Monday, January 26, 2015


So it was, in a word, fucking cold in Iqaluit today. It's January in the Arctic so it's not like this is an unsual event. However, it was impressively cold today, which caps off an impressively cold month. It sank to -43C today. With windchill it actually went to -67C at one point during the early morning hours.

Despite all that, it wasn't record breaking cold, as this Nunatsiaq News story says. We've had colder, but by less than two degrees. Which is kind of disappointing, really. If you're going to be that cold, you might as well get the record-setting kind. But alas...

It's the coldest I've experienced in Nunavut. I think the previous lowest was in 2006, when I got -63C with windchill. That was delightful. As I recall, it froze the transmission of our wee little Hyundai Accent. That was a $3,000 cold snap.

Let's put it this way - this morning I let the car run for 15 minutes to warm-up and it was still sluggish. Normally I get to work, park, plug the car in, and then walk over to get a coffee, then walk back to the office. That walking takes about a minute. Today, I parked in front of the QuickStop, then drove the car to my parking spot, plugged it in and sprinted to the door. And even that 15 seconds outside hurt. I think it took less than two minutes for exposed skin to freeze today.

We were lucky today (knock on wood). The heat stayed on. The car is running fine (it probably helps that I replaced the battery last month) and none of the pipes froze. It's the kind of cold that punishes the unprepared and unlucky. More than one car today didn't start today. Of course, I found out that at least a few of them were due to people unplugging the cars in the middle of the night. Which meant the block heater and battery blankets stopped working.

In case you wondered if there's a freezing point for assholes, it's apparently colder than that. Imagine being out in -67C windchill and thinking that unplugging cars is a good idea.

Schools closed and the City of Iqaluit pulled their water and sewage trucks. I have no problems with that. Little kids often don't know better in that cold and big kids are often deeply stupid about that level of cold. And I would feel terrible if someone got frostbite delivering water to me.

So yes, damn cold. January has seen more -50C windchill days in Iqaluit then I think we saw all of last winter. Bitter, bitter stuff. Of course, people in the Kivalliq region were mocking people in Iqaluit complaining about the cold. It's always colder somewhere. And honestly, I would rather face this kind of cold than whatever snow related apocalypse that's getting ready to smash into the Northeast United States and then wander into Atlantic Canada

Anyway, it's supposed to go to -18C on Wednesday. I should go and look for swimsuit...

Last Five
1. Stop the world - The Clash
2. Dreaming - Goldfrapp
3. The laws have changed - The New Pornographers*
4. Lady Madonna (live) - Paul McCartney
5. Erie Canal (live) - Bruce Springsteen

Saturday, January 17, 2015


It's January 17, 2015. It's currently -54. It actually hit -59C last night with windchill. It's not the coldest I've experience in Iqaluit. That would have been in 2006 when it hit -63C and the transmission in our car froze solid. But it's cold enough to do damage if you're not careful. Skin freezes in minutes. Car batteries get sucked dry in no time if they're not plugged in. Water pipes freeze and explode.

I turned 45 today. I find it amusing in a way I can't really explain that the temperature is colder than my age, but I do.

I was kind of all right with being 44. It was a year of mercifully minimal drama. Forty-three had highs like going to Sri Lanka with a bunch of my friends for a wedding. Which was awesome. I'll remember that for the rest of my life.

But then you have a low like being told by your employer that they've decided to eliminate a few positions because they're restructuring and, hey, you're one of them. Thaaaaat sucked.

But no, 44 offered calm. On the positive side I got to go to Hawaii and Las Vegas. My new job became a permanent new job, which relieves a little of the pressure of, you know, paying mortgages and stuff. About the most drama I faced during the year was when I got a new job offer and had to decide whether to stay where I was or take the new job.

I decided to stay put. My bosses were, thankfully, amused when I said I sooner the devil I know.

Forty-five years old....still having problems with that brain-to-mouth filter.

The only downside is that some of the weight I worked so hard to lose when I was 42 came back. I put on about 25 pounds in the last year. Which is infuriating. But vacations, a few nagging injuries and a loss of focus did the trick. I think I'm back on track now. I'll probably never be back to where I was a couple of years ago. And to be honest, Cathy is ok with that. I was 183 pounds at one point and was freaking out a few people.

(I can only imagine how I must have looked when I was 155 back when I wasn't eating right during my time in South Korea).

A couple of weeks ago I was contacted by Ed Hollett and asked if I would be interested in writing a piece of his blog. It turns 10 this year. And because my brain works in a certain way, it occurs to me that I had a lot of things going on in the past on occasions when there was a 5 in my age. So let us take a look back...

35. On the upside I was engage to Cathy and would be married in seven months. On the downside I was living with my dad (who is a lovely man, but you don't want to be living with your dad at 35 even if you are trying to save a few dollars), Cathy had just gone back to Rankin Inlet to teach (saving money for our wedding) so I was missing her pretty badly and I was beginning to realize how desperately I hated working with The Express and needed to leave. Oh, and later in the year we moved to Iqaluit.

So yeah, ok, but not great.

25. I was in journalism school in Halifax. So I still have that optimism about doing great things in the world as a journalist. However, I was single, lonely and a few days away from a fairly spectacular soccer related injury that wrecked my life for about six weeks (stitches, followed by almost getting emergency dental surgery, followed by strep throat, followed by the flu) and caused no end of academic chaos. Plus, the rest of the year was trying, mostly unsuccessfully, at finding a job post-journalism school.

15. I was mostly harmless, but deeply clueless at 15. That makes me a pretty typical 15 year old. I just had worse luck with girls than you're average 15 year old. I also transitioned from junior high, where I had friends, to high school, where I had none because all my friends went to a different school than me. So I was fairly angsty and miserable. Typical 15.

5. Was awesome. Can't remember much, but I'm sure it was pretty cool. Things are generally pretty awesome when you're 5. There was colouring, playing, and Lego.

Which brings me back to 45. When there is again Lego as Cathy bought me a set for my birthday. Funny how things come full circle.

Honestly, things are pretty good as I hit 45. I'm content. I'm hoping to shake off at least 20 of the pounds I've put back on. I'd like to continue to make progress about staying out of the "spin cycle" I get into sometimes during high stress moments (where you're so busy being mad about a situation you're in, rather than trying to focus on solving the problem). We're going to Europe this summer for three weeks to celebrate our 10th anniversary and in October I'm hoping to get back to the New York Comic Con.

As for the rest, healthy and happy will do. And maybe to be a little less sucky at updating this blog. But one miracle at a time...

Last Five
1. Complete control (live) - The Clash
2. Strangers - Amelia Curran
3. High & Wild - Angel Olsen
4. Up on cripple creek - The Band*
5. Southern Pacifica - Josh Ritter

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Home work...

Pretty much every day I get a reason to be happy that Cathy convinced me five years ago that we should buy a house in Iqaluit. It'll be five years ago in December that we moved in, but it was around this time in 2009 that we started seriously looking.

Understand, I did not want to buy a house. I was happy in our apartment and I have a deep, deep, deep loathing of owing money to anybody, let alone a bank. Seriously, if I have the option of borrowing $2.50 for a coffee in the morning and paying the person back in the afternoon, or just going without a coffee, I will chose doing without every time.

So owing a bank a few hundred thousand a time when I was unemployed, no...that was something I was not going to do.

If you've met my wife she's very...persuasive. Which is another way of saying I find it nearly impossible to say no to her.

But we did find a place and it's worked out well. We were unbelievably lucky, of course. It's a good house, but we didn't do an inspection on it because, well, there were no inspectors in Nunavut at that time. It was the second place we put an offer in on. We didn't use a real estate agent. We had enough money saved for the 20% downpayment, so no insurance was necessary. And we bought just before Iqaluit's real estate market went batshit crazy.

(Although it seems to have cooled. People are having a hard time making the leap of spending $500,000 on a three bedroom, one bathroom house with less than 2,000 square feet).

So yes, lucky. Insanely lucky. I try not to think of how much karma we burned on getting this place as hassle-free as we did. And we're always hearing stories about people living in apartments ready to snap. One friend is threatening to take a fire extinguisher to the next drunk in his building who pulls the fire alarm. I'm not sure if he's going to empty the canister on the person or hit them over the head with it.

Having said that, a house is still a house. It's not like the money is done once you buy the place. We got a good deal, but it's not like we haven't spent thousands since then. Tearing up carpet to put in hardwood flooring. New paint. New laminate flooring in the kitchen, bathroom and porch. New door in the hallway. New furniture and appliances. It all adds up.

But this summer we engaged in the scariest (for me) addition to the house....we hired a contractor.

Understand I am leery putting my fate into the hands of people who have vastly more knowledge and experience than I do, who are in a position of power than me, and who I am trust to do the right thing and giving them thousands of dollars. Because we have all heard horror stories about contractors. I'm not putting them at the same level as consultants (Hey kids! Guy Fawkes Day is coming up. Save your local forests and pitch some consultants on the fire instead!), but they make me nervous.

Basically, what was required was this. The house is 15 years old. For those 15 years the prevailing winds have slammed into the east facing side of the house. It take a toll. The siding was getting cracked and starting to bend. By the way, it's the same with every house on our street. We're hardly alone.

Last February we had a delightful windstorm with winds well over 120 km/h. When you're sitting in your living room, with no power, listening to the wind pound the size of your house that you know is vulnerable, and reading reports on Twitter of siding flying off newer houses on the Plateau, you make certain promises to yourself.

So come this summer, after much badgering, we finally got a contractor to give us an estimate on the work we felt was needed. The siding on the east side of the house had to be replaced. And rather than try to match the colour of the new siding to the rest of the house, we just decided to repaint the house. It could use it, to be honest. It was faded and a really ugly green colour we always loathed.

Oh, and while they were at it, check the roof to make sure it was ok and check the foundations to see if it had shifted (the joys of owning a house on stilts) and make any necessary adjustments.

The estimate was...considerable. But we had saved the money, bit the bullet and told them to go ahead.

You know, knock on wood, it seem to go pretty well. The did completely repainted the house, including the deck, skirting and eves, plus replaced all the siding on one side of the house in less than a week. No problems with the roof and while the foundation shifted slightly (all houses in Nunavut go through it) it seems to have settled into it's new spot. They attempted to shift the house back, but couldn't budge it. So she is where she is. They also adjusted the front and side decks to make them more stable. Doesn't appear they charged me for it either.

Oh, and it came in under estimate. They didn't charge me for the foundation work because, well, they couldn't move the foundation. Which I understand is logical, but still surprises me they did it. I suspect some contractors would not be quite that understanding.

So what do we have now? Well we have a house that used to look like this...

Probably four years old, but that green colour hadn't improved with age.

To a place that now looks like this.

So yeah, a much nicer looking house. I would have preferred something a bit brighter, but we just couldn't find a bright colour we liked. Still, we're really happy with it. And I'm not saying we're done. You're never done with a house. You're just in-between projects. But there is nothing that needs immediate doing. And after nearly five years, that's a really nice feeling.

Last Five
1. Dead Sea - The Lumineers*
2. Darkhouse - Spirit of the West
3. Demons - Joel Plaskett
4. Autumn light - Ron Sexsmith
5. Annie waits - Ben Folds

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Fall TV, part 1

Once upon a time I used to review TV shows for The Express. Television has changed a lot in the nine years since I left the paper. Cable TV programming has exploded and most of the good TV shows are not on the networks. They're on HBO, Starz, or a bunch of other cable stations.

The problem is, they're a bitch to track down. I don't get a lot of those stations and anytime I feel like taking a chance on a TV show by buying the DVDs (because I'm a good boy who doesn't pirate) I end up frustrated. House of Cards started off great but I never managed to finish the first season. The Walking Dead....well, zombie were never my thing and that show is less my thing. Boring. Homeland is so overwrought I couldn't get past the first handful of episodes.

I do like Justified, though. I need to get back into that.

I never watched Breaking Bad. I understand that's sacrilege. I may, one day, once the hype has died away a bit. But I feel no urgent need to watch it.

I guess I'm old fashioned. I like a big slab of TV fighting out in a Darwinian battle to survive every fall. Throwing a couple of dozen shows into the grinder each fall to see which ones last is a deeply stupid way to do things, but I get amusement out of it. Yeah, occasionally I'll lose a show I like, but not often.

I'm not going to be crazy enough to review everything coming out right now, but I've caught a few already, and there are more coming I'll review as well. This also has the usual caveat that pilots are a different beast. A good pilot will not ensure a show's survival (Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip had a brilliant pilot. It was a disaster after that), but a bad one will handicap it for the rest of its probably very short life.

So let's see what I've seen so far.

1. The Red Band Society - Ten minutes in and I knew this wasn't my show. I mean, I'm not the demographic and that's fine. But the bitchy blonde cheerleader just forced me right out of the show. Teenagers at a hospital for sick kids is a hell of a concept and at least it's set over three weeks in its first season, so there's none of the weirdness that inflicted Glee. But I won't be tuning in. Not my cup of tea.

2. Madam Secretary - Again a good premise, but lacking some guts. It's basically what would happen if you took an apolitical and nicer Hilary Clinton and did a tv show about her. And Tea Leoni is good as the title character. She can carry the show as a Secretary of State dealing with world problems. Hell, it's an interesting job. One of my few gripes about the West Wing was that Secretary of State is one of the most important positions in the US government and we barely heard talk of the character in the show.

So yeah, good lead, ton of potential. But it's a soft and bit gutless pilot. American held hostage in Syria is a bit of a flat open. A conspiracy over the death of her predecesor. A Chief of Staff with a sinister agenda. It's a little too rote. I'd like to see it get gutsier in the coming weeks, but I'm not overly hopeful.

It's biggest sin, however, is having Bebe Neuwirth standing around and doing almost nothing except scowl in the pilot. That woman can act. For the love of God, let her have something to chew on in the weeks to come. I'll give it a few more weeks to see if it acquires a spine.

3. Gotham - You might have heard they were doing a show about Gotham City in the years before Batman. Maybe spotted an add or two.

Is it good? Yes. I'll keep watching it for awhile. There's a lot to like. Nearly all the acting is solid enough, although Jada Pinkett Smith as the badly named Fish Mooney just about steals the show. I think Sean Pertwee was badly miscast as Alfred, but we'll see. And the rest are good. Ben McKenzie makes a fine Jim Gordon.

But man, is that an over-stuffed pilot. Yeah, it's dark. Cathy found it way too dark and didn't care much for it. But a show based on Gotham City was never going to be sweet and lightness. But there were a lot of characters, plots, subplots and everything else crammed into that show. Really, it could have been two hours. Or they could have stretch some of it out for a week or so. We didn't need to meet everyone this episode.

But there are lots of little things to like. I like that Selina Kyle witnessed Bruce Wayne's parents murder.  I like that Renee Montoya is in the show and they've already made reference to her sexuality. I like the shades of grey already, like Gordon making what he thinks is a compassionate choice, but it's already resulted in one death, and many more to come.

It has a ton of potential. Whether it can do it, and if the audience will stick around for a show more about shades of grey, and no Batman, well, we'll see...

4. Scorpion - One wag called it The Big Bang Theory solves crimes. I like to think of it as Numb3rs meets Harry Potter. Basically, a bunch of geniuses with no social skills get recruited to work for the federal government to solve problems only people with their skills sets possess.

Look, this show is going to redefine technobabble. Anytime a character starts speaking it, just put in Hogwarts spells. It accomplishes the same thing. The show is going to sink or swim on the character interactions. So far, it's fun enough. The actors are likeable. It's very processed (CBS must have a machine that cranks these procedurals out), but not all processed food is bad. Not all processed shows are bad.

The key is going to be keeping it from getting too silly. The pilot featured corrupt software at LAX threatening to bring planes crashing from the sky. The plot was bouncing merrily along, escalating from silly, to very silly, but still entertaining. Until the last 10 minutes when it went balls-to-the-wall batshit stupid/insane.

Don't do that again.

5. Forever - Immortal characters are nothing new in fiction, although particularly challenging in television if the show lasts more than a few years. But one worry at a time. Ioan Gruffudd is a particularly likeable actor (I'll forgive him for The Fantastic Four. That wasn't his fault) and the show is obviously leaning heavily on his charisma. Essentially his character is 200 years old. He's a medical examiner working for the NYPD studying anatomy in the hopes of finding a way he can die. Seems immortality is a bit of a curse.

Now he has a curious detective working with him and they solve crimes. All the way there's the mystery of how he can't die (when he does, he comes back to life in the Hudson River. Awkward) and the other immortal stalking him. Oh, and plenty of opportunities for flashbacks.

Gruffudd mercifully has a good supporting cast. Judd Hirsch can do this in his sleep, but mercifully adds a ton of charm and their father/son relationship (not in the way you think) works. Alana De La Garza and Joel David Moore also are good. I was quite surprised by the show. It's not perfect. The voiceover can get a little purple at times, and they killed him three times in the pilot. That was a little bit of, well, overkill (sorry).

It's got a ton of potential and it's charming. It's my favourite if these five so far. We'll see how it ages over the coming weeks.

Last Five
1. American Skin (41 shots) - Bruce Springsteen
2. I understand - Sloan
3. Your heart - Repartee
4. White dove - Jenn Grant*
5. Songs for Dan Treacy - MGMT

Monday, September 22, 2014

Harley and Ivy commission

I've mentioned several times I've acquired a...thing about original comic book art. Funny, for years I loved looking at comics but it never dawned on me I could actually own pieces of the artwork. However, once I got started, like a geek with an obsession, I've made up for lost time. Right now there are 22 framed comic book pieces on my wall (and one of those frames consists of nine small pieces), plus ones I haven't framed, and ones in sketch books.

So yeah, I like comic book art.

A lot of times it's pretty straight forward. You go up to an artist at a comic con and tell him or her what you would like. Online, you might exchange a few emails about what you're looking for, and then after you pay the artist, your piece arrives in the mail a few weeks (sometimes months) later.

I mention this to put it in some context. Earlier this summer I contacted an artist named Michelle Sciuto. Her art had come across my tumblr stream a lot of times and I quite liked it. She's starting off as an artist, which can be a good thing when you're looking for comic art. A few years ago I contacted a Canadian artist named Agnes Garbaska because I'd seen her art online a few places. She'd been published, but wasn't hugely known. And I got this amazingly fun commission from her.

Now she does covers for Red Sonja and My Little Pony, among other books. So at worst you get a cool piece of art, at best you get a cool piece of art from an artist before they became really popular.

I get the feeling Michelle is going to fall into the later category. Not only is her art a hell of a lot of fun, but she's really good to deal with. I checked my gmail account. We exchanged more than 30 emails on my sketch from her.

It was a very collaborative process. Once I got on her commission list, she asked what I wanted. I gave her two options - Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy, or Birds of Prey (Oracle, Black Canary, Huntress). She really wanted to do Harley and Ivy. My only suggestions were that I wanted it to be fun, a little sexy (not slutty) and I was thinking rather than their traditional costumes (or, even worse their "New 52" costumes), maybe a retro 50s pin-up girl theme.

Which Michelle loved. And I thought that would be that. Until a few days later she contacted me with preliminary sketches. She wanted to know what outfits I wanted them in, and what pose. 

(There's a third pose I haven't included here as I don't have a jpeg of it, just a pdf)

No artist has ever gone though this much consultation with me on a commission. And honestly, those rough sketches are amazing. I asked if I could buy them from her...she tossed them in for free.

I opted for the middle costumes in both of them and the pose with Harley and her hyenas as the pose. I later got a pair of final pencils with the hyenas at different sizes. She wasn't sure how big to make them, and wanted to know if I had any preference.


I got the final, fully coloured piece in the mail on Thursday. It's stunning. It's easily one of my five favourite pieces on my wall (Garbaska's Justice girls, Buscema's Red Sonja, Maihack's Supergirl/Batgirl, Mebberson's Mulan/Merida are the other four). I mean, look at this beauty...

It's 11x17 and just pops off the wall. And the price for this loveliness? $80. Another $10 for shipping. Ridiculous, given how much time she spent on it. Michelle seriously need to raise her prices. She also has more than 1,000 likes of it on tumblr, which is pretty cool. And it's all mine.

If you're looking for a fun comic book related piece of art, I strongly recommend dropping her a line. No kidding, she's a blast to deal with, her prices are beyond reasonable and you get great art. Check out her tumblr or website.

Last Five
1. Hate to see your heart break - Paramore
2. Cherry tree - The National
3. Shadow of love - She & Him
4. Put out your lights (live) - Matthew Good
5. Downtown train - Tom Waits* 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Archeology dig

I mentioned I went back to St. John's. That also meant a visit back to the house I grew up in. My family has lived in that house now since 1978. As a family, then just my dad, then just my mom, and then dad bought the place outright. The joke used to be I lived with the house. The parents were optional.

This isn't the first time I've been back there in decades or anything. It was less than two years ago. The place hasn't changed in that time. Reasonably sure it hasn't changed since the 1990s. My benchmark for determining this is the stereo.

The stereo has been sitting in the no-man's land between the living room and dining room for awhile now. How long? I think dad bought it around 1984. It was pretty cutting edge at the time, with it's duo-cassette deck drive. So you could play one tape and then, scandalously, copy the music by putting a blank in the other deck drive. Quite the controversy at the time, what with it making it easy to pirate music and all.

Anyway, cutting edge in the mid-80s. Not so much in later years. Pretty sure it died completely sometime in the mid-90s. So yes, for the better part of the past 20 years a dead stereo system in a wooden cabinet has been sitting in the living room for no reason.

We won't talk about my university grad picture in all its massive glory in the dining room, terrifying anyone who ventures forth to eat there (moustaches are never a good idea). Best not to dwell on it.

I've mentioned to dad he might want to do something about the stereo. He says he will and yet, there it rests in all its faded glory. I'm considering a flamethrower for Christmas as a method of internal redecorating/purging. Not for him...he'll never use it. But his niece lives in the basement apartment and his sister is a five minute walk away. I'm pretty sure they would. And he's going to Florida for a few months this coming winter. So we'll see how it goes.

However, since I was there I decided to do some poking around. Most of my stuff is long gone. Either up here, or sold. But there are a few things still there, so while talking with him, I put on my Indiana Jones fedora and decided to see what I could find.

Some of the stuff made me laugh. There's the hand-carved walking stick he brought me back from Cuba. I loved that thing because I thought I looked cool. Didn't have room to bring it back, alas. Plus, Cathy tends to put walking sticks in the same group as trenchcoats; things I do not look as cool using/wearing as I think I do.

There was a painting of the character Death from the Sandman comics my friend Mireille did for me around 1993. Really would have liked to have taken that back, but no room, alas.

In the closet there was an absolutely hideous brown lamb leather jacket that I seemed to have thought was a good idea around 1990. I informed dad it was not to go to good will, but to be taken out to the softball pitch behind the house in the middle of the night and set on fire. Ghastly. Still fits though, so that's one good thing.

But there were other cool things that I did rescue. In the same closet that produced the dreadful brown leather coat, also produced a black one that I didn't remember until dad refreshed my memory. He went to Australia in 2002 and brought me back a really nice black leather jacket. But he guessed wrong on my size. It was too small. I tried it on now and it fits perfectly. And it looks really good. So that was a nice find.

My old bedroom produced two interesting relics. The first was all my old letters. I used to write a lot of letters before email killed that. To pen pals mainly, but when I was in Korea in '97 I wrote letters to everyone. I'm told people thought I was writing in code to fool censors (I have terrible writing), but I have all the letters they wrote back.

So if you wrote me a letter between 1983 and 1999, odds are I have it. I'm really looking forward to going through those letters and see what comes up. A lot of embarrassing stuff. A lot of banal stuff. A couple of early gems include one I found from my grandmother that she wrote while I was in South Korea. I found a letter a woman sent me when I was with the Muse, thanking me for a story I wrote that helped her out (pretty sure it was the letter that cemented my belief that I should become a journalist). But I suspect I'm going to also laugh a lot and bug Cathy with 'I'd completely forgotten about this!" once I get going.

However, the real gem is "School Day Treasures". Back in Easter of 1975 my nan and pop Welsh gave me this book in advance of me starting Kindergarten. Each page was a year of school and you could put in all kinds of information. So there's a place for a picture, your report card, who your teacher was, how much you weighed, how tall you were, best friends, ambition (I was very determined to be an astronaut) and so on.

It is, at the very least, absolutely adorable. There's my infamous bowtie pic. The junior high pic where I looked like I was stoned. The report card that praised my handwriting (Grade 3. Seriously) the one where it was concerned I was too quick, mean and sarcastic (Grade 5. Sorry, Mr. Green. The progress you saw at the end of the school year was transitory) cracks me up.

It's a brilliant thing. I'm so glad nan and pop gave that to me. I've no idea if they still make these things or not, but they're awesome. I'm also pleased I kept up with it throughout school. Only Grade 2 and Grade 7 are missing pictures. I faithfully filled out the information and kept all the report cards. It would have been easy to stop doing that once I hit junior high, but I didn't. And now I have this brilliant thing.

I still think the house needs a purge. But I'm glad I grabbed these relics before it happened.

Last Five
1. Indestructible - Matthew Good Band
2. Gypsy biker - Bruce Springsteen
3. You can never hold back spring - Tom Waits
4. You got lucky - The Gaslight Anthem*
5. Thirsty - The National

Saturday, September 20, 2014


We were back in Newfoundland last weekend. Cathy's brother, my brother-in-law, got married. That meant a ridiculously brief trip back to St. John's. We left Iqaluit on Wednesday afternoon, arrived early Thursday morning (1 am) and then caught a plane back on Monday morning at 6:30 and was back in Iqaluit by noon. So four days to see family, friends, do some Christmas shopping and have a wedding. No problem.

We're still exhausted and the colds we're both currently fighting I suspect were either caught in Newfoundland (or en route) or just because our immune systems are shot from the travel.

It was a good trip. Dan and Meg's wedding was really quite nice. They were married in Bowring Park on a miraculously beautiful day in mid-September. My mother-in-law is taking credit for that, by virtue of hanging rosary beads from the clothes line on Friday morning.

We had good weather. I'm not going to knock it.

Anyway, a nice ceremony on the Cabot 500 stage. My favourite bit was the lovely, and hilarious, reading from the journals of their grandparents. It was a nice touch. Then a gathering at the Yellowbelly pub downtown. We bailed at midnight, but apparently they shut the place down.

Cathy and I had an agreement going back to St. John's. She was going to be busy with wedding stuff, but I had to spend time with my parents or they were going to disown me. Which I did. It's been almost two years since I've been back to Newfoundland. It's just one of those things now where trips there are going to be rarer events. I only have three weeks vacation these days. They understand, I hope, that there's a limit to how much I can do in Newfoundland. Friends and family don't drop everything just because you're back for a visit. They have lives and commitments.

Plus, I want to travel. I spent most of my first 35 years in Newfoundland and saw very little of the rest of the world. I can't begin to explain how important travelling and seeing new places is to me right now. We're already planning next summer's trip.

But I hung out at Shoppers' Drug Mart with my mom and got to watch her in action. Which is always impressive. Everyone knows my mom. Or, as she said, "Even the dogs know me at this point." Which is true. I was chatting with my friend Karin about her over brunch and we agree...she could teach master classes on customer service. Or become a consultant. Everyone gets attention. She's insanely friendly and helpful. She gives honest advice at the cost of an immediate sale because it's just good customer service (and the karma probably gets her triple the sales anyway).

I always knew she was good. Watching her work for an hour or so, I have a new appreciation.

I hung out with dad at his place for a bit, and did a power walk around Quidi Vidi Lake and the Virginia Park Trail. I also got a crash course in how much my home has changed since I left. It's been nine years. Things are going to change. But the influx of money finally hit me this time. Not sure why not before. Perhaps because I've only been home at Christmas and maybe the snow and crappy weather hides the money. But man, it's gotten silly in town.

Just in my area the old Janeway Apartments are gone and a massive new retirement complex is getting ready to open. The old Virginia Park Plaza is gone and a new 5-story condo complex is being built and they've broken ground on a new elementary school to replace the one I used to go to.

I remember growing up and Quidi Vidi Village (The Gut) was a bit of a dump. It had the worst weather in town and was generally run down. Now there are gourmet restaurants, million dollar homes and floods of tourists. Pleasantville is being transformed from old military buildings into houses. I saw more Porches in town in four days than I did in Vegas in a week. It feels like every surplus bit of green space in town is being converted to condos of some kind.

It's just very...jarring. I'm glad to see St. John's have an influx of cash. I would never begrudge it. And those things I mentioned being changed? They're all necessary. The apartments were rundown. The Plaza was a dive. My old school should have been replaced 20 years or more ago. And good riddance to those military buildings in Pleasentville.

Still, it just feels like it's being...wasted. For every awesome thing I see being done with the money (Mallard Cottage in the Gut is lovely), I see a ton of condo units or just unending suburban sprawl with no character. I wish there was more creativity and cleverness with the money. Maybe I've just missed it, but I don't think so. Newfoundland won't be the first place to get stupid with its oil wealth and at least no one has taken to building 120 story tall buildings out by Cape Spear (yet. Give Danny Williams some time). It's just kind of disappointing. I wish the province was being more like Norway and less like, well, pretty much every other place that hit an oil lottery ticket.

St. John's is bigger and richer...just not sure it's better.

But maybe I'm a grumpy ex-pat who should just shut up...

Last Five
1. 99% of us is failure (live) - Matthew Good*
2. Saviour - Ron Hynes
3. Hustling - Foster the People
4. Dark days - Punch Brothers
5. Crosseyed - Brendan Benson