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.”

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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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

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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:

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

No paper today…here’s some reading with Sunday morning random thoughts..by Chuck Duboff

© Chuck Duboff

  • Joel Armia has been an incredible revelation for the Jets and maybe the best player in that blockbuster trade with Buffalo.

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    Joel Armia

  • I’m Canadian and not personally invested in the American election, but the political junkie in me can barely stomach this ugly election anymore.
  • Day 1 out of 109…feels great and highly motivated.
  • I said at the start of the World Series that I’m 60/40 pulling for Cleveland…I’ve always seen Cleveland as the Winnipeg of the United States…from not winning championships to always having jokes made about them.  Well, the Cavaliers won this season, they’ve got the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame there…now it’s time for the Cleveland baseball team to join in the fun!!  We’ve got a Winnipeg Goldeyes Championship, the Canadian Museum of Human Rights….time for the Bombers or Jets to chip in.
  • It’s been a very long time for both the Cubbies and the Indians…both can’t win:cleveland-world-series
  • So very, very, very cool watching Laine at a soccer clinic yesterday morning led by Desiree Scott of Canada’s National Women’s team.  Scott herself had been a Kidsport participant and it’s great to see her giving back to the community.

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    Our big girl Laine and Winnipeger and Canadian National Soccer team player, Desiree Scott

  • To paraphrase the ol’ professor, Mickey Steen…the Bombers stunk the joint out yesterday.  Such a crucial game and they were just terrible.
  • Some people just aren’t worth the time and effort.
  • I would say that #29 for the Jets, Patrik Laine, has a chance to be a pretty decent player!!  Ovechkin: “he has a chance to score 50/60 goals” Elliot Freedman: “Hockey people are comparing him to Ovechkin, Kovulchuk and Bossy.”
  • Winning that Lottery Ball second overall pick was franchise changing!!14591597_10154380773080783_6491552696864755528_n
  • “Mexicans are murderers and rapists” “Ban all Muslims from coming into the States” “I grab them by the p****s and just kiss them”  “I don’t need to show my tax return”…Lose a Billion dollars in one year…don’t pay any taxes…have 12 women accuse you of groping them…run a scam with Trump University…claim you’ll bring jobs back to the US after using Chinese steel for your hotels…and this person is actually running for the presidency???   Really?
  • I used to be so into the NFL and now it is almost completely off the radar…more than any other reason, it is the never ending commercials on TV which have driven me away…there is no flow to the game and every time they go to commercial I just lose more and more interest.
  • Textbook case in how to ruin a player’s career: Jacob Trouba!!  Allowing his dad and agent to control things like he is…is ruining Trouba’s career.  I always liked the kid, but he has zero leverage for seven years and to come out demanding a trade and then being told he doesn’t want to play in Canada…good luck with that Jacob…if it was me, I’d have him sit for the seven years the Jets have him under control…Jets have to send a message to future RFA’s that this kind of garbage won’t be tolerated.jacob-trouba-winnipeg-jets
  • There is a 100% correlation: the older I get the more I hate, yes hate, winter!!
  • The Winnipeg Free Press…you used to be such a pleasure to read…now all you are is 24 hours old news and poorly written and edited stories; so sad to watch.
  • Hey Andrew: that Goldeyes mug that I used on our championship playoff run…now 2 for 2 with the Jets…just sayin!!!
  • Watching how very much Ben and Laine love reading is so wonderful…here’s Ben at 7:00 in the morning reading a Babe Ruth biography…takes great parenting to instil a love of reading!!14632921_10157564638125580_92702574251880207_n
  • Couldn’t be prouder of Matt and the determination he showed…I know you’ll be great with your new job at the West End Cultural Centre.

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.

Calvin and Hobbes; thank you to Bill Watterson for this wonderful reminder about life.

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©Bill Watterson

“Calvin? Calvin, sweetheart?”
In the darkness Calvin heard the sound of Susie, his wife of fifty-three years. Calvin struggled to open his eyes. God, he was so tired and it took so much strength. Slowly, light replaced the darkness, and soon vision followed. At the foot of his bed stood his wife. Calvin wet his dry lips and spoke hoarsely, “Did… did you…. find him?”
“Yes dear,” Susie said smiling sadly, “He was in the attic.”
Susie reached into her big purse and brought out a soft, old, orange tiger doll. Calvin could not help but laugh. It had been so long. Too long.
“I washed him for you,” Susie said, her voice cracking a little as she laid the stuffed tiger next to her husband.
“Thank you, Susie.” Calvin said.
A few moments passed as Calvin just laid on his hospital bed, his head turned to the side, staring at the old toy with nostalgia.
“Dear,” Calvin said finally. “Would you mind leaving me alone with Hobbes for a while? I would like to catch up with him.”
“All right,” Susie said. “I’ll get something to eat in the cafeteria. I’ll be back soon.”
Susie kissed her huband on the forehead and turned to leave. With sudden but gentle strength Calvin stopped her. Lovingly he pulled his wife in and gave her a passionate kiss on the lips. “I love you,” he said.
“And I love you,” said Susie.
Susie turned and left. Calvin saw tears streaming from her face as she went out the door.
Calvin then turned to face his oldest and dearest friend. “Hello Hobbes. It’s been a long time hasn’t it old pal?”
Hobbes was no longer a stuffed doll but the big furry old tiger Calvin had always remembered. “It sure has, Calvin.” said Hobbes.
“You… haven’t changed a bit.” Calvin smiled.
“You’ve changed a lot.” Hobbes said sadly.
Calvin laughed, “Really? I haven’t noticed at all.”
There was a long pause. The sound of a clock ticking away the seconds rang throughout the sterile hospital room.
“So… you married Susie Derkins.” Hobbes said, finally smiling. “I knew you always like her.”
“Shut up!” Calvin said, his smile bigger than ever.
“Tell me everything I missed. I’d love to hear what you’ve been up to!” Hobbes said, excited.
And so Calvin told him everything. He told him about how he and Susie fell in love in high school and had married after graduating from college, about his three kids and four grandkids, how he turned Spaceman Spiff into one of the most popular sci-fi novels of the decade, and so on. After he told Hobbes all this there was another pregnant pause.
“You know… I visited you in the attic a bunch of times.” Calvin said.
“I know.”
“But I couldn’t see you. All I saw was a stuffed animal.” Calvin voice was breaking and tears of regret started welling up in his eyes.
“You grew up old buddy.” said Hobbes.
Calvin broke down and sobbed, hugging his best friend. “I’m so sorry! I’m so sorry I broke my promise! I promised I wouldn’t grow up and that we’d be together forever!!”
Hobbes stroke the Calvin’s hair, or what little was left of it. “But you didn’t.”
“What do you mean?”
“We were always together… in our dreams.”
“We were?”
“We were.”
“Hobbes?”
“Yeah, old buddy?”
“I’m so glad I got to see you like this… one last time…”
“Me too, Calvin. Me too.”
“Sweetheart?” Susie voice came from outside the door.
“Yes dear?” Calvin replied.
“Can I come in?” Susie asked.
“Just a minute.”
Calvin turned to face Hobbes one last time. “Goodbye Hobbes. Thanks… for everything…”
“No, thank you Calvin.” Hobbes said.
Calvin turned back to the door and said, “You can come in now.”
Susie came in and said, “Look who’s come to visit you.”
Calvin’s children and grandchildren followed Susie into Calvin’s room. The youngest grandchild ran past the rest of them and hugged Calvin in a hard, excited hug. “Grandpa!!” screamed the child in delight.
“Francis!” cried Calvin’s daughter, “Be gentle with your grandfather.”
Calvin’s daughter turned to her dad. “I’m sorry, Daddy. Francis never seems to behave these days. He just runs around making a mess and coming up with strange stories.”
Calvin laughed and said, “Well now! That sound just like me when I was his age.”
Calvin and his family chatted some more until a nurse said, “Sorry, but visiting hours are almost up.”
Calvin’s beloved family said good bye and promised to visit tommorrow. As they turned to leave Calvin said, “Francis. Come here for a second.”
Francis came over to his grandfather’s side, “What is it Gramps?”
Calvin reached over to the stuffed tiger on his bedside and and held him out shakily to his grandson, who looked exactly as he did so many years ago. “This is Hobbes. He was my best friend when I was your age. I want you to have him.”
“He’s just a stuffed tiger.” Francis said, eyebrows raised.
Calvin laughed, “Well, let me tell you a secret.”
Francis leaned closer to Clavin. Calvin whispered, “If you catch him in a tiger trap using a tuna sandwich as bait he will turn into a real tiger.”
Francis gasped in delighted awe. Calvin continued, “Not only that he will be your best friend forever.”
“Wow! Thanks grandpa!” Francis said, hugging his grandpa tightly again.
“Francis! We need to go now!” Calvin’s daughter called.
“Okay!” Francis shouted back.
“Take good care of him.” Calvin said.
“I will.” Francis said before running off after the rest of the family.
Calvin laid on his back and stared at the ceiling. The time to go was close. He could feel it in his soul. Calvin tried to remember a quote he read in a book once. It said something about death being the next great adventure or something like that. He eyelids grew heavy and his breathing slowed. As he went deeper into his final sleep he heard Hobbes, as if he was right next to him at his bedside. “I’ll take care of him, Calvin…”
Calvin took his first step toward one more adventure and breathed his last with a grin on his face.

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.

Editorial…and a few questions to ponder; by Chuck Duboff

big bro

@Chuck Duboff

During these next few weeks, you will notice significant changes happening on this blog. In today’s Winnipeg Free Press there is an editorial which states that the “selfie mayor” must start doing more. On July 4th I stated in my Saturday Morning Random Thoughts: “* Brian Bowman: at some point the citizens of Winnipeg get tired of smiles and want to see substance; you made a lot of promises…instead of smiles, let’s see something constructive.” One of the big changes you will notice is a return to hard hitting questions and blogs. Whether it is the ugly racism which exists in Canada, the United States and through out the world or discussing Neil Young’s attack on Monsanto or questioning the paranoia, lies and spying of the Harper Government…Recently one of my friends, Don Lofondale, contributed some interesting writing on JFK…you will see more of this kind of writing.

There will be a return to Saturday Morning Random Thoughts and Sunday Morning Music…there will be no hard and fast number of blogs, but rather when the mood suits, blogs will appear…the poetry will be edgy, the blogs will have substance and the questions will be hard hitting…there will be a return to the questioning, opining, standing up for what is right which I exhibited during the 15 years of fighting for Human Rights…I wasn’t awarded the Manitoba Human Rights Award in 2006 for being a good guy, but rather standing up for what is right and just. Expect more of that.

As Neil Young stated: “It’s better to burn out, than to fade away”

And now…some thoughts and questions to ponder:

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The United States needs Bernie Saunders…much more than Hilary Clinton and the 16 clowns running for the Republicans. But you know that big money and the Military Industrial Complex will make his campaign irrelevant.

How much longer will Winnipeg’s entitled continue to make uninformed comments about living downtown; from what I read there are murders, drug deals, and white collar crime in Charleswood, Tuxedo, East Kildonan, City Hall and the Leg…I’ve lived downtown for 18 years and have never once experienced any of the delusional problems which so many fabricate.

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Little did we know Atticus!!! It is so thrilling to see the excitement surrounding Harper Lee’s new novel: Go Set a Watchman. Though there has been a great deal of shock to see the way in which Atticus’ character evolves…it is so gratifying to see techie society still embrace good literature.

…and with that I sign off today…take a minute to think about this: “Evil Will Flourish When Goodness Remain Silent.”

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As Hamlet said: “words, words, words”

“One must be careful of books, and what is inside them, for words have the power to change us.”

Cassandra Clare, The Infernal Devices

As an example: these simple words from Anne Frank, in her book, The Diary of Anne Frank, have the power to change the way we think. A young girl, facing the horror of the Holocaust, had the courage to write these words:

“In spite of everything, I still believe people are really good at heart.”
—Anne Frank, The Diary of Anne Frank

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Nelson Mandela and the impact of technology on reading…Chuck Duboff

© Chuck Duboff

Nelson Mandela was a man of peace, good will and thoughtfulness. He espoused values which reflected a man of deep understanding of what is right. The betterment of mankind always seemed to be foremost on his mind and in his actions.
In the quote which follows, Mandela offers a very important insight into the future of our young people. Young people are not reading; it is symptomatic of a generation raised on technology, resulting in an inability to concentrate for long periods of time. Being able to concentrate on reading is a skill unto itself; sadly, it would seem, a large segment of our youth demonstrate very little interest in reading. Rather, it seems, the latest war game video, Apple watch and You Tube silliness consume our youth.

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