Friday, July 31, 2015

Photo Friday: Feathered Sunset

It barely moved.

The sun, on its descent, started above it, moved through it, and sank below it before hiding behind the trees.

The cloud remained, as though it had nowhere better to be. Like it was waiting for its friend, the wind, and they would both head out for the night.

It looked like a feather, caught in stasis. It grew more illuminated as the sun got under it, casting a red hue so that the cloud could light up, display as a stark contrast.

To fade only when the light was gone.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

I Remember Cassettes

Last fall, Canadian indie-rock band, The Rural Alberta Advantage, released their fourth album, Mended With Gold. What was surprising for this release, in the digital age, is that they offered this album in a format that my kids would barely recognize.

Audio cassette.

Remember those things? Does anyone still drive a car that has one as a standard feature? Hell, my car and my van each have a CD player, and I can't remember the last time I used them.

But I remember audio cassettes, I remember them with a touch of nostalgia.

I remember buying 10-packs of high-quality tapes. I went through these packs like they were candy, filling them with my favourite songs, writing out the titles and artists in the lined slips, writing themes along the spines—Depression HitsCar ToonsDance Ditties.

I made mixed tapes for my friends, too, loved to share my music. I could make the music flow, ensure that the song that played would mix well with the previous song, see to it that the next one would carry on, wouldn't ruin the mood I was trying to create.

Maybe those weren't just audio cassettes: they were mood influencers. And there were endless ways to personalize those moods.

When we were kids, my sisters and I acted out skits, my youngest sister directing all of them, telling us what to say, getting upset when we strayed from her unwritten scripts. I loved to be the roving reporter, interviewing random people. Anchoring bogus news stories.

We always sang into our recorder, my youngest sister having a great voice, even at an early age, and still to today.

What I wouldn't give to hear those tapes again.

When my kids were small, I recorded their voices, captured the sounds they made when they were only three or four. We dug them up about six months ago, played them for our girls. We remembered the high-pitched giddiness of our eldest, remembered how vocal and fluent our youngest one was before she was even two. Hearing those voices, now gone from our maturing young ladies, brought tears to my eyes.

Audio cassettes, while they don't have the quality of a CD, vinyl, or even, I would argue, MP3, still bring a sense of excitement to the ear.

I haven't made a mixed tape in decades. I no longer have my old stereo components. The last time I put music on tape was in the weeks leading up to my wedding. We didn't have room at our venue, the Mackenzie-King Estates, for a DJ; instead, we sent out song requests, to be written on the RSVPs, and made a list. I borrowed a friend's DJ equipment, and recorded all of the songs on a VHS cassette, which played non-stop for almost six hours.

Would I buy an audio cassette today? No. I can't play them in my vehicles and I only have one machine in my house that can play them. Long gone are the Walkmans that I carried around as much, back then, as my Android device, today.

I suspect that there won't be an audio-cassette revival, like we have had with vinyl. The Rural Alberta Advantage did something unique with there last release, but I doubt they'll repeat it for their next one.

Audio cassettes are a blast from the past that aren't meant to last.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Do Over

If you could go back in time and re-do a day, would you? How would you do that day differently?

I honestly have no regrets. Sure, there are things that I wish I had done differently, but not done at all?


I look at my path, look at the detours. I look at what I wanted to do when I was younger, look how those dreams went by the wayside. I took a different path from what I thought I wanted, and I ended up here.

Would I do over?


I have no regrets.


Leave a comment.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Music Monday: Changes

I get bored, as all folks do from time to time. The same old becomes so old, and change is the only option.
The Brown Knowser has become a formula over the years. I know what I'm doing from week to week, and perhaps my readers have grown to know what to expect. That's not a bad thing, I suppose, and I can see a pattern in where my readers focus, what they like, and what they don't.
My writing gets good viewership, and that's good. I'm a writer, after all, and though I don't always get as creative as I'd like, I keep my mind moving, my fingers moving over the keyboard. My head gets full, and this blog is the canvas upon which I like to let my brains spill.
Sometimes, I know, it ain't pretty.
My photos get good attention, and I like that. More and more, my eyes are seeing things from a photographer's perspective, and there have been many times where I've been tempted to walk away from my day job to be a full-time photographer. But I'm not good enough, in my opinion. When I retire—if I ever retire—I'll have time to pursue that interest.
I love music, am often surrounded by it: listening to it or singing a capella, as I clean house or shower. I love to share some of the sounds that fill my portable device, but each week that I post Music Monday, I feel like I'm cheating. It's not my music. It's not mine to share.
And so I'm thinking of changes.
I'm thinking that this may be my last Music Monday. Even though this regularly scheduled post is popular, I think I want to break away from posting music videos that other people put online.
There's a lot to this post: I have to come up with a song. Lately, I've chosen random tunes from my Android device. Once a song is selected, I have to search to see if I can find a video for the song, and often I either can't find the artists video or I cannot share it because of restrictions. And in most cases, I end up taking the video from some random person's YouTube channel.
So, I steal a song from someone who has stolen the song.
Once I have the song and the video, I then have to think of what I want to write to tie in the song. I research the band, find their Web site (if they have one), and blah blah blah, put together a blog post.
I love music, but I don't think I love preparing it for my blog.
I'm becoming bored and I need a change.
I was going to move my beer reviews back to The Brown Knowser, but my wife rightfully reminded me that Beer O'Clock is the best place to keep those posts, that beer lovers might not be interested in my other posts. I was going to make some changes: move my beer reviews to Thursdays, write on Mondays and Tuesdays, and keep Wordless Wednesday and Photo Friday as is.
But Beer O'Clock will continue where it lives today. I won't post beer reviews here.
And yet, I want changes. I want to do something new.
Until I decide, there will be no changes. Not for now. Maybe, in September, I'll give The Brown Knowser a new look and will introduce something new.
There will be no changes right away. Except, today, with David Bowie's classic hit, "Changes."

Next Monday, being the first Monday of the new month, there will be Where In Ottawa, in place of Music Monday.
Happy Monday!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Photo Friday: Lonely Vigil

There wasn't a soul around.

It wasn't at any memorial, was where the Rideau River tumbles into the Ottawa. Under a lone tree, at the entrance to the Rideau Falls Generating Station.

It's a small tree, separated from the others in the park. A lone tree, and a lone candle, burning silently.

I have no idea what it was doing there, no idea of why the candle was placed there and left to burn.

But it made for a great shot.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

A Role For Which I Did Not Audition

I should have just stuck to the list. I only had to pick up a scotch-bonnet pepper and milk. We weren't completely out of milk, but our 12-year-old daughter tends to drink it like it's going out of style, so we like to be well-stocked.

I should never shop when I'm hungry. I always get cravings for things I should not eat. I have a major weakness for potato chips. Sour cream and onion, in particular. Ruffles, specifically.

I didn't need them, shouldn't be eating something that's so high in unwanted calories, so high in fat. I haven't ridden my bike since the Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour, having learned that cycling with a fractured wrist, no matter how minor, is not a good idea. When I rode to Kingston, I had a bag of Ruffles Sour Cream and Onion chips packed in my suitcase, waiting for me. Having burned a few thousand calories, I had no qualms about scarfing that bag by myself.

Yesterday, I didn't need chips. I really didn't need to walk down the chip aisle at Loblaws, but I was hungry.

I needed to be strong, show willpower. I'll only buy a bag if it's on sale, I told myself. Sure, I had told myself the same thing on many occasions, only to cave in to my hunger and cravings, and buy the bag, no matter the cost.

I turned down the chip aisle, not recognizing its new configuration. Months ago, the store had undergone a major renovation: new colour scheme, department sections relocated, lighting made dimmer, aisles rearranged. My family and I stopped shopping here during the renovation disruptions and got used to shopping at Sobey's and Farm Boy, and even though the upgrades were completed months ago, we rarely returned. I didn't care for the new look and felt like I was shopping in an up-scale store, fearful that the cost of the new look would be reflected in the prices of goods.

I had to go there because neither Farm Boy nor Sobey's carried scotch-bonnet peppers, and I needed one. And so, here I was, my shopping bag in hand, weighted down with four litres of one-percent milk and a tiny, bright-red pepper, and a craving for junk food.

There was only one other shopper in the aisle: a nice-looking blond, in her early to mid thirties, pushing a full cart with her young son of about two. She, too, was looking for snacks.

The chips were now on my right, where I expected them to be on the left-hand side of the aisle, and almost at the far end. I started scanning up and down the shelves as I worked my way to the end, checking prices, looking for sale tags. I didn't recognize some bags, as President's Choice had once again changed their packaging. Had they also changed their flavours, I wondered, remembering that the last time I tried one of their flavours of chips, I didn't like it.

Down the aisle, closer to the woman and her child.

Potato chips are insanely expensive. I remember when I was a kid, living in the town houses off Bowhill Avenue, behind the K-Mart Plaza. At the Dominion grocery store, I could buy a small bag of chips for a dime. I have memories of buying chips at the same counter where my dad bought his cigarettes. For some reason, that memory always has me buying the limited-release of Hostess grape-flavoured chips. What ever happened to them?

Today, it's $1.49 for that size of bag, but the larger bags are around the $4 mark. A good deal is two bags for $5. I was looking for that price as I scanned the shelves, paying no heed to the woman and the murmuring of her toddler.

"Oh, no, don't say that. That's not nice," I heard, the woman obviously talking to her son but looking at me.

I turned my head to face her when I noticed that she was facing me as she spoke. Our eyes met, but because I wasn't paying attention to her or her son, I only smiled, gave a slight nod, and then continued on my search. Those Ruffles were somewhere, and I was going to find them, hopefully, on sale.

More murmuring. "No, don't say that," the woman said to her son, "he's allowed..." and then I tuned her out. I found the Ruffles and was searching for the sour cream and onion bags.

"Say... the man. Say... ."

I was now standing less than two metres from the woman and her son. I looked at the boy and smiled, and then continued my search, but I now felt like I was being pulled into a conversation to which I was oblivious. I don't know how the conversation started, I don't know what the boy said, to which the woman was objecting, and I didn't know what she was trying to get her son to repeat.

It was as though I was in a play, had missed my cue, and had forgotten my lines.

The woman was looking at me, a look on her face somewhere between embarrassment and encouragement, looking for me to engage, to say my part.

I had no idea what to say, had no context, didn't know my lines. I smiled again, looked past her, to where the sour cream and onion chips were displayed.

Not on sale.

You don't need them, I told myself. You need to get back on your bike. You have what you came in for. Go home.

Exit, stage left.

As I got to the end of the aisle, before I turned the corner and made my way to the checkout, armed only with a bag of milk and a scotch-bonnet pepper, I finally heard the woman, talking to her son, loud and clear: "It's okay, honey, you weren't the only one being rude." 

I wanted to stop, to turn around, to ask her if she thought I was being rude. I wanted to correct her, to tell her that I was minding my own business, that I hadn't heard the interaction with her son. I didn't know I was being drawn into a conversation, that I was expected to get them to back up and start their lines again.

Clearly, I had missed my mark as well as my cue.

But I kept moving, pretending that I didn't hear her accusation. I wanted to get away from the drama.

Without my chips, it was already enough tragedy.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015


It wasn't the hooker that made me uncomfortable.

She didn't make me nervous as she approached me, a stumble or stagger, either drunk or on drugs, or maybe a bit of both. She had been standing just outside the Econo Lodge as I started extending the legs of my tripod on the edge of Montreal Road.

It didn't bother me that she came right up to me, asked me what I was doing, and watched me take the first couple of shots. I was taking street shots, I told her, explained that I was not shooting video, was just taking stills. I wasn't worried that she stood near to me as I composed the shot and then took the picture.

"That's really good," she said, as the image appeared on the view screen.

It didn't make me nervous when I walked Montreal Road, tripod extended, camera clamped to the head, the whole apparatus resting over my shoulder. The drunk, young men, laughing, did not unnerve me as they approached from the opposite direction, as they saw me and said "hey," and continued on their way. I could smell the alcohol and cigarette smoke, mixed with sweat, they came that close.

The people waiting, at the bus stop, didn't invoke fear. It was I who had approached them, after all. They were there with a purpose and wouldn't be around for long.

None of these people bothered me. Ottawa is a safe city, even in the infamous neighbourhood of Vanier. Montreal Road is a busy street. In the time that I walked the few blocks between Palace Street and Cyr Avenue, I was unafraid.

What made me nervous was the guy who kept his distance, who watched me from afar, who said nothing. The dirty jeans and white shirt, the baseball cap turned backwards, the long, wavy dark hair spilling from it.

I first saw him across the street, standing on the corner of the Stars Palace. He didn't look like he was there to sing Karaoke, but I'm not one to judge. I didn't see him when I was taking my photos from across the street. But I noticed him as I continued east. He was leaning against the building, watching me walk with my tripod slung over my shoulder.

Shooting at the bus stop, the couple waiting for their ride, he walked past as I captured the flow of cars, which would appear as nothing but streaks of light. It was when he stopped walking, leaned against the light post at Cyr, watching me, saying nothing, that I went into alert mode.

I've wanted to capture the lights and night life of Vanier for a long time, but its reputation as a rough neighbourhood has always made me reluctant to do it, especially alone. But after last week's photo walk in the Byward Market, where I could walk unafraid, I felt emboldened.

Ottawa is a safe city, after all.

Until you have a stranger follow you, watch you, and say nothing. And your opinion of this city changes.

And you decide that your night of photography is over.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Music Monday: Casual Viewin'

Lenny Bruce, declares a truce and plays his other hand.
Marshall McLuhan, casual viewin', head buried in the sand.
Sirens on the rooftops wailing, but there's no ship sailing.
Groucho, with his movies trailing, stands alone with his punchline failing.—Genesis, "Broadway Melody of 1974"
From one great song to another, my random pick from my Android device is a song that takes its title from another song, one that is on one of my favourite Genesis albums, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. As a young kid, growing up in the 70s, I could sing the lyrics to all of the songs, from end to end, by heart.

And so, when one of my favourite Canadian bands, 54-40, was inspired by this song to use "Casual Viewin'" as the name of its 2000 album and its title track, I just new this song was going to be doubly good.

In January of next year, 54-40 is scheduled to perform at North on 29, and I highly suggest that if you like this band, you should pick up tickets ASAP. If you don't know 54-40, start here. 

Happy Monday!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Photo Friday: The Cycle of Life

It was too good to last.

For the last couple of months, my wife and I had nursed a seemingly lifeless orchid from a flowerless twig to a fully blossoming plant, with a dozen gorgeous blooms at its height of rejuvenation.

But all good things come to an end.

A couple of weeks ago, the first flower to blossom shriveled up and dropped off. A few days later, the second flower fell. We continued to care for the plant, sticking to our watering schedule, but to no avail. Day by day, more flowers dropped off.

We're down to the final two flowers, the last two to open on this beautiful plant that has brought us such joy, being the only orchid we've ever owned that actually grew a second set of flowers. We shall continue to care for it, but before these last blooms dry up and fall, I wanted to preserve them.

In capturing them, I learned something new: in the right lighting, a flat-screen TV makes for an excellent backdrop.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Dance Like It's 1984

I didn't go to high-school dances in my first two years of high school, and for good reason: I didn't dance. I was also awkward with girls and couldn't get them to dance with me, assuming I could gather the courage to ask one to dance.

I was shy back then, too.

By the 11th grade, my circle of friends was fairly well-established, and we would go to the occasional dance, en masse, and hang out on the fringes of the dance floor. Dance? Not me. Nor did the majority of my friends. We just hung out.

Possibly, if we lasted to the end of the evening, I might dance with one of my female friends to "Stairway To Heaven," the quintessential high-school dance finale. Once or twice, when I had an actual girlfriend, we would dance to all of the slow songs but would find a place to make out for the faster dance tunes.

I wasn't one for dancing.

It was in grades 12 and 13 (yes, I'm that old, when high school was a five-year sentence) that my friends and I actually tried to dance. We would watch each other, try a few moves, and when we realized that we were all in the same boat of left-footed crew, we didn't care. We danced, like no one else was looking.

And over time, as we got into the beats and rhythms, we actually got half-decent.

In our final year, when we were old enough to get into the bars in Hull, we drove across the border, into Québec, and dance on Saturday nights.

By the time I entered the work force, and attended Christmas parties, I danced some more. I danced at weddings, I danced whenever the occasion called for it.

I danced by myself, around the house, as I cleaned it, my music blasting through speakers or headsets.

I can't remember the last time I danced. It's been a long time.

But no more. 

I'm attending a high-school dance, where they will play the music of my high-school days, from the 70s and 80s. They're even throwing in the music of the early 90s, which was probably the last time I truly danced.

It's a high-school dance for grown ups.

On Saturday, September 19, the Breakfast Club Retro Dance will be held at the Kent Street Legion. It's a fund raiser, with proceeds going to the Ottawa School Breakfast Program, which provides a healthy breakfast to kids who may not get one at home.

Tickets are a mere $20 each.

Dress up in your high-school era duds and dust off those moves. You must be at least 19 years of age to attend, so there's no risk of young whipper snappers showing you up.

While I'm not involved at all in the organization of the event, I am really looking forward to attending and I'd like to see as many of my friends attend as possible. If you love to dance, get your tickets and come out.

You can get more information at the Breakfast Club Retro Dance Facebook page and you can purchase your tickets online, through Eventbrite.

Come out and dance like you did back then.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Some Things Never Change

The music may have changed, but there's still music. The hair, the clothing: different, but not so much.

There is still life on the streets. The crowds, the mingling, the laughter. The bravado, the egos, the loud inebriated. Someone revving an engine, another squealing tires, adding burning rubber to the scent of alcohol and food. There's always the stench of urine in the parking-garage stairwells.

Ferraris, Porsches, Mercedes, and BMWs prowl the grid of streets, rolling at slow speeds, the drivers wanting to be seen behind the wheel, wanting to troll the young women in high heels and short skirts.

It is the joy of youth, but its not all joy. Someone starts an argument. Another falls down, drunk, on the sidewalk. Another drunk tries to hit on a woman he doesn't know, who simply had the misfortune of walking past him.

On the peripheral streets, a fight breaks out. Someone pulls a knife. Paramedics are called to the scene. Hookers stand on darkened streets, Johns slow down in their cars to pick up a short-term companion. Police persuade them to move on.

Always, there's perpetual motion. There is very little standing still. It's as endless as time, forever moving.

And yet, in the microcosm of the Byward Market, some things never change. It's a place where you always have to be on your toes, must always be aware of what is happening around you. But it's still a fairly safe place. There is no feeling of threat.

Walking the streets, late at night, as the pubs and night clubs shut down and the crowds fill the streets, there is a sense of community, even though few of the people out and about actually live in this neighbourhood. They were the life blood, the streets the arteries. The heart of the Market was beating strongly on a late Saturday night.

What was missing were the homeless. I saw none of the folks that live on the streets in the Market. Perhaps, on Saturday nights, they move away from the heart, away from the young party goers. Perhaps, on Saturday nights, these parts of the neighbourhood aren't safe for them. Perhaps, on a warm Saturday night, they sought the shelter of the darkened alleys and the parks, or moved out of the neighbourhood altogether. 

That part, I think has changed.

It's been decades since I hung out in the Byward Market in the late hours of the evening, but it's the same old Market. The pulse is still strong. The beat goes on.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Music Monday: Someone Somewhere In Summertime

They were one of the best bands of the 80s and they're still going strong.

I have memories of listening to New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84), Simple Minds' 1982 hit album, on my Sony Walkman, walking from my home in Skyline to work, at the Merivale Mall, the volume turned up (probably why I'm losing my hearing now). The unmistakable voice of Jim Kerr, the synthesizers, the solid beats. I would be singing along and I didn't care who heard me.

One of my favourite songs from that album is "Someone Somewhere (in Summertime)." I have always loved the guitar melody and the driving beat. It's a great driving song.

Over the decades, I've all but forgotten it, until we drove up to my in-laws' cottage at Lac Bernard, yesterday. We were listening to a retro-music show on Live 88.5 FM, and I was enjoying hearing some of my favourite music from the 80s: The Smiths, Peter Gabriel, Echo and the Bunnymen, and Simple Minds.

When "Someone Somewhere (in Summertime)" came on, it must have been about 25 years or more since I had last heard it, and memories of my teenage youth came flooding back. And, surprisingly, when Jim Kerr started singing, I sang along, remembering the lyrics, not caring who heard me.

Have a listen. If your remember this song, sing along. If you don't know it, I hope you enjoy it.

Happy Monday!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Photo Friday: Monster Shadow

It's one of my favourite spots in the city. I've photographed it more than any other spot in Ottawa, with the exception, perhaps, of Parliament Hill (which you can see from this location).

Although, there was that photo project where I shot from the same spot on Bate Island some 296 photos of downtown Ottawa, in which Parliament Hill was also captured. And, if you look really hard, you can see this spot, too.

It's the National Gallery of Canada, and, in particular, that alluring sculpture known as Maman.

On Saturday, July 11, I am hosting a late-night photo walk through the Byward Market, and the National Gallery is along the route. I find that night lighting of Maman can be particularly eerie, and I don't get out the the gallery in the evening as much as I would like to.

If you're interested in joining me and other photographers for a late-night walk this weekend, feel free to sign up at my Eventbrite site. We will start at the water fountain on York Street, at Sussex Drive, at 10:00 pm. The focus is to capture night life in the Byward Market, and we will be wandering that neighbourhood until about 2:00 am, when the Market can either get lively or can quieten right down. There will be about a half-dozen of us—hopefully, more—so there is safety in numbers.

I've never worried about the Byward Market: most of the main streets, anyway.

We will climb to the top of a couple of the parking garages, explore some of the courtyards, and take some candid shots of the street life.

Without a doubt, we will visit the National Gallery and Maman.

And, with any luck, we can make her look spooky.

Until then, enjoy this photo, that I shot in the middle of a sunny afternoon.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Village Green

I wanted to say yes because I hate to say no, especially when it's all in fun.

I could have said, "Close, but no cigar," but I didn't want to steer the contest in any way. But I was looking for an exact location and not a general vicinity.

Rockcliffe Park is a neighbourhood to the east-end of downtown Ottawa just past Sussex Drive and the Prime Minister's residence and Rideau Hall, and north of New Edinburgh, before you reach Vanier. It's a sizable but quiet neighbourhood, one that, until 2001, was an independent village.

It's home to a lot of wealthy people, holding some of the richest real estate in the country.

No, I don't live there. Not even close.

In the near-centre of the neighbourhood lies a beautiful park that is part forest, part open garden, filled with sculptures and works of art, as well as memorials to some special people and lovely flowers. It's called The Village Green, and it's the location of this month's Where In Ottawa.

Congratulations to Marc, who has won a couple of photo challenges, but remains an unknown individual. (I assume he wants it that way, and that's fine: I can call him Where-In-Ottawa Marc.)

There were only two clues provided: here they are, explained.
  1. Somewhere between public and private—this green space backs onto Rockcliffe Park Public School and is across the street from Ashbury College, a private school. The fastest way to walk from one school to the other is to cut through The Village Green.
  2. Think of an Orillia festival—Orillia is a small town in Central Ontario, near Lake Simcoe. This past weekend, coincidentally, it held its annual Mariposa Folk Festival, a three-day music fest. Mariposa is also the name of an avenue that borders The Village Green. The park is also bordered with Springfield Road and Buchan Road.

As I said, I hate to say no, but I did have to do that with the first person who left a guess to this photo challenge. He's one of my Twitter buddies, and though he was close, did actually know the place, I'm sorry to say that his answer was too vague. Simply saying Rockcliffe Park includes all green spaces in this old village, and there is a park that is known as Rockcliffe Park, which has a large stone gazebo, but that's not the right park (I did use that park in a previous Where In Ottawa).

For example, if I posted a photo of Jack Purcell Park, I wouldn't accept Centretown as an answer, even though, technically, that park is in that neighbourhood. But so is Minto Park, and Dundonald Park, and a handful of other parks.

For this contest, I was looking for the name of the park. So, sorry, Jamie. You do know Ottawa, but I'm just really picky.

Next month's location has already been shot and is ready to go on Monday, August 3.

Good luck to everyone.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Venus and Jupiter

They were like lovers in the night.

Yearning to be together: seemingly approaching one another yet vast distances apart. Making the desire to be as one more urgent, more important.

Nothing is more heart breaking than seeing two entities drawn together by random circumstances, seemingly destined to be together, yet never fulfilling that imminence.

And now, those celestial bodies are moving apart, gaining distance, losing so much. Until time and space bring them together, some day.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Where In Ottawa: XLIX

I was always good at Roman numerals.

Summer is upon us, and I love to get outdoors with my camera. And, while I'm shooting pictures of whatever catches my eye, I'm always on the lookout for the next location of my monthly contest, Where In Ottawa.

As I present the 49th installment of this contest, I have already snapped the pictures for number L (that's 50, in Roman numerals).

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Where In Ottawa, here's what you need to know. Starting today, you have only five days to solve the challenge. Actually, it's four-and-a-half days. The contest runs from 9:00 today and ends at 9:00 on Friday evening.

Here are the other rules for Where In Ottawa:
  • 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.
  • Clues will also be accompanied by a new photo with a new view of the location. While the clues will accumulate in the right-hand column, the photos won't. Only one photo will appear each day and will replace the previous photo.
  • If the challenge has not been solved by 17:00 EST on Friday, July 10, the challenge will end and I will reveal the location on Monday, July 13.
  • 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.
Are you ready? Here's the new photo:

Think you know Ottawa? Prove it!

If you're a regular follower of The Brown Knowser, you'll know that I've already left a photo clue, but here's a reminder.

Good luck!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Photo Friday: Not a Job For Me

It must have been the greatest view.

If I didn't have a great fear of heights, I would have loved to get his vantage view. The photos I would have shot.

But I was planted firmly on the ground when I spotted him, working hard to make the great hall in the National Gallery shine.

It's not every day that you see someone at such a height, giving it no more of a thought than I had given to standing on the interlocking bricks, under Maman.

It must be nice to be so carefree.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Great Heights

I wasn't always afraid of heights.

I could climb the tallest tree until the supporting branches thinned and bent, threatened to snap and send me earthward. I would climb down apartment buildings by the balconies, would scare girlfriends by hanging over the ledges.

I don't remember when my fear of heights began. It might have been the times when I fell. The time that I slipped on my way down from that great tree out by the old train tracks, south of Borden Farm, when I hugged the trunk as I came down and the coarse bark took the layers of skin from my arms. Or the time that I lost my grip from a balcony and fell from the apartment building. I was only on the second floor when I fell, plunged only about 12 feet into deep snow, but I had started on the seventh floor.

It could have been a lot worse.

I don't fear heights when I'm behind glass in a sturdy building or on a structure that is secured with high fences and railings. I wasn't afraid when I stood at the top of a crumbling tower at Harlech Castle, on the west coast of Wales, standing close to the edge, trying to capture a photograph of the courtyard below, my wife, holding onto a railing with one hand and the belt around my waist in the other, making sure the fierce wind that blew didn't take me over the precipice.

I once climbed up onto the roof of my home, to assess some damage to some shingles after a nasty storm. I climbed out a bedroom window at the back of the house, onto the gently sloping roof that covers our family room and then used a step ladder to get onto the main roof.

From the top, I could see beyond the neighbourhood. I could see the greenbelt to the north and the northern end of Nepean. Our area is on high ground, and downtown Ottawa is below our height.

You can see fireworks displays on Parliament Hill and Lac Leamy from Barrhaven. If I had the courage, if I didn't fear heights, I could sit on the roof of my house on Canada Day and watch the fireworks. I wouldn't hear the explosions but no matter: the firework display from Clarke Fields, on the western edge of my community, would provide the soundtrack. And if I chose to watch that display, I would have an unobstructed view.

But I become petrified on my roof. The one time that I climbed it, as soon as I had reached the peak, climbing on my hands and knees, as soon as I saw the northern part of our city in the distance, I wanted to get down. I was sure that I was going to slip, and that I would roll down the front of the roof and onto our front lawn.

I slithered, slowly, feet first, belly sliding along the roof shingles, back the way I had come, without assessing any potential damage. Instead, I called professionals. Let them take all of the risk.

Sometimes, I dream that I'm standing at a great height, on a teetering structure, and I find myself falling. In other dreams, I'm driving a beater car at great speeds on steep roads, and suddenly, there is no road under the car.

I have fallen from great heights in many dreams, and all the way in my decent, the fear is overwhelming, and yet, I never wake up. They say that if you hit the ground when you dream, you die in real life. How do they know that?

And what do they know? If that's true, I've died a hundred times. Because I always land in my dreams. Always, on all fours, whether I started in a vehicle or if I am knocked over a ledge.

I always land. And I'm always all right.