DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" ""> Tossing Pebbles in the Stream: 12/01/2009 - 01/01/2010 .comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream

This blog is my place to sit and toss pebbles into the stream. The stream of Life relentlessly passing before us. We can affect it little. For the most part I just watch it passing and follow the flow. Occasionally, I need to comment on its passing, tossing a pebble at it to enjoy the ripple affect upon Life's surface.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Reading

It would not be Christmas if I did not get a book or two, or three. This year a got three. My son gave me some light reading in a biography of George Carlin, which he had been working on with a writer before he died. I alway enjoyed this iconoclastic comedian of my generation. It will be a fun quick read.

My sister always gives me a book, usually two. She always makes interesting good choices. I guess she knows me fairly well. Often they are about Canada or by Canadian authors. She, being a former history teacher, shares with me an interest in history.

The books she gave me this year are about two extrodinary Canadian explores. David Thompson and Dr. John Rae. They had both been employees of the Hudson's Bay Company, when held a charter to all the fur trading rights of most of northern North America, a region known a Rupert's Land.
The Hudson Bay Company was the commercial and legal authority over this vast terrritory ( the area that drains into Hudson's Bay) administering it in a way to maximize the fur trade through the native people. They were very efficient with all administrative employees keeping extensive written logs. As a result, the Archives of the Hudson Bay Company, housed in Winnipeg is a remarkable resevoir of Canadian early history and exploration.

The book on David Thompson is entitled, "The Writings of David Thompson, Volumn 1, The Travels 1850 Version" It is edited from his actual journals of his extensive travels across western northern North American. I including places now part of the United States. One could think of him as the Canadian version of Lewis and Clark as he extended the know regions of Canada westward, joining central Canada to what is now British Columbia. But he was more than Lewis and Clark.. He traveled further, under more rugged curcumstances and mapped most of Western Canada.

The biography about Dr. John Rae is a facinating story entitled, "Fatal Passage, The Story of John Rae, The Arctic Hero That Time Forgot. Dr. John Rae was a physician with the Hudson's Bay Company and lived and worked in Moose Factory for many years. He was a remarkable outdoors man, traveling widely on snowshoe to visit patients and to explore the territory. He carefully learned the skills to survive from the native people. He was a remarkable snowshower admired even among the native people for his skill and stamina.

Rae came to be written out of history. He discovered what had happened to the ill fated
Franklin Expedition. He reported back to England that in the end they had resorted to cannibalism. No one wanted to believe English sailors would do such a thing so he was widely criticized. Lady Franklin carried on a campaign to discredit him and Charles Dickens, the most popular writer of the time joined in this attack on him. Rae actually, discovered the last open passage to form the Northwest Passage. History gave that achievement to Franklin. As a result, Rae was not given the credit he disserved for his great achievements as an explorer and was never knighted for his efforts as so many other were.

There are similarities between these two men besides being employees of the Hudson's Bay Company and their extensive wilderness explorations. They were both well educated men. They were both very willing to learn from the native people achnowledeging their superior skills and technologies to survival and travel in the North. Dr. John Rae in particular studied and learned from the native people. He adopted their ways: dressed in skins. eat their food, hunted and lived off the land successfully. He even wrote extensively about native technologies and learned many of the skills such as making snowshoes and using them. Thompson came to marry a metis woman who not only had 13 children with him, she traveled extensively with him sharing what knowledge she had. These two men were rare in their respect for native people at a time when they were considered mere ignorant savages by most Europeans. Thompson loved his wife and lived a long life with her at a time when employees of the HBC took native wives and had families with them while they were in North America and then abandonned them to return to England and their wives and families there.

One to the delightful surprises on researching a little about Thompson and his exploits was to learn about his remarkable wife., Charlotte Small. Like most women of the time she is bypassed by history. He is really on of the mothers of our country. She can be considered the Mother of the Metis Nation. She was her husband's equal as an explorer and adventure. (Recently, John Ralston Saul has written about Canada arguing the Metis values are the values of Canada today. Canada is best understood as a Metis Nation.) She is currently becoming appreciated for her contribution to Canada.

To Canada's shame we never teach our history very well. It is common to hear that Canadian history is not very interesting. And yet, it is full of remarkable heroic characters that were actually larger than life at what they achieved. Thompson and Rae were just two of them.

When I went to school we learned of the French explorers somewhat and the political changes in Canada but the history jumped for the eastern settlement of the country to the Red River settlement and the Metis rebellion of Louis Riel to the building of the railroad that tied Canada together. The northern explorers like Thompson and Rae and Hearne and the Tyrell Brothers , Stefansson and others, who came to know and appreciate the land and the people who lived on it were ignored. These men explored Canada, mapped it, kept extensive records on their exploits and claimed it for our Nation.
I look forward to reading these two Christmas books on Thompson and Rae. I will read them with an eye to the Canadian values that emerged from how they came to know the land and people of early Canada. It is suggested that they exhibited values that Canadians take as their own today. Do they illustrate early on the position of Philosopher and writer John Ralston Saul that Canada is a Metis Nation? Is this why Canadians are different than Americans? Our imperial cousin and neighbour, which has rebelled, fought and conquered throughout their history, and continues to do so, is different from us in many ways. History matters in understanding ourselves.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

'Twas the Night Before. . .

To my family and friends, a very Merry Christmas. I trust you will all be celebrating the yuletide, exchanging gifts and feasting with loved ones.

May you also find a quiet moment to reflect on the sacred significance of the birth of Jesus. He stands before us, as the New Being, a vision of the possibilities for humanity. May we all strive for such fulfillment for ourselves.

Christmas is a quiet time for me. Family and friends don't usually come by. I am not alone there are many many people for whom Christmas is a solitary time.

This year, I will be visiting my son and grandchildren this evening. Tomorrow I will share a meal with June, who also usually spends Christmas as a very quiet time. This year is particularly touching as David, her husband died recently.

Let my door, decorated for Christmas, be a symbol of welcome for whomever might come my.
May all our doors be welcoming at this time of year.

Here is a video of Peter Seeger and Bessie Jones singing a couple of seasonal song with a group of children. I think you will enjoy it. The sing, "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" and "Children, Go Where I Send Thee."

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Look Around the Room

I am sitting here trying to avoid thinking of a couple of things I should post, but I am tired and the things I wanted to post are complicated. So here is a tour of my room

My bedroom has a 15 foot wall with no windows so it is one large photograph of a river. Rivers are one of my obsessions. This photo could be any number of rivers in this part of the North, it is not unlike several spots along the Temagami River which crosses my land.

Below are two photos when put together represent about 2/3 of the photo on the wall.

Come lie on the bed with me. I will put on my tape of mood sounds, "Trip to Loon Lake". as we can dream of bobbing along down the river. Can't you hear the water and the white throated sparrow.?

Well I tried this line on more than one lady friend and it did not work as well as I might have thought. I have gone solo on this river listening to that tape slowly bobbing on the bed as it on a raft. It seems my obsession with rivers is mostly mine alone.

Above my bed is this poster. Years ago, a friend gave it to me saying it reminded her of me. Apparently to her I am a somewhat dissheveled curmudgeon of a guy alway trying to teach some young child something. In the picture, I bet we are picking out shapes of animals in the clouds floating overhead. I am a constant observer of Nature's passing scene.

And the ever present Heidi. Catching a nap. She loves to put her head on the pillow when she stretches out to sleep.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I am busy these days trying to get thing done around here so I can go to Toronto after Christmas
to share the New Year's Day with a friend. I feel morally obliged to do whatever I can to make life easier for, my tenant June while I am away. This involved getting my water going again. I had it going the last time I went away only to have it fail the day after I got back. The foot valve failed and I heard all my water draining down into the river. I have heard that sound before. I just hope I got the hot water tank shut off fast enough. I think I am ready for a drilled well, for which I have an application pending. I also have to get enought wood in the house and split to a size June can handle. Feed for the animals has to be stored as the feed mill is closed all days from December 24 to January 4 with the exception of one day. Dec. 31. I also had the septic tank pumped out today. Finally, I have approached two friends to check in with June regularly and do for her things she feels are too difficult. All this effort and I still feel guilty, not so much for June but for leaving Heidi behind.

I do look forward to a few days in the city with a friend doing some of those city things I used to do.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Miss Heidi Says, Hi!

A few who check out my blog occasionally ask about Heidi, my love dog. So here are a few photos, she is my best and most frequent subject. Most of the time she is lying down. If you what a calm mellow breed of dog, you can't go wrong with a Great Dane.

Like those of you who love posting pictures of your grandchildren and children, I post some of my bitch.

"Sorry! I get the whole bed tonight. You can sleep on one of the bunk beds in the other room"

Heidi has a not so secret admirer who is always wanting to be close. . . . .No! not me! . . . Her pet kitten.

Sometimes staying close is having to just be touching at the far end.

Other time's, your patience is rewarded and you get to snuggle up close and personal by your love's face.

Heidi occasionally gives off a low growl as a kind of indication she is not totally pleased with the kitten's persistent attention. But she never snaps at the kitten and is long suffering until her kitten settle on a place and position with which they are both comfortable.

It would be nice to be able to show you some action shots but action does not happen often with Heidi, with the exception of when she attacks a pig and hangs on to a 700 pound sow's ear as the sow charges for cover somewhere with dog attached. Either the dog lets go or her teeth rip out of the ear. Not a pretty site.

I expect if the neighbour's pit bull gives her a hard time, it will get as well as it gives.

Then back to napping. We sure share a lot of napping together. One of life's simple pleasures.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Economics 101

I should have taken the course in University, Economics 101. I was so nervous that I did not belong in university that I believed the word around campus that Economics 101 was really hard and one should avoid it if he could. I regret I took that bad advice and didn't rise to the challenge. Today I find myself quite interested in economics and how it affects our lives.

By my fourth year, I thought nothing of spending a year trying to master the dense thought of the German philosophers, Kant and Hegel, economics would have been easy by comparison. I guess I had grown in confidence in four years.

Well the great teacher of economics and the writer of the text book on the subject has just died at age 94, Dr. Paul Samuelson. The textbook which was entitled "Economics" we always refered to it as "Samuelson." Little did I know that the author really was more important and famous than the subject.

Great teachers, great academics, who are also lovely human beings who make a profound contribution to a subject important to our lives are rare. I only ever had one, Dr. James Luther Adams, with his vast understand of the world of ideasexplained in long and generous discussions. Paul Samuelson was such a teacher who has shaped the study of economics around the world and left behind a legion of former students and colleagues, some of whom also have won the Nobel Prize in economics as he did. Then there are the hundred of thousands of student who's first and maybe only effort to learn something about economics was taking Economics 101, in some great or small university or college, and using the text "Samuelson". The man and subject were in deed synonymous.

I read a couple of tributes to Samuelson that I thought were well done. They are worth reading not so much to learn anything about economics but to get to appreciate what the life of a great academic can be and certainly was in this instance. I recommend them. The first is long and full of interesting details.

(If you have to register to read it, it is a pain in the behind but I still think it is worth it.)

The second memorial piece is by Paul Krugman a former student and colleague of Dr. Samuelson. He is a prominent public economist who often writes critical articles about the current government's economic approach to the problems.

I hope we have all had at least one truly great teacher in our lives whose encounter with us continues to contribute to our lives.

Friday, December 11, 2009

When a Howl Gets Your Attention

I have long been interested in the writers of the Beat Generation, the Beatniks, if you will.

I was searching the Internet Archives for an audio file of Alan Ginsberg's famous poem, Howl.
I once was privileged to hear him read it in one of our churches in Boston. Sometimes you are surprised at what you may hear in a Unitarian Church! Read the Wikipedia entry to place Ginsberg and Howl into context .

I find the cast of characters that make up the Beat Generation fascinating. This counter culture literary crowd were dropping out, smoking dope, listening to cool jazz, getting involved in far left politics and trying out alternative life styles before baby boomer kids discovered it and became the hippies of the 60's. Thus. alarming the parents of a generation.

The key Eastern Beat personalities were Alan Ginsburg, Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs. They came to connect with Neal Cassady who came from the slums of Denver and lacked the formal educations of the others but was intellectually their equals. He became a pivotal figure in the group being an inspiration for Kerouac's book, "On the Road" and Ginsburg's, Howl. The Beat Generation grew to be a large group of writers and artists and hangers-on that inspired a literary revival. Who said the 50's were dull.

I am doing what I promised myself I would not do and that is write a long blog post on the Beat Generation. I only brought it up in order to make a comment about my dog, Heidi. the mind leads us in wondrous directions.

After finding the audio reading by Ginsberg I was looking through the other entries with howl in them, popping up in my search. There was one on wolves howling. I clicked on it and played it. Immediately, Heidi was up on her feet in the middle of the bed, worthy of Marmaduke, very alert obviously wondering where all the howling was coming from. Heidi is usually very quiet and a frequent sleeper when with me in my room. Not today, she heard the call of the wild. I must remember to keep a firm grip on her when the wolves howl for real outside my place some nights. She got me laughing and I had to turn off the record of wolves howling before she got overexcited. Oh to have had a video camera running.

I would have included the audio file in this posting except for some reason I cannot get the Internet Archives' embedded files, whether audio or text, to open in the main portion of the blog. If anyone has any idea, let me know.

They do open on the template in the side bar. You will find an audio file strip there if you want to hear wolves howling.

I can't resist! Her are a couple of more things about the Beat Generation. If you are interested in reading about this group and sampling some of their work go to this extensive site. and click on anyone of the names in the sidebar.

If you want to know more about Neal Cassady go here. His wife Carolyn is an interesting study in herself. She had a very good artistic upper middleclass education and somehow connected with the Beat Generation by falling for both Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady. She married the latter when the former said , "too bad but Neal saw you first." Kerouac and Cassady had a very close friendship, obviously a loyal one. Carolyn finally went on to a career in painting and writing. She may still be alive living in England.

One of my favourite movies is "Heart Beat" which is inspired by On the Road. It is the story of Jack, Neal and Carolyn. It is not a great movie but I like Nick Nolte and Sissy Spacek. I think the scene is very funny where the three of them living together in a "ticky tacky type suburb befuddling their conventional neighbours with their interesting menage a trois. It is worth the rental. I also enjoy seeing all the old 50's styles of houses, furniture, cars etc.the stuff of my youth.The character Ira is modelled on Alan Ginsberg.

At the very end, Dean Moriarty (the Neal character) is seen getting on a Hippie commune's school bus, (the Hog Farm) and you know the influence of the Beat Generation was being handed on. I once met the motley crew of the Hog Farm when they visited New Haven when I was a minister there, which make this scene more personal in some way.

Enough! I can't stop myself. More another time, perhaps.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

How I Miss the City. . . .Food

I can remember the first time I saw Sturgeon Falls. Almost right away I realized it was an eating wasteland. I don't know if I said it out loud or not but I know I thought, "What this town needs are a few Jews. At least, enough to open a Jewish Deli.

I learned that Sturgeon Falls was proud to be the French Fry Capital of the World. There were two very busy Chip stands in the downtown and as you drove around it seemed every block has someone with a chipstand on their front lawn. This proved to be the way the locals "dined out". I didn't realize how bad it really was until a few years later I asked someone what the best restaurant in town was as I wanted to take a friend out to dinner. I was directed to the Sturgeon Lodge. Well it was just passable. I don't think it rated a single star.

Sturgeon Falls when I saw it did not have a single franchised fast food place. (to its credit) Not even those who made money at peddling mediocre fast food saw fit to invade Sturgeon Falls where fries and poutine (that disgusting looking French Canadian concoction) was considered haute cuisine.

Well that has all changed. There are a plethora of fast food outlets now. All the big players are here. But still no Jewish Deli, my favourite.

All this came to mind when I listened to David Sax talk about his book, Save the Deli. While he grew up in Toronto, his roots were in Montreal where the Jewish community had a big impact on life in that city with Deli and Bagel establishments, some of the best in the World.

The most famous Deli in Montreal is Schwartz Deli. They made Montreal Smoked meat a food to seek out and eat while in that city. In a way, along with poutine, the smoked meat can be seen as the national dishes of Quebec. Smoked meat is a cured corned beef that is fattier than regular corned beef and moister than pastrami. It is to die for, served on rye bread with the necessary kosher pickles on the side. Don't forget the mustard on it.

A Montreal Smoked Meat Sandwich

When I lived in New Haven, CT., I loved to go to a Deli there. Usually, I got pastrami on rye. the Deli always had big bowls of free pickles on the table, kosher dills and brine pickles. How I love brine pickles. I had a young teenager who suffered from schizophrenia who I came and help me put out the church newsletter, every second week. It was our thing for me to take him to the Deli for lunch as a treat after the job was done. Between the two of us I think they lost money with our eating all the free pickles.

A Reuben Sandwich

Over the years, I developed a taste for Reuben sandwiches. Doesn't it just make your mouth water. For the uninitiated it is a grilled sandwich with pastrami, saurkraut and swiss cheese filling with Thousand Island dressing on it between rye or pumpernickel bread. Oh! to have one right now would be such a treat.

I was at our reopened restaurant in River Valley yesterday which is little more than an indoor chipstand. I am hoping the food improves. The new owner is my immediate neighbour. I was trying to convince her to create a special unique food that people would come out of their way to have. I was thinking in terms of a spicey meat filled turnover like the Jamaican Pattie. (It seems there are variations on this around the world). I could not convince her but she did promise that in the future she would serve Reuben sandwiches. She won me over. If she does I will be a regular patron.

It is the array of good food I miss about the city. There is a price you pay for the quiet rural life.
I once tried to eat in all the best restaurants in Toronto, using "Toronto Life" magazine as my guide. (I'm sorry I was an aspiring Yuppie in those days.) I spent lots of money and ate lots of lovely meals but I could not catch up to the coming into and going out of existence of great restaurants that city, one of the best eating cities due to it many large ethnic communitie

For everyday fare, I would still seek out a Deli as my first choice. It would be a crime if they disappeared.

Monday, December 07, 2009

A Tragedy Waiting to Happen

The tragic nightclub fire in Perm, Russia, over the weekend just leaves one shaking one's head.
(Characteristically of our time who can find video of the attempts to get out on You Tube. This is too voyeuristic for me to post.) This kind of accident occurs repeatedly as if no one ever learns from well documented past experience. These tragedies are predictable if there are not proper rules and regulations in place with proper enforcement.

The nightclub business comes and goes rapidly, often in the hands of quick buck promoters. A club is created and promoted and becomes the "in place" for a while. Invariably, they are decorated in cheap materials, predictably flammable. Some or most possible exits are covered over, like doors and windows ,to create the ambiance. I remember one I went to in New Haven years ago call the Purple Chicken and it was like a big cavern with exits hard to find. These places invariably are over crowded exceeding the legal limit of occupants. Worse of all, those who run these clubs to make a quick dollar want to make sure no one get in without paying so the emergency exits are locked and in some cases even welded shut thus requiring entrance through a well protected paying entrance. A simple flame in such a place can quickly get out of hand. The use of pyrotechnics in such a place is just reckless. We should not be surprised that such places having dreadful fires but we should be outraged that they are not closely regulated.

This reminded me of the most famous and disastrous of nightclub fires The Cocoanut Grove Fire in Boston in November of 1942., where 492 patrons died and many were badly injured in the overcrowded facility. When I lived in Boston I became aware of this historic fire which left a scar on the history of that city that people continued to mention from time to time. It was supposed to have changed the way building codes and regulations were written and enforced in North America.

Out of this tragedy, Dr Eric Lindemann did his famous grief studies on Acute Grief. He was the right person at the right time to accomplish this. These have been landmark studies of the nature of grief, which are still referred to today in all the literature in this field.

When I was training as a chaplain at the Goodwill Industries sheltered workshop in downtown Boston I met a man who I came to realize suffered from "Acute Grief in Older Men" that Lindemann identified. I had only talked to him a couple of times when he very carefully drew out of his chest pocket a photo. It was a photo of his wife, who had died several years before.
"This is all I have left." he stated in quiet flat tones as his eyes welled up in tears. I came to learn he had five children and many grandchildren but for him this picture was all he had left of his life.
He could not get past the loss of his wife that he loved so much. According to Lindemann he might never get over it. Even years on, he remained inconsolable with the raw emotion just below the surface. It was a lesson for this young cleric. From the outside, one often comes to the point with grieving people that you want to tell them to get over it and move on. Count the blessings you do have and find a reason for being. (Never in such blunt harsh terms). This encounter made me much more patient and understanding of people who grieved long and possibly even for the rest of their lives.

I. personally, came to suffer a prolonged grief over the loss of my marriage. I had a therapist friend who once told me I had been depressed and grieving for nearly 20 years. It did seem to take that long. I finally got over it.. . . .I think.

It is hard to imagine if anything good can come out the continual recurrence of these nightclub fires. (There is a list of the worst ones in the article above in Wikipedia on the Cocoanut Grove Fire) One can only hope that, every time there is one, the regulators we depend on to guarantee these places are safe take another look and redouble their efforts. If you are still of the age when clubbing is fun, take a long hard look at the club you are in from a safety standpoint. You may have a moment of clarity and leave. This fun tribal experience is not worth you life.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Legacy Moments For All

I discovered the efforts of StoryCorps on a two part documentary on the BBC even though it is an American effort, which has actually been going since 2003. Some of you may know of it because some of the stories have been on NPR.

This is an effort to record and preserve some history of the lives of ordinary people. I would not call them life histories but more like snapshot pictures of peoples lives. People are invited to interview another person for forty minutes. It could be a family member, a significant person in your life, or an interesting person in your neighbourhood. Whoever you want. In the end, you are given a recording of the conversation and, if you like, another will be sent to the Smithstonian Museum to be kept in perpetuity.

For those with aged parents this is a wonderful opportunity to have a meaningful conversation with them and perserve their fragment of a life story and their voice forever. I can also see it being used to have a elder speak in a language that may be extinct after their generation passes, perhaps, sing a song in it they sang to you as an infant, which is not a use suggested in the recording below.

If you listen to the entertaining recording below all will be made clear as to who it is done and the range of converstions possible.

(this is actually the recording of part two of the BBC documentary)

History belongs to us all. We all participate in it, most in ways that do not gain widespread recognition. Unfortunately, we are taught history as the story of great men (and now women) and dramatic events, political and military. Some of the most interesting history is missed. It is the history of the social and personal events in people's lives and what they meant to them and those closest to them.

If I lived in the US I would be trying to get the StoryCorps to come to my town.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Canada Remembers

It has been 20 years since Marc Lepine walked into L'Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal with a semi automatic rifle and separated the men from the women and then proceeded to murder 14 female engineering students. The crime library calls in gendercide. We call it the Montreal Massacre. Lepine thought women were the cause of his problem and he deliberately chose this engineering school where women were enrolled in studies dominated by men.

It was a day of violence that shocked Canada. It eventually lead to better gun control laws and the gun registry. I believe more women responded by marches to "take back the night" to assert their rights to live and move without fear in the community, day or night.

I have written about this in previous years. If you want more of the detail go here.

I think of these young women. They would be in their forties now, probably with families of their own and involved in careers. Who knows what their contributions to society might have been.

In a way, their deaths galvanized a generation of women and raised the national concern for violence against women.

There continues to be far to much violence against women in our culture. I shall never understand hostility too many men have toward women. At least. in part, they turn their rage on women because they can. Society need to insist that is never acceptable at any level, whether in the home or in the community. Canada was nudged to make some improvements to better protect women, but more needs to be done.

I also think of Madam Lepine, the mother of the murderer. She has lived with knowing her son did this. She also lost her son that day. For years, she was silent but recently I have heard her speak on radio of the effect of this day on her. It has been a hard cross for her to bear.

We need to remember these women's names and think of their contributions in life lost to us all.

Geneviève Bergeron (born 1968), civil engineering student
Hélène Colgan (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
Nathalie Croteau (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
Barbara Daigneault (born 1967), mechanical engineering student
Anne-Marie Edward (born 1968), chemical engineering student
Maud Haviernick (born 1960), materials engineering student
Maryse Laganière (born 1964), budget clerk in the École Polytechnique's finance department
Maryse Leclair (born 1966), materials engineering student
Anne-Marie Lemay (born 1967), mechanical engineering student
Sonia Pelletier (born 1961), mechanical engineering student
Michèle Richard (born 1968), materials engineering student
Annie St-Arneault (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
Annie Turcotte (born 1969), materials engineering student
Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz (born 1958), nursing student

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Weekend Report

I am recovering from my trip to the Toronto area. My friend Lynne made me promise I would not make her the subject of my blog entry. I wouldn't do that. "A gentleman never kisses and tells." All I would say is that we had a lovely time and it was nice to see her after all the years.

I travelled south on the train. It went surprisingly well, taking only five hours instead of six plus. CN is on strike so we had no freight trains to wait for as they share the tracks with the Ontario Northland's Northlander. I tried to read as we moved south but I found the scenery as we passed through the Almaquin Highland too fascinating.

Getting into Union Station in downtown Toronto was a bit of a challenge for me. It has been years since I comfortably moved around the city. The Station which is a central transportation hub connecting with the Government of Ontario trains and buses and Via rail the national passenger service. I was lost. It turns out I was on the wrong level. I was directed to the lower level for the GO train service.
It is a vast food court full of people leaving the city for the weekend. I couldn't find the ticket agents but spotted an automatic ticket machine ( some relative of R2D2 of Star Wars fame). I caught myself talking to the machine. "Do you take paper money", "What coins do I needs". the girl at the machine next to me heard me and said, "It is better than lining up." A light went off in my head. "I want to line up." "Where do I line up I asked her." She pointed the way.

Finally, I stood before a person, a ticket agent. I said, "I am lost and confused." She said, "I will take care of you." Bless her. I said I wanted the train to Mississauga. "Which one, she asked." The last time I was here there was just one. To Port Credit. That will be the west bound train for Aldershot and Hamilton. She gave me a ticket and said I should watch the screen on the TV monitor for the announcement of the train in two hours. "TWO HOURS!." I called my friend about three times and gave her the news and hoped she would just come and get me in Toronto. That wasn't her response.

I felt a little hungry and thougth I might get a bagel and a coffee. Whoo! bagels are over $5.00 and coffees are $3:00. The day hasn't arrived that I would spend that kind of money for a 10 cent cup of coffee and a 35 cent bagal. I went without.

Suddening I spotted my train on the monitor, an hour ahead of what the ticket agent said. Another call to my firend to say I will be earlier at the Port Credit station. I could have walked to her house from there but she said she would come with the car to pick me up.

I followed the crowd and managed to get on the train going west. I am at the far west end of the train when they announce I will have to exit from the far east end car at Port Credit due to construction. I have to walk the length of the seven or eight car train. I think I am being tested.

Well I got there! Country bumkin I have become.

For my return trip I arranged to drive a friend's car back. I had to pick it up in Caledonia, an hour west of Toronto. My friend, Lynne, who was recovering from jet lag after just getting back from China did not jump at the chance to go for a ride.A old friend of mine dropped by and I shamed him into taking me there.

I was able to go, after picking up the care, see my friend Carrie, near Hamilton. She is the closest I have to a daughter being the daughter of a woman I dated for nine years while she was growning up. Last Christmas she gave birth to a little boy her second child and it died at birth. It's lungs were full of fluid and they could not get him breathing. It was very sad and almost unheard of in a hospital birth but there were no signs of problems ahead of time. It should have been routine.

I was glad to see her. I am always glad to see her. I love her dearly. She had adjusted to this sad event but I am sure this Christmas will be a sad reminder. She assured me she and her husband would try again for more children.

It seem I spent the weekend just talking and eating. I am good at both.

I did take a tour of the old neighbourhood. It has changed. When I was growning up it was a post war working class area. Largely rural. We were in the first wave of people to move to suburbia. It is now an upper class area. Many of the more modest homes are gone and larger more stylish homes have replaced them. The two homes in the area my parents lived in are gone as is the home of my oldest friend. It seems the neighbourhood is dominated by two income professional families. How else would they pay for the million to two million or more dollar homes.

Being a person surrounded by forests I was more interested in the trees in the neighbourhood . They are large, very large and mature. They seemed large when I was a child some 60 years ago. Apparently, the trees can only be cut down with a permit. Rules, rules, rules is what the suburbs is all about. I remember my dad having to get rid of his dog because it barked. We always had a struggle parking our company van in the driveway at night. This is not allowed. "Working class not welcome!" I guess. I was looking to see if anyone hung their laundry out. Apparently, there are those fighting back over this rule of no laundry on a line.

The trip home was uneventful. I was very tired and almost fell asleep at the wheel. I guess if I had it would not have been uneventful. I finally stopped half way home at Huntsville. It is near here that the G8 meeting will be held next year. It is a small town which has many more residents in the summer. The mall area where I stopped outside the historic downtown area had lots of shops closed up . I guess they are seasonal businesses. After trying the Wendy's which was closed as it was for sale. I found a nice little coffee shop and tried to revive myself.

I got home OK but just as I turned the corner toward my place there was June in her car leading the two sows home. They apparently went for a walkabout. I guess I got home just in time. Chasing pigs is not June's thing. It turned out she had dropped food for them on the wrong side of the electric fence. "How could she be so stupid!" They tested the fence and found it was not on. Now they know they can get out after me fooling them all summer. They got out the next day too. I brought them back. They got out this morning early and I put them in a pen in the shed. That should hold them.

My dog Heidi was not as happy to see me as I was to see her. I think she is punishing me. I guess we will make up. I took her for a ride to the feed store. She seemed to like that as she could put her head out the window and enjoy the cool breeze.

All seems well. I am even thinking of another trip south soon. Our trip to Belgium has been put off as my Lynne's brother is in Toronto getting some medical treatments. While he lives in Belgium he has Canadian health insurance and keeps an apartment here. I look forward to going soon. With a little more practice I might master the transportation system with ease.