Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Post 2010 - 2010 In Review!

"I'm sorry, but your father has died."

The words hit me like a ton of bricks.  I was at work at the time.  It was May 3rd, 2010; and I had just received an email from my sister that Dad was doing relatively well.  Then, this phone call from the nursing home where Dad had moved just 14 days earlier. 

We knew he was on his way out.  One of his nurses had made that point clear to us just a week before.  I was off work that week to spend as much time with him as I could, not that he was awake very much.  I decided to return to work on May 3rd, and that is the day he passed.  Figures.

I called my younger sister and told her.  We weren't sure where my mother and older sister were.  Turns out that they were at the family dwelling, and it further turns out that they had been in to see him 30 minutes earlier.  They left, and he was alive.  His nurse checked in on him 10 minutes later, and he was gone.  My name and number happened to be the first one she saw on the list, which is why she called me.

I composed myself.  I was in the middle of working on something for a client when I got the call.  My mind went blank; I completely forgot how to perform this task that I had done without a problem 100 times.  I signed the ticket over to a co-worker.  I sent an email to him and my various bosses explaining what had happened and that I would be off for a while, and got up and left. 

I was walking to my car, which was parked deep in the south end of the city, when my cell rang.  It was Kevin, who all but insisted on driving me home.  While I still feel I could have done it, I let him drive me home.  Patricia, in turn, drove Kevin home while I remained at my house packing things for the week.  I told the cats what had happened.  They hung around me and didn't fight for a change.  On some level, they just knew. Cats are smarter than dogs.  They just are.

Patricia returned from driving Kevin home.  We left for the Valley, for the nursing home.  I sent out a tweet that my father had died and then shut off the BlackBerry for the evening.  Upon our arrival, we found the remaining members of the family in the family meeting room.  We walked to Dad's room, where I said my final goodbyes.  The remaining family members joined Patricia and me.  The minister walked in and we prayed over Dad.

Back in the meeting room, we talked about the funeral arrangements.  We discussed things I will not discuss here, but the result was that the funeral would be Friday the 7th.  The extra day or so would be to allow extended family members who live out of province to attend the funeral. 

I was asked to write the eulogy.  I'm still not sure why.  But I agreed to do so, and began working on it Tuesday morning. 

The next few days were a flurry of funeral preparations.  Wednesday the womanfolk drank wine and prepared a couple memory boards composed of pictures of Dad and the family.  I had emailed a bunch of digital pictures to my niece, who in turn had them printed off.  One picture was of me and my younger sister when we were kids, on Christmas Day, in the early 1970's.  I scanned in the picture, emailed it to my niece, who in turn had it printed off.  I could have just given her the damn picture and saved the trouble.

While the memory board was being put together, I sat off in the corner of the room, sober, writing the eulogy. When I finished a rough draft, I had to get up and go for a walk to get my mind off the enormity of what I would be doing 2 days hence. I returned to the house and read the draft to those present.  They liked it.  I read it to Mom that evening, and she asked for one or two changes.

Thursday was the visitations at the funeral home.   The chest containing Dad's ashes was on display along with various pictures and things that Dad liked.  Before and after the visitations, I was practicing the delivery of the eulogy.  I would re-word things here and there so that there was a natural flow, a rhythm that I found pleasing.  A speech is like a  recipe all of whose ingredients work together to form a product greater than the sum of its parts.  I wanted this to be the best speech I had ever written, ever delivered.  I owed that to my dad.

The day of the funeral, the funeral home sent its limosine to transport us.  I don't think I'd ever been in a limo before.  I looked out the window at the house as we drove away and knew that it wouldn't ever be the same there again.

The funeral itself was nice.  At the appointed time, I got up, in front of a couple hundred people and presented the eulogy.  It was understood that if I needed assistance, I could signal Patricia and she would stand up there with me. 

The eulogy seemed to go over well.  People laughed at the right places, and seemed to dab their eyes at the right spots, too.  After the funeral, people came up to me and said I'd done a good job.  I'm told that for months afterward, people were walking up to my younger sister and telling her how good a job I had done.

Here's a link to the eulogy, if you want to read it.

After we ate some of the expensive food the funeral home put out, the immediate family piled into the limo for the internment.  The police in Kentville blocked traffic and saluted the limo as we drove past.  This continued until we got to the cemetary, where one last cop saluted us. 

The internment ceremony was quick and efficient.  They lowered Dad into the grave.  We said a few more words, and left. 

We returned to the house and put the remainder of the food from the service in the fridge.  We didn't feel like cooking anything, so a bunch of us went out to dinner at the Port Pub in Port Williams.  After that, Patricia and I returned to the city, returning to the 2 cats we had left behind 2 days before.  They were fairly hungry even though we had left them lots of extra food.

Saturday, in my skivvies, I reflected on the week that was just passed.  My life would never be the same again.

The weekend passed.  I spent too much time trying to get the wireless working on a laptop computer that was running ubuntu.  Come Sunday, I returned to the Valley for the week to take care of things for the family.  My mother would be entitled to a portion of my dad's pension.  There would be other things to do for her comfort as well. 

On May 10th, I interviewed Colin and Kate at K-Rock.  I know it seems weird to interview people for the Blog when I had just buried my father, but I needed some routine in my life, and that passed for it. 

Monday morning, May 17th, I returned to work.  Patricia and I were parked across the street from where I was working at the time when a garbage truck going up the street perpendicular to the one we were on abruptly decided to back up on to "our" street.

The driver backed up the truck, barreling toward us.  There were no other vehicles between him and us.  He continued to back up, so we laid on the horn to remind him.  The passenger got out and guided the truck even closer to us before stopping.  The driver got out and scowled at me and went on picking up the garbage from the local office building.

I got out of the truck and looked for the number of the company on the truck so that I could call and complain.  The driver saw me and yelled at me to tell me where the number one.  He began to swear at me and lunge in my direction, trying to goad me into a fight. 

It was bizarre, being in this situation where a truck driver wanted to pick a fight with me when we had done nothing wrong.  People I worked with started coming over to me.  One guy asked if the driver had hit me and I told him no. 

The truck passenger, his partner, didn't say anything to me, allowing the driver to continue his harangue.  I did call his boss.  His name was Rick, and he was useless.  He just said, "Well, at least nobody got hurt" over and over again. 

The truck eventually left, but not before folks asked if we were ok.   The man who ran the diner in the office building next to us reported that he had had many problems with the garbage collectors over the years.  They were rude to him and smashed into stop signs and parking meters without a care. 

I went into work after that and didn't tell anybody about what had just happened.  They're only finding out by reading this now.  I was welcomed back to work and it was good to be there.

A few weeks later, we 3 kids went through Dad's things to decide what to keep and what to toss.  He was a real pack rat.  Among his papers was the following, an invitation to participate in a home beautification contest for the year 1968.  I couldn't resist bringing it back here and scanning it and sharing it with you.  I wonder who won?

Over the following months, I split my time among my house, the cottage and my mother's.  I mowed her lawn a lot.  I prepared for the Fall clean up by going through the basement and finding a ton of things to toss.  My sister and I removed the old hot water tank from the basement with the aid of the hand truck I bought for Dad several years ago.  I mowed the lawn some more.  Worked out in the garage.  Prepared for the sale of his trucks and other effects.  Did executor stuff.  

Other things happened in 2010.  I interviewed several folks for the blog.  I participated in the 3rd annual Christmas Tie Extravaganza in December.  And we spent our first Christmas without our father.  That was tough.

2010 was over.  2011 beckoned.  And I looked forward to it.  It couldn't be worse.

Or, could it?

See you tomorrow.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Post 2009 - 2009 In Review!

Welcome to 2009, ladies and gentlemen!

You'll be happy to know that by the beginning of 2009, I had a pretty good digital camera.  As with any new toy, I played with it all the time.  I took a few thousand pictures in 2009.  I will include a few here.

The blog was very busy in 2009.  I interviewed  Chris Mills, Denyse Sibley (still one of the most popular blog posts ever!), Tom Bedell, Moe Dunn, Peter Duffy (former columnist for the Chronicle Herald), Ian Robinson, Darrin Harvey, Nikki Balch,  Pat Connolly, Don Tremaine, Frank Cameron, Bob Powers, and Clive Schaefer (which has never been published).  Some of those interviews are quite long.  I am not sure why I was able to produce so many interviews back then, and only a few in the last couple of years.  And I haven't conducted a single interview yet in 2012.

In the Spring, I arranged for my work to participate in the annual Bowl a Thon for Big Brothers/Big Sisters.  I don't know why we haven't mustered a team in the last couple of years.  But I took some pictures that day, and here is one:

One of the people in this picture is a regular Blog reader.  Hello, my friend.  The other one, should be.  Let's work on that, shall we?

I got my bathroom shower replaced in 2009.  You have heard of Bathfitters?  They advertise on tv all the time.  They come to your house and measure your current bathtub and shower.  They show you what options are available and the cost thereof.  At an appointed date and time, they send a guy to your house who rips out the old shower, right down to the insulation in the wall, replaces everything and builds a new shower.  He will also cover your old bathtub, but mine didn't need that.  It was an expensive day, but the shower is so much nicer with the built-in shelving and the new wall that won't allow moisture into against the new insulation.  Bravo.

Those early pictures are pretty gross, aren't they?

In March, Patricia and I attended a concert at the Rebecca Cohn called Tunes for Troubled Times.  Held during the height of the financial meltdown, these were songs of the Great Depression of the 1930's.  What a wonderful evening.  I have been to many concerts in my life, starting with The Irish Rovers when I was 12.  I swear to you, I have never enjoyed any concert, any live performance, more in my entire live, than I did Tunes for Troubled Times.  The music was so enjoyable, performed by so many people, that I continue to lament the absence of a cd of the show.  It was recorded by the CBC and run several times; but it has long since disappeared from their website.  More's the pity.

My dad's health continued to decline in 2009.  I am not going into the details.  But in looking at the pictures I took of him in '09, it is clear that he was approaching the end, and that he was barely photographable.  I will not share those pictures here.  As recently as June of 2008, when his granddaughter graduated high school, he looked comparitively robust and strong.  Less than a year later, he was not.

On June 4th, 2009, Dad turned 78 years old.  As it turned out, he did not live to see 79.  Sensing it might be his last birthday, I took a vacation day and decided to surprise my folks by driving down to the Valley for the day and take Dad and Mom out to lunch at the Old Gummer's Restaurant, better known as the Big Stop in New Minas.

I had just bought a small camcorder, which I still use for the blog interviews, and got our server to film me singing happy birthday to my dad.

Here it is, in case you want to see it:


We had another vacation in Pictou County in 2009.  The trespassers were starting to make their presence known, and their sense of entitlement began to get on our nerves.  It never ceases to amaze me how people who trespass always live next door to people who can't abide what they do.

A regular reader of my blog, and this year in review series in particular, is my good friend A.J. Thomas.  He is a local minister who appears on News 95.7 from time to time extolling the virtues of Christianity.  He was in my TM club for a time, and I wish his life would change enough to enable him to return.

Anyway, on May 27th, a bunch of us went out after the meeting was over and grabbed some grub at a local pub.  A.J., ever the mischievous guy, took his plate, and some ketchup, and some pepper, and made the following figure:

Usually, people see Jesus in the sap on a tree, or in a puddle.  A.J. saw him on a dinner plate.  Go figure!

Christmas finally came.  Dad had been in the hospital.  He signed himself out of the hospital and came home for what would be his final Christmas.   He would always tell us stories about growing up and his younger days in the Valley.  This usually was on Christmas day.  In 2009, I recorded most of that stuff, and I am mighty glad I did.  The stories were always fascinating.

2009 was the year when I began to say goodbye to a parent.  It was a year of many interviews for the blog.  It was a year of a really cool concert.  It led into 2010, where my life would change forever.

I will tell you about that tomorrow.


Monday, May 28, 2012

Post 2008 - 2008 In Review!

Welcome to 2008, folks.

It's amazing how, as we get closer to the present, the details of individual years become less clear to me.  But we will give it a whirl anyway.

A nice fat overtime cheque I'd earned at the end of 2007 went, every cent of it, to pay for the installation of a new window at the cottage. Wonderful.

On the Blog front, I made my first foray into what I am best known for today: The interviews, most of which are with radio people.  My first interview was with Deb Smith, currently of C100, but back then, still with the CJCH morning show.  As I have stated over and over, I did a very poor job of it.  I used my BlackBerry to try to record the conversation, only to find that the built-in microphone picked up more of the ambient noise in the pub rather than what the lovely Deb was saying.  I jotted down a few things that she said, and tried like heck to make out what I'd recorded, and cobbled something together that was an abomination of what she actually told me.  100% my fault.  I take full responsibility, and I still plan to interview her again to make it right.

The early blog posts are embarrasing for me to read today.  I remember writing about not wanting to go to the gym, a lot.  Years later, I could do the same thing.  I wrote about being tired all the time.  It's not that I'm not tired today, but the whiny tone of those early posts makes me want to cringe. 

Around post 100, I began to find a voice, and have spent the last 1908 posts trying to refine it.  You can decide whether I've been successful.

I used my BlackBerry to take pictures of the radio folks back in the day.  The only usable picture I have of Jeff Cogswell is from the 2mega pixel BlackBerry camera.  The digital camera I had bought for myself in 2000 wasn't much good to me any more, as I pointed out in the 2007 post.  I needed a new digital camera!

I also needed a better voice recorder than the BB.  I bought a panasonic voice recorder, but the user interface was so abstruse that I couldn't figure out how to use it.  I took it back and got an RCA recorder.  It was much cheaper, and sounded so.  It didn't produce mp3 files or wma files or any other recognizable format of files.  It came with an app that took the proprietary audio files and converted them to ... wav files, I think.  The rca recorder turned out to be a piece of crap and I was delighted to get rid of it and get the one I still use, 3 years+ later.  It is the one I wish I had bought from the get-go: An Olympus. 

I wasn't sure what digital camera to get, but I knew what one not to get.  I didn't want a digital camera that used proprietary batteries.  Those batteries are expensive and only work with the charger that comes with the device.  Break the charger, you have to get a new one, which costs who knows how much.  When the battery croaks, you have to get a new one, costing more than you'd want to pay.

When I interviewed Dawn Sloane in '08, she took some pictures of us that are still up on the interview associated with her.  I liked her camera.  I was happy to learn that it ran on AA batteries, available everywhere.  Later on in '08, I wrote her to ask her about her camera.  She wrote me back, telling me how much she liked it.  I was even happier to learn that the model of camera she had bought was still available.

In late December, maybe even the 31st, I bought that model of camera.  There was not a single SD memory card in the store, but this model also ran on XD cards, an unusual format.  I bought a 1gb XD card and some AA batteries and took the camera home to play with.  In '09, I would buy a good camera bag and a better strap, and invest in rechargeable batteries. 

I still have the camera.  It still works perfectly.  I still love it. 

What else happened in 2008?  As I had done for the better part of a decade, I continued to take my parents to doctor's appointments here in the city.  Over the years, the procedure had been refined to the point where they would take the bus to Halifax.  I would hang around after work to pick them up at the depot. We'd go out for dinner somewhere.  We'd go to my place and we'd all turn in early.  The next day, we'd drive to the appointment.  If there was time, Mom would go to one of the used clothing places in town (Value Village was always her favourite), we'd get some lunch, and then I'd drive them to the bus depot for their return home.  This happened several more times in 2008, including the weekend of the Q104 25th anniversary party at the Cunard Centre.  Sigh.  I couldn't go to it because I was busy driving my mother around.  I hope it helps get me into Heaven.

Also in 2008, 920 CJCH went away.  The writing was on the wall.  I'd listened to the station since I was a teenager in the Annapolis Valley.  I listened to it through thick and thin, and there was a fair amount of thin over the years.  But the station was practically threadbare by the late '00's.  By the time of the application to flip to FM, where it would become The Bounce, the music was tired and uninspired and not even voice tracked.  They were live from 6am to 1pm, when Rick's Hotline signed off for the day.  As much as I loved the station, I didn't love what it had become.

The few staff who remained tried really hard to make things interesting.   They had much longer news hits than other radio stations.  Rick Howe's Hotline regularly interviewed the top news people of the day with little fanfare and even less advertising.  Brian Phillips was off the air due to health reasons, and Deb Smith and Chris Mills were doing their best.  But the music was their downfall.  That, plus the general neglect that station management accorded this heritage station.  It's just a damn shame.

When the end finally came, it was with a whimper and not a bang.  In the middle of "Sweet City Woman", the sound just stopped, and the station went dark, at 10 in the morning on May 30th.  It was a sad day for me, but not an unexpected one.  It felt like the death of a beloved uncle. 

The demise of the Hotline on May 29th made the news that evening.  It was front page news the next day.  And Peter Duffy wrote a very good piece in the Herald about the end of the show.  At one point, he referenced my proposal to Patricia from 2006, which I appreciated. 

I was angry about the demise of CJCH and not appreciative of the FM station that took its place.  I was hard on The Bounce, and I regret my words of the time.  The music is still not my cuppa, but I ought not to have stated the things about the station that I stated.  I have met a few people from The Bounce, and they're hard working, passionate folks.  JAX is a delightful person, and Patricia and I loved meeting her last year.  K8, of course, was at The Bounce, but moved to C100 last year. 

What else happened in 2008, anyway?

Patricia got sick.  People have asked me why we haven't got married.  We were going to in '08, but she got sick.  The nature of the illness is not important to you, but she was off work for some time.  Of course, she is much better now.

On December 5th, I bought a new car, a 2008 Grand Prix.  I wasn't planning to buy a car; it just turned out that way.  Dad and I went over to have my 2002 Malibu undercoated.  That place was across the street from a car dealership where a long-time car salesman worked.  We had known him for years and years, so long that Dad had done a lot of business with the guy's father.  To kill some time, we decided to go over and talk to Richard.

Dad was still able to get around decently back then.  We talked to Richard who said that he had some newer cars for sale and did we want to look at them.  Once again, to kill some time, we did.  They had the '08 Malibu, the so-called Car of the Year.  Given the problems I had with the '02 Malibu, I wasn't interested in buying another one. 

We walked up to the '08  Grand Prix.  It was a nice solid dark gray, and I liked how it looked.  "You two go for a spin, and when you're back, we can talk.",  Richard said. 

Dad and I went for that spin.  I liked the car even more.  When we got back to the dealership, Richard and I chatted and agreed to a selling price with a suitable trade-in on the eff-ing '02 Malibu, still across the street gettting undercoated.  I agreed to buy the Grand Prix.

I got Dad back home.  I cleaned out the Malibu and called my insurance agent to tell her I was buying a new car.  She insured me over the phone and was going to put the papers in the mail that day, to arrive the following week.  Remember, it was a Friday, and this was a spur-of-the-moment decision. 

I returned the Malibu to the dealership and signed more papers.  I got the vehicle and drove to the TD Bank to register the loan and arrived not long before the place was going to close. 

I called Patricia to tell her about the new purchase.  She told her co-workers and congratulated me on the new car.  Everybody knew about it.

It was a nice weekend, and I loved driving my new car.

Monday morning, December 8th, we are heading to work.  We are approaching the intersection of Robie Street and Jubilee Road.  We are just going through the intersection, almost to the other side, where Jubilee becomes Veteran's Memorial Lane, when a car that ignored the corresponding red light slams into us, spinning the car (and us), in a clockwise fashion.  We ended up facing the opposite direction.  Other cars behind us stopped to avoid hitting us. 

I pressed the On Star button in my car to summon emergency services and told them I'd just been in an accident.  They immediately called the ambulance.  Someone motioned for me to open the door.  In my confusion, I couldn't do so, because the car was still in gear it turned out.  I managed to get the driver's door open, undid my seat belt, and literally fell out of the car.  A woman comforted me while a man, perhaps her husband, got in the car and identified himself as a doctor to Patricia. 

The truck had hit us around the right passenger wheel well, just inches behind where Patricia was sitting.  The doctor spoke with On Star and with Patricia to see where she was hurting. 

The police came.   They separated me from Patricia (they were nice about it) and had me stay in the back of the police car.  I ventured back to my car only to be shooed away by the police.  After a few minutes, one of the police officers verified with me that my permit was in the glove department, and I confirmed that it was.  His partner came over a few minutes later and asked me why the vin  # and make and model on my insurance and permit did not match the actual vehicle I was driving.


I told the officer that I had just bought the car 3 days before.  The insurance papers were in the mail.  My agent would fax to them anything they wanted to prove I was insured.  The penalty for non-proof of insurance in Nova Scotia is very high.  The officer believed my story, probably thinking I was having a crappy enough day as it was. 

The ambulance came and spirited us away to the hospital, which was literally across the street.  The ambulance ride cost over $600, by the way.  

After a couple of hours, we were released.  My insurance company was very helpful and told us to go to a nearby rental place to pick up a temporary car.  After more waiting, we got a '08 piss pot, with 4 cylinders and no power.  I hated the car.

I was in a foul mood.  I had tweeted about the accident.  People at my work were upset for me.  People at Patricia's work, whom I had written about the accident, asked how Patricia was and whether this was the car I had bought on Friday.  They didn't ask how I was, just how she was and how my car was.  My sister saw the FB status updates and called on the cell as we were driving home in the piss pot.  Patricia took the call and explained that we were ok, just going home for a couple of days to rest and recover from the trauma of the accident. 

When I got home, I called my parents.  Mom was upset, and Dad was too.  He called the guy I'd bought the car from, who told me that I had every right to insist that the car be repaired by an auto body shop of my choice.  Out of pique, I chose a place in the Valley. 

The next day, we drove to the junk yard where they'd towed my car to pick up my personal belongings.  I took some pictures of the car with my BB camera and emailed them to the sales guy.  He, in turn, called Dad, who drove over to the dealership and showed them to Dad.  Dad was impressed that this was something that could be done, emailing pictures to someone. 

I drove the pisspot for nearly the rest of the month, until December 30th, when I was told that the work was done on my car, and they would therefore refuse to keep paying the rental on the pisspot beyond December 31st.  I booked off the day on vacation and drove down there and returned the pisspot to a rental place in New Minas.  From there, my sister drove Dad and me to the auto body shop.  I returned to the city in the middle of a snowstorm, arriving early in the evening, nerves frazzled, white-knuckled, frustrated, exhausted. 

A sucky December, huh? 
2008 was a transitional year for me.  It was the first full year in my job.  The blog began to find its own voice and become known for what it's best known for.  And I said goodbye to my favourite radio station.  Leads nicely into 2009, where family illnesses began to take a toll, more interviews were in the offing, and trespassers began to assert themselves.  I will tell you about that, tomorrow.


Sunday, May 27, 2012

Post 2007 - 2007 In Review

Welcome to 2007, folks!

My last day at my previous department was Friday, January 5th.  They took me out to lunch at a nearby Indian restaurant.  They said some nice things about me, some of which I'm sure they meant.  I stood up and said some nice things, too.  I meant some of them.

After the lunch, I was excused for the day.  I began to load up my car with my stuff and left mid-afternoon.  I remember having a nice weekend.

Monday morning, January 8th, I reported to my new job in the heart of the downtown.  My boss was out of town for the day so someone else led me around and introduced me to folks.  I was shown my new cubicle.  I had hoped that it would be no smaller a work space than what I had had before.  I was delighted to see that it was easily twice as big as my old space, and it was an open "pod" style that facilitated communication with colleagues.  A nice touch.  Jan pointed toward the overhead storage and told me my BlackBerry was up there.


Are you kidding me?

I had only held a BlackBerry once in my life.  All of a sudden, I had one to use all the time.  How would I cope?

Actually, the only problem with that model of BB was that it was designed for right handed people.  It didn't have a track pad on it; you pressed a button on the side of the thing to select the desired option.  It was awkward for me to use because I'm a leftie.

The months flew by.  I learned more in the first few months of my new job than I had learned in the entirety of my 9 years at the previous place.

We decided to check out the cottage over the Easter weekend.  We discovered that someone had driven a heavy vehicle on the lane, marring it for everyone else.  The lane is too mucky to be driven on until later in the Spring, but that didn't stop these other people.   This was the first full year of having problems with the hillbilly neighbours.

We eventually spent the summer at the cottage.  As you can see, my hair was getting pretty long then, too.

Newbie was about a year old at the time this picture was taken.  He still looks about the same.

In September, my cousin  Bruce and his partner came to Halifax to visit Jamie's children, and invited Patricia and me over for dinner.  We went over, and we got a few snaps.

In the Fall, the same night that Marie Osmond fainted on "Dancing with the Stars", my father noticed that the neighbour's lights weren't on across the street.  Frankie was usually home.  He had lost his wife barely six months earlier.  Dad fetched another neighbour, and the two made their way to Frankie's.  They got inside somehow, and discovered him on the floor, dead.

Frankie had taught us kids to drive.  We visited him a great deal when we were growing up.  He was a veteran of World War II.  His uncle Lawrence Price was the last official British casualty of World War One.  Here's an article about him.   Frankie later received some documentation about his uncle, and those papers were found in the house after his passing.  The house went to his nephew because Frankie and his wife never had children.  The house was sold to my parents' neighbour, who flipped it; and now, someone else lives there.

Frankie loved to fix lawn mowers and to make wooden figures with which he would decorate his property.  I have included a few examples.  I'm surprised that the Disney corporation never sent him a cease and desist letter.

No, I don't know what became of these figures.  Probably long gone by now.  I did manage to keep a Stanley Laurel wall clock, though.  I really should take it in somewhere to get the workings fixed.  Stanley Laurel was one half of the Laurel and Hardy comedy team.  I don't know anything about their interest in L&H, but I had long liked the clock and was allowed to take it after Frankie's passing.  I also was given a couple of old saw horses, which remain in my mother's garage.

My digital camera was becoming more and more of a pain to use during 2007 and even more so in 2008.  The proprietary batteries were both reaching the end of their usefulness.  I could take perhaps 6 pictures before having to swap them out. Charging a battery would take a good 45 minutes, and then I could take another 6 pictures.  I took far fewer pictures in '07 than I did other years, and even fewer in '08.

The same month that Frankie died, I began this blog.  Less than 5 years later, you are reading post 2006. Love me.

2007 was a year of great change for me.  I had a challenging job again.  I said goodbye to a good neighbour.  I began this here blog.

In 2008, there would be more of the above, of course.  And, my first radio-related interview.  Come back here tomorrow and I will tell you all about that year.


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Post 2006 - 2006 In Review

Welcome to 2006, everybody!

How was that year for you?

2006 marked the last year that I would spend at my then-current job.  A bunch of interesting people came to my Toastmasters club.  And my dad came to visit us at the cottage.

I turned 42 in 2006.  I remained unhappy in my current job but it only got worse.  Later in the year, they decided that I wasn't working out in my present tasks and it was decided that I would be better off answering calls all day.  I was relegated to the Help Desk.  It was deeply insulting.  It's not my fault that I had not been properly trained to do the tasks assigned to me.  Of course I made mistakes.  That is a consequence of a lack of training in the things expected of me.  Grr!

I didn't complain much for a couple of reasons.  It wouldn't have made a lick of difference.  I would have  been deemed to have a "bad attitude", whatever that means.  And, unbeknownst to them, I had been tipped off about another job at another department, and I was going to apply.  By the deadline for the job's closing, I had applied.  By November I had had the interview.  A month after that, I got the job offer.  I would start my new job in January 2007.  Which means I will discuss it tomorrow.

In April of 2006, Patricia was told that she would be a special guest co-host on Rick Howe's Hotline.  Back then, every week or so, Rick would invite listeners to participate on his show during the lunch hour.  Patricia threw her name in, and he selected her.

This is where things get interesting.

I wrote Rick and told him of my relationship with Patricia.  He knew who I was anyway, due to my radio interest (long before I started this blog).  I told Rick that I would like to arrange to propose marriage to Patricia during this special hour.  He readily agreed.

Patricia was a bundle of nerves heading up to the show.  She wanted me to be with her at the radio station for support.  I told her I had to work.  She was ticked but went anyway.

I work in Cubeville.  I arranged with my boss, who had an actual office with an actual door, to let me use his office during the hour when Patricia was on the air, so that I would have some privacy.  Using a special number Rick supplied with me, I called in during the requested time of about 12:40.

I told Rick I had something to say.  He said to go ahead.  And I proposed to her on the air.  I still have the full hour of the show when she was on.  I went on about life's journey, and referenced a Mary-Chapin Carpenter song, and then asked her to marry.  Then, Rick cut in and wouldn't let Patricia answer the question until after the commercial break.

People at Patricia's work were listening because they wanted to hear Patricia's participation on Rick's show.  They had no idea about the proposal.  Her manager was just getting out of a meeting and wanted to know how Patricia was performing.  She was told about the proposal.  She asked what the answer was.  "We don't know!  They're not back from commercial yet!"

The commercials over, Rick came back and said in the history of Halifax radio, that this had probably never happened before; it had certainly never happened in all the years he had been working in radio.   He then allowed Patricia to answer the question. She said  yes.


Rick then mentioned that there was a camera crew in the studio.  He had fibbed to Patricia about how they were there to see how an amateur would work out as a co-host.  They were there from Live at Five, and my proposal made it to that fine program that evening.  Starr Dobson, the co-host on Live at Five, said she knew Patricia and was happy for both of us.  Steve Murphy said he knew Rick and went on with teasing the evening news.

Rick interviewed me for a few minutes after the proposal, asking how she and I had met, and I told him what I told you in an earlier post in this series.  We rang off, and Patricia remained on the air until 1pm, taking calls from listeners and interviewing a couple more guests Rick had lined up beforehand.

After this was over, my boss came back to his office and congratulated me.  Word spread throughout my office like wildfire.  Due to my emotional exhaustion, I was given the rest of the day off.  A woman from my office walked me to the nearby Superstore for me to buy flowers for Patricia.  As we were heading back to the office, Rod was walking with Patricia toward us.  We returned to my office for a few minutes to get my things, where Patricia was hugged repeatedly, I was hugged a few times, and we left to go to Patricia's office.  We were hugged there.  Some women in the office had gone to the flower shop and the convenience store in the building and bought her a wedding magazine.

We left not long afterward.  The next day was Good Friday.  I had already arranged to go to my parents' place for Easter.  They got the good news.  Easter Monday, when the Hotline was back on the air, Rick played the proposal again, during the "scrum" they did involving him, Brian Phillips, and Deb  Smith, all discussing the issues of the day.

In May, my cousin's wife Doris was having her birthday.  It was a special birthday; let's leave it at that.  There would be a big family party, and we were invited.  My parents and I went.  It was a good time.

What I want to discuss with you, though, is the people in these pictures.  I don't recall their names, but they're Jamaicans Charlie has brought up every year to work on his farm.  Most locals don't want to do that work, because it is hard work, unglamorous to the extreme, and doesn't pay all that well.   The federal government realized this a long time ago, and devised this work exchange program so that folks from countries like Jamaica and Mexico and other far-flung nations will come up here and do this work.

You may recall that there is a fairly big controversy in Canada in 2012 about trying to get people who are collecting Employement Insurance on a regular basis to take on jobs that may or may not be in their direct skill set.  They want people to take "suitable work" rather than collect EI.  And, going forward, the federal program that allows foreign workers to come up here and work will be linked to EI.  Farmers like my cousin will have to exhaust the supply of local workers before he will be able to hire these hard working guys from Jamaica.

The problem with this approach is that, as I have stated, local people don't typically want to do that work.  He told me of a time when 12 locals showed up on a Monday to work on his farm.  By Tuesday, 6 of them showed up.  By Wednesday, it was down to 3.  He thought that 1 would show up by Thursday, but was disappointed to learn that nobody did.

I know that there is no easy answer here.  I am lucky enough to work in a field that has kept me employed (or in school) since 1986.  I have not had a moment of unemployment since then.  But, if it reached the point where I had to do this work to support myself, or a family, I would do what it took.  I don't have much patience for able-bodied people who won't work.

Yeah.  Come get me.

In other news, 2006 was a year in which quite a few interesting people came to my Toastmasters club.  I would contact these folks to come as special guest speakers.  Over the years, we had the mayor, several radio folks, and people like the ones in these photos.  Dawn Sloane came to visit.  So did Chief of Police Frank Beazley (enjoy your impending retirement, sir).  The well-tanned man is Scott Bodnarchuk, late of CHUM, but now sales manager at the Rogers stations in Halifax.  The husky fellow was a sales guy at News 95.7 who has since left.  And, yes, say hello to Joan Jessome, the president of the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union.

In July, Patricia got a new lawn tractor.  That's me with our neighbour Reg Short (who was one of the founders of the TM clubs, by the way!) helping us put the thing together.

My dad visited the cottage in August.  We had asked him to help us do some work there.  By that, we meant that he would sit in a chair with a cold drink and tell us what to do.  He was more hands on than that.  He and I re-attached a storm door that had blown off his hinges during the Winter (and came very close to breaking the kitchen window, which would have been devastating).  He replaced the hinges on the storage shed.  He did other things.

In return, we drove him around Pictou County a bit.  He saw the Loch Lamond wooden church.  We had some good meals.  And he was briefly in New Glasgow, where he told us that he had not been since he had delivered a load of potatoes there in 1947.

We begged Dad to stay with us for a few more days so that we could show him some of the sights, but he insisted on returning to his wife after 2 days.  We lied like a rug and told him that we had to return to the city for something so that he could ride with us rather than take the bus from Pictou County to the Valley.  At the bus depot in Halifax, he went to the washroom for a moment.  Patricia bought his ticket with her money and stuffed his money for the ticket into his suitcase.  He would not discover the subterfuge until he got back home.

Some Chinese friends visited my parents and me in September or so.  Here's a picture of some pretty Chinese women hovering over Dad.  Was I jealous?   Well, maybe a little.

In October, Patricia and I were at the cottage, to have Thanksgiving.  We decided to venture into Tatamagouche for the farmer's market.  I was munching on some perogies when Patricia wandered away from me toward a woman who had a basket full of kittens, and the kittens had little ribbons tied around their necks.  I finished eating and joined her.  We were told that one of the cats was a male, and Patricia picked it up.  It immediately clung to her and fell asleep.  We looked at each other and sighed and decided to keep the cat.  Walking back to the car, we ran into a woman who turned out to a be a cousin of  mine who lives in relatively-nearby Pugwash.

The drive back to the cottage was mostly in silence.  Patricia held the kitten until we got inside.  It wandered around the cottage and met Cindy, who growled and hissed and swatted it away.

That night.  we looked at the cat and wondered what to call him.  "Everything's so new to him.  He's like a ... Newbie!"  And that's the name he was given.  He is on the bookcase behind me as I type these words at 1 o'clock in the morning.  And now you know... the rest of the story!

Here are some pictures of Newbie taken that weekend.

When I got Newbie home, he was little more than a scrap of fur.  I didn't want to let him roam around the house when I was at work, so I kept him in the bathroom.  I'd leave my shower radio on for him so that he could get used to human voices.  His litter box was at one end of the bathroom.  His carrier and food and water dishes were at the other.  I'd close the bathroom door and leave him in there until I got home.

At night, I'd let him wander through the house.  I'd soon lose track of him.  But when I went to bed, it wouldn't be long before he joined me.  He didn't have the strength to jump from the floor to the bed, so he would have to grab on to a blanket and climb up to get to me.  Very sweet.  He would swipe his little claws at my face with that wide-eyed stare of his.  Not quite so sweet, but still funny in retrospect.  And it was very sweet indeed when he would settle in for the evening and start to purr.  Even at that tiny size, he could purr very loudly.  He soon found it preferable to sleep under the covers, and that is still what he likes to do.

The year was winding down when we had our annual Christmas party at Toastmasters.  This one was bitter sweet.  After 38 years, the phone company would no longer be able to provide a meeting space for us.  The phone company had founded 2 clubs in 1968.  The club I would join was called Telstar.  The other one was called Telco.  One of them was for managers; the other was for staff.  I do not know which was which.

Over the years, and decades, the complexion of both clubs changed a great deal.  At one point, in the 1980's, Telstar became a place that a lot of police officers joined.  By the time I joined in 1991, that was over.  The 2 clubs had a healthy spirit of competition, a small rivalry, but we all respected one another.  They met Tuesday nights.  We met Thursdays until around 1995 or so, when it was decided to meet Wednesday nights.  In 1998, the 2 clubs merged, and now we're called the Halifax Downtown Speakers.  We retained the club number of Telstar and kept the meeting numbering of that club as well.  That's why we can be at meeting #1580 or so after 14 years.  When I joined in 1991, it was around 660.  Yeah.  I know.  The numbering doesn't work.  I don't know when the numbering of meetings started, but it was long after 1968.

Anyway, the phone company decided not to have anything to do with us any longer.  At the time, I tried to be positive about it, and I am still trying to be.  I would prefer to focus on the free rent that they provided us for 38 years and not the fact that they were giving us the finger.   We were allowed to have that one more meeting, and this picture is from that meeting.  Come January, we would start meeting at our new home, which would be the World Trade Centre in the heart of the downtown.

I don't know why they booted us out.  The people who did make that decision, though, can go frig themselves.  They ignored the history of the clubs, and the club, and turned their backs on us.  Frig 'em.

Just before Christmas, some boys at work agreed to shave my head the way theirs were.  I didn't tell Patricia.  She wasn't happy.  But I have grown to like my hair short and often get it shaven very short.  It's very freeing.

On Friday December 22, we decided to check out the cottage.  We were off work at noon, so we drove up in the afternoon.  We found everything to be in order and had dinner in the town of Pictou, at a place we like called Sharon's Place.  On the way back, we dropped off at the home of some people Patricia knew and stayed for a couple hours.  We returned quite late Friday evening.  I know it was after midnight before I got home.  Newbie wasn't happy with me.

Christmas came.  Patricia and I were still very grateful to Dad for helping us out at the cottage.  Patricia decided to do something special for him, and made a raisin pie for him for the holidays.  Raisin pie used to be something you could get everywhere, apparently, but over the years, its popularity dwindled to the point where Dad just couldn't get it anywhere.  Mom didn't want to make any for him.  So, Patricia did.  That's what he's holding in the picture.

2006 was an interesting year for me.  It was full of change personally, professionally, and Toastmastersly.  It led nicely into 2007, and I will tell you about that, tomorrow.

See you then.

P.S.   Hey, how about some feedback on this series, folks?  These posts are hard and time-consuming to write! Thanks.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Post 2005 - 2004, 2005

All right.  Let's get through 2 years in one blog post!

At the beginning of 2004, I still didn't have my car back.  I wouldn't have it back until my birthday in February.  It meant taking the bus to Patricia's every day, from which we would drive to work in her car. 

February came.  The Thursday before my birthday we got hit with the "weather bomb" that people have nicknamed "White Juan".  There are people who hate that name.  I have never understood why.  Everyone who lives in Nova Scotia knows about Hurricane Juan.  This massive snowstorm less than 6 months later was at least as devastating to the city, in its own way, as Juan was.  "White Juan" is descriptive, and evokes so much.  People won't forget that, either.

The next day, Friday, we were off work.  We didn't go back until Monday as I recall.  My front door had so much snow jammed up against it that it was impossible for me to open it.  My side door did open, and I was able to push it open just enough to exit the house.  Snow was piled up on those steps such that I had to slide down them.

Venturing out further I saw huge piles of snow on the street.  I could climb on top of one pile of snow, which was a good 15 feet high.  I took some pictures from atop that pile of snow and still have them  somewhere.  I will try to include a picture or two with this post. 

My neighbor Don was eventually able to dig his own way out and kindly cleared out his driveway and mine.  Since there was no car in my driveway, it made things easier for him.  It still remained for me to shovel my steps, which I did over the course of many hours.

Buses were called off the road for a few days.  They still weren't running all routes on Monday when we had to return to work.  A neighbor drove Patricia and me to work that first day or two.  I still marvel at how the roads were so narrow and how high the snow piles were.

Radio was an important communication medium during Hurricane Juan, and just as important during White Juan.  Rick Howe's Hotline provided as much information to folks as possible.  Other radio stations relaxed their formats enough to provide information to folks as well. 

Patricia still had her place.  She couldn't get her side door open at all.  Her cat, Cindy, jumped out the open screen window and frolicked in the snow.  At one point, she looked up at Patricia with a little snowbeard.  Wish I'd been there to see it.

Patricia couldn't get out of her place.  She actually put a "help" sign up in the window in the hope of getting dug out.  None was forthcoming.  As I recall, she had to crawl out of a window and dig for a long time in order to have a path from the door to her vehicle, which remained buried in snow for days and days.

What are your thoughts about White Juan?

Patricia's mother died in late July, the 29th if I recall.  It was a sudden death.  I still remember where I was.  I was at work.  It was just past 10am.  I recall thinking that I was getting pretty hungry and was looking forward to getting a snack when my phone rang.  It was a co-worker of Patricia's telling me that her mom had died.  I told my boss that I had to leave and explained the situation.  Our vacation was about to start anyway, so it began a day or so early.

I picked up Patricia at her work.  As you can imagine, she was devastated.  We got back to her place for her to pack her things.  I went back to mine to do the same thing.  I returned to her place and we drove to her parents' place to prepare for the funeral.

The next several days were about preparing for the funeral.  Afterward, there were financial matters to be dealt with.  For much of that, Patricia and her father worked together, leaving Cindy and me behind to keep the house occupied. 

Patricia returned to work in September.

My car, repaired in the Winter, just wasn't working well at all.  It had no power and had to be warmed up for a good 10 minutes before it could be driven any distance.  My dad let me use his van for a time.  My car remained at my parents' place.

Also in September, my house needed to be re-shingled, so Dad arranged to hire a roofer who was a friend of his to do this work.  Normally, he and his crew would only do work for companies, but there was a strike at the phone company back then and no work could be performed on Bell property until it was over. 

I booked off work for a day or so to "supervise" the work.  My parents were up.  I decided to cook a roast beef  lunch for the crew, which was greatly enjoyed.  It didn't earn me a discount, though.  It still cost me a lot of money, but was well worth it.

I had one of the guys take some pictures  from on top of the roof just for gits and shiggles.  I still have those pictures, too.  A unique perspective, as I have never been up on top of my house. 

2004 finished with me having Christmas with my folks.  Patricia opted to have Christmas with her father and her aunt.  That was a rough year for her, and I should have been there with her. 

I got Patricia a new tv for Christmas, and one for my parents, as well.  Both tv's are still alive and well.  Her old tv ended up at the cottage where it eventually ended up being sent to one of those Ace recycling places.

Anyway, 2004 was an eventful year for me and for Patricia.  It was marked by loss, extreme weather, and an expensive re-roofing job.  Surely 2005 would be better!


Welcome to 2005, folks!

Let's see here.  What happened?

I finally broke down and got a newer car in 2005.  It was a 2002 Malibu.  It would end up giving me lots of problems.  A design flaw resulted in the signal lights not working whenever it rained.  Portions of the instrument cluster stopped working so that I couldn't tell how much gas I had.  I would have those things replaced and keep the car for another 3 years.

That summer we would have gone to the cottage.  My hair was pretty long back then, and I had a strange beard and moustache that made me look a bit like David Suzuki.  Don't believe me?  Here's proof:

That's me puckering up with the blue shirt on.  David Suzuki is in the picture with the red background.  Granted it's an older picture of Dr. Suzuki, but I am sure you will agree that there is a resemblance!

I cut my vacation a bit short to return to the city as I had promised to volunteer for the Busker's  Festival. My dad had never been to see the Buskers.  My mother, several years earlier, was strong enough to walk around the city with Gayle and Patricia and me to see Buskers and get lunch somewhere.  It would tire Mom out, but she could do it.  I remember her enjoying the Buskers very much.  Good memories.

But, Dad had never been.  They were both at the point in their lives where they would have a hard time getting around.  I took a chance, a big chance, that we might be able to find a parking space close enough in the downtown where we might be able to walk to a place where the  Buskers would be performing.

We got lucky!  On Bedford Row, barely a block away from one of the Buskers stages, there was a parking space, probably vacated moments before, or someone else would have grabbed it.  Once parked, we gingerly made our way down to the stage.  We got lucky again.  There was nobody performing at that moment, so people were milling about, and we could grab a place to sit at the bleachers set up for the festival.

Here's  a picture of my folks that magical evening.

As  you can see, Dad had a cane back then.  It was his older cane, one I think that had belonged to my brother, who had lost his leg and needed a prosthetic and a cane, not long before his death in 1970.  The cane had never been thrown out, but both of my parents got newer canes not long after this photo was taken.  

I don't remember what Buskers we saw that night.  I do know that my parents enjoyed themselves immensely and often spoke of what they saw that night.  It's one of my favourite memories of my folks.

In the mid 00's, I started selling stuff on ebay.  I had a surprising amount of stuff that was deemed collectable.  Quite a bit of it had to do with KISS, whose fans are ravenous in their passion for the band. I had some magazines of theirs, as well as the original KISS comic from 1977.  I sold that stuff and did quite well.

People used to ask me what the best things to sell on ebay were.  I figured it was the kind of stuff that would be aimed at the fans of a person or a thing who didn't know that the item in question existed.  

An example?  Sure.   You are looking at a mass market paperback copy of Robert's Rules of Order.  It is used by service clubs around the world to make meetings run efficiently.  These rules are used in parliaments everywhere.  Millions of people use these rules and would have a book like this.

However, look at one thing for me.  See where it says that the illustrations are by Will Eisner?  That was the key!

Who's Will Eisner?  He's a seminal writer and artist from the Golden Age of comics.  His best-known creation was The Spirit, the subject of a terrible movie a few years ago directed by Frank Miller, who should be ashamed of himself.  

There is a Will Eisner mailing list.  When he was still alive, Eisner would contribute to it and answer fans' questions.  When I bought the above book for 2 dollars at the local Value Village, I asked him about the book.  He replied that he wanted to use sequential art to illustrate the mundane, dry aspects of parliamentary procedure, that it was a challenge to him that he wanted to confront.

In July of 2005, I offered the above book on ebay.  Eisner fans from around the world put in bids on this book.  These folks had no idea that this book existed, and why would they?  Not many comics fans go around studying parliamentary procedure.  Even if they did, they would have no reason to think that Eisner had ever spent any time in this side project.  

The book sold on ebay for about $175, maybe a bit more.  Remember, I paid 2 bucks for it.  I was very pleased.  

I had other successes on ebay, and many failures: Books that had cost me quite a bit, but which I sold at a loss, barely covering the shipping and handling costs.  By '07, I was done with selling on ebay, and stopped buying stuff on ebay not long after.  The shipping costs are just too crazy to Canada.  

Christmas came.  I bought Dad the complete Mr. Bean on dvd, as well as a multi pack of WD-40.  After his death, I was cleaning out one of his trucks, in preparation of its sale, and found a partial container of WD-40.  To Dad, that stuff was practically a food group.  I'm glad I got this picture of him:

Oh, the watch he's wearing in the picture?  It's the one I'm wearing now.  After his death, my mother and my two sisters all told me they wanted me to have the watch.  I proudly wear it to this day.

I returned to the city on December 26th.  I remember turning in early that night, being tired from a busy Christmas.  

The next morning, I picked up Patricia and we drove into work.  I turned on News 95.7, which had signed on a mere 2.5 months earlier, and learned that there had been a body found in the trunk of a car, parked in parking lot of a school.  In fact, it was the school behind my house!  This turned out to be the Paula Gallant murder mystery, which would not be solved until her husband was finally convicted of the murder in 2011.  This murder certainly rocked our community.  

If you google "Bevboy", you will find a very early blog post which discusses the murder.  I will go out on a limb here for the people who find this blog post here and state that I had no idea who murdered Ms. Gallant.  Most people didn't, but  "knew" it was "obviously" her husband.  I don't know how they knew that, because I sure didn't.  Neither did they.  The police were suspicious for a long time, but could only arrest him and earn a conviction, after they pulled the Mr.  Big scam on him and tricked him into a confession.  If he had not confessed, he might have got away with her murder.   That's the nature of our judicial system, whether you like it or not.   

People are such busy bodies and "know" things that they in fact do not.  I would one day run afoul of  gossiping harpies in my own neighbourhood, but not until 2011.  Remind me to tell you about that next week.  It isn't pretty.

2005 was a pretty decent year for me, all things told.  Work still wasn't much fun, but other things were.  I had a good vacation, spent some quality time with my parents, made a few bucks on ebay, and got to pucker up for the camera.  It all nicely presages 2006, and I will tell you about that tomorrow.

See you then.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Post 2004 - 2003

All right.  I promise to get caught up by Friday.

2003.  I turned 39.  I continued to drive to and from work, mostly in Patricia's car.  She and I still worked in the same building.

My own car was rapidly aging.  I had to spend quite a bit of money to get a piece of the floor replaced.  That wasn't the end of the work that the car needed.  By the Fall, it had reached the point where it barely ran.  I was throwing good money after bad, a lot of bad, to keep it running.  I spent hundreds of dollars to get it through its annual inspection.  Drove downtown for something.  Drove home.

The next morning, the car, parked in my driveway, wouldn't start, no way, no how.  Turned out, it had slipped its timing, whatever that means.  It was towed away to my brother-in-law's and sister's, and I wouldn't see the car for several months.  I was without wheels for the first time since I had got my driver's license.  At least this way, nobody thought I was home.  Ahem!

The ultimate, though, was the car radio.  Speaks to the symbolism of the problem.  The car was so old, and the parts so worn, that I had worn out the car radio.   The presets were nearly impossible to use.  A sharp left hand turn actually caused the radio to reset itself, so the clock wouldn't work, and the hard-to-punch-in presets all were reset to their default factory values.  I managed to find a car radio for cheap at a yardsale and had it installed professionally, but that radio wasn't much better than the one I had before.  Sigh.

I'd take the bus to Patricia's place and then we'd drive in together.  She'd drive  me home at night and sometimes come in and sometimes wouldn't.

The  year moved along slowly.  By the end of September, we had got some tix to the 75 anniversary of the Halifax Forum.  For some reason, it was a corned beef dinner with potatoes and carrots and cabbage.  Strange meal choice, but it wasn't bad.  There was big band music in keeping with the spirit of the history of that remarkable building.  Peter Kelly was there, as he is everywhere, and I asked him to consider going to my Toastmasters' upcoming 35th anniversary meeting.  He agreed.  That was Saturday night, September 28th.

The next day was the annual Word on the Street event.  I was in the habit of going every year to that fine event.  I introduced some authors, who read from their works.

The weather reports had been sounding ominous for a few days.  They began to sound shrill and frightening by Sunday.  A hurricane was on its way.  Its name was Juan.  And Halifax was in its path.  Most of us didn't care too much.

I got home from the Word on the Street.  Settled in for the evening.  Watched the news where they repeated that the hurricane was going to hit us and hard.

I was watching an episode of "Alias" when the heavy winds came.  I looked out one of my upstairs windows, facing the street, and saw stuff blowing around.  I heard the winds bearing down, and then my power went out.

The next morning, I went outside and noticed a piece of siding was hanging off my house.  My neighbour Don showed me how to put it back in place.  That was the extent of the damage to my house.  BTW, years later, that piece of siding still gives me trouble.  A couple of times a month, I have to climb up on top of my shed and pound the siding back into place.

My power remained off until Wednesday.  Power was off at my work for a few days as well.  We didn't have to go back to work until Wednesday.  There was quite a bit of damage to one section of our floor.

Patricia had just acquired Cindy.  Cindy went missing during the hurricane and didn't show up for a couple of weeks.  Nowadays, Cindy is perfectly content to stay in the house nearly all the time.  Back then, she loved to roam around Patricia's neighborhood.

In other news, work remained unfun.  I was deeply unhappy where I was working and found it difficult to hide my disappointment.  Like I said before, unless you fit in that clique from Day One, which I didn't, you were at a disadvantage in that place.  I went to the Christmas party that year, but that was the last one I would attend.  I didn't feel like being a hypocrite any more.

2003 was an interesting year for me.  I had to learn to get by without a usable car.  I pee'd away too much money keeping my old bucket of bolts going.  I endured my first hurricane.

This was all preparation for the mother of all snowstorms, realizing that my car was a goner, and making other arrangements.  That will all be discussed tomorrow when we talk about... 2004!


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Post 2003 - 2002 (Confused?)

Sorry I didn't write last night.  I got home quite late from work and was totally fried by the time I got here.

I will write about 2 more years this evening.

People are amazed that I can remember this stuff.  Trust me: the years are starting to run together now, and have been for a good decade or so.  Trying to recall whether a certain event occurred in what year is not that easy.  But, I will try.

2002 was my first full year in my house.  I was commuting with Patricia, who continued to live in her own place. Usually, I would take the bus or drive my car to her place, and we would hop in her vehicle and go to work.  We were working in the same building back then, and had been since 1998.

Coffee breaks we were usually together, going for a walk around the block or something.  From time to time, we would walk through the enclosed parking area at the corner of Lower Water and Morris Street (where there is a new building now) and look at the graffiti.  Back then, the owner of the parking lot, the Nova Scotia Power Corporation, allowed taggers to create their art, and much of it was very good.

I am trying to remember whether it was 2001 or 2002 when the tv show Lexx ceased production.  It was filmed in Halifax at the Electropolis sound stage, which was then across from my work.  They sold off their old props and so on.  I remember buying a replacement remote for my digital cable terminal for a whole dollar.  The remote works just fine with the new generation of terminals.  I picked up some other stuff to wear at Hallowe'en, but it was itchy and sat in a closet for several years before I threw it out.

I was still driving my crappy 1986 Turismo.  It was seriously getting old.  I remember the radio presets were starting not to work.

Speaking of radio, this was the year that CJCH moved away from the thrice-accursed Sports Talk format that it adopted in 2001.  Over the course of the Labor Day weekend, CJ went back to local control.  They decided on a revised Oldies format, but with quite a bit of talk to boot.  For a time, they carried the Blues Jays games.  They carried the Mooseheads games as well.  And, of course, Rick Howe's Hotline returned to CJCH after nearly a year and a half on 780 KIXX.

Rick said something mysterious as he signed off 780 KIXX for his annual summer vacation at the end of June, 2002.  He said he would be back at the end of August or thereabouts, "with a big surprise".  I have always wondered what that was.

The Sports Team format imploded during the summer of 2002, but was showing signs of weakness for months before that.  One guy's show lost a co-host, and he implored his bosses to get him a new one, only to be stone walled.

Finally, by the end of August, the format was gone, pretty much across the country.  I have often wondered if that was the "big surprise" that Rick was referring to.  The fact that the sports talk format was on its way out, and that would mean the Hotline could return to CJCH, where it  belonged.  I keep meaning to ask  Rick that question every time I see him.

At the same time, Sun FM went bye bye, and KOOL FM was born.  The much-vaunted classic hits format consisted of music I had heard so much, so often, that its entertainment value had long since been wrung out of it.  It remains on the air, with some tweaking, 10 years later.

CJ had one major surprise that year.  In December, they went wall-to-wall with Christmas music, and it was delightful.  They would continue to do that until 2007, the last year of its existence.

2002 was a year when I got used to owning this house.  It was a year of realizing that things were a lot more expensive with the house than it was with the apartment.

2003 would be a year where things got a little worse in many ways.  It was also the year of Juan.  I will tell you about that... tomorrow!


Monday, May 21, 2012

Post 2002 - Where Were We?

Welcome back to the year-by-year retrospectives, ladies and gentlemen!

I will do 2 years this evening: 2000, and 2001.

In 2000, I turned 36.  I continued to walk to work every day and mocked openly and vociferously, all the people who had to commute to and from work by means other than foot.

In January, we attended a Brian Adams concert at the Metro Centre.  In March, it was time to go see Blue Rodeo at the same place.

Also in March, my father nearly died of an aortic dissection.  It was the same thing that killed John Ritter a few years later and may be the thing that takes me out if I am not careful.  Dad pulled through, but it was a very hard go for him for a few months.  He would live another 10 years.

My apartment by 2000 was getting so small, and was so full of my stuff, that I decided to do something about it.  By October I started looking for another place to live.  I began to consider homes in Timberlea, not far from where Patricia was living.  I looked at 4 places in the same neighborhood and decided to put in an offer for the place where I'm living now.

I made mistakes with the transaction.  I knew nothing about buying a house and put myself in the hands of the 2 realtors.  They told me that the present owners were "motivated" to sell.  They would be willing to put in a fence, to paint the childrens' bedrooms, to do this and that, and I took them at their word.  I put in an offer based on the requested price.  They counter offered rudely (which I don't blame them for, because I had naively taken the realtors at their word), and I nearly walked away.  I made one more offer, and they accepted it.

The next couple of months were a whirlwind.  My parents were in town and saw the house because one of the realtors agreed to show it to all of us (the owners had moved out).

I began to clean up my apartment.  I threw out a lot of things.  I made a deal with the landlords that I would leave behind the curtains in the apartment, including the expensive ones that covered the big sliding doors overlooking the balcony, plus 50 dollars to defray the hookup costs for utilities, to anyone who saw my apartment and decided to move in.  This worked for me because it would help me break my lease, which would only run out in June of 2001 otherwise.  They found another person to take over the apartment in January.

I found a mover to transport my stuff.  He charged me a special rate because I had so much.  Moving my things from downtown Halifax to Timberlea would cost me over 700 dollars, a distance of maybe 18 kilometres.

By December I had been through a lot.  Nearly losing my dad, deciding to buy a house, preparing for a big move.  It all nicely presaged what would happen in... 2001!



The closing date on my new house was January 15th.  I had booked off work for the full week to move in.

Leading up to the big move, I was packing everything I owned into the boxes provided by the moving company.  I used markers to indicate where things would go, writing things like 'Middle Bedroom' on the boxes in question.

Early on January 15th, 3 poorly educated men came to my apartment and began loading up the moving truck with my things.  They certainly did work very hard!  After the truck was loaded, I told them where the house was, and I drove out ahead of them.  My new neighbor allowed me to park in his driveway for a few hours while the truck was in my driveway unloading my stuff.

Afterward, I spoke with my new neighbor,  Don, who would die in 2011.  I met the young boy who would one day break into my house.  And I got  used to my new place.

The cable guy came the next day and installed digital cable.  My phone was hooked up.  I had to start shoveling my new driveway because of the snow storm that had hit on my big moving day.

I was in the market for a washer/dryer.  Patricia was urging me to get a stacked washer/dryer.  My parents talked me out of the purchase.  My dad found a deal for a Maytag washer/dryer combo for less than half the money of the stacked appliances.  I decided to go with that.  I still have them.

My parents came to my new place later on that month.  I remember that Dad adjusted the hot water tank to make it produce hotter water.  Don't ask me what he did.  I have no idea.

I returned to work and for the first time  had to drive a vehicle to my work.  One day I noticed a guy, a pedestrian, pointing at me and laughing because he could walk to work and I couldn't.  Role reversal.

It was a big transition, moving from living and working in the downtown to living in the 'burbs and having to drive to my work.  Moving from renting to owning was a big change as well.  But I haven't looked back.  Not sure if I could ever rent a place again.

Oh, remember things like house warming parties?  Never had one.  But one guy at work did buy me a set of dishes, because apparently that's good luck.  I still have those dishes.  Wouldn't let Patricia throw them out.

Tomorrow I will discuss what happened to me in 2002 and 2003.

See you then.