The good

Posted by bernicky - February 24th, 2015

I spoke with a friend the weekend before last. The first question she asked was whether or not we had recovered Bruno. She had read the post about our daughter being hit by a drunk driver on Xmas and the dog running away but I never followed up the story. Mea culpa.

Bruno was returned to us the very next day. He had been found by a woman who has seen us go by on our morning walks and kept him overnight before calling Dorval security who in turn called us. A story which ended well.

She and I were talking because her husband (who is also a friend) has stage four pancreatic cancer. I only just found out about it and wanted to talk to him as soon as I had heard. I’m not going to write about his cancer or prognosis the first sentence of this paragraph says it all. That is their story not mine.

My story is about when I first started GeekStreet in nineteen ninety-nine. The first real customer I had was a print jobber company. They were having network issues and it took a couple of visits to sort it all out as whomever had been there before me was a less than stellar tech.

One of the things which struck me was the way that everyone talked to each other. From years working at Frame-In-Place in the Snowdon district of Montreal my ear was attenuated to Yiddish expressions and kibitzing but not quite at the intensity that happened between the secretary and the boss: that was something on a whole new level.

The dynamic in the office was a new experience for me. Every visit was like a new episode of The Bickersons and frequently just as funny. It took a few visits to suss out that the secretary and the boss were married and the whirling dervish of a man who hired me in the first place was their son. The relentless sound of them talking was something outside of my experience. It was like there was no detail to small to go over and discuss or argue about but in the end a decision was made and things were done. There was no small amount of love in those exchanges they only sounded angry the first time I heard them and had I never listened deeper perhaps they would have always sounded that way.

The only measure of a person that counts for anything is how they make others feel. In that respect this family and the patriarch who now has pancreatic cancer are giants.

During the entire time GeekStreet was a going concern with a myriad of one time customers and small businesses in the print industry hiring me for short contracts one company stayed with me the whole way. I tried to grow the business but there were always things getting in the way but one moment which stands out for me was after a service call at their old place when he took me to one side and told me ‘Listen, you’re doing something wrong. The guy we used to have was in here every week because something was going wrong. You come in fix the problem and then we don’t see you for eight months. That’s not the way to do business.’ Of course he was joking but it was his way of letting me know that I was doing good by him and he recognized that fact.

When I finally closed GeekStreet and took a job at the school board I kept one client and I still have them. The only reason I still have them is because you don’t stop working for people who have become like family. They’ve seen the kids grow up. They were there when Lynn was diagnosed and when she died. You can’t teach goodness, not really. We recognize it in people who have the real thing and are suspicious of those who put it on from time to time. I’m happy to say I have friends who posses the real thing.

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So I did it

Posted by bernicky - February 18th, 2015

After receiving some edits from Donna, one of which was brilliant, I formatted The Ultimate Great Basin Relay and submitted it to Tin House. In truth I believe my chances of being accepted are nil. It may seem odd but I’m fine with that because part of me just doesn’t care anymore. I’m going to write what I want to write the way I want to write it. Simple writing, simple stories from a simple man. Doesn’t get much simpler than that.



Posted by bernicky - February 8th, 2015

Writer at work

Writer at work

I’m taking down my writing blog because, well, I don’t use it. This blog is my writing blog. Everything I do or experience can end up in a story and if it ever gets to the point that people read and review what I write they’re welcome to pick apart my life based on what I have written here – it has to be better than picking it apart based on hearsay and theory.

The progress on Black Dog has been slow – I have the beginning and the ending but marrying the two had been hard despite it being a simple story. All my stories are simple so that may have been redundant. I might put it to the side and work on two other stories. There’s nothing wrong with putting stuff to one side. I did that with Concrete Memories and it worked out okay so we’ll see what happens.

The Ultimate Great Basin Relay is, I think, finished finished (as opposed to being completed) and ready for publication. The question is do I submit it to Tin House which is where I would like it to be published or self publish. The disadvantage of submitting to the foremost literary magazine in North America is that the chance of publication is infinitesimal. The advantage is that if you get through you’ve done something special. It’s the writer’s conundrum: believing you’re good is one thing, expecting others to believe it is something else.

Submitting to a literary magazine is a proposition which requires patience. It can be three months before they respond if they respond at all. With the Internet and email submissions magazines are flooded with submissions and often the rejection slip takes the form of “wait three months if you don’t hear from us we don’t want it”. On the other hand the self publishing avenue is always there regardless of how long I wait. It might be best to gather together a half dozen or so stories before I go that route again though.

I will submit to Tin House because I want that “Aye” or “Nay” from a literary source. Yes I write for me but there are few who write with the intention of going unread.

I get by with a little help from my friends

Posted by bernicky - February 6th, 2015

There’s a theory called “The Self Attribution Fallacy” which states that people give themselves too much credit for where they are and what they’ve accomplished. We are all the product of both our own work and the work of others who have direct or indirect influence on what we can achieve. As Donne so aptly put it in one of his Devotions “No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main”.

This past week things have really been coming together for the leave of absence from work to do the steam lab at NAIT.

Donna, the wonderful woman to whom I am moving, used points from one of those loyalty programs to cover the entire return trip airfare for the trip. The whole thing! That’s huge because the airfare to Edmonton is more than the airfare to Europe. The amount of faith in me that she shows with such a gesture is touching.

At work the HR department got into the act too by allowing me to juggle vacation days to offset some of the expense of taking twenty seven days off of work to go back to school. Everything was by the book but the woman who helped me spent a lot of time finding every way that was allowable so I could take the smallest financial hit possible. I’ll still be losing a little over a weeks salary and the insurance premiums for the period won’t change but money will be coming in which is a good thing.

My mother-in-law has agreed to move back in for the time that I will be gone to see to my daughter. No matter how mature she be I’m not going to leave a 17 year old by herself for six weeks: she could give Ichabod Crane a run for his money so I’m not sure shed’d even make it to class if someone wasn’t here.

ABSA has allowed that while I am in Edmonton attending NAIT I am a resident of Alberta and can, time permitting and scheduling possible, take an ABSA certification exam. They also reassured me that I don’t have to rush anyway. The course work is valid for a seven year period and the lab time is valid for life.

NAIT has allowed that I could take a morning or perhaps two to write ABSA exams provided they could be scheduled and provided that there is the spare time. The scheduling on intensive steam sessions is tight so it many not be possible but if it is I can do it.

Some day I will say to someone “When I got my Power Engineering ticket…” I won’t mean to leave out all the people who helped me get there and I will remember that I did not get there by myself. I’ve never gotten anywhere by myself, few of us have.

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