Thursday, June 08, 2023

Jury Duty

Jury summons tend to go a number of ways. A lot of times, you get the summons but then find out the court date has been cancelled. Other times you get the summons, but for various reasons, it might be impossible to attend as you won’t be in town that day. You contact the Sherriff’s office, let them know, and that’s that.

Then there are the times you find yourself in a hotel conference room with 100 other people waiting to hear if your randomly assigned number is going to be pulled from a hat. That happened to me last month. My number got called and I had to stand in front of a judge. He asked if I had a reason why I couldn't serve on the jury and I only had one answer I could honestly give.

"No, your Honour."

And with that, my two-week journey in the Nunavut criminal justice system began.

I'm not going to get into a lot of details on the case. Nunatsiaq News has extensive coverage of the court case. And in case you're thinking, "Well, which jury trial was it?" to the best of our knowledge, it's the first jury trial in Iqaluit in over a decade. I can't swear on Bibles (or Affirm) to that, but I think that's right.

And I really, really can't get into what it was like in the jury room. What happened in there, the discussions we had, are confidential and it's critical to maintain that confidentiality. So I won't discuss it, and never bother asking me about it.

What I can say is was a very important experience for me. I'm not going to use life-changing - a phrase I generally loathe as most experiences are life-changing - but I'm glad I did it. I'm glad I had that experience. I'm not saying it was easy. It wasn't. There were times when the jury was sent from the court when a witness broke down relating horrifying abuse. All I wanted to do was go outside and find a snowbank to bury my head in. There was a spin cycle I had going for my first few days sitting in court.

This is horrible to listen to --> The people testifying had it much, much worse. Suck it up --> Because they went through something horrible does not invalidate you feeling bad listening to it. --> The lawyers and other court officials have had to deal with this for longer. Suck it up --> Because they've been working on this case and dealing with this for longer does not invalidate you feeling bad.

Spin. Rinse. Repeat.

At the end of the jury's work, we were given counselling information and the judge strongly encouraged us to take advantage of it. I've already made an appointment, and I hope the others will as well.

So why do this? I knew before I was called before the judge that this was going to be a challenging case to listen to. I could have come up with an excuse to get out of it. Prior knowledge of the case. Bias. Something.

But I've always wanted to serve on a jury. I wanted that experience and I'm glad I have it. But I've had something else rattling around in my head for a few years, and serving on this jury solidified it for me. It isn't a shocking revelation that public discourse has taken a beating in the age of social media. Things are getting angrier and scarier out there. And far too often, I hear people yell that their rights are being suppressed or stamped upon. But not nearly enough do I hear about taking their responsibilities as Canadian citizens seriously. The responsibilities part is equally important. It's why people who brag they don't vote make me nearly homicidal at times.

Canadians are gifted with a staggering number of rights. Read the Charter if you want a refresher. And these are your responsibilities:

  • Obeying the law: Everyone must obey the law, even if they are in a high position

  • Taking responsibility for oneself and one's family: It is important to get a job, and take care of one's family, and to work hard. This helps to make Canada a strong country.

  • Serving on a jury: When a person is in court, a jury is a group of people who help the judge to make decisions about whether the person who is on trial is guilty or not guilty. If you get a letter asking you to serve on a jury, you must answer the letter, and serve on the jury if you are asked. 

  • Voting in elections: You are responsible to vote in elections. There are three kinds of elections; federal elections (for the whole country), provincial or territorial elections, and local elections (for a municipality or city).

  • Helping others in the community: Canadian citizens often volunteer. This means that they work without pay to help people. It is a good way to gain useful skills, make friends and network for jobs. 

  • Protecting and enjoying our heritage and environment. Every Canadian citizen needs to help protect Canada by avoiding waste and pollution. We want to keep Canada's nature beautiful, and not forget what our parents and grandparents taught us about our culture.

These are not hard things to accomplish. For the number of rights you get as a Canadian, this is playing at the easy setting of life responsibilities. And yet, the first reaction of many when they get a jury summons is to figure out how they can get out of it. Don't. I understand sometimes it is simply inevitable that you can't serve. But try to find a way to work your life around serving on a jury rather than trying to figure out how to avoid it.

Toward the end of the trial, I found myself writing. I wanted to say thanks to everyone at the court for their work and for taking care of the jury. I read it to my fellow jjurors and they all agreed with it, for which I'm grateful. With the judge's permission, I read it out in court. I confess, I was surprised by how emotional I got. I won't put the whole thing up here, but it's one of the best things I've written in a while. Particularly this paragraph.

"It has been a rare opportunity to see a side of justice that many Canadians do not experience and should. It has been an important reminder that, as Canadians, responsibilities come with our rights, and we are grateful for the chance to balance our scales. We have also had the opportunity to witness strength and perseverance that will stay with us for the rest of our lives."

Not everything has to be awful when you're a juror on these cases. Sometimes....sometimes you can be astonished at what people can endure and still find the strength to speak. The least you can do is sit and listen. And sometimes even give them justice.

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Proof of Life: 53


There were times last year when I wanted to

strangle these fluffy idiots, but they're far too

adorable to stay mad at for long.

I had a mild epiphany last week. It was while I was hobbling down a corridor, using a cane to get around, because I sprained my ankle back in December. I was grumpy over that, a work thing, and I'd just looked in the mirror in the washroom and realized that Cathy's tease about my longer beard really bringing out the grey was accurate.

I understood then that I really was settling into becoming a cranky old man quite nicely. That was pretty inevitable. I've been accused of being a cranky old man since university. Now I was just beginning to look and feel the part. I actually felt better after that. There's something very zenning about realizing you're right on schedule for this kind of thing to happen.

So yes, 53 will be the Year of Gumpy Old Man. Bring it on.

As for 52, well, while most of 2022 was the Year of the Water Tiger by the Chinese calendar, it was very much the Year of the Dog for Cathy and I. We might have gotten the puppies in 2021, but 2022 was the year we spent making sure the puppies grew up to become good dogs. This was not always easy, as some very expensive vet bills show. There were three weeks this year that, between the two of them, were among the most stressful weeks we've had in years.

They give big love, but sometimes with that big love comes big stresses, panic, and guilt as well. Iqaluit is in the middle of its usual January cold snap. Temps have been pushing -50C with windchill for a good chunk of the month, meaning it has been too cold to have them outside for more than a few minutes at a time, and certainly not long enough for their usual walks. Even with coats and booties, you don't mess around with temps like that. So they're getting a little binky. But honestly, they really are good dogs.

We are also, tentatively, trying to work out the logistics of taking them down south with us this summer. We'll see.

What else happened during 52? It was nice to get out for a vacation. Never taking that for granted again. Always a delight to be bossed around by my 7-year-old niece for a week. Through a delightful bit of unplanned synchronicity, there was a gathering of my university friends in town, some of whom I've not seen in decades.

I went back to New York for the first time in seven years and attended my first comic con in 3.5 years. That was fun, but a little....odd. It was weird travelling solo again, and NYCC was great but very intense. It felt very much like everyone was going out to comic con for the first time in years, and it was urgent that it be the best con ever. There was an odd energy to it. Oh, and Reed Pop completely screwed the pooch on their mask mandate. 20% of attendees wore a mask. Maybe.

As for the challenges, mom gave me a last minute freak out by breaking her hip. She's home, recovering and appears to be in good spirits, so I'll take that. I managed to sprain my ankle in December and I'm still getting over that. When something pops in your ankle, that's "bad." I probably have another 4-6 weeks of hobbling around before it's 'normal-ish.' Oh, and we both got COVID in August, which was delightful. It was a mild-ish case, and we 100% attribute that to having been vaccinated six weeks earlier. We just got our booster last week. Keep your shots up-to-date, kids.

So what's the plan for 53?

Whenever I get my ankle back to normal, I really do need to start getting back to the gym and getting healthier. Not just physically, but mentally. A few hours a week at the gym does wonders for me, and between the pandemic and illness, I haven't been able to get into any kind of routine.

Not strangle the dogs. I love them, but there are days.

The ongoing project of trying to be a better husband to Cathy. I did okay this year, but it's always a work in progress.

Keep writing. I understand the blog is relatively dormant, but I'm doing some writing for myself. Most of it is crap, but it makes me happy. Cathy introduced me to the idea that I could write and not publish or have to try and sell it. I can write just to make myself happy. Crazy-talk, but it works.

Although I did get a request to update the Moving to Iqaluit FAQ. That's fair, so I will do that this year.

Ms. Marvel by Arthur Adams. I still can't believe I own this.

I suspect this year will be one of geek reckoning. If you've ever wondered how long it will take to fill a room with books, art, Legos and toys, the answer is about 12 years. There's no more room for toys of Legos, and we're rapidly approaching the dreaded "a book has to go for every new one you bring in" stage of things. Art is a little different in that I've long since passed where I can display everything. That's why I have portfolios (like most comic art collectors). But I am going t adjust what I buy. I need to be much more strategic in my purchases.

Having said that, I got an Art Adams commission this year. If you’re not a geek, that means nothing. If you are a geek, you’re probably going “coooool.” I’ve only been in love with his art since I was a teenager. Meeting him was a thrill. Having him hand this over to me was otherworldly.

Finally, the world outside is crazy and it's not likely to get any less crazy any time soon. I'm going to have to watch it again, because I know I missed things trying to figure out what was going on. But I think I will try and spend at least part of this, my 53rd year on this insane planet, following Waymond's wise advice. 

"The only thing I do know is that we have to be kind. Please, be kind. Especially when we don't know what's going on."

(Yes, you can be grumpy and kind. It's a big multiverse. Embrace contradictions....)

Last Five

  1. Dogs days are over - Florence and the Machine

  2. Honey, we can’t afford to look this cheap - White Stripes

  3. Cover me (live) - Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band*

  4. Dianne - Joanne Barker

  5. Stella Hurt - Elvis Costello and the Imposters

Monday, November 28, 2022

Report Card: Sully and Wazowski

There's any number of days I can pick for puppy celebrations. We could pick their birthdays, or the day we picked them up. But I think on the one-year anniversary of their meeting each other for the first time, now is as good a time as any to give them their report card.

This is what I wrote on Facebook a year ago. "After 5 hours of chasing each other, they've finally crashed. Here's hoping that continues tonight when we go to bed." 

I can't recall if they stayed crashed, but based on our experience over the next couple of weeks, I would guess not.

Here's what they looked like then:

Worn out after trying to kill each other

And here's what they look like now.

A year later, still trying to kill each other.

So are they good dogs? Well, to quote We Rate Dogs "They're all good dogs, Bront."

Over the last year we've been through the highs ("Oh God, you're the best puppies ever.") to the lows, when we thought for sure that we'd fucked up and killed them. The joy they will give you is impossible to measure, just as the despair you feel when you're not sure they will make it is bottomless. We went through the latter twice this year. The infamous Advil incident with Wazowski and in October Sully ate something on a walk that so badly distressed her stomach we weren't sure what would happen. That lasted for almost two weeks. To make things worse, there's no longer a vet in town.

Stress is not quite an accurate enough word for those occasions. It's enough to make you question the wisdom of getting them if you can't care for them properly. We've had serious conversations about moving simply because we can't have reasonable vet care in town any longer nor is there a time frame for it. If it's serious, we must fly them to Ottawa and hope for the best. Again, there isn't a word in the English language for putting your beloved dog on a plane, when they're sick and scared, and sending them away and hoping for the best.

And yet, last night I watched a football game with Wazowski lying on my feet and Sully curled up next to me with her head resting on my lap. I can't put a price on the peace and zen that comes from that.

Just please, please, please less stress in the future.

So how are they? Let's look at their report cards.

Wazowski: (14/10. Heckin' good foofer. Impish)

Waz, pushing the edges of where he's allowed,
 but charming enough to get away with it.

Is he exactly like Mike Wazowski? Sorta? He's the brains of the outfit, and imp and sneaky. His ability to pounce on anything edible that lands on the floor before I can pick it up defies physics.

He's also had the hardest legacy to live up to. We loved Boo, our previous Coton de Tulear, so much and our hearts were broken when we lost him last year. We didn't expect to get another Coton quite so soon. And yet, he's his own pup. His coat is different, and his personality is different. He's more feisty, playful and a bit bossy. When he wants to play he will often throw a toy at our feet and sit there with a "Well, what are you waiting for, human?" look on his face.

He's also a huge cuddle bug. Cathy requently wakes up in the middle of the night with Wazowski either curled up next to her head or lying on top of her.

Also, mercifully, he's learned to stand up for himself. Sully can be a handful when she wants to play. We were worried that she was just going to use him as a dishrag for the rest of their lives. Instead, he'll snap back when she's playing too rough.

He's also the first to settle down a bit. He's 15 months old and while he still has puppy moments, he's a dog now so some of his more aggravating habits (chewing everything) are finally easing up.

Sully: (14/10. Heckin' good foofer. Galoot)

Sully at sunset.

I'm sure somewhere out there are Goldendoodles that are graceful dogs. Sully is not one of those dogs. When we were looking at getting a puppy we were told that female F1B Goldendoodles (the most hypoallergenic) normally reach 50-55 pounds. We estimate she's around 70 pounds now. The last time a vet saw her she commented "wow, is she ever tall for her breed." She's all legs and awkwardness. Watching her chase after a ball down the hall and trying to hit the brakes should be it's on a YouTube channel. She can take up most of the king-sized bed when she lies on it. We're convinced that along with Poodle and Golden Retriever there's some giraffe mixed in there.

And yet, she remains completely oblivious to her size. As far as she's concerned she's the same size as Wazowski. She is constantly trying to cuddle and, my god, cuddles from her should be bottled and sold over the counter. She has also finally begun to utilize the Golden Retriever's ability to manipulate you just by using her eyes. No dog has endured greater hardship in the history of dogs than her. Just ask. She'll tell you.

So is she a perfect dog? Well, she still had some things we hope she'll settle down on. She's not as mature as Wazowski so we're hoping she'll ease up a bit more on the bullying over toys. And man, she really doesn't like other dogs. I don't think she'll attack them, but I've seen her bang her paws against the living room window when she sees a dog walking up the street. And god help Cathy or I if we're out walking them and they spot a stray dog. One of us is going to have our arm ripped clean off because she lunges that hard.

Again, hopefully, she'll ease up. We've tried everything we know. If we were in Ottawa, we could probably get her to a trainer to take care of that, but that's certainly not happening up here.

Keeping an eye out for trouble.

When we told people we were getting two puppies at roughly the same time, we got looks and the occasional questioning of our sanity. And look, those people weren't wrong....I mentioned the highs and lows, well in between was when we were ready to give them away for a sandwich. Two puppies are challenging and require patience that maybe we didn't always have in reserve. But we're a year in with them now and we simply can't imagine our lives without them. They are integral parts of our mental health and sanity. They might drive us crazy, but there are worse alternatives.

Hopefully, most of our friends and family will get to meet them. They really are good pups....


Last Five

1. Two night - Lykke Li

2. Bros - Wolf Alice*

3.Magick - Ryan Adams and the Cardinals

4. Straight to hell - The Clash

5. Alternative girlfriend - Barenaked Ladies

Monday, May 09, 2022

Lucky floof

If you've been following my social media feeds you've probably been bombarded with pictures of the two latest additions to our family. Sully, a F1B Goldendoodle, who can best be described as a "galoot" and Wazowski, a Coton de Tulear, who is an imp-and-a-half. 

Here's a picture of the furry fuckwits looking adorable and innocent.

Sully and Wazowski being cute,
not evil.

Since we got the two of them last fall our lives have immeasurably improved. They're a delight to have around the house, even when we want to strangle them. Remember, for all their playfulness, energy and cuddliness, they're still puppies. For example, I have no idea why, after ignoring it for weeks Wazowski woke up one morning and decided that volumes 2 and 3 of the Complete Calvin and Hobbes needed to die, but he did his best, and now a very expensive and much-beloved hardcover is toast.

I'm not thrilled about it. I'm not saying I didn't momentarily consider shoving him an express envelope and sending him back to his breeder in Nova Scotia, but this is the price you pay with puppies. You love them and they love you. But they will also fuck up your shit because that's what they feel like doing at that moment.

They're coming out of most of their destructive phase now (I wrote this a couple of days ago. Since then Sully destroyed a pair of prescription sunglasses that were on a ledge over 5 feet off the floor). Sully is 7 months old, and Wazowsk is 8 months old. I think they're settling into being great dogs. 

That doesn't mean they're there yet.

Allow me to tell you a story of the past week involving the floofs.

Two of the lingering problems we have with them I don't think are going to be solved anytime soon. Sully is a jumper and has also discovered that she can access pretty much any flat surface in the house. The latter she won't do while we're home, but we have returned after work to find things in the hallway and utter the phrase "how the fuck?" before collecting picking it up. We now have to keep most flat surfaces meticulously clean and free of temptation.

Wazowski could have been named Roomba. I know some little dogs are garbage guts, but Wazowski operates at a whole other scale. That little dog has puked up some truly terrifying things in the six months we've had him. Again, we're doing better at this, but the two of them are a tag team now. Sully finds something on a counter, knocks it over, and then Wazowski finds out if he can eat it.

Last Monday I joked that it was a miracle he hadn't ended up at the vet yet. Then I knocked on wood.

Turns out knocking on wood doesn't actually work.

On Tuesday morning, Cathy and I were scrambling a bit to get out the door in the morning. Just one of those mornings where we weren't firing on all cylinders. It happens. And in our haste to get out the front door, we forgot to close all the doors in the house. We left one open. Normally, they have the run of the living room, kitchen and hallway. Plenty of room for them. Previously, if we've left a bedroom or bathroom door open, the worst we've suffered for our sin of negligence is dirty laundry in the hall, a chewed roll of toilet paper, a gnawed on shoe or perhaps some cardboard that got eaten.

When we came home at lunch, Sully greeted us at the door, but not Wazowski. Which was weird. Then I glanced down the hall and noticed a completely destroyed pill bottle. I scooped it up. There was nothing on the bottle to say what it had been. I looked back at Cathy and we both said the same thing at the same time.

"Oh fuck."

I went down the hall and entered the living room to find Wazowski there.

Now, let's flashback here a minute.

What we think happened is that we forgot to close the bathroom door. You have to understand the next few hours are pretty blurry. Normally not a problem. The worse Sully would find on the counter would be some toothpaste or deodorant. But the night before Cathy had a headache. And as we all do, went into the bathroom, popped out a couple of Advil, swallowed them and went on her way. But she didn't put the bottle away. Normally, not a big deal.

Except for Tuesday morning, we didn't close the bathroom door. And Sully decided to check out what might be found to chew on and found a plastic toy that makes noise. She took it out in the living room and chewed on it until the contents spilled out. Sully has the redemptive quality of being the least food motivated Goldendoodle in history. She probably tased one of the pills, decided it wasn't to her liking and spat it out.

As we've established, Wazowski is a garbage gut. He ate every single pill in the bottle. And there were dozens of pills in that bottle. We can't be sure how many. It wasn't a full bottle. But it was also far from empty.

If you're a dog owner, your hands are probably on your mouth right now and you're going "oh holy fuck". Which is what we were doing at that moment.

If you're not a dog owner, allow me to clarify for you....Advil is really fucking bad for dogs. There are two components that make it bad. One will accelerate the dog's heart rate for about 12 hours. That's treatable. The other is ibuprofen. Dogs can't metabolize this well and it can severely damage the liver and kidneys. Eat enough and it can put the dog in toxic shock.

A single pill contains 200 mg of ibuprofen. For a dog Sully's size, she probably could have to consume as many as eight pills before she would be in serious trouble. Wazowski currently weighs about 7 kg. One pill would be bad for him.

He ate all the fucking pills in the bottle.

So when I turned the corner and looked in the living room, Wazowski was sitting there, panting, eyes dilated surrounded by piles of vomit.

This is when the freaking out began. This is where things begin moving fast.

We tried to clean up the mess and quickly Googled how bad this was. We discovered that this was really, really bad. Phone calls were made. We spoke to an animal poison control in the US who gave us some advice, but as we couldn't say how much was consumed or when (sometime between 8 am and noon is not helpful), there were limits to what they could suggest.

We have a local vet, but they close at lunch. Also, we weren't sure they were open Tuesday. They keep odd hours. But at 12:55 I scooped up Wazowski, drove to the vet clinic and hoped for the best. Fortunately, they were just coming back from lunch, knew and loved Wazowski and quickly admitted him and said they would do their best.

At 2:25 I was sitting back at my desk at the office, trying to work when the vet calls. They'd given him activated charcoal and started an IV on him. But there were limits to what they could do. He needs 24 hour monitoring and they closed at 4 and didn't reopen until 8 the next morning. He couldn't stay there overnight. The best they could offer was to take him back the next morning and continue treatment.

I spoke to Cathy and we quickly decided to take a chance. We decided to fly him to Ottawa so he could be treated at Alta Vista Animal Hospital, where he could receive 24-hour care. We decided that there was no way we were going to look at each other and ask did we do everything possible to save the little idiot. The risk was we might never see him again.

More scrambling. Alta Vista agreed to take him. A pet taxi was arranged to transport him from the airport to the vet. Canadian North graciously agreed to cut us some serious slack on the deadline for dropping off pets for the late afternoon flight. At one point while running around I glanced at the spedometer of my car and noticed I was doing 70. You have to work to do that in Iqaluit. Then again, I really wasn't completely in my right mind at that point. 

Wazowski got on the plane and arrived at the vet in Ottawa by 9:30.

They had to give him two doses of sedatives to get his heart rate back to normal. They hooked him up to an IV and continued to flush out his system. Initial bloodwork came back and showed normal kidney function and slightly elevated liver function. But that was the baseline test. It can take 24 hours for the real damage to kick in. They'd have to wait for the next one on Wednesday afternoon to see if was going to be ok.

So we sat and waited. Sully got some serious love. Throughout all of this, Sully was incredibly chill. She didn't misbehave and was very cuddly. I think she knew her humans were freaking out and needed love. I was concerned without Wazowski around to burn off excess energy she might get destructive, but no, she was a happy, playful dog. She also showed no signs of having consumed any of the Advil. A huge, lucky break.

We were beginning to think maybe we caught another break. On Wednesday morning the vet told us she'd only call back if he took a turn for the worse. She was off at at 8 pm, if we didn't hear from her, assume he was stable. Cathy was very deliberately trying not to get her hopes up. I was trying to be positive because he had clearly vomited up a lot of the pills. Hopefully, it was enough, even if a little voice inside me was saying that they clearly had some impact or he wouldn't have been panting the way he had.

The vet didn't call back by 8 pm. When we called to check in, the assistant couldn't talk about the bloodwork, but said Wazowski was doing fine, but being a bit stubborn about where he would eat his food. He would only do it out of his kennel.

So when the vet called back on Thursday morning she said his latest bloodwork remained unchanged. Normal kidney function, slightly elevated liver function, but within norms. She said Wazowski would have been discharged Thursday afternoon, but recognized we needed to make arrangements to fly him back. Which we did at noon on Friday we picked up a very confused and tired puppy. His stomach was upset on Friday, but he's pretty much back to normal as of Saturday. He still had meds to help with his stomach until Tuesday and we have to do a follow-up with our local vet to make sure nothing else crops up. But Alta Vista thinks he's free and clear.

At no point should you ask us how much this all cost. No, we don't have pet insurance. But we're hugely fortunate to have good jobs and a decent cash reserve for emergencies. I will say that the cheapest part was flying him to Ottawa and back, weirdly enough. But also our local vet, Canadian North, EmBark Pet Transport, and Alta Vista are all rock stars. I am convinced he's not here without their efforts. We're profoundly grateful to them.

So, to sum up, Wazowski consumed and vomited enough toxic drugs to fuck up and kill a dog 10 times his size and has walked away unscathed.

He is the Keith Richards of Coton de Tulears.

Last Five

  1. Blacklisted (live) - Neko Case*
  2. She's thunderstorms - Arctic Monkeys
  3. Let's fall in love (live) - Diana Krall
  4. Midnight to Stevens - The Clash
  5. Sonny got caught in the moonlight - Robbie Robertson

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Proof of Life: 52 (Plus a few days)

Me at 52.The Godzilla hockey jersey and Snoopy
at the typewriter were birthday gifts from Cathy.
The Bluetooth mechanical keyboard and iPad are
how I write lately. I love it.
Look, when you have two high-energy puppies, sometimes finding the time and the mental energy to sit down and write eludes you. Plus, I've been nitpicking at this for days. Time to get it out the door.

First of all, thank you to everyone who left kind words on my Facebook wall wishing me a happy birthday. There are many, many evils to Facebook, but it's always nice on my birthday to have friends and family take a few seconds to reach out and wish me well. My apologies for taking so long to say thanks.

I didn't do one of these last year, but perhaps because we kicked off my birthday weekend by putting our dog to sleep, I wasn't exactly in the best frame of mind that weekend.

But I'm in a better head space now. So how was 51?

Earlier the year, there was a meme where people were asked to post how they would rate their pandemic so far. A "1" meant things had gone really, really well. A "10" meant that something had gone pretty catastrophic for you.

Cathy and I thought about it, and we'd honestly have to give it a "3" for us. We've been hugely fortunate. Iqaluit has been mostly spared the worst of the pandemic*. Yes, there have been times we've had to work from home and take preventative measures, but I've rarely felt like I was taking my life into my hands if I wanted to buy groceries. We've been able to get our vaccinations and booster with no problem, frequently ahead of older family members. There have been work disruptions, but we're doing fine.

And just as importantly, close friends and family all appear to be doing ok. If anyone has gotten COVID, they don't seem to have got a severe case (Then again, they've almost all been uniformly smart enough to get vaccinated as quickly as possible). 

We could even get a trip back to Newfoundland and see people. I can't begin to emphasize what a recharge that was. There was a moment sitting on Cathy's father's front deck at dusk when I heard this amazing, relaxing noise, and it took a moment to process what it was the wind blowing through the leaves on the trees. It had been almost two years since I last heard it. Once I stopped laughing, I marvelled at just how good that simple sound made me feel.

So yes, hugely fortunate. And yet, there were times when we really struggled this year. When we'd get depressed or disproportionately aggravated at something. I genuinely feared for my sanity a couple of times when I listened to anti-vaxers. And that's just part of the pandemic mental health process. If we struggled at times when we have it relatively easy, I could only begin to imagine what medical professionals are going through. Or people in the service industry.

And that's the see-saw that we, and I suspect many others, went through -  "Well, we have it much better than many, so I shouldn't feel bad." Then you still feel bad anyway, then you feel guilty about feeling bad. Spin, rinse, repeat.

But we had each other, and I think Cathy and I have levelled up in our communicating experience. You have to in these times. We got the puppies (more on them in my next blog post) which were a massive boost at the end of the year, even when we wanted to strangle them. And I did a lot of writing, which helped a lot.

(No, it wasn't blog posting. Blogging is, unfortunately, a very limiting way for me to write these days. I did other kinds of writing. No, you'll never read it, but it made me happy and that's the important thing).

So what's the plan for 52? As always, continue the work of being a better husband and friend to Cathy. I'm happy with how the writing went last year, so I'd like to keep the momentum going on that. Continue to work towards finding my zen in a world determined to shake it. And seriously, if the dogs don't get me moving a lot in the coming months, then I'm going to have to start getting serious about the gym.

There's no real international travel planned for this year. We're still trying to figure out what we're going to do. Plans range from renting a cottage in Ontario for a few weeks, to the slidely madder idea of renting a camper fan and driving back to Newfoundland. It's a little harder to travel with a less-than-year-old Goldendoodle and Coton de Tulear, and flying with them out of Ottawa is likely impossible.

And, if the fates allow, I'd really like to get to New York and go to a Comic-Con. I haven't been to one since Seattle in 2019. If I got to do that this year, I'd be pretty happy.

So, modest plans for 52. But until things get sane again, I think modest is the way to roll.

* Iqaluit is finding many interesting ways to harm us other than the occasional COVID outbreak. There's frequent power failures, rabid animals, weeks of no fresh food at the stores, and, oh yes, the charm of being able to light our drinking water on fire. We're currently on our second water advisory. We're getting through, but again, hugely fortunate that we have resources some others don't.

Last Five

  1. Friendamine - Josh Ritter
  2. Space dog - Tori Amos
  3. East bound and down - Me First and the Gimmie Gimmies
  4. Leaning on you - Haim
  5. Seven Nation Army - Post Modern Jukebox (ft. Haley Reinhart)*

Saturday, November 06, 2021

Twenty years ago...

 It was the late show. My friends Susy, Erin and I decided to go see Monsters Inc. which had opened the previous weekend. I recall them being insistent on it seeing it on a Tuesday, even though it was a terrible night for me. I was assistant editor of The Express and we put the paper to bed on Tuesday nights. That meant I had to stay until the press started to run, normally around 7 pm.

Plus, Nov. 6 is my mother's birthday. So I hadn't seen her yet either as Tuesdays were nuts at the paper. So I finished at the paper, drove to Shoppers to see mom who was, of course, working on her birthday. Then I picked up Susy and we headed to the theatres.

One of the earliest photos I have of us, from
2002. We'd been dating a few months. I think 
it was Andrea's house on Signal Hill on St.
Patrick's Day.
I'm not saying I was in a crooked mood, although that wouldn't have been surprising. I was crooked a lot in those days. I am saying I was probably very tired and probably not in the mood to catch a movie just because it was cheap night at the theatres.

Still, Susy was insistent. And trying to say no to an insistent Susy is never a good idea for your long-term mental health.

When we got to the mall, we then had to wait, because Erin was being picked up by another friend who was coming along last minute. Susy had just forgotten to mention it. This likely made me more cranky.

In 2001 I was a pretty decent journalist. I'd won awards and I thought my star was a bit on the rise. I'd taken on the job of associate editor of the Express a few months earlier. So I'm going to choose to blame the fact it was at the end of a long day and I was tired that I missed the obvious set-up that was going on.

Erin and their friend showed up. I'm not going to say it was love at first sight when I saw Cathy. But I wasn't so blind or punchy as to not notice that Susy and Erin's friend was really cute.

There are three things I remember from that movie:

1. Susy absolutely lost her shit laughing during the opening cartoon "For the Birds". She was laughing so loud and hard that others in the theatre turned to look at her and started laughing too.

2. At some point, Cathy dropped some popcorn and it landed on her chest. Instead of using her hands to pick up the wayward kernels, she bent her head down and ate them off her chest, laughing while she did it. And I very distinctly remember having this thought: "Clearly this is a woman I need to get to know better."

3. At the end of the movie, I mentioned that a group of us were going to see Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone on opening night the following Friday. Would she like to come along? She said she'd love to.

Lisbon, 2017. Where I learned it was dangerous
to say "Just one more pic" to a hungry wife.
And that, as they say, is that. Not that there weren't a few early hiccups. I nearly didn't sit next to her at the Harry Potter movie. Afterwards, we all went to the Duke (which still allowed smoking at the time) to dissect the movie and she waited around for several hours in the smoke, with allergies, and was in the process of leaving before Susy punched me and said "For God sake, she's been waiting for you to ask her out again. Go!"

I asked her to go see the only thing that came to my mind at that moment - Voices of Avalon, a touring show featuring Pamela Morgan, Vicki Hynes, Anita Best and Colleen Power. I said I had reviewer tickets. She said she'd love to go.

In fact, I didn't have tickets. So I was sweating a bit at the Arts and Culture Centre box office the next morning.

There's one more element to this story. Yes, it was a blind date. It was a set-up. But it was one that had been planned by some of our friends for at least two years. We were perfect for each other, but according to them, we weren't perfect for each other yet. Cathy had to dump a boyfriend and get some things out of her system (that would be going to Ireland and being drunk for six months). I had to ease up on the sarcastic asshole thing that I still, somehow, thought was charming even though I was 31.

Apex Beach, last month.
This used to drive me nuts. Susy and Erin dangled this mystery woman like a carrot, to the point where I was going to kill them. I recall venting to my friend Lori about this. She then spoke to Susy. Lori came back to me and said, "They're right, they know what they're doing. Suck it up. It'll be worth it."

It's absolutely been worth it. Every moment of the story for the past 20 years. There are ups and downs in any relationship over 20 years, but there have been far more ups than downs. I am a better man now than I was then, and she deserves no small amount of the credit for that. Anybody who knew me during my Muse days and who knows me now will say that.

In return, I've tried to be a rock for her, especially the last couple of years. The person that's always there when she needs them. I think I've done that. I hope I have.

I hope to write the sequel to this post in 20 years' time. And another one 20 years after that. I still have a lot more of the story I want to write with Cathy.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go make some popcorn for my wife. Because some things never get old, no matter how many times you see it happen....

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Water water

Apparently, the post about Boo took the good out of me, because I've gone 10 months without writing anything else here. And I only just noticed a bunch of comments that were waiting for approval. So, sorry about that.

I am coming out of semi-blogger retirement because we've got a lot of texts and calls asking if we're ok after Iqaluit's water woes went international. For the latest update as of this writing, try reading this.

So, short answer, we're fine. 

The longer answer, it's a bit of a mess.

From earlier on Friday, people lining up waiting for
bottled water to be delivered.

So what happened? Sometimes earlier this month a high concentration of fuel managed to get into a water storage area of the city's water treatment plant. Depending on where you lived, you either didn't notice it, or it was like bathing in unleaded gas if you were trying to get a shower. Some residents have been complaining about it for weeks, but today they finally got confirmation that they were right. So steps are being taken to fix the problem, flush out the pipes and get things back to normal. I'd say at the earliest it'll be next weekend before all residents will be able to drink tap water.

So were we affected? No. I don't think so.

Why? Well,  there are two ways you can get water in Iqaluit. You can be on the utilidor and have normal water and sewer services through underground pipes, pretty much like most houses in any city in Canada.

Except Iqaluit isn't a normal Canadian city. At least a third of the houses are on truck water and sewer. A truck comes to our neighbourhood once a day and delivers water if we need it. Another truck comes every day and takes away the gray water. Our house gets trucked water and sewer.

If that seems inconvenient, it's really not. We prefer it that way. Some parts of town have been hit with boil orders over the years, but not us. Some have had their pipes freeze, which can be frustrating, time-consuming and expensive. The worst we had was some moderate flooding when the water tank over-filled due to a contractor's neglegence.

Anyway, so far as I can tell, we haven't had any contaminated water delivered. I've stuck my head in the water tanks and don't smell anything odd. Cathy has sensitive skin, and I figure if there was petroleum in our water, her skin would explode; it hasn't. And we've recently acquired an aquarium with fish. We changed their water last Sunday. They're still alive. So I think we're good.

Right now, we drained most of the "old" water out of our tanks as recommended, and the city has delivered water from Sylvia Grinnel River, which is just outside of town. The river is clean and many Inuit prefer to get their water from the river rather than the treated water from the plant. The worst we're going to have to deal with is probably hiring someone to come in and clean our water tanks once this all settles down. It's been four years so they should probably get cleaned anyway.

Now, if you're on regular water and sewer, it is more inconvenient. And, of course, the further down the socio-economic ladder you are, the harder this gets. If you have a house and a car, it's annoying, but fine. You can't drink the tap water and, if you're pregnant or have kids, it's a challenge. But the city is flying in tens of thousands of litres of water, plus you can get river water if you provide your own jug. You might have to line up and wait, but that's a manageable annoyance.

But not everyone has a jug (more were being flown in, but the city is sold out currently, I think). Or a car. Or the money to get a taxi to one of the refill stations or water distribution points. There has been some tremendous volunteer outreach to help people in these situations, but still, you can imagine having to walk a kilometre or two, pick up some water, carry it home, and then wonder if you have enough for everyone in your apartment to last until the next day.

All of this and just about everyone is aware that the inconvenience that we are going through, which will last a few weeks at worst and will likely have no long term health effects for most residents, is nothing compared to the hassles that too many First Nations have to go through with their drinking water.

So this is a long and rambling way of saying, we're good, but thanks for worrying about us.

Last Five

  1. Rollin' and Tumblin' - Bob Dylan
  2. Every little thing - The Black Keys
  3. Romeo and Juliet (live) - Dire Straits*
  4. White City - The Pogues
  5. Halfway to the Halfway House - Gorillaz