Trial by judge

Harry Anderson as Judge Harry T. Stone on "Night Court." WMUR TV

Harry Anderson as Judge Harry T. Stone on “Night Court.” WMUR TV

I haven’t been in front of one very often, but as I recall the last time I faced a judge, it was about 10 years ago. I had received a speeding ticket from a Durham Regional Police officer. I was then informed by mail to appear at the Ontario Court of Justice in the Whitby, Ont. That’s where I would enter my plea and face a judge in a courtroom. Of course, there was no jury. No trial either, since I pleaded guilty. Then, the judge looked at me.

“Would the accused please stand?” he asked. [more…]

A time of evil

Dalton Trumbo's smile was deceiving given the prejudice he endured.

Dalton Trumbo’s smile was deceiving given the prejudice he endured.

I watched an entertaining and important movie at The Roxy Theatre in Uxbridge this past week. It reminded me of a very scary time in the world. It made me wince at the lunacy of the fear mongering. It saddened me to think that people lost their careers (and in some cases their lives) for their political views in a democratic country … in my lifetime. The hero of the story, Dalton Trumbo, summed it up late in the movie.

“No one on either side (of this feud) who survived it, came through untouched,” he said. “The blacklist was a time of evil.” [more…]

Wine, women and peace and quiet

Restaurants try to deliver great food and great atmosphere, but...

Restaurants try to deliver great food and great atmosphere, but…

There was only one thing wrong, that night. The appetisers were tantalizing, the steaks exquisite. The bay window in front of our table gave us a stunning view of Niagara Falls. And the wine helped every morsel of the entrees go down ever so smoothly; and since we would later be walking to our accommodation and not need a designated driver, the five of us thought we might linger over the wine. But that one thing nearly erased an otherwise delicious evening. Not long after the meals arrived our waiter returned.

“How’s the meal so far?” he asked out of genuine interest.

I looked at him, shrugged my shoulders and said, “Sorry, I can’t hear you.” [more…]

Food for thought and comfort

"Spanikopalooza"

“Spanikopalooza”

Last Friday, when the tributes, reminiscences and spiritual acknowledgements at our neighbour Ronnie Egan’s funeral came to an end, many of us retired to the basement hall of the church for conversation and, well, refreshments. There was lots of coffee and tea and something to tide everybody over. The banquet tables were laid out with veggies and dip, cheese and crackers, fruits and sweets and, of course, sandwiches.

“What else?” I heard someone say. “Ronnie wouldn’t have wanted it any other way, but to have egg-salad sandwiches.” [more…]

Add water and stir imagination

Flooding a backyard ice rink the old-fashioned way.

Flooding a backyard ice rink the old-fashioned way.

It was like that 1981 movie, “Cannonball Run,” in which a bunch of fast-car addicts get a telephone call and immediately drop what they’re doing to join a cross-country auto race. Well, even if you don’t know the movie, suffice to say a couple of Saturdays ago I got a phone call from one of my hockey pals to assemble a work party.

“My house,” Mike MacDonald texted, “about 10 a.m.”

When I first arrived at Mike’s place, just after 10, nobody was there. But within seconds several of Mike’s neighbours, Kirk Buchanan, Scott Clayworth, Jamie Steele and Jim Sproxton emerged from their homes and converged on Mike’s garage. In seconds, they’d rolled up the door and were rifling through a pile of wood in the garage. Since this was my first time, I just offered to assist. [more…]

An emblem of grace and service

Chief Petty Officer Rodine Egan in Halifax during Second World War.

Chief Petty Officer Rodine Egan in Halifax during Second World War.

We met over the Red Maple Leaf. Or, I guess it was actually under it. We had only been her neighbours for a while, when she looked up at the Canadian flag hanging at my front door and took exception to it.

“You’d better take that down,” she said sternly. “It’s against the law for the national emblem to be that tattered.”

Originally resentful that my neighbour should call me out on the physical condition of my flag, I soon learned that my neighbour – Rodine Doris Mary Buckley-Beevers Egan – had every right to demand that I replace the flag. Not just to ensure that I wasn’t charged by the Government of Canada or the Queen herself for disgracing a national symbol, Ronnie felt personally obliged to fix such things. Indeed, I sensed it wasn’t only her nature, but her occupation. [more…]

The Christmas shepherds

The Shepherd, painting by Lauren Grace O'Malley, courtesy Vintage Wings of Canada

The Shepherd, painting by Lauren Grace O’Malley, courtesy Vintage Wings of Canada

They are the most soothing and at the same time perhaps the most mysterious symbols of Christmas. They appear in carols, in the Bible, in Christmas cards and just about every nativity scene one could imagine. They are seldom quoted, but always acknowledged as trusted and worthy guides to a safe and protected place.

“And there were in the same country,” it says in the Book of Luke, “shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night…” [more…]

Home for Christmas

78 RPM Decca V-Disc of "I'll Be Home For Christmas" recorded in 1943 by Bing Crosby and re-released by the U.S. War Department the following year.

78 RPM V-Disc of “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” recorded in 1943 by Bing Crosby and re-released by the U.S. War Department the following year.

I walked up the front walk in the darkness of the early evening. I quietly put my luggage down on the front step of my parents’ Los Angeles home and knocked on the door. This was a plan my dad and I had hatched weeks before. It was finally coming to pass. He knew I had flown in from Toronto. My mother didn’t know. And this night – just before Dec. 25 – my mom opened the front door. I was the last person she expected.

“What are you doing here?” she shrieked.

“It’s a surprise Dad and I’ve been working on for weeks,” I said, as I hugged her for the first time since the summer. “I just wanted to be home for Christmas.” [more…]

Of guns and goodness

A few weeks ago, I found myself in a line of American travellers moving through an airport security area. We were all rushing to get to a flight bound for New York City. We had all removed our coats, belts and shoes, and were waiting to be cleared to the gate. That’s when a fellow passenger struck up a conversation with me.

“Going home?” a guy asked.

“No,” I said. “Home’s in Canada.”

“Kind of the same,” he smiled. “Except you Canadians all say, ‘aboot.’”

I buttoned my lip, preferring to leave well enough alone. Fortunately, I didn’t end up sitting next to him on the plane, so I didn’t have to endure any more of his mistaken perceptions about the similarities between Americans and Canadians. [more…]

Tipping point

The Hobby Horse Arms in Uxbridge.

The Hobby Horse Arms in Uxbridge.

A Friday or two ago, after my wife and I had each endured a long, tough week, the two of us decided we needed a break. We chose not to eat in, but to treat ourselves. We dropped by the Hobby Horse, a local pub in Uxbridge, to enjoy a favourite beverage and meal and some relaxing down time. Of course, part of the experience of treating ourselves included enjoying one of the best servers in town – B.J. Byers.

“Hey, how are two of my favourite regulars?” B.J. said as we walked in.

“Great… now,” I responded. [more…]