Thursday, October 23, 2014

No Longer Safe

As I write this post, on a late Wednesday afternoon, the warm sun setting the yellow fall leaves outside my window aglow, under a clear, blue sky, I know that the story is still ongoing, still unfolding, with many questions unanswered, and a city and country standing in awe.

With my city core still in a lockdown mode, with people who began this day like any other day, now a part of this story, I see that Ottawa is no longer the city it was. Just last night, after attending an event in the Byward Market, I drove home, passing the War Memorial and Parliament Hill, and I remarked, as I always do, on what a beautiful city we live in. On how lucky I am to live here.

This spot has always been a place to stop, reflect, and give thanks.
Now, this spot marks a senseless tragedy.
I have stood at the very bus stop where the attacker left his car. Never before have I ever thought that an extremist gunman could pull up, shoot a sentry, run across the vast lawn in front of our seat of government, enter the premises, and continue shooting.

While extremist groups have made threats against Canada in the past, I have always convinced myself that those radicals were far away, that the threats weren't real. And so I've never considered that any attack could really come home. Canada, and especially Ottawa, was safe, even though we are the capital and that if anyone was going to commit an attack on our country, they would most likely start here.

Ottawa is no longer safe. Today, it's a different world in which we live.

Throughout the day's events, I couldn't help but worry about all of my friends who work within the affected area. With reports of multiple armed assailants on the loose in the downtown core, I feared for my friends' safety: it's a big city but can be surprisingly small.

Fear has a knack for getting the better of us. And once it has us, it can be hard to shake.

But we shouldn't live in fear, we shouldn't cower under these attacks, nor under the threat of further assaults. We must continue to live our lives, to make Ottawa and Canada one of the best places in which to live.

This attack also makes me angry. I am angered that our peaceful city has been disrupted, that our safe community has been made less safe. But our mayor has said it well: we are angry over what has happened, but we should not let anger rule the day.

I cannot understand what would cause a person who has grown up in this country to want to take away the freedom and peace in which we generally live. Living in an open and democratic society, why would you want to perform any act that could change this society into one that is closed, that could become a police state?

Ottawa has changed today: it is no longer safe. But that doesn't mean that it cannot be safe again. It just means that to ensure we stay safe, we must be vigilant.

My thoughts on this event are fresh, and I realize I haven't had the chance to put my thoughts into perspective, that I haven't heard the full, accurate story (conflicting reports are still being sorted). Right now, we are a changed city. Only time will see how these changes stick.

My thoughts and condolences go out to the families of the victims and to all of the people who have been affected by these events. I am grateful to those first responders and all of those who have kept this city's citizens safe and informed while the situation continued to unfold.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Making Memories

Some of them, I hadn't seen in 25 years. Maybe longer.

Our profession had been making memories: taking spent film from people, newly returned from vacations, celebrating a birthday, or wedding, or new life. Photographs captured, made into prints, there for those people to view again, to relive that time.

We made memories.

We sold the equipment to capture those moments: all the accessories to help make capturing those moments as optimal as possible. We provided instruction on how to best use the cameras, how to compose a frame to make the best impact, how to adjust for light conditions. We sold the film—and it was only film, back then—for the best lighting, or the fastest speed. Some film was better for capturing blues and greens; others, for reds and yellows.

We formed bonds with our customers, knew what they wanted. We were entrusted with taking their film and getting the best-quality photo that we could, in the time frame that worked best for them. We earned their trust, and when we did so we guaranteed that they would return, would tell their friends and family to come, so that we could make their memories, too.

But we also formed bonds with our co-workers, made our colleagues friends. We wouldn't only get along at work, but we would also socialize after hours.

Some of them, I hadn't seen in a very long time. Some faces had changed, but names were remembered. Some names were, sadly, forgotten. Some people hadn't changed at all.

Some of the people, I didn't know directly but had seen at Christmas parties, had spoken with, over the phone. A few, I knew only by name.

I attended a reunion of Black's Camera employees this weekend, and it was a step back in time. It was great to see my old manager, my old regional manager, and other colleagues from the various stores in the Ottawa region. It was great to reconnect, and the memories came with the gathering.

I remembered when, as a young assistant manager, how I had gone on vacation to Florida and had returned with a pierced ear. How, when my manager saw it, he asked me to remove it, said it looked unprofessional, stood out from my shirt, slacks, and tie.

This was in the late 80s, when not many men had ears pierced.

The next day, our regional manager arrived for his regular visit to our store. He was a kind, soft-spoken man known for compromises and building positive work environments. I approached him, making sure my pierced ear was out of view, making sure to approach him from an angle, the left side of my face turned slightly away.

"So, what are your thoughts on pierced ears?" I asked.

He gave it some thought before speaking. He always put thought ahead of action. "I don't know," he said, "I don't personally like them but I could never stop anyone from getting one." He paused. "You got an ear pierced, did you?"

I turned to face him straight on. He looked at the gold stud, smiled softly.

"It doesn't look that bad."

I told him about how my manager wanted me to remove it.

"He can't force you to. If he gives you trouble, let me know."

Nothing more was said. And my manager never spoke about my earring again, which made me think that our regional manager had had some words after we finished our talk, when he when into the back room to meet with the manager.

It was good to see this regional manager again at the reunion. I always had the highest respect for him. I like to think that when I try to be fair with the people I encounter, to try to do good by others, that he had some influence on me.

One of the managers that I spent the most time with (not the anti-piercing manager), also imparted good values upon me. He not only taught me valuable photographic tips, but he also taught me to be a good sales person. He gave me confidence and showed me that you can forgive people for mistakes—I once quit, with no notice, with few people available to cover for me, for another job, but when that job fell through, this man took me back, made me his assistant manager, and still encouraged me to follow my dreams.

I was so happy to see him at the reunion, with his wonderful wife, when we could catch up. We promised to keep in touch, and I will keep that promise.

When I worked at Black's Cameras, we made memories for customers. But we took memories for ourselves, too. And this weekend, I was privileged to relive those memories.

Some 25 years later, I see how they have made me who I am today.

I'd like to give a special thanks to Andrea for making the reunion possible. Thanks for helping bring back the memories, Andrea!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Music Monday: Little Talks

I first heard Of Monsters and Men on Saturday Night Live, when they performed the song Little Talks. I liked the song so much that I looked them up on iTunes and had their album downloaded before the song on the television was over.

I really like the sound of this Icelandic band, with their call-and-answer-styled lyrics, sung by Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir and Ragnar Þórhallsson (I have no idea how to pronounce their names). Little Talks is a fun song with an equally fun video that Terry Gilliam would be proud of.

Have a watch and listen.

Over the past year, my friends and I have gathered downtown on certain Saturday nights for an evening of karaoke. When Lori and I decided to sing a duet, this was the song we sang. It's been a while since that night, so perhaps at the next karaoke evening, we'll sing it again.

Happy Monday!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Photo Friday: Autumn Smoke

The colours have really popped this season. Red, yellow, and orange leaves of the maples and birches have contrasted with the evergreens in the Gatineau woods. And though the weather has been agreeable, the rain at a minimum and temperatures well above normal values, some still cannot resist the urge to put a log on the fire and cozy up.

It's autumn, after all.

If you have a chance, get out this weekend and see the leaves before the wind takes them from their treetops.

Happy Friday!