot waves, not a breath of wind, and almost no precipitation except when I had my Nikon out. I surfed twice on Monday in what could only be described as perfect conditions for someone of my surfing ability (bleached hair and a surfboard, stickers on my car, but no real talent). I surfed at Cow Bay, midway between Dartmouth and Lawrencetown. Cow Bay is very close to Cole Harbour, home of Stanley Cup winner Sidney Crosby. Hockey bores me, but I do like trophies...unless they're brides.
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The beach at Lawrencetown was still closed on Monday. A large lingering surf was still creating mayhem on the Lawrencetown shore. The beach was a plate of strewn burgundy and mustard pasta. Oversized hillocks of seaweed had been piled everywhere like Whistler moguls. The damaged boardwalk to the shore had been cordoned off with fluorescent tape, the type used at supposed crime scenes like the Neverland ranch. Beach officials patrolled the verboten shore, ensuring no 'tourists' became floating meatballs.
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All in all, Nova Scotia survived hurricane Bill rather well. No one died, which is quite incredible given the propensity for dolts to body surf in jeans and t-shirts off Peggy's Cove's slippery rocks. People in Maine's Acadia National Park were not so lucky. It amazes me how parents can take their children to such dangerous places. It also angers me because the ocean can kill you without a second thought. Show it some respect...or else. And please, kill yourself if you must, but don't drag the kids down with you.
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I'm leaving the salty shores of Nova Scotia this morning, but I'll be back for more surfing soon. My son starts university in Halifax in less than two weeks. As he's my only child and a great one, I plan on visiting him frequently. Every time a tropical storms blows into town, I'll follow suit and do the same...to make sure he's okay (wink, wink). I'll bring my surfboard too, just so I have something to do while he's in class.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Aveda Could Sell Ice To The Inuit

Most people have hobbies. Some like to knit, others love sports. I enjoy surfing, photography, writing and poking around other people's bath tubs. I don't care much for the bath tubs themselves...if you've seen one, you've seen them all.

My bathroom fetish involves hair and body care products....known in the metrosexual world simply as 'product'. When I'm at home and I want to clean my hair, I use something called shampoo. When I want to scrub a half dozen of my 2000 body parts, I use something called soap. It's all very simple. Not so when you travel. When I'm in someone else's home, be it a woman's or a gay guy's or a metrosexual's, I'm alternately grossly perplexed or mildly doomed as soon as the water smacks my face and I start looking at their selection of product. I suppose that I could travel with my own product, but where's the fun in that?

This morning I decided to take a shower, or it was decided for me. The mirror told me that my friends would shun me if I didn't do something about my hair. So off went the clothes and on went the shower. I always take a careful first step into a foreign tub lest there be something slippery on the enamel. I've always feared taking a tumble, breaking a leg, or knocking myself out, causing my friends to rush to my naked aid.

We all think we know what we look like when we're starkers, but how would others view us?

Celine, is that you?

Yeah, my legs are skinny and I'm ashamed of them but at least they don't sing syrup infused ballads or spoon with grandpa (yes, that was uncalled for).

So, I'm in my friend's bathtub this morning. I'm happy because the shower head is actually above mine. While vacationing in California a few years ago, I experienced more than one nozzle that seemingly didn't want to wash anything from the waist up. I've seen bidets that did a better job of washing my armpits! Well, at least I know what Hervé Jean-Pierre Villechaize did after his short career as Tattoo on Fantasy Island. I wouldn't have guessed plumbing but, then again, I wouldn't have guessed that Jerry Springer was the mayor of Cincinnati before becoming one of America's most wholesome and respected television hosts.

I'm looking for shampoo in the generously stocked rack. I grab a tube of something but it turns out to be Aveda Tourmaline Charged Exfoliating Cleanser. WTF? From Wikipedia...'Tourmaline is a crystal silicate mineral compounded with elements such as aluminium, iron, magnesium, sodium, lithium, or potassium'. I might as well be doing the back stroke in a Sydney Mines tailing pond. Water continues to pour down my face as I blindly paw around for some shampoo. My hand locates and procures another tube of something...turns out to be Aveda Outer Peace Foaming Cleanser. Two cleansers? This either means that my friend is incredibly dirty, or incredibly clean. It's amazing what you learn in someone else's bathroom.

Some people are known snoops when it comes to other people's houses. I'm a polite snoop. For example, I would never, ever look inside someone's medicine cabinet. Some things are sacred. I've heard of people who do that. I'd be worried that I might unearth some hideous secret about my friend that would scar me for life. Say, for example, that she used Archie McPhee's bacon flavoured dental floss. She doesn't, but what if she did? Could we still be friends?

I finally found some shampoo. In fact I found two shampoos: Aveda's Shampure shampoo and Aveda's Be Curly shampoo with wheat protein. I chose the Aveda Be Curly shampoo and that's why there's no picture for today's blog. I've got a fro!

In reality, there's no picture for today's blog because my camera died last night. After 78 000 images, it finally gave up the ghost. If only Aveda made a Pixie Dust Infused Nikon Rejuvenator, I'd buy it, right after I went on-line and ordered my bacon flavoured dental floss.

Monday, August 24, 2009

I'll Have A Cafe Mocha Vodka Marijuana Latte To Go, Please



A mouse chaser just pranced across my firm (?), hundred mile diet ravaged(??) stomach. Now she's back and she's resting her purring face on my right arm while using my elbow as a fleshy, makeshift scratching post. The famous feline wears a red, heart-shaped name tag. It says Sam. I'm using my right hand to keep princess Sam purring, and also to keep her regal mane off the keyboard, so I'm typing this with my left hand.

Oh damn!

Sam's just caught her claw in my white cotton t-shirt and it doesn't appear that the claw is coming free during the ninety-one years remaining in this century. I'm having visions of showering, shopping and surfing with an auxiliary pussy dangling precipitously close to my spleen... the closest I'll get to the unfortunate condition know as hermaphroditism. It's not quite how I imagined my life playing out, but do any of us really know what the future holds? Sam damn well better like Aveda Shampure shampoo, surfing stores and salt water...because that's what's in my immediate future.


Needless to say, I'm not at home. I'm in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. Dartmouth is famous for...umm, errr, well,....nothing of which I'm aware. The Trailer Park Boys was filmed on the unscrubbed backside of Dartmouth, but that's like bragging that Don Cherry used to be your babysitter. Interesting, but not historically significant. Other than the Micmac Mall, I know nothing about Dartmouth.


I arrived in Dartmouth under the cloak of darkness and made my way to my friend's latest home. She's not in the military, but likes to pretend that she is, dispatching herself to a new posting every two years or so. She left her Halifax pied-a-terre recently, and now spends her days on the other side of the bridge. Dartmouth has always played ugly step sister to the glossy, glassy towers of well educated Halifax, but perhaps it's a reputation that's undeserved.

When my eyelids parted at 6 a.m. this morning, I found myself in a quiet, leafy suburban neighbourhood. It's reminiscent of the place where I grew up except the architecture is more imaginative, and the postage stamp square lots are far more generous. Choruses of birds were texting and twittering back and forth. Red squirrels were making red squirrel noises, announcing to each other that they'd found a new way to get into Reg Bumford's attic.

This boy slept in a trailer last evening, which doesn't actually bolster Dartmouth's reputation. In fact, the trailer is a gorgeous vintage 1960s Avion. You know nothing about Avion trailers, in the manner that I know nothing about Dartmouth. They're the lesser known cousin to the wildly popular, and expensive, Airstreams. You know the Airstream...it's the giant Coors Light can on wheels with the five star interior (and no beer in the fridge). The Avion is similar, except with the heart of a VW van and a Kerouacan sense of wanderlust. The Airstream drinks martinis and expensive Scotch. The Avion walks up to the bar and says "I'll have a cafe mocha vodka marijuana latte to go." But only if it's out of home brew.

I didn't make the cafe mocha thing up. When I poured myself out of my friend's Avion this morning, I wandered into her house and did what a normal house guest does when the host is still asleep...I snooped. I saw a sign in her kitchen with the aforementioned bar order, and I liked it's sense of irreverence. It seemed fitting of an Avion owner.

The Avion owner is also a surfer and surfing is what's on my plate this morning. Hurricane Bill has willed itself toward Newfoundland and only the swell remains. The wind, waves and weather are decidedly more user friendly today. Yesterday's surf was big enough to skin a cat, which wouldn't do at all. Today I'll swing by the local surf shop to get Sam a wetsuit, then hopefully we'll paddle out and catch some waves together.

Does it make sense to surf with a cat? When you only have one life, it does.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Happy Tain't Day Everybody



When I was a six year old leisurologist, during what I call 'the formative years', I was bribed to go to church. I wasn't given an envelope of cash in the vestry by a shady man called Karlheinz, for my promise of attendance. No money passed my collection plate. I was promised a treat after church and that had me buzzing like a horny honey bee.

My parents master plan worked for a while until I realized that Sunday school was more work than regular school. I could handle five days of suffering, but six was out of the question. Elementary school wasn't really suffering, at least not after the day that Sandra Clark first brought her Easy Bake Oven to class. Do you remember the Easy Bake Oven? I do.

The Easy Bake Oven, for those of you who had no real childhood, was a diminutive plastic oven powered by Joseph Swan and Thomas Edison's invention...an incandescent light bulb. Almost magically the light bulb provided enough heat to bake a small pan of Brownies. I wanted to marry Sandra Clark. I didn't love her, but I wanted a wife with an Easy Bake Oven.

Sandra Clark only brought her minor turquoise appliance to school once, but everyday during my days as an elementary school boy, until Sandra's family moved to Nova Scotia, I went to class hoping and praying that the Easy Bake Oven would make a reappearance. It didn't. Sandra was famous for more than just her baking. She once threw up her alphabet soup on my grade one classroom floor.

Time for a spelling test class. Sandra, I didn't say to start just yet!

I think every kid has a story about some other kid tossing/hurling/upchucking in class. Someday I might gather these stories together and turn them into a kid's story. If Glen Murray can make a million off a farting dog, then why not a story about Ralph The Sick Schoolboy?

I put my days in at elementary school just like most kids, except that I wasn't paying attention to the three Rs (reading, riting and a rithmatic). I was dreaming of brownies, cupcakes and anything that could be cooked by a light bulb. On Saturday mornings I would watch Bugs Bunny, Scooby Doo and Spiderman. Saturday was my favourite day of the week, by far. For me, Sunday seemed liked it should have been a day of rest, because Saturday was so much fun, so I questioned the benefit of pew sitting and plunked myself down on my Sunday sofa.

I was always baffled, as a child, that television programing on Saturday mornings could be so drool inducing, yet on Sunday morning it was as though the cartoons were hiding with Jimmy Hoffa. I was forced to watch the television test patterns, followed by Garner Ted Armstrong. Ted garnered quite a following in those days, although not everyone liked him. I liked his name, and that was about all.

Garner paved the way for televangelists like Jack and Rexella Van Impe, and the Bakkers (Jim and Spammy Flay). If there has ever been a hell on earth, then it most certainly was Sunday morning television in the early 1970s. I felt like I was being punished for not going to church, not by GOD, but by CTV, CBC, ABC, NBS, and CBS. I don't remember what PBS was broadcasting, but I hope that it involved chimpanzees stacking crates and getting to the dangling banana.

I'm not what you'd call a regular church-goer, especially now that cartoons are broadcast on Sunday mornings. I go to church primarily for weddings and funerals, often confusing the two (divorce stats back up my claim). I also attend classical music concerts in churches, mostly because I'm married to someone who occasionally gives classical music concerts in churches. The acoustics are often quite wonderful, certainly a pleasant contrast to the torturous pews.

Note: I just typed 'why are pews so uncomfortable?' into Google's search engine. It came back with Did you mean: why are Jews so uncomfortable? I suppose there's some man-made humour to be found there, or was it simply an act of god?

You'll notice, in the image above that I'm standing outside of a church. That picture was taken yesterday, August 22. As fate would have it, Wendy and I were driving by the Harvey Station church in which we were married exactly 22 years ago. We figured that would have been busting through the doors, 22 years ago, at exactly the moment when we drove past. I tend to exit churches more joyously than I enter them, but that's just me.

So yesterday, August 22, was my anniversary. August 24, tomorrow, is my birthday (please...cards and money only). August 23 is T'ain't Day (t'ain't my anniversary, t'ain't my birthday). I love T'ain't Day and the fact that it falls on a Sunday makes it that much more special. I do whatever I like on T'ain't Day, which makes it no different than any other day, come to think of it. Right now (Sunday morning, 8:44 a.m.) I think that I'll watch a little television. Let's see what's on....

I only get one channel here in Cambridge-Narrows, ATV, so it's not much of an investment on my part in any sense. This morning I've got the most reverend redhead, Valerie Pringle, torturing Newfies. Damn it...I was secretly hoping for the Van Impe's, Spiderman or Garner Jim Rockford. Have you ever watched the Van Impes before? They're hilarious. Whenever you've got a half an hour to spare/waste, and you're in need of a head shaking chuckle, then set your sights on Jack and Rexella and give them a shot. If you've only got four minutes and thirty two seconds, then watch this...you've got to watch the whole pewtrid thing for the full effect.

Happy T'ain't Day!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Do You Really Want A White House?



The President of the United States lives in a house that's painted white. It's called the White House. Clever, huh? The largest lake in New Brunswick is called Grand Lake. It is a grand lake indeed. Brent Rourke, the creative mind behind The Barn In Bloomfield, owns a wonderful business housed in a barn in Bloomfield. I've profiled Brent's business in my blog before, back on May 13. Brent has a global sense of design and a splendidly unfettered vision...most unusual for someone from this neck of the woods.

Brent's house, next to The Barn, is a colossus of a house. It looks like something that would have been owned by a globetrotting sea captain , though more understated that many ornate sea captains' cribs. Bloomfield is far from the sea (about 352 football fields away, or 20 miles) so I'm going to assume that the home was originally built for a farmer. It must have been owned by a successful farmer, or a farmer with thirty kids, or one with a sub-prime mortgage. The house is as big as the barn almost.

Up until recently the house was geisha girl white which it made it appear rather blandiose. You couldn't help but notice the size of the house, but the details were lost in its whiteness. Strangely, almost every active farm house in New Brunswick is Puritanical white. I don't know why unless coloured pigment wasn't available in the olden days (perhaps someone with historical insight could leave a comment explaining why all the maisons blanc?) In any event, the tradition lives on unquestioned. It's the New Brunswick way...like voting Liberal because your father and grandfather did (like, duh!). Perhaps houses were painted white to reflect the summer heat, I simply don't know.

I recently returned from my seventh visit to les Iles de la Madeleine. If you want to be inspired, sometimes amused, by colourfully painted houses, then I can think of three places where you should visit: Iles de la Madeleine, the Caribbean, or Jelly Bean Row in St.John's (NL). When I see houses like those that call Jelly Bean Row home, I feel good. Of course I have no idea what's going on inside these houses. For all I know, some cod killing, Screech sopped miserable old barnacle is berating his wife and kids, but on the outside it's just so happy looking.

If the houses on les Iles de la Madeleine were all white, then my love of the islands would be greatly diminished. The architecture of les Iles is pretty much plain Jane, with a few notable exceptions, but when you put a coat of Versace on the girl next door, well, she starts to look like a supermodel. That's what paint does.

The people of New Brunswick, for the most part, are too conservative to try something bold or brave like the islanders. Meat and potatoes, every night at 5 p.m., then Steve Murphy and a dose (literally) of Cindy Day at six, followed by Wheel of Fortune and Corner Gas. It's too predictable here. We're scared to be different.

Brent Rourke is the exception to the rule.

I was midway along my drive to Saint John on Thursday when something caught my eye while coasting toward the stop sign in Bloomfield. It was one of those 'oh my god' moments when you see something that takes your breath away. It was Brent Rourke's house...it had magically been transformed from a chubby white girl (named Jane) into a Picasso muse. I wasn't planning on stopping at the Barn In Bloomfield, but how could I ignore the gallery across the blooming field? I couldn't.

I drove into Brent and Susan Rourke's yard, got out of my car and stood in awe. I spoke to Susan about her choice of colour. She told me that she and Brent questioned their choice early on, but forged ahead unfazed. I'm glad they did.

The house is still being painted, with the southern side more or less complete. This paint job will polarize gawkers and rubberneckers, I'm sure. Some people won't be able to handle it and they'll spin out of control before crashing and burning on the ground. Evolution at work, I say. I love what this house has become...it's a statement. To me it says that we must continue to grow and more forward, otherwise we'll stagnate. It speaks of brave new worlds.

The white house is now full of colour, on both sides of the border...and this makes me pretty happy.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Home-made And Local....Really?



The hundred mile diet has me questioning everything, especially what's in my food and from where it originates. Restaurants and grocery stores must hate me, because I'm like the love child of Sherlock Holmes and Miss Marple when it comes to uncloaking the truth about food. Note: I've chosen to ignore the fact that Miss Marple was an elderly spinster and Holmes always seemed to chum around with Dr.Watson. Hmmm.

I really do question everything. It's not just Sherlock and Miss Marple that have influenced me, there are have been others. I'd like to give credit to those who have shaped my inquisitive and deductive mind. They are, in no particular order: Ben Matlock, Jim Rockford, Frank Cannon, Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys (yes, teens can figure out crimes, yet somehow be unable to hang up their clothes), and finally the Scooby Doo detectives (Fred, Velma, Daphne, Shaggy and Scooby Doo). One little known fact is that Scooby had a twin brother named Sea who went on to make his fortune in the personal watercraft industry, while simultaneously giving birth to lakeshore eco-terrorism.

Now that's a questionable piece of investigative reporting, except the part about Sea-Doos being damaging on numerous fronts. You cook up some pretty strange ideas, Mr.Leisurologist.

Yesterday I was driving by a restaurant and the sign said 'home cooked meals'. My brain said 'how can they be home-cooked, if they're made in a restaurant'?

Good point, Ian. I think it's time to call in your team of lawyers and start a lawsuit. Shall I get Perry Mason on line one for you?

This got me thinking, what gives a restaurant the right to call their food home-cooked? I'm 99.44% certain that the restaurant that inspired my witch hunt serves McCain or Cavendish french fries. They certainly aren't fresh cut, which I adore.

Shouldn't you capitalize 'French' fries, Ian?

Actually, I've chosen not to because french fries most likely were invented in Belgium, thus negating the justification for a capital 'f'.

Anyways, back to my witch hunt...what gives a restaurant the right to call their food home-cooked? I can understand how a bed and breakfast can call their food home-cooked, but a restaurant? As far as I'm concerned, unless the owner and head cook snuggle up like spoons and sleep under a dining room table, then it's not home-made. I suppose if a restaurant cooked a roast of beef, instead of using J.M.Schneider's sodium soaked slices, then made hot beef sandwiches...well, then they could say 'home-made'. But what if they used questionable canned (Karl)Heinz gravy and Wonder bread...and Belgian fries that came from Florenceville?

Ditto for home-baked goods. Home-baked as opposed to what? Factory baked? A small bakery is just a miniature factory...it still has nothing to do with a home.

Seriously, the word 'home-made' or 'home-baked' is almost meaningless these days...or is it? When I see the word 'home-made', it conjures up images of my own mother's excellent cooking...fresh from the oven food that wasn't shaped like nuggets, dinosaurs or those new-fangled light bulbs (curly fries). The term home-made is nothing but marketing, and it's used because it works, but it's pretty misleading.

Oh well, why should the restaurants be any different from the grocery stores?

True enough. I was in the Superstore recently and noticed some new signs boasting of a move toward increasing the amount of local produce. An article appears in today's issue of Prince Edward Island's Guardian newspaper which discusses Loblaw's initiative. A similar story appeared in Wednesday's National Post, shedding some light, albeit dim, on Loblaw's move to 'local' (thanks for sending me that story, Angie M.).

Loblaw's and I have a very different definition of the word 'local'. It would appear that Loblaw's calls produce local if it can be harvested and brought to market in less than 24 to 48 hours. In theory, a box of strawberries can be harvested in Kelowna (BC) in the morning, air shipped around the country later that day, and appear in my Superstore the following morning. To me, that's not local. My definition of local does not include airplanes. I like the 24 hour idea, but the truth seems lost in the contrails.

It is a promising development, but I would argue that tomatoes grown in Ontario or Okanagan apples are not local, especially if our truly local farmers have tomatoes and apples but can't sell them to the Superstore because of the imported, non-local stuff coming in from the west. I love that Loblaw's is going to include information for the consumer as to what farms grew the produce. An increase in information is helpful to super snoops like me.

The beauty of the internet is the dissemination of information. It's amazing that I can write this blog in my own home, where I routinely eat home-made local food after a night of spooning with the chef, and then click 'publish now' and someone in Kuala Lumpur can read my words within 24 seconds. It's great that the people of Malaysia have access to local, home-made news.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Things Are Just Swell!



Surfing might just be the ultimate expression of freedom. It is the official sport of leisurological royalty. To become the big kahuna in my industry, you must surf. Lord knows I'm trying.

There is no surfable surf in New Brunswick, so far as I know. To become a surf god in New Brunswick, you can't 'be...in this place'. The good news is that you can become a small g surf god if your head hits a pillow in Nova Scotia, and the grand-daddy of all Nova Scotia surf spots is Lawrencetown.

Lawrencetown is to Nova Scotia what Sunset Beach is to Oahu. It's one the best surf beaches that's available on the eastern seaboard, though there's not a lot of competition for that title. Lawrencetown is roughly a half hour east of Halifax/Dartmouth. It's not too far from Cole Harbour, ancestral home of Sir Sidney Crosby (honorary leisurologist...you call professional hockey work??!! Puleez.).

Momentarily turning my Swatch back to June, you might remember that I purchased a surfboard from a man of 'uncouth aspect' in Lunenburg. I've been dying to use it ever since. I took my surfboard to the Magdalen Islands earlier in August but I wasn't able to find anything more than an ankle biter of a wave. Surfing is a sport of patience. You need to have the disposition of a Halley's comet chaser, because good surf doesn't happen every day. You must be able to drop everything on a moment's notice if you want to embrace the chilly North Atlantic swell.

This weekend might possibly deliver the swell of a century. Surf's up, baby!

When I say 'up', you have no idea how much I mean up. If you click on the image above, you'll get the details. If you look at the image below, you'll see that something is off the charts. It's called a wave.



The forecast swell for the Lawrencetown area on Sunday is 37 feet. That's monstrous! A swell that size can create breaking waves estimated at 49 feet, about the height of the Cambridge-Narrows bridge.

For someone with my surfing ability, the perfect wave height is about four feet. The extra 45 feet of wave is just gravy. Imagine ordering a plate of french fries that was three inches high, then getting 33 inches of gravy on top...that's Lawrencetown this Sunday.

It's Superbowel Sunday for surfers, because a lot of surfers will be filling their wetsuits if they paddle into the ocean. There are few surfers in the world who can handle waves the size that are predicted. If you want to see what surfing a wave of that size looks like, then click here. I've linked you to a one minute video showing someone surfing the world's most famous surfable big wave, called Jaws. Jaws, or Peahi as Hawaiians call it, delivers jumbo jet sized waves to Maui's north shore every two to three years roughly. When I say big, I mean in the 40 to 50 foot range. .
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The beauty of Jaws is that it breaks in a predictable fashion. No one knows how the Nova Scotia coast will react to such a massive swell, because it's pretty uncommon. Word on the street...okay, word on the internet (since no one talks on the street) is that surfers from around the world may be flying in to Halifax for this swell. There's absolutely no way that I'm flying to Halifax for this, because my Scottish budget doesn't allow for it. I'll fire up my haggis wagon and motor eastbound.

Will I surf? Of course not, I'm not stoopid! I'll take my camera and document people who know what they're doing, and some who don't. If you want to follow the progression of this system from a surfer's perspective, then you should visit magicseaweed, the on-line surfer's resource. It's an amazing web site for people with my condition...edema. That's swell!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

You Can Kiss My _____!


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So goodbye yellow brick road
Where the dogs of society howl
You can't plant me in your penthouse
I'm going back to my plough.
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Thanks Sir Elton...I've always liked those lyrics, particularly the penthouse and plow imagery. I've been in two penthouses in my life, both in Manhattan. One of the penthouses, on the Upper East Side, was owned by a Jewish couple who also had houses in Pennsylvania and Montreal.
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The other penthouse was the urban weekend retreat of a couple who own a rather successful natural bath and body products company called Kiss My Face. You can read their story by clicking here. Their story is one of my all-time favourite business start-up tales, because it's a story that's encouraging to virtually anyone who ever thought of going into business.
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In a nutshell, these two guys follow the yellow brick road to Manhattan, find it too expensive, move to the countryside, sell soap and zucchinis, become successful, and buy a penthouse in Manhattan. So it's a bit of a twist on Elton's return to the plough, but you get my point, I hope.
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When my wife, Wendy, made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 1996 there was quite a fluttering of excitement here in Nouveau Brunswick. A curious slice of cultural co-minglers, from warblers to billionaires, were interested enough to make the journey to one of the world's most hallowed operatic halls. A bus tour was arranged and filled with fiddlehead pickers who were eager to hear Wendy sing at the Met. Wendy's mother was on the bus and ended up meeting some other gals who were making the trek. To make a long story short, Wendy's mom ended up staying in a penthouse on the Upper West Side, owned by the son of one of the operatic pilgrims. You guessed it...it was the Kiss My Face penthouse where she parked her buns.
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Wendy and I went to visit her mom in the penthouse. Two things are indelibly etched into my mind:
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1) Penthouse seemed an apt name for such a lofty bird cage, because I felt pent up by the experience. With no lawn or the ability to amble down to the lake, I felt constrained. The terrace was spacious and offered a pleasing view, but I've never been one to get excited by ogling other buildings and their rooftop water cisterns.
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2) It was hilarious to see this gaggle of older hens cooped up in such a trendy abode full of homo-erotic art. I had trouble imagining them waking up in the morning, their first mental image being some poser's tripodal likeness.
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Sausages for breakfast, anyone?
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I feel like I've been spending too much time in my personal penthouse, so I'm going back to my plough. Well, it's not exactly my plough. I volunteered to help my friends David and Sonia in their vineyard. So far I haven't touched a plough, or seen the tractor for that matter. I've been helping to remove grape vine suckers and weeds from the rows upon rows of grapes. It's tedious labour, but it's a project that is well worth it.
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It's exciting to think that there's a vineyard in Cambridge-Narrows that's making really great wine. Mott's Landing Vineyard (MLV) is doing just that. I shared a bottle of one of their 2008 reds with Wendy and a Bostonian amigo last evening, and it met with rave reviews. It's more than just us who appreciate what they're doing with their grapes. Craig Pinhey, New Brunswick's tasting note worthy sommelier, is also quite chuffed with what's being uncorked in Queens County. He recently penned a newsy article about MLV and you can read about it here.
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And now it's time for this little Dorothy to head down the yellow brick road to plant his hands in the vineyard. I'm going back to my plough, and it feels great!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Lieutenant Governor's Crib


I was invited to the Lieutenant Governor's expansive residence last evening to view a retrospective collection of his photographs, all taken during Herménégilde Chiasson's six years as the Queen's representative in New Brunswick.
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There, I've just told a small lie or, at least, I've spun the story to enhance my fragile sense of self-importance (another lie). Technically speaking, I was invited to the LG's pad but let's be honest here, if it wasn't for my wife's career and pleasant public persona, I'd never be invited to go anywhere of political significance except the White House.
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Wendy and I had a private, behind the scenes tour of the White House by the nephew of a birdwatching friend of mine. The nephew had White House security clearance. This White House tour was pre 9/11 but post 'not so little blue dress with stain', to put things into a hysterical timeline.
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Our visit to the West Wing also happened to coincide with Al Gore's finding out that he had lost the election to the illiterate buffoon known as Dubya. It was a big day n Washington, both for us and the thousands of American military personnel who would die or be maimed as a result of George W's ill conceived war on terror. To call George W bird-brained really isn't fair to chickadees, which are actually quite intelligent...so I won't.
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I really enjoyed my visit to the LG's residence. His collection of photographs was thoughtful, at times playful, and full of symbolic significance. The only downside to the visit was that the temperature in Old Government House, as the official residence is known, was somewhere in the vicinity of that needed to smelt iron. I'm sure my glasses were beginning to warp in the heat, drooping across my nose bridge like one of Dali's sauteed pocket watches.
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I'm not much of a conversationalist, at least not when it comes to chit chat or pleasantries, so I tend to get lost in the landscape. I study people, stare out windows, count ceiling tiles and generally just snoop around. Yesterday, at Old Government House, I was captivated by some John James Audubon prints that graced the hallway walls of the second floor. I discovered that Audubon, the best known birdwatcher the western world has ever known (George Michael, of Wham, was a distant number two, though that's an openly interpretive ranking).
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While admiring the prints I learned that Audubon spent a week in the Lieutenant Governor's residence. This happened during September, 1832. Here's quote from the New Brunswick Museum's web site:
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There had been other direct connections between Audubon and New Brunswick. In the summer of 1832 he and his family made a voyage up the St. John River in a boat he described as “a mere scow, commanded by a person of rather uncouth aspect and rude manners.”
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It makes me wonder if John James came up the river on a 36 foot Baja offshore racing boat, because it sure sounds like the guy who drives that noisy stinkpot on my lake...the uncouth scoundrel.
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The Province of New Brunswick owns one of only five sets of original, elephant folio edition Audubon books in Canada. There are 134 sets remaining in the world. Their value? Estimated at $10 million per set. Cha ching! It's amazing that a myopic premier hasn't sold them to get a bigger government jet, or a fleet of Bricklins for the ministers!
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I already knew of the provincial Audubon collection, though it was nice to be reminded of them during my visit to the LG's crib. I think that it's been healthy for New Brunswick to have an artist in residence at Old Government House, as opposed o someone who's simply rich or politically connected. Hermenigilde Chiasson has been our LG for six years, though he's given us twenty years of representation. He is the hardest working LG in Canada, perhaps of all time.
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Now what will he do as his term approaches its final days? He is a man of immense talent: poet, film-maker, photographer, journalist and so much more. He has five degrees including a doctorate from the Sorbonne in Paris. To me, it seems that he's got all the qualifications necessary to become a leisurologist.
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Herménégilde, just call my secretary when you're ready.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Nothing Is Impossible, Except...



I'm hoping that this video will work, though I have little or no faith in the technology or my ability to use it...it feels like work. Click on it and see what happens. Ideally you should see a video of my brother-in-law on his unicycle, going down my boardwalk to the shore.

I didn't try Erik's unicycle this weekend, but I have tried it before. I lump unicycling into a category which I call 'the near impossibles'. Of course I know it's possible, because circus clowns (and Erik) are doing it routinely.

I've encountered many obstacles in my life that seemed impossible at the time (juggling, enjoying Celine Dion CDs, liking the Mulroneys). I've managed to overcome all of these obstacles, except mining pleasure from anything to do with Celine Dion or the Mulroneys. Oh well, at least I can juggle.

This morning I'm going to try something that I haven't done for a long time....work. I'm going to try farming. Farming isn't really work if there's a tractor involved. I've never quite been able to shake off that childhood fascination with Tonka Trucks, so if this morning's adventure into agriculture has me sitting on a Kubota or John Deere, then I'm still in leisure mode. It's going to be 30 degrees outside today, so we'll see how I feel after my morning in the sun. I expect that I'll need to go on vacation afterwards.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

How The Rich Suffer!





When most people think about the rising sun, they conjure up images of early mornings with a cradled coffee, pink skies turning to blazing banana yellow, or sushi (Japan is often referred to as the land of the rising sun). When Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle Corporation, thinks about the Rising Sun, he wonders where the hell his team of nattily dressed minions will dock it.


Rising Sun is his private, globe trotting yacht. Larry's yacht is 452.5 feet long and 62 feet wide. It boasts the same amount of living space as the average sized WalMart. It has 50 000 horsepower under the hood which can propel it to a top speed of 52 kilometres per hour. It's hard to imagine the enormity of this man's bateau, so to put the yacht into some meaningful context, I'll compare it to a recent ferry on which I was a passenger.
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When traveling to and from les Iles de la Madeleine, I drove my 14 foot long, 136 horsepower car into the commodious M.V.Madeleine. I parked my car next to a hundred other cars inside the cavernous hold, as well some buses, RVs and transport trucks. My yacht for the 5 hour crossing was 400 feet long, and 60 feet wide. Too small for Larry!
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Here's an image of her....





She's not as pretty as Larry's launch, but she's home to 700 passengers. Larry's boat was built for one man, his ego, 38 crew and undoubtedly a litter of sex kittens. For all I know, Larry has been married for 35 years to a chubby woman who likes to knit, but somehow I can't imagine that yacht without a lot of deck fluff. I hope the laser thin ornaments don't blow into the ocean when the chopper lands on the basketball court which converts to a heli-pad.

I recently came across an article that shocked me. Apparently Larry's yacht was too big for his ego, or perhaps his wallet, so he sold a share to Dreamworks SKG co-founder David Geffen. In any event, there will be some under-employed and unhappy deck fluff wandering the docks of St.Tropez, at least Admiral Geffen's turn at the helm. Life sometimes just doesn't seem fair.

I hate to see the rich and beautiful languishing. Here's a quote from the Wall Street Journal's Wealth Report which nicely details the atrocities suffered by the über rich Mr.Ellison:

As Wealth Report readers might remember, Mr. Ellison has been complaining for years that the boat he built specifically to be the longest in the world — or at least to be longer than Paul Allen’s — turned out to be rather impractical. He can’t dock at most of the world’s marinas, since his boat exceeds size limits. When he pulls into shore, he has to tie up with oil tankers and container ships at industrial ports. (Not very posh.) Or he has to anchor offshore and take tenders to the dock.

Larry’s other complaint, according to friends, is the “lack of intimate spaces” on the boat. With its Zen-like, modern design, the boat feels cold and imposing both inside and out. “It’s like walking in an empty mall,” says one friend who’s been on the ship.

I'm a leisurologist, plain and simple...simple and plain. My personal yacht is 12 feet long and can carry a load of 325 pounds. I'm tipping the scales at around 185 pounds these days, thanks to the hundred mile diet. That leaves 140 pounds of legal wiggle room for a passenger. But wait...my yacht carries around four gallons of fuel, which adds about 40 pounds, so now my passenger had better weigh 100 pounds or less. I'm not sure that there's room for one Olsen twin, let alone Tori Spelling with a full complement of makeup. Maybe I need a bigger boat to be fluff worthy?

Ellison sold David Geffen a stake in his yacht...so why shouldn't I buy a piece of the action? Larry's yacht cost around $200 million to build. Perhaps I could buy an inch of his yacht. I just did the math and 1 inch would cost me $36 791 U.S.. My foot is about 12 inches long, so to even stand on my share of the Rising Sun, I'd have to fork over $441 501.

Rich men and fragile egos are a dangerous combination.

Many men, three rungs below Larry, are trying to climb the boarding ladder to see the rising sun. Fools, all of them.

Who in their right mind needs a 400 foot yacht? The largest yacht in the world, owned exclusively by a woman, is the 321 foot Carinthia VII. Now that's far more reasonable, don't you think? It's also much prettier than Larry's floating WalMart, so there! As is often the case, it takes a woman, or a leisurologist/house-husband, to bring the madness of mankind to light. Mourning light.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Nuns, Mud Wrestling and Elvis



Although I used to half jokingly refer to myself as the Village Idiot, I am capable of the occasional deep thought. We're not talking diamond mine deep, more along the lines of a Rothesay Avenue pot-hole, which can be quite abyssal. Every year the city of Saint John loses a few motorists on Rothesay Avenue, they just seem to be gobbled up by hungry PacMan shaped depressions that, on the surface, don't appear all that menacing.

In August 2007 a bus full of 'religious' pilgrims were lost while heading east on Rothesay Avenue toward the Three Mile Tavern. They entered a pot-hole and were never to be seen again. The Telegraph Journal referred to it as an 'act of god'. To me it reeked of a smiting. Sadly, the pilgrims never did get to take part in the "Rockin' Rooster Bikini Mud Wrestling" competition. They met their match in another muddy hole.

God is good.

I had a deep thought recently involving a nun and some sculpture. My pal Freeman, the Dalai Lama of photography, lent me a National Film Board DVD called 'Marie Hélène Allain en Dialogue avec la Pierre'. I thought that she was talking to some guy called Peter, until my son pointed out that 'pierre' turns to stone in French.

I don't make a habit of nun contemplation (even the thought of them scares me), and I don't usually give a chiseler's damn about sculpture, but this DVD changed everything. Apart from being beautifully filmed and edited, the film left me feeling that I understood the nature of sculpture. Of course I'll never understand nuns, let alone want to become one, but Sister Marie changed my mindset. I now look at sculpture differently, no longer as a pigeon might. I'm inspired to try my hand at sculpture.

As a busy leisurologist, you have to understand that I don't have a lot of free time. I can't just find a pierre and start carving. I haven't got the proper tools either. I decided to take an existing piece of sculpture and turn it into what I call an 'installation'. I had to take into consideration the work of art, the context, and the environment.

For seventeen years I've been the proud owner of an Elvis bust. My friend Chris gave it to me as a housewarming gift. Thoughtful guy...he gives all of his friends a charming piece of Elvis art when they buy their first home. I've never had my Elvis bust appraised, but I'm considering an appearance on the Canadian Antiques Roadshow. I think of this sculpture as my retirement fund.

Our priceless bust of Elvis had been used in Christmas installations in the past.

O come all ye faithful, let us adore the king of kings.

Most recently the king has been used to passively ward off evil spirits, and neighbours. So far he's done an excellent job on defence. I've decided, inspired by Sister Marie's brilliant work, to use Elvis as part of an outdoor installation (pictured above). I call my exhibit 'Noosehead Beer', an obvious play on words. There is a much deeper meaning to this installation, but I'm not going to divulge my Jack Handeyian deep thoughts. Art should be subjectively interpreted.

What does this sculpture installation say to you other than 'Ken Appleby, watch out', the leisurologist wants the Village Idiot crown back.

Friday, August 14, 2009

B (minus)...In This Place



New Brunswick's government, captained by none other than former gym teacher Shawn Graham, paid $229 000 to a marketing firm to reinvigorate New Brunswick's ancient provincial slogan. We used to be 'the picture province', now we're telling others, and perhaps ourselves, to put our cameras away and just 'be...in this place'. Our new slogan was delivered to the people of New Bumslick in February 2008, and the debate over it's appropriateness has been raging for eighteen months.

Do I have an opinion with regard to our slogan? Yes, but it's given from the uncomfortable position assumed by a fence sitter....with a prickly picket up my stump, and a pleasant view of both sides. I don't have a great big giant problem with the new slogan, really, although you could apply it to any place in the world equally effective. There is nothing about New Brunswick that makes it any more a place to be than, let's say, Quebec, British Columbia or Necker Island.

There is nothing about New Brunswick that makes it any more photogenic than Newfoundland, Alberta, or Nova Scotia....so really, what makes us the picture province? Simply put, every province is the picture province, even Manitoba. You could happily 'be' anywhere in Canada. The point is moot, at least when comparing the two slogans. What matters is what you do with the slogan, where it's targeted, how it's delivered.

I have no idea where the government of New Brunswick directs its tourism marketing, so I'm unqualified to discuss its effectiveness. I am, however, more than qualified to discuss our province's lacklustre performance in helping small businesses become visible. We are, in a word, pathetic.

I was recently in Prince Edward Island, a picturesque province if there ever was one. It would appear that tourism and agriculture are the mainstays of the island economy, and from what I saw, it looks like they're good at what they do. Take tourism, for example. I'm a snoop at heart so I did a lot of eavesdropping in Anne's Land. I heard a lot of service industry people doing a great job of making visitors feel welcome. The folks working the desk at the Stanley Bridge Resort were experts...asking their guests where they came from, and then generating meaningful conversation beyond their opening pleasantries.

In some ways it made me sad, because the people of PEI made me want to be be in their place more than my own. We have a business in Cambridge-Narrows who, a few years ago, contracted a local businessman to do some trucking for them. They never paid the hardworking, honest individual for the work that he did, yet their doors are still open for business and they expect me to walk through them. I won't. You can't get away with behaviour like that, not in this place.

Another thing that I noticed in PEI was that there were plenty of neatly organized signs, clearly the work of a government who understands tourism. The signs, white letters on a blue background, legibly announced that I was in the vicinity of a small business. One of those signs let me find the Cheese Lady of Winsloe, where I purchased an unhealthy amount of Gouda. The cheese lady's aged Gouda was incredible, and my only regret is that I didn't buy the entire round, and not just a wedge. I will return there some day, and the signs will help me find her 'out of the way' cheesery.

Now, had I been driving along a New Brunswick country road, chances are that I would never have found the cheese lady on that side road because the New Brunswick government doesn't do anything for it's small businesses in terms of roadside signs. There are laws in New Brunswick that make it very difficult for small business to get noticed. You'd think that the government would try to help small business in this regard, but they don't. Instead, our government spends all of it's time and effort on a big glossy brochure and tv, print and radio ads. Their thinking must be 'get them here', they'll figure out what to do on their own.

If you drive along coastal route 1 in Maine, you'll see tasteful government issue signs that direct you down side roads to the East Addison Lobster Company or the Blue Hill Gallery. These signs are also helpful in that they give the distance to the business, so you know what your investment of time might be. Clever. Thoughtful. Helpful. These signs make for happy campers, like me.

I'm astounded that the New Brunswick government does nothing in this manner. Many small business owners put out shitty little signs that are ugly and often lost in the grass. These signs are technically against the law, though no one enforces the law, or so it would seem.

I'd like to see our province make a real effort to help small businesses to become visible. Until then, our slogan will forever be 'New Brunswick...The Drive Through Province'. There are countless reasons to 'be...in this place', it's just that no one is telling our story the way that it needs to be told. It's too bad that Shawn Graham was a gym teacher in his former life, because if he was a Professor of Marketing, then he might understand the importance of signs. Our Minister of Tourism was a self-employed carpenter before getting into politics. Surely he has the knowledge power to make a few signs!

All we need to do is cut down some of the 785 000 000 trees that Irving has planted since the 1950s, mill them, paint and label them, then re-plant them on our roadsides. Only then will we give the tourists a reason to stay...in this place.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Les Cochon Chiens Anglais



I'm turning Quebecois, I think I'm turning Quebecois, I really think so.

It might appear that I'm typing gibberish, but it you were alive during the month of March 1980, then you may have heard the one hot wonder band, The Vapors, singing their only song that 'made it'. The song was called 'Turning Japanese', and I have no idea why they wrote it or what it was about, but it sure was a catchy little piece of writing.

The Vapors vaporized rather quickly, burning up after fourteen of their fifteen minutes of fame had expired. They've easily used up their one minute of remaining fame being a staple in specials about one hit wonder bands. I may have heard them on Casey Kasem's American Top 40 while driving through the radio blighted mid-West.

I've never felt like I'm turning Japanese but yesterday I felt like I was turning Quebecois. I was sitting in the sixth greatest boulangerie (café) in the province of Quebec as ranked by a croissant hound who writes for Le Devoir. I was soaking up the butter infused air directly through my pores. My ears enjoyed the sounds of untold conversations bouncing off the inner walls of this quaint little bakery/café. Everyone spoke French, and I was loving it.

Through the generous windows that faced the sweeping hues of the brilliantly blue Baie de Plaisance, I could see a bike gang enter the parking lot. My greatest fears were realized when they entered the art adorned café and took over the place. They were dressed in fearful biking attire...you know what I mean: cheek hugging spandex shorts, Skittle coloured jerseys, and duck-billed helmets rising a full storey above their sweaty heads. To make matters worse, they spoke English and they spoke it loudly. My croissant went limp.

Collectively they had wrestled the mood into a submission hold. I wanted to shoo them out, like one might do to a big and meaty house fly, but my little voice kept saying 'soyez patience, Jean Ian, soyez patience'. I desperately wanted to return to the joie de vivre in which I had been sautéing prior to their arrival. I couldn't wait for the English (speaking) pig dogs to depart.

Clearly, I was turning Quebecois. I really think so. The funny thing is that I speak gawdawful French, but I try. I understand little or nothing that is spoken to me, often just nodding and saying 'oui'. Here's a typical conversation that I might have in Iles de la Madeleine, translated into English for my pig-dog readers:

Moi: "I would like a croissant, please."

Them: "Would you like almond or plain?"

Moi: "Yes."

Them: "Okay...would you like a beverage with that?"

Moi: "Do you have any butter?"

Them: "Would you like butter on your croissant?"

Moi: "No, just water."

Them: "Would you like some poop on your croissant?"

Moi: "Very much so."

Them: "One lump or two?"

Moi: "Beaucoup, beaucoup, beaucoup."

Yesterday I saw on the boulangerie menu that they had some pain aux noix (pain in the nuts, I believe) with cretons. I didn't know what cretons was, but I ordered it anyway. I found out afterwards that I had just eaten pig's ass with rendered fat, onions and spices. Mmmmm. It actually tasted okay, but I'm sure that I would have hurled had I known what I was eating. Life could get dangerous if I spend more time here.

Next culinary stop....fromage du tête.

I'm leaving the islands this morning, back to the land where I know what part of the pig that I'm eating. Please tell me that back bacon is not something a pig sits on. If it's true, at least deliver the news gently, preferably in French.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Iles de la Madeleine



For some people, sleeping in is one of life's guilty pleasures. They could never be leisurologists because a true leisurologist sleeps with one eye open and one foot out the door. This morning I arose at 5:08 a.m and was leaving the motel by 5:18 a.m. The morning was a brackish grey but I was determined to get out there and greet what little sunrise I might find.

The light was spectacularly unspecial but the landscape more than made up for it. The sandstone buttresses at Dune du Sud were pleasing to the senses, touch as much as sight, though not as warmly lit as I might have hoped. Alas, I worked with what I was given, which was still plenty. The soft sandstone housed signatures of past visitors. I left a few footprints in the night-washed sand, and took nothing more than images. The image above was my favourite. Florence of Levis, Quebec, clearly shared my passion for this place.

Florence will slip from the walls as wind, water and erosion take her to the sea. Signature or not, I suspect she'll always be here in one form or another, as will I.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Like Dido, I've Still Got Sand In My Shoes




Quite a few years ago a female British singer called Dido released a best selling CD. This is no revelation revealed, because many successful British female singers did the same, as did many Canadian gals (Shania Twain and Alanis Morissette), and the two grand dames of saccharin-laced American balladeering (Aaron Neville, Michael Bolton).

Dido had one song in particular that resonated with my Dumbo lobes...a song called Sand In My Shoes. I don't normally go for such blatantly bubbly pop hits, but I think that I understand what she was singing about, except the part where she was lusting after some guy she met on holiday. I relate to the part about how I feel after a vacation...I think that we all do.

I know when I return from a vacation, I leave a little bit of me wherever I've been. I'm not referring to toe nail clippings, trampled foliage or illegitimate children. I leave footprints in the sand that only I'll ever see and, yes, I often bring home more tangible memories like sand in my shoes, and car.

I currently have sand in my Reef flip-flops. Reef is an industry leading footwear/surf-style clothing company with a unique marketing strategy. Some companies profit off the backs of child labour, not Reef. They profit off the backsides of young models. Their web site offers you the option of clicking on guys or gals. The guys' site features mostly scantily clad young women. The girls' site, in contrast, features mostly scantily clad young women. I believe that they also sell flip flops. If you don't have high speed internet and can't view the site, I can only say 'bummer'.

Speaking of that, I discovered that I have sand in more places than just my shoes.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Next Stop...Iles de la Madeleine



I'm now in the Iles de la Madeleine (IDM) after an unsuccessful attempt to hitch-hike from PEI. No one would stop to pick me up, though a lot of people were thinking about it. Everyone seemed to slow down and look, but no one stopped. Perhaps I wasn't showing enough leg, or maybe my hundred-mile-diet-lessened cleavage wasn't enough for them. I made it to IDM anyway, Wendy picked me up.

It feels great to be back. I arose at 5:30 a.m., grabbed my camera and headed east, in the direction of my local neighbourhood sunrise. I found one on the top of a hill called Butte des Desmoiselle. No, it's not translatable to 'lady's butt', but to this adolescent, it forever shall be. Being ignorant is such a joyful experience...you might consider loosening your tie and giving it a try!

I returned to my motel at 8 a.m. to be greeted by the smell of freshly baked bread and pain chocolat. Our motel is connected to an artisanal bakery which bakes breads and pastries fresh every morning, using no fat, sugar or preservatives. Wendy looked like she had found heaven when she bit into the pain chocolat. She, in fact, was. Don't be surprised if you never see her on the mainland again.

The shower in our motel will one day be removed in its entirety, put in a crate and shipped to the Plumbing Hall of Fame. It's not even a shower, it's a downpour...a torrent. A fire hose. It has enough pressure to blow the tits off a rhino, or wash Howard Stern's mouth clean. Your choice. I can't wait for my next shower. I'm half tempted to go find a muddy pothole and wriggle in it, it's that pleasant.

We currently have our motel door open and sunlight is streaming in. A fresh, though not windsurfable, breeze is blowing the window shades gently. It is warm, sunny and delicious. Life is good. I think I'll try to find a wave that's surfable this morning, followed by an afternoon windsurf if the wind gods allow. Life is tough.

I have an idea for a 'never been done before' photoshoot this morning...stay tuned.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Jerk Rating System For Classical Music





My eyelids met like two old friends in a brief embrace before my head jerked back up to a position of supposed alertness. This was the third time that my chin hit my chest during a performance of the Canadian Opera Company's Verdi opera, La Forza Del Destino (the force of destiny). This performance gave rise to the 'Jerk Rating System' that I've carried with me to every classical concert or opera.

In the early days of my musical education, and by this I mean just after I married and moved to Toronto, there were a lot of jerk performances. My head hit the deck time after time, opera after opera. Nothing topped La Forza Del Destino, though. My record of three head jerks has stood for twenty years.

The head jerk, alternately known as the head dip, nod, or newborn head syndrome is nothing new to the classical musical world. Apparently my father used to fall asleep during Atlantic Symphony Orchestra performances in Fredericton's Playhouse theatre. Between pending baldness, the ability to get lost in thought, and symphonic snooziness, my dad passed along some genes for which I am thankful.

I don't see falling asleep at a concert or opera as being rude. I see it as a compliment to the performers that they were able to put me so at ease that I could simply drift off to my happy place. Of course, this is pure, unadulterated horse shit. The only reason I had three head jerks during Forza was because the seats were so GD uncomfortable. I should have nodded off once and stayed there, but when you're 6'3" with legs that are 6'4", you can't get comfortable in any theatre anywhere, except Reel Cinema in Bar Harbor (Maine).

Reel Cinema is a movie theatre and it, in my opinion, is the greatest theatre in the world. They've got couches and lazyboys, and pizza and beer, so every other theatre in the world can take a back seat to this place. This is the birthplace of theatrical entrepreneurism. I refuse to watch big screen movies in the theatres of North America, because they have no imagination, plus I'm too cheap to pay $12 for a fitful sleep.

Last evening I attended a concert in Indian River, Prince Edward Island. My wife, Wendy, along with tenor Stuart Howe and pianist Robert Kortgaard, gave a rousing concert of Broadway favourites that had the packed church on its feet for a standing ovation. No one fell asleep during this barn burner of a concert, and that says something because the concert ended at 9 p.m., well after the bedtime of the rather aged audience. I, myself, didn't nod off, or have and inkling of a head jerk. It was a great concert for me, light and upbeat....and short, unlike Verdi's dark and agonizingly long Forza.

The force of destiny, for me, is gravity. It is my destiny to fall asleep at classical music performances. It is destiny that my head hits my chest, sometimes like a yoyo. The greatest tribute that I can pay to any performer is to let them see the colour of my ocean blue eyes for the entire length of the concert.

Last night's concert was held in the beautiful St.Mary's church in Indian River. It's a stunning showpiece of French Gothic architecture, built in 1902. Some have called the church Atlantic Canada's most acoustically sound venue. It's true, the sound is superb. It's the location where Wendy and Robert recorded their Juno Award nominated album 'Forgotten Songs, Forgotten Loves'. Last night's concert could only have been better if they'd get rid of the horribly uncomfortable pews and replace them with something leisure-worthy, like lazyboys and couches. Beer and pizza wouldn't hurt either.