Baked, but bored to tears

There we were. A spirited game of oldtimers’ recreational hockey done for the night. Sitting around cutting everybody down to size – who botched what pass, who couldn’t score if his life depended on it, or, which tender let in the worst goal. Then, not surprisingly, the conversation shifted to comparing planned or dreamed-about vacations in the South. There was this pool-side service or that all-inclusive price or this best beach for just lying in the sun. And I couldn’t resist.

“Yes. Sounds OK,” I said. “Then, what do you do after that?”

Anybody who’d heard my snide comment looked at me as if I had horns growing out of my head. Of course, the answer was: “After you’ve had a day in the sun, you do the same the next day and the next day.” But some of my friends have grown to expect my cynicism about vacations in the South. They know that I’m not the escape-from-the-Great-White-North-to-the-Sun-Belt kind of person. It’s partly because I’ve always looked at down time as a time to do things. A time to be invested in exploring, physically doing something, keeping the synapse in my brain firing. Not just lying around.

Years ago, my parents bought a condo in a gated community on the Atlantic side of Florida, near a place called Pompano Beach. It was nice as an escape to a place with pools, some recreational distractions, and minutes by car to Hwy. U.S. 1 that was home to some fun restaurants. But, again, after a day or two of that, there was nothing to do. One of those rare times we were down there, I found out that a travelling exhibit of Titanic artefacts and memorabilia had just opened in Miami. I couldn’t wait to buy a ticket and take in the exhibition. Anything to get away from just lying around, baking.

Another time, at my wife’s suggestion, we decided to do a little exploring inland away from the ocean-side resorts on the Atlantic and the Gulf Coast. She was actually looking for an equestrian facility where dressage competitors had gathered. I was certainly game to check it out. So, we got a map, gassed up, drove away from the coastal green of hotel resorts, golf courses, inland waterways and palms, toward the Everglades. I was amazed.

“Not only is there nothing to do here,” I editorialized, “but it’s flat as a pancake.” I mean there was nothing. Not even trees or hills. Yes, periodically there was evidence of the inland swamp, where water and a bit of sawgrass interrupted the skyline. But otherwise, as far as the eye could see, was empty, flat horizon. Is it just a coincidence that Florida is as flat as it is boring?

All right, so what’s so good about doing things here this time of year?

Well, I happen to think there’s lots. A few weeks ago, I was up the highway to Bancroft for an evening presentation. On the drive up I listened to an astronomer on radio talk about that night’s first display of Geminids. They’re the once-a-year meteor showers from the asteroid Palladian. Anyway, after midnight when I was headed back south, I stopped a couple of times to watch for the shooting stars. I didn’t see that many Geminids. But the chance to see the winter northern hemisphere of stars away from light pollution farther south, was worth the drive. They’d be impossible to see anywhere else.

A lot of us wimp-out in the winter. “Ah, it’s too cold to do anything outside.” Maybe. So why not do things indoors? Why stand in line at all those expensive movie theatres at those vacation spots in the States, when you can see “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” at the Roxy right here in town? Or, forget about going all that way to see Lightning hockey during your Tampa holiday or Heat basketball while you’re vacationing near Miami. I know they’re not winning a lot this year, but why not get out and support the Bruins? The hockey’s often more spirited. Even better, if the temperatures moderate at all, maybe there’ll be some pond hockey out there for us. Or, there’s the next best thing…

Last week, while the kids were still out of school, we found out there was ice time available at the arena for public skating. And I’ve been encouraging my city-dwelling daughter to get her boys out on the ice. They both seemed a bit hesitant; they’re not the athletic types. But one of the boys was suddenly curious enough. We found him some skates that fit. I laced them on. And he took his first ever strides on ice skates. And I was there to prop him up and witness it all.

No. I won’t win any friends in Florida tourism circles, but escapes to the sunshine state, for me, border on humdrum. When it comes to winter getaways, for my time and money, it’s got to be more than waiting for the sun to burn me to a crisp.

Frames from a moving life

Christopher and his two most prized possessions - wife Glen and 1968 Oscar - and host Barris at 2009 Gala.
Christopher and his two most prized possessions – wife Glen and 1968 Oscar – and host Barris at 2009 Gala.

It took us nearly a lifetime to recognize a lifetime. But we finally did it on Sept. 19, 2009. It was a tribute to one of our own – a photographer, innovator and award-winning artist. And in the days afterward, as the person given the distinction of hosting the evening and interviewing the man being honoured, I received two touching written snapshots of the occasion. One came from the subject of the tribute.

“Thank you for your introduction of me,” Christopher Chapman scribbled on a card a few days later. “And thank you for guiding me through that interview.”

The other snapshot came as an email from Christopher’s wife, Glen.

“How thrilling to have a significant number of family, friends and community there,” she wrote. “We’re still in awe of the whole evening.”

No sound? No reality!

SUBCONSCIOUS_PASSWORD_POSTERThe concept was fairly simple. Oscar-winning moviemaker Chris Landreth leads his audience into the recesses of the brain of a character named Charles Langford, who’s attempting to remember the name of a long-ago friend he’s suddenly re-encountered at a party. You know… It’s when you see the face, but you can’t remember the name… Well, Landreth used that premise in an 11-minute short film, called “Subconscious Password,” which we recently saw during the annual Short Film Festival at Uxbridge’s Roxy Theatres. The film becomes a madcap edition of that classic TV game show “Password,” with every contestant knowing that the long-ago friend’s name is “John,” except our hero.

“Landreth’s spellbinding animation makes anomic aphasia unforgettably entertaining,” explained the Roxy program.

Why Citizenship Week?

The Banh family fled from Vietnam in 1980, was detained on an Indonesian island, but among thousands of other Boat People was eventually given refuge in Canada.
Thirty years ago, Canada and Canadians extended a hand of welcome to thousands of Boat People fleeing Southeast Asia.

It was an act of blatant intolerance. Mia, a factory worker originally from Asia, had been warming her lunch-break meal in the microwave oven in the staff kitchen. It had been the only comfort she was allowed, since her factory job was menial and since she lived with a son who slept all day and stayed out all night. Suddenly, she faced a factory foreman, who found the aroma of her homemade food offensive and he posted a sign on the front of the microwave to point that out.

“No foul-smelling food allowed,” was all the note said.