Thursday, April 6, 2017


It was late last summer. I stood there gazing upon my rusty, yet faithful old Ford F-150. It was time to make a change.

Most every Spring I usually performed a "backyard body job" of sorts on my old gray girl, but this, her sixteenth summer, was to be her last spent in my charge.

She'd faithfully towed my boat countless times back and forth to the lake. She'd carried hundreds of signs for  Severn Soundings Team. 

Most importantly, she  safely transported my most precious cargo of all. What? Of course our children, but more often than not,  my companion was Jackson,  my Golden Retriever. I say golden, of course, because of his breed's hair colour, but my wife might suggest that the golden part refers to my pampering treatment of him, but that's another story.

The old truck still ran good, but I had to concede that the body had gotten to the point of unworthiness for the road. I had, of course, for some time now been in search of a suitable replacement, but it seems that good used pickups are like "hen's teeth" and damn pricey when you do find one.

Turning to friends and family for advice it seems that everyone had an opinion. Donna, our office administrator, pointed out how happy I could be with a new Dodge Ram. My youngest daughter Jessie and her boyfriend (both making payments on new vehicles) are true blue fans of the Chevy line and all it has to offer. Overall, the consensus seems to be that I should, for once, reach a little deeper into my pocket and buy something decent. However, anyone that knows me well, understands that my preferred expenditures are  more towards cottages, watercraft, fishing equipment, scotch and cigars (in exactly that order). The idea that a person can get $40,000 or perhaps $50,000 worth of use/value out of a any new vehicle is one that is lost on me.

In the end I was fortunate enough to happen upon a perfectly good, but admittedly well used, 11-year-old Envoy SUV at a price I approved of. While it is not an actual truck, it is a 4X4 Limited Edition GFX model with all the bells and whistles one could want.

In its day it was a top-of-the-line vehicle, but as my style savy twenty-something children point out, it's day has long ago come and gone. So alas, I must endure the barbs and jokes about its full length swirly stripes and excessive chrome, rather than a modern blacked out look  and a dated boxy profile. What do I think?

It's not so bad really. As I listen to vintage rock tunes cranked up on my Bose sound system, relaxing on programmable, powered, heated, leather seats, there is warm sunlight streaming through the sunroof, but it still remains subtle and subdued thanks to the well tinted cabin glass of my luxury ride. I'm gliding down the highway in smooth and quiet cruise controlled comfort.
 I glance into the rear view mirror and see Jackson's grinning face hanging over the backseat. I'm thinking, "Hell no, this isn't so bad!" And then I wonder when is my car payment due? And then I remember I DON'T HAVE ONE! Hey Millenniums, who's savy now? 

Thursday, December 24, 2015



Some of the best relationships in life get off to a rocky start and then seem to "hit their stride" and blossom as you recognize the benefits of being together and what each of you bring to the table, both emotionally and in a practical sense.

No I'm not having a "Doctor Phil moment!" I'm referring to the friendship that has evolved from a tenuous first few months of having an infant in the house to what exists between a young boy and an old dog today. A dog tends to react to, and takes his cue from, whatever mood or atmosphere that exists within his pack (family) at any given time. This is the reason that it is said that generally unstable humans make for unstable dogs. Even the most stable packs with the most calm, confident, leaders suffer from a little instability when a new member/baby arrives. Even before baby arrives there are new feelings within the family that the dog senses and in his mind must follow suit, like great joy (and in our case great surprise), excitement, anxiousness, nervousness and perhaps a little apprehension.

Our dog responded by staying close to his momma whenever he could, his nature changing somewhat from his happy-go-lucky demeaner to one of protectiveness and concern.
So it was no surprise that when Jax came along his arrival did little to calm our aura. This little creature, thrust amongst the pack, brought with him sights, sounds and smells that were foreign and unwelcome to an adult male with very little in the way of maternal instincts or nurturing tendencies, and I suspect the dog didn't like it much either! (Just a little humour! Of course I meant the dog!)

Seriously though, the first interactions between infant and dog were few and were strained at best. The little guy made the old dog nervous, and whenever things went wrong, he was always the one to receive the scolding. Come to think of it, things often go that way with me too, when I am left in charge of keeping the young boy out of harms way.

Now, I should say it this point that I, a veteran of  raising his five siblings before his arrival, am far better equipped to keep the boy safe than a golden retriever. (Well maybe not far better, but better at least.) Jax has grown from infant to toddler to young boy in his two and a half years of our family's life. Where there was once uneasiness and anxiety between the child and his dog, there is now understanding and a kind of friendship.

Our old boy, and perhaps "this old boy" as well, have reckoned themselves to Jax being part of our pack. We quickly learned that this young man is generally the centre of attention within the household. By positioning ourselves near the boy the dog and I often receive scraps of food, as there seems to be a never ending supply of snacks offered in the young lad's presence. Incidentally, close proximity to him also occasionally awards me with a shred or snippet of the warmth and attention that was once lavished upon me in my pre-Jax years, but that's getting off track and sounds like a good topic for a another post!

Yes, boy and dog seem more and more every day to be better friends and have more in common. At two and a half years of age Jax frequently exhibits behaviours such as afternoon naps, running through puddles, eating food off the floor, inappropriate public grooming and occasional howling for no apparent reason. Jackson displays these and as well continues one that Jax has thankfully mostly discontinued, a penchant for chewing his toys and eating the bark off sticks in the yard.
All in all Jax would say that it's nice to have a dog as a friend. Someone to eat your vegetables for you, someone willing to share his kibble and treats with you, someone to provide interesting terrain for your toy trucks, the list goes on.

I think that their one area of disagreement might be Jax's fascination with flushing toilets. It's a nuisance when you are trying to get a drink!

Friday, July 31, 2015


There's an old saying that, "You can pick your friends, you can pick your nose, but you can't pick your family." And you can't pick your friend's nose either, but that's not where I'm going with this.

These days, when everyone seems to be a Facebook philosopher, liking and sharing each others posts, purporting to be a happy member of a wonderful Facebook family, it occurs to me that interfacing with your pseudo Facebook friends and family tends to be effortless and usually amusing. One merely has to scroll passed posts that are boring, displeasing, negative, stress inducing, or downright crazy or offensive points of view. Not so in the real world with your real family. Interacting with real friends and real family members, as flawed and imperfect as they (or you) may be, is tough!

Worst of all, having to deal face to face with disagreeable friends and family members sometimes forces us to question ourselves a bit, rather than simply scrolling passed the conflict. For this reason its easy to let ourselves slip into treating strangers like family and family like strangers through the magic of today's social media. When you think about it, that behaviour is hardly consistent with the glowing Facebook profiles that we have worked so hard to create for ourselves and profess to be the "real us."

Typically, our profiles and pages depict perfect pictures of perfect children, spouses, pets, jobs, pastimes, vacations and philosophies.
We re-post trendy words of wisdom that decree that we as "forty somethings" shall no longer tolerate negativity in our lives and shall surround ourselves with only positive, like-minded, forward thinking individuals (like ourselves of course).

The reality is that while this ideology is well intended and great advice in a perfect Facebook world, its practice in the real world is challenging at best and impossible at worst. We don't all have great bosses, co-workers, fellow commuters, creditors, hair days, and the sun does not always shine. You get the idea.
When it comes to family, whether they are blood, through marriage, or even become family by circumstance, we cannot be so lofty as to ignore, disown, or distance ourselves when the going gets tough. For one thing, this would be so unlike our social media personalities, right? There is some good in all of us. We sometimes just have to work at it to appreciate real friends and family. And there's just two things to keep in mind.

First, its a fact that you can't pickem!

And second, even in these modern times, family matters!  

Friday, December 12, 2014


There was a promise of +3 degrees that late November day. Not much of a promise, but a damn sight better than the last week, which featured full on winter type storms and lows of -15 at night. I was putting together a crew for a expedition of sorts, which would include a boat ride, a bonfire, some hot food around said bonfire, and of course, refreshments. Apprised of my intentions my dear wife offered the opinion that my plan for the day was both foolish and dangerous, but one that would not cause her concern. She said that her lack of concern was mostly because she doubted severely (as she put it) that I could pay anyone enough to accompany me into that frozen Hell. I got distracted by her choice of words (what did she mean "mostly"?), but then quickly recovered saying, "Pay someone? Why in the world would I have to pay a fella for a grand adventure?" She said, "You make it sound like you're offering them tickets to Disney World, when instead you are putting together a crew for a re-enactment of The Franklin Expedition." I explained that a "possum lodge" type group of  men like us find a day like this very exciting and it was like offering a day at Disney World!

At my age I think I know a thing or two about what men consider to be exciting. Now to be inclusive of all, I've been told that younger groups of usually unattached men have a very different idea of a Disney type experience. I understand it includes a raised stage, brass poles, and having plenty of dispensable cash on hand. I think we are getting off track a bit so back to my plan for the day.

The purpose of this trip of course had nothing to do with finding the Northwest Passage, but it did involve finding safe passage through an ice filled Lost Channel and rescuing one of my "tin boats" and the "little Merc" that powered it. We launched at an ice free Big Chute and headed east on our quest with a sturdy vessel, plenty of provisions and a well seasoned crew. Navigating around ice flows as we went we made good time until changing course and heading up into the slower moving waters of the channel itself.
The weather had changed its course as well with temperatures falling rather than rising (+3 becoming -3 and a snow squall coming in to make things interesting).

Progress forward became very slow, but being a swarthy bunch we pressed on. We were within sight of the cottage and the promise of shelter when, like the ill fated Franklin crew mired in heavy ice, we were forced to abandon our ship and continue on foot. Ice conditions were at that problematic stage (too thick to navigate by boat but too thin to support the weight of a crew member).

It was while I was witness to the exertions of the men between boat and shore that I made the following observation: generally speaking the more seasoned the man the more mass he seemed to have and the less likely he was to be "fleet of foot," which played a big role in how dry he was reaching the shore.
Eventually all souls aboard made it to shore and the relative safety of the cottage with varying degrees of success staying dry.

Undaunted, we set about to build a fire, winterize the cottage and rescue "The Shenanigans" from her icy prison beside the dock. No easy feat as she had gained a little weight since summer in the form of ice and snow filling her hull.
The little Merc? Well it was liberated as well, then travelled by sleigh, then boat, then the back seat of my truck to its place of wintering on a bench in my workshop. The crew members? Well we wound up getting warmed by the fire, having a hot meal and a friendly debate about who fared the worst on this excursion and of course the inevitable assignment of blame.

As with all endeavours it was not without adversity and I suppose responsibility ultimately rests upon the leader. What is it that Frank Costello said? "Heavy lies the crown" sort of thing?

Like the ill fated Franklin Expedition the unanswered questions were many.
Perhaps my choice of days to depart was flawed. Maybe the path taken through an ever thickening layer of ice should have been different. Even the order to abandon ship may have been hasty. Who can really be sure?

As I gazed at those gathered around the fire that day, through the jokes, barbs and differing versions of events, I was only sure of one thing.
Clearly, not a soul here would trade being at Lost Channel today for Orlando and a visit with Mickey!

Friday, December 5, 2014


A hot bath, a fresh shave and new hair cut gives a guy a little bounce in his step! It's a good feeling, and if you're lucky enough, like me, to have a little "youthful influence" from a certain toddler in your life, you might convince yourself that youth is a state of mind, not a physical attribute that slowly slips away from all of us.
As a fella ages he must however realize that feelin' good is just that, a feeling. It passes. Value wise? Let's see! The expression, "that and a buck and a half will buy you a cup of coffee," comes to mind.
On the other hand "gettin' old' is much more intrinsic, much easier to quantify, and tends to stick with a fella once it gets started. Then of course there is "feelin' old" which is different again. It seems to be more transient in nature and seems designed to nicely counteract that first, more agreeable, condition I mentioned, "feelin' good or youthful."

"Gettin' old" is that back/shoulder/neck pain that makes extended lounging on a bed in the mornings like a teenager completely unmanageable when your in your 50's. "Feelin' old" is when, despite his better judgement, a fella takes a moment to survey his image in the morning mirror and can't figure out for the life of him why Walter Matthau is staring back at him.

"Gettin' old" is when you hurt your back or hip sneezing or wrench one of your fingers tucking a "blankie" into the back seat of your truck for your dog to sit on. "Gettin' old" is realizing you forgot your change at home when you get to the coffee shop and then fumbling for your reading glasses so you can see instructions on the bank machine that's going to charge you $1.75 for the privilege of access to your own money! And lastly, "feelin' old" might be patiently standing in line with my fresh shave and my new hair cut and  having to listen to the young gentleman in front of me flirt with the "20 something" server. He was obviously in a much greater hurry than I this morning, as he had opted for a hat rather than a comb, a cigarette rather than a tooth brush and of course the customary pajama bottoms rather than actual pants.
Not being burdened by an actual job to go to, the PJ's I imagine are a comfortable choice, and judging by their predominance among the generation x'ers, a fashion statement of sorts. The statement it makes to me is: I have my "Playstation 2" on pause in my parent's basement, swiped a couple of toonies from the console of Mom's car and ran in here to snag something sweet before my next online adventure. Most of my observations about this young fellow are simply conjecture, but the cigarette part I can attest to as I had seconds ago watched him flick it over his shoulder into the parking lot with one hand on the door of the building. Well apparently the staff there did not share my disdain, as with a few grunts, chuckles and mumbles, looking up from his cell phone he flashed a smile and got a free apple turnover. Me, the old guy, well I got a frown and an "eye roll" and was charged an extra 30 cents when I politely asked for a double cup, as I was walking to work.

Oh well, such is life! Can't say I didn't occasionally enjoy the same preferred treatment in my youth as this fellow now. I guess the young man's attention made her feel good, and it will only be later, when she's counting her tips, that she may realize the true value of his momentary interest in her. Yup! You guessed it!
"That and a buck and a half will buy you a cup of coffee!"