Monday, February 21, 2011


At my father's funeral my sister described one attribute of my father that really hit me. I am like that too. My father was a truck driver and car rally driver who liked to take different routes. He also used to drag his kids on truck trips which at the time I didn't really appreciate.

Nonetheless I have chosen jobs that allowed me to move around and not be stuck at a desk all day. I probably lost something with those decisions, but I did like seeing different places.  As a social worker I discovered two places I later dragged my wife and kids to--one was a small lake inside Midland and the other was Wasaga Beach. As a salesman I found excuses to travel a little more, but a big breakthrough was when Heather decided to go to King's College in Halifax.

I grew up in Oshawa where my travel was not much more than a day away from home and I thought of it as the centre of the world. Sharon was upset about her daughter going so far away, but I thought it would be good for her to see more of the world than Hamilton. It turned out to be a real door opener for me as well.  I managed to open my sales territory to the Maritimes, at first very tentatively, but over the years I still have a sales connection to the Maritimes. I drove all around Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and one trip to Prince Edward Island.

Another big deal was getting to see my sister Rebecca. When she got married and moved to Montreal on her own (Ali was tied up in Morocco, but had decided he was willing to live in Montreal) I didn't visit, even though my father and most of my sisters had visited her. I realize she was on her own under tough circumstances. She had gotten a job playing piano at dancing classes and gradually picked up the French language and some friends. Ali moved in and they had two daughters, both of whom I had met, but in Ontario. I used Rebecca's home as a sort of a launching pad to drop off stuff and visit Heather in Halifax. I made sales calls on the way either near the 401 or in Ottawa. But I got up very early (3 am or so--and Rebecca always got up with me to help out) so I could drive to Fredericton where I could make a sales call in English. After doing this for a few times Ali pointed out that I could probably makes sales call in Quebec which I had avoided for the language problem. I got some help from Jacques Major at work who gave me a basic sales line that worked pretty good. I then made one or two sales calls on my way back--one of which despite a real language barrier actually yielded some results.

I then became quite keen on selling the Quebec market. I had opened up a wholesaler in Quebec that also covered the Maritimes, but had never really worked it in Quebec. I have covered just about every part of Quebec from Noranda to Rimouski to Lac St Jean. A couple of things came from this. I got to spend more time with my sister (as I used her house as a base for a lot of the Quebec calls--I not only enjoyed my sister who introduced me to lots of things in Montreal, but also Ali and their two daughters Leila and Samia. On one of my trips I decided to tackle Quebec City and was aware of two tourist attractions, but felt I didn't have time to see either. I saw both--I felt traffic forced me into old Quebec and I missed a turn and saw Montmorency Falls. In that area I first noticed Ile D'orleans. All I saw was a lot of trees and cars going over the bridge. Later I read something interesting in the local paper.

A few years later on my 60th birthday I was asked if there was anything special I wanted and I said I wanted to visit my sister Rebecca. At this time my traveling to the Maritimes and Quebec had ended (Heather back home and my job situation changed), but I missed my time with Rebecca's family. To make it a bigger trip for Sharon I decided to include Quebec City and dragged her to Ile D'Orleans which at first was a big disappointment for me and I was ready to give up, but Sharon thought once we are here let's at least follow the road around. From that time things turned much more pleasant for both of us. We liked Quebec City as well and on a subsequent trip spent almost a week at a bed and breakfast in Ile D'Orleans.

I should add in trips to visit my two children. Neither Sharon nor I had ever been to the Maritimes, but we were quite taken by Halifax. I dragged Sharon around to some places I had enjoyed on my sales trip--Oak Island, Yarmouth and my favorite Cape Breton. My brother Marshall and his wife Jean had enjoyed whale watching at Briar Island which we also enjoyed. We had both gone to Victoria before having children and had enjoyed it, but from walking and bus only When Michael decided to go there we visited and rented a car and enjoyed what Michael knew of Victoria and what we picked up from reading. Discovered a favorite restaurant--Il Paggliacci. On one trip we went to Tofino taking along my oldest friend, Bob Stone. On my first trip to Victoria it had been as an offshoot for visiting Bob and Adrienne who lived in north Vancouver. It really opened my eyes to advantages of travel. I had never understood ferry boats and didn't have a clear picture. I didn't realize how far apart Vancouver and Victoria were from one another. Since then I have been on a number of ferries, always with my car and recognize them as a major consideration.

Quebec opened my eyes--in Ontario I visualized Quebec as being Montreal and maybe Quebec City. Actually being there made me realize it is very much like Ontario with a variety of towns, villages. Montreal and Quebec City have cultures that are wonderful. Outside Quebec many people seem to think Quebekers could all speak English if they chose to, but in fact why should they--French is their natural language, their way of expressing themselves. This is really sketchy, but I hope indicates a love of travel.

Beauty makes life worth while

Everyone, except perhaps for royalty or heirs to fortunes (and even them to some extent) has to struggle to survive. A great deal of what is needed revolves around having enough money. I admit I had a haphazard regard for choosing a career. Vain enough to think my brains would assure success I didn't actually apply much thought to the many choices required in the struggle. Fortunately my parents provided some guidance although when conscious of it I was resentful. I have stumbled a lot, but did get a job, did end up owning a house and in general was able to survive and even thrive by most of the world's standards.

As I get older I look at the world a little differently. We all die and it is not the one who has the most toys who really wins. There are people with more money than me who get to really enjoy some of the beautiful things in life. But there are also poorer people than me who feel the real beauty of life and I envy them as well.

When I was a university student I was into all sorts of idealist things, one of which was philosophy (not that I really understood it or that I do even now). One course I took was aesthetics. At the time not sure what it meant, but the idea that came back was that beauty is in the eye of the beholder or that enjoyment is all relative. That is true, but there is something deeper than that which my professor encouraged us to appreciate. Art should be emotionally engaging and for different people with different histories and stresses that could be different things. Even what one person perceives as ugly can be seen as something beautiful by someone else. One truth is that there is beauty in everything--even the ugly. The Hindus have a concept of creating and destroying and then recreating again.

At about this point in life the highest art form to me is opera because it includes drama, music and even art (costumes, scenery). One step beyond that is film, because you can have all the elements of opera but arranged more ideally. As early as high school I enjoyed watching the big Broadway musicals in their Hollywood versions--South Pacific was a favorite. As I grew older I developed a liking for opera (a long story to do with doing family tree for Italian side of family and chancing upon Rheta Cornish who expressed her love of opera when I had just developed an interest in Italian modern pop music). I have always been interested in movie scores and more recently partly because of my sister Rebecca I have developed almost an obsession with Bollywood movies. There is something juvenile about Bollywood in its stereotypical format, but there is also great depth of feeling that is expressed using music and dance. I feel the common denominator (of Broadway musicals, opera and Bollywood) is music that is emotionally engaging. It can be happy or sad or macho (expressing my male agreesiveness).  Might be labeled theatrical music.

Three of my favorite moments are: 1). in La Boheme a piece called "Musetta's Waltz" where two or three things are going on at the same time and the music blends changing its emphasis 2). in Tosca a scene i don't have a label for but is when the evil one is expressing his evil view of life as a cardinal parades through a religious ritual and 3) from Kal Ho Na Ho near the end of the movie when one of the heroes is dying. Earlier in the movie the same character had taken part in a lot of superficially juvenile behaviours and been part of a love triangle--at the resolution the music (part of which is simple piano music) really stirs the emotions as you realize three people who you get to really like are suffering. There are lots of other beautiful things I can recall and I plan to do lots more of it.

A memorable vacation--won in a sales contest

Thank you Heather. You know I like to spout off. I used to type up all sorts of things of personal interest such as what I got out of particular vacations.

One of the most memorable one was one that I won. Not just winning, but a real joint effort. My boss and his boss at the Etobicoke Guardian wanted to spur some real sales effort at a newspaper I worked for. They set up a contest where the winner would take a family vacation to Florida. I admittedly had some hang-ups about Florida--it seemed far too snobby and I had resisted for a few years. However Sharon had a long family history and the two of us put a lot of effort into winning the contest. One handicap was that I was taking a night school course for half of the contest. I used Sharon's car as it could squeeze in an extra canvasser. I worked on Saturdays. I developed a contest for my newspaper carriers with the prize being a trip to Chuck E Cheese in Burlington. I knew it would be a tiring experience on the carriers so I rewarded bonus points for training new canvvassers that seemed to work. One of my early newsletters kept everyone informed and motivated. The contest was really draining and went to the very last day, but I won. My boss said he had some bad news, but then said the bad news was for my rival--who incidentally had helped train me.

My youngest son was too young, we thought so we took Heather who was about five and a lot of the holidays focused around her interests (Disneyworld, Busch Gardens and as it turned out her favorite McDonald's). I found there was lots of interesting things to do in Florida such as historical, natural and enjoyable restaurants. I did find some of my prejudices to be close to the truth--there is a lot of plastic there but there is a lot of beauty as well. I have been on lots of vacations that I enjoyed, but this one meant a lot because of the joint effort which unfortunately has never been duplicated and really being able to please both Sharon and Heather which I also don't think I have ever quite duplicated.