Saturday, November 26, 2011

I do not have a sex tape

It isn’t easy being a wine snob in Eastern Passage. It is made more difficult due to my absolute ignorance of wine and winology. But I have never let my ignorance preclude me from forming an opinion. I could have titled this site as the Eastern Passage Middle East Expert, or Easily Pleasing Women from Eastern Passage, but neither of these titles are as inebriating. 

This is the spirit of Eastern Passage Snobbery. (Notice anti-mosquito candle.)
My knowledge of wine is pretty limited. I do have several winos passed out at the base of my family tree, but they don’t say much and they smell like urine. It wasn’t until recently did I discover that there are two flavors of wine, white and red. I like red wine, and I have learned that I get better looking with each glass. 
I m also an expert of frozen girl drinks

When people hear about my blog they instantly think I am an expert. A couple of months ago I did a radio interview about this blog. The host spent 8 minutes probing my knowledge. It was the aural equivalent of arriving at a stop light and watching the person in the next lane pick his nose for an elusive booger, only to come up empty.
The first sip is always the best. That is why I take many drinks.

I have made attempts to explain that I am a wine idiot, but I have learned people are desperate for snobbery savants. I am like Kim Kardashian, and Paris Hilton, though I do not have a sex tape.
I can not remember where this drink was taken- probably for the best.

I have now reluctantly accepted the fact that I am the wine resource for my close circle of friends. It is a tremendous responsibility and I view it as such. I have added bookmarks to my browser and follow vineyards’ tweets. I smell wine before I drink it. I scrutinize the label on the back of the bottle searching for gold italicized font- a true measure of a wine’s quality.
Drank after a close call with a mountain.

I recently tweeted to my 17 ‘followers’ asking if anyone was interested in a re-deux of a Eastern Passage Wine Snobbery Snob In. To my surprise, I received an invite from a local restaurant to have the ‘event’ at their place. I politely reminded them that I didn’t have a sex tape and I was an idiot. 
Chasing fast boats in the Caribbean is thirsty work.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Borrowed Black is alive and well.

The sun is about to set on another summer vacation. These are a couple of things that I’ve learned.
Vikings smell like booze and skin cream. Now that I think of it, they kind of smell like co-pilots.
Icebergs can fit in a child's hand.

And they taste like water.

Borrowed Black is alive and well. 

Getting the whole family in a picture is difficult- but not impossible.
Flowers are nice- if you like that sort of thing.

Kids don't need toys. Dead sea animals will suffice.

Some stairways do go to heaven.

Bear traps turn kids into Polar Bears.

Being a Dad is pretty cool.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Courage, stronger than a hurricane.

Two courageous guys.

I see courage pretty regularly. When it is your job to fly over the cold North Atlantic in a fifty year old helicopter, courage becomes part of the scenery. One of the great things about my job is I get to associate myself with some pretty courageous people. In fact, the people who fly with me are some of the most courageous people I know.

Courage is not about dodging bullets or running into burning buildings. It is about doing the right thing regardless. Winston Churchill, during the lowest times of the Battle of Briton said, “A true measure of a man is what he does when he is tired.” He probably also mumbled something about booze and cigars, but no one paid any attention to that.
Two courageous kids.
Feats of courage happen everyday. My kids are learning about courage. They tell the truth regardless of the consequences, and they take responsibility for their actions. When the time comes in the future, people will look to them because of the skills they are learning now. Those traits are hard to find in adults- maybe it is because we are so tired and we want things to be easy. 
I have talked about courage in a previous post. My Grandfather Pynn was rewarded for his actions on a stormy fall day in Northern Newfoundland. Growing up, that event was the how I defined heroism. It had all the classical elements- danger, death, and more importantly recognition. It wasn’t until very recently did my concept of courage change.
Alzheimer's disease is a coward. It usually strikes the elderly, silently and over time. It steals from everyone. It robs the victim of their memories and loved ones of their family. The disease as far as I’m concerned can go fuck itself.
My family has had to watch the effect of this awful disease on someone we love dearly. Over the past four years we have struggled with the disease, the patient and the aftermath. There is nothing easy about Alzheimer’s and it leaves everyone tired.
Our loved one last Christmas.
We have tried to get medical care for our loved one for years. We have dealt with doctors, and nurses, social workers, and government bureaucrats. It has been complicated by the fact that we were so far away and it is easier for them to say ‘no’ over the phone. Applications have been made and submitted and then resubmitted. Our loved one has been assessed and reassessed, placed on waiting lists and then forgotten. We have requested, asked, demanded, swore, shouted, complied, submitted, pleaded, and begged to have care for our loved one. 
If I was a spiteful person, I would wish that the health care professionals and administrators that ‘worked’ this file receive the same level of care in their time of need. Thankfully I am not, and I wouldn’t wish that stress and heartache on their loved ones.
This ordeal wasn’t like pushing a boulder up a hill. It was like pushing a bolder up a hill during a hurricane. It shouldn’t have to be so hard, but it was. 
My wife and kids facing a hurricane in Eastern Passage.

It was.

My wife’s courage is stronger than a hurricane. 
Finally, our loved one has been admitted to long term care and she can be afforded the dignity that everyone deserves. It was accomplished entirely from my wife’s courage. I always knew she was courageous- she is married to me.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Red Currant Wine- Anne was a kindred spirit

Anne and Diana in Avenlea. I think I prefer Megan Follows.

At first I didn’t believe that I had much in common with Anne Shirley. She was a precocious red headed orphan raised on a 19 century farm in rural Prince Edward Island. I am a sarcastic grey haired man on the verge of a midlife crisis living in Eastern Passage. But a recent trip back to the island has caused me to pause and consider that I may be more like her than I’d like to admit.

I spent a few years living in PEI as a child. Like everyone I’m sure, my memories of that time of my life are fragmented but for some reason were important enough for me to keep them. I can still recall the bitter disappointment of loosing my Hammerhead Star Wars action figure in the school sandbox. 

During the morning singing of O’Canada, I once proclaimed my undying love to some pony tail beauty in Kindergarden. She pretended she couldn’t hear, but I know she did. 

It is the small details we remember growing up that stay with us. I’ve lost many important things in my life since Kindergarden, but it is the loss of that 3 dollar toy that has stayed with me. I have also proclaimed my love to many pony tailed beauties in my time, but I remember her because it was then I learned that relationships are more complicated than proclamations.

My kids aren’t much older now than I was then. I often quietly wonder what will be their touchstone moments that will last with them through the years to come. 

My Daughter demonstrated that she is a natural leader. She is going to change the world someday. People look to her because she is good and true and honest and sincere- and she isn’t afraid. Who else can so aptly lead a bunch of strangers on a chicken rescue? Those skills will change the world someday.

My Son learned that it is okay to be different. It is hard living in someone else’s shadow, especially when you are shy. I’m sure Charlie Sloan has a hard time living in Avonlea. He lives in a world confined by genteel responsibilities and proper behavior and all he wants to do is chase pigs and put frogs down girls shirts. My Son found a kindred spirit.
I learned that I am not much different than Anne of Green Gables.

"Isn't it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive--it's such an interesting world. It wouldn't be half so interesting if we know all about everything, would it? There'd be no scope for imagination then, would there?"
- Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

“Look at that sea, girls--all silver and shadow and vision of things not seen. We couldn't enjoy its loveliness any more if we had millions of dollars and ropes of diamonds."
- Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Friday, May 27, 2011

Lemon Growers of Eastern Passage Unite!

Yesterday, I was almost struck by a car. I was walking my dog near my home, enjoying the sights and sounds of Eastern Passage, when a driver misjudged his speed and spacing. Fortunately he missed, and my children’s weekend was saved.
Typical scenery one would see safely if there was a sidewalk.
It was the second time on this stretch of road. After my first non-flying brush with death, I emailed my city representative and asked: “How would you recommend I proceed with getting a sidewalk/bike lane established along Shore Rd to Hartlen Point Gulf Course? 

Thankfully, I live in the highest taxed province in Canada, so there were plenty of people that came to my aide. 
My elected City Representative forwarded my one line email request to her ‘Council Constituency Coordinator.’ This nice lady replied to my email by giving me a reference number where I could track my inquiry’s progress online. She then forwarded my one sentence email to the Halifax Regional Municipality’s Traffic and Right of Way Department. There my sentence was reviewed and sorted and forwarded to the correct sub departments. 

Within a few days I received a very lengthy email detailing the municipality’s position on sidewalks and bike-lanes in my neighborhood. The email was drafted by two city staffers. One was responsible for “new sidewalk installations,” and the other was responsible for “on street bicycle infrastructure.” This is what they said.

This response is further to your request through Councillor XXXXXXXX for consideration of the installation of a sidewalk and bicycle lane on Shore Road to the Hartlen Point Golf Course. Thank you for bringing this request to our attention. I have coordinated this response with XXXX XXXXXX, who is responsible for new sidewalk installations, while I look after on-street bicycle infrastructure.

The bicycle lane in Eastern Passage currently runs on Main Road from the intersection of Hines Road to Cow Bay/ Shore Road. HRM's Active Transportation plan does not identify Shore Road beyond Cow Bay Road as a candidate route for bicycle lanes, probably because the road is not very busy and may have been considered adequate for use by cyclists without a dedicated facility. I did a quick Google Streetview assessment of the area nonetheless, and because of the curb on the inland side from Cow Bay Road to Shoreview Drive, it would be challenging to widen the road to install bike lanes on both sides. In one area around Norman's Lane, it would be impossible due to the proximity of the ocean. From Shoreview Drive down to the Golf course, paved shoulder bike lanes could be installed relatively easily (there would still be a cost +/-$80,000/km per side), but given that the connection inbound would be challenging, that it is not currently on the plan, and this cost would represent more than ½ of the best budget we have ever had in any one year for on road bike infrastructure, this is unlikely to happen in the near future. 

Typical scene one would see safely if there was a sidewalk.
Sidewalk Request
Prior to amalgamation, sidewalks were not required in several areas of HRM including areas of Sackville, Dartmouth and Halifax. Since then, all new developments have been installing sidewalks and we are rating areas without sidewalks and installing them, with the highest rated first. The rating takes into account potential for pedestrians including proximity to schools, daycares, parks, shopping, and public transit.  There are currently more than 250 locations on our rated list, based on our current funding, we are able to install 5-10 new locations a year.  The new sidewalks are funded 50% through capital budget and 50% through local improvement charges with limits approved by your local Councilor.
There is a sidewalk on the inland side of Shore Road from Cow Bay Road to Shoreview Drive. Sidewalks have been previously requested on Shore Road from Cow Bay Road to Government Wharf Rd, from Shoreview to Romkey, from Romkey to Caldwell Road and from Caldwell to Sandkey.  All of the above locations rate either at or below average, and therefore not high enough to be included in next years budget.  
I'm sorry I couldn't respond with better news, but I hope I have been able to give you some appreciation of the challenges faced in HRM with regards to the installation of infrastructure for Active Transportation.
I was impressed with the city’s response. My one sentence email request touched the desks of at least five city staff. Although my question wasn’t answered, I was impressed with the system in place that was able to tell me no before I even asked.
Oh sure I was disappointed to learn that while technically possible and economically feasible to have either a bike lane or sidewalk installed, my neighborhood development wasn’t in the city’s immediate plans. The 1.7 km of requested infrastructure would cost $140,000 and would cripple the city. In fact, based on their summation, I estimated that my neighborhood wouldn’t get a sidewalk or a bikelane for the next 25-50 years (250 areas listed/5-10 new infrastructure per year).  
I also walked away from my brush with civic government with a new sense of community pride. I was proud to live in a city that had a “Traffic and Right of Way Department,” and was dynamic enough to have people allocated for “New Sidewalk Installations” and another for “On Street Bicycle Infrastructure.” I was also impressed with how they referred to walking and bike riding as “Active Transportation.” It sounded very modern.
My one sentence crusade to city hall fizzled in December of last year. Life distracted me, and to be honest I was not that passionate about championing a sidewalk. Who gets passionate about sidewalks? My motive was pretty basic. I just didn’t want anyone to die. Plus, I think the view is a selling point for the city and could be marketed to help local businesses. 
My near death experience last night still didn’t inspire me. I was comfortable living dangerously in a sidewalkless world. Until that is I read this and this.
Surfing. Impressed?
The Halifax Regional Municipality, the very same people who informed me that my neighborhood could not get a sidewalk for 25-50 years, was approving $145,000 in public funds to give to a private company’s surfing competition. 
They say ‘you can’t fight city hall.’ They also said, ‘don’t argue with an idiot because you will loose every time.’ These articles inspired me to fight idiocy with idiocy, and believe me there is no bigger idiot than me. 

I have decided to organize an international sidewalk festival- Eastern Passage Lemon Aide Stand Celebration.
According to Mr. Bousquet there are several steps in receiving funds from the city.
Step One is to set up a non profit organization to front the grant.
I am very pleased to inform everyone that I am the new Chairman of the “Eastern Passage Lemon Growers Cooperative.” Lemon Growers in Eastern Passage have always felt under represented within the local community, and it was thought that by pooling resources together we would be able to reach more people with limited marketing capital. Eastern Passage lemons are known world wide for their bitterness, and some aficionados have claimed that they are ‘liquid sarcasm.”
Step two: Create a Promising Budget
Lemons: $50.00
Sugar: $100.00
Water: $15.00
Sidewalk: $145,000
Lemonade Concessions: $15.00
Concert Concessions: $190,000*
* I have yet to invite U2, Rolling Stones, and Old Man Luedecke. They have neither confirmed nor denied their attendance.  
Step Three- Inflate attendance figures.
Estimated attendance to the festival is 1 billion people.
Step Four- Pull the economic impact out of the ‘air’
The Festival will pull the province and the country out of debt. There will be a lemon in every pot and a lemon aide stand on every sidewalk or bikelane. I believe my business plan is as credible as the surfing competition. All I need for this to be a success is to have the City build me a sidewalk.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Mahone's Hotel- A favorite then and now.

In the Church Of Ireland in Irvinestown, Northern Ireland the 423 Squadron crest is hung in tribute. Alongside are squadron insignia from other Royal Canadian, Royal Australian and Royal New Zealand Air Forces who called the region home during the Second World War. The ‘Donegal Corridor,’ located along Lough Erne and the Donegal Coast was a pivotal location during the Battle of the Atlantic and the airmen stationed there helped turn the tide on the war. 
The founding members of 423 hunted Nazi submarines from their Sunderland Flying Boats. They flew in fog and night, and in the wind and storms of the North Atlantic to protect the convoys that were supporting Allied efforts in the European theatre.  At the end of the war 423 and their sister squadron 422 would log over 44 000 hours and sink or damage eleven submarines. It would cost fifteen aircraft and 101 crew.
It has been sixty-six years since Castle Archdale was the home base of 423 Squadron. Although much has changed in the world, there are still young men and women who fly over the oceans to protect those in need. In March 2011, members of HMCS St John’s Helicopter Detachment from 423 Squadron visited Irvinestown and Castle Archdale to pay their respects and honor their common history.
Local historians Ms Breege McCusker and Mr. Joe O'Loughlin guided them through the sites. They walked the grounds of the former base and toured the shoreline where the Sunderlands were launched, recovered and maintained. They traveled to Irvinestown and had lunch at Mahone’s Hotel, a favorite 423 restaurant both then and now.
Mahone's Hotel.

Coastal Command’s efforts during the war have never fully been appreciated and yet had they failed, the world would have been a very different place today. In the cemetery at the Church of Ireland in Irvinestown lay some of Canada's best. They were young men who served their country far from home. Flying over foreign oceans, hunting and protecting. They were the founding members of 423 Squadron and their tradition continues. 
Somewhere off Ireland now


Friday, May 13, 2011

In the end, I will be surrounded by misfits, autistic savants, and high functioning alcoholics.

Moose Jaw Officer's Mess

A friend of mine recently visited.
He lives in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan with his wife and baby daughter. We met while we were going through phase II of military pilot training. I grew up and got a real job. He was good enough to stay and instruct future students. 
Moose Jaw is many things. There is a sign as you enter the town that says “Moose Jaw, Culture Capital of Canada 2007.” I am not sure what that means.  I do know that Moose Jaw was the ‘Tick Capital of Canada’ for 18 consecutive years. Last year they lost that title to a SPCA shelter in Yellow Knife.
Cheese. In more ways that one.
There should be a sign that states “Moose Jaw, the City where grown men cry.” It has been a focal point of Canada’s military pilot training for 40 years. Countless dreams have been forged and crushed under its prairie skies. I am not ashamed to admit that I had a hard time. I wasn’t a natural ‘hands and feet’ pilot. I worked like a man who had nothing left to loose.  My effort and my friends got me through and in the end, I was good enough.
My friend was much better than I was. He was asked to stay and instruct future Canadian Forces pilots. I was asked to get as far as one could get from the pilot training system.
Autistic Savant on the left, me on the right.
When we were going through Moose Jaw, we belonged to Apache Flight. It was a rag tag group of misfits, autistic savants and high functioning alcoholics. Somehow in the crucible that is Moose Jaw all of us forged a pretty tight bond. They say a friend will help you move, a good friend will help you move a body. I know that to be true.
Anyways, my friend visited. It was the third time in a year and a half he stopped by. He didn’t really come and see me or enjoy Eastern Passage wine. He came to see a friend of his who was battling cancer. The first time he came out, his friend was just completing chemotherapy and the cancer was in remission. He introduced us to his friend at that time, and I remember being careful about touching things. I didn’t want to give him my cold. I spent the night with my hands in my pockets. Cancer is a shitty disease and makes us feel like fools.
One of many misfits and my daughter.
A couple of weeks ago my friend visited for a second time. He came at the request of his friend’s mother. The cancer had come back, and doctors gave him weeks to live. He dropped everything and came to help the best he could. He spent long hours sitting beside a dying friends bed, waiting for him to come back into consciousness. He argued with him, even in his friend’s sickened state, so that others would be allowed to say their peace. He arranged video conferences between friends across Canada and in Afghanistan. He said and heard things that no twenty-something should have to endure. 
His second visit happened while I was at sea. He stopped by late one night to say hello to my wife. They talked and consoled each other. When he left, he hugged her on the front porch and said goodbye. They didn’t worry about what the neighbors might think.

High functioning alcoholic.
This past Friday my friend visited again. He brought his lovely wife (she is way too good for him) and his ginger baby girl. He was going to his friend’s funeral. We offered our place for as long as he needed, and made it clear that we wanted him to stay as long as he could. He was apologetic that he was only staying one night. The funeral would be in a town a couple of hours from our place and he needed to help his late friend’s mother with the funeral.
Yesterday, my wife received an email from his wife. She thanked us for letting them stay. She also said that the funeral was postponed because of a medical emergency, and that they had been staying in a hotel room for the past three days. The baby had caught the flu.
Last night my wife and I were talking about everything that had happened. She said, ‘Its so sad.”
I said, “He isn’t in any pain anymore and it gives me comfort.”
“What do you mean?”
“I know that no matter what, if something ever happened to me, he would be here for you.” I also know that standing beside him would be a group of misfits, autistic savants and high functioning alcoholics.

Godspeed Matt.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

We are called Kings for a reason.

A very good friend of mine just left his wife and young daughter. He gave them 30 hours of notice before he packed his bags and left. I wasn’t there when they hugged and kissed their goodbyes, but I know how it went. It wasn’t the first time he has dropped everything and left, not knowing how long he was going to be gone. The last time he left, he was sailing to an earthquake ravaged Haiti. This time he is going to Libya.
I wish I as going with him.
We fly Sea King helicopters for the Canadian Forces. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) has a fact sheet about our aircraft that they use from time to time to augment their stories which we may play a part. 

They are known as the "ancient" Sea Kings, the "geriatric" Sea Kings, the "venerable" Sea Kings. They have been called "flying coffins." Purchased with considerable fanfare by the federal government in 1963, when they turned heads with their impressive exploits, the Sea Kings are now a sick, aging fleet, with pieces literally falling out of the skies...
The glory days of the Sea Kings are in the distant past, yesterday's heroes, now burdened more with a reputation for embarrassing crashes than for saving lives or finding submarines.
I have only been part of the Maritime Helicopter community for a couple of years, so my experience is rather limited. In those two years, this is what I have witnessed.
Counter piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden.

"Major James Hawthorne's outstanding composure as the Crew Commander of a Sea King helicopter was essential to locating and interdicting armed pirates in the Gulf of Aden on 18 April 2009.
A skiff carrying seven pirates who attacked Norwegian tanker Front Ardenne in the Gulf of Aden races toward the Somali coast with Palomino 16, the CH-124 Sea King helicopter from HMCS Winnipeg, in pursuit, April 18, 2009. The pirates later surrendered when their skiff was seized by an HMCS Winnipeg boarding party.
Drug interdiction operations in British Columbia.
A former sailor in the Canadian Navy, Rompré has experience working with the military and has great respect for the Air Force crews with whom he now flies.
“You can ask them anything and they can push their machine and their crew to the limit to get the job done,” he says.
Although the RCMP says it locates grow-ops year round, police normally step up their efforts in late summer when the plants are budding and may soon be harvested. An RCMP helicopter and two Sea King helicopters will be involved in the crackdown,
Drug interdiction operations in Nova Scotia.
A military helicopter is used to spot the grow-ops, then officers head to the field or woods to seize the plants.
Drug interdiction operations in the Caribbean.
The ship, aircraft and their crews return home following a month-long deployment with the U.S. Joint Interagency Task Force South (JIATF-S), during which 68 bales of cocaine, amounting to approximately 1 650 kilograms, with an estimated value of $33M, were intercepted. 
Hurricane relief in Newfoundland

The Sea Kings have been tasked to meet urgent transport, heavy-lift, night-flying and supply needs... Three naval ships and Sea King helicopters helped deliver essential supplies to isolated coastal villages.
He said Sea King helicopters delivered aid to communities that were isolated by hurricane damage. King's Cove, Knight's Cove, Stock Cove and Keels all had supplies dropped in by helicopter.
Search and Rescue

A Sea King helicopter deployed by the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Halifax that had been part of the search was called off earlier Sunday because of low visibility and heavy winds
The Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre launched the search on Monday morning. A Hercules aircraft from CFB Greenwood, a Sea King helicopter from Shearwater, and a Transport Canada plane scoured the area along with three coast guard vessels.
Due to the rough terrain EHS was unable to transport the injured man out of the forest and arrangements were made with the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre to have a helicopter airlift the patient out. He was transported to Yarmouth Regional Hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
Air to air interception- G8-G20 Summit

Operation Hestia, Haiti earthquake relief

I am so proud to fly Sea Kings.

Ya we are old, and we leak. We break on occasion and the the media loves to ridicule us. But the simple fact is, when something bad happens in the world, Canada turns to us to help fix it.

We are a Cold War Antisubmarine aircraft with a heart of gold.

Godspeed Paul, and Charlottetown. We all wish we were with you.