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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(Long) Weekend Update, Volume 7.

We were spoiled with the weather this weekend.  Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were bright blue and sunny.  Even though it rained periodically on Monday, it was so warm that it sort of balanced out.

The mornings started as they usually do . . .

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. . . with a dose of Curious George and a cup of coffee.

But it wasn’t long before we were out and about, crunching sidewalk leaves as we went . . .

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. . . and raking them up when we came back.

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I took the girls with me to the grocery store, and although we hated to waste time indoors, we desperately needed weekend survival supplies, so off we went.  The shopping itself was relatively painless.  We were there early enough to avoid most of the long weekend crowds, and we found everything we needed – even at the often poorly stocked discount store.

A cause for celebration, to be sure.

When we came outside, we noticed that the weekend grocery mob had created quite a scene in the parking lot.  Customer after customer, caught in some sort of self-induced consumer haze, combined their unconscious powers to collectively create . . .

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a yellow, two-lane blocking grocery cart sculpture.

Twice as long as the cart corral.

Twice as long.

Twice.

Seconds before this picture was taken, cars were stopped in both directions, horns were honking, and Daughters One, Two, and their father were laughing at the stupidity of the scene.

I’d like to know where the people in the honking cars returned their carts.

Wagers anyone?

In any case, it took a few minutes for the fluorescent orange safety vest army to make its way to the parking lot, but they did, and when they did, they quickly disassembled what so many grocery zombies had worked so hard to create.  Another cause for celebration.

I quote one of the three wise men from Trailer Park Boys: “people are so stupid, they don’t even know how to use a cart corral.”

We made a few trips to the park over the weekend, and I wondered how many more times we’d visit it in warm, sunny weather.

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And since it was Thanksgiving, we made two trips to Hometown Hamilton to stuff ourselves with festive fare, and everything was delicious.

Everything.

As usual.

My stomach is still trying to recover from two feasts in three days.

Daughters One and Two found themselves in the midst of an Easter egg inspired candy/chocolate pumpkin hunt – tasty little treasures hidden in their grandparents’ yard.

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Their instructions were simple.  They were to: find these scrumptious morsels; bag them; hand them over to their parents for safe keeping; promptly forget about them; and then their parents were to nibble on them over the next several weeks (and disperse them to their finders in small surprise batches when fit).

Mission Accomplished (so far).

But supplies are running out quickly.

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The Leaves Will Shake Loose.

The sidewalks on our street and the neighbourhood pathways have quickly filled in with layers of fallen leaves.

Some of them are already dry and crunchy underfoot.

Every brilliant autumn colour is on display, and the shedding trees even picked up their pace a bit after the first frost came through this weekend.

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As I was walking along the trails, the famous lines from Charlotte’s Web popped into my head: “These autumn days will shorten and grow cold.  The leaves will shake loose from the trees and fall.  Christmas will come, then the snows of winter.”

Winter’s coming.

It’ll be here before we know it, and after I fight back the waves of ensuing melancholia that wash over me every time this realization hits home, I get back outside and enjoy what’s left of this fleeting season.

Between trips to the Hometown Hammer on Saturday and Monday, I managed to squeeze in a good walk.  The weather was cool, but sunny and seasonally perfect.  Blue cloudless skies, a slight breeze, and damp, fragrant leaves.

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It’s a shame I spend so much of the fall inside and at work.  I try to get outdoors whenever I can, but I miss most of the quiet, crisp mornings – my favourite part of the day – and fall mornings are the best of all.

Being in love with autumn is difficult, but it’s not much different from loving anything else, really.

You love it, but you’re constantly worried about losing it.

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