Falcon Lake…Penguin Resorts; my spring/summer second home…by Chuck Duboff

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Cabin 11 at Penguin Resorts…my second home.

Penguin Resorts in Falcon Lake…so very peaceful and beautiful.  It has been my spring/summer escape back to nature for the past fifteen years.  Waking up to loons singing amidst the fresh clean air,   No garbage trucks at 4 in the morning, police and ambulance sirens non-existent, people yelling on the streets…not happenin; just a breathtakingly beautiful place to read, relax, hike and allow nature to recapture your soul.  The owners, Irene and Ken, truly have invested not only their money, but have worked hard to make this resort a place where you feel welcome and are left not wanting anything.  Enjoy the pictures which follow (if you have any questions about the resort, drop me a note and i can connect you with Irene.)

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The Trans=Canada Trail is right beside the cabins…amazing hiking.

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Saturday morning random thoughts; by Chuck Duboff

© Chuck Duboff

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There’s still a chance boys…17 more games!!  Just win baby, just win.

  • So you’re saying there’s still a chance; last night’s Jets game gave us a brief glimpse into what the Jets future looks like.  Sure we may not may the playoffs this year…but having talented players like Scheif, Troubs, Morrisey, Laine, Ehlers, Lowrey, Copp and Dano…the future is bright.  As for Hellybucyk…last night was his fourth shutout of the season…the skill is there…he is still learning the mental part of the game…the future is so bright!!
  • Thank you Puerto Vallarta; what a magnificent two weeks under clear blue skies, hot sunshine, spectacular mountains, beaches and the Pacific Ocean…see you next winter.
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  • Great stopping in to see Goldeyes GM Andrew Collier and Broadcaster/media guru Steve Schuster.  Got caught up on some of the new players we’ve signed…and brought Andrew, Steve and Goldeyes skipper, Rick Forney,  championship Coheba cigars!!  Baseball is in the air.
  • The noose is tightening on Herr Trump…and as it does, he gets more and more unhinged.  I said it during the election…Russia was behind the Trump tainted win…and it’s all coming to fruition.  Trump is now starting to blame Obama for all the coverups and Russia mess…sad Donald, very sad.
  • Making America Hate Again”        North Carolina man arrested for threatening, knocking over gay couple as he said “you live in Trump Country now.”
  • Watch this video and see further evidence of Trump’s success in Making America Hate again: 
  • http://www.cnn.com/videos/us/2017/02/18/rise-in-anti-semitism-in-us-tuchman-ac360.cnn

  • Jacob Trouba is becoming the #1 defence man we all expected he would evolve into…now, hopefully, Jets can lock him up long term like they did his buddy Mark Scheiffle.
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  • So many great friends down in Puerto Vallarta; must say, it was probably the most difficult time saying goodbye to everybody…They truly are wonderful people, hard working, friendly, kind and caring (Didn’t see any of the “bad ones” Donald.)
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  • So Brian Pallister spends two months down in Costa Rica; comes home and immediately announces his slash and burn campaign!!  All the while accepting a 20% salary increase last year…after all somebody has to pay for his home in Costa Rica.
  • Warning to my friends in the teaching profession, especially the young ones who have just started their careers.  I experienced the same thing in the early 1980’s under the Filmon government; Filmon Fridays came in and  civil servants had to take an unpaid day off a month.  Then teacher layoffs came; I was a young teacher, with a young family…and 35 teachers were cut from the school division I was in.  Lost my job.  Be ware…the Education system is on Pallister’s hit list.
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  • Excited to take our Laine to the Jets game tonight; so blessed that I’m in a position to afford so many tix and have two wonderful grandchildren who are huge Jets fans.  Pretty sweet.
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  • There is a 100% correlation between getting older and the degree to which I can not tolerate winter.
  • Two years in a row I’ve had blogs I’ve written about Puerto Vallarta picked up by PV online websites and official twitter accounts.  Pretty great feeling.
  • The Sierra Madre Mountains, the Pacific Ocean, the beautiful beaches, the hot sunshine…all inspire great workouts and clarity in writing.

Straps and demeaning words leave life long scars…by Chuck Duboff

©Chuck Duboff

I was always afraid.  My mom would finish her wooden spoon ritual, a few more nails broken on my fingers and then she’d utter the words “wait until your father gets home…” Try going to school feeling fear all day; try concentrating on the provinces and their capitals, while at the same time worrying about getting the strap from dad.  What was it this time? I only got a B+ on a subject rather than an A…that certainly warranted the wrath of the strap.

I was always afraid.  “Do you think money grows on trees?  Who do you think you are going out with girls and spending money?”  Nothing I ever did was deemed acceptable.  School not good enough.  “you’re too fat, we have to buy you special clothes.”  Too fat, too “stupid”, waster of money, “you’ll eat that food the way it’s made, I don’t care what you like”

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I’d escape into baseball.  I’d read magazines, create my own games and leagues.  It was my temporary escape from the insanity of my house.  I’d be the shortstop for the New York Yankees for a few hours; I’d be the starting pitcher in the World Series.  Baseball helped me to escape.  My body would be in horror “waiting for your father to get home.” while I dreamed of being Mickey Mantle.

When he’d get home, I’d hide in terror in my room.  Sometimes under the blankets, other times just lying staring at the ceiling waiting once again for the punishment.  Some nights he’d be too tired to come in and destroy me, while other nights he’d enter and unleash his frustrations and failures upon me.  I cried for hours and hours and hours.  There never seemed to be an end to it.

Fast forward five decades; “now you know why I am so fucked up Carly”  To this day I feel the pain, the hurt, the worthlessness of those terror filled nights; those demeaning hurtful comments which are seared into my soul. “you’ll drive me to Selkirk”  I walk around aimlessly filled with the question: “Why, what did I ever do…” I always tried to behave, to be the good son, but even today it doesn’t matter what I do.  I am still begrudged any happiness…”why would your student get up at 3 in the morning and drive you to the airport?”  Maybe because my students saw the good side of me that you and dad never did mom.

Your straps and mean words forever scared me…and I still live with that pain today.

Part 2 of Josh Alen’s story: “I have overcome physical, mental and sexual abuse…and there are many people I would like to thank for helping”…by Josh Alen

© Chuck Duboff

Editor’s note: Upon first reading Josh’s writing for yesterday’s blog, I anticipated that there would be a very large number of reads and a positive response.  That is in fact what ensued, with 219 reads of Josh’s story.  It took a lot of courage and strength for Josh to share…and today we get to read a little more of what Josh has been through.  When you see him at the ballpark this summer, stop by and say hi and tell him how very proud we all are of him.

The Winnipeg Goldeyes are much more than just a baseball club.  They are our local professional baseball team, positive role models, community supporters and a place where people come together on hot summer nights to laugh, share, cheer and cry.  This has been evidenced in so very many different ways…most importantly, they are an organization which cares deeply about its fans

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© Josh Alen

Chuck asked me yesterday if there was anything I wanted to add to the piece that I’d written.

 There are a few things I’d like to touch upon.

First, is how painfully much I miss Luis, every single day.

How much I miss feeling like a kid in a candy store every time I watched him go up to bat, whether it was the first time I ever saw it in person, or the millionth time, the feeling was the exact same, magic without a doubt.
I miss the pre-game chats. I miss the times where I was so overwhelmed with feeling that I couldn’t catch my breath long enough to even muster a simple hello.
I miss getting to watch my favorite player every night all summer long, and getting to congratulate him on every single great game, and every milestone or record set.
I miss hearing his walk-up songs, and having my heart skip a beat, every-single-time.
I miss all the times he made me laugh until I cried, (“la loca” is the one that I’ll honestly never forget). I miss getting a full summer to make all those memories.
I miss counting down the days until open house, and the best and biggest hugs you could ever imagine, seriously, the hugs…have I mentioned his are the greatest in the world?
I miss every single tiny little thing about him being my favorite player.
Everything about this past baseball season was hard, at times even agonizing, including the championship victory, and it will continue to be hard in his absence for a very, very long time to come.
There is nothing in this life that I would not give to have my Louie back.

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Secondly, I would like to take a moment to say thank you to a few people:

First and foremost to Luis, for simply being one of the most incredible people I have ever had the privilege of knowing. I can never express in words how grateful I am for all the summers I got to spend at Shaw Park with you, or how truly honored I feel to share a last name with you. Thank you, for everything.
To sections S & R. Alex, Angie, Jim, Carole, Kerri, Miles, Sue, Karsten, thank you for taking me in and making me a part of your group. You folks gave me the family that I’ve spent my entire life looking for.
To Annette, Cheryl, and Sean, thank you for being some of the first to start chipping away at the rubble.
To Daniel and Reggie. Damn, thank you both from the bottom of my heart for taking me under your wings all year and taking such good care of me. Thank you both for all the hugs, the love, the support. The two of you both have very special places in my heart.

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To the Winnipeg Goldeyes organization as a whole, you are collectively and individually some of the most unbelievably incredible people on this planet. The amount of passion and sincerity that you all put into everything you do, the way you all pour your entire hearts and souls into this organization, that’s what makes this what it is, that’s what’s given a kid a second chance at life. I’ve never experienced a more loving and genuine group of people, keep up the fantastic work, thank you all!

To Chuck, thank you for believing in my story, and giving me the opportunity to put it out there. I’ve been reading your blogs for so long, I never imagined getting to be a part of it. Your dedication is unreal, and your writing is something I look forward to every day, especially in the offseason. Thank you!

Lastly, I’d just like to say, for anyone that read my original piece, or that is reading this one. You can do it!
At twenty-three years old I have overcome it all, abuse-physical, mental, and sexual. I struggle with, and overcome daily the crippling effects of BPD, Anxiety, PTSD, and more.
Three years ago, I came out to my friends, and later my biological family as a transgender male, and while that’s agony most days, it’s so beyond beautiful to finally find yourself and to find people who love and accept you for everything you are, and even everything you’re not. 

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I promise, even if it feels hopeless or impossible some days it isn’t. You will find yourself, you will find what you were meant to be on this earth for, you will find people to call family. I promise, it’s out there, and it will be the most overwhelming joy you could ever imagine feeling. Keep going, even on the days that you feel you cannot, just keep going. I promise you, it is worth it. I promise, I promise, I promise.

Not a baseball story, but rather, a Winnipeg baseball fan courageously shares a very painful part of his life…by Josh Alen.

© Chuck Duboff

Editor’s Note: I have known Josh from a distance at Goldeyes games; he has always seemed like a very devoted fan…yet, I didn’t really know him.
Josh regularly reads my Goldeyes blogs and leaves commentary.  I was very impressed with this young man, yet still, I didn’t know his story.  Little pieces would come out, but it was still a puzzle.
Recently Josh posted some very personal thoughts on Facebook about the challenges he has faced in life.  I reached out to him and asked if he’d like to share his story on the blog…I sensed at first some hesitation, but with time and thought, Josh eagerly agreed to share his story.
What follows is the story of a transgender youth trying to find himself.
Well done Josh…very proud of you for having the courage to write this.  I know Luis Alen is proud of you also…as are all your friends and Goldeyes family.

 

© Josh Alen

Sometime in the spring of 2007, my local indy-league baseball team brought a rookie bat catcher onto the roster, a little guy from South America with decent numbers. His name was Luis Alen, and I guess that’s where this story starts.

I didn’t know the first thing about baseball back then. I followed the Winnipeg Goldeyes casually, solely because they were the hometown ball club. That changed pretty quickly after that signing.

You know that feeling when something happens, and you feel a click, as if to say this is going to be important? That’s the feeling I got, reading that press release.
It would end up being six years before I got to see that kid from Venezuela play a game in person, but man, was it ever worth the wait.

I went to my first Goldeyes game on March 18th of 2008, my first words? “Where’s Alen?”
“Oh, he doesn’t play for us anymore.” I was told.
Needless to say, that was a disappointing summer. I didn’t end up going back for a while, but the reasons were unrelated.

In May of 2012, I was reeling from years’ of mental illnesses, abuse trauma, and a couple failed suicide attempts.
I didn’t want to live anymore, let alone go to a baseball game. I did anyway.
It was the 30th, just days before my nineteenth birthday. The night was warm, the breeze was perfect, and the sunset was one of the more beautiful ones I’d seen in a while. I didn’t know it at the time, but it would end up being the first day of the rest of my life.

“Just one game” I’d said.
That “one game” ended up being close to fifteen or twenty by the time September rolled around, and turned into becoming a season ticket holder by age twenty-one.
I don’t remember much about the 2012 season,
I remember that first game though. I remember finally seeing Luis in person, I remember seeing him interact with fans, how kind and sweet he was, how genuine he seemed, I remember watching him walk up to bat. It was like being a kid on Christmas morning again. I remember watching him hit, hit after hit, after hit…it’d be a while before I saw him strike out. He was a genius behind the plate too, called the game like few others.
That game set the stage for the coming years. I don’t remember if we won or not, it wasn’t important. I remember feeling, a certain safety, a sense of home (there was that click again).
I’d continue to feel that throughout the rest of the year, as I became more familiar with the team that was quite quickly becoming mine.


Everything was so new, and so fun, getting to know some regular fans, some of the staff, and some of the players themselves.
It was refreshing to have something to look forward to, something exciting, that was bringing me out of my shell after so long; the championship run that fall certainly didn’t hurt either.
Still, the best part of that first summer was watching, awe-struck every time #18 walked past, or went up to the plate.


That would be the case every year. I’ll never know exactly why, but nothing else ever seemed to matter quite as much. Maybe it was simply how good he was on the field. Maybe it was how he carried himself as a professional athlete, or how humble he was. Though it could have been that in getting to know him I’d come to find that the kind, gentle soul I’d seen interacting with kids on that night in May wasn’t the same act that most athletes put on to impress; but in fact just who he was. It was likely a combination of all those things, mixed with a little of the world’s best hugs.

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Whatever it was, it kept me coming back, not just in 2012; but every year that followed.
Life didn’t just magically get better after one summer, no. That has been a lengthy process that has lasted up until this day, and will continue for as long as I live.
There has been hurt, there has been heartache, there have been more mental illnesses, there have been my first steps in the world as a transgender male, there has been loss, so, much loss.
Though, no matter the mud that I’ve been dragged through, no matter how far past rock bottom I’ve sank, there has always been a light at the end of the tunnel, I’ve always had my boys. Even when I didn’t have “my” boys, even when every other player I’d liked had left for whatever reasons, when a large portion of the friends I’d made in years past had decided to not return; there was always, my catcher. That was what got me through even the darkest nights and back through the doors of my beloved ballpark every spring.

Until one day, he wasn’t anymore.

That’s when it became real.
That was the point which I had to sit back, and reflect on the years I’d spent telling myself that this one, amazing player had kept me coming back long enough to love a team that I kept claiming saved my life. I came to a crossroads at which I was forced to look at whether or not those claims were true, or if they were just the rugs under which I’d been sweeping my problems.
It was agonizing, to say the very least.
I was convinced that I didn’t have a chance in hell at recovering from the loss of the person who’d been there from the very beginning, who was the catalyst for all the friendships, all the happy memories, the person who none of this could be at all without.
I did have a chance though, after months of self-destruction and doubt I overcame, and I conquered with such tenacity that even as I write this a year later, I still cannot fathom.
I spent the last three hundred and sixty five plus days moving one of the most enormous mountains that life has ever dropped in front of me.
I didn’t do it alone though, not for a single second.

On a frigid, January morning the safe, familiar home that I’d built for myself burst into flames, and burned to the ground; leaving me buried so far beneath the rubble that I was rendered virtually unrecognizable. At the time I was thought that everything I’d come to know was over, when in reality it was just beginning. Slowly, everything that I had gained from the interest in baseball that a catcher had sparked a decade prior started to unfold everywhere I looked. All the happiness that reminded me of why I started this chapter to begin with, the memories that I’d miss making, the love that would be left over with nowhere to go should I make good on my “resignation” from my Goldeyes, the friendships that I’d come to cherish that would likely be lost.
That last one was the most important, and ultimately what has gotten me to the place I am in right now.

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The friends that I had made and continue to make, the people who found the multiple feet of rubble, and chipped away to find me at the bottom. The people who pulled me out, and dusted me off, the people who held me up and showed me not only how to stand again, but how to walk on my own; those who stood on all sides of me, and picked me up every time I fell, every time I still fall. The people who believed in me, who loved me until I could be myself again, the people who ended up showing me what it meant to belong, and to be truly accepted.
The people who I would never have met, had it not been for the love I developed for that rookie catcher from Venezuela, who I’ve now come to call My King.

I will not forget the bad that came with this last year.
The sheer terror on that morning, the devastation I felt when walking away seemed like the best and only option, or the weeks I spent lying awake at night, most of the time fairly intoxicated.
However, I will also not forget the good.
The leaps and bounds I made towards recovery after so many years, the obstacles that I laughed in the face of, as I surmounted them.
The night before my twenty-third birthday; on which I summoned the courage to tell the man that started this all, a watered-down version of this story. The same night that I asked him for his blessing to take his last name as my own (I should mention that he said yes, and I’ve never been more proud of anything in my all my years).
The new people I met along the way that help each and every day to shape me into the man that I hope to eventually become.
Oh, and the championship run at the end of this season wasn’t too shabby either.

14424708_258700601196799_3623375460493997764_oI have learned so much about the mental strength that I did not know I possessed, about perseverance, and resiliency. I’ve learned what it means to truly love, and to be truly loved.
I’ve learned about taking risks, and making the most of every precious moment you’re given, how not a single one of those moments should be taken for granted, and making damn sure that you tell the ones you love that you love them while you still have the chance.

I’ve had proven to me the meaning of fate, and destiny. I learned to trust that click, to trust the feeling of this was meant to be. If something screams “this is your purpose, this is what you were meant to find” for a decade, you should probably stop being stubborn and just listen.

I am finally on a road to a real, and long-lasting recovery after over a decade of suffering, I am on a path to becoming the most authentic me I can possibly be; none of which could be possible without the environment that a small sports organization in downtown Winnipeg creates for their fans

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Sometime in the spring of 2007, my local independent-league baseball club signed a soft-spoken, catcher, with a heart of gold, and one of the most beautiful souls this world will ever know. His name was Luis Alen; and he, along with his team changed my life forever.

One Goldeyes fan shares her love of the Goldeyes…by Kerri Stewart.

 

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© Kerri Stewart

I was introduced to baseball at a fairly young age and immediately was hooked. I remember watching the Blue Jays with my Auntie Margaret at Grand Beach on her old black and white TV with rabbit ears. We spent many a raining afternoon/evening in front of that old TV. Then it happened…my dad (who is no longer with us) took me to my first game and the old Winnipeg Stadium and I’ve never looked back. Since then the Goldeyes changed my life. The energy that radiated from the crowd with something I could never find the words to describe. From the cheers and chants to the smells of hot dogs and popcorn to the action packed plays on the field, it was official, I was in love. 

Fast forward a few years to 1999 when the new ballpark was built at its current location for the Pam-Am Games. The atmosphere at the new location was out of this world and I knew I had found my home away from home away from home. Due to my work schedule I was not able to be a season ticket holder but still tried to attend as many games as possible. It wasn’t until 2006 that things changed and I was able to attend more and more games. By the end of the 2007 season I had attended 47 home games and travelled to Fargo twice to see them play our arch rivals The RedHawks *spits*. It was then that I made the decision to buy season tickets. Section S was to become my home on the advice of Dennis (who worked in the box office) and what advice that was. 

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The 2008 season started off with a Season Ticket holder meet and greet BBQ with the players. Partway through the season I started meeting fellow season ticket holders around the park that I recognized from the party. A “stupid” question launched me into a friendship with Jim and Angela that to this day I treasure. As the season continued I found myself moving further outside my comfort zone and talking to more and more people and (air) high fiving fellow fans that were a few rows behind us. That struck up another cherished friendship with Carole and her mom Joanne. I now had a baseball family. Small but exactly what I needed. 

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Kerri celebrating the Goldeyes 2016 championship with Kevin McGvoern.

Fast Forward again to 2012. I had the pleasure of enjoying a game from the SkySuites and noticed someone was sitting in my regular seat. Being silly I made a comment that I can not repeat in this blog as it may have contained a bad word. Lol. The next day I was back in my regular seat when this guy turned to me and asked if that was where I always sat at games and I responded with “yes, I’m a season ticket holder”. Conversation continued for a while and eventually he revealed he was the guy who was in my seat the night before. I told him what I had said in the Suite and he laughed and we have been the best of friends since. This guys name is Ryan and is now one of my best friends. In 2012, as everyone knows, the Goldeyes won the Championship and everyone I had met came together to celebrate. It was one of the best moments of my life and was repeated again in 2016!

Over the years my baseball family has grown (and shrunk and grown again). I met Marlene, Janine, Mickey, Brenda, Tara and of course Chuck, all staples around the park. I have a special bond with Alex W (one of the amazing fan service staff) and I have become friends with a lot of the players and been lucky enough to stay friends and keep in touch with most of them. 

The Goldeyes have been a major part of my life for the last decade and I can not wait to continue on this journey with you all. 

“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.

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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.

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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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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.

Three very special hours…grateful and very blessed; by Chuck Duboff

Thank you for all of the wonderful feedback on this blog…this truly will be a day that will be remembered for a very long time; if you haven’t read this blog yet, I invite you to share in the joy I had with my family this past Saturday.

Chuck's Eclectic Blog.

© Chuck Duboff

I was looking forward to going to watch Ben’s hockey practice.  Going to the Jets game on Sunday with Laine, I wanted to make sure to get to see Ben play this weekend; additionally, since Laine was going to get an extra game and treats, I told Ben I’d take him to Boston Pizza after his practice.

So, with much anticipation, I headed out at around 1:30.  Having not driven for even one minute, I saw Matthew walking; I stopped to chat.  Matt had a giant smile on his face and said: “I got a call and I’m going to be shooting the Trews tonight at the Burton Cummings Threatre.  The guy who called me is in charge of photographers for True North…his other photographers were busy for tonight, so he called me to shoot the concert.”  The smile on is face was priceless; he looked so…

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Three very special hours…grateful and very blessed; by Chuck Duboff

© Chuck Duboff

I was looking forward to going to watch Ben’s hockey practice.  Going to the Jets game on Sunday with Laine, I wanted to make sure to get to see Ben play this weekend; additionally, since Laine was going to get an extra game and treats, I told Ben I’d take him to Boston Pizza after his practice.

So, with much anticipation, I headed out at around 1:30.  Having not driven for even one minute, I saw Matthew walking; I stopped to chat.  Matt had a giant smile on his face and said: “I got a call and I’m going to be shooting the Trews tonight at the Burton Cummings Threatre.  The guy who called me is in charge of photographers for True North…his other photographers were busy for tonight, so he called me to shoot the concert.”  The smile on is face was priceless; he looked so happy, and when I said that he is becoming a “go to guy in the city” he just smiled.  It feels so great when you see your kids doing so very well…and so very happy.

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Driving in some beautiful late November weather, I was just so very happy for Matt.  It’s been a tough stretch finding his niche, but, between getting a full time job at the West End Cultural Centre and so many photography gigs around the city…well, I couldn’t be prouder.

Arriving at the West Kildonan Arena, I’m always reminded of when I was in high school and was the equipment manager for the West Kildonan North Stars…and this arena was just built; and here I am walking in to watch my grandson Ben play hockey.  Surreal folks, just surreal.

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It’s always so wonderful watching Ben heading out onto the ice in full gear; he enjoys it so very much!!  Carly, Laine and Chris joined me up in the stands to watch Big Ben practice…don’t often get to spend much alone time with Carly, so getting to sit together and talk for an hour is such a joy.  We both couldn’t stop commenting on how tall and mature Laine is getting (even though she is turning 10 January 4th, she still believes in the tooth fairy and Santa).  Chris was in one of his happy, kinda goofy moods, and that’s always so much fun.  Chris and Laine left early to go to Laine’s soccer game; Carly and I kept talking about what a great skater Ben is…the one sporty thing I was never any good at.  Once practice finished, Carly got Ben changed and off he and I went to Boston Pizza.

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“Zaida, have you been alive for all the Grey Cups?”  LOL…”no Ben, this is the 105th Grey Cup!!”  He burst out laughing…”oh, ok”  What a fabulous hour we had together; having just had a hard practice, Ben knocked off the kids sized pizza, fries, root beer and of course the ice cream treat.  There was non stop talk about sports: from Bo Levi Mitchell, to why Maurice benched the Jets top line, to “baseball is my favourite sport to go to Zaida”.  He was so well behaved, polite and happy.  I just cherished every minute we were together.

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Off to the new Garden City complex we went and caught the last ten minutes of Laine’s soccer game.  She has become such a good player and enjoys it so very much!!!  I know she really likes when I shout out “go Laine, go!!”  “I play harder when you shout that Zaida”
The kids are so very blessed to have two parents who are so involved in their lives; Chris coaches Ben’s hockey team and both Carly and Chris coach Laine’s soccer team…I couldn’t be prouder of both of them.

When Laine’s game was done, Chris and Ben came out first…big smiles and Chris commenting: “It never ends Chuck…lol”  Then Carly and Laine came out…several big hugs and thank you’s from both Laine and Ben.  As we walked to the car, Laine came running over one more time, gave me a hug and said “thank you Zaida”…I simply said: “see you at the Jets game tomorrow!!”

With so much bad news in the world today, finding out that a former student passed away, another former student had a stroke, two separate friends are getting divorced, Donald Trump is going to be president…

Being gifted with those three hours yesterday was beyond special.  Getting to see all the kids so happy, so successful, enjoying life so very much…just feeling very blessed and grateful.

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It all started with these three rockers:  Crash Test Dummies, Robert Plant and Bon Jovi!!

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

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“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:

The last baseball blog of the season (Cubs edition)…written so as to avoid another election rant!! …Chuck Duboff

© Chuck Duboff

  • Holy Cow…the Cubs win the World Series!!!!
  • Anthony Rizzo, you are now my favourite ballplayer “I’m an emotional wreck.”

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    Anthony Rizzo

  • 5 million Cubs fans celebrating at the World Series parade!!  How very cool.
  • I guess baseball isn’t the dying sport NFL big whigs wanna claim it is…in fact, I would suggest that it is the NFL, the no fun league, which is in big trouble.
  • So happy for long suffering Cubbies fans…I’ve been around a long time and I’ve never seen a Cubs championship…they’ve always been my NL team…very cool to enjoy.
  • You’ve gotta watch this video: Rizzo, Ross, Fowler and Mr. Cub, Bill Murray singing
  • Go Cubs Go:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Og_oKpMfvoA

  • Ferguson Jenkins, Ron Santo, Randy Hundly, Leo Durorcher, Ryne Sandburg…all smiling today.
  • Some guy in Winnipeg named Craig…I wonder if he has stopped smiling; like I told you  all season pal, just take it one game at a time and it’ll happen.
  • For Winnipeg baseball fans: between the Goldeyes winning the AA Championship and then some great MLB playoff baseball…we were treated to a fall to remember.
  • Harry Caray singing “Take Me Out To The Ballgame”…how sweet it is:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HNwVRdg-1nc

  • So, the baseball season is over and I would suggest it’s never been healthier…fans are rediscovering the pure joy of the game.
  •  On a personal note, writing baseball blogs all season has been something I’ll always treasure.  From the time I was a little boy cheering for Mantle and Maris and the Yankees, I’ve always dreamed of writing about baseball…and thanks to a couple of very special people with the Goldeyes, you helped to make that dream come true.  Andrew and Steve…you guys both said: “sure” many times this summer…and for that, I can’t thank you enough.

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.

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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.

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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.

Dieter Brock, Kenny Ploen, Reggie Abercrombie & Patrick Laine; by Chuck Duboff

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Would you believe…we talked about our grandchildren!!  So great visiting with Dieter!!

© Chuck Duboff
After all these years of being a sports fan, I’m still not quite sure why we get so excited about meeting our sports heroes.  Is it that they are able to do what we always dreamed of doing?  Do they embody characteristics, values, attitudes, personalities that somehow we connect to?

I was awestruck Saturday afternoon when I got to have my picture taken with both my boyhood hero, Mr. Kenny Ploen, and all time Winnipeg Blue Bomber great QB, Dieter Brock!!  I was taken to that line from Field of Dreams…”Is this heaven?  No, it’s Iowa”  Well, to say I felt like I was in heaven would be an understatement.  Joking around with Dieter and having Mr.Ploen autograph my hat and take the time to have a picture with me…I felt like I was ten years old again…thank you.

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Three old men…with some pretty big smiles!!!!

It’s been a pretty amazing summer; early in July, I took Laine and Ben to the Jets rookie camp where we were lucky enough to meet Jets young star, Patrick Laine…I don’t know who was more thrilled about it, Laine and Ben, or moi?  But it sure was very cool; he was accommodating and was actually quite taken aback that our Laine shares the same name with him.

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And then there is Mr. Reggie Abercrombie of the Winnipeg Goldeyes;  Reggie, a former MLB player, embodies all that is good about baseball.  Being a baseball nerd, his playing in the Majors meant a lot to me…he had been in the show for 170 games!!  How very cool that he plays for the Goldeyes…but he’s so much more than that.  He’s a great human being who takes the time for everybody: young fan or old fan…baseball neophyte or hardened baseball fan…Reggie is a good human being…and, oh yeah, a pretty darn good ballplayer at 35 years old.

Reggie Abercrombie with 3 generations of the Duboff family!!  Thank you Reg!!

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In his new autobiography, Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen talks about his Depression and Clinical Depression…by Chuck Duboff

© Chuck Duboff

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“Over the years, Springsteen has been forthcoming about the fact that he is prone to depression, for which he has sought relief through both therapy and antidepressants. In the book, he delves more deeply still into the subject. There is his clinical depression itself, he explained to me, and then a compounding fear that he is doomed to suffer as his father did. “You don’t know the illness’s parameters,” he said. “Can I get sick enough to where I become a lot more like my father than I thought I might?”

He acknowledges in Born to Run that his struggles are ongoing, and shares stories from the not-so-distant past. “I was crushed between sixty and sixty-two, good for a year and out again from sixty-three to sixty-four,”

This is from a Vanity Fair article which profiles Bruce Springsteen and discusses his forthcoming book, Born to Run:  http://www.salon.com/2016/09/06/bruce-springsteen-opens-up-about-clinical-depression-you-do-not-know-the-illnesss-parameters/?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=socialflow

I have always felt a strong connection to the Boss; understood his words, his pain, his dark bedrooms…”I was crushed between sixty and sixty-two” he says, much like I am experiencing now.

Does it make life any easier knowing that people like Bruce Springsteen, Jon Hamm, Duane “the Rock” Johnson, Winston Churchill, Clara Hughes, Michael Landsburg, Robin Williams, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Gwenyth Paltrow, all had to face the demons which render you helpless.  At some level it does, at a different level I ask myself…if they struggle with depression, what hope do I have?

Watching a dear friend battle depression and take her own life just a few short years ago was painful.  At 44 she could no longer live with the demons which controlled her life.

 

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Bruce has fought this battle his whole life; he lived with a father who was verbally abusive and crushed his spirit, much like I did.  “I think it’s great for him to write about depression. A lot of his work comes from him trying to overcome that part of himself.” says his supportive and loving wife, Patti Scialfa.

It’s a battle, it it’s a 24/7 battle; and when life is peaceful and good, you know that at any moment that switch can be flipped and suddenly the demon is back in control of your life…

The most painful part of depression is when you are judged by others, who take no time to understand the unbearable struggles.  For people who struggle with depression, it is not a choice.  “hmm, I think I am going to be depressed today.”  It’s not like that at all; life can be good, flowing smoothly, when out of nowhere the demons arrive, take over and you are caught in their grips for as long as they decide to hold on.  As Brad Pitt stated: “I couldn’t wait to get home and hide out.”

My connection to Bruce has been for a life time; his words, his music, speak to me.  To write a very public auto-biography detailing his depression and clinical depression took an immense amount of courage…I look forward to reading Born to Run when it is released.