Friday, 30 November 2012

memoir writers homework/police

We would watch the police come and go,but not much seemed to happen on our street and they never seemed to stop much.Once we were playing street hockey and they stopped to chase us,but we gathered everything and ran away.Sometime when you played hockey on the street they would take all of your sticks and make you go to the police station to get them back.

At times we would see a police car turn on his lights and race through a red light.If it was ten to eleven at night it often meant he was on his way to a fast food outlet and wanted to get there before they closed at eleven.Everything seemed to close at eleven in those days.Seeing the cops do that would make my father angry and he would say he wasn't paying taxes so they could do that.I didn't guess I begrudged them a meal though when they were working to protect us.

One December two cops were killed while investigating a kidnapping.It was a sensational crime for Moncton,and it commanded the attention of the community for a long time.Our neighbor was what we would call today a police groupie of sorts-right wing,no nonsense from anybody,strict law and order.He had a police scanner,which was a radio that could receive police and other emergency frequencies.All week end long,while the manhunt was on for the cop killers we sat around in our neighbors living room listening to the scanner,trying to catch any news of the unfolding events.It seemed very busy,but anything pretaining to the killings was being scrambled,so all we would hear was static.We did get to hear the other call though.Things like loud party complaints,and barking dogs,and people urinating in public,and auto accidents.That sort of thing.

Before Christmas my father bought a scanner so we could listen in to the police too.Our neighbor supplied us with a list of all the police codes so we knew what they were talking about.For the most part,they were talking about auto accidents,barking dogs,loud parties and people urinating in the streets.After the killings,Moncton went back to being the quiet town it was most of the time.Sometimes there were unusual,but not especially serious things going on.Like someone mowing their lawn in the middle of the night,or kids throwing the old paper bag on to someones doorstep on Halloween.There were checks for outstanding warrants and vandalism and routine traffic stops as well.Really,listening to the scanner was not all that entertaining.When I got older some of the names of kids I knew came over the scanner,as they came into contact with police for one reason or another.What really seemed odd though was hearing the police going about their business,but not seeing them all that much.And even though most of what went on seemed routine,I got much more of an appreciation for what it was they did,and how busy they really were.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

music by bethany burie

memoir writers homework/something I'd rather not do.

Over twenty years ago I began writing with thoughts of creating a memoir.You see,nobody else was,so our family history was falling by the way.Then,of course a certain family member started trying to alter the picture of that history to suit their own perceptions.Well,to make a long story short,most days writing is a labor of love.Some days,it's something I'd rather not do.

Many things are discovered in the process of writing and research.And not nearly all of it is good.Nearly everyone that I have to present in order to produce a memoir with integrity has a vested interest in some of the stories that might be told.But it's my story,right?Well,yes,but not exclusively mine.

as a writer,I understand that I must sometimes present people who are not always good.They may break wind in church,or perhaps they are not in the habit of referring to African Americans as African Americans.They use words that I'd rather not use because I find them repulsive.Or,they may have a dark secret that still has the power to affect people still living.I've discovered at least one of those.

Now,we should tell the truth,right?Well yes,but not all truth should be told.Sometimes a painful truth needs to be revealed because it has a compelling lesson.And some truth just injures people needlessly.The need to be truthful is never an excuse to do that.That is simple cruelty.If the pen is mightier than the sword,there are some moral decisions to be made in writing.

I try to keep the story of Noah and his sons in mind when I write memoir.When his sons discovered Noah drunk and naked,two of them covered him up,while the third laughed and ridiculed him and had no respect for his dignity.I don't want to do that to anyone,so God help me.

It's an awful responsibility to write history,in whatever form,to hold the power to immortalize some other.Not for the faint of heart.There are stories that I fully intend to take to the grave with me.And there are stories that I think must be told.And,I don't always perfectly know the difference.Moreover,because my memoir is not exclusively mine,there are moral decisions to be made about my right to hold back any particular story.I've never imagined so much risk involved in writing.Some days I wish I'd never started.But most days it's a labor of love.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

memoir writers homework-visiting a historical site.

Being a memoirist,I've a natural inclination towards history.Over the years I've been to many historical sites,and have enjoyed and been edified by most of them:Fort Henry in Kingston,Fort Louisburg in Cape Breton,Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump in Southern Alberta,The Aviation Museum in Ottawa and numerous ghost towns in British Columbia.My favorite sites are Kings Landing,upriver from Fredricton,New Brunswick and the Museum of Natural History in Ottawa.

There are historical sites I've never been to as well.I've never been to the Smithsonian,but can imagine myself getting lost there for a week or more perhaps.I've never been to a city where the whole city is the museum:London,Rome.Jerusalem.Well,thats not strictly true.The village of Frank in the Crowsnest Pass is like that on a smaller scale.One look tells the whole story.I've been told that Gettysburg is haunted.I can't say that it's not,since I've never been there.But the place where the Battle Of Little Bighorn was fought definitely has a lot more going on than just the wind blowing through tall grass. And I've never been to Auschwich I think everyone needs to go there.

But those are the places that are "historical because someone has said so.They build a fence around it,build a parking lot,put up signs for miles around that say something like"yo,dummy...over here there is something you need to see.That will be thirty dollars please."And of course they sell t-shirts made in Phillapines or Thailand.Well,one can hope that Auschwich isn't like that.It shouldn't be.

I might just have my own ideas about what makes a historical site,and those ideas are not likely to be mainstream.I've long had the idea of going on an archaeological expedition to that old place in Western New Brunswick where it is said my grandfather called home in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.How did they live.What sorts of things did they own,what kinds of tools did they use?Only the bears and the moose give that area much though today,so likely no one would be there to hawk cheap shirts.It will likely never be defined as a historical site.But I expect it would speak to my history.

memoir chapter III-continued.

Regular trips to my mother's family farm became more frequent after our move to Moncton too.We'd visited there before,but not often.I'd been baptized in the United Church at Dead Creek by Reverend Roy White,who went on to become a protestant chaplain with The Canadian Armed Forces.My baptism must have been in the spring of 1961.There is also a picture of me ,that must have been taken during that same trip.In the picture,my grandfather Graham is holding me up on the back of a huge bay horse.His farm was about a mile from the church.But visits likely only happened once a year then,as we still lived in the north.

My mothers people were very different from my fathers.The land on which they lived was not anything like Springhill.There really were no minerals in the ground,hence no mines.They lived a lot farther from the water too,and while they would eat fish,those fish would have been whatever was available in the local lakes.In fact,those fish often included eels..Mostly though,they depended on the forest ,and the crops they could grow on land that was rocky and not all that fertile As a people,my mothers's were English,United Empire Loyalists,unquestionably protestant and much more like their neighbors beyond the nearby Maine border than like people elsewhere in New Brunswick.In fact,some of my mother's family were Americans.Those who were not lived within sight of the mountains of Maine,which were not much different from the mountains of New Brunswick.

Dead Creek could only be called isolated,even then.The nearest town was Canterbury,and it was isolated.I've heard other people call those living in Western New Brunswick hillbillies.I've heard that area referred to as the Badlands and,ever since I can remember I've heard the references,only half joking, to inbreeding and ignorance.Nevertheless,that is where my mother's family hailed from,and,as far as I know they were all decent people.

Travel to Dead Creek from Moncton,in 1965 and before would likely have taken more than four hours.The roads were not straight or wide like they are now and the distance was nearly the full width of the province from east to west.I don't recall a lot about that first road going there,because in those days that road was being replaced with a newer one.A dam was being built above Fredricton,so a higher road was needed.Eventually that old road would be flooded.The first trips up river were visions of a lot of road construction.

The place where we turned off the main highway to travel into the back country was a place called Crow Hill.It was usually dark when we arrived here.Very dark indeed,because we usually arrived at night.If we were still awake,my mother and father would begin to make crow noises-caaaw....caaaw,to signal us that out trip was nearly complete.But I don't think I've ever seen a crow there.

Sometimes we would start back for home during the daylight hours,and I could see what Crow Hill really looked like.But it was many years before the significance of it settled on me.In very few words,let me just describe it as the place comedian Jeff Foxworthy warned you about.I'm eternally glad we never broke down on that road at night-drive faster,I hear banjos.Crow Hill couldn't have put travelers going farther back into the woods at ease.We didn't know anyone who lived there,and we never stopped there.

The road leading from Crow Hill to Dead Creek was Route #122.The town of Canterbury lay about two thirds of the way there.Later,that's the town my grandparents would move to.It is the only town that lies on that entire stretch of road that winds through the forest until it comes to the American border.

In terms of appearance I suppose Dead Creek didn't look a lot different from Crow Hill.It may well not have been,either,except that we knew most of the people living there.There were a lot of abandoned farms there back then,most of them with farm machinery rotting away and buildings starting to fall,while nature started to replace fields with crops of her own.At the end of the driveway where the English's lived there was an old threshing machine,and my uncle Clifford,who lived right across form my grand parents had an old hay rake,plow and a tractor,turning brown and falling apart.All those people had already,or were moving to town back then.My grandparents would soon follow.

The old homeplace,my mother's childhood home was a crude,rough looking place,set on the side of a hill that people referred to as a mountain.It had a front porch,and maybe three rooms inside,but it was very unfinished,with not a single sheet of drywall to be seen.Outside,it was not painted,but covered with brick colored asphalt shingles,which seemed to be favored locally over the tar paper in other parts of rural New Brunswick.

I can't say for certain what my grandfather grew on his farm,but I suppose the bulk of it would have been potatoes and other root vegetables,and maybe some corn.I do recall a lot of hay growing everywhere,even right up to the porch.Inside the barn were the usual animals,but not many.A couple of cows,a pig or two and some chickens.One of the first memories I have of my grandmother is of her chasing away a rooster while she tried to gather eggs into her apron.There were cats there too,most likely feral,rodent eating ones.For some reason.they never seemed to have a dog.

At the time,when I was four,I was too young to have formed any opinions regarding Dead Creek.But I suppose I could have developed an attitude about it had I been a bit older before my grand parents moved.Dead Creek,much like the bogeyman's home place in Nova Scotia was the sort of place that could bring about negative feelings in people who didn't live there.But, by the time I was able to understand comments about the family trees of people who lived in such places looking more like fence posts than trees,my grandparents had moved to town.They were still very different from people in Moncton.They looked,spoke and acted different,but I never really regarded that as a bad thing.

memoir-chapter III-continued

We went to the beach at Parrsboro that day too,behind Ottawa House.It was not peak season for the beach.Really,it was rather cold.My grandfather took a spade from the trunk of the car and dug some clams as we walked out on the sand.The tides there,at the head of the Minas Basin are very high and come in very quickly.When the tide is low,there is a huge expanse of sand,but when it turns,you have to pay close attention and get to higher ground without delay.

In the far distance,out across the sand,I could see a huge structure that looked something like a corral made out of upright poles and some kind of netting.It had a small opening on one side.The purpose of this device was to catch fish.When the tide is high,fish swim in,through the opening or,perhaps even over the top.When the tide recedes,they become trapped on the sand and the fisherman goes in and scoops up his catch.So,with fish still in mind,we set out across the sand.I have no idea if this structure belonged to my grandfather,but there is every possibility that it did not.He may have been raiding it,or it may be that he had permission to take the odd fish out of there.The later would seem most likely,as it would have been nearly impossible to raid one of those corrals without being noticed and confronted.

In the end,it mattered not,as we were not able to make it to the structure before the tide turned us back.I was wearing rubber boots,and,in my mind today,the way I remember it,I somehow lost a boot on the sand on the way back to the car.We visited a few more places on that trip,and I recall my grandfather telling everyone we visited how I had lost a boot.

At last we came to a place that must have been somewhere near Five Islands or Economy,but not up the mountain by the provincial park.It was on the side of the road away from the water too,and the driveway went in in a kind of a horse shoe shape with the house halfway between it's two ends.There was a lot of junk in the driveway.Old cars competed for space with some small boats and various nets and traps and bouys.

We got out of the car,and this time I accompanied the two men.At the door a man appeared and we inquired as to whether he had any fish for sale.Indeed he did.Within the house in a large galvanized washtub was a silver fish,a salmon.To my eyes it was big enough to have been a whale.The tub it came in was of the same sixe and sort that my mother would use to give us a bath when we visited her parents farm,so the fish must have been nearly as big as me.It filled up the entire tub,save for a bit of ice.And,I recall trying to lift the creature and finding that I could not.

By the days end we'd likely traversed fifty or sixty miles.I don't recall in the end what happened to the fish,that seemed so hard to come by.My grandfather likely took the most of it,but it was a very large fish for just one person.He may have given some of it away,but I don't recall that it was eaten at our table.

On that trip I got to see how,when either my father or grandfather wanted fish,nothing was going to stop them from finding it.Over the next few years,attempts to get fish,to coax or coerce them out of the water,would range from a pleasant afternoon by the side of a stream with poles in hand,to a trip to the fish market on the way home from an otherwise unsuccessful expedition,to some downright bizarre and nearly heroic efforts to bring home fish.Eventually I discovered who the best fisherman in our family was and it surprised me when I did.

But,when my father wanted fish he would not be denied.Nova Scotian to the bone!A creature wholly indigenous to a province where you cannot set foot on land that is any more than about thirty miles from the ocean.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

memoir chapter III-continued

Sucess,as far as my father was concerned didn't stop with owning a house.By the time we'd been in Moncton a year or two,he must have already been thinking ahead to a time when he could afford a small plot of land with beachfront.That was to be a few years off,but it must have been on his mind even then.

Nova Scotia was the province my father called home.And that is where he had the appearance of being most at home.In fact,by imagining a stereotypical Nova Scotian,you would be imagining my father.He loved the sand and the sea,and claimed you would never starve if you lived by the ocean,as anything therein,including seaweed could be eaten.The only thing that came out of salt water that he ever conceded thatyou could not eat were jellyfish.

Fish was a favorite food of my father,and from early on it was served often in our home.My mother would prepare salt cod in a casserole dish with potatoes and onions in some kind of a white sauce.Later,the onions would disappear as they bothered my fathers stomach.High in the cupboard,there was a green and red box that contained dried salt cod.I once tasted it straight out of the box and it was the saltiest thing I've ever had in my mouth. This was mixed with mashed potatoes and formed into fish cakes which were fried in oil.

Once I recall,and in  fact,I believe it's the first time I recall being on a road trip with my father and grandfather.The trip would have taken us from Springhill,across country via the Lynn Road,to Five Islands and Parrsboro.The purpose of the trip was to get a fish for dinner,and,as we didn't have any fishing gear with us,I suppose the plan was to but it from a fisherman.Or,they may have had something a bit closer to theft in mind.

We stopped at a few different places on that trip.The first place that I recall must have been on the Lynn Road,and there must have been a purpose to that visit other than to get fish,as that streach of road is inland.But I recall the place rather well.It could only be thought of as a shack,though not a small one.I don't recall any boards on the outside of the house.It was mostly tar paper,as were a lot of old shacks inrural Nova Scotia and New Brunswick at the time.

It seemed that my father and grandfather were in the house a long time,and I did not go with them.Really,though,I don't suppose they were in there much more than an hour,but they told me to wait in the car,likely thinking I would fall asleep.

To a three or four year old,a few minutes seems like a long time,so I ended up out of the car and over by the front door of the shack.The shack only had one door,located on the narrow side of the building.It also had only one bathroom,which was located outside,to the right if you were sitting on the front step.It was a little wooden,unpainted house in a bit of a ravine,completely overgrown with weeds and brambles,and there were some hills and some woods behind it.

To this day, I have no idea who lived in that house.But,while I was sitting thereby the front step,playing in the dirt,which along with some thistles,seemed to be about all that the yard consisted of,a man I didn't know came outside with some kind of large black dog.He trotted over to the outhouse and disappeared inside while the dog sniffed around in the bushes.When he returned,I asked him where he went."just over to that little house."

I asked if I could go to the house too and he said"no,you shouldn't go there.When I asked why,he told me that it was because that is where the bogeyman lived.And he said there were wolves in the woods too,which was likely true.I didn't have to go to the bathroom,and,in fact,he never said that that house even was a bathroor.But what else could it have been?

Maybe I didn't have a proper sense of perspective,but I wasn't afraid.I'd heard of the bogeyman,and,of course the Big Bad Wolf,but I don't think I had any appreciation of what either really was.So I wonder,should I really have been concerned that I was sitting just a few feet from where the bogeyman lived?Maybe or maybe not.But I supposed he had to live somewhere,and if I just left him alone,he would return the favor.Nothing happened,except I've always though of that place as the bogeyman's home.

The big black dog was another story.Dogs I was not accustomed to at all.This one scented me with his big,wet nose,and I was neither afraid,nor exactly comfortable either.He got right up in my face,but the man told me the dog wouldn't bite,and he did not.

When I think back that was likely a very early experience with some of those people who would have required a kind of perhaps uncomfortable explanation.What's clear in my mind is that they,whoever they were,had a very different value system than what my parents were trying to encourage at home.We might read about the bogeyman in a storybook,but no one would ever tell you that he lived nearby,much less where.Somehow I think my mother would have been less than impressed with anyone telling such a thing to one of her children.

There is also the question as to just who those people were,and,of course,why my father and grandfather would visit there.The most likely answer is that it was just someone that they knew and hadn't seen in some time.My father knew a lot of people,and we visited a lot over the years.It was no at all unusual to stop by some place for a visit,then never see them again,nor ever have a clear idea as to who they were.Over the years I've done that many times.

It could be too,that we were visiting a bootlegger.I didn't know it at the time,but my grandfather had a fondness fot the bottle,especially rum.Yes,perhaps.Or maybe just an acquaintance withg a bottle of beer or a nip of dark rum.

It might well have been that my father just did not want me to see the living conditions of whoever lived inside.He always said he knew people who kept chickens and calves inside the house,but I'm not certain these were the people.Still,they were very poor,and a single glance of the outside of their house could evoke all those standard and stereotypical images of Appalachia.

Leaving a small child alone in a car would likely have concerned my mother as well.Today,of course,you don't do that.But in those days,both my mother and father would have done so for a few minutes at a time without concern.But an hour or more would likely not have sat well with my mother.Who knows,I might have put the car into gear and caused it to coast through that little monument to organic chemistry located at the side of the main house.My mother may not have known about all the places my father might take me to on a road trip,but I'm certain she never though that any of those visits would involve even the remotest possibility of pissing off the bogeyman.No doubt she would not have approved.

memoir interlude/The World Just Beyond.

By 1965 my parents had achieved a measure of success.Both had been born in the middle of the Gret Depression and must have known hard times.Both had come of age during the Second World War,and the relative prosperity that followed.They had worked and saved and lived within their means until they could afford a house.In short,they had a young family and had attained a level of security.And thus,having known a life with a downside,they were determined to protect their children and give them the possibility of a good life.

Our move to Moncton had a number of practical effects.To begin with,there was simply no comparing the infrastructure of northern New Brunswick with that in Moncton.Instead of driving for miles over bad roads,in all kinds of weather,everything a modern,medium sized city had to offer was within a few minutes from home.Our house was much newer,new streets were being finished,and there was even a new school being built only a couple of blocks away.By the time we were ready for school,we would be able to attend in a modern building,instead of the one room,rundown school with outdoor plumbing that my mother used to teach in.And,rather than a lengthy bus trip,school would be just a short walk from home.

Moving to the city also meant that both of my parents were closer to their childhood homes.Or,at least closer than they had been during the first few years of their working lives.My mother's family still lived about two hundred miles west,and Springhill,my fathers hometown was within about an hours drive.As much as they liked being nearer to family,I'm certain that they didn't want to live in the same town as either of their parents,so Moncton was a comfortable compromise.Maybe the only downside was that my father had a two hour drive to work,instead of the ten minute drive from Redmondville.

Once we were in Moncton,there was a lot of family around for a while.I can recall that my grandmother Graham was around,as was my mothers sister,Ruby.And ,of course Anna English was in River Glade,at the sanatorium,stricken with tuberculosis.Without a doubt,the fact that we lived in Moncton must have made that time a bit easier than it would otherwise have been.Still,it must have been a trying time for everyone including my mother.Even so,no one let on that it was.I don't recall anyone speaking a word of it,and I don't recall that our sense of comfort was ever in question.While my mother worked,other family members saw that we were well cared for.

My father was even closer to his hometown.His father still lived around Springhill,as did his sister,my Aunt Roseanna.So we visited quite frequently and every time we did I was amazed that my father seemed to know everyone in town..

My Grandmother Davis lived in Shubenacidie,deeper into Nova Scotia,but still reasonably close to Moncton,so we visited there too.

Southeast New Brunswick seemed the ideal place for my father,as it was about as close as you could get to Nova Scotia as you could get without actually being there.And my father was Nova Scotian to the bone.

But of course,there was the business of keeping children sheltered from some parts of reality.Our homecoming must have complicated that undertaking considerably,as there were situations and characters that would require some well thought out explanations.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

memoir/interlude/The World Just Beyond

We played happily by day and went to our warm beds at night and our mother read us bible stories  for children.Of the world that lay somewhere outside our door,we had little idea.It was a world that lay just beyond and things would happen there that my mother never would speak of.

Bible storieswere selected for us out of two large,beautifully illustrated volumes.But not just any Bible stories.They were very carefully selected.Of course they included the story of Moses,who was discovered floating in a basket,had a close encounter with a burning bush and then went on to lead his people out of Egypt,before going up on a mountain and bringing down tencommandments on tablets made of stone.

They told of a shepard boy named David who killed a really big and a really bad man,a giant in fact.And they told of Samson,whose life seemed to hit the skids after a bad trip to the barber shop,and of Jonah,who got swallowed by a whale,then spit up on dry land because he disobeyed God..

Our Bible stories also told of Daniel who was thrown into a den of lions who were ,as it turned out,not hungry,and of three Hebrew boys who would not burn even though they were tossed into a firy furnace.

And of course,they told of Jesus.They told how he was born with animals in a barn and laid in a manager and how wise men came to visit.We were told of the time he fed a lot of hungry people with very little bread and a few fish,but no mention was ever made of turning water into wine.We were told how he healed sick people,but the words demon or madness were never mentioned.

Just as telling as the stories we were told were the ones we were not.We never heard of Tamar or Jezabel or Hagar or Haman,and it goes without saying that Sodom and Gommorah were never so much as whispered.

And John The Baptist?Well John was,how shall I say,peculiar,and there may have been some concern that we might meet someone like him.It simply wouldn't do to have children who took to eating grasshoppers just because they heard about it in a Bible story,and,moreoverJohn met with an unsightly end that I did not find out about for many years.And,while Jesus was nailed to a cross and stuck in the side,his story was somehow considered more wholesome,or at least more sanitary than the story of John The Baptist.Maybe it had something to do with the fact that he rose out of the tomb and went directly off to Heaven.In any event,there was just no way to send children off to their dreams by telling them about John The Baptist.

The story of Adam and Eve I found very strange indeed.Thats because it begs the question,so to speak.In fact it begs more than one question,even to a four year old.

Adam we were told was the first man andEve the first woman.They lived in a fine garden where they could eat anything,except,of course apples,because God told them not to,so,of course,they did.And this is why we are all bad.well,at least thats the uinderstanding I had of things when I first heard the story.But,of course,a finely tuned sense of the metaphorical is quite beyond a four year olds imagination.And that brings us back to The World Just Beyond.The idea of an apple setting into motion a whole series of events must be problematic when you want to keep The World Just Beyond,beyond.Because,you see,the whole point of the story of Adam and Eve is the selecting of knowledge over ignorance.And once selected,knowledge cannot be deselected.So,once you tell the story of The Fall,it cannot be untold,and you are faced with the immediate need to tell more and more things,which at first gently shake the World Just Beyond,then cause it to shudder and wobble,and,finally send it towards some inevitable apocolypse.But that does not mean that extraordinary attempts will not be made to save that world,The World Just Beyond.

By the time I turned four I had some sense that what I saw all day long was not everything.i knew,more or less that there were things I was deeply ignorant of,without knowing much about what these things were.But not knowing about them did not mean I could not see them.

So what of The World Just Beyond?What did it look like and how did it resonate in my ears and in my mind.How did I know it even existed,and,if I could conceive of it's existance,then why did it exist?

It turned out I think,throughout most of my childhood that there was a benevolent angel trying to create a world,the purpose of which was to deceive me.For if a malevolent diety could do such thing,the why not a benevolent angel to Hold The World Just Beyond at arms length?Why must we accept such things as being only malevolent?

memoir chapter III

On the second day of March,1965,I celebrated my fourth birthday.We did all the normal things like eating cake and ice cream.The cake had four candles,which seemed like more than I would ever be able to blow out by myself.But blow them out I did.

The clearest memory I have of that birthday is that I had a party.It was the first party of any kind I ever recall going to.There were a few other children there,but in fact I only really recall who two of those children were.One,of course was my sister,who still seemed really small to me and was not much of a conversationalist.A year and four months difference in age is still quite signifigant at that point in life.

The second party guest that I recall is a little girl who lived across the street and one house up from us,in the house the Carters live in now.When we first moved to Moncton,it seemed as though people moved in and out of that house a couple of times in what had to have been a very short period of time.I can recall that my father refered to a man they saw coming and going to that house as "Mr.Hale."But I'm uncertain as to whether or not that girl was his daughter.As far as I knew,and as far as I can recall today,her name was Marlene,and she lived there for only a short period of time.If I played with her at all,outside of the party,of course,I don't recall it.To the best of my mermory she was a chubby little girl with curly brown hair.

We played games at my party.There were prizes to,and my mother tried to make certain that no child left without a prize.I had little clue as to what a party was supposed to be like or how you played organized games.But for weeks before my father explained that a party is when your friends come to your house and help you to celebrate your birthday.I wasn't at all certain I wanted to have a party.My father also said we could play Pin The Tail On The Donkey.The object of this game was just what it's name implied.Inside the box that the game came in was a large poster of a donkey,complete with a bunch of pin on tails,each of which had a number.The object of the game was to pin the missing tail on the donkey,as close as possible to where a tail would actually be on a real donkey.But first,you were blindfolded and turned around in a circle three times,so you were a bit dizzy as well.Then my mother would lead the blindfolded person up to the donkey and they would place their tail on the unfortunate beast.By the time a half dozen or so of us had finished,the donkey had an abnormal number of tails and not one of them was placed in what could be called the appropriate place.It was a great game...tons of fun.I've only ever played that game once,but I've always remembered it fondly.Perhaps,though it's not fair to say I only ever played it once,as that experiance seemed to serve me well later in life,especially during the reign of Premier Ralph Klien in Alberta,and more recently during the time in Toronto when Rob Ford became mayor.By then of course,I'd started writing,so naturally,if you give a person a tail,everything starts to look like a donkey.That party I'm certain was my very first lesson in being an iconoclast,and if anyone had known that at the time,they would have been appaled.

On the night of my birthday,we all got into the family car and headed up the coast to visit my Uncle Bill,who worked for The Royal Canadian Mounted Police in a small town in Northern New Brunswick.I must have fallen asleep on the way there,because I was tired from the party and I don't recall that trip.I do recall getting there though.Uncle Bill lived in the police station,which included living quarters for the policemen and their famlies.Uncle Bills family,at that time would have included just him and his wife Doris and his two girls Janice and Shawna.Shawna must have been just a baby,and Janice,as I recall was using crutches for some reason.

Uncle Bills house was a very exciting place for a young boy,because ,well,it was a police station.There was a police car parked out front and in the garage there was a very fast looking boat and a snow mobile too,all painted uplike police cars.And of course,I got to sit in the police car and turn on the siren.

After we visited Uncle Bill,and I got to sleep in the police station,we headed back home.It was a long drive and we started at night.It's very dark in that part of New Brunswick as the towns are quite small and far apart.There is a lot of woods about and really not much to see at night,unless of course you are looking up.Our car had a radio too,and I remember that two songs seemed to play over and over as we drove home.One was "Counting Flowers On The Wall."by The Statler Brothers.The other was called "These Boots"by Nancy Sinatra.I never liked either of them,except on that particulr car trip.I guess commercial radio back then is pretty much like it is now.Total crap.

In any event,I was amazed at the fact thatthere were people in the radio who could speak and sing.But I couldnt really figure out how that worked.My mother explained that the people were at a radio station and they spoke into a machine which took their voice and threw it into the sky.The car had another machine in it that caught that voice and allowed us to hear it.This story fascinated me as I sat on the seat between my mother and father.If it were true there were wonderous things in the air.All the things that were ever on the radio.Singers and voices.Cowboys and Indians too.How could all those things be at the radio station and come flying out into our car.And,in addition to all that the sky just outside our car was filled with dancing lights of green and blue and more stars than I could count.I was beginning to get a sense of wonder about the world.

the kananaskis traveler: op/ed-integrity in journalism-update

the kananaskis traveler: op/ed-integrity in journalism-update: Time for an update on my ongoing issue with Newschasers of Moncton New Brunswick.I've finally heard from them on the matter of journalistic...

the kananaskis traveler: op/ed-the strange silence of charlene eve davis.

the kananaskis traveler: op/ed-the strange silence of charlene eve davis.: Perhaps you think of this blog as a place to come and read a personal memoir.That is fine-thanks for your interest.Maybe you enjoy a virtua...

Monday, 12 November 2012

winter storm/calgary

memoir writers homework-multi-tasking

College days were all about multi tasking.Trying to cram enough knowledge into my head and trying to make a number of different ends meet in the middle.It was a lot more serious than trying to walk and chew gum at the same time,which I could never do without walking into a telephone pole.

At school my desk usually had at least two,and often more textbooks open at the same time.I always had the required textbook for the course,plus another title to use as a cross reference,and a coil notebook for the taking of notes.Sometimes there would be a different text book,or notebook as well,if I were trying to study for an exam later in the day,or attempting to prepare for a class I was not quite prepared for as well as trying to take notes in the present.I  usually had a small notepad in which to write down questions and answers from class discussions as well,as I'm well known for making a ton of notes on just about everything going on about me.And the writing implements.Pencils,pens and markers.Usually at least two colours of markers,one to highlight text,the other references.And two colors of pens for the various notes I was writing in the margins.Not only did I have ten things running through my mind,but I didn't have enough hands for all the writing implements.

Then the bus ride home,trying to catch up on school work.Can't waste a thirty minute bus ride.Thats another thirty minutes sleep.And of course there was work.Driving a taxi at night,which I really didn't want to do any more,hence the school.But I could bring along books from school and study them in the downtime between fares.No one cared if I drove around the clock either and I sometimes did,because money was tight.A time or two I pulled into the park and fell asleep with a psychology textbook open on the seat,until I was jarred awake by an urgent sounding dispatcher.

I also volunteered.It would be a help to my career after college.So twice a week I went to the hospital to work with disabled children.I taught adult literacy as well,on the week end,and worked as a host,helping immigrants integrate into society.And of course there was always the need to do all of the routine things like shopping for food and clothes,and cleaning the house.And there was a young lady named Melanie who vied for some of the time I didn't seem to have.That never did work out.

Two whole years running around like a headless chicken is what it seemed like.

memoir writers homework-inherited from my parents.

Without doubt I inherited twenty three chromosomes from each of my parents.Beyond that,knowing exactly what they passed along to me gets a bit dicey,because I don't really see much of them in me.But that could be just my imagination.

For instance,none of those genes should have selected for iconoclasm,but,here I am.and therein lies a big part of the problem in trying to figure out just what came from where.Because,not only are iconoclasts hard wired to wonder what the mailman looked like and if perhaps he went on to a career as a high ranking member of the New Democrats,or a writer with the "New Yorker",but,I know this is hard to believe,we tend to disassemble things.So,I tend to have a big list of traits,that I imagine myself to have and yet I find it hard to attribute any given one of them to either of my parents.You see,when you disassemble things,you sometimes have a lot of spare parts left over when you try to put it all back together.

My mother was religious and my father profane,at least most of the time.I can be,by turns either ,or even both at the same time.My father was sickly from an early age and my mother healthy and robust until taken by a car accident in her seventy second year.Me,I'm healthier than either of them,though sometimes afflicted by conditions that neither had.Where did the gout come from?Will I die relatively young of a stroke ,or will I live until nearly a hundred or perhaps beyond,like my mothers family?And why am I the darkest on in my family?How did two stiff necked conservatives produce a liberal like me?An iconoclast,just to make clear to you what I mean by the term,is someone who you might say is a professional Pin The Tail On The Donkey player.The donkey could be anything at all.The President of The United States,or The Mayor Of Toronto,or Pro Athletes or The Christian really matters not.Or even the supposed notion that what we are is all in the genes.For the iconoclast,the donkey population is much greater than it is for most people.

In all seriousness though,I can only see what I've inherited in ways so subtle,I wonder how I see them at all.A tiny movement around the corners of my mouth,or my eyes that came from my father,or a word,an inflection that was my mothers.To myself,they are very fleeting things,but sometimes I catch them.


Sunday, 11 November 2012

Op/Ed-some random thoughts about war and remembrence.

Perhaps my argument here is non sequiter.You be the judge.But forgive my rambling.I don't always think in a perfectly straight line.That's especially true when it comes to remembering our veterans.

When I was young,there were still living veterans from both world wars.Those from the first war were very old men for the most part,at least in their sixties or seventies.The Second World War had ended only fifteen years before I was born,so there were plenty of relatively young men around with fresh,or should I perhaps say,raw memories of what that time and experience was like.Even as a young child I had the sense that many of these people,and everyone,absolutely everyone knew some of these people,were deeply haunted by the living out of that part of their lives.Many would not,could not talk of what happened on those battlefields.You see,to a young boy war seems glamorous,especially when you are still living in the shadow of it,and he wants to hear those stories and find glory in them.The same glory we used to see in all those John Wayne films.But such a thing,if it ever existed could not be found in any of the veterans that I knew.You see,their stories were real,and whats real is not so easy to talk about.

Just a few short years ago I had the privilege of getting to know on of Canada's veterans rather well.We came from the same part of the country,you see,and we shared a love of traditional music,which is how we came to meet.There were things that we did not agree about,specifically political things,but in the end we got along famously and I've always considered this man to be a mentor.And,he told me a story about his time in the war that I will never forget.

It was a terrible time he said,a bad time for everyone.He was a young man when he signed up and after a few short weeks he was sent to Normandy.His account,at least when he gave it to me said nothing of bombs exploding or low flying planes or bullets passing close.No talk of guns or smoke or tanks.It's as if those things were all absent.But what he did tell me revealed so much about what that time was like,and even more about how it is we should think about war.

"Once I was there for some time,I got a letter from my mother.It told me how my brother was killed in Italy.Then I got angry,with an anger I'd never had in my life.I knew I was there and I knew why.I had no doubt I was doing the right thing,and I understand why it was the right thing.It wasn't just because my country was telling me it was the right thing.So I was there and I had a gun and I was trying to kill men who were trying to kill me.Then that letter came,and it made me angry."And he paused for a long time.A long time."Then,I fired that gun for my brother.And I know I killed people.Before that,I was firing my gun,but I wasn't certain I was killing anyone...war is like that.But then,I know I killed people,once my brother was gone and I started fighting for him.What I don't know though,about those people I killed is,I don't know what happened to their soul."And that was his story as he told it to me.After some time he absorbed some shrapnel and his fighting ended.But not has war.He always wondered,he said, why God had taken his brother and left him.And he wondered forever about the condition of some nameless German souls.

What does his story tell us today?The old cliche that "war is hell"is no less true for it's having been said so often,for one thing.There was no real glory in war for this man and it's ghosts followed him until he drew his last breath.The only glory was that this man went and did his duty with a good idea as to the moral necessity of doing that duty.He believed in the right of what he was doing,at least in he beginning.And if he was not so convinced later in life,he came home with the fine and moral and unselfish idea that the souls of those slaughtered mattered,no matter what side of the battlefield they fell on.

I was honored to know this man.His story was so unlike that of what I though a war story should be,and yet so revealing.But my deep concern is with younger people today,who will never have the opportunity to know such a man.I don't know what war really means to them,what they think they are doing when they remember and when they wear the poppy.Some of them come from military families,of course,and some of them were taught well to remember.Some,as well will have friends who have known war in some far off country.But it's really not the same as living in that once long shadow.

War must have another purpose.Not that I prefer war to it's opposite,but when I see the world I'm living in today,it makes me wonder if,the more distant we get in time from those times which we say we remember each November 11,the more uncivil we become to each other.To be fair,there are many differences in our world today.It is such a different place.But it is hard to deny that we comparison to fifty years ago lacking civility.

Today we are surrounded by social media,and I think we have to ask how that affects us as a society.Over the last few days I've posted many things about this season of remembrance on my facebook page.But,it's not the same as visiting a veterans memorial and having the cold and snow to remind me just what the sacrifice of those people really was.The internet is,to a large extent anonymous,or at least distant from the way we used to engage our world.It is argued by some that this makes things like cyber bullying and stalking more likely,and a sense of not caring about others and an attendant narcissism more the social norm.My question is,though,what does this have to do with war?

Today war is fought by professional soldiers,and I thank God for them.At least in this country,no one is called to serve that has not chosen to do so.We recently sent troops to Afghanistan,and some were lost.But that sacrifice was made by those who were being paid to do a job.It's not near the same as the World Wars,when our entire country,both military people,and those at home sacrificed to triumph in a perhaps not noble,but a necessary cause.My point then is that we were all in it together,and we knew it.We had some idea of the desperation in that struggle,and how very much our world would be different if we did not see it through to victory,at whatever cost required.And our world could very easily been defeated.It was so close.

Nearly all those brave men and women have passed now,and I fear that we live in a world that knows so little of sacrifice.Sure,some of us sacrifice for our children,or our career,or some such thing.But o any of us really know the sacrifice to preserve our whole way of life?Consequently,is the value of that way of life ever really apparent to us,especially as we get farther away in time from those terrible years.There seems no sense of striving together these days.And perhaps that is the whole higher purpose of war.By default do we become more selfish and less caring,thus bringing our world to a state that our enemies failed to do?Is that the danger of not remembering?I fear it may be,and that is why I say,"LEST WE FORGET"

We would do well to remember that civility,even towards those who do not share our worldview,is about concerning ourselves with the souls of others and knowing that there is dignity attached to each of hose souls.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

A Musical Tribute To Our Military Men And Women,Past and Present.

lest we forget

Canadian soldier-killed in Afghanistan

black troops in WWII-these men fought for the freedom of a country in which they could not even eat at the same table as their white counterparts-LEST WE FORGET.

Suvla Bay.