Emerged.

On Saturday, we went to a Halloween party.

Very Early Digressionary Note:  I love Halloween.  Watching little kids lose their minds over free candy – getting excited about going out in the dark in their cute little scary costumes – is one of the things I really look forward to every year.  More on this tomorrow.

The kids were all dressed up, they were having fun playing with each other, they were eating incredible food and, generally speaking, they were having a blast.

We hung out with friends we hadn’t seen in a while, we also ate incredible food, we enjoyed a few cocktails, and we had a great time catching up and chatting.

I even went all out in preparing my costume.

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Oh yes.

All out indeed.

Everyone else put far more effort into their costumes than I did.  I congratulated them on their abundant creativity and imagination.

Whatever creativity and imagination I have coursing through my veins at the end of my workday gets siphoned into this fine little project (almost) every day.

Amazing, I know.

But I’m a firm believer that Halloween is for kids.

Dressing up is for kids.

It’s not for adults.

I agree with Lewis Black:

You are an adult, and you can dress up whenever you want to.  You don’t need permission anymore!  If you wake up next Tuesday, and you feel like being Batman, go for it!  And then you go to work, and your boss will look up and go: “Who are you?”  And you can say: “I . . . am . . . Batman.  That’s who I am, who are you?”

Try it sometime.

You’ll be the hit of the office.

Guaranteed.

Anyway, we were all having a good time at the Halloween party.

Until Daughter Number Two started crying.

For over an hour.

And then we had to leave.

What happened?

Well . . . she sat on the couch . . . tipped over onto the couch . . . straightened herself out, and promptly burst into tears.

She didn’t bump her head.  She didn’t fall on anything.  She didn’t cut herself.  She didn’t choke on a couch cushion Dorito from Halloween party past.

These were all things I immediately considered.

We gathered all the parents ’round the screaming babe and formed ourselves a nice little ad hoc diagnostic committee.

Fine, fine.

It was a Halloween ad hoc diagnostic committee.

Picky, picky.

Happy now?

We collectively determined that she needed medical attention.  Given the late hour, we knew this meant the emergency room.  We sighed, packed up the kids, cut short our Halloween partying, said our goodbyes, and piled into the car.

It turns out black cats, even in costume form, really are bad luck.

My wife took Daughter Number Two to the emergency room.

Daughter Number One and I stayed home.  I put her to bed, cracked a few craft beers, and watched the Leafs continue to humiliate themselves.

I should mention that neither of these things is a particularly good way to spend the rest of a post-Halloween party Saturday evening.

After several hours, a doctor – not a Halloween doctor, a real doctor (he’s an adult, you see, it’s not a costume) – proclaimed that Daughter Number Two had suffered Nursemaid’s Elbow.  He performed an impressive maneuverin thirty seconds – and sent them home.

Daughter Number Two made an immediate recovery.  As soon as the doctor corrected her arm, she was fine.

Mystery Solved.

When she tipped over on the couch, she caught her arm between two heavy cushions and, when she pulled it out, she strained her elbow.

We thought this was the end of our terrifying tale of Halloween party misfortune.

Until last night, when Daughter Number One tried to pull her sister up onto our king-sized bed and instead managed to pull her sister’s elbow out again.

By eerie spooky coincidence, the Leafs were playing last night too.  I considered this when I decided to take my turn in emergency room Hell.

Of course, this immediately meant that the Leafs would rout the Sabres 4-0 in one of their finest defensive efforts ever.

I was supposed to go out to trivia night at the pub with some of my friends, but whether I was home watching the Leafs with a clothespin on my nose – as I’d done in the past – or waiting in the emergency room, I knew the night wasn’t going to unfold quite as planned.

Four hours in the emergency room seems a long time for a little girl to wait for a thirty-second repair job, especially considering she’d just been there on Saturday.

I mean, even Wal-Mart has a better return policy than that.

Eventually, the doctor listened to my story about the king-sized bed, apologized for the wait, and performed his neat little trick.

Much Later Digressionary Note: It’s not as easy as it looks.  I tried and failed to simulate the technique from the video.  It didn’t help at all.  I worried I would break her.  I stopped.  I can’t even convincingly imitate a doctor for Halloween.  A sad realization.  My friend is a real doctor, but he’s much smarter than I am.  For the record, I don’t think he dresses up for Halloween either. 

Daughter Number Two cried a little more this time – the doctor told me the reaggravation was probably more painful – but she came through as she did last time.

I could go on and on about people going to the emergency room for obvious non-emergencies – which is the main reason we were there for so long on both occasions – but what would be the point?

People go for anything these days.

Stub your toe?  Emerg.  Fever?  Emerg.

Need a tissue and the drugstore’s closed?  Emerg?

But I won’t go on and on.

I’ve gone on long enough already.

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Mixed Bag, Volume 13.

According to The Toronto Star, things aren’t looking good for Mr. Jian Ghomeshi.  I have very little to say about this.  He’s either the victim of horribly damaging false accusations, or he’s guilty of a number of horribly serious crimes.  As the story shakes out, I’m sure we’ll all know more than any of us have ever wanted to about the man’s life – for the record, I already do – but if he is found innocent, will his life ever be normal again?  I’m not sure.

- – -

I’m also not sure how the CBC will cope with losing such a big part of their programming.  Like him or not, until this story broke he was one of the most popular broadcasters in Canada.  Now that Mr. Ghomeshi’s gone, and now that George Stroumboulopoulos is only covering hockey, there aren’t many young faces left to speak to the next generation of Canadians about the important issues they’re facing.  These things, combined with the loss of lucrative hockey revenues and hefty federal budget cuts, will make for hard going.  As a fan of the CBC and everything it stands for, I’m worried these new developments aren’t just roadblocks or speed bumps, but the beginning of the Route 66 of Canadian public broadcasting.

I hope I’m wrong, and I hope this is all alarmist gibberish.

- – -

Municipal elections were held across Ontario yesterday.  John Tory’s victory in Toronto – at least to me – is an important step for the city.  In his own words, he plans to move the city “not left, not right, but forward.”  As today’s editorial in the Star said so nicely: “This city is yearning for someone who will pull people together: rich and poor; blue collar and white; downtowners and suburbanites; and Toronto’s many ethnic communities.  After all the strife, bitterness and antagonism that characterized the Ford era, Tory’s job — beyond all else — is to heal.”

- – -

Rob Ford still somehow won his councillor seat.

How?

How?

HOW?

What were you hoping he’d do for you?  What redeeming quality did you see in the man that persuaded you to elect him?

That so many people voted for his brother Doug – in his thankfully botched mayoral campaign – and that they also saw him as a better candidate than either John Tory or Olivia Chow is a fine example of breathtaking ignorance.

Incredible.

- – -

On the topic of breathtaking ignorance is this political cartoon from The Toronto Sun.  If you haven’t seen it yet, you really should.

Unbelievable.

- – -

I watched the Leafs/Bruins game on Saturday night.  Many of you did too.  When I watch hockey, I also enjoy trying out a few new craft beers.  If you’re a Leafs fan, it’s usually the best part of the game.  Unfortunately, it’s hard to enjoy these cold tasty malty drinks when you’re watching two periods with a clothespin on your nose.

They stunk, you see.

I hope they’re better tonight.

- – -

I watched the funeral for Cpl. Nathan Cirillo during lunch today.  It was streamed on the CBC website.  The image of Cirillo’s son walking after the funeral procession will haunt me for a long time.  I tried to imagine what it would be like for a five-year-old boy to participate in that.

I couldn’t.

I tried to imagine what his family must be going through.  It really tore me up.  He didn’t have a terrible disease.  He didn’t die in a battle overseas someplace.  His death was a shocking surprise of the worst sort.

He didn’t get to say goodbye.

If he could have said something, it might have resembled this passage from Timothy Findley’s classic Canadian novel, The Wars.  It’s a letter a soldier, Rodwell, writes when he’s ordered to a perilous part of the front he knows will bring him certain death.

To my daughter Laurine;

Love your mother.

Make your prayers against despair.

I am alive in everything I touch.  Touch these pages and you have me in your fingertips.  We survive in one another.  Everything lives forever.  Believe it.  Nothing dies.

I am your father always.

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Sympathy.

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“Autumn wins you best by this: its mute appeal to sympathy for its decay” – Robert Browning.

Another glorious, crisp, clear autumn weekend is in the books.

More leaf raking fun was had . . .

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. . . but I’m starting to get the feeling that these beautiful days are numbered.

Sadly.

This morning, everything was coated with a fine dusting of ice.

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I needed to leave the defrosters on for longer than usual, and as I drove to work today I noticed drops of water pooling in puddles under every parked car – evidence that the rising sun was busy doing its best work to remove the hints of cold that night had left behind.

Trees in the neighbourhood are already without leaves.

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And that – more than anything – is the proof of Browning’s statement.

The bare, gnarled trees stick around far too long in this country, and their continual presence makes you miss the beauty you might have taken for granted the rest of the year.

That said, there are very few other places I’d rather live.

After I’d picked the kids up from school, I put them in the wagon and wheeled them over to the park.  I figured it’d be empty, and it was.  People in our area tend to desert the place as soon as shorts and t-shirt weather disappears, which is to our advantage.

It’s nice to be there with just the girls.

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They didn’t seem to mind that it was a tad cool, but once the sun started to go down – much earlier than we’re used to – it wasn’t all that pleasant.

My thoughts today, and for most of the weekend, continued to drift back toward Ottawa, Quebec, Hamilton, and to the families of the two soldiers so cruelly murdered last week.

When you’re around your own family and friends – enjoying their company, the beautiful weather, the kids playing and having fun, the incredible food and drink – it’s hard not to pause and be truly thankful for just being able to do whatever it is you’re doing, especially after you see ghastly examples of how quickly all of it can be taken away.

There are constant reminders everywhere you look.

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Making for an even more sympathetic autumn.

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Blessings.

“An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day”  – Henry David Thoreau.

I got my quick walk in this morning, and it was a perfect day for it – bright, blue, and sunny.

The leaves are really starting to . . . um . . . leave.

Pretty piles of every possible fall colour lined the sides of the pathways.

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The cold windy nights are slowly taking their toll, but there are plenty of them left up there, and I imagine we’ll get to enjoy leaf fall for a few more weeks.

Lucky us.

As you’d probably expect, my morning reveries of a solitary walker revolved around Ottawa and everything that happened this week.  It was easy to contrast the natural beauty all around me – and how fortunate I felt to be out enjoying it – with the grim stories of the past few days.

The Elizabethans believed in strong ties between natural phenomena and worldly events.  In Hamlet, Horatio describes the state of Rome after Julius Caesar’s assassination:

. . . stars with trains of fire and dews of blood,
Disasters in the sun, and the moist star
Upon whose influence Neptune’s empire stands,
Was sick almost to doomsday with eclipse.

And they’d have filled their pants when yesterday’s solar eclipse showed up the day after the scenes from Parliament Hill.

The flags on the public buildings are flying at half-mast, and I imagine they’ll continue to for quite some time – as they should.

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The body of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo – killed in Wednesday’s Madness – will be transported to Hamilton today.  A sobering thought heading into the weekend.

In his Point of View segment of The National on Wednesday night, Rex Murphy said that the shooting “was of bottomless cowardice and a perversion.”

“The killer was a hateful brute.  Let us not name him.”

Amen.

Last night, Mr. Murphy left us with some other things to think about . . .

. . . and if there’s one thing we should take from it heading into the weekend, it’s this:

We have so much to be grateful for in Canada that [Wednesday] should oblige us as citizens, and parliament as our government, to live up to the many blessings we have. 

And of course, three cheers for Kevin Vickers.

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Smelled of the Hearth.

I had an entirely different blog entry in my head yesterday morning, but as the day’s horrific events continued to unfold, I knew I’d end up shelving the stuff from the day before.

And that’s just what happened.

If you set out to try to keep a record of your (almost) daily events, you’re bound to want to  remember what you were thinking on a day like yesterday – or at least I wanted to anyway – so that’s what I did.

The day before yesterday was memorable too, but for a completely different reason.

In his introduction to The Points of My Compass, E.B. White talks sarcastically about envying foreign magazine correspondents.  They were always in the middle of interesting things and never short of writing material.  By contrast, White’s day-to-day events – at home on his farm in Maine, or at an apartment in New York – seemed to pale in comparison.

Yesterday opened my eyes to a lot of things, and one of them is that, like White, I certainly don’t envy news correspondents of any kind.  I don’t have the courage or the stomach for it, and neither did he.

So White’s monthly contributions to The New Yorker, or to Harper’s, made him an atypical correspondent, as he explained:

One obstacle stood in my way, and it was a stubborn one: unlike other correspondents, I seldom went anywhere or did anything.  My activities smelled of the hearth.  Instead of being in London, I was home.  Instead of being in Karachi, I was in the barn, or in the bathtub.

My (almost) every day writings are usually journals, and I often wonder why people keep reading them – but they do.  Which makes me feel like I have a responsibility to write about interesting things, but as you’ve noticed by now, my day-to-day isn’t all that thrilling.

So I’ll just keep doing what I’ve been doing.

If you want to keep reading, great.

Thank you.

If you don’t want to, I understand.

Perfectly.

So here we go . . .

The day before yesterday – Tuesday, October 21st – my hearth smelled like pizza.  Pizza Pizza held their annual Slices for Miracles Day – a fundraiser for the Slices for Smiles Foundation.  As their website explains:

The program was created to assist charities that provide the fundamental building blocks of life, education, healthcare, nutrition and social support to children and families to help enhance their potential to achieve a better quality of life.

The money raised – $300,000 last year – goes to the Children’s Miracle Network, an organization that “raises funds and awareness for 170 member hospitals, 14 of which are in Canada.  Donations stay local to fund critical treatments and healthcare services, pediatric medical equipment and research.”  Their mandate is “to save and improve the lives of as many children as possible.”

Who can argue with that?

We couldn’t.

Pizza is adored at our house, so on the way home from work, after I’d picked up Daughter Number Two, I stopped by the store, ordered myself two pizza smiles . . .

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. . . and a few more half-pizzas minus the pepperoni smiles, and then I picked up Daughter Number One from school.

The home from work routine has become slightly more complicated now that there’s two schools in the mix, but it’s manageable.  I carry/guide Daughter Number Two through the halls, and then she chases after her sister on the way out.

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Or, more accurately, they chase each other on the way out.

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And this usually continues out on the playground.

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I let them chase each other around out there for quite some time – pre-burning their pizza calories without even knowing it – and when I told them I had pizza in the car, they came back.

Running and smiling and laughing.

As I said at the beginning, it was an entirely different day from yesterday.

Thankfully.

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A Primary Document.

“We are all concerned and surprised that in quaint Canada, this kind of thing could happen . . . Everybody expects Canada to be remote from all the troubles of the world, peaceful and quiet and now we have this situation.”Richard Teltschik, leader of a delegation of German parliamentarians from the Christian Social Union of Bavaria on a visit to Ottawa, who left the Chateau Laurier as the Parliament Hill drama was unfolding.

I go for a thirty minute walk (almost) every day.  I walk down a series of interconnected neighbourhood pathways, and one of these pathways loops around a nearby elementary school.

Today, a teacher stopped me to ask if I was a parent of one of the students.

I wasn’t.

She explained that I “really shouldn’t be” on the school grounds during recess, and she gestured toward another pathway that went around the field that I could use instead.

I told her I’d been walking through there (almost) every day – usually during recess – and that I’d never been stopped before.

I could see she was already forming a response, and that she was about to interrupt me, so I held up my hand, raised my voice a bit, and finished what I was saying.

Look, I appreciate you stopping me.  I’m a teacher, I work at ______ (I pointed in the direction of the school).

Oh. . . If I’d known that . . . she stammered.

It’s not a problem.  Safety first.  I’ve got a daughter at ______ public school just down the road and I’d want someone to do exactly what you’re doing.  Thanks.

Oh . . . okay . . . thank you for saying that.

No problem.  Have a good one.

I smiled.

I squeezed her shoulder.

I walked toward the other pathway – thinking about our conversation – and I wondered how many people I’d walked by (almost) every day that hadn’t said anything.  That hadn’t bothered to.  That didn’t think there was a reason to.

I’m 6’5”.  I’m about 230.  I have a shaved head, and it’s my understanding that I tend to walk around with a relatively displeased look on my face most of the time.

Digressionary Note:  I’m usually just thinking about something.  I don’t mean to come across this way, but when I walk around smiling for no reason I feel stupid, and people tend to stop me to ask why I’m smiling, and then I have to explain that I’m just trying to look less threatening, and then it’s a long conversation, and I’m usually too busy for it, and I usually don’t want to talk about it, and, so, yeah – angry face it is.

The point is, somebody probably should have stopped me before today.

As I was walking back to school, one of my friends texted me to tell me that there was a shooting in Ottawa at the War Memorial.

A soldier had been shot.

Seconds later, I received another message telling me that shots had been fired inside the Parliament Buildings.

I opened Twitter – already rampant with reportage – and started following along.

When I got back to work, I loaded up the CBC News site, and watched the live stream.

I’m sure many of you did the same thing.

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

I saw the Globe and Mail footage of the shots being fired in the Centre Block, and I was stunned.

Stunned.

This just doesn’t happen here.

I thought the same thing when the planes smashed into the World Trade Centre.

As lunch ended, the fire alarm went off.

My head really started going: I hope this is only a prank.  I hope it’s not a mistake and that we’re supposed to be in lockdown instead.  I hope it’s not a fire.  What if it’s a fire?  I hope Daughter Number Two’s okay.  Oh, it’s nap time.  She’s not going to be too happy about that.  Oh, the poor daycare ladies.  They’re not going to be too happy about that.  Oh, there they are.

On and on and on.

I should probably mention that it was only a mistake.

A contractor accidentally triggered an alarm doing whatever it was he was doing.

But I didn’t know that at the time, and the sirens were blazing, and some of the kids were panicking – it was a bit of a scene – and I kept thinking about Ottawa.

By the end of the day, I found out that the soldier that was shot and killed in Ottawa is from Hamilton. He was a member of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. Their home is the John Weir Foote Armoury on James Street North, literally right around the corner from where I used to work.

And I don’t know what else to say.

We’re so lucky to live in a place where this sort of thing just doesn’t happen – at least not very often – and now we’re reading these kinds of stories twice in two days.

I’m glad somebody stopped me on the playground today.

I’m sorry that sort of thing’s necessary.

I think we’re going to see more of it after today.

A whole lot more.

To the parents and friends and family of the soldier – and to everyone deeply affected by the events in Ottawa today – I send my condolences to you.

To the brave men and women working in Ottawa – and everywhere else – to keep Canada safe, I send you my sincere thanks.

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Somewhere Else.

I went out last week.

On a weeknight.

I know, I know – I can’t believe it either.

Grandma came to watch Daughters One and Two, some friends picked me up, and we drove downtown to meet up with my wife.  We enjoyed a relatively quiet, civil, kid-free dinner – we’re talkin’ no high chair required, folks – and then we went to watch Jim Bryson play at the Dakota Tavern.

I’d never been to “The Dakota” before, but I liked it immediately.  It was large enough to accommodate the audience, but small enough to give the show a touch of intimacy.

Clear Christmas lights provide mood lighting for the place, and I know how cheesy that sounds, but it works.

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The owners have gone out of their way to deck the place out like a cottagey cabin, and that’s what it feels like.

Sound good?

It does to me, anyway.

You’re not jammed into a huge hockey arena with bad acoustics drinking a thirteen dollar pint watching the band play on a television screen while you gaze at a bunch of instrument-playing ants on a tiny stage miles beneath you.

I was sent ahead to secure seats for the show, but when I got there, I could only save a couple of spots at the bar.  I resigned myself to this reality, put my jacket on one bar stool, sat on the other, and ordered a double whisky.

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It didn’t last very long, so I ordered another.  While I was doing that, the opening act, Gabrielle Papillon, took the stage and played a few of her songs.

I liked what I heard, and I’m looking forward to checking out her new record.

When Jim Bryson went on – around 8 o’clock for what he said was “an early show for all the old folks” – I was halfway through a pint of Mill Street Tankhouse, and he played a number of old favourites, and three songs from his forthcoming record.  I hope it comes out soon.  One new song, “The Depression Dance”, was particularly good.

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His stage banter was thoroughly entertaining, and I’m glad I went.

Most importantly, I was home by 10:30.

Phew.

Oh, Jim, one thing.  Those Vans shoes you’re wearing . . .

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. . . yeah, I used to wear them too.  Be afraid.  Be very afraid.

We old folks need to stick together, right?

If you haven’t heard of Jim Bryson, you should watch this.  It features another Jim – Cuddy, of Blue Rodeo fame – and although it’s not my favourite song, it’s a decent low-budget Canadian music video.

You can check out more of Jim’s music here.  My favourite record is Live At The First Baptist Church.

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