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Ticket to freedom

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…]

A ticket to freedom

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.

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…]

A meeting here tonight

Panel discussion regarding the Stratford school board decision not to allow the son of Art Boon (foreground) join him in Holland.

Panel discussion regarding the Stratford school board decision not to allow the son of Art Boon (foreground) join him in Holland.

Up until last April, the council chamber in one Quebec community would generally fill with reporters and interested members of the public. When it was time to commence the town of Saguenay’s business, in would flow the members of council to take their spots. Then, before a single piece of business was addressed that day, someone would recite these words:

“O God, eternal and almighty, from Whom all power and wisdom flow, we are assembled here in Your presence to ensure the good of our city and its prosperity…” [more…]

A writer life

Kayla Czaga at a poetry reading.

Kayla Czaga at a poetry reading.

Her name is Kayla Czaga. She’s a young Canadian poet. And last Saturday night during a gala, I attended in Winnipeg, her peers announced she’d won the annual Gerald Lampert Award… Don’t be embarrassed if you’ve never heard of her or the prize. It was awarded by the League of Canadian Poets at the first ever joint conference of the LCP and its new sister association, The Writers’ Union of Canada, of which I’m a member. In fact, she commented on the new relationship between the LCP and TWUC.

“I want to thank this big, new, strange family,” she said. And the 200 or so writers present – poets, novelists, short story writers and non-fiction writers – all laughed and applauded in appreciation. [more…]

All the world is his stage

OLIVER_TWIST_POSTEROur two families met during an elementary school production of “Oliver!” back about 1990. In the musical, our daughter Whitney performed the role of the old thief Fagin and Lisa and Conrad Boyce’s daughter Alida played Mrs. Bumble, the wife of the workhouse caretaker. Of course, the girls were great. I didn’t realize it right away, but Alida probably had an edge. She was coached by a man steeped in theatrical experience as an actor, director, producer and critic. In a note to me this week, Conrad described his own stage debut.

“I played my first role in Grade 1,” he wrote, “a Canadian history pageant (in which I was) Maisonneuve, the founder of Montreal.” [more…]