The Devil’s Death Grip…by Chuck Duboff

devil-depression

© Chuck Duboff

The devil arrives, deep sallow eyes, a chilling smirk announces: “I am here and it is you I shall take control of you.”
Uninvited, arriving on its own timetable, I shake.  My soul recognizes the episode which is about to occur, as the devil’s grip tightens.
The thoughts become unruly, irrational, confused; yet it’s the devil standing there, sneering and bellowing with a haunting voice: “Hope you have none…for as long as I shall decide to play with your mind.”
With all my will I dig deep and fight the irrational thoughts; drink lots of water, green tea, get in exercise, talk with others…you know this is your best medicine to fight off the strangulating grip.
So many will be let down, I think to myself.  This is the rationale mindset, yet the Devil sneers, smirks and emits: “you know this will last as long as I want to play with your mind. Your so called medicine, water, green tea, exercise, friends…I Laugh at your pitiful attempt to defeat me.  I will just tighten the grip and your irrational mind will go to a darker place and you will be mine!!”
d62 years and 364 days later…I have come to believe this…all my strength, courage, internal will, do not stand a chance in the face of the devil; you are right, the light gets dark, the music haunting, the thoughts knowingly irrational; the walls arise, the energy dissipates, the self loathing ensues…
And I…a mere pawn in the palm of the Prince of Darkness.
As my muse Hamlet uttered: “Oh that the everlasting had not set his cannon against self-slaughter.”

Our cultural icons get older, we get older…it is social media which makes their deaths seem so shocking; by Chuck Duboff

© Chuck Duboff

2016

2016…a reminder of how precious and very fragile life is.

Sports royalty who passed away in 2016:

Muhammed Ali               Arnold Palmer              Gordie Howe
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Music Icons who left us in 2016:

David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Prince, George Michael, Glenn Frey, Natalie Cole,

David Bowie

From the world of movies, books and entertainment, the following passed away in 2016:

Harper Lee, W.P. Kinsella, Florence Henderson, Alan Thicke, Robert Vaughn, Garry Marshall, Alan Rickman, Patty Duke, Elie Wiesel, Gene Wilder, Zsa Zsa Gabor

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Fidel Castro and John Glenn also passed on in 2016…and these are just some of the many who left us this past year.

We are shocked by the sudden leaving of those who were icons in our lives and it seems as if 2016 was an aberration, however, in reality, this would be considered rather normal.

What is different, yet again, is social media.  When notables like Sinatra and Crosby and Hemingway passed away, there wasn’t a sudden bombardment of the news of their deaths on Facebook and Twitter.  There would be an article in the paper for a day or two, Walter Cronkite would do the obligatory two minute story and within days it would be forgotten.

The world has changed, dramatically, I might add.  However, what hasn’t changed is that we will all die one day.  Though it seems like those people who were significant in our lives are dying at a faster rate….the fact is, they get old, we get old…and time marches on.

Rather than being shocked about all these deaths, embrace life and “suck the marrow out of it.”

“Maybe in another lifetime” she said…by Chuck Duboff

© Chuck Duboff

Her name is Allison.  A hostess at a local restaurant.  We met…and the electricity was immediate.  The talking was easy, the connection was so very obvious to both.  I could see the sparkle in her eyes…we talked for a long time.  She returned several times to offer me more coffee.

I visited the cafe many times just for the chance to see Allison.  She’d smile when I came in and I would be thrilled just to know that she was there and we’d get to see each other. At one point she shared with me that she had a boyfriend and I told her what a lucky guy he was.  This didn’t seem to affect the relationship we shared.  She asked about my teaching, and wanted to know everything about my time teaching English and Drama in Cancun.

I didn’t get to the cafe for awhile.  I missed the fun times we shared, but she was honest with me about her boyfriend and I had to respect that.

A few weeks ago I went into Stella’s for a coffee and Allison was there, looking as beautiful and happy as ever.  Going over to say hi to her, she saw me and smiled.  “you haven’t been here for awhile.”  “oh you know, it’s called life.”  Right away we started talking, with Allison telling me about her Xmas plans and working during our recent storm.  During our conversation I saw a ring on her hand.  I said: “wow, what is that?”  “we got married in September.”she shared.  My heart crashed, but I was happy for her, really and truly happy for her.  “Thank you Chuck.”  I asked her if he was a good guy “he’s great, treats me so well.”  When I said: “at least I’ll be number two on your list” Allison smiled and said: “No, number three behind dad and my husband.”  Number 3 on Allison’s list…it was bittersweet, but, it was still pretty special.

A while later I went up to pay and wish Allison a Merry Christmas.  She looked at me and smiled and gave me a hug.  While we held each other, Allison whispered: “maybe in another lifetime Chuck, maybe in another lifetime.”  She looked at me with the most beautiful smile.  Those words will stay with me for a very long time.

allison

My very good friend, Al Bryski, has his first book published; Saskatchewan Farm Boy.

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Al Bryski

© Chuck Duboff:

I am so very proud to share the news that my very good friend, Al Bryski, has his first book published.  Al is a wonderful wordsmith, a gentleman filled with wonderful insights into life.
You can purchase a copy of Saskatchewan Farm Boy at McNally Robinson Book Store; $19.95…and if you wanted the book inscribed, let me know and I will make sure Al gets it signed for you.

Enjoy one of Al’s wonderful pieces of writing…Hunger.

Hunger.  © Al Bryski

Have you ever been hungry? I mean really really hungry? Most of us in our daily lives seldom experience true hunger. Oh, sure, we get hunger pangs when we are late for or skip a meal. But to experience real hunger is something most of us have not had to do and hope not to ever have to do!

The definition of hunger according to Merriam-Webster dictionary:
a : a craving or urgent need for food or a specific nutrient b : an uneasy sensation occasioned by the lack of food c : a weakened condition brought about by prolonged lack of food.

The only time I truly experienced hunger was when I first arrived in the city of Winnipeg, a callow recently graduated-from-twelfth-grade youth. I arrived in the city in late July at the height of a recession. Jobs were scarce, especially for 17 year old children with no practical skills that people looking to hire someone would consider as assets. Sure I had a lot of skills and smarts that working on a farm instil in a person. But none of these were very obvious and though many of them would have been transferable to on the job training, no one was willing to take the chance. No one, that is, except for the CNR – also known as Canadian National Railways.

The CNR took me in because I could read and write and speak fluently in 2 languages with English being the main criteria. They hired me because I had completed my high school education, which at that time was a standing equivalent to a university degree today. I had all my body parts, excellent vision, and excellent hearing( this was before my phys-ed teaching days in poorly constructed non-acoustic gyms)and I showed up sober for my interview without any mad dog characteristics. I was hired on the spot to work out of the Fort Rouge, Transcona, East Yard, CNR Union Staion, and Paddington rail yards as a yard staff employee.

rail-yards

My first shift would come off the spare board where I was placed among 30 other recently and newly hired employees. I was the lowest man – there were no women on the yard staff – with the lowest seniority possible. I was inexperienced and my seniority number was lower than a snake’s belly! Spare boards were designed to help fill immediate vacancies arising as a result of some one “booking off”, that is calling in sick or because of some other emergency. Then the first person – the one with the greatest seniority – would be called with about 2 hours notice to fill in for the absentee at whatever yard the job took place.

My first week, I worked one shift as a callboy, a position dating back to pre-telephone days, when callboys were dispatched to the homes of train crew members to let them know that they were officially called to crew an outgoing freight or passenger train. With the advent of telephones, callboys were in less need and new duties were added to their job descriptions such as delivering inter-departmental mail and serving as general “joe-boys” for the chief clerk for whom they were working that shift. The pay was the minimum wage of the time as we were unionized wage earners. My salary for an eight hour shift was a dollar an hour or eight bucks. This wasn’t as bad then as it seems now because bus fares were 15 cents, burgers were between 15 and 25 cents, bread was about 20 cents a loaf, a 6-pack of beer was a $1.25, and movie admissions were about 25 cents.

The second week I worked another shift as a callboy but in Transcona which was hard to get to if you didn’t own a car. You had to catch a bus which ran once every hour from Portage and Main to Transcona. The fare was 20 cents plus the last bus from Transcona was at midnight. If the chief clerk didn’t give you an early quit, that is let you go early, you would miss your bus, and for me it would have been 13 km walk or about 3 hours to get home.

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So after two weeks I had accrued 16 hours or $16 in wages. As we were being paid every 2 weeks, I looked forward to receiving my first paycheck minus the usual deductions. When on payday I went to the pay office to pick up my scant pay, I discovered to my horror that because I was a new employee, my first check would come in the next pay period, a practice for better and more accurate accounting. Our pay checks were always for the two weeks previous to the last two weeks.

I was broke and I was now alone in the small 3 room suite that I shared with my brother and my cousin. I could have hit them up for a few bucks but my brother had just left to engineer some work on one of the airports in northern Manitoba and my cousin Merv had just gone home for a couple of weeks to help his dad with the haying and harvest season. The fridge and the cupboards were almost bare. To top it off I had only a dollar in cash and I needed it for bus fare so I could get to and from work. My shifts were in yards which were usually an hour or more of walking away from where I lived and because sometimes my spare-board assignments came at the last moment leaving me with very little wiggle time to get to work, I needed bus fare money.

I was okay for about a week and then all the food was gone. I ate the last of my ketchup sandwiches and drank the last of my Kool-Aid. There was no more food! I guess I could have begged some food from the neighbors but I was young and proud, so I “sucked it up” and lived on glasses of water. This went on for about 3 days …no food, only water.

I was called to work once that week in Fort Rouge where I did my first shift as a car checker with an increase of my wage to $2 an hour but with a greater expenditure of energy as I would have to walk the tracks checking or writing down the numbers of rail cars on the track in their sequential order. Some of the tracks were a mile in length in the yard and that meant that I could walk up to 20 miles in a shift. Add to this some hunger pangs and my life did not have many positives in it.

Back then I lived just off off of Maryland Street south of Broadway. On Honeyman Street just west of Broadway was a small hole-in-the-wall grocery run by an older Jewish couple. Their store was the Ches-way Grocery and I think it was about 10 metres deep and about 4 metres wide and about 4 metres high and packed to to the brim with foods and household needs. They had a small meat counter and a fridge for dairy and frozen foods. We used to buy our groceries here because of convenience and closeness to home- the prices were higher than in the large supermarkets.

On the start of my fourth day of no food I was so hungry that I went to the store. Why? I don’t know because when I walked into the store the smell of food almost drove me crazy. I wandered the store taking in all the wonderful aromas and tantalizing displays of foods and fresh fruits and veggies. I started salivating and I started contemplating for the first time in my life the act of shop lifting.

“They wouldn’t miss a can of beans or maybe a package of biscuits if I was quick and quiet and unobtrusive, ” I said to myself. But the Jewish couple were experienced in what they were doing and they probably sensed what I was contemplating, so there was always one of them nearby, ostensibly re-arranging cans or packages but probably to keep an eye on me so I wouldn’t do anything rash.

Finally the woman said in a heavy accented English, “You are hungry, no?”

I nodded that I was. She then smiled and said, “You have no money, no?”

“No, ” I replied, thinking now that I would be asked to leave the store. But no. She called her husband and they conferred for a minute in what I think was Yiddish. Then she smiled at me, and spoke the sweetest words a hungry person could hope to hear. “You take what you need and we will write it down and when you have money you will come and pay us, no?”

“Yes,” I answered with tears of gratitude and joy . They asked me my name but they never asked me for my address or a phone number. It was complete trust and kindness.

Gratefully I loaded up 2 bags of groceries and quickly headed back to my place before they could change their minds. I feasted and I ate and I feasted. No, actually I was only able to eat some small amounts because my stomach had managed to shrink quite a bit in the previous weeks.

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Enter a caption

The next pay day, I cashed my check at a bank and the first order of business was to repay the trust of the beautiful Jewish couple who had done such a wonderful kindness for me. In the future I bought all my necessities there and I was always grateful for what they had done for me.

I really hope I never have to experience that kind of hunger again even though it was very mild compared to what so many people on our planet suffer through every day.

Leonard Cohen talks about the struggles he had with Depression…by Chuck Duboff

leonard-cohen

“My cover story is so good, people say: what’s he got to complain about.”  Leonard Cohen

I have heard those very words so many times in my life: “Chuck, you’ve got such a great life, what are you depressed about?”

I’ve always had a  very deep connection to Leonard; his books, his poetry, his songs…the words always spoke to me.  At times I felt hypnotized by the lyrics of his songs, the depth of his poetry and the path along which his novels traveled.  I attended three of the concerts he did over the years in Winnipeg and each time it felt like a spiritual experience…a piece of me opened up; I understood things more clearly and was moved at a level which I did not know existed…

Interesting that Leonard that it wasn’t his dark days which inspired his writing, but rather his words were a Victory statement, that once again he had defeated the demons.

Take a moment and listen to Leonard talk about is life and his battle with depression:

RIP Leonard Cohen; “I’m Your Man”…Jewish Blues at its finest; an explanation of “Shivah” follows…by Chuck Duboff

© Chuck Duboff: in our Jewish faith, there is a seven day mourning period called Shivah, when someone passes away.  During this time, family and friends gather to celebrate the life of the person who has moved on…Leonard Cohen was a devout Jew; he passed away last Monday, but family and friends kept it quiet.  His body was flown from Los Angeles to his home of Montreal and last Thursday the funeral was held at the synagogue which Leonard regularly attended.  As much as his music was spiritual in nature, his devotion to his culture and religion brought him great solace in life.

As a tribute to Leonard, I will post his wonderful music for seven days; this is my way of sitting Shivah for a man who deeply inspired me, whose insight into life, whose understanding and expression brought some clarity to this complex journey we are all on.  I was humbled by a former student the other day who sent me a message saying that she remembered how I used Cohen’s music and lyrics in class and that every time she hears or reads something about Leonard, she thinks of me”,

I’m Your Man
If you want a lover
I’ll do anything you ask me to
And if you want another kind of love
I’ll wear a mask for you
If you want a partner, take my hand, or
If you want to strike me down in anger
Here I stand
I’m your man
If you want a boxer
I will step into the ring for you
And if you want a doctor
I’ll examine every inch of you
If you want a driver, climb inside
Or if you want to take me for a ride
You know you can
I’m your man
Ah, the moon’s too bright
The chain’s too tight
The beast won’t go to sleep
I’ve been running through these promises to you
That I made and I could not keep
Ah, but a man never got a woman back
Not by begging on his knees
Or I’d crawl to you baby and I’d fall at your feet
And I’d howl at your beauty like a dog in heat
And I’d claw at your heart, and I’d tear at your sheet
I’d say please (please)
I’m your man
And if you’ve got to sleep a moment on the road
I will steer for you
And if you want to work the street alone
I’ll disappear for you
If you want a father for your child
Or only want to walk with me a while across the sand
I’m your man

RIP Leonard Cohen: “Closing Time” came far too soon.

“Closing Time”

Ah we’re drinking and we’re dancing
and the band is really happening
and the Johnny Walker wisdom running high
And my very sweet companion
she’s the Angel of Compassion
she’s rubbing half the world against her thigh
And every drinker every dancer
lifts a happy face to thank her
the fiddler fiddles something so sublime
all the women tear their blouses off
and the men they dance on the polka-dots
and it’s partner found, it’s partner lost
and it’s hell to pay when the fiddler stops:
it’s CLOSING TIME
Yeah the women tear their blouses off
and the men they dance on the polka-dots
and it’s partner found, it’s partner lost
and it’s hell to pay when the fiddler stops:
it’s CLOSING TIMEAh we’re lonely, we’re romantic
and the cider’s laced with acid
and the Holy Spirit’s crying, “Where’s the beef?”
And the moon is swimming naked
and the summer night is fragrant
with a mighty expectation of relief
So we struggle and we stagger
down the snakes and up the ladder
to the tower where the blessed hours chime
and I swear it happened just like this:
a sigh, a cry, a hungry kiss
the Gates of Love they budged an inch
I can’t say much has happened since
but CLOSING TIME

I swear it happened just like this:
a sigh, a cry, a hungry kiss
the Gates of Love they budged an inch
I can’t say much has happened since
CLOSING TIME

I loved you for your beauty
but that doesn’t make a fool of me:
you were in it for your beauty too
and I loved you for your body
there’s a voice that sounds like God to me
declaring, declaring, declaring that your body’s really you
And I loved you when our love was blessed
and I love you now there’s nothing left
but sorrow and a sense of overtime
and I missed you since the place got wrecked
And I just don’t care what happens next
looks like freedom but it feels like death
it’s something in between, I guess
it’s CLOSING TIME

Yeah I missed you since the place got wrecked
By the winds of change and the weeds of sex
looks like freedom but it feels like death
it’s something in between, I guess
it’s CLOSING TIME

Yeah we’re drinking and we’re dancing
but there’s nothing really happening
and the place is dead as Heaven on a Saturday night
And my very close companion
gets me fumbling gets me laughing
she’s a hundred but she’s wearing
something tight
and I lift my glass to the Awful Truth
which you can’t reveal to the Ears of Youth
except to say it isn’t worth a dime
And the whole damn place goes crazy twice
and it’s once for the devil and once for Christ
but the Boss don’t like these dizzy heights
we’re busted in the blinding lights,
busted in the blinding lights
of CLOSING TIME

The whole damn place goes crazy twice
and it’s once for the devil and once for Christ
but the Boss don’t like these dizzy heights
we’re busted in the blinding lights,
busted in the blinding lights
of CLOSING TIME

Oh the women tear their blouses off
and the men they dance on the polka-dots
It’s CLOSING TIME
And it’s partner found, it’s partner lost
and it’s hell to pay when the fiddler stops
It’s CLOSING TIME
I swear it happened just like this:
a sigh, a cry, a hungry kiss
It’s CLOSING TIME
The Gates of Love they budged an inch
I can’t say much has happened since
But CLOSING TIME
I loved you when our love was blessed
I love you now there’s nothing left
But CLOSING TIME
I miss you since the place got wrecked
By the winds of change and the weeds of sex.

A Saskatchewan Farm Boy: the City Years; by Al Bryski

© Al Bryski
The Long Walk and the Salisbury House Reward!

I stamp the snow off my boots as I enter the CNR yard office in Transcona. I have just come back from about a two mile walk checking three tracks in the main yard for my chief clerk. I know he didn’t really need them checked but he hated to see me sitting in the yard office just because I had efficiently and quickly completed my checking assignments for the whole shift. He had sent me out into the snowy night because he could. I suspected that he didn’t like me but I couldn’t figure out why. All the other chief clerks thought I was a great worker and often specifically asked for me.

For those of you who don’t know, checking means walking beside a railway track from one end of the yard where there is a switch to the opposite end of the yard where there is another switch. It is these switches which the switchmen (unique choice of name) throw open when they are “breaking”up a newly arrived train by shunting cars into assigned tracks. It is a car checker’s job – that would be me on this night – to then at different times throughout the day record the cars on a specific track. In this way the chief yard agent will know where any particular car is at any particular time.

al

With a board clutched in my left arm and a checking sheet  – basically a long manila tag sheet with ruled lines on it with dimensions of 30 cm by 10 cm – bound to the board with elastic bands, and a switchman’s lamp clamped tightly under my left armpit, I walk between the adjoining tracks and check the cars on my left side. I record the car’s origin e.g CNR, CPR, B&O, ATSF, etc. and its identifying number. By looking at the first three numbers, one can identify whether a car is a box car, an automobile carrier, a gondola car, a flat car, a cattle stock car, a horse stock car, a hopper car, a tank car, a caboose, or a work train car. I also record whether it has any Bad Order tags on it – these are B/O tags signifying that there is a problem with the car and that it should be taken to the car repair shop in the yard. I also register whether it is loaded. Boxcars have special metal seals on the doors if they are loaded. Other cars you simply bang on the side or check the car to see if it is loaded with any material with any raw materials or any load on a flat car. Sometimes I will check two tracks at a time making sure I enter the car numbers on the right corresponding sheet.

I had done this all evening and now I was looking anxiously at the clock. I had asked my chief clerk if he could let me go fifteen minutes early so I could catch the last black and white bus back to Winnipeg. It left at midnight and from where I was in the yard office, it was at least a ten minute walk to the small shack where the bus sat idling.

My boss was being a complete “dick-head” because he said if he let me go early, he would have to let everyone go early. I had told him everyone else here lived in Transcona. I was the only one who needed to catch that bus. He smiled without humor and told me, “Tough!”

Asa I sat there fuming, he noticed that other staff members were giving him the evil eye. Finally with a great show of largess  at eight minutes to twelve midnight, he said that I could go.

I ran out of the building and with my parka flapping, my switchman’s lamp bouncing on my arm, and my boots slipping and sliding on the packed snow, I ran for the bus. As I neared the bus shack I could see that the bus had already left. Great! I was stranded. I could walk back to the yard office and spend the night sleeping on a chair in the brightly lit office or I could “suck-it-up” and walk the thirteen plus kilometres back to Maryland Street in Winnipeg.

Afraid I might do something rash if I went back to the yard office and the chief clerk was still there, I chose to walk home. I followed Pandora Street to Plessis Road and then followed Plessis south to Dugald Road. The cold started to set in but the snow had stopped falling. I followed Dugald Road until it merged into Marion Street.  All the walking kept me warm inside my WWII army surplus parka. It was heavy but not very warm. It was the exertion of the fast walking that was keeping me warm.

There was little or no traffic. Because most of the area was industrial there no city buses running at this hour. Marion Street got me through St. Boniface and across the Red River on Main Street to Broadway. I followed Broadway Avenue up to Langside Street. I was now only a handful of blocks from home.

But I was starving from all the exertions of the day plus the long hike from Transcona. I must have walked thirty miles that day and my “supper” had been skimpy and hastily thrown together. I had almost enough money for a Salisbury House Big breakfast. I knew the three employees who worked the midnight shift and I knew that they would give me credit until I could pay them back.

sals

I walked in and made for a space at the counter.The three employees I knew were working. I called them Larry, Curly, and Moe because they were a lot of fun and always pulling pranks on each other or on steady customers they knew. The place was almost full. There were people who had stopped in for coffee or a late or early breakfast or for simply a Mr. Big Salisbury nip; policemen – no policewomen on the street back then – some cab drivers, the usual number of late party-goers who were “putting a lid” on their night of drinking, plus a few “street people”. Street people back then were the social outcasts of the time Some were gay, some were transvestites, some obviously had some mental incapacity. But at the Sal’s House after midnight all were welcome and all were accepted for what they were and no judgements were made or questions asked.

Occasionally some forgot the unwritten rules for behavior and were reminded. If they didn’t want to mind the unwritten rule, they were asked to leave. Refusal meant that the police would be called or often the police were right there and the problem was quickly solved and everyone could enjoy the warmth and the good food of the House.

I ordered my breakfast, wrote out my IOU, and fell to with a very ravenous appetite that only a teenager can conjure up. Eventually warmed up from the food and several cups of coffee and after being “picked on” several time by either Larry or Curly or Moe, I left the warmth and security of the Sal’s House and made my way home to my bed. it was 4:30 a.m. It had  been a full and interesting day.

Conversations with Monuments in Victoria; a new book by Kathy Francis.

© Chuck Duboff

Kath Monuments

My very good friend, Kathy Francis, recently released a new book, Conversations with Monuments in Victoria .  Following on the success of her last book, Grace Notes, (https://chuckduboff.com/2015/01/09/grace-notes-a-new-book-by-my-friend-kathy-francis/) Kathy once again brings her wonderful writing style to life

Kath on horse

The author, Kathy Francis, with her ever present smile.

Enjoy this excerpt from the book…and see ordering information at the bottom of this page:

They’re occupying valuable real estate! They’re taking up space!

Land is limited and thus valuable, especially in cities. So, there must be a good reason for the statues I see springing up in my city.

The placement of a monument usually signifies that something substantial has either been deposited or violated. It speaks of what we value. It speaks of what we want the world filled with and what we don’t. I believe these public art forms can contribute to the formation of our society as we pause to reflect upon them… which I do. I engage with the statues I pass by to consider what they have to say. Stories of the past become woven into inspiration for the future.

Statues are not the only things taking up valuable space. So do you. So do I. We too deposit things, both good and bad, in the world. We influence the values our community holds, the actions it takes. Are you making good use of your real estate? What deposit are you leaving? What do you want the world filled with?

Kathleen has just completed her fourth book in her Conversations With Monuments series – Victoria. Other cities include: Winnipeg, Halifax and Ottawa.

Here is an excerpt from the Victoria book:

THE HOMECOMING

A veteran sailor, John Mason, sits on a bench overlooking Victoria harbor. His chest is decorated with medals, heavy with memories. Weariness fills his eyes.

I sit beside him and glance at the newspaper in his hand. It is a VE Day Extra, dated May 8, 1945. “Peace in Europe: Germany Surrenders” is the headline, followed by: “Famous Figures Released”, “Figure of Hope”. This is good news – hard fought for good news.

I’m sure this man carried his share of brothers off the battlefield. Maybe he is reliving those scenes now. Even a battle ending in victory takes its toll.

The sailor looks up and a smile comes to his face. I follow his gaze. In front of us, a young soldier, down on one knee opens his arms wide as his little daughter races to embrace him, almost knocking him over with her enthusiasm. “Daddy, oh daddy, you’re home,” she squeals in delight. What better welcome, what better reward could a person want!

The man beside me had a role in making this father daughter reunion, this homecoming happen. His medals are proof. I count them. Eight. Eight is the number of new beginnings. The world gets messed up. Sometimes we have to put a stop to something and begin again. Building the kind of world we want takes intentional work and sacrifice.

“You see that?” says the veteran beside me, nodding towards the father and daughter. “That’s why. That’s the reason we did this.” He slaps the newspaper against his knee. “And it was worth it. That was me. I was his age when I returned from WWII. I could have taken another job after that, but I no longer seemed to fit in civilian life. I decided to remain with the navy. I stayed until I retired as a Captain in 1978. I come to sit here often, whenever my memories begin to weigh heavy.” I notice he is now sitting up straight. Years come off his life as he watches his dream come true. He contended for freedom and safety. Those things followed him home.

What kind of world do you want?

When I look into the eyes of a child, it becomes clear to me what I want the world to be like. I want the child to experience kindness, safety, freedom from fear and poverty, encouragement in pursuing their dreams.

How does the world become what we hope it will be? It happens through people, you and me, embodying those traits we want to see….

To order, visit: www.conversationswithmonuments.com , https://www.amazon.ca/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=conversations+with+monuments+in+victoria or email kathyfrncs@gmail.com

Her books can also be found in local bookstores in Victoria and Ottawa, and in Winnipeg at McNally Robinson, Chapters Polo Park, and The Forks.

Sunday afternoon baseball at Madge Lake; by Al Bryski

© Al Bryski

Madge Lake is a beautiful small lake of about five kilometres by five kilometres situated in the Duck Mountains Provincial Park in eastern central Saskatchewan. In the 1940’s and the 1950’s when I was growing up in Saskatchewan, it was a summer meeting place for people who traveled from near and far to enjoy the park and especially the lake. It is located about 20 kilometres from Kamsack and is accessible from Manitoba.

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The small and larger communities in a hundred mile radius used Madge Lake as a prime recreation area. People would come by car or truck for a day outing. They could also rent a cabin for the weekend or longer. The lake was the main attraction for most. You could enjoy the fine sandy beach known by the name of Ministik; take a refreshing swim in the clean clear water of the lake; rent a rowboat or a motorized boat by the hour; and the fishing was good and water-skiing was just coming into its own. Just up from the main beach was, in my eyes, a most majestic lodge built of logs. It housed a restaurant/coffee shop, a store where you could buy groceries or fishing gear, an ice cream stand, and, of course, the shop for buying fishing licenses, renting boats or cabins, and spots in the campgrounds.

While I enjoyed the beachfront very much, I also looked forward to the Sunday afternoon baseball games at Madge Lake ballpark. The baseball diamond was located to the east if the lodge in a bowl like depression situated in a grove of large conifers. Sadly conifers are rare around the lake area now, replaced with aspens. Situated behind home plate and slightly back of the fence lines along the first and third base lines were rows of wooden planks seated on small wooden stumps that marched up the hill of the depression. The games started at 1:00 p.m. and were usually over by the time many people had to leave for home and/or chores.

western canada baseball

Baseball was a popular pastime on the prairies. A local team called the Kamsack Cyclones played many of their games in this park. Their opposition in earlier times usually consisted of teams from the Northeastern Saskatchewan Baseball League. The circuit was based on communities along the old CNR lines in the eastern part of the province – Preeceville, Sturgis, Stenen, Hyas, Norquay, pelly, Arran, Buchanan, Canora, and Kamsack. Players were all local men from the town and surrounding farms. The calibre 0f play was excellent. It was often said that had there been a more thorough scouting system, many of these players would have made it to the top tiers of baseball in the U.S.A.

The pitching, fielding, and hitting abilities were refined with hundreds of hours of baseball played in the short ball season on the prairies. The seasons were shorter because many of the rosters carried farm “boys” who had to work their baseball schedules into the seeding, haying, and harvest times on the farm. Team funds were raised in many ways but the most popular way was by entering tournaments that were staged throughout Manitoba and Saskatchewan. First place money was often $2500 which in 1952 could buy you a couple of new cars. Teams came from all over to attempt to win the big money.

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Then there were the touring all-star teams from the U.S who barnstormed through western Canada playing exhibition games and also playing in some of the big money tournaments. People were willing to pay a dollar admission to see some really great baseball although at Madge Lake there was a silver collection during most games. Some of these teams were the Muskogee Cardinals from Texas, the Florida Cubans, Ligon All-Stars from Los Angeles, the Nashville Stars, the Kansas City Monarchs, and the San Francisco Sea Lions. It is interesting to note that the local teams more than held their own against these all-star squads winning as often as they lost.

The Cyclones also played baseball with teams from the Manitoba leagues and in 1952 they were part of the Manitoba – Saskatchewan League playing against teams like the Yorkton Cardinals who had many future NHL players in their lineup and this include 3 cousins of mine, the Prystai’s –Metro, Harry, and Billy, who provided formidable offence as well as Stan Obodiac and Vern Pachal.  There were the Dauphin Redbirds, Grandview Maroons, Gilbert Plains Plainsmen, Roblin Millers, as well as a team from Bowsman.

By this time some of the teams who could afford the salaries were also carrying one or two American players, a lot of whom were players from the now defunct Negro National League and the Negro American League in the U.S. In 1947, Jackie Robinson was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers to play in the major leagues. By Branch Rickey elevating Robinson to the big show from his minor league AAA Montreal Royals team, the color bar was broken. Soon most National League teams were signing Negroes, as they were still called then, to contracts without the Negro Leagues being able to do anything to stanch the flow. The money was so much better. Also at this time television was making an impact on the tastes of people. They began to watch big league games on television sets in their homes or in local bars. Attendance at games in the Negro Leagues was dropping daily and soon running a Negro team was a losing proposition. Eventually the American League colour bar was broken and more players were scooped up. This effectively started the final demise of the Negro Leagues

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Not all Negro ball players made it to the “bigs”. Many languished on minor league teams with salaries not much higher than in their previous leagues. Others were deemed too old to be considered for a big league position. Many of these started drifting north into Canada where many were hired not only to play on the local team but to also coach the younger players at the high school and playground levels. Many liked the money and also the more relaxed attitude of their Canadian employers who judged them more on their baseball ability than on the color of their skin.

Three of my favorite Cyclone team members were “colored” players as they were being referred to instead of the term Negro. They were Jim Hester and Travis Taylor, a battery from the Muskogee Cardinals, and David Whatley, who in his career had played with the New York Black Yankees and the Homestead Grays. While his batting average in the Negro pro league was considered average at around .305, he batted at a much higher average in Canada. He was a power hitter!

I always look back with fondness at our Sunday outings to Madge Lake and the fact that I was privileged to see not only some of the best amateur baseball players in action but to also see the end of an era in American baseball with the influx of players from the American and National Negro Baseball leagues. It saddened me that they didn’t get to show their prowess in baseball in an integrated league in the United States and that they were forced to seek employment at lower rates of pay and far from their homes and families.

Our eclectic blog: we provide the topic, you choose your reading interest…by Chuck & Geoff

@Chuck Duboff & Geoff Brookes.

 

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Our past four blogs have garnered over 1500 views, which is something we are very proud of.  We are pleased that our wide variety of topics is reaching such a vast audience.  The blog on Roscoe, drew much emotional response from Winnipeg readers; the blog on the possible return of the Quebec Nordiques hit a record number of views, with most of them coming from friends, colleagues and fellow bloggers in Quebec.  Yesterday’s blog on the Winnipeg Goldeyes brought responses from all over North America…from former players, coaches and fans who have had great experiences being a part of the Goldeyes family.  Our good friend Al has been kind enough to share his Guadalajara Diary,and this too has received a great deal of interest.

We thought today we would post these four  blogs for You to choose from…enjoy the reading and thank you for the continues support:

1. https://chuckduboff.com/2016/04/12/soul-brothers-the-return-of-the-nordiques-an-eerie-similarity-to-the-return-of-the-jets-by-geoff-brookes/

2. https://chuckduboff.com/2016/04/10/his-name-is-roscoe-and-he-slept-in-a-field-last-night-and-the-night-before-by-chuck-duboff/

3. https://chuckduboff.com/2016/04/08/guadalajara-diary-chapter-2-departure-day-by-al-bryski

4. https://chuckduboff.com/2016/04/13/winnipeg-goldeyes-its-baseball-played-for-the-love-of-the-game-by-chuck-duboff/

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Guadalarja Diary…by Al Bryski

© Chuck Duboff

I am so proud to be able to post today’s blog; my very special friend, Al Bryski, has been my mentor for many years.  In today’s blog, he shares with us Chapter One of his Guadalajara Diary.  Please take a few minutes to read Al’s sharing of his families experience living and teaching in Guadalajara, Mexico.  Al’s writing can be found at:

meesteralbryski.blogspot.ca/2016/03/chapter-i-in-beginning.html

 

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Chapter I: In the Beginning

 

In the winter of 1988 Patti and I decided that we wanted to experience another culture as a family. Our family consisted of Patti, our two sons Nathan and David, and me, a recent administrator who had returned to the classroom after realizing that administration was consuming too much time away from my family.

I was at the time teaching the most difficult class I had ever encountered. They were a class of teacher-eaters. Only one teacher had survived a full term with them and when his term ended he had quit teaching. They were the neediest children I had ever encountered and there were 34 of them, 7 girls and 27 boys! The girls, while few in number, made up for lack of numbers by matching all the boys in daily altercations and problems. The students all liked me and almost all had perfect attendance records because my classroom was a haven of refuge from what they had to deal with on a daily basis outside of the school. They were so demanding of attention and had so few social skills and they were draining me of energy. If I survived these children I knew that I would need to do something in the next year that would energize me and revitalize my creative teaching juices! We decided that we would try what we had for years talked about – teaching in another culture!

Initially we decided we would accept teaching positions to teach in a rural school in Zimbabwe. Patti and I would teach the English half of the school day to students aged 6 to 16 at a small agricultural school. When we realized our sons would not be able to attend the school but would have to attend a boarding school in Harare, we shifted focus to another country.

I had always loved the sound of the name Guadalajara. When we learned that a teacher friend of ours had spent a few years teaching at the American School of Guadalajara and when he raved about the experience, we decided to write the school and send them our resumes. This was in March. We received a reply that the school had been to a teachers’ job fair in Kingston, Ontario and had hired their complement of Canadian teachers for the coming year. The director of the school did say that he would keep us in mind because there was always movement in an International School.

We decided we would try again next year but that it might be more difficult with our older son, Nathan, preparing to enter junior high. However at the end of May the director phoned me from Guadalajara and offered me a job teaching English (grammar, composition, and literature) at the high school level. I tentatively accepted with the proviso that unless Patti also was hired, I could not take the contract. He assured me that he would definitely find a position for her. Near the end of June he phoned offering her a teaching position at the elementary level. We were in!

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After successfully seeing most of my class entered for next school year in the bilingual program at the neighboring junior high school where the class sizes would be smaller and there would be teaching assistants to help with the class, Patti and I proceeded to put our moving plans into action. We secured tenants for our home for the next two years. It was a pastoral couple from California with two young children. They were on their way to Germany but they felt that they needed to enroll their children in a German/English bilingual program here in Winnipeg so that they would be adequately prepared for a transition into the German culture and language. Our agreed on rent was the amount of the mortgage and their accepting looking after our beloved dog, Boots, while we were gone. They would pay the utilities and any upkeep. In return we would allow them full use of all we had in the house – furniture, dishes, TV’s, etc.

The hardest part of getting ready was convincing our elder son that a move to Mexico would be a life-changing positive experience. He was having none of this. Our younger son, while probably thinking the same as the elder son, acquiesced quietly to our wishes. Right up until the day of departure Nathan balked at going and I know that he was going to leave all that was familiar and dear to him behind for up to two years and that was proving very difficult for him. At times I had my doubts whether I was ready for the transition.

We all got our medical shots, our visas from the government, and made sure our passports were in order. We laid in money in the form of travellers’ checks in enough denominations to help in any emergency. We secured addresses, said fond farewells to family and friends in the last few weeks, secured our flights, and watched departure day appear much too soon!

Shovelling in Early Spring; a poem and discussion by Geoff Brookes

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I wrote this poem a very long time ago, although I arbitrarily put the copyright as 2010, when I first published it on this blog.

The poem fits the current season. (It’s a little late, actually).

Whenever I’ve read this poem, the last 2 lines seemed oddly disturbing to me. Why does it sound so depressingly fatalistic? Why must the future patterns “bind”?

My main idea (when I wrote the poem) was that life’s patterns are like the way water changes states, from liquid, to vapour, back to liquid, to solid (in Winter), repeating the patterns each year (even if the details, like frost or snow crystals, are unique each time).

No matter how much we might hope that the main patterns will change, they tend to come back again in roughly the same way that they have in previous years.

I feel sad at this pessimistic conclusion to the poem. I believe that there are powerful counter-arguments to this view of life. But this particular poem adopts this view.

Shovelling Snow in Early Spring

© Geoff Brookes

The echo cracked across the street –

The climate not as crisp despite

The claim of calendar.

And so I cranked the window down to call

My neighbour shovelling the snow.

He places it beyond the line

Where shadows meet the warmer light,

For faster melt – though to my mind

The lumps of pure white taken from

Their purgatory, now exposed,

Odd appear, and change and mix

In countless shapes – trickling, fixed,

Till formless they ascend to find

Their future patterns – patterns bind.

Sunrise, mountains, clear blue skies; by Chuck Duboff

© Chuck Duboff

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Lying by the pool this morning I was struck by the sun rising over the mountains.  It felt like the sun was speaking to me, welcoming to another beautiful sun filled day.

Now, I ask, how many people thought of the Eagles’  Hotel California album cover when they saw this pic?  Before I even got my phone out to snap the picture, my mind immediately thought of that classic album cover.

It is a moment like this that we have to live, enjoy, experience.  The breath taking Sierra Madre mountains, a brilliant sunrise, crystal blue skies…that is life.

 

Majestic mountains,

Sunshine greeting life’s travelers,

Blue skies…a magnificent tapestry.

Moments,

Blessings,

All so brief

“Out, out brief candle”

Breath, inhale,

“Suck the marrow out of life.”