March 22, 2015

Dear Diary: March 3-22, 1985

March 3, 1985

I always wonder why I am always trying not to be bored on Sunday. The only exciting and interesting thing that I did was finish my science project. My new owl's name is Oho. Oho is Cree for owl. Goodbye.

Such a nerd. No problem, no hypothesis, no conclusions – my science project was simply an opportunity to flaunt my (then) knowledge of rocks. I had rocks, minerals and crystals by the dozens, largely procured at the long-defunct Avenue Jewelers & Lapidary Supplies at Portage and Arlington. Screw candy – at least for another year or so – this is the place where I spent my dimes and quarters. The place had shelves upon shelves of mineral samples, raw crystals and rock-tumbler curiosities. One memorable Christmas I got a rock hammer. I used it a handful of times in the Whiteshell, unsuccessfully trying to extract bits of mica from the Canadian Shield. Later, in my teens, I was far more adept at using it to bust up my childhood Hot Wheels.

The name for my new ookpik? Another geek-out of mine: geography. I routinely checked out a book from the library on the origins of Manitoba place names. Towns, lakes, rivers – hundreds of locales in this province came from Cree words.


March 13, 1985

I get so suspicious at my mom when I say something. Anything. She carries the subject to work, work, work, work, WORK!!!!!!!!!! Like today. Goodbye! Good night.

The words I probably meant to use instead of 'suspicious at' were 'hesitant with'. My mom worked hard, and parented us solo. We had a good house. We were smart kids, raised right (enough) and we're all currently well-adjusted. She grew up on a farm, and on a farm you work. Everyone works. Pulling one's weight was paramount in our household, alongside "using common sense" and "not sitting around on our asses doing sweet-tweet". I don't pretend to know what triggered my diary rant on this given night, but times like this happened a lot. Sheltered as I was as the youngest child, I wasn't spared from my mom's diatribes all the time.


March 19, 1985

Today all the snow is melting and my favourite river down the back lane is boring because it dug to the bottom. A new game "Map of Canada Game" is out now because the snow is gone and it is painted on the pavement. Goodbye! Good night.

For a brief, shining period each spring, meltwater would course through and down the ruts in our back alley, waiting to be dammed, redirected, redistributed and polluted – just like a real river! I'd don my rubber boots and get to work. It was a playground like no other, at least, to a kid capable of turning nearly any scenario into a playground. Leave it to grown-ups in their silly grown-up cars to ruin the fun whenever one dared enough to trundle down the icy lane. But like any busy beaver who's dam is dynamited, I'd immediately get back to work. It's what I do… or, what I did.

Geography geek. I think I mentioned this. I kicked ass at that Map of Canada, basically a map of the country on the Mulvey Elementary hardtop. One kid would be "it", and instruct others to get to a location of that kid's choosing on the map. The last one to reach the spot would be out of the game. I can't remember how it benefitted the kid who was it but typically, the call would be something like "Ontario!" or "The Pacific Ocean!". But I ruled Map of Canada with an iron fist. If you were a grade-schooler and didn't know Manitoulin Island or the Ungava Peninsula from your own ass, you had no place in my game.


March 21, 1985

I have a growing pain. Nobody believes in growing pains any more. Tommorrow is the last day of school because Spring Break is here. Goodbye.

My stars, the growing pains – on some nights they destroyed me and, on fortunate/unfortunate occasion, would be nasty enough to exclude me from chores. I know my mom believed me. It pained her to watch me grimace in bed, biting my pillow, waiting for the pain in my shins to subside. I had this problem, on and off, for years.


March 22, 1985

Today I found a marble and some limestone. I built a big dam out of gooey leaves. It worked. It was the biggest I ever seen. It worked from 4:30 to 9:00 so far! Good night!

Heh. Not bad for the last Friday of school before Spring Break.

March 13, 2015

Fresh Meat

I'm the fucking king of the jungle, so damn right I'm gonna eat your kid. Honestly, I don't know what's so shocking about this. You came onto my turf, sweet little munchkin in tow, let her waddle right up to the glass… ugh, the fucking glass. You think I'd wise up to that by now. Every time – every time – I have a clear shot at one of those little lambs, that glass, that… fucking glass…

I digress. King of the jungle, king of the goddamn jungle. I'm The King. Badass.

So. Don't get shocked with me, lady. Yes, I made a move for your kid. Practically telegraphed it, slinking down flat as a mat. Flicking my tail, plotting my trajectory, doing the math. It would've been painless, I assure you. And if you're like the other idiot animals around here, you'd just have another one next year anyway. Maybe don't bring that one into the goddamn lion enclosure.

She walked right up to me. Right up to me, understand? You people don't teach your kids anything. I'm lying here, watching your idiot cohorts take my picture, flashes bouncing off the glass… and that's another thing, you're never going to get a decent shot in here with the flash on. You do know that glass reflects light, right? But I digress… again.

I sized up your kid. I admit it. Like taking candy from a baby, except replace candy with baby, and swap baby for… um… Hmm. Lost my train of thought.

Whatever. You made it too easy, is what I'm saying. I know they toss us slabs of meat every day, but that's not sporting. Instinct took over. I saw red – and pink, and two bright blue unsuspecting eyes – and I pounced. And I had her, I fucking had her. Bam! Paws hit the glass. That goddamned glass.

Only then did you swipe her away, save the day. Like you're the king of the jungle. Well, you're not. You people just know a thing or two about glass. That's the only reason you're out there, and I'm in here.

March 04, 2015

Life's A (Thawing) Beach

IMG_8008.JPG – April 23, 2010 – 8:28 PM

It was late April – a generously early spring – when we took off for Grand Beach on a Friday evening after a trying work-week. Typically at this time of year the lake is a perfect remedy, a cacophony of heaving ice floes and tinkling shards of chandelier ice closer to shore – but this was a fine exception. The lake was open. A warm breeze was only faintly weakened by drifts of snow permeating the dunes. We combed the beach for any intriguing winter detritus and dared our toes into the frigid water.

I love Grand Beach, but I've never visited during the manic height of summer. Its network of trails are among the province's best, and most challenging, for cross-country skiing. The far end of the beach and lagoon are magnificent for spring and fall birdwatching; I've seen ospreys dive, rare turnstones patter the sand and western grebes dance on the lake. What I love most in this place is witnessing the rotting ice shatter and dissipate, caving under the first balmy span of spring. It's something in nature that everyone in these parts should see; my introduction to the spectacle was during the 1980s with my family, stretching winter-whitened legs and running across the mucky expanse of ice, snow and sand. In the year of this photo our trip was mis-timed, with only a patchwork of ice barely visible on the horizon. It made no matter.

I was only two months into a year-long daily photo challenge, and three days previous to this getaway my camera was stolen. My faith in humanity was dimmed, but a friend loaned me his camera until I could file an insurance claim and get back on my photog feet. The challenge remained intact and unbroken. This was one of the shots from the loaner.

March 03, 2015

Ace Of Spades

IMG_2009.JPG – June 27, 2010 – 5:39 PM

It's a small and tidy space, like the examination room at a clinic. Save for the Nick Cave concert poster, it very well could be. The guy is nice, lets me sit in and take pictures. Kerry's getting a tattoo – her first, and likely only one – on the inside of her wrist, of Leonard Cohen's order of the unified heart.

And she's anxious. Wondering what her mom will think, questions whether she'll need to hide the tattoo at work. Laying flat and ramrod-straight, she's already steeling herself for the pain to come. The guy is all pro. He's young, but he's a soothing presence and maintains the decorum of a family physician. He deftly removes a CD from his stacks and places it in the tray. Good man, I think. Some music is a good idea. He presses play. Motörhead: Live At Hammersmith. 

You know I'm born to lose, and gambling's for fools.
But that's the way I like it baby, I don't wanna live forever…

March 01, 2015

Pedro Gonzales-Gonzales-Gonzales

IMG_1975.JPG – October 12, 2009 – 3:31 PM

A donkey named Pedro Gonzales-Gonzales-Gonzales is a gift, of sorts, for my 34th birthday. Kerry and I are on vacation, a road trip to the American southwest for a whistle-stop tour of iconic U.S. national parks. This is decidedly not one of those parks; rather, it's an out-and-out tourist trap in Jerome, Arizona, that I've goaded us into because, well, it's my birthday. Called the Gold King Mine & Ghost Town, it's a junkyard pure and simple, owned and operated by a soft-spoken snow-bearded man who looks an awful lot like Uncle Jessie from The Dukes Of Hazzard – and guarded by a sign stating "This Place is Patrolled by Shotgun Three Nights a Week… You Guess Which Three". A colourful hodgepodge of vehicles long sent to pasture, rusted and retired machinery, nineteenth-century dental implements, sad-sack farm animals – you name it – the place bleeds, sweats and cries 'Murica. The Gold King Mine is precisely the sniff of culture I hope for in and among postcard desert vistas and Coyote/Roadrunner landscapes.

My 2009 Big American Birthday is capped with a burger the size of Rhode Island Delaware, a Stetson cowboy shirt and a trip to a Gap outlet store for hard-to-find 33-waist/30-leg jeans.

February 27, 2015


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.