Friday, June 29, 2007

Happy Canada Day/Bonne Fête du Canada

I took this photo about three years ago at the family cottage. We proudly fly the flag all summer. This year for Canada Day, I'm even flying a flag from the back window of my car. I bought it yesterday at WalMart, which, of course, is an American company. The flag was made in Taiwan, but it's still MY flag, and I am proud to be a native citizen of the best country in the entire world.

Have a good, safe Canada Day weekend.

Thursday, June 28, 2007


In the spirit of what's developed in our little blog group into recounting chance meetings and reconnecting with friends, let's relate more of those stories. Me first.
Rick and I were roommates in our first year at college: me in radio broadcasting, him in aircraft maintenance. We initially lived in different apartments in the same building. He wasn't getting along with his only roommate, and one of my two roommates -- an immature, dope-smoking idiot -- got along better with Rick's roommate, so they traded places.
Rick was a great roommate. He got along famously with Kevin, my other roommate and me. Shortly after Christmas, we moved a classmate of mine in with us. Rob had been rooming at a guy's house, but was getting worried for his own safety. His landlord had a stormy relationship with his girlfriend, and one night, it degenerated into knife-throwing. Rob moved in with us the next night.
At the end of the school year, Kevin was finished his course and left, so another classmate of mine, Glen, moved in with us. Rick brought his pal Jeff into our little group. Jeff was a year behind us in college, and needed a place to live. So there we were, five guys in a two-bedroom apartment. It didn't leave a lot of room for modesty, when all five of us had 8:30 a.m. classes. The shower went on at about 7:00 and ran for the next half hour or so. As one guy finished, another would step in.
One of Rick's classmates needed a roommate, and although our arrangement was going well, Rick knew that him leaving wouldn't be too much of a financial burden on the rest of us, so in October, he left, but we remained close friends.
I was 25 when I started college, so I was six or seven years older than my classmates and roommates. I did most of the cooking. On Mother's Day of first year, after we had all gone home for the summer, Rick called from Ottawa to wish me a happy Mother's Day. "Thanks, I think," I replied. "No, no, Bob," he quickly interjected, "I mean it. You take such good care of me and make such good meals, it was like having a second Mom."
Anyway, after college, we went our separate ways, and lost touch. About 18 years later when I was living in Ajax, I was idly Googling random words one day, just to see where the Internet would take me.
Somehow, I ended up on the website of a men's recreational hockey team in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, of all places. I noticed Rick's name on the roster. It also listed his age, which I figured was accurate. So I emailed the webmaster and said someone by that same name was a college roommate, I'd love to reconnect with him, and would he please pass along my email address, in case it was the same Rick. Sure enough, the next day, I got an email from Rick.
We have stayed in touch via email since then. Two summers ago, Rick introduced me to his wife and their young son here in Ottawa, and I hope to see them again this summer. Rick is an airline pilot in Dubai, and he and Heather want me to visit them there for a week or so. We are planning for that to happen this coming December.
When I met Heather, she said that Rick often talks about what a good cook I am, and that he has been trying to duplicate my spaghetti sauce, which is just ground beef, onions, green peppers, mushrooms, a can of Bravo sauce, and a can of tomato soup.
Anyway, the Internet has made this world even smaller. Because of that, I have reconnected with a good friend who lives half a world away.

Okay. That's my reconnection story. Who's next?

Soul2Soul Concert Review

Okay, my cyberpeeps. I'm just back from Scotiabank Place, and the Tim McGraw and Faith Hill Soul2Soul Tour concert.

I'm not much of a reviewer, but I can tell you that it was a fantastic show. Including opening act Lori McKenna, it was more than three hours of wall-to-wall music.

I actually went mostly to see Faith Hill, and while she did a great job in her solo set, I must admit to liking Tim McGraw's solo set better. And when they sing together, pow-er-full, babies.

One disappointment: Tim didn't sing the two sings I was really hoping for: "Red Ragtop" and "Tiny Dancer".

Catty comments: Faith was having a bad hair night. Static electricity gave her the frizzies, and when the big screens showed an overhead shot, it was evident that she needs her roots touched up. Plus, when she came back onstage to do an encore with Tim, her hair had a big couette on the left side. Sorry, I don't know the English term for it. I've always only known a stray chunk of hair that sticks out by the French term, and think it's spelled couette (pronounced kwett).

Cutest moment of the night: When one of their daughters (I'm thinking the oldest of the three, Gracie) came on stage to help her daddy finish the song that I think is called Angel's Wings.

I give it four Barbecue Stained T-Shirts out of a possible five.

Bob's Fantasies #1: Faith is staying with me at my place tonight.
Bob's Fantasies #2: I am so glad they didn't call me out of the crowd to sing with them. I just haven't practiced enough lately, so my performance would have been adequate at best.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

In memory of my buddy

Twenty-six years ago today, I lost one of the six best friends I've ever had. Greg was killed in a car accident between Timmins and Iroquois Falls. I'll spare you the gruesome details, other to say it was a Friday night, he had been in Timmins and was coming back to Iroquois Falls to catch last round with the rest of us.

Greg was 22 at the time. He would have turned 23 in September. He died the day before Terry Fox did, and if you look at the photo, you'll see the physical similarities. In fact, a friend I have made in the last couple of years saw this pic of Greg on the bookcase in my dining room and thought it was Terry Fox. Terry was also our age.

It's hard to believe today that Greg has been dead longer than he was alive, but it also reminds me that his favourite song was Trooper's "We're Here For a Good Time (Not A Long Time)".

He and I and the other five guys made up what our parents called The Dead End Gang when we were teenagers. The seven of us were almost inseparable. The surviving six haven't all been together in the same place in almost 20 years. We don't do the greatest job of staying in touch either, but we know -- and have talked about this often -- that whenever you need one of the other guys, he's only a phone call or email away. We have supported each other through weddings, relationship break-ups, and the loss of parents.

The Gang formed -- actually just kind of happened -- when we were all about 14 or 15. We did a lot of partying and growing up together. When we were all 16 and 17 (six of us were born in 1958, and the pup of the Gang -- Karl -- in '59) we supported Bill through the death of his dad. We also ran the family business -- the local movie theatre -- for about a month, until Bill's mom decided whether she wanted to continue to run it alone. That was a lot of responsibility for a group of teenagers, but also a great learning and bonding experience.

Greg was the Romeo of the Gang. He loved the ladies, and they fell for his charms. He was also the biggest joker, but when you needed a pick-me-up or a backhanded kick in the butt to get over whatever teen angst you were going through, you could count on Greg.

There are four or five days at the end of June, 1981, that I remember, but through a fog of shock and grief. I was a pallbearer for my buddy. He, Bill and I had coached the local Juvenile hockey team with Greg's dad, and every one of the boys from that team were at the funeral, acting as an honour guard. For that, I am proud of them to this day.

In my column that week at the newspaper where I worked at the time, I wrote that friends might die, but good friendship never does. Looking back 26 years, I can confirm that. I think of Greg and the rest of The Dead End Gang every day, and am thankful that fate made us friends.

I have visited Greg's grave at least once every year, and will continue to. Of course now, I also have my Mom's grave to visit in the same cemetery.

Here's to you, Greg. You packed a lot of living into 22 years. I only wish it could have been for a lot more years.

And to The Dead End Gang: As we've gotten older, some of the macho barrier that prevented us from verbalizing how much we mean to each other has gone away, and it's easier when we meet, to express that. As fate brought us together more than 30 years ago, may it bring the six of us together soon for a time of fun and reminiscing. I just know it will feel like it had only been a few days since we last did.

This is almost like holidays!

It's now almost 1:30 a.m. I have been finished work after a seven-day stint for almost two hours now. I don't work again until Saturday and Sunday, after which I have another three days off! Woo-hoo!

Tomorrow (Wed.) I'm going to the Faith Hill/Tim McGraw concert at Scotiabank Place. I read that they put on a three-hour show in Toronto on Monday night.

I've also decided that I'm going to start to play tourist in my own city. After living here for more than two years, there is really very little I have seen, or attractions, etc. that haven't seen in several years, when I really was a visitor. I'm going to check out the museums and galleries, act like a tourist in the ByWard Market instead of someone who works in a building there, and just experience this fabulous city. I might start later this week with a tour of the Diefenbunker. A guy I work with is also off this week, and wants me to go with him.

I already love Ottawa, and hope not to leave here until I retire in 15 1/2 years. Now, I intend to reiterate that love by really getting to know this city.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Crap, I feel old today...

It's not because I'm heading into day 6 of 7 in a row at work. The upside of that is that I'm off Wednesday, Thursday and Friday; work Saturday and Sunday (albeit 14 hours on Sunday) and then have two more days off.

No, what has me feeling old today is my stupid memory for numbers and dates, and the realization that I graduated from Grade 13, THIRTY YEARS AGO TODAY! Oy, my aching bones.

I wasn't even at the graduation ceremony. The head of the guidance department talked my mom into going to accept an award that I won. You see, I was in Calgary, captaining my school's Reach for the Top team in the national championships. We lost the final game to a school from Winnipeg by 25 points -- but that's a story for another day.

Oh well, I'd better stop getting depressed about these milestones. Still to come in the next seven months or so: Little Bro Dan's 25th birthday in August, and my 50th in February.

Anyone else feeling particularly old today?

Friday, June 22, 2007

How I know Lynn Johnston

When I was in college in North Bay in 1984, we learned that Lynn Johnston, the cartoonist from For Better of For Worse, had recently moved to nearby Corbeil (pronounced kor-BEEL in those parts). Someone in my class knew exactly where, so I was dispatched with a TV crew to go to her house and try to get an interview.

We drove up to her house, and I got out of the van and knocked on her door. Sure enough, Lynn answered. I told her who I was and what I wanted. She commented that it was the first contact from local media in the six months or so that she had lived there. When she asked me when I wanted to do the interview, I commented that it wouldn't be fair to ask her to do it right away, but could we set a date. Lynn looked out the door at the college van with the crew in it and said "You have all the equipment in there, don't you?" I said yes, and she said "Oh, what the hell -- come on in."

We did an interview at her drawing board that lasted, if memory serves, about an hour. I still have the audio tape of it, in a box somewhere. She is the nicest, most down to earth person. There is absolutely nothing pretentious about her. She also gave us a tour of her very homey house, on the shore of Trout Lake. She showed us tapes of K-Mart commercials that were about to air, and mentioned that a TV series was in the works. She, her husband and kids had auditioned to be the voices of the Pattersons. The kids got the gig, but the producers didn't think Lynn and Rod were believable enough to be Ellie and John Patterson, the characters modelled after themselves.

I met her on a couple of other occasions, when I was working in radio in North Bay. I recall one time doing a live interview with her on our FM station's noon-hour talk show, that I just happened to be filling in as its host.

Fast forward about 15 years. December, 1999, I was in Sudbury to co-host a Christmas telethon that aired on TV right across Northeastern Ontario. The hotel where I stayed is attached to a shopping mall. On the Friday night, I took a stroll through the mall, and noticed that Lynn would be autographing her latest book -- "The Lives Behind The Lines..." the next morning at the Coles store. So I lined up that morning.

When it was my turn, I mentioned to Lynn that she might not remember me, but I had interviewed her when I was in college, the first interview she had done since moving to Corbeil. "I remember you," she said. "You came right up to my door, and had the equipment with you." I was almost floored. To think that this international celebrity who had probably done hundreds of interviews since that one, would remember! So she autographed my book "For Bob, who has the equipment!".

I have a framed photocopy of the page that I have proudly displayed in the five apartments I have occupied since that day.

Lynn also explained that she has to be careful how she autographs books. One time, a woman asked for an autograph for her husband for their anniversary. "Are you saving it for your anniversary, or is he getting it tonight?" Lynn asked. The lady said he'd be getting it that night, so Lynn signed the book "To George, who's getting it tonight." The woman was insulted, and insisted on getting another book.

Anyway, that's my Lynn Johnston story. I continue to read her comic strip every day.

By the way, right after getting the autograph, I called my parents, who knew I was a big Lynn Johnston fan. I told my Mom that I had bought the newest book. "Take it back!" she said. It turns out that she had just bought it for me for Christmas. Obviously, I couldn't take it back, so she did.

My Mom also enjoyed "For Better or For Worse", and had a hummingbird feeder at the cottage. One time, Lynn's weekend strip featured Michael Patterson helping a hummingbird that had accidentally gotten into the kitchen. He cradled it in a towel, got it back outside, then wrote in his journal something along the lines of "They say that once in your life, you get to hold a miracle in your hands. I just did." My Mom got the strip laminated and put it on the cottage fridge with magnets. It's still there, five years after Mom died.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

This is for Ma

KAPUSKASING, Ont. - Police say they believe that two children younger than 12 years old started a fire that torched a community landmark in Kapuskasing.
The Kapuskasing Inn went up in flames May 22, damaging much of the building's structure.
But police say charges won't be laid because of the ages of the children, who were inside the building when the fire began.
One of the kids is accused of sparking the blaze, but police have provided no details on how it started.
Under the law, the children are too young to be held responsible for a crime.
OPP Det. Sgt. Todd Selvage says the incident wasn't an explicit act of arson, but rather `vandalism that just went too far.'

Monday, June 18, 2007

Barbecue recipes, please

Okay, the barbecue is set up, the cast iron grills are seasoned and cooling. In the next half hour or so, I will cook the first steak on my new 'cue.

So let's be a bunch of old ladies and trade recipes. I'm particularly looking for marinades for steaks and chops. Remember, I'm diabetic, so the less sugar, the better.

I'm also going to look online for the beer butt chicken recipe, or ask Cathy for it.

Please, don't be like my great-grandmother who would trade recipes, but intentionally leave out an ingredient or instruction or two, so that the other old lady wouldn't make it better than she could.

UPDATE: I just ate my first steak cooked on the new barbecue. Melted in my mouth. Tomorrow, I'm going to try a chicken breast!

Sunday, June 17, 2007


Happy Father's Day to all Dads, especially THE Dad in our little cyber family, JB. I hope the recuperation is going well.

I called my Dad last night, knowing that I would be working today, and going out for din-dins tonight.

I love and cherish my Dad, and hate what the ravages of time are doing to him and his once-sharp mind.

I haven't seen my Dad (who I usually call "Paw", as the grandchildren all do, including Little Bro Dan) since last July, and look forward to spending some time with him and StepMama next month.

This is Dad/Paw, taken last year at the cottage. I've never gone this long without seeing him in person, so I'm really anxious to go to the cottage next month.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Say it ain't so, Ma

The Mattagami Motor Hotel, the only strip joint left in Timmins (if it's even still open), is being torn down this summer, and Future Shop plans to build a store on the lot.

Check it out here:

I think we've talked about the "Mattag" here in Blogland before. For non-Northern Ontarians, it's pronounced mah-TAW-gah-mee, just like ken-AW-gah-mee and teh-MAW-gah-mee (Kenogami and Temagami). And Ma is originally from Kapuskasing (kap-uss-KAY'-sing, not kah-PUSS-kah-sing).

Anyway, Timmins without the Mattagami is, well, better I guess in some ways; just not as sleazy.


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Mushroom Cloud Alert

I'm getting a natural gas barbecue! There's a connection for it on my balcony, and this is the first building I've ever lived in that actually encourages barbecues. So I can pick it up on Thursday, and hope to have it fired up by Saturday night -- Monday at the latest, because of my stupid work schedule.

So I've also been shopping for barbecue tools, etc., and have noticed some unusual things. My friend Cathy makes Beer Butt Chicken (totally yummy; drink half a can of beer, shove the can up the chicken's butt; the rest of the beer bastes the bird from the inside) and now commercialism is even catching up to that with a stand for Beer Butt Chicken. Sucker bait -- it stands on the beer can, Stupid.

Sidebar story: I bought some barbecue tools at WalMart today, and was in line at the 8-items-or-less express checkout behind a stupid bee-atch who obviously can't count. Problem is, the cashier doesn't enforce the 8-items-or-less rule. Anyway, when Bee-atch unloads her cart onto the counter, I get between her and the cart. Then when she has checked out her 43 items, she turns to get the cart, and there it is -- gone! I got a certain amount of satisfaction out of that. Serves the ignorant bee-atch right.

I think the cashiers should have to enforce the express rules. At WalMart, your receipt has the number of items you've bought on it. Management should keep track of such things, and lay some heavy crap on the cashiers for anything over eight items at the express checkout.

Dammit, one day the world will work according to MY standards! Unfortunately, I can't bite off my nose to spite my face. I'm already boycotting Zellers, so I can't do the same to WalMart.

There. My Cranky Old Fart rant is over, and I feel much better.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Thinking of JB

Hey, fellow Bloglodytes. Our blog buddy is scheduled for surgery tomorrow to replace a hip. I'm not sure if he'll see this before then, but if you do, JB, all the best. We'll be sending good vibes your way.

May you be back on your feet and bouncing Liam and Morgan on your lap really soon.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Oh, the wonder that's the CRTC

The CRTC decision on the sale of CHUM to CTVglobemedia came down this morning. I can only imagine the impersonation of headless chickens being done by management at both companies.

CTV wanted to buy CHUM Radio, the five Citytv stations and all of CHUM's specialty channels, and spin off A-Channel to Rogers Broadcasting. The CRTC, whose decisions can rarely be predicted and often defy logic, is saying "Okay, you can have radio and you can have A-Channel, but you can't have the City stations."

From what I can see so far, that sends us back to the position of wondering wtf will happen to us. Logic would dictate that CTV would keep us (A-Channel) and let Rogers have Citytv, assuming Rogers wants it. But who knows? Again, logic rarely works in these situations.

Of course, on a totally personal level, it has me wondering again about my own future. Rogers guaranteed our jobs until the take-over was completed (probably 18 months to two years) and beyond, because they were planning to implement more local programming. Time for another polish job on the old resumé, I guess.

Man, this business of broadcasting has been eternally jinxed by that old Chinese wish, "May you live in interesting times".

Yo, Milky: You might not be getting rid of me from the building after all. Hah!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Mommy, it's ooooooooooooover!

Full props to the Anaheim Ducks. They played better in the Stanley Cup finals, and deserve the Cup.
Sens: There's always next year, and you have a long way to go before you're as futile as the Leafs.

Thanks for proving that this city is not the conservative, stuffy town that fun forgot. It's been a great ride all season, especially the past month or so, and it's all because of you and the great hockey you've been playing.

There's no shame in being runner-up, but it sure sucks. Hold your heads high. The disappointment will wear off, and be replaced by the pride.

HBC rant update

You might recall the hassle and the trip through Customer Service Hell that I experienced last month, regarding delivery of my new washer and dryer.

After I cooled off a bit, I decided not to pursue the matter, and resolved not to make any more major purchases at Zellers.

Then, on May 22, I went lamp shopping for my new living room. I found the exact floor lamps I wanted for my living room at Home Outfitters, which is another HBC outlet. I wanted to put them on my HBC card, mostly to qualify for double HBC points. For some reason, my card was rejected.

The cashier -- a very pleasant, patient lady named Sophie -- called customer service to inquire. On her way to acquiring a living, breathing human to speak to, the automatic answering machine told her that the full payment on the washer and dryer had been made May 15. After several minutes with that living, breathing human, Sophie was asked to hand the phone to me. I was told that although the payment had been made a week earlier, it wouldn't be processed until the next day, so I was over the $1,000 limit on the card. I wondered how that could happen when the washer and dryer totalled more than $1,000, and was told that the salesperson who processed the transaction must have overridden the limit, but that couldn't be done now for $136 worth of lamps. Just because the payment for which they had record wouldn't be processed for another day!

After about 20 more minutes on the phone with Sophie -- get this -- the other woman HUNG UP! Sophie was determined to get it done for me, so called back. That started another 20 minutes or so with another person, who tried to walk Sophie through an override, but gave up when it wouldn't work, and told Sophie there was nothing else that could be done, and ended that conversation.

Un-freakin'-believable. I really wanted the lamps, otherwise would have walked about 30 minutes earlier, and eventually paid for them on my Visa, minus the bonus HBC points, of course. I thanked Sophie profusely, and left with my lamps.

Before I could cool off that time, I emailed Customer (Dis)Service, and recounted all the stupidity I had been through. The next day, I got a reply that began with an apology, and asked me to call "Tina" at a toll-free number, to discuss the matter further. I left a message for Tina, and am still waiting for a call. Today is June 6, that was May 24.

I know that my personal boycott of HBC will have no effect. I won't even ask you to join my boycott. However, I do implore you to remember what I've been through when you contemplate a major purchase at any HBC store. That includes the Bay, Zellers and Home Outfitters. God forbid you have any problem, because Customer Service is a complete misnomer to that company.

I could understand if I was a deadbeat with a bad credit rating, but nothing is further from the truth. Remember: I had paid in full for the washer/dryer purchase. The company even had record of that, but it hadn't been processed, whatever the hell that means. I'm the guy who gets antsy if his Visa card is showing a balance. With the exception of a couple of summers when I was on vacation for a month, so cable, phone and Visa payments might have been a few days late, I have never fallen behind in any payments.

Customer Service indeed!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Camp Day tomorrow (Wed., June 6)

If there's only one day this year that you have a Tim Hortons coffee, please make it tomorrow. It's annual Camp Day, and all the proceeds from coffee sales go to the Tim Hortons Children's Foundation, and its camping programs for under-privileged kids.

Not only did I participate as a celebrity server for one or two Camp Days for Ma, back when I was a local celebrity in Timmins, but Little Bro Dan benefited from one of the camps.

Porcupine Big Brothers and Big Sisters nominated two Little Brothers and two Little Sisters every year, for a trip to camp -- and as far I know, still do. I can't swear to it, because it's almost seven years since I lived in Timmins.

However, in 1994, the second year that Dano and I were matched, he went to camp in Kananaskis Country, in the Alberta foothills. He went on an overnight horseback riding and camping trip and did several other neat things. That was half his lifetime ago, and he still talks about it once in a while, so it must have been a positive experience.

So please, have a coffee tomorrow, and anytime you're in Tim's, drop at least some of your change in the coin box. And think of my Little Brother, how special he is to me, and how his Tim Hortons camping experience contributed to the fine young man he has become.

I've blogged about Dano before. Anyone who has seen any of those posts will know that he's now a paramedic in Timmins. The photo here was taken in 1999, when he was 16 or 17 and I was, well... younger than I am now. I'll sign off here, before I get carried away, as I tend to do when talking/blogging about Dano.
Don't forget: Camp Day tomorrow! Have a coffee!

Friday, June 01, 2007

Man all battle stations!

OHMIGAWD! Our little blog clique/club has been infiltrated by another South Porcupinian! (See the comment from Mark on my most recent post.)

Confession time here: I love this blog and its blog buddies (i.e. Nat's, Ma's, JB's, Maria's, Milky's, formerly CQ's, etc.) but I've kind of kept it to myself. I haven't told anyone about it.

When the "small world" thing has hit, such as when JB told me he used to work and play hockey with Kurt, a current co-worker of mine, I just told Kurt that JB and I hang out on a couple of the same blogs. It's been kinda my guilty pleasure, although there's nothing here to be guilty about. Most of my closest friends know me well enough that nothing on here would surprise them anyway, but I just haven't felt like getting them involved in it, as if I'm trying to keep my real world friends and my blog friends separate (although some fit in both categories). Anyway, Mark, you're welcome in either category any old time, too.

To the rest of the group: Mark and his wife Cathy are good friends of mine, and Joanne -- who we lost a couple of weeks ago, as you will recall -- is partly responsible for that. Mark and I got to know each other when Jo was working at the United Way, and got us together to produce promotional videos (Mark owns his own production company). Countless good times have ensued. I was even MC at Mark and Cath's wedding almost 11 years ago. In fact, I missed Shania Twain Day in Timmins to go to the wedding in Collingwood! If that's not friendship...

There, it's out there! I feel much better. :)

And now, to show off a puppy picture of my own. This is Maggie, the nine-month-old Yorkie who's the "baby" of Little Bro Dan and The Pretty Christine, when they visited Maggie's Uncle Bob last week. She has since had her bangs cut, so her beautiful eyes are more visible.