February 27, 2015

Titan

IMG_1138.JPG – June 6, 2010 – 11:49 AM
 
Frankly, I don't know who this guy is. Don't care. I'm sure he's probably a good guy. He's here, isn't he? Clutching a rainbow flag in the Pride Day parade. Can't see his face, can't read nothing into his thoughts or agenda. But he's got that flag and I'm sure he's gonna wave it, tied to a sawed-off Titan hockey stick. My God, ain't that the most Canadian thing ever? I wonder if the guy even plays hockey. Wonder if he snapped it in a game of pick-up or spongee leaning into a big slapper. Cracked it in two taking the stick outta some other dude's hands. Go time, a real hothead. If he's anything like me, he probably wore it to a nub, playing the life right out of that stick before going to Crappy Tire for a new one. Christ, they're so expensive these days. Whatever. That's his business, not mine. I'm sure he's probably a good guy. More power to him.

February 25, 2015

The Bench On Wolseley

IMG_0013.JPG – October 13, 2013 – 3:03 PM

I liked to think of this place as our not-so-secret secret spot during Scout's first summer, when she'd be ornery or nap-striking. Just the two of us. I'd place her in her stroller for a lap of "The Loop" – the popular jogger/walker circuit comprised of Wolseley Avenue and Wellington Crescent, crossing the river at Omands Creek and Maryland Street.

We'd head west, not talking, all business. Typically, a handful of blocks in the stroller with the hood up would be enough to lull her; The Loop is a snore-inducing 45-minute tramp, so I'd expect about a half-hour of real sleep. But there were occasions when I'd sense fairly quick that it simply wasn't going to happen – and we'd stop at this bench. 

I'd extract her from the seat, plomp her in my lap and watch a small part of the world go by. I'd point out joggers, dogs, Dickie-Dee ice-cream carts if we were lucky. On hot weekend afternoons it felt like we were the last two people in the city. Omega Man and Omega Baby.

This photo was taken by Kerry on the last really pleasant day of 2013. Thanksgiving weekend; I'm peppered with stubble, wearing a hat bought in Chicago and my favourite 13-year-old shirt that refuses to die. The most brutal winter in a century settled in a few weeks later.

February 22, 2015

A Night In The Life

277 \\ 08-11-10 \\ choose one12:21 AM: She's been sleeping for four hours, then a ten-minute midnight howl for Mommy. And finished. Attagirl. She's back to sleep.

Out with the gang. Won the 50/50!

Going out two nights in a row. Not sure if I'm feeling young or too old.

1:54 AM: One-off sob for Mommy. Shuffling. Whimpers.

Took hubby out for an early birthday supper tonight. I am stuffed. Prime rib, to die for. Love my handsome man.

Sunset. On the beach.

2:08 AM: Wails for Mommy.

Great night out, so much fun!

If you haven't taken a night to Festival, get on it while the temps are moderate. So much magic and music and Caribou.

2:33 AM: Wails for Mommy.

Where am I? #‎adventure #‎kayak

2:50 AM: Wails for Mommy. I head in, soothe. I put her down, make her angrier than before.

Five weeks until Maui! #aloha #haleakala

3:06 AM: Lengthy series of screams for Mommy. Handful of whimpers for Daddy. One cry for Big Bird.

Brunchasaurus Rex! *rawr with flying toast crumbs*

3:23 AM: Can't take it. I head in, soothe. I put her down, make her angrier than before. We read stories. She's awake; this is nonsense. Put her down to wild shrieks of protest. I'm not coming in this room again. Unsure if I say this out loud. I go upstairs, check Facebook. I put in earplugs, read my book.

Productive Saturday. Two sketches, one illustration and another logo concept.

A lovely day for working in the woods. Feels much warmer when burning stumps and bucking deadfall.

4:06 AM: I come to bed, nailing a creak in the floor. A cry, from her room.

4:10 AM: Everyone's asleep.

Temp at start of ball hockey this morn: -31 C. Temp at end: -27 C. No wind. Wasn't cold at all. It's sunny and beautiful today. Go outside!

9:45 AM: Off to the Children's Museum.

February 18, 2015

Mister O’Connell

"Fer teh love-a-Gad, are t'ere any cars coomin'?!"

Thus spoke the eightysomething Mr. O'Connell from the driver's seat of his taxi as we lurch into traffic in Killarney, Ireland, on a September morning in 2003.

We're holed up in a hostel in this idyllic centre, searching for a means to navigate the nearby Ring of Kerry. At the front desk, the lady points to a tidy arrangement in place with a local tour-runner who goes by the name of O'Connell. Good name, I figure. Seems legit. Next morning, we amble to the lobby and wait with a quiet Norwegian as the lady telephones for the three of us to be picked up.

Some time later, an elderly man hobbles through the door; flat cap, white hairs shooting from his ears, question-mark frame. "Good mooor-ning, Mr. O'Connell," the lady at the desk sing-songs. She points him to his three charges. I think, this guy definitely looks the part; this will be fun.

Anticipating the man to shuffle to a waiting passenger van or tourbus, Mr. O'Connell instead shepherds us to an idling cab and tells us to get in. We exchange a questioning glance with the Norwegian. Wide-eyed, he shrugs, shakes his head nervously. Since the two of us are together, Kerry and I claim the back seats. The Norwegian takes shotgun. We buckle in.

Boxed by cars parked behind and in front, Mr. O'Connell collapses into his seat and shifts into gear. His face shrouded by the bill of his cap, he does not look up. "Are t'ere any cars?!"

We do not speak. The Norwegian does not speak.

Mr. O'Connell points his cap toward the Norwegian. "Are t'ere cars?" he barks.

Reality sinks in. My God, we are spending the day with this man. On narrow roads. Cliff-hugging roads, potentially clogged with many sheep.

Louder. "Fer teh love-a-Gaaad, are t'ere any cars coomin'?!"

The Norwegian's eyes dart to me, then the street. He stammers: "No! No!"

O'Connell inches into traffic, not talking, guiding us through town. Nobody breathes a word, but our thoughtwaves are loud and clear: we are spending this day in a taxi, driven by a old man with nothing left to lose.

We breathe at last, when he pulls into a lot alongside an idling beast of a bus, and tells us to get out. His work is finished, and our day begins.

February 13, 2015

Eye Of The Hurricane

My skin is thickening, but it's not quite there yet. I hope one day it's as leathery and armour-plated as possible, come the eventuality my daughter will have enough blind rage to call me the worst parent ever and/or that she hates me. 

Presently, she does not hate me. She doesn't know how, and I give her few opportunities to learn. But this week just concluding has been as trying as it gets, as – combined with a bout of fever – she sensed her time with the people she knows and trusts at daycare was coming to a close. Her fear and dread of the unknown, of the next stage in her life, arrived in the form of fits and tantrums, of tears, snot, shrieks and wee-hours wails for mommy. And also a resolute disinterest, bordering on disdain, towards myself.

There were moments during the week where I couldn't blame her. I chauffeured her to the lion's den each morning, reducing her to tears while peeling off her coat and dropping her to the floor to face the day, then making a hasty exit. Our regular back-and-forth chatter in the car was all but reduced to a muted HI DIGGER as we passed a grader or front-end loader. She'd cry when I offered her drive-home grapes. Sob when I couldn't pass her to mommy quick enough. And then scream about her injustices to poor mommy's face until bedtime.

This evening though, a reprieve. On the cusp of her second birthday, the fog lifted and she's once again hugging-slash-acknowledging me. We brought home her Valentine's Day swag ("I MADE THAT"), her infant room portrait and daycare belongings to prep for the new space next week. She tucked her photo under a tea towel and said GOO-NIGHT SCOUT I LOVE YOU TOO MUCH. She jumped on the couch. Even if it's an eye-of-the-hurricane scenario, right now we'll take it.

February 10, 2015

Winnipeg Candy Hearts

Winnipeg candy hearts
A little break from writing… kinda sorta. With Valentine's Day approaching, love – and Loveday, when the wind is right – is in the Winnipeg air. It's a time when lovers of all stripes in my hometown make way for romance – be it skating on the river, sipping together on ruby-red cream soda Slurpees, or cheapskating with some February 13th and 15th dinner reservations.

Click on the image to view the whole thing slightly larger. This exercise in Photoshoppery was partially inspired by my friend Carl Shura's fantastic downtown Winnipeg-themed Valentine's Day cards. 

February 08, 2015

ZOOMBUM!

ZOOMBUM [zoom-BUHM] – 1. interjection: an exclamation of joy, thrill, etc. 2. verb: to go, to move fast. 3. noun: playground slide (archaic).

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Scout sometimes lets loose two equally intriguing and relatively long-lasting catch-phrases – BUCKAWUZZIE [pr. buh-kuh-WUH-zee] and ZOOMBUM – the latter being, personally, my favourite word in the world. Whereas BUCKAWUZZIE can be described as entirely abstract with, to this day, no known etymological background, ZOOMBUM at least has traceable origins. A friend had a similarly-aged daughter who referred to playground slides as whee-bums, and it may have resulted from using and modifying this term during Scout's introduction to slides – which now rate high among her favourite things in the world.

Initially, ZOOMBUM was used as a physical description of a slide, but as time passed the term also became a declaration that a slide attempt was commencing (i.e., READY SET ZOOMBUM). Zoom to present day, and the word has pretty much lost its connection to slides and has integrated itself into Scout's lexicon, associated with speed in any form. Examples include backing the car into the alley, navigating the icy ruts in the alley, and scooting around on one's bare bum in the bathtub.

I have also likely prolonged Scout's usage of the word by using it so often myself, in hopes she will repeat it back to me. It doesn't always succeed, and I now dread the oncoming day when she learns to roll her eyes and tell me I'm being lame.

February 07, 2015

Big Girl

DADDIE BIG BOY?

"That's right. Daddy's a big boy. I'm a man."

MOMMIE BIG BOY?

"No, Mommy's a big girl. And Scout is a big girl, too. Scout, are you a big girl?"

Pause. NO.

There's a lot to be read into how our daughter responds to this frequently-asked question, as we drill the concept of becoming and being a big girl. In one week she will be two years old, and deemed ready to leave the infant room at her daycare to fend with the general population of a preschool room. She has visited this room plenty over the course of the winter with her infant-room caregivers, but not until this past week has she been led to the new space and left solo in attempts to intermingle with the older kids, new digs and different staff. The transition, I am told, has been slow. The tone in which I am told lead me to believe she is adapting warily and not without struggle. There have been tears.

A year ago, our family faced a much rougher scenario. Kerry, returning to work after lengthy maternity and parental leaves. Scout wading into daycare for the first time. The three of us, out of home over a month for extended renovations. A winter that would not die. Scout's initial fresh-meat weeks at daycare were riddled with illness. But then, like now, we knew it to only be a matter of time for her to gain trust and routine in the new, next stage of her life.

Scout is a big girl and she knows it, despite the occasional protest over the label. She puts items on the table if we ask her to put something on the table. She may or may not put away toys at the end of the evening. During her first weeks at daycare she was the only crawler; now she's the infant room's elder stateswoman. Approaching two years of age is the clinical, statistical, most obvious sign that she's ready for the move up. She simply has to be.

I'm told that while spending time in the preschool space, she is perhaps lonely. She misses her mate Walter, they say. The new room has more kids. Bigger kids. Different staff. Less structure. It's precisely like that flailing leap from elementary school to junior high, but with each kid advancing at their own set time. I relished that move to high school; many of my friends joined me, and I had allies in the older grades through my brother and sister.

She will adapt. I'm not concerned about this. But there are moments I stop and consider that my daughter's world is constructed primarily of three working parts (and the people who operate them): the house, the car and the infant room. Remove one of these pillars and I then understand her current shift in attitude. It's stressful. Hopefully within a couple of weeks she'll be entrenched in the new space. 

It has a water table after all. And Walter will still come by for visits.

February 05, 2015

White Whale

I beak here about birds a lot; I've been keen on them since I was eight years old. At the crest of my early fandom, I kept a mental list of local species I considered must-sees based solely on how colourful they appeared in my Audobon guidebook, and how cool they were to reproduce with my Crayolas. Over time I eventually spotted and life-listed several: the American avocet, the evening grosbeak, the ruddy duck, the ruddy turnstone… the ruddy anything, really. But the blackburnian warbler – that miniscule, black-white-and-orange, canopy-dwelling white whale to my birdwatching Captain Ahab – continued to evade me until I was ready to concede ever seeing one.

It's only natural then, that three decades later – and a few years ago – I was raking the goop and sand left behind by winter from my lawn when my white whale beached itself along my sidewalk on the fringe of downtown Winnipeg. My thankless job was complete, and I headed inside to cop the reward. I returned to the front steps with a drink. A watched pot never boils, and a sought-after bird never presents itself until you say fine, I'm just gonna go ahead and sit on my stoop and enjoy this fine bottle of beer. As I drank – and I swear to you, it was just the one – a most brilliant blackburnian warbler in its Sunday-best breeding plumage descended from the elms above and promptly set about pecking at the detritus from my clean-up. Only a few metres away, in the flesh (and feather).

Right then and there, with a beer in my hand and my favourite bird on the lawn I thought: Life's a pretty sweet fruit. The end.

February 02, 2015

The Civic Has Landed

I've worked here sixteen years, commuting the circumference of the Earth nine times, and counting. The highway travel is easy, until it isn't. The city is a bear though, full of other people – and other people are the worst. The roads out here are arrow-straight. Three turns only – day in, day out – that I can perform in my sleep. Right at the lights. Left at the barn. Right at the gate.

Zero incidents. OK, an asterisk: zero incidents as a driver. 

Fine. Another asterisk: zero that anyone else saw. 

One morning, wintry and slick, wind whipping snowy ghosts across the highway. The roads out here are arrow-straight, to a fault. I can sense the ice, but there's no reason to test it, to prove this theory. I turn onto the final run of road, the home stretch. I'm listening to the White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army," a boisterous treat for this day in the car on my own. I'm goin' to Wichita, far from this opera for evermore. Gaining speed. Fifty, sixty, seventy. Kilometers, Americans; I'm in a Civic, and am no maniac. A shift, maybe a hit of wind, and the car begins to turn. No, not turn. Slide. This is happening. And I'm bleeding, and I'm bleeding, and I'm bleeding right before the Lord. Still moving, but sideways. I look at the ditch, brimming with snow. This won't be too bad. I correct. Too much. Sideways again, facing the opposite direction. This ditch looks worse. All the words are gonna bleed from me, and I will think no more. I correct the correction. Sideways, a third time, slowing down. If this fails it will be a soft landing, like the Eagle into the powder of the moon. The Civic has landed. But the wheels strike the gravel shoulder, a reprieve. I brake to a crawl, then a full stop. The stains coming from my blood tell me go back ho…

Shut the music off, and look back. No one in sight. I turn the radio back on, switch to the classical music station.