Tour guiding 101

Guide Nathan Schultz (with walking stick) about to lead tour into Fallingwater.

Guide Nathan Schultz (with walking stick) about to lead tour into Fallingwater.

The group gathered as instructed at the end of a long walkway in the Pennsylvania woods near Uniontown. We waited for a few moments and he joined us – complete with ochre-coloured polo shirt and pants and a hardwood walking stick – to begin our tour. He seemed a rather young man to be guiding us through something as prestigious as this Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house. But the moment he began to speak about this place called “Fallingwater,” we sensed we were in the hands of a master tour guide.

“Just the way my arm rests across my walking stick,” he said, placing his forearm at right angles to the stick, “is the cantilever design that Wright used to build this home for Edgar and Liliane Kaufmann.” [more…]

A unique calling

The Grant Mansion has a unique place in Atlanta's history, if it can be preserved.

The Grant Mansion has a unique place in Atlanta’s history, if it can be preserved.

It’s rather unassuming, yet quite historic. It doesn’t dazzle with extraordinary colours or flashy architecture. To the contrary, its simple lines, modest proportions and utilitarian features speak more of its being a family dwelling than a historic building. But in the City of Atlanta, the Grant Mansion has a unique distinction. It’s one of the few Civil War period buildings not destroyed in the burning of the city 150 years ago by Union Gen. W.T. Sherman. Initially, its survival is attributed to one odd factor.

“Because Union troops found Masonic paraphernalia in the house,” documentation at the historic site explains today, “(soldiers) were instructed not to harm the houses of Masons.” [more…]

Call of the bell

If this doesn't look familiar, read on.

If this doesn’t look familiar, read on.

For those of a certain age, the sound of this bell is unique. It’s distinct from a church bell, a bicycle bell, a carillon bell, and even a fire engine bell. As close as I can put into words, it goes, “Ca-clang, ca-clang,” in a slow, swinging, walking-like rhythm. And it has a very specific translation for those of us who remember it.

“I’m nearby, on your block,” it says. “I’m here for one thing. So, come to the curb if you need your knives, scissors or garden tools sharpened.” [more…]

Monumental trauma

Speaker of the House of Commons Andrew Scheer, left, and Minister of Veterans Affairs Erin O'Toole unveil Sam in relief.

Speaker of the House of Commons Andrew Scheer, left, and Minister of Veterans Affairs Erin O’Toole unveil Sam in relief.

Sam helped Tyler make it through. But when he needed the same kind of assistance – nearly 100 years ago – there was no one there to help Sam through. Tyler Briley, from Port Perry, was in Ottawa last Thursday. The minister of veterans affairs was unveiling Briley’s latest creation, a wax sculpture of Sam Sharpe.

“It’s been a form of therapy,” he said. “I’ve just gotten well in the last year, in part, because of my work on this.” [more…]

Ticket to freedom

A tow truck that's could probably use one.

A tow truck that’s could probably use one.

On the weekend, my wife and I motored north into what city people euphemistically call “cottage country.” We ended up at a friend’s cottage south of Sudbury. He’d invited us there to put our feet up at the lake and chill for a couple of days. Suddenly, however, in the middle of the weekend escape, our host faced a problem, an automotive problem, and he immediately got on the phone.

“Hey Rick,” my friend called into the landline phone. “You know that Nissan wagon of mine?”

There was a momentary pause, as I guess Rick, the cottage-country mechanic, went through a mental file of his customers and remembered my friend’s car from the city.

“A bunch of the electrical warning lights are on,” my friend continued. “Can I bring it over?” [more…]

Water, water everywhere. Not.

Hosing water around at the worst of times.

Hosing water around at the worst of times.

I saw a man in Toronto, the other day, doing the most decadent thing you can imagine. He was washing a bunch of leaves down the street with water from his garden hose. Spraying the water, full blast, onto the asphalt!

“Where’s your head?” I almost shouted at him, but didn’t. “Up your… hose?” [more…]

Madness as wisdom

Abraham Rosenbach got the bug to collect rare books from his uncle Moses Polock.

Abraham Rosenbach got the bug to collect rare books from his uncle Moses Polock.

Did you know that the original manuscript for James Joyce’s book Ulysses rests in Philadelphia? That’s because a Philadelphian named Abraham Rosenbach felt he needed to acquire it. In 1924, when he saw the first version of the book, Joyce’s actual pencilled words on paper, Rosenbach bought it.

He paid $1,975 for it. At the time, he felt he was simply helping Joyce raise much needed cash. When Joyce’s fortunes changed and he tried to buy the manuscript back from Rosenbach, he refused. Later, Rosenbach offered to buy the page proofs for Ulysses.

Joyce was incensed, saying “when [Rosenbach] receives a reply from me, all the rosy brooks [a play on Rosenbach’s name] will have run dry.” [more…]

Ever the Old World

Majority of Greeks voted "No" to bail-out deal offered by the EU.

Majority of Greeks voted “No” to bail-out deal offered by the EU.

There used to be a story shared among some of my Greek family members. They were recalling a time 50 years ago, when the Greek Army generals ruled the country. The story goes that a Greek civilian stood on a sidewalk and asked the man standing next to him if he was in the military. The man shook his head.

“Do you have family in the military?” the Greek civilian asked.

“No,” the stranger answered.

“What about friends or acquaintances? Any of them in the military?”

“No.”

“Well then, would mind getting off my foot?” entreats the first man.

[more…]

A Maud Maud world

New garden at St. Paul's Presbyterian Church in Leaskdale, Ont., on Saturday, June 20, 2015.

New garden at St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church in Leaskdale, Ont., on Saturday, June 20, 2015.

It was getting late on Saturday afternoon. The chief dignitary at our event, the lieutenant governor of Ontario, had moved on to her next appointment. Most of the remaining dignitaries had left too. Only the volunteers were left cleaning up and chatting with us hangers-on. Suddenly a car pulled up and a couple emerged.

“Has the event already happened?” the woman asked. “Have they unveiled the sculpture?”

“The sculpture of Maud?” I repeated. “Yes, they have.”

“We’ve come a long way,” she said.

“Don’t worry. Just about everybody’s gone,” I said. “But the sculpture’s not going anywhere. She’s just waiting for you.” [more…]

Mother Corp on my mind

The old CBC Radio building on Jarvis Street in Toronto was home to a different generation of broadcasters.

The old CBC Radio building on Jarvis Street in Toronto was home to broadcasters with a different set of priorities and ethical standards.

I’ve been asked the question a lot over the years. It’s an issue some of friends feel compelled to put to me whenever it comes up. And I feel compelled to respond. But friends and peers have asked it of me repeatedly these past months, in particular, this past week.

“What’s with all this rottenness at the CBC?” people ask. [more…]