Monday, 30 January 2012

Mind your elders

A craftsman I am not. I’m more of a hammer swinger, accurate to the eighth of an inch. I don’t do cabinets, soldering or anything requiring a router. As such, when I took on the job of re canvasing an old cedar strip canoe it was a risky proposition to say the least.
I spoke at great length with what I can only describe as a “wood guru”. A Dutchman with anal retentive tendencies (if you can believe it) and a penchant for finding just the right piece of wood for the job. Case in point when I asked him to cut me a new deck piece, as the old one had rotted out. For landlubbers, the deck is the triangle at either end of the canoe where the gunnels come together. A simple task this was not, as I found out when he brought me in the new piece a few days later. You see, such was the artistic integrity of this man that he wouldn’t allow me to have a deck piece from just any old hunk of wood, it had to be special. When the Shanty Bay Church purchased a new organ, he asked to have the old one because of the beautiful wood it was made of, and so I now had a piece of the dismantled antique organ for the deck. He said it would give a soul to my canoe. Imagine the vibrations that have flowed through that piece of wood over the years. Hundred year old hymns now traveling through the ribs of the canoe as it makes its way through new waters. Something about that still makes me feel good when I think about it.
The next big problem was to find a big piece of canvas to cover the canoe. I began looking up suppliers on the internet, but the Dutchman said no, he knew a guy who would sell me some. Oh okay, says I. Just tell me where he lives and I’ll go pick it up. No, says the Dutchman. He’s kind of funny and I’ll have to go with you. Ah, says I, now very intrigued.
He picks me up and we begin the drive out to the backwoods of wherever, going to meet the canvas guy, the Dutchman coaching me as we go. “You can’t just walk in there and ask for the canvas,” he cautions me. “He doesn’t work like that.” Okay, this is going to get weird.  I’m driving with one eccentric who talks to wood going to meet an even stranger one. Where do these guys find each other? I’m thinking about how I’m going to convince this guy I’m worthy of his canvas. A gift, I should have brought a gift.
We pull into his place, driving slowly to avoid the meandering groups of chickens and ducks that seem to be everywhere.  An old dog greets us as we get out. The property is littered with husks of old boats, ancient looking farm machinery and various wood pieces that could be art or old furniture, hiding amongst the overgrown weeds. There is a pond with several small boats and an old dock. The shop itself is a log cabin with mossy cedar shakes on the roof.  I follow the Dutchman in and we make our way through the clutter of half-finished pieces of furniture, paint cans, tools and machinery. Jack himself is at the very back, working on something. He and the Dutchman exchange greetings and he introduces me. So far so good.
There are two canoes on work tables, in different states of repair, but neither Jack nor the Dutchman mentions them. They are talking about gardening. “Come out and look at my corn” he says.
We follow him out and begin a tour through the massive vegetable garden behind the shop. It looks like all the plants are on steroids, growing this way and that, one row meshing into another. It’s very ramshackle with only a cursory semblance of order. He begins picking peppers off the vine and handing them to us. “Try this; they’re really good this year”. We try them, and they are. He pulls up a mysterious looking white root vegetable. “Look at that. You put that in a stir fry.” A plastic bag materializes from somewhere and he drops it in. He hands me the bag and as we wander through the rows, he begins to pick vegetables for us, loading us up. It’s like Halloween for vegans.
By the time the garden tour ends the Dutchman and I each have a full bag or organic produce. We walk past his rustic house which is as eclectic as everything else on the property. You wouldn’t think plank siding and stained glass would work together but somehow he made it look good. Right beside the house is a raised square wooden structure about three feet high with a fountain at one end. “These are my koi.”  The fish are huge. I almost ask why he doesn’t keep them in the real pond but that’s maybe better left alone right now. I’m curious about the koi, because at this point I didn’t have my pond so we chat for a while on fish keeping. Eventually we meander back to the workshop, meeting and greeting several cats along the way.
Just inside the door of the workshop is a set of dressers that he has recently salvaged from the roadside. “Neighbour left these out. That wood is cherry. Couldn’t just let it go to waste.” Indeed. I appreciate a good roadside score, so I’m warming to this guy.
We make our way to the back of the shop and finally start talking canoes. It’s very evident that the Dutchman and Jack are way out of my league when it comes to boat building talk. I’m listening for tips without trying to appear too much of a moron. Kind of like standing around at a surgeon’s convention and blurting out that you are going to try and do your own appendectomy. My fears are put to rest as the two of them are very helpful, walking me through the procedure for when I’m home alone with the canoe. The Dutchman explains what I need in the canvas department and we help Jack pull down an enormous roll of the stuff.
“You’ll need some proper canvas primer too” Jack says. Okay, so where do I get that?
“You have to order it from California” says Jack. “Takes about six weeks to ship.”
Jack starts rummaging through the stacks of paint cans and comes up with half a gallon of the coveted marine primer. He throws it in with the canvas for an extra twenty bucks. The deal concluded, we drive home with the canvas, the veggies, and for me, an appreciation for how to do business in the slow lane.
Sometimes you have to walk through the garden so you can appreciate the vegetables again.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Right Place Wrong Time

I was 14 years old the last time Van Halen toured with David Lee Roth. I mean the real David Lee Roth. Not the botoxed, balding, shaky voiced version you see now, but the real hairy chested, karate kicking, screaming showboat called Diamond Dave. You can find him on you tube, belting out Unchained in his fringed red and white leather pants, leaping around like the larger than life God that, for a time, he was. You know you’ve reached rock superstardom when there is an equal balance of males and females fighting for position in the front row, screaming in admiration, lust and pure unbridled concert adrenalin.  Now that is the Dave I want cemented in my memory. I like my Dave cocky, and with a full mane of glorious flowing hair.  So over the top that he actually transcended cheese right into pure awesomeness. He was wearing those feather armbands before the Ultimate Warrior ever stepped into a wrestling ring. But mostly, I want to remember him for hitting those high notes and trademark haaaaaah yeeahhhh yeaaaaahhhh’s. Listen to Runnin’ with the Devil if your memory needs a refresher. So…in the first of a list of missed concerts experiences, I’m putting down Van Halen, circa 1984.
Next on my list is The Police from a couple of years earlier. I’m thinking 1983 was probably the last Police picnic in Toronto, if you remember those affairs. Eighth grade for me. Not old enough to attend a concert unsupervised but old enough to appreciate tales of glory from those who were older and lucky enough to have attended. That was the Synchronicity Tour and they were really firing on all cylinders. Sting and Stewart Copeland were at each other’s throats the whole time, and I think they must have channeled all their rage into the music because the live stuff from that era is absolutely crackling with energy. I did catch The Police on their reunion tour several years ago, and it was perfectly fine. A medley of greatest hits and a nice evening of music, but it just wasn’t the same. It was three professional musicians getting by on talent and experience, not three guys ripping a new one into songs that were still on the charts at the time of the tour.
The next one is easy. AC-DC with Bon Scott. For this we have to go back to Highway to Hell in 1979. I don’t actually know anyone who saw them back in the day, but I have seen lots of footage and it blows my mind. A shirtless Bon with his old school sailor tattoos and crooked teeth grinning like the Cheshire Cat. There was no spectacle in those days, no pyrotechnics or giant Bells descending from the ceiling, just loud guitars, a strutting vocalist and a tiny, sweaty Australian madman running around playing riffs that turned three chords into a wall of sound. Check out the “Let There Be Rock” DVD if you want to see them at their peak.
There is the category of surprise guests and unannounced concerts which is probably on everyone’s list. The Stones showing up at the El MoCambo in 1977 or more recently  Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson coming out to jam with the Foo fighters in Toronto to name a couple. It goes without saying it would have been great to see the big three, Janis, Jimmy and Jim Morrison before they were lost to self-destruction. I was only two when all that went down, so it seems all the more mythical to me. So far in the distance it’s unreal, similar to how I picture Patsy Cline or Buddy Holly.
There have been so many spectacles, festivals, and concerts that made music history over the last 50 years that it would be nearly impossible to choose even a top ten of what I would wish to see.  Ramones at CBGB in the mid-seventies, Little Feat before Lowell George died or the late great Bob Marley. A very subjective matter depending on your tastes I suppose.
I do have one particular concert near and dear to my heart where if I could go back in time, I would pick above all others. I have watched “The Last Waltz” about 600 times and have pretty much committed it to memory. It’s not just the guest list which included Neil Young, Van Morrison, Muddy Waters to name but a few, and it’s  not just The Band themselves. It’s the whole of collision of everything coming together like the perfect storm. It’s scripted yet it’s improvised, the playing is tight but everyone seems relaxed and they kill it on every song. That’s the moment in time, the lightning in a bottle that I would choose if I could. The Band of course came back a few years later sans Robbie Robertson but whatever they had once did not fully return. The Last Waltz shows them at the peak of their powers. If you’ve never seen it, first person to ask gets my extra copy. I would be happy to mail it tomorrow. Seriously.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Glasgow Blues

I have one granddad from Denmark and one from Scotland. However, my friends and family seem to think my Danish bloodlines have lost the battle for genetic supremacy. I take it that they mean: a) I like to drink scotch and b) I have been known to be somewhat, shall we say…frugal. (Right now, my sister just read that line, snorted out loud and mumbled something about an understatement)
Okay, I admit it, I love a good deal. Once in a beautiful moment of serendipity, I found a pair of high-end skates in the Good Will store for $9.99. I know right? How often is one going to find a pair of $400 skates in the right size  and have the luxury of knowing it’s a guilt free score, because let’s face it, homeless people don’t need skates. That may sound cruel but did I mention they were in my size?
If you’re shaking your head and thinking, “some poor guy is out there playing shinny on the pond in a pair of too small figure skates” then you may need to look away. This ain’t gonna to be for you.
However, if you are nodding your head and saying, “What choice did he have? He had to buy those skates” you should keep reading. Read on, fellow chiseler for you will know where I’m coming from. Unsure if you should keep reading? Just answer the following questions:
Have you ever been to Liquidation World, Liquidation Nation, Liquidation Superstore or Santo’s Liquidation Extravaganza and Reptile Emporium?
Have you ever been to Costco because you can buy a trampoline, an entire cow and a six gallon tub of hair gel in the same aisle?
When purchasing tickets, have you ever told your nine your old they are now six and then told them to slouch a bit, keep their mouth shut and don't look the ticket lady in the eye?
If you answered yes to any of the above…I got news for you sunshine. You’re a cheap bastard like me.
The trick is not to fight it. If God wanted you to pay full price for an airline ticket, he would have made you president of Microsoft.  For the rest of us savvy travelers who don’t want to pay the jerks at Air Canada $900 to fly Vancouver to Toronto you’ve got to put in the legwork. If, while sitting at your desk at work you happen to visit the Travelocity website lets say, a few hundred times a day, it’s okay because you’ll eventually be rewarded with a seat sale. Blammo! Just like that you’ve rid yourself of inner rage towards Air Canada and you can really dig in and get some work done. Happy employee equals good production.
Some of my great triumphs? A hockey rink kit for next to nothing at, you guessed it…MDM liquidation.  I picked up a Hammond organ for $150 bucks, (purchased from a very eccentric gentleman) and a new Weber BBQ for $100 bucks. (It was missing a knob)
I also have had some legendary roadside scores like a cedar strip canoe and a set of antique chairs.  I’m not allowed to hoard stuff so I have to temper my natural urge to collect with my wife’s no-clutter rule. I also try and give away as much stuff as I take in to keep the balance from tipping from “keen recycler” to “lunatic”.
While I am no extreme coupon clipper or Boxing Day shopper, I do find an obscure amount of pleasure in knowing a guy. Don’t underestimate the power of knowing a guy.
As in, “I know a guy who has a welding torch so he fixed my muffler for me. Bought him a bottle of rye.”
“The tiles in our bathroom? Yeah, I know a guy who installs them. He had a bunch leftover from a job so he just gave ‘em to me. Bought him a bottle of Rye.”
Rye is a solid currency amongst trade’s people by the way. It comes in just after a case of beer and just before a set of used snow tires. Most guys operate on a bartering system of some sort, so if your buddy with the tire changing machine looks thirsty, you better get him a case of beer and if he has a pile of junk behind his shed, tell him you’re going to the dump and you’ll take it for him.  Give and take is always more satisfying than dropping the hammer on a new purchase. If you would rather go and buy it new, you might be Danish.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Building Permit Application

The reason I am calling sir, is that we have found a number of, shall we say “unorthodox” requests on your application for a building permit. Now while we do wish to work with, rather than against  individuals, we simply cannot  issue you a permit at this time due to the sheer…well… for example here, where is asks the type of roof, you have indicated that you will be using dirt. Is that correct?
I see. Well I’m not sure there is a loophole under “good for defense” but your choice of roofing materials is the least of your worries. I was looking at your drawing and it appears that, with the exception of the front door – which I noticed is round- the entire dwelling is under ground. I understand that it may be eco- friendly, but unless you are operating an underground parking garage, you cannot live in a hole.
Oh, it’s a family tradition is it? I see. Well, what about your intended method of payment sir? You have crossed out cash or cheque and written in “plunder”. You are not indicating you are a pirate sir?
Aha, I see…stolen from a dragon you say?  I’m glad you have a sense of humour sir, but there are limits to what is funny. For example what about section D where you are to list the general contractor and you have indicated you will be hiring dwarves?
They make good builders do they sir? Fine, well I must take issue with height of the door frames. The building code clearly requires that each doorframe be a minimum of six and a half feet, yet yours are all only four. Be reasonable sir, it’s not as though you will have a bunch of hobbits running around there.
I see. That would explain a lot. Like why instead of garage, you wrote in “room to store riches.”
Let’s move on shall we. I can’t believe I’m saying this but under no circumstances would we allow a wizard to clear the property of trees.
Magic is faster is it?  I’m sorry but you would have to go through McGrady’s tree service like everyone else.
Also, you can’t brew alcohol on your premises, which means the room listed as “brewery” has got to go. I’m not sure what mead is, but if it has alcohol in it, you’ll have to apply for a separate permit. Oh and that reminds me, you are clearly not zoned for bee-keeping and whatever this “pipe weed” is, well you’d better just forget about that.
Yes sir, I do think you will need to come down in person and get this cleared up.
Orcs? No I’m not familiar with them, but yes you can bring one if you like.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Sunday, 1 January 2012

White Supremacist Meeting.

Grand Chancellor Henderson: All right, all right, settle down everyone. I know you’re all still excited from the holidays but we need to get this meeting started. Now, let’s recite the oath before…
Johnson: Sir?
G.C. Henderson: What is it Johnson?
Johnson: Well, it’s about snack sir.
G.C. Henderson: Save it Johnson, that’s housekeeping. All rise please…
Johnson: Sorry sir. It’s just that I was hoping to slip this in before the oath because it’s been bothering me a bit. Well a lot actually.
G.C. Henderson: For God’s sake Johnson, you know how we do this. I call the meeting to order, we recite the oath, then new business, then hate mongering, then snack and we finish with housekeeping.
Johnson: I know sir. It’s just that…
G.C. Henderson: It’s just what? I’m curious now Johnson. We’re trying to get our hate on here and you want to throw protocol out the window for your housekeeping crisis.
Johnson: It’s more of an injustice sir.
G.C. Henderson: You have ten seconds Johnson.
Johnson: Well, remember last week when it was my turn for snack and then I couldn’t make it because I had an ear infection? Then I called you at home and you said that I could get someone to fill in for me and I could do theirs later?
G.C. Henderson: (sighs) Continue
Johnson: Well I called Phil and he said he would do it, but you know Phil, he usually just does like, cheese whiz and crackers – no offence Phil.
Phil: Don’t worry about it.
Johnson: Anyway, it was Christmas, and you know how I always do my Nativity scene with the gingerbread house for the Inn and everything? Remember last year… I used the short bread for the wise men and little mini marshmallows for baby Jesus and the cheese ball for Frosty?
Phil: I love that one year how you put those white clan hats on the wise men made outta that whip cream.
Johnson: It was meringue, but thanks.
Phil: And how you got Frosty up in there, cause he don’t get represented enough.
G.C. Henderson: Seriously, do you ladies want to exchange recipes or can we get on with the meeting?
Johnson: Sorry sir. The problem is that Phil’s regular turn for snack is at the summer meeting and I don’t really have a summer theme, and let’s face it, I’m kind of known for my Christmas spread. I mean, I put a lot of money and effort into that meal. No offence Phil.
Phil: None taken pardner.
Johnson: So what I am proposing sir is that I do Jenson’s February snack, but I’ll use the Christmas theme.
G.C. Henderson: Are you kidding me?
Johnson: I already talked to some of the guys and they were really bummed because I didn’t do snack at Christmas. Face it, it’s the meeting with the highest attendance all year, and that isn’t because of the Hanukah threat. And this year, the roads were bad but everyone drove in anyway, only to find no Nativity scene but some abomination that Phil had thrown together, for under five bucks no doubt. Sorry Phil.
Phil: Its fine Buddy. I hate doing snack.
G.C. Henderson: Fine…anything. You can do Christmas in February if it means we can get started.
Jenson: Sir?
G.C.Henderson: What is it Jenson?
Jenson: I didn’t want to spoil it, but…well I was going to do a Valentines themed snack for February this year. Johnson’s pretzel reindeer last year really got me inspired to do something better. He…he can’t have my month.
G.C. Henderson: Oh God.