We were giants…in our own minds anyway.

Once upon a time there was a city in western Quebec called Hull. It doesn’t exist anymore. It’s called Gatineau now and more’s the pity if you ask me, but no one ever does.

Once upon a time Amber Cloutier and I were within walking distance of each other, she working at a brasserie on Promenade du Portage, me living on Hotel de Ville within walking distance of the old Heritage Campus on Rue Champlain which was itself a stone’s throw from Le Trou du Diable where more was done that is forgotten than remembered.

Once upon a time my roommate Wade and I would go dumpster diving at the Steinberg at Promenade du Portage. This was decades before dumpster diving was cool, but it helped us put food on the table. Most of the restaurants and the bakery in Promenade du Portage at the time were family owned and it was possible to mooch a bite to eat here and there too. Steinberg eventually got wise to the dumpster diving and locked the dumpsters overnight. The security guard apologized for it. Steinberg doesn’t exist anymore, I do.

Once upon a time of a Friday or Saturday night the roomie and I would have people over and guitars would be brought and we would tell lies, sing songs and drink more than was strictly healthy.

Once upon a time there was Michael Cormier, Gerry Girouard, Orin Schwartz and myself and we called ourselves The Hull Group content in the knowledge that we would become lions of the arts. We were great, we were giants astride in the National Capitol Region and we were anonymous.

We loved Michael, or maybe only I did and just remember the others loving him too. He was everything I wanted to be, he was confident, tall, handsome, had the gift of the gab and most of all he was a talented poet.

Gerry was the best of us. He was smarter, but didn’t talk as quick. He thought out his answers which sometimes made it seems like he was miles behind the conversation because we at the surface were more concerned with the splash than how deep the river was running. He was/is a better writer than any of us were or are.

Orin was a good guitar player, had an encyclopedic memory for songs and could write a good story. He was always curious about what other people were doing, why people were doing the things they were doing and had a level of empathy that he hid under bravado laid on so thick only a young man would accept it at face value.

Gerry changed his name, writes for a living and I’ve “run in to” him on LinkedIn. I’ve no idea where Michael and Orin are. I heard Orin did some reporting for a while then became a bus driver – I’m sure there is a story in there somewhere. Michael I’ve lost all track of, but once in a while I remember a line from one of his poems and it always brings a smile to my face

“As sea is all of the wave and the wave is all of the sea
So I am part of the earth and the earth is part of me.” – Michael Cormier

I think he wrote that in 1982 or there about.

In the end we did what most people did in the old days before the Internet. We got on with our lives and disappeared in to the relative anonymity of daily life. There’s a beauty and grace to that and somewhere out there, there are new giants astride the earth and I hope they will remember their group as fondly as I remember mine.

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Apple season

We went apple picking today. Our daughter, her boyfriend Jarred and myself. It was fun, we picked a few apples, did a little shopping in the Verger LaBonte boutique. That was pretty much it. Nothing exciting but it was a nice time.



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The Mac Mistake

It could be coincidence but I think not. Last month I turned over my work issued MacBook Pro to a coworker who needed to learn how to use Macs. I didn’t even think about it, it wasn’t my computer and he needed it for work. That was the last day that I worked on The Last Faena or any other short story and it bothers me because I love that story and I know where it is going and how it will end. It doesn’t make sense. A tools should not determine creative output but I find myself missing the feel of that keyboard as clearly as I once missed my ever present cigarette and cup of tea as I wrote. It’s just a matter of reconditioning myself to a different tool getting used to a different feel and flow. Who knows, maybe it will make me a better writer, but I miss my Mac.

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The Garage Sale

It’s been done before so I thought I’d give it another go. It’s never too late to sell stuff and when it comes right down to it I need the coin CEGEP fees and books are killing the bank account. The padding is all but gone (wish I could say that about my midsection).

First things first, the highlight of the garage sale, seeing a spider spinning a web early Saturday morning. I had been up since five setting up tables, moving clothes, toys and housewares outside. It was dark out for the first hour or so but then the light started to creep into the sky and the dew started to settle. By seven the sun was up and so were the spiders spinning their webs.

The first day started off well with an early bird spending ten dollars on CDs and a book. Things were quiet after that, so quiet that when Richard showed up to set up his table of DVDs he was the second person I saw on Saturday morning.

It was a good day for a garage sale, sunny and warm. The signs were up. The notice was placed in the Gazette and VarageSale.com but there was no traffic.

I priced everything to move. I just wanted it gone. Osh Kosh, Ralph Lauren, Deux par Deux, Quiltex children’s clothing all marked at a dollar or two per outfit. Sizes from 1 to 12. I still had a woman who picked out two Ralph Lauren and ten Osh Kosh telling me that $10 was a fair price. I took the ten because it was better than calling her a liar.

By far the most interesting part of the client day was when a woman showed up with her husband and three boys in tow. To be fair the boys weren’t in tow they were running rampant through all the toys which had been put out in packages and tagged with 1$ stickers or put on the 1$ table. She went to the clothes to choose out stuff for her newborn, the boys went to the toys and tore up the place. The dapper father with his peach coloured popped collar, tinted sunglasses and gold chain seemed to believe that discipline consisted of barking each child’s name in succession. It was entertaining. The boys each picked up some stuff and headed to the car. The mother chose three outfits which had curiously lost their price tags but she was sure the tags had each said a dollar they must have fallen off. We were standing in front of the free table, a table I set up with stuff I don’t want and cannot think anyone would pay for but that someone might want – perfume samplers, perfume bottles, McDonald’s Barbies etcetera. So I tell them it all comes to six dollars. One of the boys comes back and the father notices that he has an Incredible Hulk dolls which the father had already said he couldn’t have. The father takes the doll away from the boy and sends him back to the car. (You still with me?). He then digs out his purse and pulls out two toonies and tried to give them to me. I reject the offer and tell him he can either pay five dollars (the Hulk doll was returned) or he can bring back all the stuff. Meanwhile mother is looking at the free table and asks if she can take as much as she wants? I explain that it is the free table and yes she can so she snags all of the perfume. The father relents and gives me five dollars and they all head back to their SUV and bundle in. I’m back in the yard at this point when father jumps out of the SUV goes back to the free table and snags The Hulk and jumps back into his SUV and they take off.

Theft from a garage sale…now that’s funny.

On day one I managed to make seventeen dollars profit after the newspaper ad cost was factored in and I got rid of some stuff. Day two was not so kind but better in some ways.

My friend Sharon came up from Cornwall and since we knew it was going to be a slow day I started bringing more and more stuff out of the basement so we could sort through it all. It took the better part of the day but the majority of boxes came up, were sorted, some stuff kept, some stuff thrown away, some stuff recycled and the rest put into the garage sale that was going no where. In total on day two we saw five dollars in sales. We also ordered a pizza which left me with a net profit of seven dollars for about thirty hours work from the time I started prepping to the time the garage sale ended. Less than twenty-five cents an hour.

With that number in mind we packed up all the garage sale items into boxes, filled the van to over flowing and drove it up the street about five k to Value Village. Value Village has some great toys, togs and books to sell. I have more space in the basement and I’ve got seven dollars more in my moving to Alberta fund. All’s well that ends well.

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By the horns

I would like to thank Martin over at Aficionados International for getting back to me with information about bull fighting which was far beyond the scope of surface research possible. The Internet, I once heard said, is a vast sea of information which is exactly one inch deep. Sometimes you have to talk to someone who knows something.

The Last Corrida is renamed as of today The Last Faena because, as Martin pointed out, a Corrida is an event featuring four to six bulls whereas a Faena is the matador’s performance. The difference is significant and truly what the story is about.

The generosity of strangers never fails me and never fails to surprise me. That someone would take the time to answer a host of questions from someone they’ve never heard of is touching and reassures me that people are almost always willing to help.

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Story ideas.

I haven’t been blogging much lately but not because there isn’t much going on, more because of a certain ennui which seems to have taken hold. Everyone gets them from time to time and if there is an upside it is that I have spent more time thinking about the structure of The Last Corrida. I also got an idea for a new story featuring Huck Finn. I had the idea before but it came up again when I heard about The Meursault Investigation by Kamel Daoud which is The Stranger from an Algerian perspective. I also thought that a story about the black bridge train tragedy should be told but haven’t figured that one out yet. I try not to start writing a story until I know its ending. I have another one called The Battle of Spiller Park where I’ve figured out the ending but don’t have the beginning yet.

I’ve been thinking about a man I met on the flight back from Edmonton. Amin works for Waste Disposal in Edmonton and was on his way to Kenya when we met. We had a great conversation and I hope he had the chance to have some pawpaws and some peanuts from street vendors before coming back home. It must be hard to leave behind family and friends to only hear about them once in a while over the years. He was a little worried about encountering all the changes which must have taken place in his twenty year absence from the country of his birth but he was also looking forward to seeing those changes. I hope he had a good trip and a good holiday. It would have made for a wonderful story/travel log and I encouraged him to use his phone to make videos and talk to friends and have them tell stories of his youth so he would have them forever and his children could see them. I will never know if he did that, but I hope he did.

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The scent of Fall

There is a scent to Fall. The turning point, the point at which Summer starts its move to Fall, is marked by a certain smell. That smell caught my nose late last week while walking Bruno the Wonder Dog early one morning. It is far from official Fall but it has started despite the heat and humidity, the air in the morning tells me so.

The past two weeks have been a decompressing time to a certain extent. Studying for the ABSA finals took a lot out of me as did writing them. It is only looking back that I can see/feel it now. It is kind of nice to have a bit of a breather from study but I can’t let it go for too long. I registered for an online programming course to learn the basics of object oriented programming in Java. The course starts in September and is only seven weeks long so it won’t take a great deal of time. I used to program in VB and designed a few databases over the years. It will be fun to get back into programming.

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And that is that, for now

I am officially a Power Engineer. I passed 4A and 4B and have a certification number and everything. That was long, hard and I am glad it is done. The tests were hard and some of the questions were really out there but I got through which was all I was really concerned about.

Next up some computer certifications then start Class 3 Power Engineering in January.

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Another homestretch

Next Tuesday is exam day. From 8:30 in the morning until 16:30 is exam time. Two exams both with a required passing grade of sixty-five percent. No matter how it plays out it will be a load off of my shoulders. Studying has been taking up a lot of time for the past year and a half not that I will be off the hook when this is done but the next courses of study are more my bailiwick. First I have to get through the exams.

Something occurred to me today while studying: if you can remember one key component then the rest can be sorted. Here’s what I mean. I’ve been having trouble with calculating voltage, current and resistance. It’s just something about the letters used that screws me up. There are three basic calculations but it dawned on me that I don’t have to know them I just have to know one of them. Voltage divided by Current equals Resistance. I don’t know why that one sticks but it does. From that the other two are easy to figure out Resistance times Current equals Voltage and Current equals Voltage divided by Resistance. It’s not a shortcut per se it’s just realizing that some of the things I will be tested on can be figured out as long as long as some basic formulae are committed to memory. Some of them are easy to remember some are difficult. I always have a problem with anything to do with spheres – surface area or volume. 4 pi r^2 and 4/3 pi r^3 respectively but they always seem to abandon me when I see the question.

It’s all going to be water under the bridge by Wednesday next week. By the end of August either I will have my ticket or I won’t. Either way if I am going to hang on to the house I’m going to have to get that second job I’ve been waffling about for the last year.

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The Prom

Prom was last Thursday. By all accounts it was great. Here are a few photos.

The unicorn horn makes the outfit!

The unicorn horn makes the outfit!

The boyfriend and prom date.

The boyfriend and prom date.

Our daughter and her best friend.

Our daughter and her best friend.

Proud papa

Proud papa

The tie I am wearing in the photo was a gift from Lynn, she bought it and the tie clip on our trip to Las Vegas in 2007 to renew our wedding vows. It seemed like a nice way to remember her and have a little piece of her at the prom with our daughter.

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