Saturday, December 14, 2013

Storm Day

There's a snow storm forecast for tomorrow and it's always interesting to watch how different people, businesses and organizations handle such events.

I'm not going to harp on the pathetic street and sidewalk maintenance efforts by the city of Saint John, now it's just a fact, like stating the sky is blue, everyone knows and seems to accept it (it must be like this everywhere, right?) and doesn't see a point in trying to change it.  I must be starting to fit into this city well because I'm now able to take my backhanded slap and carry on with the relationship I've settled into.

Tomorrow happens to be a Sunday.  The second last shopping Sunday before Christmas.  When you're living in a locale desperate for every dollar, you need to do things that may not be terribly safe or responsible - like not clearing the sidewalks and streets as well as they should be for the sake of the safety of your residents or keeping malls open without regard for putting the often-minimum-wage-earning employees in jeopardy - for the sake of economic survival.

I know of at least one mall that has told its retail establishments to track the buses before coming to work.  If Saint John Transit - an interesting entity in itself, taking the Canada Post theory of doing business, increasing rates while decreasing service - pulls its buses off the roads, the mall will close.  There are so many reasons this strategy is so golden, particularly for the employees that took the buses to get to work.

Anyway, I had a friend who was dating a girl who used to use this exact technique for making decisions herself.  Whenever we would pair up with this couple to go out for dinner, she would leave the decision of where to eat to anyone else.  That way she remained free to criticize without having to take any of the responsibility.

The problem in this case is that you're playing a game of craps where someone's safety is valued at the same level as an business's financial bottom line.

And that's wrong.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

First Wordless Wednesday

For today's post, I thought I would go with my first Wordless Wednesday featuring a couple shots by Holly on a recent outing with some fabulous NAS students and local photographer Bill Lapp.

Holly was thinking of me when she took this one
And here's a reminder to remember to look in every direction for opportunity, not just straight ahead.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Songbirds' Lament

The potential promise of warmth on a cold, foggy Saint John end-of-summer night heralded the death of seven thousand lyric dreams, with hundreds more needing to be euthanized.  Countless numbers of songbirds, the inspiration of poets since the poem's inception, perished on a Friday night at Irving's Canaport natural gas plant in east Saint John during a flaring operation that could be mere weeks away from being unnecessary.

The pain one must feel in your heart when coming to work to see that you unwittingly participated in extinguishing such an overwhelmingly beautiful innocence and recognizing a long-thought dead dream in the form of a hurtful twinge as another ember dies inside your body.

There's a lot of pain in this place...

And anger.

Dreams that once existed, only to be replaced by safety  disguised as financial security compacts are less than a memory as more and more fight having to recognize the realization that the promises were false and your new dreams have been built over swampland.

Scent is likely the most overlooked of the senses.  When one is bombarded with too much of a particular offense, you shut down the ability to heed the warnings, as a form of defense, not perceiving the irony in granting the intruder free reign.

Respect the alerts that nature has gifted you and act, before your last ember of hope is put to rest and be wary of the promises that come as a warming glow in a cold, gray night.

Monday, August 19, 2013


I spent most of my Saturday - at least it seems that way - hunting fruit flies.  We bought fruit from Atlantic Superstore and used it right away, but we've been left with a rapidly expanding population of these tiny beasts.

Normally I don't kill anything (excepting mosquitoes or other blood sucking bastards!), but this is war.  I have already learned much more than I need to know about the drosophila melanogaster.  They live about one month, which, judging by the rate of reproduction since yesterday, is potentially a lot of fruit flies.

War takes its tole on both sides though.  The enemy must invade your mind to be successful (I'm thinking I should have read that free public domain copy of The Art of War that's on my Kobo) and you have to learn to think like your enemy to be victorious.

I firmly believe that both sides lose.  With each death I cause I lose something inside of me.  It matters not what I kill or am responsible for killing.  I try to limit that weight as much as I am able.

No matter how fleeting or seemingly insignificant the life of the fruit fly - or anything else - is, they want to survive, just like us.  Perhaps, after this life, their spirit will move on to some other being, maybe even human (I know plenty of humans that don't appear far removed from a fruit fly).  We may too.  Still, we all try to hang onto the present because of that fear of the unknown.  The future just may turn out to be better than we imagine in our thoughts rooted in fear, anxiety and uncertainty.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Great Dollar Store Wars of 2013

When future historians regard the Saint John history annals, the year 2013 may just compare in significance to notable events such as the great fire of 1877 or the start of the Great War because the city and its residents has been thrust unwittingly into the marrow of a fierce battle for supremacy and survival between the warring Dollar Store Plus, located in Brunswick Square, and Your Dollar Store With More on Germain Street.

In an economy that has many retail shops struggling and having seen businesses close their doors, Saint Johnners are gaping with anxiety as someone has had the audacity to challenge the very  existence of a local icon, the mall-bound Dollar Store Plus.

The interloping Your Dollar Store With More has invaded the space once occupied by the venerable Appleby's Image Centre and has begun to buttonhole their way into the pervasive cheap-goods market so affluent uptown.

The tension has formed like a great wall of fog permeating the once hot (okay, somewhat warm)summer air as one tries to pass the streets laden with sandwich board signs directing the consumer this way and that.

To see the horror at its pinnacle, visit uptown Saint John on a cruise ship day to witness throngs of tormented tourists standing in confused agony trying to decide where to purchase those necessary made-in-China souvenirs of their trip to the Loyalist City and Canada.

For some, this has to be better than wrestling or MMA because, in the true spirit of dollar store wars, it's free to watch.  Stay tuned.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Not Dying Today

I've been in awe of the survival instinct in some creatures since I was young.  I admire it and often wish mine was as strong, although hope not to have to test my resolve too much.

About a week ago I was waiting for Holly on Germain Street in our car and spotted a haggard, young, grey seagull with its wing hanging limply at its side cross the street at King and walk hurriedly up the street.  It tugged at my heart and I wished him well, but knew there wasn't much, if anything, I could do for a wild, scared gull.

Yesterday, I rounded the corner of Horsfield onto Germain and there, beside Trinity Dental's brick wall, was the same bird.  He didn't run from me this time.  I carefully passed him, trying not to look at all threatening, fearing he may bolt away into the street or try and fly, injuring the wing more, reversing any possible healing that may have occurred.

After passing, I realized I had a giant bag of dried fruit and nuts I had just purchased in the excursion to Costco the night before, so I pulled some out and tossed him some large pieces of fruit and nuts hoping it was okay for seagulls.

Leaving the studio that evening, he was in the same spot, breaking bread with some pigeons and a crow.  And on my way in this morning, he was there again and I was prepared with a bit of cheap dog food with which we normally feed our raccoons.

I thought the outlook for this little guy (okay, I have no clue how to differentiate sex in gulls) was bleak when I first saw him, but I now have hope that perhaps, with the community's effort for sustenance, kindness and respect, he may have a bit of a chance.

I would hate some dog - leashed or not - to scare him into danger.  Cats in the area, already sentenced to the perils of a life outdoors, seem to be giving this large bird space.  He must have found somewhere safe to await the morning when night falls. He's clearly resourceful and has found a way to survive.

Gulls are a part of our Fundy heritage and give the uptown area a whole lot of character.  I routinely hear the frantic alarm from his kin even from the confines of the studio and who hasn't admired the grace with which they glide between the office buildings upon a current we can't see?  This youngster deserves a chance.

I sent messages to two Maritime wildlife rescues asking for their advice, but haven't heard back from either as of this posting.  It's a shame the nearest wildlife refuge seems to be in Sackville, NB.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

I'm Tellin' Ya, That's Nuts

Since Costco moved to Saint John, destroying trees and displacing deer and other equally adorable critters, we refused to support them, despite the promise of the lower prices that could be involved.  It seems rather like some secret society for the modern western world - you pay a membership fee for the privilege of shopping there, then you're given a sort of secret handshake in the form of savings by purchasing obscene amounts of highly processed consumer goods combined with relatively decent customer service, especially when compared with the uninspired walking-dead cast that seem to make up the staff (and clientele) at Wal-Mart.  At least you don't have to dress in white sheets.

We are not box store types, we founded Cash Mobs Saint John, for goodness sake.  We feel a strangely sickening feeling walking through their brightly lit large, automated doors that makes us think they must have been involved some way with the extinction of unicorns or some equally horrific misdeed.  But, being that we don't have deep enough pockets or unlimited time to search out local everything, we do need to feed their coffers on a depressingly regular basis.

Our comrade, Back-Alley Bill (trust me, that moniker is a compliment), who until recently was a long-time holdout, offered to smuggle us inside as a guest (envision a pledge at some extremely boring fraternity) to see if the savings warranted the sale of a piece of our souls.

We meandered through the aisles, gawking at the volumes like hillbillies newly exposed to city life, routinely stating, "That's a good price," as we passed giant boxes of sugar-laden cereals, pro and pre-biotic infused snack goods, and industrial strength garbage bags.

We drew smirks from the other customers as we gawked at the restaurant-sized container of Nutella and exclaimed, "Yeah, there's a good idea.  Sit that in front of the kids in the morning and tell them to help themselves.  Who would buy that?" we asked each other.

Loading our bag-less spoils into our vehicle, wondering why on earth we purchased a huge bottle of pickled asparagus, we reflected upon the prospect of joining and could not deny that the help our budget will receive is on the plus side, so we may pony up the fifty-five dollars for a membership.  We reason with ourselves by stating that Costco does pay and treat their employees better than other box stores.  The unanswered question is what kind of a hit will our community-minded spirit take?

I must note that the inspired photography of Bill Lapp can be viewed at The New Artisan Studio at 87 Germain Street, Saint John, NB.  Come check it out!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Cone of Assumption

Holly and I have been doing daily visits to one of her mother's cats because he managed to get a scratch on his face, so we (mostly Holly) are needed to keep it clean to avoid infection.  The irritation of the cut causes him to occasionally scratch at his face and, being a cat, leads to more scratches from his hind claws.

Being pet people, we try to be prepared - it's as if we are trying to earn our boy scout pet sitting badge - and have an Elizabethan collar at home, which we put on the foyer table in case we need to bring it to Holly's mom's.

With our bedroom dark and me trying to remain asleep, I heard Holly stir in bed next to me.  "Why would daddy do this to you?" I heard her say quietly.

I reluctantly opened my eyes to find, sitting on Holly, our older male cat with the collar on.  Biggie Boy has an odd attraction to plastic, never able to resist licking any such material in his vicinity and at some point in the night, must have found the collar on the foyer table and stuck his head into this plastic beast - something most animals avoid like a veterinarian with a thermometer - unable to extricate himself from our devious trap.

When I moved into the house two and a half years ago, Holly made it known that I took Biggie's spot on the bed and that I had no right to be angry with him for jumping onto my face at three in the morning because that space used to be for him.  Biggie's an older cat and, along with losing his hearing, may be losing some of his faculties.

At least that's what he wants us to believe.  Considering I got blamed for torturing him with the collar, I find it difficult to accept any explanation other than this was a brilliant, well-contrived plan to restore himself as the male head of the household.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Mourning Mackerel and Doves

There are some lives you mourn, although you may have never met that person and they may have lived long and full, because the world is a little emptier with their passing.  Hearing the news on the radio this morning of Alex Colville's death at the age of 92, that is how I felt.

Images of many of his large, detailed masterpieces will appear in the minds of those thinking of this extraordinary artist, but it was the smallest of his works that first brought him to my attention as a young boy.

Great mounds of maple leaves, stampedes of beaver and caribou, and the oceans of schooners can become a tad repetitive, thus it was the designs on the coinage of Canada's centennial year that made me take notice of the tiny pieces of art that we pocket every day and made me realize that I must have missed quite a celebration in 1967, vowing to live to see our bicentennial in 2067 - envious of the Americans who were so close to seeing theirs.

I wasn't aware at the time of the name of the artist, but it was the clean lines of the dove and mackerel - referred to as the bird and fish by me back then - that turned me into a numismatist.  Of course, the gentle grace of the hare and the splendor of the bobcat were wonderful, but for some reason, it was the former two that I loved the most.

Although I have never met Alex Colville, I can't say I've never had any sort of interaction with the man.  I've mentioned before that I collect autographs.  In  November of 1995 I sent a letter to Alex at his home in Wolfville, Nova Scotia telling him that he was the reason I collected coins and that I would love to interview him regarding the 1967 coinage.  Included was a small index card requesting his autograph.  A mere six days later I opened the envelope he sent back and found the card signed with a note added: "Sorry, but I don't want to have an interview."  Of course, I found out later that there is a book available, albeit not easy to find, all about his trials designing these coins.

Colville openly approached his work as work, something that may not have been cool with the critics and other artists of the time, but was beyond smart as this planned businesslike technique in obtaining a career led him toward a life full of successes on both the personal and professional sides.

He lived with love, respect, celebration, recognition and reward and examining the making of this man would be something I would recommend to anyone, especially a young person with an attraction to the arts.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Fifty Shades of Something

Holly, my wife, has been buying me erotic novels.  She tells me it's because she knows I can write one and they are for research.

"Call them 'inspiration,'" she says enthusiastically.

Hmm, sure.

Holly enlisted the aide of a Saint John book store employee to make her choices.  "Bared to You," by Sylvia Day, is a New York Times bestseller and the first book in Day's Crossfire series.  Her other purchase was a Canadian bestseller called "S.E.C.R.E.T.," by L. Marie Adeline.

Dutifully, I read them, sharing passages aloud that I found most poignant.  Okay, "poignant" may not be the correct word, and while one would think "adjectives such as "shocking," "passionate" or "sexy" would be the most common choices, "ridiculous," "implausible" or just plain "stupid" tended to be the more fitting descriptive entries.

I mean, there's a scene in Adeline's book - L. Marie Adeline is a pseudonym for Dragon's Den producer, Lisa Gabriele - where the main character, Cassie, a young widow from a marriage to an abusive alcoholic who has signed up with a secret group where women empower themselves by embracing their sexuality through a series of sexual adventures, is flown via helicopter to a yacht in the Gulf of Mexico during a hurricane, abandoned by the pilot, then is swept overboard and rescued out of the raging waters by the man sent to make love to her.  Not only does she have passionate sex with this man, she's not at all angry about almost drowning!  This is such a distracting bit of idiocy that I could never get past it through the remainder of the novel.

The writing starts out quite strong, but tapers as the story progresses.  Of course, the idea is gold.  The marketing possibilities, since Cassie gets a gold bracelet charm as she completes each of the ten steps, are endless and brilliant, but I was left with the feeling that the book was written in a very short time span without time for common sense - perhaps Kevin O'Leary was getting cranky or the losing of Robert Herjavec from her show was just too much to bear.

Then there's Sylvia Day's Eva, a very young, wealthy socialite/some-kind-of-working-girl and sexual abuse survivor who falls for a gorgeous, young, impressively-endowed billionaire with night terrors - how can you not picture Mayor Mel Norton for this role.  In the best interest of brevity, let's just say I wanted to like this girl, but ended up despising her.  She's spoiled, whiny and entitled, and treats her bisexual roommate/protector like a servant (don't feel too sorry for him though, he's just as much unlikable).  As much as I hate to admit it, I wound up secretly hoping her step brother would come back to finish her off.

While the thought of reading a sequel to either of these books makes me want to take an icepick to my eyes I discovered something about the grapevine - don't listen to reviews no matter how convincing they sound.  I say this because I heard nothing but negativity about the wildly successful "Fifty Shades of Grey," but wound up uploading the eBook to my Kobo from the library, unbeknownst to Holly.  E. L. James may not have had the professional editing behind her the others did, but she did bring something to the table that explains her book's success: originality.

It is not the stuff of classic literature by any means, but the characters are well developed and true - all of them.  James also has a good grasp of human psychology and seems to have done her BDSM research.  It moves beyond the painful predictability of most erotic novels and inexplicably left me sheepishly yearning for more.  That's right, I'm presently nearing the conclusion to the second book in the series, "Fifty Shades Darker" and look forward to the final book in the trilogy, "Fifty Shades Freed."  Nobody's more surprised than I am, but it is a nice surprise.

Now I keep handcuffs beside the bed - just in case.  Holly's not impressed.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Fundy Library Region Book Sale

One of the great things about living in Saint John is the ability to add to my collection of Nova Scotia related items inexpensively.  Nobody here seems to want Nova Scotia stuff.  May 3rd and 4th marks the Fundy Library Region's 26th annual book sale and I stopped by after closing the studio Friday evening.

I am already enjoying one of my finds - A Basket of Apples: Recollections of Historic Nova Scotia, a reminiscent hard cover with choice photos.  Harry Bruce provides the musings while Chic Harris shows his photography skills, and both are excellent so far.

The inscription on the first page sold me though, "To Dad, Top o' the morning to you.  Love Josie, Randy & Jon.  March 17, 1983," written in blue ballpoint with clean, plain, round feminine letters.  I'm guessing Josie wrote this.  Perhaps dad was from Nova Scotia and had moved here, to the most Irish city in Canada, and started a family and this book caught Josie's eye in a book store back in 1983.

Yesterday's adventures also included a dreaded, but necessary trip to the emergency department.  Thankfully, we were in and out quickly, but with a couple prescriptions to fill, so we headed for the only pharmacy we knew was open after 9pm, albeit only to 10pm.

While waiting for Holly's drugs, I took my blood pressure then browsed the aisles for sales.  After finding a big 100g  chocolate bar on sale for $1.39, with a dollar off coupon attached - a 39¢ bar of chocolate! - I checked the price for low dose aspirin.

Turning the corner, there was only one other person in the aisle, a small boy - looking intently at the assortment of pain killers.  He was sturdy - not fat - with short dark hair and dark features and didn't seem to come up to my waste in height.  Seeing nothing on sale, I noticed in my peripheral vision that he had turned to look at me, staring without reservation the way only small children can.

"I saw you at the hospital," he stated confidently when he saw I took notice of him.

"You did?" I replied, smiling, trying to generate some degree of interest in the tone of my voice, still working on getting through a long day.

"I had to see the doctor and get some medicine for my ear," he told me, pointing out the hospital bracelet around his wrist.

"Well, I'm glad you'll be feeling better soon," I told him, and as I headed back toward the pharmacy counter I recognized his mother speaking with the pharmacist.  She seemed young, but a little more pulled together than most young mothers that can be found at the hospital so often.

"He's 41 or 42 pounds," she responded to the druggist's inquiry, looking back to see that her son had returned from his foray.

Life doesn't always happened as planned, but gems can be found when you need to detour.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Cardinal

You silently requested a cardinal
So many years ago, so it came.
I heard you and, as soon as you were ready, I came.
I listened.  And for as long as you recognize that,
You'll see cardinals and robins and jays.

When I was little - we're talking seven or eight - I wanted a desk.  A big, wooden desk, not unlike the one my teacher sat behind.  One day I came home from school to find one in the spare bedroom that my father had adopted from the Power Commission.  It was huge and heavy, solidly constructed of oak, just like those desks you see people giving away online or for cheap prices at used furniture stores because they weigh too much to move.  I loved it.  Not long after it was left behind because it was too big for the truck carrying our fleeing family to Halifax.  I cried for many losses that day.

My favourite colour has always been red - excepting a brief flirtation with pink when I was just learning the subtleties of childhood rebellion.  I asked my mother to make me red pants when I was little, and she did.  I coloured dinosaurs red, until I was told they should be brown or grey.  I tried to make the Montreal Canadiens my favourite team because I loved the way the uniforms popped on the hockey cards I collected - I couldn't do it though, there's no reasonable justification for liking that team, even for a six year old.

I noticed, really noticed, my first blue jay when I was a young adult and stood outside the apartment building door marveling at the colour.  It wasn't brown or grey or white.  It was spectacular.  Then I wondered why there aren't red birds.  The orange on a robin is wonderful, but they are often so haggled looking, having braved a Maritime winter and orange isn't red.  Why weren't there cardinals in Nova Scotia?  I supposed cardinals only lived in exotic locales, such as St. Louis.

In 2010 I met my soul mate, someone I've been looking for, knowing full well she existed somewhere, since I was born and it wasn't long after that I moved to Saint John.  One day, while standing at the kitchen window doing the dishes, a chore with whom I have a strange relationship, I saw red in the tree.  There was my cardinal.  He had a mate.

I hadn't seen this pair for a couple weeks, they seemed to have been replaced by robins, but this morning I noticed the missus as she coquetted shamelessly with the tiny window on our neighbour's garage, a behaviour she has become known for, as her man waited patiently nearby.  I was glad to see them.

In the animal world, I have learned, red is a dangerous colour.  It is actually a defense.  It warns predators that this is not a meal that will sit well if digested.  I wonder how this applies to my attraction to this chroma.

Now I know that if I truly want something, it will come.  When I'm ready to see that I really do want it, it will be there for me.  And, as long as I know this, it will stay for as long as I need.  I have always wanted a Canadian 1921 five cent piece, but with my newfound knowledge, I think I'll aim even higher.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Minor League Football

While having my hair cut with Barb at Hairacy's, we discussed softball and volleyball around Saint John and I realized that growing up, I lived for sports.  They were essential for my survival.  My friends and I played from when we got up for as long as light would let us in the summer, and immediately after school to bedtime in the winter.  We played everything we could: hockey, baseball, football, soccer... anything.

We usually had to improvise since organized sports in our circle was rare.  A couple friends played hockey at its lowest level, but the monetary commitment and amount of time involved wasn't something to which our parents could or would commit.

This led to the Armdale Executioners street hockey team, The Cowie Hill Open golf course, tennis under a relatively nearby street lamp at three in the morning, and many more extraordinary uses of our rich imaginations along with the desire to be like those kids with the uniforms.

In junior high, I somehow heard of a minor league football team accepting tryouts.

"They provide the equipment," a classmate told me.

Incredulous, but hopeful, I looked in the yellow pages for someone who knew of this place.  A number of well-placed calls eventually led to me being given the number for the coach, I phoned and was told that although I had already missed a number of practices, I was welcome to come.

After school the next day, I walked the few miles to the football field and was outfitted with shoulder pads, those short padded pants and a helmet.  "You'll need cleats and a cup too."

I had no clue how to play organized football.  My friends and I had played lots, but we considered ourselves very lucky if there was four to a team, so rules were improvised.  You played offense and defense.  Positions such as guard, tackle, etc. didn't exist.  And a play consisted of, "I'll fake the hand-off to Jeff, then John will be open in the end zone."

"What position are you trying out for, kid?"

"I usually play quarterback, but sometimes running back," I replied noticing the confident older players currently vying for those positions.

"We'll try you at right guard."

I may as well have been placed on another planet.  Other than the football, the practice equipment was completely foreign and the drills were entirely unfamiliar.  They were out of  play-books, so I was told to try to find time to study a team-mate's.  There was only one on the team from my neighbourhood and he wasn't exactly willing to share.

Guard is not a complicated position, but it's amazingly stifling when you're used to quarterback.  "Block the opposing player, but you can never use your hands or a holding penalty could hurt the entire team.  Yes, he can use his hands.  You can't hit him if he gets past you, that's clipping.  On certain plays you'll need to pull, so you need to know those plays."  It seemed stupid to point out I didn't have a  play-book.

After slipping around the field that entire first practice, my father thought I may need cleats.  He took me to Simpsons-Sears bargain basement and we took a look at what they had available.  There were no football cleats in my size, besides they were pricey.  There was a pair of soccer cleats, an infinitely unpopular game at that time, that were almost the correct size, so we got those.  The only difference between soccer and football  footwear is the missing cleat at the front of the shoe used for digging in and leveraging forward.  I guessed soccer players didn't have to move forward as much and never had to push back opposing players trying to tackle the guy with the ball.

At fourteen, I was certainly able to figure out the importance of a cup, but since I never had one at any other time in my life, it wasn't at all concerning we didn't consider one now.  Just for the record, I don't have any children.

There was an odd sort of unexpected pride felt carrying the football gear to school for practice after it let out.  My photo even made the local paper when a reporter wrote about the upcoming season.  I was throwing a clip as the opposing tackle tried to get our star running back.  I still have the photo  somewhere.

After a number of practices, the coach pulled three of us aside and told us we weren't going to be cut, but he hoped we would try a little harder to learn the plays.  After a couple of the veteran players told us that meant we wouldn't be used on the team, the three of us ended up turning in our equipment at the end of practice.

"When is your first game," my father asked one night over the phone.

"I was cut," I told him.

Friday, March 29, 2013

It's a Good Friday

Like the limbs on the Irish, whose skin was never meant to touch the sun, the main road at the Irving Nature Park is now freckled as the white gives way to the earth below and I was enjoying the bright sun intermittently striking me as I ventured out for my first run of the year at this gem.  The park had plenty of other vermin both scurrying and sauntering across its body as other locals needed to be closer to this promise of warmth as winter finally succumbs to Spring's advances.

My day started at six with a nearly-full moon bright over the St. John River and a grey, frost covered landscape as I rose to take our beloved long-time customer and musically named canine for his morning romp.

Both occasions offered surprisingly few non-human creatures, only spotting another dog and the odd seagull in the morning and a mere crow near the half kilometer mark (working in reverse) of my noonday run.

The highlight of this Easter Friday came at the end of my run, as I walked the peninsula road to cool down.  Gaining on a senior couple walking their dog, the lady reached over, completely unaware of my presence, and grabbed the gentleman's ass.  They chuckled then looked behind whereupon I quickly averted any sort of acknowledgement of witnessing this lovely gesture.

I could not wait to get home to my Holly.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Autographs by Post

I collect autographs.  When you live in an east coast Canadian city like Saint John or Halifax, you have to be creative to obtain signatures from the stars.  So, years ago I began mailing requests to celebrities hoping for a response.

Recently, I found a few letters that were never mailed and I'd like to share them with you because I believe it is important to share some of the secrets that make make you a successful philographist.

Send a SASE (self-addressed, stamped envelope) with your request.  Even though stars make lots of money dancing and such, they aren't going to pay for your stamp.  Add a stamp for a couple extra cents because it sometimes takes years for a busy celebrity to respond and you wouldn't want it returned to sender.  Don't forget about geography either.  That Canadian stamp won't work if the target is US based.

Send a hand-written note requesting their autograph.  Make it personal, but not too long (bloggers should excel at this).  If you have the capabilities, you may want to try one of my patented tricks - write it with your left hand (if you're right handed), it makes you appear younger and makes it more difficult for the person to refuse your request.

On a similar vein, it's not considered to be in good taste to lie to elicit sympathy.  Don't say you have a terminal disease when you don't, but it is certainly encouraged to identify with your particular luminary's struggles to form a bond.

Make certain you send the item you want autographed.  Be it a photo, a sport card or a plain index card, doing this will increase your chances for success and, if they happen to have an extra 8x10 laying around, you just may receive a little bonus.

Don't tell them that you pay their salary by supporting their work.  It doesn't work to get out of speeding or jaywalking tickets and it will ensure your letter ends up in the bottom of a waste basket or tossed out of the window of a speeding  limousine.

Be aware of autopens.  You may get your item back signed, but that doesn't necessarily mean they signed it.  Many who get  copious amounts of requests use this device and it is not considered a true autograph.  Some simply have their  secretaries  sign things.  Margaret Atwood's infamous LongPen puts things in a bit of a grey area, but definitely saves on travel costs for those draining book tours.

Next post will have those examples mentioned above, so be sure to check back to see how to properly word an autograph request to give you the highest probability of achieving your goal.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Different Blades of Grass

The many different shades of green - where is your money being spent?

We hear about the importance of supporting local business everywhere, but do we follow through?  Some of us avoid the large box stores unless we don't have a choice.  Some sing the praises of their favourite shops to friends and family.  Some read about local bloggers' sponsored visits to local stores, some stops even hit twice!  Some have even attended Cash Mobs.

According to statistics presented by The 3/50 Project, $68 of every $100 spent at an independent business stays in a community compared to $43 spent in a chain store.  Naturally, when you make an online purchase at, say, nothing is injected locally.

How does uptown Saint John fare when it comes to supporting local business?

Since Holly and I started Cash Mobs and, resulting from the positive energy we received from that endeavour, opened our own business, The New Artisan Studio, the following uptown businesses have closed their doors:

  • Robin's BeadWorks (our first Cash Mobs destination)
  • Rowena's Boutique
  • Appleby's Image Centre
  • Belly Beautiful Maternity and Baby (moved to Rothesay)
  • Bejamin's Books (not uptown, but needed to mention since this was a Cash Mobs Destination too)
And we hear of more to come soon.

 On a positive note, there are shops opening too.  Exchange on Germain,Classy Lassy and Harrison House Gallery come to mind.

Saint John born Canadian Icon Stompin' Tom Connors died last night and as I listened to an interview on CBC Radio with Jian Ghomeshi from a couple years ago, lamenting the fact that I didn't know as much of this man as I should have, Tom was asked about the changes he's seen in Canada over his life and this uber-loyal patriot expressed his regret that it once meant something to him to be able to say he knew each blade of grass in this country, but now each town has lost its individuality as mega-outlets like Walmart set up their box store replicas.

How many reading have been to the newest Walmart on the west side?

Let's make our lawns unique - support local independent business.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Serena Ryder

Serena Ryder is a fireplug ready to go off.  At her recent concert at the Imperial Theatre in Saint John, NB she delivered life like a gospel preacher before the rapture - no small feat in that venerable space - even getting some dancing in the aisles.

I first saw Serena in concert in Halifax at St. Matthew's Church in November of 2009 and have been extolling her abilities ever since.

Amid the apprehension of an impending storm, Holly and I sat down in the new Ta-Ke Sushi on King Street needing some respite from an unforgiving winter.

"Is she like Sarah Harmer or will she move on the stage?" dance-girl Holly inquired.

"It'll be fun," I smirked back.

Satiated with yam and avocado makimono, miso soup, and green tea, we started, after a quick stop at the studio, on the slippery incline toward the Imperial, found some over-priced chocolate for dessert and were ushered to our eighth row middle seats.

Montreal born Danielle Duval showed her fearlessness taking the stage with only a guitar and her camera as she opened the concert with some songs from her album Of the Valley and tossed in a brilliantly brave cover of Grease's "You're the One that I Want" that was featured on the soundtrack for Californication.

Ryder chose the certain-hit "What I Wouldn't Do" to open the show and showed off the stuff her newest album, Harmony, is made of.  With polished repartee and a few on-stage local guests, she charmed the audience from start to finish, disporting her abilities with various guitars and a small fortress of drums.

And then there's her most-treasured instrument - her voice.  Her self-proclaimed idols - Etta James (At Last) and Nina Simone (anything she wanted) - had nothing on Serena's modulations, despite her recent troubles with "losing" this gift.

Her performances sound so much like her recordings I found myself looking for cues that would signal to me that she wasn't pulling a Beyonce, it's that good and no, she definitely wasn't.

Serena delivers a real show - the band, lighting, technical effects all combine with her vocalizations, intrumentations and dramatic costumes to showcase the smart, tribal, sorceress she has become.

Holly and I left the sermon with renewed spirits and looked out upon King Square to find the ground we expected to be white and nasty was still mostly bare.  It was a March miracle.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A Saint John Adventure

Saint John has been presented as a city of adventure and while this self-proclamation  may make it seem as though there hasn't been a whole lot of adventure since the 1800s, officials seem intent upon living up to this title.

saint john city of adventure

As the snow falls outside the studio, anxiety builds as I recall the last snowfall accumulating something in the vicinity of 10 centimetres.  Lack of preparation combined with a seemingly slow response make travel by car, bus or foot an enterprise not for the faint of heart.

Over 39% of city sidewalks are not maintained during the winter months.  I am not certain why any of this is acceptable in an already pedestrian-challenged city.

The city has a discernibly infinite number of positives and the potential for the future is enormous, but pretending everything is wonderful maintaining the status quo does not help bring that potential future to fruition.

I want more for Saint John.  Do not mistake mentioning areas where improvement is possible as a lack of respect for doing so is a catapult for change - and change is good.  We need more catapults.

Stay safe, Saint John, and if you slip on the ice, get back up and keep to your path.