Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas Bigfoot.

Merry Christmas.
I make a point of saying Merry Christmas instead of the generic Happy Holidays, or Seasons Greetings. It isn’t that I am insensitive to other corresponding holidays but rather I don’t celebrate them. More importantly, I have never known anyone to get upset by wishing them a Merry Christmas.
I think that the fear of making someone uncomfortable distracts us and ultimately diminishes the significance of the season. I mean, I don’t go out of my way ensuring that I don’t unintentionally insult Bigfoot, or Sasquatch, so why should I worry about offending someone by saying Merry Christmas? I think the chances of doing either is statistically the same. 
It isn't call a Christmas Concert anymore.
They are called 'Winter Sit through until you kid is finished.'

The meaning of Christmas has changed for me over the years as I’m sure it has changed for all of us. As a child, Christmas vacation was a mash of festive cartoons, school concerts, hockey tournaments, and wrapping paper. I vaguely remember something about a star, donkeys and wise men dressed in period costume, but principally Christmas was about family being together.
I was never really impressed with Santa Claus. He was always at the end of a line- a line that you had to wait in for what seemed like days and days wearing your snow-pants and holiday sweater. The wait was never worth it. It just made you feel tired and dirty. 
I don't think either of them wanted to be there.
More importantly, Santa flew one night a year- my Dad was often gone flying 6 months at a time. The jingling bells of Santa's sleigh could not compete with the sound of four Wright Turbo-compound engines of the CP -107 Argus. So what if Santa could deliver presents, the Argus could drop torpedos. The only thing that made me happy about Santa flying on Christmas eve was that I knew my father didn’t have to. 
Presents were great too. Don’t get me wrong, I love presents, but I can only remember a handful of them. The ones I do remember (the table hockey game, the race track, the army men, the parachute SAR game), I played with my Dad. 
Now I am the Dad, and like my father I am away from time to time. My kids don’t seem all that interested with Santa. My oldest is mostly curious about the great elve’s logistical considerations. She is concerned about the lack of snow and high winds and how it may affect his approach plans to the roof. My son is just happy that there is an endless supply of chips and dip.
Chutes Away- the best ever game ever made.

I sat down with them a couple of days ago and made sure they knew the reason why we celebrate Christmas. My daughter did a pretty good job. I thought though she gave too much detail when she started describing the modern Geopolitical implications. My son mumbled something about chips and dip.
I don’t think in the coming months my kids will remember what Santa brought them this year. I’m sure they will remember that Mom and Dad were home, and they spent the day with their Grandparents. When they get older, I’m sure they will understand that was the most precious gift any family could get. 
Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

I miss Kamchatka.

My wife has decided to paint the house over the Christmas holidays. That in itself isn’t really blogworthy, because she has been painting the house for the past two years. It has been a piecemeal process since we moved in.
She loves to be busy and is inspired by challenges. I think that is why she married me. I have enough character flaws to keep her busy for a lifetime. 
When we moved into our home, I liked the colors that were on the walls. If I didn’t like the color of one room, I just moved to another. We were living in a crayon box. Each part of the house was demarced like the countries on a Risk board. I spent most of my time in Kamchatka, the kids played in Ural, and my wife liked read in Western Australia.

On my first deployment my wife discovered a coping strategy. She painted. When I came home my beloved Kamchatka was overrun by some Beige/Taupe hoard. She didn’t call it beige or taupe, it was “Pony Tail.”
Each time I went away the hoard returned. Soon, my home was a patchwork of beige. “Straw Hat” blitzkrieg the kitchen. “Lion’s Mane” conducted unspeakable atrocities to the the family room. The stairway and main foyer were rolled over by “Sand Stone.”
I tried to voice my concerns. Like the the United Nations, I suggested that we form a committee to study the color arrangements of the rooms and perhaps created some kind of framework for future considerations. 
My wife is a scholar of Sun Tsu’s “Art of War.” She knew her adversary and plotted accordingly. She ‘appeased me” by suggesting that she wouldn’t mind if I painted over what she had done. It was agreed. If I didn’t like the color of a room, I could paint it back.
It was a victory for me- or so I thought. Unfortunately, my apathy of color and my laziness of work trumped my desired to have a say. War is hell, and I didn’t even get a medal.
All these subtle tones of beige has caused me a bit of private grief. I can’t tell them apart, and I am wondering if these color shades are an elaborate practical joke. When new people come over to the house, my wife will take them on a tour and describe the color. Women in the tour will always smirk knowingly, and the men always rub their eyes.
In order for me to do my job, the government of Canada poked, prodded, and made me ‘turn my head and cough’ my way into a cockpit. They wouldn’t accept anything less that a ‘perfect physical specimen.” (Just to let you know, I laughed to myself when I typed that.) So, I should be able to tell the difference between “Snowflake skin” and “Moldy Walnut’. 
I do like this blue. I call it Eastern Passage Whooping Crane Dream.

This is a nice orange. I think it is called Beach Garbage Orange.

This is my favourite color of beige. It is called Weathered Pier.

Friday, December 17, 2010

My Haitian make work project.

It has been almost a year since the earthquake. 
Big Dawg delivering 750 litres of water.
A couple of days ago, a young guy at work was giving a power point history lesson on 423 Maritime Helicopter Squadron. It was a pretty dry summary of someone else’s research. The presenter stumbled over the script and the slides. Unfamiliar with the material and nervous about the crowd, he tried to ad lib.
He spoke of 423’s battle honors, listing Normandy, the Bay of Biscay, Battle of the Atlantic, and Kuwait- then he added that our tradition of excellence continued in Haiti. The rest of the audience fidgeted and did not notice the addition. To me, it was the only thing he said that I remember.
I was a member of the air detachment that sailed with HMCS Athabaskan 36 hours after the terrible quake. Looking back, I remember being excited to be going on this mission. That feeling of boyhood thrill was soon tempered when we loaded 10,000 body bags on the back of the ship. They came stacked on pallets. My last thought sailing out of Halifax harbour was that we were going someplace that a part of us was never going to leave.
Our crew launched at daybreak the first day on scene. The sun was rising over the early morning cloud and the air smelled like fire. Everything felt still. As soon as we made landfall we began to assess the destruction- calling out on the aircraft’s intercom the various points of interest- a collapsed building, a fire, signs for help, bodies. Soon we realized that we didn’t need to highlight areas of destruction- everything was destroyed.
One of the many signs for help.
That first morning we had to transport the ship’s Executive Officer (XO) to meet with the Canadian point of contact and the UN representative in Leogane- and this would lead to my greatest single accomplishment of the entire mission. 
The day was just beginning, but it was already getting hot. There was’t any wind that morning and I’m sure if it was anyplace else in the Caribbean it would have been the nicest day. 
Heavy helicopters don’t like hot, humid, windless days. The landing zone for the meeting was relayed to us, and it soon became apparent that we were limited (torque limited to be exact) with the number of options as to how to land there. I briefed my approach plan to the crew. I detailed the wind and obstacles and an escape route in the event we had an engine malfunction. My approach was to maximize the limited wind we had available and I was going to use a shallow approach path to limit the power requirements that I would need to stop. Unfortunately, my approach path flew directly over the only undamaged building in Leogane.
As we flew over, the guys in the back of the aircraft said, “Oh, we just blew the roof off that house.” We continued with the approach. The XO met with the military commanders on the ground and they began to develop a coordinated relief strategy. When we departed the landing zone, we learned that we flew over an orphanage.
I blew the roof off the only standing orphanage in Haiti.
I felt pretty bad about it. Later that evening, the Captain of the ship called me to his cabin to talk about what I had done.  He told me that we are all doing our very best under very difficult circumstances and although I blew the roof off the orphanage, the Canadian command team was able to solidify a relief strategy. He continued by reassuring me that he had assigned a ship’s team of engineers to go to the orphanage the next day and make it “better than before.”
I snapped to attention and said “Thank you sir,” And then with a smirk I continued. “...being from Newfoundland I am quite familiar with make work projects. I’m am just glad I could provide my expertise.” Thankfully the ship’s command team appreciated my sarcasm. 
I believe by the time we left Haiti to return to Canada, the ship constructed eight separate orphanages in Leogane.
Moving a hospital over a mountain.
I was the only clown on that deployment. The other members of the air detachment were average Canadians who did unimaginable feats exceptionally well. 
My aircraft captain (AC) once shot an approach into a remote mountain valley to deliver food and water to a village that had not received supplies for weeks. The landing zone was so small and off level, that the AC had to hover on two wheels for twenty minutes while the two ‘backenders’ unloaded 3000 lbs of aid.
My AESOP (don’t ask me what it stands for), held a dying woman’s hand for a half hour while we tried to transport her to the USS Comfort. She smiled at him and whispered thank you.
My TACCO embodied the Canadian effort in Haiti. His leadership was the reason why we were successful. This photo of him lifting an elderly woman from the aircraft will forever represent to me what it means to be Canadian.
The Tacco is the guy with the wedgie.
Sometime during the mission, we went back to our early squadron roots and painted some nose art on our aircraft. We delivered two mobile hospitals, over 160 000 lbs of supplies and 45 000 litres of drinkable water. 

Big Dawg's nose art.
It was very humbling to be on that air detachment with those people.  IMAX just completed a movie about the event. If you watch carefully you will see those great people and the clown.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Eastern Passage Baby Reindeer.

The elusive Eastern Passage baby Reindeer.

I left work a little early today. It was the office’s Christmas party. As I was walking out, a colleague asked me where I was going. I told her that I had to go home and walk my goat. 
“A goat?” she asked.
“Yes.” I replied rather matter of factly.
“You have a goat?”
“Yah, he is great. Cheaper than owning a lawn mower and he eats garbage. We only have to put too bags out on the curb every other week. Contrary to popular belief, they don’t eat cans though.”
“How are you allowed to have a goat in Eastern Passage. Aren’t there zoning regulations against farm animals in the town?”
“I don’t know. No one has ever said anything about it. Neighbors love my goat too. In fact people have been stopping in front of my house this past week to look at my Christmas lights and see the ‘baby reindeer’ in my backyard. Kids get a big kick out of it. They are so gullible cause it looks nothing like a baby reindeer.”
“You’re joking, right?” she asked.
“Who could lie about something as special as the Eastern Passage Baby Reindeer?”

Sunday, December 12, 2010

An afternoon with David Hornell.

A while back, my son and I were introduced to David Hornell. We bumped into him rather unexpectedly while we were at the Shearwater Aviation Museum. 
My Son, using the same Cockpit Procedure Trainer my Dad used.
Mr. Hornell is from Mimico, Ontario. He spends all his time now in Lerwick, a small town situated on the Shetland Islands of Northern Scotland. He doesn’t get around much anymore, so it was very fortunate that we had a chance to make his acquaintance.
He was a pilot during the second world war and flew with 162 Bomber Reconnaissance Squadron. Most of his time during the war was spent patrolling Northern England and Scotland for Nazi submarines. He logged 60 coastal patrol missions and finished his career with 600 flight hours on the PBY Canso. He successfully ditched the aircraft on his last mission, and never flew operationally again.
Submarines, I looked for in Scotland.
I told my son that his Grandfather also flew in Northern Scotland, looking for submarines. I mentioned that I have as well, but I don’t think my son was listening to me anymore. He was mesmerized by Mr. Hornell’s story. 
I’ll try and retell it the best I can remember.
Sometime in June of 1944, Mr. Hornell and his crew were on patrol somewhere over the North Sea. The day started like any other, and the crew were fully expecting another long, uneventful trip. It wouldn’t be what they expected. To their surprise, they sighted a fully surfaced U-boat.
Mr. Hornell and his crew closed to attack. At a three quarters of a mile, the submarine began to fire at the Canso with its anti-aircraft guns. Mr. Hornell continued to press.
At roughly 1200 yards Hornell engaged the boat with his two guns. Almost immediately, their starboard gun jammed. Mr. Hornell continued to press.
At 800 yards the aircraft was hit by flak. Two fairly large holes appeared in the wing. Mr. Hornell pressed.
At approximately 500 yards it was noticed that the starboard engine was pouring oil and a fire had started trailing on the leading edge of the wing. He did not waiver.
At 300 yards the starboard engined feathered, but Hornell pressed on with the attack, dropping the depth charges it was carrying. The first depth charge hit between the bow and the conning tower of the submarine. The second hit the water approximately 45 feet from the port side of the U-Boat.
The pilots struggled with controlling the aircraft.  Starboard engine continued to vibrate and fell out of the wing. The aircraft couldn’t stay airborne, so Hornell decided to ditch. The aircraft was brought into wind and the pilots carried out a fully stalled landing, boucing twice. The first time approximately 150 feet, and the second time about 50 feet. Ditching successfully accomplished despite 50 foot swells.
It is our responsibility to teach the future of our past.
The aircraft sank to wing level within 8 minutes and completely disappeared within twenty. No one was injured in the ditching. For 21 hours the crew took turns in the life raft. The wind was 45 knots and the waves were 50 feet tall. Hornell lead his men, keeping moral and spirits high. He whistled and sang. They invented a game of “Ride em Cowboy” as big swells threatened to swamp the dingy.
They lost two men due to exposure. They released their bodies to the sea. Hornell was blinded by the fuel and oil. He lead his men, without sight until the end. He died fifteen minutes after his crew was rescued. He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions. It is one of three that Canadian airmen were awarded during the second world war.
F/L Hornell is buried in Lerwick, Scotland. His Victoria Cross can be seen at the Shearwater Aviation Museum. His account can be read here.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Banjos and Rotor Blades

Me and Old Man Luedecke.

Old Man Luedecke is possibly the greatest banjo player Chester Nova Scotia has ever produced. I say ‘probably’ because I don’t think I have met them all. I will say however, that he is so good, that I once jeopardized a 12 year marriage and half my government pension to see him. I wouldn’t have done that for the second best banjo player from Chester.
It isn’t just me that thinks so highly of him. He has won several Juno Awards for Folk and Singer Song Writer of the Year. Mind you awards are not always very impressive. I won four Junos in the mid eighties for producing some of Glass Tiger’s greatest hits, and Justin Bieber just won Universal Artist of the Year (which, if you ask me is terribly wrong on several levels).
I’m not sure where or how I heard his music because I’m not connected to the indie-folk-banjo-arts scene in Nova Scotia. About a year and a half ago I tried to illegally download his work, I mean find someone to share his music with me. Nobody on the internet was willing to admit that they had his albums. Surprising, considering what people are willing to show on the web.
My kids sing his songs. There is something special about hearing a seven year old stomp and sing:
Don’t fuss, don’t fight it no
Take that wrong and right it ho
Can always live on rice and potatoes
Take your heart’s candle and relight it
I quit my Job,
I’m free today
I don’t have a lot in common with Old Man Luedecke. His real name is Chris, mine is not. He isn’t old. He plays the banjo, I fly a helicopter. Still, there is something about the simple truths in his songs that hits me like a rotor blade. 
Should be proud of where I am
All my friends work their dreams with their hands
And truly this is the promised land
All my closest friends work their dreams with their hands. Although not all of them quit their jobs to do what they do (some of them were fired), they all sacrificed to get where they are. Some sacrificed more than others and unfortunately, some may give the ultimate sacrifice.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Vikings and plug-in fireplaces.

I have a painting of a lighthouse that hangs over my plug-in fire place. Mr. Bud Best has his name on the lower right corner. He died this past year, so I guess the painting is worth more now. I find that hard to believe because it has always been priceless to me.
The lighthouse doesn’t exist anymore, it was replaced by a cheap imitation. In the 1990‘s the government thought it would be a good idea to shut down the station and build an automated beacon. The two homes that the light keepers families lived in were sold for a dollar, and the lighthouse was torn down. The lighthouse keepers were retired and given a framed letter of thanks for their 30 years of service.
When the station was manned, a skinny dirt road connected the town to Fisherman’s Point. The road could barely be called a road at all. It was a collection of Newfoundland’s most sizable potholes. It clung to the cliffs out of shear stubbornness. It switched dizzyingly back towards the rock walls and then to the deep blue as it inched its way closer to the lighthouse. 
If the road were to be christened, she would most certainly be called Impassible. Her younger more demure sisters Treacherous, and Unsafe would always be in her shadow never quite living up to her example. Locals did not try to make the journey, unless of coarse they were already dead- the old Anglican cemetery was the last stop before one reached the lighthouse.
There was a sign near the end of the road that explained in no uncertain terms, that no one was welcome any further. Beyond that sign is where I spent the first year of my life, and many summers there after. My mother was raised there, and my sister was married there. Understandably, the place is special to me and all I have left is the painting.

I travelled back several years ago. The government realized that tourists liked going up there to explore the coastline and take pictures of whales and icebergs. They paved the road and made it wide and safe enough so mobile homes could maneuver without restriction. They made boardwalk walkways over the paths our family forged through the tuckamore and berry bushes. 
In my Great uncle’s living room, strangers now can sit and enjoy seven dollar bake apple cheese cake and $49.99 Viking feasts. Afterwards they can go to the Newfie gift shop and buy their “In Cod We Trust” hand towel, or “Some Shockin Good” bumper sticker. If you don’t believe me, you can go here and see for yourself.
They have also hired a summer lighthouse keeper to monitor the automated station and answer tourists’ questions. The smell of the salt air has been replaced by the stench of Disney imagineering. 
When my Grandparent’s lived there, I never once had dinner with a viking, now you can do it four nights a week. If the subject of vikings did arise, it would be best to keep your mouth shut and cover children's ears. The case against vikings in Newfoundland was vigorously argued at that house. In a carefully thought out position based on expletives and common sense, any lay person would be convinced that Lanse au Meadows was a sham perpetrated by Parks Canada.  It is almost sacrilegious now to think that ‘hefty’ bearded Newfoundlanders are in Norris costume eating turkey legs in what was my Pop’s backyard.

I do appreciated the irony that my righteousness indictment against cheap imitations presents. My  painting hangs over a plug in fireplace. My sentiment is mix of teen angst and middle age realism. I understand that things change, and communities evolve to meet new challenges. My Grandfather hasn’t been the lighthouse keeper in St. Anthony for over 20 years and it would be selfish to wish he still was. I’m glad they paved the road, it was impassible.  And what is the harm if a family from Wisconsin enjoys an over priced dinner in a sod house? 

Sunday, November 28, 2010

I am a simple man.

I am a simple man. That doesn’t come as a surprise to people who know me. I wear the same clothes to work everyday. No one ever says anything and most of my closest friends do the same. 
I like wearing dry underwear and I spend the notable part of my work day ensuring that they stay dry. 
I play hide-and-go-seek for a living. Most of the time, the people that I look for do not want to be found. Occasionally, the people I look for pray I find them. In either case, sometimes we do, and unfortunately sometimes we do not.
The great thing about my job is I am asked to find things all over the world. The bad thing about my job is it takes me all over the world to find things. Most of the time, these things I am trying to find aren’t really there. To make matters worst, I am often forced to try and find theses imaginary things at night. 
In my travels I have seen lots of simple things. Some of these things were beautiful and some were not. 
Sunset in Haiti. Taken a week after the earthquake.
Mountains, for instance are pretty simple. They are big rocks. 

Lighthouses are simple to understand. They are just houses with a big light on top. They are used to warn against hitting rocks. That is a pretty simple concept.

Volcanoes are simple like mountains. They just have fire inside. The rare ones also have a lake and a forest.

I have met some exceptionally simple people. I once saw a man live cheek and jowl with his ex-wife for two months without complaint. That same man once let a stranger order sushi for him in Brisbane. Three hundred dollars later, all he did was laugh and pick his teeth.
I know another simple fellow. We talk quite regularly- every six months or so we pick up from where we left off. It is so regular, that I have his beer in my fridge. It stays there because I know in a couple months he is going to ask me where it is. This man once showed Lenard Cohen a news article that proclaimed the poet was dead. Mr. Cohen reassured this simple man that he was not.
I am very happy to do a simple job that lets me see simple things and meet simple people.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Devil's Island- previously Woods Island.

Devil's Island before the last storm.
Devil’s Island isn’t actually owned by the Devil. At least his name doesn’t appear on the public record as being the owner of this wind swept piece of rock situated at the mouth of Halifax harbour. 
I’m not opposed to the Devil owning an island. Real estate is a legitimate investment strategy, especially in these uncertain times. Although, I am sure that with his vast resources he would be more interested in warmer climes. Having spent some time in Haiti, I think the Devil has a time share there. 
Devil’s island didn’t always have this name. It was originally called Woods Island, after the vast forest that was there. Unfortunately, the forest burned down, and the island went through a quick succession of names- Fire Island, Smoke Island, Cinders Island and finally Write Off Island.
The island was inhabited from the 1830s to the mid 1940s. The fear of a German invasion scared the local residents and forced them to move to Eastern Passage. I don’t mean to second guess the residents’ decision making, but I’m pretty sure if the Nazis invaded Devil’s Island they weren’t going to stop until they reached at least Lower Sackville. 
My best guess of what a Viking Hippie may look like.
 I invite your suggestions
Since then, the island has had to endure the wind and waves of the Atlantic alone. There was a brief period when an inspired Norwegian artist tried to live and paint there. It was a brief period. I wonder how bad it must have been to drive him off. I can’t imagine a better definition of tenacity and idealism than a viking hippie.
The owner of the island, Mr. Bill Mont, has tried to find someone to live there free of charge and look after the island. In 2007, he was interviewed by the Chronicle Herald about his hope to find a caretaker. Mr. Mont said there’s no electricity, no running water, and any resident would need a boat or a helicopter to get off the largest private island in the harbour, although he may be willing to supply a boat to the person who takes up his offer.

Too, the rundown house, once the home of the lighthouse’s caretaker, needs shingles and more, he said, adding that someone handy with tools might be ideal.

"It’s not a place you can get on and off any time you want to, the water can get pretty rough at times. You may be stuck there two or three days at a time. If you’ve got to go to work every day, got to go to a job, got to go shopping, it’s not for you. It’s a different life, it’s almost like a Survivor thing," he said, referring to the popular TV series.

And then there are the ghosts. 
The Devil is my neighbour.
But he said he’s also thinking about trying to find someone to lease the island for the long term.

"There’s still a lot of people out there who have a lot of money who are looking for unusual places to build their mansions," he said. "Somebody with a lot of money who either owns a helicopter or who has access to (one) – we’re talking about megabucks – and they want to have a place different, they could put a mansion up there."

I have access to helicopter, but I don’t have a lot of money. I am not handy with a hammer and I enjoy running water. I have a job and my wife enjoys shopping. I also am not a big fan of ghosts, so obviously I don’t qualify.  Looking at the requirements to live there, I understand why the Devil may be the only possible choice.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Become a dusty private dick.

I have decided that I am not busy enough. Between being a father, husband, blogger, cheap wine connoisseur and that other thing I do on the side, I have found time to become an amateur historian and private detective- a dusty private dick if you will. (I wouldn’t google that if I were you.)
Not the St. Anthony Lighthouse.
Coast Guard Canada tore it down and built an automated station.
 Now robots save people if they are washed out to sea.
On September 10, 1969 a man by the name of Baxter Pynn did his job. Mr Pynn was the Assistant Lighthouse keeper in St. Anthony Newfoundland. On that day he was home sipping tea and listening to the storm that was churning the harbour and splitting the rocks. At that same time, two visiting college students from England thought it would be a good idea to watch the storm from the rocks. One was washed to sea, the other ran to the light keeper's home help.
“Me buddy is in the drink...” the student exclaimed.
Figuring the young man was thirsty he said, “Help yourself,” and invited him in. When Mr. Pynn tell’s the story, he always laughs at this part. 
Quickly, he did realize what had happened and said “Call out to your buddy and tell him help is coming.” Mr. Pynn went on down to where the boat was kept and “shuft” off.
The high winds and waves caused Baxter’ 16 foot boat to fill with water before he even struck out. He nursed his water-logged boat along as best he could, heading out in a zig zag pattern to avoid being capsized. 
Peggy's Cove. Unfortunately, I've looked for a body there.
The currents and waves had carried the student about 1200 feet from shore. His legs were badly broken and he was unconscious, lying face down in the surf. The only thing keeping him afloat was a pocket of air trapped in his leather jacket.
“I could see his body but I didn’t know what I’d find when I reached him. He wasn’t rising up with the swells, they just washed right over him. I didn’t figure he’d be alive when I got to him.”
When he was near enough, Baxter grabbed his gaff and reached for the young man’s coat. “I thought I was going to top over, so I took him along to the bow of the boat.” He tried to haul the lifeless body onboard but could only get him partway out of the water before the next wave struck, driving the boat towards the sky and the body into the deep. “I thought he was dead, but then he threw up a big guff of water and that gave me the strength to get him in.”
The young man survived, and after a couple of years, Mr. Pynn received a package in his mail box. He received the Carnegie Medal for Bravery.
The award recognizes persons who perform acts of heroism in civilian life in the United States and Canada, and also provide financial assistance for those disabled and the dependents of those killed helping others. Those who are selected for recognition by the Commission are awarded the CARNEGIE MEDAL, and they, or their survivors, become eligible for financial considerations, including one-time grants, scholarship aid, death benefits, and continuing assistance. To date, more than 9,000 medals have been awarded, the recipients selected from more than 80,000 nominees. About 20 percent of the medals are awarded posthumously.
My Grandfather, Bater Pynn is an recipient.
Baxter Pynn, Carnegie Medal award recipient and great grandfather.
A man by the name of John S. B. Prentice was washed out to sea that fateful September day.
His mailing address in 1971 was Lynetts, Coggshall, Colchester, Essex, England. He was an 18-year-old college student at the time of the rescue in 1969. I am going to find out what happened to him and what he did with the rest of his life. If you would like to help, please do. Become a dusty private dick with me.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Sandy- my only best friend unable to sign my table.

This is my dog, Sandy. She is a ‘mostly’ yellow Labrador retriever. Most of the time she is yellow. And we think that she is mostly a labrador retriever. She doesn’t have papers, but the nice people at the puppy mill said that her parents were both dogs. That was good enough for me.

More accurately, I actually believe she is a Labrador ‘getter.’ Retrieving implies that she will give back what you have thrown. She does not. She gets it, shows it to you and challenges you to get it from her. Retrieving is pretty demeaning and reinforces social status constructs. My children retrieve, but not my dog.

Those of my colleagues who have not had the pleasure of being ‘goosed’ by Sandy have surely seen evidence of her on my clothes, car, children. Labradors shed. Saying Labradors shed is like saying water is wet. In fact the only time Labs are not shedding is when they are wet. So we are faced with either a shedding dog or a wet dog. Neither is ideal, but it is better that owning a cat.

Sandy has been the first to great me at the door for the past 9 years. She once saved me 40 dollars one night at a classy hotel in Buffalo, New York.  I, did however have to suggest that my son had a mental disability to get her allowed to stay the night.

One hot August day, I drove the family home from a camping trip. We drove five hours straight with the windows rolled down and without complaint. The night before Sandy was forced to spend the rainy night in the van after gorging on hotdogs, bones and skunks. At no fault of her own, she was sick. We cleaned the car the best we could, but we didn’t get it all. We didn’t complain because we knew that she had a tougher night than us. 
She has been around since before my children. My wife and I joke to the kids that Sandy was our first. Deep down we know that she is more a friend than she is a child. She has seen the best and worst of us over the years. She has listened and never judged. I’m sure that when my kids are old, her memory will still be with them. 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The birth of the Eastern Passage Wine Snob

This blog isn't about wine. 
One of my favourites.  It may be from California.
It may be influenced by it from time to time. If you are looking for oak inspired or fruit laced hints of wine reviews and critiques, this is the wrong place. I once had a sip of a $90 bottle of wine, but I already had 15 sips of $20 wines an hour before it so I really can't comment on its tones.  I think it came from Italy or maybe France. Who knows, it was dark. I do know it came from a bottle and not a box. Some of the best wines I have enjoyed came from a bottle. So my advice to you would be to drink wines that come from bottles. I have also found that bottles with printed labels often produce better wines. This I suggest is something to consider next time you are searching for wine.
So why "Eastern Passage Wine Snob"? 
Good question.
Eastern Passage is a tiny sea side town that stares down the mighty North Atlantic from the mouth of Halifax harbour. If it was anywhere else in the world, it would be populated by multimillionaires. I am not a millionaire. I drive a Kia.
Eastern Passage's beauty is shadowed by its proximity to Dartmouth. Dartmouth, for those that do no know, is Halifax’s older ugly slutty step sister.  So instead of being celebrated as a national icon like Peggy's Cove for its majestic vistas, Eastern Passage is known for stray cats, flannel jackets and fog. 
I like people thinking of this place like that. Their misconceptions conceal the truth. Makes me wonder what other truths are hidden by our preconceived bias.
I think I like this one too. 
My wife and I have cherished routine that we look forward to all week. Friday night, we make pizza with the kids and play Wii as a family. Afterwards, we put the kids to bed and drink wine and watch TV. One particular Friday, after eating another homemade pizza, my wife discovered that we did not have any wine to sip on later that evening. I leaped to action and drove down to the local booze shop to buy a bottle of wine.
I spent fifteen to twenty minutes perusing the aisles, disappointed with their selection. I wanted to try something ‘better,’ more refined, sophisticated and classy. Unfortunately all they had were bottles with pictures of koalas or grapes on them. I wanted something more expensive than the $12 bottles they had on display. So I asked to see the manager. 
Out from the back room the manager came. He was obviously a recent graduate from a community college’s business studies/pet grooming program. I immediately assessed that he would be no match for my sophistication and acerbic wit. I quizzed him relentlessly as to why the wine selection was so poor and why I should have to drive into the city to buy a ‘nice’ bottle of wine. He attempted to explain that this store’s inventory was managed from ‘corporate headquarters' and was primarily a place for people to buy beer and rum. This didn’t satisfy me, so I pressed the debate further, suggesting the reason they do not sell wine at the store was because they had such a terrible selection. 
This is when he made a tragic mistake. He retorted that the ‘local demographics’ would not support nicer bottles of wine. I was disgusted. Was he suggesting that I and everyone in Eastern Passage were uncouth castoffs? Beer guzzling shore yokels? Paper sack guzzling rum rats? 
“I, sir do quite well for myself thank you very much. Quiet frankly I find it absurd that ‘corporate’ believes that those who call this wonderful place home, are somehow less refined than those who live in Dartmouth.  I can’t understand how in this day and age people can be discriminated against because of where they live. Shameful. Absolutely shameful.”
I may have an opinion on this one.
Well my rant had drew a large crowd of people who have been coming in to buy their beer and rum. For a moment, I was the champion to the common man. Well not really the common man, the snobby man, but regardless I instilled a moment of civic pride, and I felt a bond to those strangers who looked on in quiet support.
The manager apologized and promised to inform corporate that Eastern Passage needed a better selection of wines. He then said he would give me a sizable discount on the most expensive wine they had in stock- a $19 Australian merlot. I refused his discount and stated that I could afford the full price. I bought two bottles of non discounted wine to make my point.
Walking out of the store I saw my reflection in the window. I looked so proud carrying my paper sack of wines, until I noticed the large piece of pepperoni and pizza sauce stain on my blue t-shirt.