Wednesday, December 19, 2012

One Degree, Not Six

"Don't they do this test in New Brunswick?"

Holly confirmed to the hospital receptionist in Halifax that they do definitely do have the ability to administer this medical test in Saint John.

"Couldn't your doctor ask for the test to be done there?"

She couldn't because Holly's doctor isn't registered in the New Brunswick computer database.

"Couldn't your doctor there have ordered it?"

The receptionist, only asking these questions out of personal curiosity and registering Holly for her test while conversing, appeared both surprised and sorrowful to hear that there are no available doctors in Saint John.

halifax macdonald bridge old bridge

A quick online search and a phone call was all it took to land a family doctor in Halifax and this test was why we made the four hour trip exactly a week before Christmas.  We made the most of the hours in Halifax by having brunch with two of my sisters and exchanging hugs and gifts over the excellent food at Heartwood Restaurant on Quinpool Road.  Having to close our new studio for a day so close to Christmas was not something we took lightly, but health trumps money - or so should be the case.

heartwood bowl halifax

Late December road trips (the first day of winter, my birthday, and seemingly, the end of the world are only three days away) are always a concern in Canada too.  On our return trip, just past Sussex, the temperature gauge on the car's control panel indicated that the air had chilled to freezing and the light drizzle we had picked up just after Moncton had changed to big, fat snowflakes and the painted white segmented lines on the highway began to fade.  The road had quickly become a treacherous mess with the centimetre or two that had fallen and we were creeping along near 30kms per hour.

norton nb snow

"The sign says there's an exit to Norton in six kilometres," Holly informed me.

Is there anything in Norton?  The two cars behind indicated their intention to take the off ramp, so we followed suit.  Lo and behold, at the bottom of the ramp, an Irving sign glowed through the snow.  This would be so pretty if we were safe at home, I commented.

A handful of cars and a couple tractor trailers sat watching the highway in the service station's (and liquor store) lot and nearly two hours past.  This precipitation was no surprise, nor was the temperature or the wind chill that accompanied the gusting winds, there was no indication any salt had been laid on the highway.  During our time watching from the Irving, we saw two plows going our way, the off ramp was plowed once, but not the on ramp.  Then another plow passed and everyone seemed to decide that it was time to venture out.

The tractor trailers took a number of attempts to get up the covered ramp and the cars crawled their way to the highway.  We prepared the car and went into the service station for any last necessities, still unsure of setting out for the last 55kms to Saint John.

"Are there any motels in the area?" Holly asked one of the seasoned clerks.

It turned out the closest would mean back-tracking 18kms to Sussex.  This was what the clerk recommended, adding "They say a plow just went by, so going from experience there isn't likely to be another 'til morning."

I found that statement to be so incredulous that I struggled to believe it, but was most disturbed with her delivery of it, as she was neither upset by this neglect nor seemingly aware that situations like this were certainly not normal in other parts of the country.

Put off with the prospect of traveling a significant distance in the wrong direction, Holly and I agreed to attempt the journey home, noting that we had water and food should we have to camp out on the side of the road.  We crawled most of the way, but made it safely, albeit completely unnerved, to the untouched slushy streets of home.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Plus Side of Zero

It turned out to be a sunny Sunday with the neighbour's outdoor thermometer indicated a crisp-but-tolerable setting on the plus side of zero, so I settled into my one day off for the week.  With the holidays hitting full stride the studio will be open Sundays, leaving this as the last day to ourselves for a little while.

The day before I read a post by a fellow Saint John blogger about cold weather running and it reminded me that I hadn't been to my favourite route in a long time. Around noon I hopped in the car (the irony of driving somewhere to go for a run isn't lost on me) and headed to the Irving Nature Park.

Cresting the hill before the park, I could see that I wasn't the only one with this idea as the parking lot was more full than most summer days.  With the exception of the the immediate dirt after the end of the pavement, the road was smoother than many Saint John streets.

I backed into an empty space, got out, breathed in the cool air, hit play on my shuffle and started up the steep hill that begins my clockwise trail through this gem.

After finally reaching the initial summit (I used to love hill-running) I kept a slow, steady pace and waited for the pounding in my chest to lighten.  My first realization was that I forgot to bring my gloves.  I knew I would regret that.  Even pushing up the hill, I thought about how, despite not getting out for many runs the past couple months, good I felt and considered the possibility of surpassing the 6.5 km that marked a single circuit.

There were crows, lots of chickadees, and dogs - even an unattended medium sized canine on the edge of the forest barking at something toward the upper reaches of an evergreen.  And there was no shortage of people.

Settling into a quiet stride I became conscious to the fact that my creative thoughts were in overdrive.  Without the distractions of business and home, my self began the automatic focus on the increased physical stresses leaving the creative part of my brain free to explore - and the results of this exploration were producing at an exceptional rate.  I wanted to stop and write.  I yearned for something I could record these meanderings into for later.

Rounding a bend, there was a secondary path branching to the right that I couldn't remember.  I then became aware that I had lost familiarity with the trail and couldn't even properly gauge my geographical orientation, I tried to recall when my last run at the nature park took place.  Maybe early summer?  It had been too long.

I knew I hadn't reached the wooden bridge that marked the approximate half-way mark yet and I was already feeling the negative effects of my lack of training.  Those early thoughts of exceeding my distance goals had been trashed.  I kept an eye open for one of the wood mile markers (kilometer marker just doesn't sound right) and upon seeing "4 km" and realizing that simple math was becoming more difficult, I knew I would now just have to be happy with completing the loop.

In the last half kilometer I saw my first ground critter - a grey squirrel that bounded away from the roadway at that slow grey squirrel pace that I know I will never become used to after being around red squirrels only for most of my life.

Passing the last marker, I slowed to a walk and began my cool down, then stretching before heading back home for fronch toast with Holly.  These are Sundays that are truly priceless.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Don't Inhale

"Tiffany, it's Aunt Judy."

This is the start of the message I found on the studio's answering machine when I opened this morning.  Perhaps a month ago the same lady left a similar message for Tiffany on our line, but this time she left callback numbers along with her message of love for her niece.  There seemed genuine notes of concern and longing in her voice, so it may be a nice idea to phone and let her know she is using the wrong - or out of date - number to reach out to her family member.

There seems to be a heaviness about people this holiday season, a burden of tension that I've not noticed before.  Conversation has often turned to health concerns - "How long have you been vegetarian?" "How often do you run?" "Do you smoke? Have you ever? I used to, but like Bill Clinton, never inhaled."  These are the sorts of comments I'm hearing more regularly now.  Inquiries that acknowledge that there is a shadow of doubt about choices both past and current.

Walking about Saint John sees many down-turned eyes, people with thoughts elsewhere.  Just  entering Brunswick Square, doors don't get held, smokers are gathered around every exit (can anyone share what the smoking legislation is here in Saint John?) and many are on edge.  Just try using a crosswalk without experiencing the death-stare of a pissed-off taxi driver or walk the uptown sidewalks without having to surrender your space to someone unwilling to share the concrete.

Anxiety without a positive action begets anger.  I am going to keep trying to invoke a force of positivity in my environment, however insignificant it may seem and I encourage others to do the same.  It's not easy, especially when holding your breath to avoid noxious fumes as you pass that "no smoking" sign.  Cigarette smoke is dangerous - read the packages - but inhaling negativity affects so much more.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

How to Defend your Manhood with Chanel

I had a rather vivid dream last night and I am reaching out for help to understand its meaning.  I have no access to professional help, if it's even needed, so my mental well-being lies in your hands.

Holly and I had a somewhat substantial role in a celebrity soccer match.  The teams were sprinkled with professional European footballers and every day people donated money to charity for the chance to play with these stars.

The game was close, ending with me scoring the winning goal in extra time on a penalty kick.  Holly insisted it was set up similarly to when the Harlem Globetrotters help a nine year old kid from the audience slam dunk a basketball, but I know it was my innate ability as a natural athlete, even if they did give me a second chance after I missed the ball on my initial kick.

Anyway, that's not the weird part.  After the game Holly needed to rejuvenate and retired to a quiet room to rest.  After obligingly accepting my congratulatory wishes, I entered this room to find her laying with her back to the door on a daybed with Gilles seated behind her, kissing the back of her neck.

Gilles was one of the celebrity players - French, suave, graceful, in possession of that rare ability to do everything effortlessly, with style and power.

I knew I had to act quickly to defend her honour and my manhood.  Holly regards me as her protector, so I knew I couldn't let that image be tarnished.

Any of you familiar with my blog knows I'm a bit of an athlete myself.  I've twice completed the 10 km portion of Halifax's Blue Nose Marathon and almost made it to the starting line of this year's Marathon By the Sea here in Saint John.  Of course, I also starred for the Armdale Executioners street hockey team.

Not wanting to end Gilles' soccer career, I decided to try to avoid giving him the physical thrashing he really deserved so, from my jacket pocket, I produced a sample size vial of Chanel Bleu.  You know what I mean, those little glass bottles that spray minuscule amounts of fragrance on you.  The bottles that look remarkedly similar to the vessels that contained precious stink-bomb fluid often used by unruly young boys.

As Holly whimpered lightly beneath his advances, clearly mistaking his soft lips for mine, I stealthily sneaked up behind him and pumped two squirts of the venomous liquid into his eyes.

He looked at me with the terror a coyote sees when bearing down upon a young rabbit and blinked a little.  The ingredients Chanel uses for their wares were apparently not as formidable as I had hoped.  Holly, confused by the commotion, turned to see Gilles' mildly irritated eyes, mistaking them for tears of sadness and then angrily assumed that I had done something to hurt his feelings and make him cry.

It was then that I awoke to voluminous feelings of anxiety and fear.  Holly is concerned that this is happening far too often and insists I look into counselling, but I told her I could handle it myself.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Peas and Carrots

My wooden Sherwood hockey stick stands guard behind our back door and, on occasion, I'll grab it and a tennis ball and head out to the driveway to fire a few shots at the workshop or the foundation.  I'm not certain of its age, but it's not new.  Do they still sell wood sticks?  In green felt marker, at the top of the shaft before the black, unraveling knob of tape, are block letters spelling the name T. Kerr.  Tim was my favourite player of the time, taking over from the man who sported the same number twelve with the Flyers before him, Gary Dornhoefer.

Most waking winter hours of my childhood were spent emulating the heroes of my youth playing street hockey.  Do kids play street hockey anymore?  I can honestly say I've yet to see it in my nearly two years in Saint John.

My fantasy hockey team name is a tribute to the "team" my friends and I formed - the Armdale Executioners.  I still have the old blue Duo-tang with our inked logo on the front containing the loose leaf that held our self-recorded stats.  Few of us had the money necessary to enroll us in organized hockey, so we gave ourselves a name and would play like-minded groups of kids from adjacent areas, most of whom were playing some level of "real" hockey.  This gave us the hunger needed to show that, even though our parents didn't chauffeur us to various rinks, we could play too.

My best friend, John, his brother Jeff and I were the main components of the team.  John and I often took on teams sporting lopsided numbers just to have the chance to play.  Sometimes we lost, but more often than not, we didn't.  I have the papers to prove it.

Akin to Forrest Gump-like peas and carrots, John and I had an uncanny ability to compliment each other.  Once a school year, our junior high gym teacher, Mr. Mackenzie, someone who avoided putting weapons into teenage boys' hands, would break out the plastic sticks and netted goals and break us up into floor hockey teams.

One year, for the first and only time, we were put on the same team.  Teams were then divided into three-minute shifts.  We were finally placed on the same shift for the final three minutes of the class and we made the most of that time.  Before Mr. Mackenzie's whistle, Webster, a classmate we often played against in our neighbourhood, told the opposing players to "watch out for John and Kevin."

Every time we took control of the ball, we scored.  I don't recall exactly what our total was, but it was legendary.  We knew this would only last three minutes and we played frenzied, focused hockey.  The other team didn't have a chance.  With time winding down, I set up behind the goal line to the left of the net.  One opposing player pressured me while the other two covered John, leaving our centre open in front of the goal.  I wristed the ball over their defence and watched it ricochet off Darren's stomach and into the net.

The next year Mr. Mackenzie did not put us together when floor hockey came up on his schedule.

That was more than thirty years ago.  Peas and carrots are a less-familiar dish these days too.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Shining Star

There are a number of singers that you know you should see, but for whatever reason, don't know if you will ever receive the opportunity.  Bif Naked falls into the category for me.

Her popularity soared in the late '90s, yet somehow escaped me until a number of years later and then I found out about her being diagnosed with breast cancer and, as with all her fans, was scared.  Respectfully selfish, I subconsciously accepted the fact that I may not ever get to see her in concert.

Imagine my elation when I happened to check the website for Saint John's Imperial Theatre's upcoming events and saw that Bif was scheduled to come here!  Without any hesitation I bought tickets - third row centre (because Holly doesn't like the front row!) - and anxiously awaited concert day.

Imperial Theatre
Bif Naked Supporting Saint John Animal Rescue

Her often brutally honest lyrics give insight to her personality and beliefs, but given that this show was to be acoustic, I did not know what to expect from the concert.  I didn't care.  What I did know was that someone overflowing with talent could not give a bad performance.  Her songs are normally hard and even angry sounding, which sets you up for the surprise of your life when you see her in person and discover there really is nothing hard or angry present.  Everything about her shines.  Bif's vulnerability is unsettling because you just don't expect it.

The stage consisted of two stools; one for Bif and one for Jacen Ekstrom, each with their chosen instruments - her voice and his guitar - and a small table beside Jacen.  Their chemistry is easy and fluid and a fine match.  That aforementioned vulnerability works with this onstage relationship to deliver Jacen as a sort of broken-family son to Bif - her protector even if she is calling the shots.  And it works.

I was awed by the quality and strength of her voice.   Knowing the acoustic aspect would highlight any weaknesses and having only really heard her behind the usually heavy, loud music on her albums, my preconceptions had me mistakenly believing this style would take something away from a 'normal' concert, but this was definitely not the case.  The focal point became her vocalizations and spotlighted the intended intimacy, allowing the concert goer to appreciate that this performer was showing us her therapy - ridding herself of her demons and, in the process, empowering herself right before our eyes - and instructing us to do the same.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


Saint John shone and shimmered during its Saint Strut event to support the Saint John Regional Hospital's pediatric department, as five hundred gathered at the Delta Brunswick to celebrate fashion, film and architecture and I, in full support of my lovely Holly, played the fly on the wall while she toiled.

Being alone at a public event presents on opportunity for many things and I could have made myself extremely useful, networking our studio or making new connections, but it served more as a time for observation, rejuvenation and absorption - both of the atmosphere and, after paying the $40 ticket price, the complimentary glass of wine.

Vessel in hand, I drank in the many wonderful donations for the silent auction, noticing a couple familiar names on the bid sheet showing their "Kilroy was here," bidding early for recognition.  I bumped the price on the bottle of Chanel No. 5 a whopping fifty cents.

This wasn't the only area in this upscale event where those trying to look as though they fit in stood out from those that actually did.  All seemed to sport fine attire, but most did so effortlessly while those who pushed their club-wear to another level stood out in a way they were likely hoping they wouldn't.  Mel, I'm not necessarily talking about that hideous shirt - I don't think anyone would actually wear that to a club.

I settled into my chosen seat, as the majority of the crowd was doing, and took notice of one exotic couple that was working the room like peacocks, not really making contact with others, but making certain everyone saw that they were present.  She, younger than he, led the way, as their fingers formed a possessive bond that sent a message to the room - this one's mine - as though it was only this contact that held the relationship together.  Both were tall and attractive, she wearing a tight, stylish dress that ended just past her bottom, and he looking like an older Mike Bossy - distinguished yet athletic and powerful.

At the intermission I spotted the opportunity to check in with Holly (and claim possession of her wine glass) then, after resigning myself in error that dessert consisted only of cheese, grapes and crackers, found the holy grail of delectable sweets and was brought right back to elementary school class parties when my best friend and I would gorge ourselves so quickly and egregiously that we would spend most of the time in the hallway nursing our ridiculously upset digestive tracks.

My hat goes off to the organizers and participants who all had a hand in delivering a unique evening of fashion, film, architecture and fundraising.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Art has Power

Many emerged from their homes, eyes not used to that foreign orb in the sky, to an October Saint-John-summer-like-day making them amiable and thirsty for anything outside of the confines of their residences.  That meant many strolling the uptown sidewalks, alert for anything that fills more than their survival need, opening the space in their minds to the satisfaction the arts can provide.

Whether or not they realize art is a need, though not necessarily primal or immediate, they become more willing to entertain the thought of spending good currency that has accumulated in their bank accounts.  That's when they will enter such a radical place as an art gallery.

Early afternoon saw two young girls enter cautiously, skillfully scanning for the dangers new territory can provide, sporting backpacks and soft vinyl lunch boxes.


A smile lit the first girl's face and her posture became noticeably relaxed, "Hi."  They began to take in the treasures around them.

"Oooh," followed by some murmurs as the girl pointed to something on a shelf so her also-Asian friend would take notice.

They moved on past the boutique to the gallery section, drinking in the paintings.

Coming full-circle, the girl stopped at the cash to inquire about the item that first caught her attention.

"Is Meaghan Smith CD for sale or part of the display?" she asked quietly, in good, but somewhat broken English.

"It is for display.  If you really want it, I could probably sell it to you and order another from Amazon though, that's where I purchased that one."

"Oh.  Yes, please.  I tried to get it at HMV, but they said they don't carry any of Meaghan Smith's anymore.  They told me I would have to buy it from Amazon, but I don't have a credit card.  I could pay with debit?"

"The miniature paintings with the CD are also by Meaghan Smith.  Do you follow her on Facebook?"

"Yes, they are so cute.  She very talented."

"Is $15 for the CD okay?"  I couldn't remember how much I paid, but thought that should cover it... I ended up being off by 75 cents... I'm not going to make money this way!

 "Yes.  Thank you very much."

She left the store atwitter, like something you'd see in a '50's teen movie, with her friend, only having to return a couple hours later to retrieve the lunch bag she left behind.

"Oh, sorry," as I passed her the square case, "I was too excited," she explained apologetically.

In between her visit I was pleased to welcome a lovely lady we lease a parking space from to our studio.  Being the beginning of the month, she was nice enough to offer to come by for her money so she would be able to see this new entity.

As I offered information about our artists and artisans, we were both able to share some personal details and thoughts about our lives and the places and people that inhabit them.

"I like this a lot," as she paused at one painting.

"He's from Fredericton.  I like his work very much and that is one of my favourites."

Fingers to lip, as she took a slow step back to absorb the piece.  "Yes.  That is nice."

She turned and continued to take in the rest of the works as I tutored about the artists.

"I don't like that stuff," pointing.  "That sort of stuff doesn't appeal to me."

"No, art has to speak to you and they all have different conversation styles."

We were back at the front and I took out my wallet to pay for October's parking."

Almost surprised, she said, "I'd like to place that as a deposit on that painting I like."

Art has that power, that ability to touch you when you're not expecting it, but are mentally open to the possibilities.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Young and the Restless

This city breaks my heart.  Even with all its natural beauty and past splendor it is having a horror of a time trying to keep up with the rest of the world.  I have stated before how happy garbage day makes me, although it may simply be the notion or ritual involved with purging your home of its waste, but a troubling thought has recently entered my head:  what if the city's attempt at a recycling program is merely a way to reduce the waste management budget?

Think about it.  Instead of picking up our recycling like other cities, they have us cart it to easy-to-manage depots, essentially eliminating a large portion of our household trash from the garbage routes.  I have seen days where the garbage truck pulls up and the driver has to get out and put the trash into the back, then return to the driver's seat and pull up to the next house.  There is nothing efficient or safe about this, although it does seem to keep the employees from loud tirades of profanity.  Nevertheless, we can now add sanitation engineers to our resume.

Saint John is not a city where you can expect to have any measurable quality of life without owning a car, so try thinking about carting waste on the bus or by foot.

Then I started wondering what kind of market there is for the materials we are recycling which led my brain its next illuminating realisation:  maybe this stuff isn't even being recycled; perhaps it just ends up as trash anyway.

I thought about contacting Anderson Cooper or, at least, Rick Mercer, but it dawned on me that by simply putting the words in print I'll soon get an answer:  if there's truth to this, I won't hear anything; but if it's not true, the city will bring suit.

Mel Norton, the strapping young hero that felled the mighty and terrible Ivan, has Saint John swooning and basking in his eminence.  The men all want to be him and the ladies want to be with him.  I'm pretty certain I was woken from my slumber the other night by Holly tossing and passionately calling out his name, although she wants me to believe she was telling me to "move over."  The simple truth, for me, is that I have a difficult time putting my faith in a mayor who seems content with the past administration's decision to address animal management concerns by removing cats from the bylaws.

Please, young Mel, see the opportunity you have to lead this city toward a semblance of its former glory.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Cats and Dogs

In Saint John, as well as all of New Brunswick, we are reaching the eve of the municipal elections and, as dull as that may sound, it is the talk of the city.  The council presently in court is attempting to offer for re-election with upstanding decisions such as removing cats from the city by-laws and animal control services, as announced by the Animal Rescue League, and, well, let's just say 'pension fiasco' and leave it at that.  (I bring up that last item because nobody can fathom the idiocy and because I'm hoping I'm not going to be sued for stating my opinion.)

One thing is painfully clear, the reign of Ivan (The Terrible) Court has to come to an end, but I'm not going to harp on this subject because telling people not to vote for the fat man would be like telling them the sky beyond the Saint John fog is blue.

Returning to the animal control problem, it concerns me that the current council has missed the painfully obvious solution and hope the newly elected (come Monday) will implement the path to economic independence for this city.  I can see collective heads nodding in approval as everyone reads this.  There is a bountiful free range, pesticide and drug free (they drink from puddles, not Saint John water - damn, is that another law suit?!) food source just ripe for the plucking in our literal back yard: those stray cats and dogs.

Every problem is an opportunity, so instead of looking upon the situation as a financial burden, these frisky critters can be collected, processed and sold locally, heck, globally.  I am a vegetarian, but if I chose to eat meat, I see no rational reason why these felines and fidos can't be the perfect source of protein and cholesterol for city dwellers.

Think of the publicity.  Saint John, stop trying to tout your dulse (who the hell actually eats that?) and peddle poodles.  Kitty can keep your family plump and happy.  Animal groups in Toronto estimate anywhere from 100,000 to 250,000 stray cats in their city, so a little entrepreneurial ingenuity could see huge profits as four legged friends are trucked into Saint John like wood chips heading to the mill.  I wouldn't recommend using this seemingly unending supply of meat for pet food though, that would just be wrong.

So, if the candidates for Monday's election don't have their heads in the game, feel free to pass the word on to Matthew Thompson; notify Joseph Allan Callahan; and, for goodness' sake, tell Mel!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Sunday Outing

Holly and I needed to visit the local emergency room for a follow up doctor's appointment.  In New Brunswick, where you will need more than a four leaf clover and a lucky horse shoe to find a family physician, this is typical, but the norm seems to be to hope your medical problems go away or metastasize into something extremely nasty that will get you seen by a doctor, albeit too late.  At least I believe that is the province's plan for reducing the ballooning cost of health care.

During our three hour spring Sunday afternoon wait at St. Joe's - that is the affectionate moniker St. Joseph's Hospital is known by in Saint John - we were privileged to observe some of the local characters sharing this same adventure.

Laura is a nine year old who came in with her mother and two older sisters for, what seemed to be, a typical outing.  Nobody seemed particularly perturbed about having to visit a hospital as the mother acknowledged the security guard by name and guided her family to the number dispenser like some African plains' creature, where she made certain each had their own.  Mom, as Laura liked to yell in repeated staccato bursts until being told to pipe down, had achieved her three hundred pounds for the prized flowered moo moo that adorned her pale white figure years ago and was using this formidable presence combined with her stiff, angry voice to assert her dominance just as she had undoubtedly had to do through her childhood to obtain the necessary food and attention while learning to use the power of an unattractive body over potential predators.

Little Laura, with her thin frame to match her thin, somewhat greasy straight dark brown hair, would light up when receiving the attention she sought from her mother in the form of a verbal assault and make her way toward her sisters with pride on her face and her fingers and thumb forming the shape of the letter L, adding "Loser," under her breath as she neared earshot of the one entity that represented both older siblings.  Laura could easily be mistaken for a boy were it not for the puffy sleeves adorning her blouse.

Her sisters had gravitated toward a pair of girls they knew from school that were looking very important with the texts that were constantly leaving and entering their cell phones.  These two, who could have been anywhere from 13 to 16 years old, were both thin and sporting clothing designed to highlight this and complement the over-applied makeup.

To our right had sat an older overweight (though not quite obese) man breathing and, sometimes, coughing loudly through a tracheal stoma and his lady, who resembled an older and even more weathered version of Laura's mom.  They had entered the triage room just before Laura's group had entered.  Upon returning to the emergency waiting room, they were greeted by Mom yelling with her normal voice as she ambled toward the couple, "Dad!  What the hell are you doin' here?"

"He took a walk in the woods and fell."

Mom maneuvered her ample frame into the couple's personal space, never lowering the volume of her voice.  "Alone?" she blurted, turning her head accusingly to the woman, then looked over her shoulder, "Look Laura, it's Grandpa."

This went on for some time while the nurse behind the glass completed Grandpa's registration and the herd moved the show to the seats in the centre of the room, providing a much more entertaining and apt spectacle than the Nascar that someone - someone who had undoubtedly left the ER long ago - had tuned the television channel to.  Laura's mother's cell phone then announced an incoming call with loud country music and she held the phone to her face to read the ID before flipping it open and answering it, "Whaddya want, Mom?"

Grandpa's seats were taken by a young man and two young women, all looking far more tattered than their years should suggest, who had just said nonchalant hellos upon recognizing each other.

"What are you here for?" he asked the one with longish dark hair and dark featured face.

She had an abscessed tooth, it turns out, but returned the inquiry and was told that he needed some money Saturday night, so signed himself up for the local mixed martial arts fights, even though he wasn't expecting a victory.  Now, it was time to get the souvenirs from his match looked after and the conversation flowed like Crosby's molasses until we heard them mention another girl they knew.

"She would lick a guy's feet for a thousand bucks," said the dark featured woman.  Noticing the negative reaction this drew on the faces of her listeners, she added, "What?!  Money's money.  I'd do more than that for a thousand."

It was somewhere around this point, well over two hours in, that Holly and I moved to the second, smaller empty waiting room where we put the television on HGTV and hoped we wouldn't miss our names for our chance to see the doctor this go 'round.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Think Outside the Box Store

The sun is shining, a pigeon couple is eating the expired cereal I scattered in the backyard, freshly clean laundry is actively drying on the line, Robin Gibb is starting a joke with his brothers on my iTunes, our grey girl cat, Lily, is sleeping peacefully next to me, and the stiff breeze is keeping the pulp steam below the tree line.  This is the sensory present from my office window.

I've long pleaded and tweeted for things "good" about this city.  I'm like a spelunker looking for the light in the darkness... or fog.  Lo and behold, I've stumbled upon something that fits that category - the Uptown small business merchants of Saint John.

Ever since joining Holly to found a local cash mob I've been witness to a lot of positive energy.  The retail business owners seem to bind together like miners searching for release after a collapse.  Shop life is perilous in such a tiny, volatile market and they seem very aware that positivity is what is needed to survive and, hopefully, thrive.

A cash mob is a group of people who come together voluntarily at a predetermined location to find out where they will venture out and "mob" one lucky store with twenty dollars of their very own hard-earned money to spend.  It is hoped this influx of cash one retail owner receives will lead to an awareness of the importance of local business and local stores, leading to long-term customers who are willing to think twice before heading to box stores for every item on their shopping list.

I don't know if this cash mob thing will accomplish these ideals or not, but while the twenty plus people headed toward Robin's BeadWorks I was very aware that I enjoyed being a part of the seemingly minority that are actually doing something about making their city a better place instead of just complaining or sticking their heads in the sand and pretending that Saint John is Utopian.  Both of these strategies accomplish the same end result.

The next cash mob for Saint John is scheduled for Saturday, April 21st at 2:30 pm and the mob will meet outside Barbour's General Store Museum.  I hope even more people show up to show their support for those willing to put their livelihood on the line to stay in this city.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

What Would Jesus Do?

My pants seem to all be wearing in the same spot; just above the rear pocket on the right side.  Maybe it's from reaching for my wallet too much, maybe I hike up my jeans too much.  It doesn't matter, I just knew I needed some new comfortable, every day jeans and this was my thought as I was in the neighbourhood of a Saint John thrift store, so I took a chance they would have something that fit the bill.

The non-clothing items in second hand stores are always far more interesting than the clothes (maybe that's just a guy thing?), so I perused the books, CDs, games, household items and office supplies and spotted a hard cover journal with a cross and some initials on the front.  It was empty and the writer in me can't resist clean new paper for only $1.49, so I tucked it under my arm and headed toward the men's section.

There was actually a large selection of jeans in my side - Gap, Old Navy, American Eagle - I hit the jackpot.  I took three pairs and went to the changing room to see if any of these fit and qualified as "comfy."  I hate changing rooms and I hate trying on clothes, but it's definitely a necessary evil at a second hand store.  My hands were somewhat full and the book was awkward with the pants, so I tucked it under one pair to carry them easier.  Inside the fitting room, I set the clothing down and the book slid out.

For some reason my mind pondered the idea of how easy it would be to stealthily sneak that item out of the store without anyone being any wiser.  No, I'm not a thief by any means, so my next thought turned to the embarrassment of sitting in court while the crime of stealing a buck-and-a-half item from a thrift store would be read out loud to the judge and anyone else in attendance.  It was then that I looked at the book and noticed for the first time the words on the cover, "What would Jesus do?"

I'm not even joking.  I tried on the jeans, selected the two that fit best and took them and the book to the cashier and, yes, paid for them.  The universe has answers, if you just open yourself to them.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

At Your Service

Valentine’s Day is fabulous; unless you’re single or married to Chris or Bobby Brown.  Being poor can take a little off the shine too.  But I’m not single and I really can’t consider myself poor, so I ventured out toward one of the local flower shops to pick up a little bit of admiration and awe for Holly.

This holiday outpouring of love and loose purse strings would have to be one of the best days of the year for those peddling fanciful weeds.  At least that’s what I thought.  While waiting on my flower choice to be packaged, a cashier commented to another customer, “Next year I’ll have to remember to stay retired.”  It was only eleven in the morning.

This is something I’ve encountered, and often noticed, around Saint John.  People are not happy.  Yes, it’s winter – everything’s practically dead and even the emissions from the Irving pulp mill bellow thick and heavy, taking longer to rise into our atmosphere – and twenty below, but it’s a day of love and hearts bursting with happiness.  And flowers are flying out of the shop doors while the coffers rise.

Still, I have rarely come across anyone happy to be working in this city.  I know it’s not my view because people are noticeably less unhappy in places such as Halifax and St. Andrews.  Especially St. Andrews – people almost appear to be drugged with some joy elixir visiting that town, but that’s another article.  One of the least ways to promote your business and lay the seeds for a repeat customer is to share your bleak outlook to someone happily handing over their hard-earned money – especially when their heart is so full of light and love, at least before you squashed it.

For background noise last night we put the television on House Hunters International and were introduced to a couple that sold their Hawaii condo to buy a large house in Fiji.  Holly and I looked at each other, knowingly thinking the same thing (which we do often), and commented a little incredulously that they felt the need to leave the horrible confines of the Aloha state for another tropical paradise while we focused on the mind-numbing freezer of our surroundings.

Is this what makes inhabitants here angry?  Halifax and St. Andrews are slightly warmer than Saint John.  I’m not sure if that’s the reason or not, but we’ve started pricing homes in the tropics, if only to give warmth to the imagination.