Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Max

The last time that I saw him was about a year ago, maybe longer. He walked into Mill Street, with his grandson, and sat on the other side of the main bar from me, facing me but not noticing me at all. He looked smaller than when I had last seen him make a public appearance, his hair much thinner and greyer than the days when I knew him, when he was a regular customer at the camera store.

In those days, he would often come in just after the lunch hour, dressed in a suit, ready for work. He didn't drive himself there: he had a driver. He liked a lunchtime drink, and I could usually smell a bit of it, but that didn't matter. He was always kind, always friendly, always had a smile.

There were some people who dropped film off, regularly, for processing. Often, out of curiosity, we would look at the printed products in the envelopes, curious as to what sort of subjects filled their camera viewfinders, what sort of images they had composed.

Never his. He was a big name. He was a pillar of the community. And we respected his privacy.

At Mill Street, the bartender, Pete, served the man a half-pint of pale, yellow ale. An Organic Lager, I guessed. I drew Pete's attention after he delivered the glass. "Make sure his beer goes on my tab," I said. "His money is no good, here." Pete nodded, smiled. I went back to my tablet, continued the writing that I was doing before I noticed this man enter.

From an early age, I remembered seeing him in my neighbourhood, which wasn't far from where he worked. My family and I would see him, like us, pushing a shopping cart through the aisles of Robinson's IGA, in the City View Plaza. When I was in my late teens, partying at the night clubs in Hull, my friends and I would see him every once and a while, walking along the strip or getting out of a car. You knew that wherever he was going, there was going to be a good time.

I watched him on TV almost every night. And while my decision to go into journalism school is not attributed to him, I think my lifelong interest in the news is due, in a large part, thanks to him.

"I understand that you are to thank for my drink," he said, having come up to where I was sitting. His grandson was still sitting across the bar, smiling.

"It was an honour, Max," I said. "You won't remember me, but for years I served you at Black's Cameras in the Merivale Mall. But I do think you'll remember my mom." I said her name and he smiled.

"Yes, of course. How is she? Is she still in the flower business?"

If anyone has ever seen a broadcast of CJOH News, with Max Keeping, you will remember the colourful boutonnières that he wore, almost every night. My mom made those for him, back when she owned a flower store on Baseline Road, near Greenbank. Personal Petals was its name, and Max was a loyal and longtime customer.

"She's been retired for some time," I said. "She'll be glad that I saw you."

"Please give her my best," said Max, "she's a lovely lady."

We chatted a little longer before he returned to his grandson, and they left Mill Street.

Max was a big part of the Ottawa community, known mostly as a champion for the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario, but his community service touched practically every facet of this city. He was bigger than his on-screen personality as the anchor of the dinnertime news.

He gave so much for this city. Buying him a beer seemed like such a small act. But when he came to thank me, when he talked to me and gave me his undivided attention, when he smiled a truly genuine smile, it didn't matter that he didn't remember me. He made me feel as though, from that time forward, he wouldn't forget.

Rest well, Max. And thank you.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Where In Ottawa LII

I have to say, I've wanted to shoot this spot for years.

I've walked past it plenty of times, have wanted to learn more about the place, and what better reason to delve into it than to put it as the 52nd location for Where In Ottawa?

If you're new to this photo challenge (and even if you're a veteran, pay attention, because the rules have changed, again), here are the rules:
  • If you think you know the location of the structure in the image, leave your guess in the Comments section of this post. Answers sent to me by Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, or any other method than by writing a guess in the Comments section do not qualify for this challenge. I will not reply to any other form of guess.
  • If you were with me when I took the photo, you may not participate in the challenge.
  • If you have won Where In Ottawa in the past, you may still participate.
  • You may leave as many guesses as you want.
  • Starting tomorrow, I will leave clues to the location in the upper-right column of this post, adding a new clue each day until the challenge is solved.
  • If the challenge has not been solved by 17:00 EST on Friday, October 9, the challenge will end and I will reveal the location on Monday, October 12.
  • There is no prize for winning the challenge. You only come away with a feeling of pride, having proved that you know this city.
  • The winner will be announced at the first available opportunity.
That's it. You may have noticed that I will no longer be providing a photo clue each day. The shot from this post is the only image that you'll see until the location is announced.

You can do it.

Think you know Ottawa? Prove it!

I kind of like how I've captured the advent of autumn with a leaf that's blowing by the window.
 And good luck!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Photo Friday: Patterson Bridge

I pass by it almost every afternoon, on my drive home from work. Across the canal, many motorists, cyclists, runners, and pedestrians pass over it, perhaps not even aware that the structure is beneath them.

It's more prominent in winter, when the canal is open to skaters. Those who want to experience the full length of the world's largest skating rink must glide under it and come out again.

I drive past it, along Colonel By Drive, and I notice how the late-afternoon light reflects off the water and illuminates the curved concrete. When the wind is still, the mirrored reflection can be breathtaking. I have seen the bridge, and every time I've looked at it I have wanted to stop the car, pull out my camera, and capture it. But you can't stop on Colonel By Drive: there is no room to pull over. There are few side streets on which to turn, and those are far from where I can see this short overpass.

And so I crossed over, at the Pretoria Bridge, and got onto the Queen Elizabeth Drive, headed into the Glebe. I found parking on O'Connor, near Second Avenue. And from there, I walked back to Pretoria, back along Colonel By, until I came to a spot across the canal from Patterson Creek Bridge.

All for a couple of shots.

There is another spot, further along the canal, that I think would be beautiful in the early morning light. Again, finding a place to park is a challenge, and soon the leaves will change colour and fall. Soon, the canal will be drained in anticipation of winter. So we'll see if I make the shot in time.

But there's always next year.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Working Out

After months—dare I say, years—of wanting a place where we can exercise in the comfort of our own home, we have finally made a space in our basement that we can officially call our home gym.

We bought a Total Gym® exercise system before any of our kids were born, back when we actually had a room on our top floor in the house. Back then, we had our master bedroom, a guest room, and a home office, which had extra room in which to set up this rolling platform and pulley system. My wife and I would use the apparatus a couple of times each week, plotting our routines on personal charts.

With the Total Gym and a weekly spin class, we weren't fitness gurus but we did keep the fat at bay.

When our first daughter was born, we converted our office into a nursery and moved the desk from our office into the guest room. The Total Gym, which could fold into a size that stored easily, was moved under our bed, and would come out when we wanted to work out. Only, as our busy lives were happily consumed with our new bundle of joy, the Total Gym came out from under the bed less often, and then not at all.

Spin classes continued, less frequently, though we were able to drop the kids off with the grandparents when we needed to get in our cardio workouts. I also bought a bike, which I would use a couple of times to get to work. It was a hybrid, and after a couple of years I eventually graduated to the road bike that I have today.

More than a year ago, as our visits to spin classes began to wane, my wife convinced me to invest in a spin bike for the home. It wasn't a high-end bike, but it worked. The only trouble was that with two growing kids, we really didn't have the space for it. And so, we set it up in our family room, the intention being that one of us would use it while we watched TV.

Only, the noise that it makes while everyone is trying to watch television is distracting. It's fine to be alone in the room—you just crank the volume on the TV while you crank the pedals—but because the family room is a central gathering point, it's hard to be alone in that room.

One of the cranks also broke in the first half of the warranty period, and we were without the use of the bike while we waited to replace the part and fix it.

Early this summer, my wife found a sale, at Sears, for a NordicTrack® treadmill. The device was half-price.

"But where will we put it?" I asked. "We don't even have room for the spin bike that we don't use. Or the Total Gym."

"We'll make space for all of them in the basement," was the response.

The basement: better known as the black hole of our home. The basement was where we put things that we had no intention of using ever again. The basement was where we stored things that we wanted to sell on Kijiji but never did. The only items of value in the basement were our deep freezer, the pantry, and the cool, dark corner where I stored our wine and my beer.

For years, we have talked about finishing the basement. For years, we've come across items that were now deemed junk, and actually did throw them out, only to replace those items with more junk. We once carried a sofa to the basement, thinking we would make a space where we would relax. That sofa soon became stacked with other items, became a resting space for the cat and the odd mouse. When we first deposited that sofa in the basement, I said the only way that it would come back upstairs would be in several pieces.

This summer, we hacked that sofa to pieces, and carried them to our curb for garbage collection.

Over the summer, we have made a concerted effort to dispose of items in the basement, to sell them off on Kijiji or toss them away. We cleared a corner where our youngest daughter could set up a drum set and practice without feeling surrounded by junk. We rolled out carpets to mark territories. We moved a TV stand to a useful spot and hooked up an old television and VCR. Our daughters moved their gaming systems to the basement and set up some chairs.

My wife and I cleared out enough junk so that we could set up the treadmill. It's so heavy that I told her, the only way it's coming back up is in pieces. I'm hoping that I'm gone before it is. Perhaps, if we ever move, we'll leave it for the next residents.

As soon as the treadmill was set up, I carried the Total Gym down and set it up beside the NordicTrack.

And finally, this week, we carried the spin bike down to join the other pieces of equipment. As soon as it was set up, I rode on it for an hour, followed by a 10-minute workout on the Total Gym, while my wife tried out the treadmill.

Near us, our kids played Super Mario Kart.

We've been in our house for more than 15 years. With the changes to the basement—simply clearing space—I feel as though we're in a new home.