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.