Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Son Waketh the Father

One of these cheap plastic figurines must be Buzz Aldrin.There are three of them standing on this tacky gold plastic pedestal, positioned around a starched American flag. The detachable figurines are fairly large, like a box of crackers. I pulled it off the stand and turned it around to see if the name of the astronaut was written on the back. It wasn’t. As I started to turn it upside down, thinking the name of the astronaut might be indicated on the soles of his moon boots, the figurine suddenly spoke to me, repeating the word, “Dad. Dad.”

I opened my eyes to find Tristan standing over me, dressed and ready for school. I had forgotten to adjust the setting on my alarm clock! As is customary, it took me a few moments to clear my groggy and groaning head. The clock read 6:42 this morning. I got dressed, got in the car and drove him to his destination on-time.

Neither of us are morning people. Susan is a morning person. Wheeeee! “The earlier, the better,” she likes to chirp.

Tristan is a night owl, like me. Mornings are just a mistake.

I’m doing the late newscast right now, which means I’m off the air at 11:30 at night. Depending on how many hellishly stupid detours inconsiderate roadworkers throw at me each night, I can usually make it home around 12:30. Falling to sleep after the shift and the drive, can take a while; there’s much unwinding to be done.

In order to get Tristan to school on-time, I’m supposed to wake-up at 6:30 am.


Every single morning, all through high school, I’ve been the one to get him out of bed! He didn’t set alarms, it was my job; the father waketh the son. I’d call out his name every few minutes, each time more sternly, until finally, utterly exasperated, I’d be forced to fling his mattress into the air!

Once woken, inevitably and unfailingly, he’d trudge around the house snarling like a ravenous jungle cat listening to the familiar sounds of the zookeeper preparing food. It’s usually wiser not to interact with the ornery beast, but there are limits to the rudeness I will tolerate.

Now in his graduating year, for the first time, he’s using an alarm clock! I can’t decide whether I’ve been demoted, or promoted. Of course, if it gives me a few extra minutes of sleep, I’m good with it. These days, it’s especially important that I set my alarm correctly on Tuesday mornings because Tristan is up late Monday night, watching one of our favorite shows, “Hawaii Five-O”.

Last Tuesday, he slept through his alarm and I was there to get him up on-time. Today he was there to get me up on-time. Alas, he’s nobly taken up the shield of responsibility. Yawn; the circle is complete.

Was that Buzz in my hand? Only Freud knows for sure.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Knickers in Knots

Go ahead, ask me if I’ve ever had a dressing room before last night?

Uh, no.

I was asked to be Master of Ceremonies for a gala concert to raise funds for the bursary and financial aid programs at my former college. The event took place at Montreal’s brand new Maison symphonique. The concert hall is so new that you’re breathing in sawdust as you wait in the wings between acts!

During "mic" check yesterday afternoon, I made the mistake of referring to the venue as “Place des Arts” and was immediately corrected by the sound guy at the back of the hall. Make a note, they are two separate entities.

Knickers in knots!

The event featured performances by current and former music students. I had the pleasure of meeting some talented people, including mezzo soprano, Annamaria Popescu, who I hope to have on our own interview show soon.

With Jamie Gelfand on piano, I sang “The Way We Were”, although as we yakked it up on-stage, I’m pretty sure he gave me a hard time over my song choice!

I knew him as Jamie, the wild-haired, frisbee-wielding free spirit bounding across the school lawn! Still every bit the immensely talented pianist, he’s now known, rather primly, as Mr. James Gelfand. After casually referring to him as “Jamie” during his on-stage introduction, he returned the favor and hollered back at me, with some sting, “Richie”, as I exited stage right.

Knickers in knots!

The best part was having Tristan and Susan there. I could see them fidgeting a little during less entertaining numbers, but it was nice to see their familiar faces each time I scanned the crowd from backstage. They also provided candid and much-appreciated reviews afterwards.

I left with a card of thanks from the director-general of Marianopolis, who we had the pleasure of chatting with after the show.

Although we had been speaking beforehand and had gone over last-minute changes, moments before showtime, the school's director of development and alumni affairs, found me waiting in the wings backstage and explained to me, wide-eyed, gasping for air and brow glistening, that he'd spent the last twenty minutes looking for me. Sorry about that, Barth.

Knickers in knots!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

SASE, Meet Dodo

Tristan completed an assignment for English class last week. As instructed by his teacher, he wrote a 500 word letter to himself and put it in a SASE. Apparently, the teacher plans to send these "self-addressed stamped envelopes" back to the students, for a reason as yet unspecified, at the end of the year.

He wrote the letter and then asked Susan where on the envelope to put the stamp. He then wondered where on the envelope he should write the address. When he was done, he brought it to Susan for a last check. He had not written his name on the envelope! She told him he had to write the name of the person to whom the letter was addressed.

The SASE has been turned-in to the teacher and will, I suppose, eventually make its way back to our house next spring.

It's 2011 and the winds of progress that howl, roar and rip at us, have made letter-writing a novelty! Tristan's generation very rarely writes letters. Skype, twitter, e-mail, facetime, texting; they've learned to communicate, instantly and effectively, in a million different ways! Time is no object, nor is distance. In elementary school, we learned how to address envelopes and write letters. Now in elementary school, students are not allowed to text in class!

Technology is leaving things like "snail mail" and cursive writing behind. The dodo bird will tell you the clock’s ticking.

Susan scolded me over the weekend for failing to read all the text messages that had been sent to my prehistoric flip phone! I explained that unless I see a big blue screen with the words "New Message" on it, I assume I have no new text messages. Even if there is no big blue screen, she suggested I make a point of scanning the bar at the top of the flip phone's screen to see whether there is an envelope icon. This envelope icon, she explained sweetly through gritted teeth, means I have messages.

I'm conflicted.

I don't want to be Luddite Lou. Still, part of me resents society's relentless obsession with gadgets and the craving to have the latest device to show-off to your friends. Without a doubt, there are practical applications and I applaud those who use technology's leading edge to entrepreneurial advantage. Do I need to see someone a continent away when I talk to them? Do I need a keyboard phone? Do I need to have a phone at all?

Maybe the real problem is that I'm just cheap and resent having to spend money on all this junk!

I know I could survive back in the dark age when I did my own parallel parking and found phone booths! There was peace and space and time to think. The world around me seems consumed by incessant chirps, bowed heads and tapping thumbs; and I'd much rather park my car than have it park me, thanks!

Is resistance futile? By failing to embrace new gadgets, am I dooming myself to a life of limits and lack of vision?

Will Tristan ever write me a letter? Do pigs fly?

Friday, September 16, 2011

One Eye on the Dark Sky

I made sure I was in front of the television set to see whether Batman and Robin would make it out of that terrible scrape they’d landed in during the previous episode! There I would be, faithfully and eagerly, sometimes with bath towel hanging cape-like from my shoulders, in front of the television, cheering on the dynamic duo.

When I glanced out the newsroom window yesterday and saw the Batmobile parked on Ste-Catherine Street, I had no choice but to rush down and re-live the excitement!

I still have my Corgi Batmobile!

The Batmobile and the Delorean from “Back to the Future” were parked downtown to help promote this weekend’s Comic Con. One of the organizers of the event, Alex La Prova, had been on our show a few days earlier, talking about all the special guests and activities. Alex, in the red T-shirt,  had confessed to me before our interview started, that he never thought it would get as big as it has.

Years ago, while working at a Montreal radio station, I interviewed David Prowse, the man who wore the Darth Vader costume in the “Star Wars” movies. The former bodybuilder didn’t perform Vader’s voice, but he was the man in the costume. I asked him in that 1993 interview, whether George Lucas was very involved in Darth Vader’s appearance and presence on-screen. David replied, “Not at all. Not at all; that was all me. I had no instruction from George whatsoever. I was just basically given carte blanche to do as I pleased. The one thing I decided right from the outset, was, I really wanted to make Darth Vader as menacing and, um, well, really as menacing as possible. And I thought the best thing I can do is the way I move and the way I walk and I really wanted everybody to be subservient to me and I virtually wanted everybody to have to run to catch-up with me as I walked or strode through the scenes. I wanted everbody to be trotting behind me and this is really what established Darth Vader right from the word go.”  David’s at the Comic Con and yesterday, I got a picture with him.

I can't help it, the fun of Batman and Spiderman lives inside me! True, even then, those building-climbing scenes left a lot to be desired but, I still keep one eye on the dark sky, just in case Commissioner Gordon flashes the bat signal.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Addictive Apple

We’ve been to New Yortk City several times and, on occasion, have eagerly persuaded relatives to come with us. We really enjoy going and every visit, every walk, every block, is an adventure!

I was at home getting ready to go into work for my radio news shift in Montreal when Susan called to say a plane had hit one of the World Trade Centre towers. She didn’t have access to a television at her workplace and neither of us realized it was a passenger jet that had deliberately flown into the struture. It was only when I got to work that I turned on a television and saw the images.

They were shocking, disturbing and grotesque then and today, ten years later, they remain exactly so.

I didn't go to New York City to cover the story, but I covered it from afar on my radio newscasts, reports and interviews. I don't carry too many news stories around with me, but this is one of them.

The scope of the violence and suffering are incomprehensible.

In terms of the things I notice on streets and how I evaluate people around me, their behaviors and the possible consequences of details I observe, it certainly changed me.

Like Montreal, there is no other place on earth quite like New York City; its vibrancy is intoxicating and the overpowering roar of life, addictive.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Flo-Rida Adventures Part 5

Until it crashed into his face, I had never even heard of a stinkbug! Tristan was vigorously wiping his face with hand sanitizer after the bug hit and, indeed, the smell was rather pungent! Apparently, the bug emits odor through holes in its abdomen. One of the many adventures connected with our visit last month to Florida.

This is the final installment of our 2011 Flo-Rida Adventures series!

There’s no doubt about it, it’s a long drive! We divide it into two days and usually, spend one night on the road in a hotel. Unfortunately, we sometimes get dumpy rooms under respectable hotel chain names. On the way home, we ended up in a room at the Comfort Inn that was musty, damp and dingy with sudden, loud noises from the room next door.

One of the reasons we drive is so we can bring our two dogs, Moose and Spike. This close-up of Spike’s nose was shot on my camera by Susan, for the purposes of  –  I have no idea why she took this picture!

Every single morning, Susan is up early to give Moose her insulin shot. As a result, sunrises from our balcony in Cocoa Beach were a welcome distraction from the fatigue. It’s pre-dawn.

A new day means brand new coupon possibilities and a chance to share the 90+ heat with man’s best friend; wait, no, my mistake, this is Susan’s best friend!

One of the high points while driving was hearing Tristan sing the entire Flobots song, “Handlebars”. It’s pretty darn impressive, not to mention a great song!

I can’t deny I employed conflict avoidance strategies during the drive. Susan found the air conditioning in the car too cold, so, wrapped in a fleece blanket, she’d say, “I don’t know how you can sit in front of the air conditioning vent! Aren’t your knees cold?” Sitting behind the wheel in shorts, my wisest response was, consistently, a tight-lipped, “Hmmmm.” You have to stay on your toes so you can recognize those provocative comments meant to lead nowhere good!

Not being fans of the taste, Tristan and I found out the hard way that all Dominoes' pizza crusts across the United States are now stuffed with garlic! He did get to snack at Ron John’s, as his mother prepared to eat a pizza slice!

BTW, I do have authorization from the individual on the left to use this picture. For more Cocoa Beach adventures, see my August 22, 2010 blog, titled "Crazy for Cocoa Beach"! You can hardly wait for next year, huh?

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Le Grand-brulé

It’s been a while; easily several years that I have been suggesting we hike up Mont Tremblant to see the bird show at the summit. For the bilingual “Birds of Prey” show organized by Falcon Environmental Services, this is the last weekend of the season.

Tanya Drapeau of FES was recently a guest on the interview show I host and her appearance prompted me to again suggest to Susan that we hike up Tremblant, Labor Day weekend. I had done television reports from the picturesque summit with Tanya years ago, but, Susan and I had never hiked up to see the actual show.

Today was the day!

The two of us arrived at the base of the mountain and decided the quickest way to hike to the summit would be straight up! The show was scheduled to begin at 12:30 pm. We had about an hour and a half to make the demanding 968 metre climb.

Two minutes in, Susan turned around and playfully offered, “If I’m going too fast, be sure to tell me.” She called it “a little verbal jab”. Wouldn’t it be funny, I grumbled to myself, if I got the opportunity during this hike to say those very words back to her.

Twenty minutes later; bingo!

Never one to shy away from fanning a potential domestic fire, I turned around and, at great risk to life and limb, offered, “If  I’m going too fast, tell me,” and, I added, “That’s just a playful little jab.” She took it very well and the bruise she inflicted will heal with time.

I’m telling you, the summit never came! I was drenched but keeping pace and, at times, setting a slow but steady one. I’d stop to take pictures as an excuse to rest!

Last weekend, I walked to the video store about a mile and a half from our home, in the wind and rain attributed to Tropical Storm Irene and I didn’t get as wet as I got today, climbing Tremblant! Along with the front and back of my shirt, the entire rim of my HH baseball cap was completely soaked!

I was wearing our backpack and I made certain to explain its terribly cumbersome weight was contributing to the steady flow of sweat dripping from the tip of my nose!

It contained two water bottles, four fruit cups, two spoons, my sweater, my rain slicker, Susan’s slicker, my wallet, her wallet, a bag of raisins, a bag of jellybeans, a pen or two, an elastic band and lots of lint! All in all, we’re talking substantial weight; am I right?

We traded the lead until, frustratingly, she got her second wind! We’d still stop to rest, but she definitely had more energy as we finally closed the distance to the summit. We must have made the summit shortly after noon. I quickly bought liquids and guzzled them!

Sitting on the bench at the bird show, soaked with sweat, I began to feel a chill in the breeze. The biologists brought out a turkey vulture, kestrel and a bald eagle. The birds fly right over your head and move from perch to perch, so you can snap pictures.

This is the little barn owl who, despite his little puffball apprearance, the biologists explained, is a voracious hunter.

Then, there was a Great Horned Owl.

The show, though a little shorter than we had expected, was terrific! We left the show and snapped some pictures from the summit.

We weren’t too sure which path to take down, but we ended-up on a trail called Le Grand-brulé, which, unbeknownst to us, translates to “the godforsaken, never-ending trail”. Had we been aware of the translation, rest assured, we would have coughed up $7 each, to take the gondola down!

It was tight, steep, slippery, dark, bright, wet, dry, mucky. The trail surface went from thick slop to jagged rocks, then from loose boulders to sheer faces, and from packed gravel to tangled roots. In Tremblant's official guide, Le Grand-brulé is listed, kindly, as a "difficult" trail of 6.5 km in length, one way.

Hiking with Susan today, was like hiking with a little kid! On the way up, she claimed I was too slow, then too fast! Susan was thirsty, her ankle hurt, her back hurt and, being a goal-oriented, fiery little beast, she preferred leading the way up the hill! Publicly, she will insist she is not competitive. I don’t understand it! On the way down, ignoring treacherous terrain, she would insist on scampering ahead and claiming the lead for hers, and hers alone! She was in another gear! If I was in front, the instant there was enough space, she would dash past, giggling! The truth is she may be psychotically competitive; not to mention impatient, impulsive and impetuous. Honestly, it doesn’t get any better than that! I love it!

Susan likes to see she’s making progress and Le Grand-brulé doesn’t allow you to ever see the village below. So, you ceaselessly slip, slide, twist, bend, skip, jump and hop, without ever feeling like you’re nearing the end. Providing plenty of close calls and wipeouts, “the godforsaken, never-ending trail” just went on and on, and on and on!

Susan did not appreciate that “endless hiking feeling” in the least, nor the sense of futility it bred. She kept letting me know it and by the time we saw the village, I was as relieved as she was!

We stopped to look in a few stores and every time we stopped, my limbs, joints, muscles and brain cells seemed to be stiffening-up. As we came out of the village general store with still more liquids in-hand, I said, “Wow, every time we start walking again, I walk even slower than I did before." Immediately and sweetly, she responded, “Really? I didn’t think that was possible.”

I must say, today was a nutty workout! I can’t decide which was a greater source of exhaustion, hiking up and down Tremblant, or hiking with Susan!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Inside-Out Privileges

In this household, I do most of the laundry. I find it an easy chore, although, granted, I’m not doing laundry for thirty people!

No biggie; separating whites, darks, colors, multi-colors.

Laundry allows me to do a bunch of other things around the house while, occasionally, checking to see whether it’s time to move the wash to the dryer, or remove dried clothing for folding. I often start laundry loads, then blog, or take out my guitar and sing, until I hear the dryer buzz!.

Laundry is not without its challenges and hazards! It’s incredible; I often buy those bags of white sport socks for myself, Susan and Tristan. There may be twenty pairs in a package and yet, within a couple of weeks, we’re down to six intact pairs, each! Where the heck are these socks running off to?

In an effort to reduce losses, I now resemble a bomb disposal expert as I slowly scoop ticking socks from the washer and transfer them to the dryer. Carefully, I hold them at arm’s length, to better allow me to spot the defectors, lone white socks, frantically jumping for freedom.

Truthfully, handling socks like nuclear waste hasn’t helped my average. You’ll be happy to know, no sock is wasted. Unmatched socks can look forward to being stuffed inside the waffle balls we use for floor hockey!

Certainly, there are worse fates. They could end up on my feet!

At some point, I was probably folding a pile of clothes and grumbling about all the inside-out shirts, sweaters, sweatshirts and socks! Susan says it was sometime after we were married that I warned her she would eventually be losing inside-out privileges.

Shortly afterward, it happened, and I no longer turned her shirts, blouses and other clothing outside-out. I decided from that moment on, I would fold clothing "as is"; if it’s inside-out when I pull it from the dryer, that’s how it would be folded.

You understand. It just slowed me down too much and severely compromised my efficiency!

A couple of years ago, I told Tristan that, at sixteen, he would lose inside-out privileges.

I would find myself turning inside-out jeans, sweatpants, shorts, sweatshirts, hoodies and thirty million t-shirts, outside-out! Alone and trying to maintain my high-speed folding mode, I found it time-consuming and downright exasperating!

Last night, as he pulled on a T-shirt that he had just turned outside-out, he asked whether he had, indeed, lost inside-out privileges. It’s been a few weeks since his sixteenth birthday and I, feeling terribly guilty, admitted the privilege had gone the way of a stray sock.

My first impulse is still to turn his inside-out clothing outside-out!

It’s tough and I’m torn. I want to be a good father, but it’s ridiculous! Plus, I’m pretty sure being a good dad does not entail painstakingly pulling fifty million articles of clothing from inside-out to outside-out!

Besides, I’m still doing all their inside-out socks - and that’s enough to keep my sanity teetering precariously.