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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Scenes from Canadian Autumn.

“I cannot endure to waste anything as precious as autumn sunshine by staying in the house.  So I spend almost all the daylight hours in the open air.”  - Nathaniel Hawthorne, The American Notebooks

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Mixed Bag, Volume 12.

Crown Holdings – a company that manufactures cans, aerosol containers, and specialty packaging – doubled its profits last year.  They have a plant in Toronto.  In 2012, this factory won the prestigious “‘Plant of the Year Award’ for outstanding ‘safety, productivity and budget management.'”  It is consistently one of the company’s most productive plants.

It employs 125 people.

They’ve been on strike for over a year now.

The company wanted to cut their wages by about a third.  They also wanted to establish a two-tier wage structure, asking that new employees be paid significantly less than their senior co-workers.

How much less?

The United Steelworkers union suggests that the newbies would earn what their older members earned 28 years ago.  To add insult to several injuries, if/when the strike ends, Crown Holdings would like to reduce the workforce at the Toronto plant by 75%.  A nice reward for a job well done.

Disgusting.

You can read more about this here.

And here.

In the meantime, we’re being asked to buy our beer in bottles instead of cans.  A small sacrifice.  Ever wonder what sort of jobs your kids are going to have?  I know I do.

- – -

A “key director” of Crown Holdings is Carnival Cruises CEO Arnold Donald.  We’re being asked to boycott Carnival as well.  This is another easy one for us.  The two-kids-in-daycare budget doesn’t really allow for fancy vacations anymore.

Cough.

That ship has sailed, so to speak.

And, given today’s news, it just got even easier.

If you want to read something that’ll really get your brain working overtime this weekend, click here.

- – -

I love the fall.  You know that by now.  I’ve gone on and on about it enough, haven’t I?

But.

I could do without one annual autumnal development.

Within the space of a month, my yard can go from this . . .

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. . . to this.

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Sigh.

Pureto Backyarda closed for another year.

- – -

At this very second, some good news for all of us has arrived via Twitter:

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And that makes the weekend a little brighter, doesn’t it?  If you haven’t had their tasty 100th Meridian Organic Amber Lager, now you’ve got another reason to check it out.

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Blogville.

Yesterday marked 550 posts in Blogville (population, one).

Yay me.

I thought I should probably update all of you on this tremendous personal achievement – because I know there’s a real burning curiosity in all of you that just can’t be extinguished any other way – and I thought you might want some more Blogville (population, one) facts.

I figure a bi-annual report on Blogville (population, one) is probably sufficient, and it’s been about six months since the last one.

People from 65 different countries – real ones – have made their way to this little place.

But still no Antarcticans.

Nope, not one New Swabian.

Do me a favour, if you’re headed to Antarctica – for whatever reason you’re headed there – bring your phone, help me cross the place off my list, and don’t forget your mittens.

121 people have signed up to get this thing delivered to them (almost) every day.

I’m not sure why you’ve come, or how you’ve found me, but you have.

Thanks for reading.

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