Monday, November 30, 2009
I'm going to court today in Oromocto and I would happily plead guilty if anyone asked me to take the stand. Fortunately the judge will not be addressing me directly as I'm going to be watching the proceedings as an interested third party only.
I am guilty of caring, and not shy to speak out. I care about the lake with whom I have a common law relationship. Strictly speaking, I'm not married to the lake, but I am in so many ways. I live in Cambridge-Narrows because of the lake, period. If someone harms the lake, then it's my job to ensure that the law is upheld. I want my rights protected. I want my lake to thrive because, without it, I have no home, or sense of place.
Within the last two years an incredibly beautiful new home was built on a property which borders my lake. I have a fondness for residential architecture and this new house meets my ideals for aesthetic splendour. Sure, the house is bit big to be considered responsible in these times of pending resource shortages, but that's likely just the result of one man's ego. It happens everywhere in the world, every day, so it's nothing shocking. My point is that I love the house and it's a pleasure to see it. There is one problem, however.
The problem is not with the house, it's with the landscraping. As you can see in the upper image, a massive retaining wall was built into the lake. Strictly speaking, the wall was built on land that the homeowner does not own. The Province, that means you and me, owns the land between the water and the high water mark,if my interpretation of the law is correct. This area, which merges the land to the water, is known as the riparian zone, and it's crucial that it be left unscathed.
Sadly, in the case of this property, the riparian zone was completely, utterly, unquestionably raped. Yes, raped.
Occasionally the Department of Environment and/or the Department of Fisheries and Oceans gives out permits to land owners for water course alterations, or tweaks to the shoreline. Apparently, this was not the case for this property. The second of the two images shows that the owner, after the fact, removed the lower of the two large retaining walls. By the letter of the law, the upper retaining wall is still in violation of the law, or at least that's my understanding. That's a totally different court case, to be heard at a later date.
The damage to the shoreline has been done, but it's important that the law be interpreted so this doesn't happen again. It will take years for this shore to rebuild and become the filter that it once was. The shoreline, and subsequently the lake, can't sustain heavy equipment tampering with its integrity.
It's the contractor, who scraped the shoreline and built the wall in defiance of our laws, who will be appearing in court today. I'm going because I'm also guilty of being curious. I want to see how our justice system works. I have faith that it will.
You'll hear the ruling, when it is made. Unfortunately there won't be pictures because cameras aren't allowed in the courtroom, but I have another ingenious plan...stay tuned.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Every town in Canada has a village idiot. Ottawa has Stephen Harper. Fredericton has Shawn Graham. Cambridge-Narrows has Ken Appleby....and Ian Varty.
Ian, how is it that a small village like Cambridge-Narrows, population 635, is 'blessed' with two village idiots, when Ottawa, seemingly, has but one?
I don't know how it came to be, but it's the kind of thing that should put this village on the map. As the two village idiots, Ken and I make a great team. There's synergy. Together we are stronger.
Is this sort of like the whole Wonder Twin power thing?
No, they were freakish shape shifters. Ken and I don't change shapes, we remain as blobs throughout our acts of heroism.
Are you two like the Olsen twins, then?
You mean like media darlings? No, we fly under the radar (but not for long!). The Olsen twins profit from their devious deeds. Ken and I work for free (well, I do). We make this village a better place to live, out of the goodness of our hearts. We are not paid for our benevolence (well, I'm not). I should point out that Ken and I are not really like twins, at least not physically. We're both just incredibly good looking. We were born that way, kind of like Brad Pitt and Rex Murphy, respectively.
So what do the village idiots do?
Mostly we talk about the problems that our village faces. I tend to worry about the abundance of small pebbles along the roadside. They make skateboarding dangerous.
What are you going to do about that?
I'm considering a ban on pulling motor vehicles off the road. The trouble begins when cars pull over onto the gravel and then they come back on the roadway, dragging pebbles with them. I'm looking at putting up some signs which encourage people not to pull over or stop.
Sounds like a great idea. It should solidify our reputation as the drive-thru province. So what's Ken's 'project'?
Ken has a few projects. Mostly he's trying to clean up the village.
Cool. What projects allow you to combine your powerful intelligence?
Funny that you should ask that. We hatched a plan last week that will change this village forever. It's a little too early to divulge the details, let's just say that we're going to clip the wings of some 'high rollers' in the village. Our plan involves a gun! We know exactly how to do it, we're just working out a few minor details.
Sounds like you're taking the law into your own hands, Ian?
I'd prefer if you'd stop calling me by my first name, and show me some respect.
What would you prefer? Nabob? Sultan?
You should call me by my new title...Deputy Varty.
Does this mean that I should be calling Ken 'Sheriff Appleby'?
Yes, and the reason will become clear in a week or two. That's all I can say for now. Look for the full story in a future blog.
Friday, November 27, 2009
My wife is an opera singer. No matter how you define what she and her colleagues do, it's absolutely critical that you mention that they sing unaided; by that, I mean they do not use abbreviated Michaels. Yes, they've trained their voices to project without the use of mikes, so when the call came in for Wendy to sing at the Olympic torch ceremony in Fredericton, with a mike, she cautiously agreed.
Asking an opera singer to perform with a mike is like passing Pablo a box of crayons and saying 'create a masterpiece'. Picasso did dabble in crayons but he produced nothing more impressive than what my nieces are capable of drawing on any given day. For $42 000, you can have a piece of paper with Picasso's original signature on it. To me that seems like a waste of money. I'd much rather use the $42 000 to book a hotel room in Whistler for the weekend during the Olympics. Parking would be extra.
I have a funny relationship with the Olympics. I love the idea of physical excellence, though the pressure of performing in front of a billion people must be excruciating. I tip my Olympic toque to those who can rise to the challenge. I'd be the bunny in the headlights still stuck in the blocks long after the starting pistol had fired. I believe that it's called performance anxiety.
I have a problem with some of the Olympic sports, particularly those that are not available to the public at large. Alpine ski racing, for example, it something that the average person can attempt to do. It's quite natural to ski down a hill. Things start to get a little more complicated when sports like the biathlon are introduced. The biathlon combines cross country skiing and shooting. I tried my own version of it once, snowboarding down Poley Mountain while shooting at things. It didn't go over well, and I must say, the food in jail isn't as bad as you might think.
Some Olympic sports make perfect sense, take the luge for example. Every northern hemisphere kid has taken a toboggan down a hill. It's incredibly natural. Doing it at one hundred kilometres per hour in sexy, lump hugging outfits is a bit of a stretch, but only just a bit. In college many students stole cafeteria trays and slid down campus hills. This sport was known as 'Beaver boarding', because when I was in college it was Beaver Foods that had the contract to boil potatoes for the students.
Another Olympic winter sport, similar to luge, is called 'skeleton'. It's a relatively new sport which I believe was included to appeal to the segment of our population that actually enjoys watching the Jackass movies. Don't tell anyone, but I watched two of them and was mildly entertained.
The winter Olympics, if you look at the list of events, isn't all that outrageous. Some people whine about events like figure skating, saying that ice dancing should not be an Olympic sport because is based on artistic interpretation, rather than sheer athleticism. To those people I say strap on a pair of skates and try and lift your wife above your head. You'll be happy to watch Olympic figure skating from your hospital bed. You'll be thankful to be alive.
So, Ian, have you ever lifted Wendy above your head while wearing skates?
No, but only because I don't own skates. If someone would drop off a pair (size 12), then I'd be happy to give it a try. I'm not sure how Wendy feels about this.
I do know how Wendy felt about singing the commissioned Olympic torch song at the ceremony this past Wednesday evening...she was delighted. It could have been quite a challenge to sing with a mike and a choir outdoors, but she rose to the occasion. And what an occasion it was! It was like a rock concert: giant stage, explosive lighting, and the coveted Jumbotron. It was very professionally organized, and there was a trained sound crew there to keep 'the diva' happy. For the record, Wendy was once given the title 'anti diva' during a CBC interview from New York City. I've always liked that term. I'd like to be anti something.
You know, I am anti one summer Olympic sport. It's called the race walk and I think it's preposterous. If there's one sport that's got to go, it's the race walk. It's just so unnatural. Even when I have to pee really badly, I don't walk like that. Let's all band together, and get it banned. Perhaps half-pipe skateboarding could be allowed in it's place. Look what half-pipe snowboarding has done for the winter Olympics...it's brought it into the twenty-first century.
It's not long until the winter Olympics happen in Vancouver. The torch is on the move across the country. Perhaps it will even see some snow along the way. The reception the torch received in Fredericton was warm enough to melt snow, though we had none. If you'd like to see what the event looked like through my video camera, then I've got two links for you. The first is of the arrival of the flame, the second is a clip of Wendy and choir singing. I'm a better photographer than cinematographer...that will become obvious. My short films won't be medal winners, but the people of Fredericton certainly gave a gold medal welcome to the Olympic torch.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
He muttered something at me as he walked past, but I couldn't understand a word he said. He fired a few more slack jawed unpleasantries across my bow, but I still couldn't decipher his words. His tone...now that I could clearly understand. It wasn't warm and fuzzy. He then stood by his car and kept muttering. This time I could tell he was inviting me over for a fight.
I stood there for a moment, looking at him in disbelief. I have no problem with well placed aggression. No problem at all, but this kid was way out of line. So what was I going to do about it?
Here's how this little incident developed. I was enjoying a nice meal with my wife and five friends at a great restaurant in Cole Harbour. One couple left a little early so when we finally wiped the crumbs of dessert from the corners of our mouths and left en masse, there were just five of us. Two guys, three girls. Much of our conversation over dessert involved skateboarding, so when we got outside I cracked open the trunk of my car to display my current collection of boards.
My friends are no shrinking violets so of course the boards came out and we skated around the 10 p.m. parking lot. As it was Sunday evening, the place was relatively quiet. Next door to the restaurant was a Needs convenience store, no doubt open long after the restaurant closed. A clean white sedan pulled into the parking lot, with four young adults pouring out onto the pavement. They homed their way into the store, toward the objects of their desire. We continued to skateboard around the parking lot.
Upon returning to the car, the driver side passenger decided to begin a dialogue with me.
I looked him up and down. He was wearing a tasteful white jacket, puffy, as though filled with goose down. His jeans were trendy and sagged enough in the ass to allow ample room for his genitals, my genitals, his father's genitals, and a Fisher-Price play set. You know the pants I'm talking about, the one's where the crotch ends at the knee caps. I happen to love the style, though have yet to buy a pair for myself. This kid, probably about twenty years old, was well dressed. He didn't look like he came from the other side of the tracks.
My very simple reply to him was "what?" I thought he might have wanted to try my skateboard, which I would have been happy to accommodate. Share the stoke...always!
It quickly became obvious that he didn't want to be my friend. This pissed me off and I went from happy Ian to Neanderthal Ian. All men have it in them, I suspect. My brain went into lock down mode and I began to assess the situation in very basic terms. Four of them, one of me. Not good odds. Even with my male friend, a solid guy, it was still two to one. We weren't 'packing' anything more dangerous than skateboards, which everyone knows are only dangerous to the users.
Cole Harbour has a history of racial tension. It's been documented for a long time. Life isn't one continuous Sidney Crosby Stanley Cup parade down Portland Street where everyone hugs and makes up. I know that people don't always get along, but picking fights for no good reason makes me feel like, well, fighting. This is what really pisses me off, because it makes no sense. We should know better, after all that we've been through together.
"History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people." Martin Luther King, Jr.
Perhaps it's time to speak up?
I am not a racist. I've never been one, and I don't appreciate being singled out because I'm white. I was born white, you were born black. What's the big deal? From where I stand, I think that we all came from the same place. I choose to believe that we have evolved over the millenia, and that we probably all started off in Africa together, a long time ago. My people lost their dark pigmentation by heading to northern 'hoods. We're just products of our environment, which was made painfully obvious in Cole Harbour.
There have been atrocities carried out on your people (my people, too, since we are all in this together). It's unthinkable that one race tried to enslave the other. I can hardly believe that it happened just a few generations ago, or that we're all still suffering from the actions of our ancestors. I'm embarrassed for what humans have done, but I'd like to think that we can move forward. Anger is a wasted emotion. The Vikings came to Scotland and raped and pillaged my people, but I've managed to overcome any lingering hatred. I've even sung along to Abba, and sat comfortably in a chair called POÄNG.
Even if you choose to believe in the Christian concept of a god creating us in his image, we're still coming from the same place. We are equal as far as I'm concerned. Again, it's a shame that we've made a mess of it, but let's move forward without jabs.
It a very risky proposal to pick a fight with someone you don't know. Like you, I'm both physically and mentally capable of a an incredible amount of evil, but I make a conscious choice not to go there. It's a place for losers, not one, but two.
Next time I'm in Cole Harbour, you should try my skateboard.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
A friend of mine is a partner in a firm that helps companies to develop their brands. He helps business owners embed their stories in the mind of the marketplace, because great stories matter. Most businesses have stories but rarely are they told properly, if at all.
Two If By Sea, a new café in Dartmouth, has a great story which they tell on their web site. Click on the 'Je Ne Sais Quoi' tab for a bite of enlightenment. You don't have to read their story, but you must try their coffee and croissants. You must. You must. You must. If you go to Two If By Sea and aren't impressed, then I'll run the full length of Ochterloney Street wearing nothing but flip flops and a smile.
No, I won't be running through Dartmouth naked, because you will love Two If By Sea. Not much in life is certain, but this is. I can only think of a handful of businesses to which I would give such an unconditional endorsement. I can think of scores of businesses that have let me down personally, as well as let down the community in which they aspired to do business. Perhaps an example is necessary.
My same friend, he who helps companies develop their brands, once told me the story of trying to eat in one of my village's two dining establishments. He and his wife went to the restaurant for a Saturday morning breakfast, simply looking to have someone else cater to their gastronomic desires. The place was very busy and the service was unacceptably slow, perhaps because there wasn't a sufficient supply of staff. Sometimes this happens for various reasons, and we have to be generous and accept it. Sometimes not. The two restaurant owners were there, but rather than helping out their beleaguered employees, the well-to-do owners sat on the veranda of the restaurant, smoking and chatting with their buddies.
What message was sent to my friend, the branding expert?
The message was that the owners didn't really care about their customers; plain and simple. Their story was about themselves, and didn't include any commitment on their part to creating a satisfying experience for the customer.
That true tale was based on just one person's experience, but stories are told and retold until they become part of pop culture. When the public at large is voicing stories about your business, you'd better hope that they read like a romance. As a business owner you do have some control over the stories, but only when you pay attention to detail. Once the stories are out there, they are truly out there, and there's not much you can do. I've told this story of the uncaring owners more than a few times. Someone else, upon hearing this story, related their own story about this same restaurant. Here it is:
The restaurant in question once had dreams of putting a network of docks into the lake, located immediately behind their property. Docks would accommodate water weary boaters who might like to get out of their stinkpots and take a break on the high side. A dock would allow them to patronize the restaurant. Sadly, the dock system was ill conceived and never fully embraced by the community (it's a long story). At the end of the season, a local contractor was hired to remove the docks from the lake, which he did. He, a hard working and honest man, was never paid by the restaurant owners. Meanwhile they continued to toddle around the village in their Mercedes, as though all was well with the world.
How do you think this went over in a village of 640 people? This business alienated the customers, and alienated the community. Do you think they're still in business? Of course not. Deep pockets and shallow morals don't buy customer loyalty.
It's unlikely that I would ever suggest, to the owners of Two If By Sea, that they contact my friend or his company for some branding advice; only because there's no need. So far as I can see, they're doing everything properly. They have a great story that they're telling, one that endears them to me, the customer. They've put their business in a perfect location. They're friendly and affable, and they make their customers feel loved and appreciated. Their line of baked greats is embarrassingly decadent. Mr.Starbuck, if you're reading this, you'd better get in your jet and head east to experience something truly remarkable, then go back to Seattle and fix your franchise's lacklustre baking program.
The gang at Two If By Sea are not trying to be everything for everyone, like Tim's or Starbucks. Instead they've decided to concentrate on doing a few things right. More than just 'right', they're doing things spectacularly well. They've only been in business for a few short weeks. Already they're having queues of people lining up, spilling out onto the sidewalk, for their Saturday morning croissants and coffee. They have an almond croissant that brings tears to my tongue...it's a thing of culinary beauty. Absolute perfection. Their customers are telling their story for them, much as I'm doing now. As a business owner there's seldom more that you could ask for, beyond having legions of raving fans telling your story. I'm one, and I've helped to create others.
Why do I do it? Because I want good people to succeed. I also want to be able to have an almond croissant every time I visit Dartmouth.
I stopped by Two If By Sea on Saturday afternoon and was delightfully devastated. They were sold out of everything except coffee and chocolate chip cookies. Good for them. It made me happy, though my croissant craving went unaddressed. I needed to develop a strategy for future pilgrimages. I noted that they were closed on Sundays and reopened at seven eh em every Monday morning.
Needless to say I arrived at Two If By Sea on Monday morning at seven eh em because I wasn't prepared to start my week without their pastries. I purchased two almond croissants, two plain croissants (rest assured, they're anything but plain), one pain chocolat, one perfectly undercooked and over-sized chocolate chip cookie, and one salmon/dill/cream cheese croissant. I shared everything with friends/family, though I could have just as easily driven off into the sunrise on my own, never to be seen again.
Well, of course I'd be seen again, most likely at 66 Ochterloney Street, Dartmouth.
Monday, November 23, 2009
Sunday, November 22, 2009
this image has been shamelessly pilfered from the internet
I drove from Cambridge-Narrows to Dartmouth, where I'm staying, to have dinner in Halifax with a friend from Montreal who borrowed a book of mine to read last summer while in St.Andrews. Welcome to the global village, Eastern Canadian style. The book I loaned him was called 'Don't Get Too Comfortable', written by David Rakoff; a Canadian boy who now calls New York City home.
David Rakoff lives in New York City, eh? Strike one.
Everyone has a weakness, and Rakoff's is a love for big city life. Thankfully, the city acts like Warfarin for his poisoned pen. He is my favourite writer in terms of writing style (don't worry, Bill Bryson, you're still my favourite writer overall). David Rakoff could write about anything...anything...and make it worth reading. He could find gold in a pile of sh...avings. He destroyed Barbara Bush in the opening few pages of Don't Get Too Comfortable, and he did it with just cause. What he wrote about Karl Lagerfeld was, in my mind, legendary.
He's been compared to author David Sedaris. Though I see the similarities, he's more like Sedaris on steroids. Apparently they're friends. I'd love to be a fly on the wall for their conversations, though not a fruit fly.
I first heard of this book from my friend Lisa. She's a Toronto girl who I originally met in Saint John, where she lived for five years or so, but now lives in Victoria after a brief stint in Kelowna. I met she and her Vancouver boyfriend in Les Iles de la Madeleine this past summer. She used to live in New York City, before Saint John.
Lisa once lived in New York City, eh? Strike two.
Lisa is brilliant. No strikes against her, not even when considering her time in the Big Apple's core. There's no doubt that life in New York City fueled her appreciation of Saint John and its amazing cast of characters. If Lisa chose to write, then I believe that she could be every bit as good as Sedaris or Rakoff. Lisa, it would appear, would rather wrap fourteen year old soccer boys' knees with athletic tape. To each their own. I respect her immensely. An e-mail from Lisa is better than a Christmas gift, by far.
Needless to say, I appreciate literary vultures who strip life clean to the bone; writers like Bryson, Rakoff, Currer and Sedaris. The friend who returned my copy of Don't Get To Comfortable gave me a little gift...a copy of Rakoff's other book, called Fraud. Somehow I hadn't been aware of Fraud, written in 2001, even though it pre-dated Don't Get Too Comfortable by four years. I'm looking forward to reading it and I'll undoubtedly make reference to it in a future blog.
I'm not sure if Don't Get Too Comfortable ever made it onto Oprah's book club. I hope not because I feel like it's something that I would only want to share with a few select friends, not the world. Have you got a favourite book? Are you brave enough to share that book with the readers of this blog? Feel free to leave a comment...here's how to do that:
step one: click on 'comments'
step two: type in your comment
step three: in the drop down menu, choose 'anonymous'
step four: follow the instructions regarding typing in the scrambled security word.
step five: Voila! You've just spoken to all of my readership and, trust me, they both really appreciate your comments.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Friday, November 20, 2009
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Before you read this blog, I want give you a small quiz: name as many chainsaw manufacturers as you possibly can, not including Sears (Crapsman) or Canadian Tire (Mastercrap). Take a minute to see how many you can remember. While you're doing that, I'll just ramble on...
I'm fortunate enough to have a lot of mature trees on my property.
Ian, I see that your wife and son are not currently at home. This means that without the trees, there's nothing mature around your house at all.
The voice of my alter ego, which appears in italics, cuts like a Husqvarna, McCulloch, Stihl, Poulan, or Homelite. I just gave myself the challenge too. I could only think of five, not including the stores that outsource their private label power tools. My powers of recall are not all that impressive. How were yours?
Oh, I don't know about that, Ian. I'd say you did well for someone who rarely handles anything more dangerous than a butter knife. Oh, and by the way, your wife and I hid your Swiss Army knife. We just don't feel that you're ready for it yet.I was doing some home renos yesterday. I managed to cut a window into my inside kitchen wall. I barely avoided cutting an electrical wire with my Skilsaw (the company, after reading my blog, will likely change their name).
Perhaps just to Kilsaw?
Yes, that's more like it. Anyway, my reno project is coming along rather well. This morning I'm off to Home Depot; Mecca, for real men like me. I need to buy some lumber for my project. Sure, I could cut down one of the many oak trees in my yard, and mill my own lumber, but do you really think it's a good idea for me to cut down an eighty foot tree with a Swiss Army knife, assuming that I could find mine.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Monday, November 16, 2009
There were five grown men windsurfing on the Bay of Fundy today in the middle of the afternoon. This was not the weekend...it was a Monday. Don't these people have jobs?! One of the five was the leisurologist, but who were the others and how are they able to live the life of leisure? Here's the lowdown:
One is retired (Doug). One is underemployed (Frank). One is a shift worker (Dave). One has a job but chose to ignore it (Hollywood).
These are my friends. These are the people with whom I frolic, if you can consider windsurfing in the North Atlantic in mid-November frolicking. It was quite pleasant, surprisingly. The Bay of Fundy water is now much warmer than the lake water in front of my leisure palace. As long as the air temperature is above six degrees or so, then we're good to go, except Dave who also windsurfs in snow storms. You'd be amazed by the warmth of a wetsuit.
Today's image is of Dave Cuthbertson, shown executing a perfect jibe, while a freighter waits in the background to unload its contents; likely something to make the Irvings richer, or perhaps it's full of trinkets for the Dollar Store. Oh well, it makes a pretty backdrop.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
She looked at the skateboard but didn't quite know what to make of it, so she jumped on blindly and off she went without a care in the world. What else would you expect from the Village Idiot's wife?
There are only two types of people in the world, so far as I can tell; those who skateboard, and those who don't. I skateboard and I have since I was twelve, though I took a Rip Van Winklian break from it for over twenty years while I pursued other more pressing passions (mortgage, work, diaper changing, etc.). But I'm back now, with a vengeance.
Skateboarding is nothing more than an extension of all the other board sports that are favoured by leisurologists the world over; snowboarding, wakeboarding, surfing, windsurfing, ironing. Within the world of skateboarding there are two disciplines; longboarding and shortboarding.
Shortboarding is for young kids with malleable bones and no fear. A shortboard was made for doing tricks like ollies. Take note that the professor in this video starts his lesson with the ubiquitous street greeting 'yo, what's up', then goes on to tell you that you have to have 'pop like a rabbit'. If you'd like to watch this video in English, let me know and I'll look for a translation. Peace out.
Shortboards are the preferred weapon in skate parks, like the new one in Saint John (if you're not into skateboarding, you can just hum along to the video's delightful soundtrack!). Needless to say, I own a longboard. Longboards are for cruising. They give a more surfy feel on the street, which suits me just fine. They're also good for bombing hills, to which I'm allergic (road rash). Longboards, by definition, are long and much more user friendly. Quite often people who have never skateboarded before look at the longboard and want to give it a go. I look at them and say "are you goofy?"
It's a great opening line, better than 'yo, what's up?' My goofy question is actually a very serious one. It's a question that could mean the difference between a two month hospital stay in a body cast and, say, having a fun time learning to skateboard. I'm not dissing the body cast option, we all secretly desire sponge baths, but this isn't about suckling on the teats of Medicare; it's about skateboarding.
When you hop on a skateboard you either have your left foot at the front of the board, or your right foot. There are no other options unless you're a three-legged Russian immigrant from Chernobyl. Assuming that you have two legs and your left foot is forward, then you're considered to have a regular stance. If your right foot is forward, then you're consider to be goofy. Sorry, I didn't make up the language. These terms apply to all board sports, so if you're goofy in one, you're goofy in all. I'm a regular guy, but you probably guessed that from my writing style.
Most people, who have never skateboarded before, have no idea if they're goofy or not. I use two methods to discover footedness, though there are others. The first is to ask someone what leg they would use to kick a soccer ball. This identifies their power leg, which is the leg that goes at the back of the skateboard. So if you like to kick a soccer ball with your right leg, then you'll be riding regular stance. If you prefer to kick a soccer ball with your left leg (you freak!), then you're goofy.
I know another test to ascertain which stance is correct. You first ask the person if they're goofy, then you give them a hard shove backwards. Sure, it's a bit aggressive, but just watch how they respond. If they brace themselves with their right leg as they're careening backwards, then they're regular. If they brace themselves with their left leg, and then attack you, then they're goofy, but so are you for shoving them. I'd suggest using the soccer ball question to determine their orientation.
I skateboarded over to the Cambridge-Narrows post office the other day. As I was leaving the post office, our fill-in Village Clerk drove into the parking lot. She admired the skateboard. I said, "want to try it." She said sure and hopped on without any thought of whether she was regular or goofy. As it turned out, she was regular. Her husband, the Village Idiot, is definitely goofy, though I've never seen him skateboard before.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Not a bad Cambridge-Narrows sunset for Friday the thirteenth, eh?
You don't get sunsets like this when you live in Toronto, but I can't run out for a bite of sushi after the sun goes down. Life is about balance and trade-offs. I've traded sushi for sunsets, without regret.
Anyone want to buy a used pair of chopsticks and a half bottle of Kikkoman? You might be surprised what the Kikko Man can do for you, so put your ketchup away and follow the Kikkoman link for a little Japanese treat.
Also, take note that I've added a 'Reaction' poll at the bottom of my blog postings. I'll be curious to see how you rate this posting. Funny? Beautiful? Twisted? I think it's a little of each!
Friday, November 13, 2009
Long before blogs were on my radar, I used to craft rollicking good tales to a different audience every single night. I told these stories to my young son at bedtime, and he ate them up. They were known as 'make up' stories, and not because of my ongoing sponsorship deal with Revlon.
Ian, I thought you were more of a MAC cosmetics guy?
Some of my stories took on lives of their own, none more so than the one I wove about Pooh and Piglet's secret love child. We'll get to that in a moment.
Have you ever noticed that cartoon characters seem to be visually androgynous? Finding bumps on either Bugs Bunny or Porky Pig's smooth facade is like finding humility in Brian Mulroney's character (I'm not swayed by your crocodile tears, cryin' Bri). All television cartoon characters wear their 'parts' internally, though it's obvious that many of them are meant to be male. Go ahead, try to convince me that Porky Pig isn't a guy. I mean abedeebedeebedeebe, of course he's a guy.
Piglet, from the Winnie-The-Pooh series, was built much like Porky, but there was something about Piglet that made me think that there was estrogen flowing through her bacon. Yup, I just assumed that Piglet was a girl. This was quite convenient, because one of my stories told the saga of Pooh and Piglet having a child. The child was named Poohlet.
My son had small rubber Pooh/Piglet/Tigger/Eyeore figures with whom he used to play. They were such a huge part of his early childhood that we've kept them in case we ever have grandchildren. When Poohlet was born into the hundred acre wood klatch, there was a request to 'make him real'. Now, this was the mid 1990s, long before I owned a rubber factory in southeast Asia, so I had to be creative. I took a paper likeness of Pooh, and a paper likeness of Piglet, then Edward Scissorhanded them into one paper cutout character. Voila! Poohlet.
Poohlet had the head of one of his parents, and the body of the other. He wasn't what you'd call 'physically attractive', but he was hamsome. Poohlet became an instant hit with my son. Through my nightly tales, Poohlet took on a personality all his own. Everything was going just swimmingly until one day, while reading a real Pooh story, we discovered that Piglet was actually a boy.
Oh shit! (muttered silently)
My son asked me me how it was possible that Winnie-the-Pooh (clearly male) and Piglet (now also male) could have a child.
"Umm, Wendy, could you come here for a moment? Julian has a question." Then I would make my escape and mow the lawn, EXCEPT, Wendy was away at the time so I couldn't sidestep my son's innocent, yet dastardly complex, question.
I never relished the idea of explaining the birds and the bees to my son, mostly because, in the mid 1990s, I had yet to figure them out myself. I found myself trying to explain how two male characters could have a baby. I was trying to explain this to a pre-schooler. He was very advanced for his age, but probably not ready for all the details. Explaining the delicate details of Winnie-the-Pooh's gay tryst was akin to paddling a leaky canoe upstream in a river of fudge...not easy.
I decided not to delve into the 'ins and outs' of the gay lifestyle because I knew little of the birds and the birds. I decided to take the more conservative approach. I told him that Pooh and Piglet were just friends; room-mates, if you will. I told my son that Pooh and Piglet adopted Poohlet. I added that they were both single, but always wanted to be parents, and that seemed to satisfy his curiosity.
Yes, you really dodged a bullet there, Ian.
I probably had a six or seven year reprieve before any more talk of sexuality reared its ugly head, then one day it happened. My wife was discussing something of a feminine nature and our son was listening. Back in those days, the boy's hearing was so acute that he could hear a Crunchie bar being unwrapped five kilometres away. Julian decided to add his two cents worth to the conversation. His words, forever immortalized in the Varty/Nielsen annals, were:
"Mom, I know a lot about a lot of things, and gynecology is just one of them."
Wendy shot him 'the look', before proceeding to put him in his place. "No. You. Don't," she said in no uncertain terms. I was apoplectically speechless during the short, but intense, dialogue. Julian didn't contest Wendy's raw comeback, though I sensed that he truly felt that he knew plenty about the female anatomy. Secretly, I blame it on those back issues of National Geographic that I had laying around the house.
To this day I don't know what prompted him to say something so outrageous, but I guess it just runs in the family; after all, I know a lot about a lot of things too, though gynecology most certainly isn't one of them.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Growing up in a suburban Fredericton neighbourhood in the 1970s was....
Stop there for a moment! You're saying that you grew up in the 1970s?
Ummm, yeah. I did.
The 70s were all about recovering from the hangover of the 1960s. Women put their burnt bras back on. The Beatles had their wings clipped (Paul ran off with them). The seventies were about disco, Donny and Marie, and the birth of The Price Is Right. Soft rock got a toe hold in popular culture. Hall and Oates, those lion haired man eaters, were embraced by listeners. The seventies were about bad fashion; flared jeans that were often beige or orange. Animal print shirts were a staple of the day. Thongs came into vogue....and you were a part of all that!?
Yes, and I'm not proud to say that I once owned, and wore, a pair of wide leg cords. They were beige, of course. That was a great history of the seventies, though you forgot to mention that Ben Mulroney was born in 1976.
Sorry, just an oversight. The birth of Ben be praised.
Yes, Ben be praised. I'm not saying that I was proud of the 1970s, I'm just saying that I grew up in the 1970s in a suburban neighbourhood. I was about to make the point that my neighbourhood was filled with brothers. The Slipps had six boys, no girls. The Allabys had six boys, no girls. The Vartys, my parents, had three boys. The place was crawling with brothers. We were always playing road hockey, baseball and ice hockey. We had bicycles and motorbikes and G.I.Joes. We were boy's boys.
There were very few girls in the court where I lived. The family next door had four girls but none of them had a decent slap shot so we all butt (not a typo) ignored them. As a child I knew nothing about the mysterious lives of sisters. To this day I'm still fascinated by the dynamic between sisters.
To illustrate my point I've chosen an image of two sisters (above). One lives in Nova Scotia; the other in Upper Canada. The Upper Canadian sister, who I'll refer to under the identity shielding pseudonym of Renatus, lives in Stratford, Ontario. Stratford bills itself as Canada's 'premier arts town'. Sorry Minto (N.B.), you're number two.
Who's number three?
I knew you'd ask that so I did some research. Turns out that it's Toronto.
Never heard of the place.
You go past it when you drive from Dartmouth to Stratford.
Really? I'll have to keep an eye out for it next time.
You do that. Okay, back to my sermon. I was at Lawrencetown Beach with 'the sisters' and we were enjoying a walk along the grassy knoll that flanks the beach. I was running around with my camera, trying to capture to mood of the evening, when all of a sudden I saw something shocking. The sisters were walking hand in hand!
Sisters may have done that where I grew up, but if they did, I was unaware of it. I can tell you in no uncertain terms that brothers didn't, at least not the brothers who shared my surname.
It was nice to watch the sisters holding hands and walking. I felt a tad envious that I would never experience the joy of walking hand in hand with my siblings. For those of you who don't know my brother Doug, he's 6'5" inches tall and weighs about 250 pounds; no lightweight. He's not the hand holding type, or is he?
I love experiments, so I sent my brother the following e-mail:
I was hanging out with two sisters in Dartmouth this past weekend. We went to Lawrencetown for a walk along the beach. At one point the two sisters were walking together and holding hands. It was nice to see siblings who are so close.
I'm going to write about it for my blog today. As an experiment, I think that we should try holding hands and walking along the Queen Street sidewalk in Fredericton.
Sure, but only if we wear leopard skin thongs and cowboy boots.
He then sent another e-mail, as I hadn't replied suitably to his comment:
You are dodging the issue of thongs and cowboy boots. Are we on?
You can see that he's all about the fashion statement, and not so interested in holding my hand. He, too, was a child of the seventies, though an older child.
I'm going shopping for a leopard skin thong and a cowboy boots this afternoon. I'm pretty sure that my brother won't have to do any shopping...sounds like he's good to go.
So, yes, Doug, we're on! Name the time and place and I'll meet you there.
You're actually going to do this, Ian?
Of course I am.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
The doors to the liquor store slide open automatically and I bring an unseasonably warm November breeze in with me. My head is filled with less-than-deep-dish thoughts, such as 'what wine goes with a McCain pizza'.
To my left, by the entrance, is a slightly stooped gentleman who, nevertheless, stands tall. He wears an impressive array of war medals on his tired old chest. The ribbons, attached above the medals, speak like voices of fire on many different levels. Next to him, on the table, is a tray of blood red poppies.
I think that I know why he stands there, but I wonder what he has seen. Does he either need or want to tell me his story? Or has he already? Perhaps just being there, by choice, is the story.
My shallow thoughts of wine never have to crawl on their belly under a barbed wire fence with gunfire overhead. There is no mud on my boots, knees or forehead. I am not numb with cold. I opt for six Stella Artois; a Belgian beer, because fine wine does not go with frozen mozzarella. Stella Artois: made where fields of poppies blow between the rows.
I could have just as easily been drinking Becks, had Adolph been more concerned with military brawn, and less with Eva. My name might not have been Ian, but rather Karlheinz, Gerhardt or Johannes. I might be driving a Mercedes Benz, rather than an 'aw shucks' Ford. I might be filling it with gas from the Berlin Irving. You just never know how things might have turned out, and that's just one more reason to wear a poppy.
The poppy is symbolic. Iconic.
I forgot to wear mine to the liquor store and I felt badly about that. The veteran at the table probably saw me, poppyless, walk past him. He may have thought that I didn't care. When I was younger I didn't seem to care, but about a decade ago I woke up. I don't know if it was a result of seeing the National War Memorial in Ottawa, or just being a father to a son who might be one day handed a gun and told to kill the enemy, or die trying.
I get a lump in my throat when I see these old veterans. I wish there were no war veterans, but I fear there always will be. So let's be respective.
I took my windsurfer down to the water's edge this morning as the sun came up. We savoured a few quiet moments of freedom together. There was no wind in Cambridge-Narrows on this crisp and beautiful November 11 morning.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
— Lt.-Col. John McCrae (1872 - 1918)
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Monday, November 9, 2009
Sunday, November 8, 2009