Thursday, September 29, 2016

Throwback Thursday: Dad and Son

Yes, we were both drunk. It was the only time that he and I were ever drunk together.

I don't remember what brought my dad to Ottawa on Canada Day, in 1995, nor do I remember why I chose to invite him to party with me, downtown, on the day before my first wedding anniversary.

The assistant manager to the Inniskillin wine boutique had held the second annual Canada Day party in the wine store, which was across the street from Parliament Hill, on Metcalfe Street. He had held the first party on the previous Canada Day, and that party turned into an impromptu, second stag for me.

I got very drunk on that day, too.

I wouldn't say that my relationship with my dad was estranged—not at that point, anyway. But it was a strange relationship. In 1995, he was trying to build our relationship to something bigger than it was, always telling whoever cared to listen about how my sisters and I meant the world to him, that there was nothing that he wouldn't do for us.

Except, be around for us when we were growing up, or when we needed him.

He would always have harsh words for the British—the "Bloody Chirps," as he called them—and wouldn't be afraid to share that opinion when he was in public, when he had an unwitting audience, much to my siblings' and my embarrassment.

And yet, here we are, getting drunk together, on a Canada Day, in a wine shop across the street from Parliament Hill.

The look in my eyes makes me laugh to this day. They're saying, "I can't believe he just said that," or, "get me out of here."

What was said as that photo was shot is long forgotten, but the looks on our faces is very telling of our relationship at that time, leading toward when we finally became somewhat estranged, had a falling out of sorts.

In a couple of weeks, I'll take a moment to remember that 15 years ago, he died. I wonder what our relationship would have been like, were he still here. Would we have grown closer or moved farther apart? What kind of grandfather would he be? Would he be a better granddad than he had been a dad?

When I see this photo, from more than 21 years ago (I just realized that my dad, in that photo, is only four years older than I am now), I only hope that when my kids are older, and we share a drink together, they won't have that same look if I put my arm around them.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

On Debate Night

There's a reason why I listen to CBC Radio's The Debaters. Topics are meaningless and the debaters area always guaranteed to make me laugh.

Rarely, do I watch the political debates in Canada, because they are not particularly interesting and I never make up my mind about who to vote for in listening to the candidates: by the time the debate rolls around, I already know who I'm voting for.

I expected last night's American debate, between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, to be entertaining: mostly, because of what I thought The Donald would say, whether he would shoot his mouth off or what half-truths and outright falsehoods he would sputter. He went up against a career politician and, like her or not, she mopped the floor with him.

Biggest zingers of the night: when Clinton went after Trump for not paying contractors for their work. She added that she was glad that her father, a fabric printer, never worked for Trump. Clinton also defended herself when Trump claimed she had no stamina: she countered that when he has visited 112 countries, to come and talk to her about stamina.

And one more, from Clinton: "Donald just criticized me for preparing for this debate. Know what else I prepared for? To be president."

It was hard to watch the American debate without my own biases, but I did listen to both sides very carefully and tried to take each candidate for how they presented. And I have to say that I thought Clinton came out on top, for calling Trump out on facts, for criticizing his stance on foreign relations, his treatment of women, and his cavalier views on nuclear weapons.

To me, Trump seemed to be mostly on the defensive, while Clinton took an offensive stance without coming off overly aggressive. She made her points without too many cheap shots, and I think that will ultimately help her in this campaign.

Trump, I don't think, won any votes when he explained that perhaps he didn't pay contractors for the work they provided because he didn't think they did a good job. And yet, he says his hotels and casinos are the best in the world.

And he said he's smart for not paying taxes. Hmm... 

Clinton made a good call, I think, when she looked at the camera and told Americans to get out and vote, to vote as though their country depended on it.

Still, the debate was boring as hell. There were few solid sound bites, there weren't the stupid Trump claims of building a wall on the Mexican border and making the Mexicans pay for it.

I didn't find the debate all that informative or entertaining. And maybe that's why I'll stick to listening to The Debaters.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Long Time Coming

It was my first day on my internship, and he was going to throw it out.

I don't remember his name because we were rarely in the office together, rarely spoke to one another, and it was nearly 30 years ago on a six-week gig.

At the end of my journalism program, I was placed at The Ottawa Citizen for my six-week internship, and I was placed on the Entertainment team. Jay Stone was the editor and the person to whom I reported. He was disappointed with me right away because I wasn't one of the cute girls in my class who were working on the City desk.

But for my first assignment, I was sent downtown, to the Parliament Press Gallery, where the government was announcing that recording artists would be receiving larger royalties for the songs that they released on their records. At that meeting, I got a chance to meet and talk to Canadian music legends, Burton Cummings and Randy Bachman.

My first day as a newspaper reporter was a good one.

Back in the newsroom, that now-forgotten reporter was clearing out his desk: not because he was going anywhere but because he had accumulated a lot of swag from interviewing musicians, actors, and other entertainers. While he cleaned house, and while I got my notes from my first assignment together, we chatted and he offered me some of his swag.

Because I had no context for most of it, I respectfully declined. But he had some audio cassettes and as he was about to throw them in the garbage, I started looking through the small pile. Nearly all of them had been opened and most of the plastic cases were cracked, but my eyes fell on one unopened and intact case with a simple green cover and only numbers printed on it.

The album, and the band, was 54•40.

I had never heard of them but thought I'd play the cassette when I got home and, if I didn't like the music, I'd throw it out or pass it on.

The first song blew me away. "Baby Ran" was a solid-driving rock tune and I loved the deep, near-monotone lyrics that Neil Osborne delivered with power. The other hit song from this album, "I Go Blind," had me hooked.

Over the decades, I knew the band for their other hits: "One Day in Your Life," "One Gun," "Unbend," "Casual Viewin'," "Nice to Luv You," "Ocean Pearl," "Plenty Emotion," "Since When," and my personal favourite, "Snap." There are so many more songs that get my toes tapping and have me singing along, but over all this time there was something missing from my being a fan.

I had never seen 54•40 live.

Last year, while looking at a list of upcoming shows at North on 29, a barn-turned-music venue on the outskirts of Carleton Place, I saw that this Vancouver band was scheduled to perform in January, on DW's birthday. Because my wife is also a fan of 54•40, I thought it would be great to take her to the show.

Sadly, North on 29 closed its doors shortly after I saw the listing and just before I was going to purchase tickets to the show. I looked on the band's Web site to see if they had chosen another venue in the Ottawa area, but saw nothing.

Enter Beau's Oktoberfest.

I was planning to go to this annual beer festival, anyway, was planning to cycle from Ottawa to Vankleek Hill, as I had last year. This year, I was hoping for good weather and no wind, so that I could actually complete the 100-kilometre ride (the wind killed me by the halfway point).

But when I saw that 54•40 was going to perform on the festival's opening night, I changed my plans. I couldn't be there late on the Friday night, drinking beer and bopping to great tunes, and expect to ride the next morning. Plus, with my ongoing home renovations, Saturday wasn't going to be possible, anyway.

I bought the tickets for Friday and spent months, anxiously anticipating the show.

The band rocked.

The band played a lot of their hits, playing only one new song (which was great), and I exhausted my vocal chords singing along. It was great to have DW with me, as well as some good friends. My only regret is that the show was too short, lasting only an hour.

And no "Snap."

Beau's Oktoberfest is always a worthwhile event, even though it takes more than an hour to drive out to it. With 54•40 playing, it was even more worth the drive.

And, after nearly 30 years as a fan, I've finally seen the band live.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Photo Friday: Zen

It's a long way from being finished, but we're starting to see progress.

Where there was once demolition, we have new colours and new flooring. Our home renovations are well underway.

DW is totally at peace with the progress.

Happy Friday!