Thursday, October 30, 2014

Jian Ghomeshi Thanks Us

Living anywhere in Canada, even Saint John, one can't escape the #JianGate (the hashtag that was trending that night) scandal that began, for most of us, Sunday with a Facebook post by Jian Ghomeshi - a post that would be immediately seen by people that literally "like" him - is a continuing nightmare of a roller coaster ride that has taken another turn with another Facebook post by Jian moments ago:

His now infamous Sunday post was met with a tremendous outpouring of support for the radio show host that was combined with an equally vitriolic condemnation for the CBC.  Since Sunday - a black Sunday in many ways - it would seem as though all of Jian's fans have experienced a slap, punch, choke hold, or something of that metaphoric nature, as shown in some of the comments from his latest Facebook post.  While there are still some showing support, they are in the minority.

Here are some of the highlights - remember, this is less than an hour since Jian posted.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Murder at the Saint John Free Public Library

We already know how much I like the Saint John Free Public Library, so it should come as no surprise that with them kicking off the Fog Lit Festival by hosting the event, Lunch and Learn with Debra Komar, I was there.  That and the fact that they had brownies.

Debra Komar is a retired Canadian forensic anthropologist with a specialization in genocide who has ingeniously combined her interest in her field with Canadian history, tapping into the morbid fascination we have with murder, and then she made it local.

She delivered an engaging, suspenseful talk, including everyone and everything from Billy the Kid, Anne of Green Gables, Jeffrey Dahmer, O. J. Simpson, and the US Presidential race to introduce her current, past and future books dealing with historic Canadian atrocities in which she has brought current forensic science to make the reader the thirteenth jury member.

Her present novel, The Lynching of Peter Wheeler is set in tiny Bear River, Nova Scotia and combines racism, the workings of the media, and a cop with his own agenda to weave a most intriguing story that, although set more than 100 years earlier, tells a story that echoes those of today.

The Fog Lit Festival continues in Saint John through October 5th, 2014 and features a slew of entertaining events and workshops.  Visit them on their website, Facebook or Twitter to learn more.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Support Your Local Library

The Saint John Free Public Library - the emphasis is on "free" because it is Canada's first free public library - is a golden opportunity to expand your horizons right at your very fingertips.  I don't intend this to be about the history of the library, but the hows, whys, whens and wheres are just too interesting to omit.

The idea first germinated in 1874, but was put on hold because of the Great Fire of 1877 - it's tradition to bow your head at the mention of this reverent event - so it didn't reach fruition until 1883 when it occupied a room at the City Market.  From there it went to the Masonic Hall on Germain Street and in 1904 it finally had its own splendid building - thanks to a donation from Andrew Carnegie, no less - on Hazen Avenue.

Increasing circulation is a challenge for all libraries and, apparently, the powers that be were enamored with the success of their idea to open the Maritime's first library branch in a mall on the west side of the city in 1967, so in 1983 the main branch was moved from this treasured bit of architecture to Market Square - a glistening modern atmosphere so perfectly suited that it seems it may possess the same interior as it did then.  As I said, they must have loved that mall idea because the east branch is in a mall too.

Now that our history lesson is over, let's get back to why it's in your interest to make use of the borrowing resources contained within the cement walls of your library.

First, it's important to note that the Saint John library is just a cog in the vast New Brunswick Public Library system. This means you can borrow from any library in the province.  Now for a wonderful annotation to this fact: until recently CDs and DVDs were not transferable within regions - I know, that made no sense whatsoever - and there were often two copies of the same album in one region, but none in any other region, let alone your own.  But now that restriction has been lifted, so rejoice!

Next, while the library system doesn't have the extensive inventory available in most of the modern world, you can take solace knowing that if there is something that you want, there won't likely be much of a wait - it doesn't seem as though anyone actually borrows from libraries in Saint John.  Before moving here, I used to make good use of my privileges at my branch of the Halifax Public Library where I would put items on hold, sometimes having to wait weeks for one of their scores of copies to become available, then having to find my name alphabetically amongst walls of shelved material that others had put on hold.  There's none of that here - my first trip to a branch in Saint John saw me asking the librarian to do all the work, having to find my name in the little shelf of requested items while all I had to do was wait and watch.

As an aside, I have The Essential Bruce Springsteen serenading me as I write this article, proving there is some fantastic material to be found.  This is relevant because in other library systems borrowing CDs or DVDs is often futile, having to hope the item isn't too scratched up to actually play - especially on the old, run-down equipment I employ.  Springsteen's vocals, put on this CD in 2003, come clear and unscratched - well, as clear and unscratched as a Springsteen vocal can sound - looking as though the item was just purchased yesterday.

The hours may seem a little odd for a city library, some may even think they would contribute to the lack of circulation, but they do have a drop box with padding at the bottom to try and keep the contents of that special CD together, even if you forget the rubber band it came wrapped in.

Finally, I'd like to let you in on my secret on how I do a little extra to support my local library.  It used to bother me if, when I was in Halifax where their financial pockets seemed a veritable bottomless pit of wealth, I managed to rack up a fine.  Here they will actually extend the due date by a few days, so don't fret if the due date seems too soon, but should I not be able to make it on time, I just view that as my little donation to an important community resource (even more important if it was actually utilized by the community) and know that the item will be waiting on the shelf for me the next time I'm in the mood for The Boss.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Meeting Justin Bourque at a Sport Card Show in Moncton

Moncton, the Hub City of the Maritimes, was recently terrorized by Justin Bourque, a resident of a local trailer park, and as I watched the story unfold from the unnervingly safe distance of Saint John, I became aware that this person was strangely familiar to me.  That’s when I remembered a conversation I had with this individual at a collectors show a few years ago.

CS (cowardly shooter seems an appropriate moniker, since I wasn’t aware of his name until recent events):  Whoa, cool!  [Pointing at a 1974 OPC hockey card of Larry Robinson] Check out the facial hair on that dude.  And that stare, that’s intense – you can see the determination in his eyes.  I wouldn’t want to run into that guy in an alley.  How much?

Me: It’s only $5, it has a couple soft corners.

CS:  Don’t we all.  These old cards crack me up.  Look at the sideburns on some of these fuckers.  And the goalies didn’t wear masks, that’s real boss.  Men were really men back then, everybody fightin’ and shit – not held back by those pansy-assed pigs in stripes.  They can’t do nothin’ these days, they’ve even added an extra pig to suppress those players even more, but who’s watchin’ them?  [He looked up, making eye contact with me for the first time]  You know what I mean?

Me:  [A little unnerved by his stare] Well, the league watches them, I would imagine.

[Thankfully, he looked back down at the cards]

CS:  Yeah, sure, a fuckin’ whole hell-of-a-lot of good that does.  They need another player in that role, maybe some bad-ass retired fighter who knows what it means to have to be out there every game tryin’ to live your life without the man getting all in-your-face about it.  Fuckers.  You got a Claude Lemieux card?  He was a cool player.

Me:  No, I didn't bring any.

[His eyes see something in my case] Oh, fuck man, now we’re talkin’ – it’s a goddam Patrick Roy rookie card!  Can I see it?

[I hand him the card]

Here’s a real man, he goes about his job quietly, while others keep trying to humiliate him, show him up, but he keeps blockin’ that little fuckin’ puck and givin’ them the finger and, when they least expect it, boom!  He fucks them up – pummels some wimpy little American goaltender that’s too cowardly to even drop his gloves.  That dude's got his shit together.  [He looks up at me again]  His son plays hockey too, did you know that?  [I nod and he looks back down to the card]  What a great father, I wish he was my dad.  I bet he doesn’t slap his kid every time the little bastard does something stupid.  Some day I hope a girl will let me have a kid with her.  I’d be a great dad.  No stupid fuckin’ rules for my kid and I’ll teach him to hunt and fish and all the important stuff you need to survive in this fucked up world.

[He pauses for a long time, seeming to look at the card, but his eyes have glossed over and it’s clear he’s not exactly present.  Then he gives his head a shake]

How much?

Me: I need $200 for that.

CS:  Yeah, I thought so.  Some day I’ll buy all the Patrick fuckin’ Roy rookie cards I want and all those fuckers will wish they were me.

[He looks up at me]

I’ll show them, I really will.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Through the Wire

I'm a big music fan; it's vital to my mental wellness, my creativity.  I've been a music reviewer for a large website.  My tastes are varied - my favourite playlist may switch from Paul Robeson to Frank Sinatra to Die Antwoord and then Stompin' Tom.  Tori and Bowie are my heroes and I flew (Holly knows that flying is not something I embrace eagerly) to Montreal a few years ago for a Tori Amos concert.  I'm still kicking myself that I didn't join my friend, John, on a trip to see Bowie in Moncton so many years ago.

It's hard to believe it's been about ten years since I was first introduced to the music of Kanye West.  I saw a story on him and the terrible car accident he was in which led to the hit, Through the Wire.  I hadn't heard of him before that, so I bought the song, eagerly looking forward to that moment when you "discover" something great, a musician that makes you go wow.

I cued the song in iTunes after it downloaded and pumped up the volume and I still remember my reaction.

Hmm.  Okay.  Well, that was whiney.

I didn't play it much more after that and I missed the 99 cents I'd shelled out.

Kanye drifted out of any remaining consciousness, but I'd hear more about his passion and his Taylor Swift interrupting rants and would continue to give him a chance - yup, more iTunes purchases followed by more meh.  I saw him on the Commons in Halifax in 2006 in the rain.  Hey, his jaw was wired for that first experience, he deserved another chance, right?

Hell no.

There are times in your life when you need to stop giving chances and face the reality that the situation isn't going to improve.  That's what is happening living in Saint John - and I'm not alone.

This Sunday past, a young man in a wheelchair took a trip to the North End McDonalds for some treats for he and his family.  Leaving the franchise's Main Street location he overturned his wheelchair in an intersection and had to drag himself and his means of transportation off the road before the light changed, his food spilled all over the street.

What's awesome is that two ladies got out of their car to offer assistance and to make certain he was okay to get home.  It seems they may have even looked after the ruined food.  I learned about this in a heartfelt Kijiji post Cody placed to thank the women.

I do hope these two Samaritans know just how huge it was that they made a horrible situation better.

CBC picked up the story and in a subsequent interview I learned Cody and his family returned to Saint John after living in a city in Ontario where they actually realized the streets and sidewalks do not have to be like this - other cities manage to keep their citizens safe.  In fact they are questioning the ability to remain here and experience any quality of life.

Well, I learned via many experiences, including Kanye West, that there comes a time to cut your losses and move on.  I wish I could say there was hope that the conditions in this city will improve, but I don't see it.

I have learned that my experiences with Saint John have been echoed over and over by others spanning many years.

I hope and wish I will be proven incorrect, but I'm doubtful.  The constant automotive and pedestrian conditions back me up.  That doesn't mean I'll ever stop trying to make the most of any situation I'm in though.

Now, let me leave you with some lines from Kanye, so that you can compare the differences in character between he and Cody, the 20 year old that has gone through 74 surgeries with his condition and still remained as positive and grateful as he has:

When the doctor told me I had a um.. I was going to have a plate on my chin,
I said dawg don't you realize I'll never make it on the plane now,
It's bad enough I got all this jewelry on,
Can't be serious man.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Winter Abuse

When Mother Nature slaps us with a seemingly inordinate amount of weather, we feel it emotionally and physically.  Shoveling out for the third time in nearly the same number of days with wind whipping up frozen pieces of moisture, driving it back upon our exposed, innocent faces as we attempt to direct it away from our homes suppresses our spirit and pains our bodies, but we understand.  We are not blameless in all of this since we knew what we were signing up for by choosing to live here.  This is a Canadian winter in a Canadian city.

What really hurts is when another, lesser courter, becomes abusive and the promises that were made when that relationship was blossoming go unfulfilled.  And then, repeatedly, beyond the courtship and into the marriage they continue that misconduct, never able to live up to their vows or admit responsibility.

Abandoned Sidewalk Plow

We'll keep you safe, they tell us.  We'll protect you and your family and provide a place you can live, thrive and raise your children without fear, without concern, and you'll be happy.  You can grow old here and bask in the wonder and satisfaction that you've made a wonderful choice.  You will matter.

Communities court each and every one of us to either live there or remain there.  They tell us that if we pay our taxes and invest in the locales, monetarily and voluntarily, there are services they will provide that will protect us and confer security and safety.

When they renege, we hurt.  The emotional upheaval that occurs because of their neglect is real and legitimate.

"Sidewalk" Five Days After 1st Storm

A battered partner, we are humiliated and have to choose our next course of action: stay and, in all likelihood, continue to be abused; stay and try to fix our batterer; or leave and start fresh, albeit more aware and less naive because of our experience.

Some may lash out in desperation, accomplishing little and looking, well, desperate because they are so vastly outnumbered by those that have already given up, become mean and bitter, and are just trying to survive the ordeal without any real hope for the future. Those victims have realized the offense internally, fretted over the amount of work it would take to change anything, and resigned themselves to the situation, even defending the abuser, telling others how wonderful he is and how lucky they are to have him.  But when we tell them that not all partners are like this, that other places handle their responsibilities efficiently, that it's not like this everywhere, we see the pain in their eyes in that moment's hesitation before they respond, "It's not?"

Saint John Bus Stop

Denial doesn't help you, your children, your acquaintances, or the violator.  It's time to want more for those that matter in your life - and yourself.  This is a Canadian winter in a Canadian city, a Canadian city that is supposed to be able to handle Canadian weather and meet their promises to keep us all safe and content.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Stocking Up at No Frills

There's a blizzard warning issued for tomorrow, so with Holly working, I was sent out to pick up some groceries for ourselves and her mother.  Her mom needs cat food.  Well, the cats need cat food and that trumps anything.

Since I hate crowded grocery stores - or crowds in general - I decided an early morning trip to be wisest.  This plan brought me to Drew and Jen's No Frills (it used to be Dave's, but I'm not sure what happened to Dave) around nine am, where, after loading the necessities (including some rather scary looking baby spinach that is supposed to be good until the 31st of the month, which sounded more like some highly wishful thinking given their sad, wilted look) into a Walmart cart to avoid having to fish for a quarter in seventeen below temperatures for a heavy duty No Frills cart, I maneuvered myself into the lineup at the only open checkout.

After a few moments I noticed we really weren't moving due to an older lady - sixtyish perhaps - at the front of the cash searching her pockets for some money to pay for her groceries.  Her longish graying hair was pulled back and tied into a ponytail, exposing the weathered skin on her face.  "How much do I need?" she asked the cashier, who had begun to look around for some assistance with her awareness of eyes from those in line looking for her to take control.

"The total is $9.59 and you have $4.77, so you need... just a second," and her focus shifted to her calculator.

The older lady, the calmest personality involved, gave me the impression of a stage actor a little bored of a too familiar role, continued to reach into pockets and glance alternately from her food to the amount displayed on the register.  After a few minutes, which seemed longer for everyone present, a lady about three customers back came forwards and asked the cashier if she could put the difference on her debit card.

At this point a rather managerial-looking man (Drew himself perhaps?) had come to the front of the store and picked up the phone and called for another cashier over the loudspeaker, for which he received thanks from the young cashier.

The older lady casually thanked the person paying for her groceries, tied her hood tightly over her head, placed the last of her food into her plastic bag and left.  By this time the line had thinned thanks to the other checkout being opened.  The lady who paid was paying for her own items now - a number of bags of Covered Bridge potato chips on sale for $2.50 per bag, quite a bargain for this local treat, prompting me to grab a bag for Holly and I - explaining that she only likes the sea salt and cracked pepper flavour.

After my items were rung through, the lines back to early morning quiet, the second cashier asked the other, "How much was she short today?"

Friday, January 3, 2014

Dog Sitting in Saint John

You may or may not know this, but Holly and I have a pet sitting service.  For pet sitting, the holidays are busy times and we've been doing an overnight stay with a German shepherd, a regular customer, since Boxing Day.

Here's a summary of the events through the dog's mind:

Day 1 - Yay, they're home! Woof, woof! I knew they wouldn't be gone long so soon after Christmas.  Woof!  Hey, what, aw it's that shifty guy again.  How long is he going to be around?  Where's the girl?  I like her.  Okay, I'm up for a good walk, but why is there so much ice over everything?

Day 5 - Finally, it's past six, about time you're up.  What's the matter, did my barking last night wake you?  You try being left alone in the kitchen with only a rubber ball for entertainment for the entire night.  It's hard to find good help these days.  Oh, by the way, there's a lot of that white stuff all over everything outside.  You don't plan on walking me far in that shit do you?

Day 6 - Here he comes.  Hey, what happened to you last night?  The girl and I watched a movie together.  You were tired?  What do you have to be tired about?  Try trudging through that white stuff with it up to your shoulders, then having you watch me while I take a dump.  Good dog, I'll show you a good dog.

Day 7 - It sure is getting cold.  What was all that gunfire-like noise coming from Uptown last night?  Why was I barking?  You kidding me?  I was pretty sure we were being invaded.  Fireworks?    Maybe they should plow the sidewalks so you're not tripping all over my ass on those crazy streets.

Day 8 - They're gone again.  She's gone. And she left me here in the kitchen again.  Where does she go at night?  It better not be to see Mr. Shifty.  That movie was good though.  Madeline Kahn cracks me up.  That's what holiday weather should be like. And just what do they mean by "dog smell?"  What was that?! Woof!  I don't see anything.  Damn, it's cold.  Woof!  I don't trust that plant in the sun room.  Woof! Woof!  Woof!  It keeps looking at me funny.  Yes, I ate my poop, don't judge me!  Woof! I miss the cats.  There's a lot of cats in this neighbourhood, but I miss them when they're not around.  Why don't they just stay indoors and stop complaining about the cold though?  Stop looking at me, plant!  Woof!  My stomach feels a little funny.  Where are my moms?  Is it morning yet?  Oh, God, it's still watching me.  Don't make eye contact.  I'll go back to the kitchen and bark there.  Woof!  I can still see it.  Why won't it stop looking at me?  I feel all funny - dizzy and I can't breathe.  Oh, God, I'm dying!  Breathe.  I heard about these on television, they're just panic attacks.  Calm down.  Gah! I can't stand it!  Grr! Woof! Grrr!  There, I hope you're happy!  I won't feel guilty, you can't make me.  I warned you, plant.  It's not my fault you had to be eliminated.  Finally, I here him coming.  I need to get out of here.  I will poop for you, Mr. Shifty!

Day 9 - Great.  She's gone and the the door to the sun room is blocked.  I only have the kitchen.  Just as well, the plant body is still in there.  And why were they taking photos?  I don't trust those two.  What do I do until morning?  What's that noise?  I can't even look out the window now!  Woof!  I can't even walk in the park because it's so freakin' cold and all that white shit hurts my feet.  My ball doesn't even bounce when Mr. Shifty throws it.  He is good at throwing my ball, I'll give him that.  Woof!  Was that a noise?  Let me look out the window, I'll be good, I promise.  My stomach doesn't feel so good.  Aren't plants supposed to be good for you?  When are my moms coming back?  They poisoned them, didn't they?!  I'm sorry, I'm really sorry, I'll be good!  Oh, God, they're going to take me back to that lady that took away my balls!  Oh, no.  No!  I'll be good!  I'm dying!  I can't breathe again.  Gah!  Grr!  Grrr!

Day 10 - Well, last night didn't go so well.  How embarrassing, I chewed up a good bed over nothing.  My moms are never coming back, are they?  Why is it so cold?  I'm not going for a walk in these conditions.  Cats are hibernating for Christ's sake!  Why are you so interested in my bathroom habits?  Fine, I'll poop, just let me out for a moment, but I'm not going for no walk.  FML.


We didn't get to see the reunion when his owners arrived home, but we're sure he's a whole lot happier and more relaxed.