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July 29, 2011

Since there’s no better way to start a long weekend than with grand, sweeping generalizations, I want to say there is no greater way of defining the differences between men and women than watching the way a group of men vs. a group of women “do” an evening out.

Laura is closing off/handing off her workflow so she can have a couple weeks off. And last night she went out to a much-deserved dinner with a girlfriend around the corner to catch up. These are two smart, educated, literate, media-aware women who stay in regular contact via every means of telecommunication known to humanity from text and BBM to yelling across the street.

So they went out. And after some three hours they texted for a drive home. (I volunteered to be the taxi.)

Three hours.

And they were sober.

And they stayed in the same place for three hours.

I can’t imagine WTF you talk about for three hours, sober, in the same place, except maybe which brand of beer to order next and I think we’ve already ruled that out.

And the really funny thing is that when they got in the car they said they only got about half way caught up and they were already talking about scheduling round two.

Somehow, I don’t think they were discussing Leaf draft picks.

I’m glad they had fun and I’m glad I got to pick them up. As Laura said, even having just two glasses of wine these days feels like too much to get behind the wheel. Better safe than sorry says I.

But on the rare occasion that I get to head out with a group of guys, there are several near certain differences.

First, we can’t talk to each other for three hours. Impossible. We’re not that interesting and if we do, there will eventually be yelling involved.

That’s why the places we go have big-screen LCD TVs.

Second, after three hours, someone isn’t going to be sober any more (see also, Yelling, above.)

If there are three or more guys, one may be sober. But the other two or more will be in various stages of disintegration and finding each other either hysterically funny or dead wrong about the Leafs, the US debt ceiling, the new Batman movie trailer, S19 hockey sticks, John Deere products or house league hockey/soccer/lacrosse/baseball structure.

Take your pick.

We would be highly unlikely to ask our wives for a drive home (in fairness to Laura, I volunteered.) But, I’m just sayin’.

If the party of men was in downtown Oakville, the odds of that group staying in one place for the three-hour duration would be somewhere between slim and none. Eat in one place and then move and then, probably, move again before not calling your wife.


Well, because.

I dunno. But there could be something more interesting somewhere else.

Like even bigger TVs.

And while I’ve covered this in earlier blogs, the biggest difference is when the bill comes.

A group of five women contemplating a single bill for the evening will consult KPMG and duly note who had the shrimp on her salad and who had the extra wine spritzer and who had the quesadilla and who had the penne alla vodka. It will be calculated to the penny.

Five guys on the town will throw five credit cards on the table and tell the waiter to cut the bill five ways. It doesn’t matter if you drank water and had six chicken wings and I had three Rickards’ and a porterhouse. That’s a rule.

If you happen to be the guy who shows up late and didn’t eat and just had one pint or two and it’s buried somewhere in that $450 tab, well you drink free. Because the other guys are going to say ‘we got it’.

Every time.

I also think that when women go out, they actually care what the other(s) have to say and that’s why it takes 90 minutes to order appetizers. That’s probably another thing that sets them apart from the knuckle draggers like me and my friends.

Because between the young lady bringing us my Rickards and you your Sleemans and the Jays booting another double play on the 60 inch LCD over your head, I wouldn’t notice if my pal’s hair was on fire.

I think these differences are good things.

That’s probably another difference.

- - -

I’m getting ready to slide back into vacation mode after a gruelling week in downtown Toronto.

I will continue to post here, if only to torment you with pictures from Cape Breton beaches. Before that, a visit with my folks in Windsor Junction and my dad’s delayed birthday party.

Before we do all that we’re entertaining friends from Halifax here, preparing the house for our annual house sitter, and enjoying the great Ontario summer.

Pad is getting stronger with each passing day and while not cleared for any contact hockey yet he pulled the blades on Thursday for an early-morning hour of pounding pucks. He says he feels great and his mood confirms that fact.

Chris is fighting off a bit of a summer bug but we’re hoping that if you can fight these things by sleeping it off, then he will soon have it on the run.

- - -

We’re standing on the ledge of a long summer weekend and incredibly, all four of us are in the same place for once. We’re ready to join hands and jump into the weekend.

Relaxing, reading and relaxing are the order of the weekend.

I hope you have much of the same planned.

Stay cool. Stay safe. Hug the kids.



July 26, 2011

It's my dad's birthday today. He is one of Canada's great hockey dads and Blue Jays fans. He will be sitting in front of the TV in Windsor Junction as usual tonight when the Jays play the Orioles.

I wish I could be there but we're holding off on the official celebration until the Oakville wing of the family can get there near the end of next week. We're all looking forward to that.

In the meantime, Happy Birthday!

- - -

Pad has been cleared to resume light off-ice workouts after doing absolutely nothing for more than two weeks. What constitutes a "light workout" in his world would put me on my back for a week, but he's just happy to be able to do something other than sitting around.

He immediately went for a run upon hearing the news -- a little shorter than his usual five-kilometre loop but enough to work up a sweat (not that it takes much to do that in this weather) -- and then was back in the gym yesterday, working out "lightly" I'm told.

So, after more than two weeks on the shelf he's starting (again) to work toward hockey season.

We are much relieved on the home front, although he still has a ways to go before he's allowed on the ice again.

- - -

My niece in Cape Breton remarked to Laura on the weekend that TV news anchors always start the news by saying "Good evening" and then they proceed to tell you absolutely nothing good.

It was a very insightful observation.

Events in Norway last week simply defy explanation beyond saying that it was an act of pure, unadulterated evil.

Good evening, indeed.

- - -

I picked up Laura and Chris at the airport at about midnight on Sunday night/Monday morning, two hours later than expected but happy to be coming home.

Given the hour there was little time to talk and catch up, but we made up for that last night.

We sat out back on a near-perfect summer night and talked for hours. Well, she talked. I mostly listened and poured wine. It was good to have them home, and it was made all the better for Pad's improving condition. Everyone was in good humour.

We put our feet up and just talked (and listened).

Welcome home!


July  25, 2011

A couple reflections today on numbers. And numbers are not a specialty here.

- - -

First, air conditioning.

What do you set you air conditioning at, assuming you even have air conditioning in your house?

Where I grew up, no one had air conditioning in their homes and very, very people had air conditioning in their cars. We drove around in sweltering Maritime humidity with the windows down on the car. The hotter it was, the more windows you rolled down. Problem solved.

But residential air conditioning? Please. Are you insane? No one had that.

Anyway, We have it now as do many people in our neck of the woods. The question is, what do you set it on?

In our house, it’s set pretty much on 24. Sometimes I’ll knock it down to 23 but 24 is the norm.

Hydro companies recommend 26.

People who prefer to hold open the option of hanging meat in their hallways will go for 22 or even 21. I  guess it depends on how large a hydro bill you are willing to cope with and your need to wear cashmere in July.

We have neighbours whose air conditioning runs pretty much 24-7, even in October when the outside temperature is 18. And this weekend they had a big family meal on the back deck with the kitchen and patio doors wide open, and the air conditioning churning away.

I don’t get it.

- - -

Okay, the second set of numbers revolve around halls of fame and baseball. So, consider it bad armchair analysis and proceed at your own peril.

Roberto Alomar was inducted into the baseball hall of fame this weekend, and there’s no question he deserved it. I have never been a big Alomar fan, and became less of a fan after he spit on an umpire. Be all that as it may, he was a hell of a second baseman – easily the best of his generation.

I was reading recently where someone suggested that in fact Alomar is the greatest second baseman of the last 60 years.

Having grown up as a Cincinnati Reds fan, that got my hackles up because, like, what about Joe Morgan?

So I checked.

Alomar’s.300 career average is almost than 30 points higher than Morgan’s, although Joe had more home runs (268 to 210) and they had virtually identical RBI total (1,133 to 1,134.)

Morgan also stole almost way more than twice as many bases (689 to 474).

Alomar won ten Gold Gloves. Morgan won five. Alomar was a 12-time all star, while Joe did that nine times.

They both won two World Series.

For me, the differentiator is two fold.

First, Morgan was voted NL MVP twice, something he won not just because of his numbers but because of the way he played and led.

Second, which is related to above, Joe never spit on an umpire.

So I’ll take Joe.

And to put an asterisk on both of them, let me add Bill Mazeroski to the list. The Pirates’ second baseman is ironically famous for his home run that won the 1960 World Series over the Yankees. Ironic because he was a good, not great hitter. But he was a phenomenal fielder – some say the best defensive second baseman ever. So, he gets consideration, too, at least on my list.

- - -

Because I’m reading a Mickey Mantle bio right now, 1950s and 60s baseball is top of mind for me. And when I started reading more and more about Mazeroski I went and looked up his stats.

His .260 career average and 138 HRs would not make you look twice. But those eight Gold Glove awards and 10 all-star game appearances tell you what you need to know about why he is in the Hall of Fame.

And THAT sent me to look up Roger Maris, who is not in Cooperstown.

Maris was the AL MVP twice. He set the single-season home run record in 1961 with 61 dingers in an era of dead balls and no steroids. He won three World Series titles, was a seven time all star, and hit 275 career home runs. He was hurt by a low career batting average (.260) but there can be no denying his impact on the game.

And yet, no hall of fame. If you read the book I’m reading the suggestion is that Maris was denied because he wasn’t Mickey Mantle. The fans, the press, everyone love The Mick. And the quiet Maris never won over the crowd. So unfair.

It's not unlike Paul Henderson, the former Leaf who scored what was, until overtime of the 2010 winter Olympics' gold-medal game, the biggest goal in hockey history. And the guy had a pretty decent NHL career too for that era. scoring 236 goals in 700 games, with seven 20-goal seasons and he added five more in the WHA. Combined NHL-WHA service he scored about 375 goals and had 750 points.

Like Roger Maris, he should be in the hall.

- - -

Enough baseball.

I know what you people really like is NASCAR.

Okay. I know that’s not really true but you really have to hear Pastor Joe Nelms deliver the pre-race prayer at the NASCAR Nationwide series race in Nashville on Saturday. It's barely a minute long and I promise you you're gonna laugh.

Laura and Chris came home last night.

Pastor Joe and I are grateful for some of the same things!



July 22, 2011

Well, that was hot.

Not to beat a dead horse, but in the absence of anything interesting happening in my life – and I assure there is not – I’ll make a couple quick list of observations on Thursday's weather.

  1. 1. It was really, really hot.

I think that covers it. As my week of hanging out at home and not in Boston rinks winds down, I can at least take comfort in knowing I didn’t have to deal with the GO train commute or the steaming concrete jungle downtown, all of which will be waiting for me Monday.

But Pad and I managed to kill most of the afternoon quite nicely, invading a friendly neighbour’s vacant backyard (at her invitation) and perching ourselves like sun-seeking occupying forces at poolside.

We brought subs and drinks and books and magazines and sun screen and towels and . . . well, it was a regular day at the beach.

This image shows the full extent of our level of exertion as the Big Guy drifts aimlessly on the pool and I dry my toes the natural way.


For illustration and educational purposes, here’s a shot of the Weather Network app’s reading for yesterday afternoon around 4p. I set it to display in Ye Olde English reading, just for old time’s sake.

The “feels like” temperature of 120 degrees confirms my assertion that it was – and will continue to be, apparently – hot.


 - - -

Beyond that, I got nothin’ today and little inclination to troll the internets looking for anything.

One loyal reader emailed to point out the editorial this week in Oakville Today, with the headline appropriating a certain blog’s nomenclature. The sentiment behind the editorial is an excellent one and you can click on the screen grab below to go to their site and read the whole thing.

I like the cartoon, and no, legal action is not anticipated with Metroland.


Laura and Chris finally return home on Sunday and we’re looking forward to that. In the meantime we will continue to laze about, work the barbeque, keep the beer fridge stocked and try to stay cool.

I hope your weekend holds summer fun and adventure. Make sure the little ones (and big ones too) drink lots of water, be careful on the roads and lakes, and as always, hug the kids.


July 21, 2011

One soft infested summer me and Terry became friends
Trying in vain to breathe the fire we was born in
Catching rides to the outskirts tying faith between our teeth
Sleeping in that old abandoned beach house getting wasted in the heat
And hiding on the backstreets, hiding on the backstreets
With a love so hard and filled with defeat
Running for our lives at night on them backstreets

Backstreets – Bruce Springsteen


On hot summer days, Bruce Springsteen always comes to mind. And these are hot summer days.

The poet laureate of open windows in an old car on a backtop pointed toward a Jersey Shore beach, Springsteen sang songs that still carry me away across the years. Away to days spent lazying on a Nova Scotia beach with friends, walking in the surf with pretty girls, staying out too late, silly summer romances soaked in innocence and drama, and the universally contradictory yearning to grow up as fast as we could and yet at the same time seal the moment in a bottle forever.

I was so blessed to grow up where I did with parents who were endlessly – well, almost endlessly – patient of my need to buy myself a car, to break away, to explore and become whatever it was I would be.

When I was little, we would get to occasionally vacation “by the seashore” as we said then. Money was tight and renting a small, spartan cottage on a beach was a treat, a place Brian Wilson was surely thinking of when he composed surfer songs you’ll find on Endless Summer. When I hear those songs, I think of those days with my family.

Later, it was days at Queensland and Bayswater beaches with friends and classmates. The soundtrack was Bob Seger and Billy Joel and very early Bruce.

And later still, it was the same beaches with Laura. It was on a hot August afternoon at Bayswater where legend has it she agreed to marry me. I have no doubt there are moments she would like to revisit that conversation, but I remember that day clearly, stopping on the drive home to buy mussels and fresh corn for dinner, which was delayed by a long phone call to her mother.

The beach for us now is in Ingonish, a four-kilometre Cape Breton treasure called North Bay Beach well off the beaten path so that on a busy day there is still only a smattering of people there. My 1972 Datsun 510 met its great reward long ago, but I still get to walk in the surf with a pretty girl and it’s better than ever.

Downtown Halifax is a diamond that always shines brightest on hot summer nights. Tall ships and tall tales. I could write for hours about me and downtown Halifax.

We have an expression in our family – back in Nova Scotia I mean – that has become part of the lexicon in Oakville now, too. And I’m sure it’s not unique to our house.

“Stupid hot.”

It always amazed me how a place like Windsor Junction could be so friggin’ cold by times in the winter and so stupid hot in the summer. In a province where the ministry of tourism boasts that you can never be more than 50 miles from the ocean, in the dog days of August you could perish for want of a cooling breeze.

When I was about Pad’s age I would come home on such nights, proudly in my well-used, much-loved Datsun, and sit on the veranda on the front of our house, looking up the lake into the darkness, sometimes eating a snack, sometimes just sitting there. The sound of a baseball game from the TV inside often floated on the thick summer air.

“Stupid hot,” my dad would say.

What was hotter was the small upstairs room I shared with my brother. When I say small, I mean small. The room had a tiny window overlooking the backyard and that opening offered little relief.

I remember vividly rushing home from A&A Records or Sam the Record Man with a new LP and sitting in the heat with my headphones on, blasting the volume on 11 to Rick Derringer’s All American Boy or some other mindless pop rock.

I mention Derringer only because I actually remember sitting in the heat listening to that album. I don’t know where my wallet is right now, but I can remember that.

Anyway, the days of stupid hot are truly upon us now.

In a country famous for cold, hot summer days will always trigger memories of summers gone, and anticipation of the one still unfolding. My experience was Nova Scotia. Many readers here will talk about Grand Bend or Wasaga or Collingwood or Muskoka. Or Mono!

The image below is from The Weather Network app on my iTouch at about 12:30p afternoon.

Unless you grew up as a Bedouin tribesman wandering the Sahara, my guess is that “feels like” 47C probably feels pretty warm to you, too.

Today is supposed to be warmer.

Bring it on. Here's to the endless summer.


July 20, 2011

So much for all that stuff I said about no humidity. I was watering the garden last night and the condensation was dripping off the hose, which is the second best indication you can get for measuring humidity.

The best indication is whether the condensation running off your beer bottle becomes a hazard to the various electronics you have on the patio table next to it.

And in my case, last night the answer was a definite yes.

Every time I picked up the bottle the condensation accumulated around the bottom of the bottle fell off and dripped all over me. The only solution was to not put the bottle down and . . . well, you do the math.

- - -

I was sitting there trying not to drown in the tsunami of beer-bottle and watering-hose condensation, and wondering if I would actually do damage to the electronics on the small table next to me.

And then it occurred to me: gee, I really take a lot of hardware to the patio with me when I “relax.”

Blackberry? Check.

iTouch? Check.

Laptop (usually only for the morning shift, but sometimes in evenings.) Check

Portable phone? Check.

Sony eReader? Check.

That’s enough home electronics to start hearts fluttering at Future Shop and Oakville Hydro.

- - -

This morning I’m not actually writing this from the outdoor home office (pictured below) – aka the patio with wireless.

And that’s because this morning I’m installing a new faucet on the kitchen sink.

It will make my wife happy, and I owe her happy.

And it’s surprisingly easy to install a new Moen faucet. I was very surprised, actually.

I went to Home Depot and bought the faucet (Canadian Tire didn’t have it.)

I came home and called a plumber.

He’ll be here at 9a.

All I had to do was clear a path through the pizza boxes and beer bottles to the sink. For bonus points I even emptied the sink of all the dirty dishes and removed the impressive collection of toxic chemicals stored under the sink.

Really, it was quite easy to install.

To paraphrase Home Depot: They can do it. We can help.

- - -

Chris Osgood announced his retirement Tuesday after 17 years in the NHL.

The Wings keeper had a long and impressive career: three Stanley Cups (two as the starter), 400 regular season wins, almost 80 playoff wins. Two Jennings trophies.

The debate now: is he a hall of famer?

I like Osgood because he always seemed real – an everyday guy who worked hard for what he got and hit the jackpot by being on one of the great NHL teams assembled in my lifetime.

But that last part is exactly why I think he’s not a hall of fame goalie.

I think if Osgood had spent his career with Toronto or Los Angeles or Calgary, he would never have lasted 17 years or won 400 games and he would, at best, have been regarded as a garden-variety NHL keeper.

The same debate took off when Eric Lindros retired – in his case his career was more about unfulfilled promise than greatness achieved.

The difference is I think Lindros will make the hall.


I think sometimes you have to look beyond the numbers and consider where the player fit in his era among his peers.

In spite of a career shelled with concussive injury, Lindros still averaged more than a point a game, which in the low-scoring clutch-and-grab era he played, is stunning. And Lindros was considered the alpha male of his time, as short as it was. From 1992 to 1999, he redefined the centreman as a power-forward, high-scoring position.

Now, back to Osgood.

Quick. Name the three best goalies of the last 15 years. Patrick Roy? Martin Brodeur? Ed Belfour? Dominik Hasek?

I think we’d be sitting around the table watching the condensation flood my electronics for a long time before someone shouts “Chris Osgood.” If you look at those other names, the teams those guys were on were often built around the goalie. That never happened with Osgood and Wings.

I think he was okay – better than many of his critics say. But I also think he benefitted immensely from playing for the Detroit Central Red Army teams of the late 90s and early 2000s.

A good career, but not an elite member of his class. Read more here.

I have a feeling there’s a Red Wing fan out there who will have a considered opinion on this too!


July 18, 2011

Welcome to a week of vacation. As outlined earlier the big guy and I were supposed to hit the road for points south today but that’s all been tossed asunder. He’s starting to show incremental improvement and we’re really hoping it won’t be long before he can resume at least off-ice training.

In the meantime, Laura and Chris are enjoying the Maritimes, if not the weather. Nothing has been able to compare with the run of high-temp low-humidity days we’ve been having here. In the 12 or so years we’ve been in Oakville I can’t recall a stretch like this.

A little rain would be helpful – as long as it comes between 11p and 6a, on weeknights.

- - -

Even at more than 1,000 kilometres away she can find things for me to do.

Laura had me up and working at 6a Sunday – in fairness she didn’t want me to start working that early, but that’s what happened. She needed some help with a project that was due and she had to drive from Sydney to Fredericton so I pitched in.

It took me until almost 10a, at which time I turned off the laptop and plunked myself in front of the TV to watch the final round of the The Open.

It’s funny how we’re all coping just fine with Tigerless golf.

It’s hard to imagine a better storyline that Darren Clarke winning this tournament – which as an Irishman and Euro tour player he coveted for a lifetime.

And what about young Rory McIlroy, another Northern Ireland product? His win at the US Open will be the story of 2011 in golf.

Since the 2007 Open, Irishmen have now won six majors – Padraig Harrington (2007, 2008 Opens, 2008 PGA), Graeme McDowell (2010 US Open), Rory McIlroy (2011 US Open) and Clarke, this part weekend.

Before 2007, the last Irishman to win was Fred Daly at the Open in 1947 That’s pretty cool.

After the golf was over, Patrick was finally out of bed so we wandered down to Boston Pizza for my lunch and his breakfast, and then we went and checked out the new Pro Hockey Life store next door to the restaurant.

After that, we went to see the new movie Horrible Bosses.

- - -

What to say about that film?

First, it has some absolutely side-splitting moments.

But this is a 100-per-cent guy movie. The language is by times, well, shocking frankly. Not that I’m easily shocked, but I think some of the language would make a lot of people fairly uncomfortable, unless you’re able to show up with a really open mind. Think of a bunch of words you would never say. They’re all here.

And I will admit that seeing Jennifer Aniston play something other than the girl next door – she is responsible for delivering some of the raunchiest lines – was part of the formula for success for the comedy.

Patrick laughed. I laughed. The young woman sitting behind us, whose laugh sounded like a donkey on cocaine, even laughed.

But you’ve been warned!

- - -

Last night I sat in the back and started reading The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America’s Childhood. I have high hopes for this book but 50 pages in it has yet to knock my socks off – a little too much about the author and a lot too little on The Mick. But I will plod on.

Next in the queue is The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival. It’s not about Tiger Woods’ ex wife – it’s a story about a Siberian tiger that stalks the people who destroyed its family. It comes highly recommended in spite of the odd subject matter. So, we’ll give that a shot.

Enjoy the heat!


July 15, 2011

One of the great things about parenting that never gets old – unlike, say, trips to the hospital, grocery bills, or putting 1500 kilometres on a car looking for skates that fit properly – is being able to witness your kids develop their own passions and interests.

My older son’s interests are obvious to regulars here. Athlete and fitness nut, he is most comfortable when he’s being pushed past his comfort zone and sweating, exhausted to the point of vomiting. That’s a good time to him.

The other guy’s interests have been different so far. I mean, Chris loves hockey and has developed an interest in rugby now. He was an avid lacrosse player and he refs that sport. So, it’s not like he’s a couch potato.

That’s my job.

But Chris has turned into a reader of young adult fiction. There’s always a book on his night stand and he will regularly ask to go to Chapters to pick up a new title. (And like the skates, dad is happy – happier, even – to pay for the books. If a kid has an interest in reading, then he has an interest in becoming smarter, and I’m down with that.

Early today – 12:01a, actually – the final film in the Harry Potter saga debuted at theatres across North America.

As a reader, Chris devoured every thick volume in the series and awaited each film with breathless anticipation.

He unapologetically declared himself a Harry Potter nerd and didn’t really care if anyone else thought that was a problem.

Certainly, we never did. If you’ve seen the size of those books, they were a daunting tome to open – especially for a 10 or 11 or 12 year old. It never fazed Chris, or tens of millions of kids just like him. I don’t know J.K. Rowling from Adam, but her gift to the world is that she made reading cool for millions of kids.

Anyway – back to the movie premiere.

Every summer, Chris – as the guy not in rep lacrosse, or not training for junior hockey camps – gets a couple trips to Nova Scotia and Cape Breton. He gets spoiled rotten by grandparents, sleeps snug in his own room in a house on the shore of East Bay of the Bras d’Or Lakes. He hangs out with his cousins and, we hope, grows memories and develops his Maritime wiring that will sustain him far, far into adulthood.

(Because as I say when introduced to people – I live in Oakville. I’m from Nova Scotia. There’s a difference.)

In November, part one of the final Harry Potter movie opened and at that time Chris and every other Potter nerd knew that the final instalment would open on July 15, 2011. And Chris made it abundantly clear to anyone who would listen that he would be in Cape Breton on that date and he would be attending the midnight screening with his cousin and well, if anyone cared to join him they would be well advised to get their arrangements made early.

If you asked him in November or whatever month it was how many days were left until July 15, 2011, he could tell you. Lately he was able to tell you down to the hours and minutes, too.

And so the big day came at last and true to his word, Chris had successfully manipulated the summer travel calendar so he could be in Cape Breton on this date.

The tickets to the 3D-midnight showing were secured online weeks ago. And last night, he and his cousin and a friend were in line with hundreds of other kids at 9p, waiting for the doors to open for the midnight show.

Laura and her sister sat in a nearby Boston Pizza and sipped red wine, running out the clock until midnight.

Before I went to bed last night (after watching the Jays beat the Yankees by an unconverted touchdown and a field goal) I texted Chris and told him that I missed him but I was excited for his excitement. I asked him to send me a review of the movie after it was over, even though I would be asleep.

At 2:01a our time – or 3:01a in Sydney – he texted to say the movie was over, it was his new favourite movie, it was amazing, he said. It was also the first time he cried at a movie.

I suspect he will sleep very late and that he will owe his mother favours for years and years to come. I suspect also, that she will not soon forget an evening – morning? – that meant so much to her kid.

Chris often has to play second fiddle in the arrangement of household itineraries. There are good reasons for that and he gets it.

But July 15, 2011 was all about Chris, just as we all knew it would be.

For the record, the Globe and Mail movie reviewers – in my estimation – are a tough lot to please. They don’t gush very often.

For Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, the gushing requires rubber boots.

“This is a terrific, smartly designed adolescent adventure, visually rich, narratively satisfying, and bound to resonate for years to come.” Four stars.

I won’t quibble that I’ve never heard of the word “narratively.” I get the drift.

Read the whole review here.

Or better, just take Chris’ word for it.

- - -

After today, I’ll be on vacation for a week and I won’t review the list of things that Pad and I won’t be doing. We know it too well and managing his disappointment – as well as his recovery – is dad Job One.

He’s doing OK. The appetite is rebounding. He’s starting to socialize a bit.

And yeah, I know he reads this space occasionally so I know he knows I’m talking about him.

We’ll make plans for Boston in 2012. He’ll only be 18, which I think means “not washed up yet.”

Maybe we’ll all go. After all, there’s no new Harry Potter movie to wait for in Cape Breton.

- - -

We are in for a glorious southern Ontario weekend. A run of days with temperatures in the 30s and vacation-blue skies as far as the eye can see.

The weather in Cape Breton is a little more uneven, but the food is better. I’m glad Chris and Laura are there, as much as we miss them both.

Pad and I will figure out some ways to be entertained.

He had a friend over last night and he ordered a pizza for them. Later I ordered a pizza for me. We’re considering installing a Bat-phone-style hotline direct to Pizza Nova on Monastery Drive, or maybe we’ll build a big spotlight like the one Commissioner Gordon uses to shine on the clouds when he wants to talk to Batman. Except ours will show two crossed forks or something.

I can tell from the blog metadata I can read that people are travelling and some continue to check in with us here from the road.

So let me wish everyone safe travels and great, memorable adventures in the summer of 2011. Occasionally there are disappointments, but that just means you make adjustments and find new things to do.

Have some fun this weekend.

Drive safely. As Sergeant Esterhaus on Hill Street Blues used to say, “Hey. Let’s be careful out there.”

And hug the kids.


July 13, 2011

Every spring and fall, as regular as sunrise, a spate of stories appear in local newspapers from Victoria to Bonavista about the street hockey police.

Street hockey police are basically busy-bodies with nothing better to do than stand in their living rooms, peek out from behind the curtains, and fret that the kids playing hockey in the street might stand in front of their house or run across their lawn.

As you can surmise, I have little time for the street hockey police.

But I'm here to say today that they live among us.

On June 29, the Oakville Beaver, our community's paragon of truth and fairness and all things right, published a letter from a resident taking issue with the street hockey police. She noted that people who complain about kids playing hockey on a quiet suburban side street are likely the same types to complain about kids making chalk drawings on sidewalks, or complaining about a family having a tent trailer in their driveway to prepare for a camping trip.

Why do these people complain? Come to your own conclusions.

You can read the first letter here. It makes some pretty interesting points about active children and active lifestyles.

Naturally, some others saw this assault on the freedoms of perfectly tended lawns and vacant driveways for what it is: the indiscriminate carpet bombing of our rights and freedoms.

So, there was a rebuttal.

The rebuttal on July 6 posits that the "little things" overlooked by our town's crack team of bylaw enforcement officers has become an embarrassment to the writer. Uncollected garbage. Camping trailers in driveways. Basketball nets in the street. Cars parked where they should not be. (The imagination prances through a rhetorical meadow imagining the possibilities -- rooftops perhaps? Balanced on chimneys? Hanging from rain gutters?)

There's a rant about children trespassing on neighbours lawns -- in pursuit of wayward balls or a perhaps a game of tag. I have no clue. But there's a suggestion some of these trespassers may be wearing roller blades. Or even carrying hockey sticks.

The writer notes that his children are all active and participate in sanctioned sports in designated areas specifically for such purposes. I think that's great. Good on them.

But there's no mistaking the implication that anyone daring to venture onto their front lawn in pursuit of a ball or a game of tag had damned well be ready to suffer the consequences for breaching his boundaries and such an affront to the tenets of democracy will result in local authorities being summoned forthwith.

I'm not really even exaggerating.

You can read the letter here.

Money quote:

"How dare you try and use the “active children” case.  Plain and simple, if I was your neighbor, I would call the Town on every issue, and make complaints on every step your child took on my property. "

"Every step your child took on my property." Wow.

Neighbour of the Year nomination forms are now available at town hall.

Does this sound like a thigh-slapping laugh riot, chairman of the entertainment committee at the community barbeque (held in a sanctioned barbeque area, using CSA-approved equipment, with Oakville Fire standing by and a fully certified crew from St John's Ambulance attending -- but not invited to have any of the food, which is only for the afore-mentioned participating residents who shall be able to present evidence of membership in the appropriate community rate-payers association)?

Look, there's a reasonable argument to be made about neighbourhoods and neatness and privacy rights and all that. This was not it.

Sure, if I lived next door to Lady Gaga, I wouldn't want her damn tour bus parked outside on the street nine months of the year. (And BTW she's a terrible beer mooch too -- always showing up at the pool party saying she "forgot" for run to the Beer Store before it closed. Yeah. As if.)

But here's the thing. I don't live next door to Lady Gaga. I live around people who work for a living and are doing the best to raise their kids properly and to get along with and in the world. I think both the above letter writers are doing that, too. If you care enough to write the Oakville Beaver, then you really care. I just respectfully disagree with one of them.

True story: almost every weekend, kids in the neighbourhood come home from wherever they have been and leave litter in the street -- McDonalds bags, the odd beer bottle, that sort of thing.

I have two options. First, I could go door to door and work to assemble a bunch of teens to attend neatness seminars that I would be happy to host and lecture the kids on the errors of their ways and the need for them to make more constructive and cooperative litter-management decisions in the best interests of the entire community. Second choice: I shrug, pick up the litter and move on with my life. Kids have been doing stuff like this since before the Leafs last won anything to talk about.

On my list of things in my life to get twisted up about, a tent trailer in a driveway or a basketball net on a street doesn't even move the needle.

As for kids playing in the street, my biggest annoyance is when I'm not invited to play.

I'm pretty light on my feet for a big man and I'll take you five hole or top shelf. I don't care if you are only seven years old. Bring it on, baby. Here comes the pain.

Probably in my knees.


July 12, 2011

The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men,
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!

-- Robbie Burns


Yeah. We got plenty of the grief and pain, Robbie. The adventure never ends when you’re a parent.

Laura and I were up at 5a on Monday. She and Chris were prepping for a flight to the east coast. Laura will mix a family visit with a conference in NB she will drive to, and Chris will camp out with grandparents, eat chocolate chip cookies and hopefully make himself a little useful in between.

Pad was to skate and train as is his routine. (Note the use of the past tense there.)

I will work this week and then the two of us were to hit the road Monday for Boston. Two days of on-ice training with a junior team on Cape Cod in Hyannis, then tours of Harvard, Boston College, Boston University and Northeastern University. And then play in the Chowder Cup, a college prospect tournament in Foxborough outside Boston. We have tickets for the Red Sox a week from Friday at Fenway.

I was going to be a great week.


Pad had been complaining of a pain in his side for the last few days. It didn’t get any worse, but it didn’t get any better. It was on the wrong side to be his appendix. Then his energy level, appetite and mood all changed pretty dramatically on Sunday.

Long story short, we spent a long day Monday at Oakville Trafalgar Memorial Hospital. I won’t bore you with the details, but an internal injury has put the big guy on the shelf for at least two or three weeks before he can resume off-ice workouts, maybe longer. Contact drills are further away.

I may be old, but I still remember being 17. And when I was his age, I never worked as hard for anything as he works for fitness and hockey.

To have the rug pulled out from under him yesterday on the edge of this trip was, well, devastating.

His mom is in Cape Breton turning inside out, wishing she was here where she could do absolutely nothing to help or change things. We’d love to have her here, but . . . stay put, mom.

As you can imagine there’s a lot more to the story but some things are best left alone.

Pad will be fine with some rest (no surgery or anything invasive!) He should be ready when hockey season resumes late next month, although he won’t be as ready as he wants to be after a summer of ice and training.

The doctors say his fitness level gives him a big head start, so that’s a plus in a day full of minuses. And it looks like a guilt-free week on a beach in the Cape Breton Highlands will be part of his recovery plan.

In a weird bit of serendipity, his formal invitation to the London Knights major junior training camp arrived yesterday. That provided a small lift at the end of a fairly trying day. He intends to be there on Aug 29 and I would not bet against him.

- - -

The day wasn’t without its light moments. Pad was waiting for a CAT scan and quickly became the target of questions from the all-female ensemble in the waiting area jammed between the back entrance to the fracture clinic and the CAT scan area.

The women – ranging in range from hockey mom to hockey grandmom -- were wonderful. They distracted him and asked him about his hockey and training and chatted and made him laugh and behaved like a bunch of moms should.

It helped.

One woman sat quietly listening to it all. We eventually learned that the cast on her arm was from participating in an Oakville women’s hockey league, and she joined the banter about Pad’s broken summer.

And then, you could see the light come on over her head.

“Are you Gerry?” she asked. Yes, I am.

She got up and came over to shake my hand and introduce herself.

“I’m Karen. I read your blog!”

The look on Pad’s face at that moment was priceless. (He said later, “Yeah dad. That was pretty freaky.”)

It was great to meet Karen and all the rest of the gang and future blog readers in the CAT scan waiting area.

Mostly, thanks for making my boy smile. You were all wonderful.

Hopefully Pad and Karen will both be back on the ice soon.

I’m guessing probably not at the same time.


July 8, 2011

It doesn’t mean much to most people on this side of the pond, but the decision yesterday by News International to close down the salacious London tabloid News of the World after Sunday is a stunner.

The newspaper has been at the centre of a scandal to hack into cell phones of a variety of Euro-celebrities, as well as the messages of war widows and the Royal family. And the straw that broke the camel’s back was an allegation that in 2002 the newspaper hacked into the cell phone of an abducted teenage girl, who was later murdered.

The public outrage played out in the social media. Advertisers fled. It has been a firestorm that has reached the prime minister’s doorstep.

But the decision to shutter the newspaper may really be just a business move to protect a larger prize.

News International, owned by Rubert Murdoch, has bid $19 billion to by TV giant British Sky Broadcast. The government-controlled agencies that review such transactions have yet to give the deal its approvals.

And in that universe, News of the World and the 200 jobs lost are but a hair on a pimple on the arse of a moose.

The News of the World scandal is so appalling, and such an affront to journalism and business ethics and overtly offensive, I really can’t do justice to it with words.

But I don’t believe for a moment that the closure of the newspaper will change the behaviour of that part of the journalism industry that feeds the insatiable appetite of the public – you and me – to be titillated by celebrity foible.

In short, if people lost interest in Lindsay Lohan and her social habits, or in Tiger Woods’ dating regime, photographers would stop following them around. (My dad is reading this asking, “Lindsay who?” And that’s actually the right answer.)

And so-called mainstream media – yo, right here -- feed the frenzy, too, and you need not look far to find it.

Canadians are not fascinated with Will and Kate because he is the future King of the Realm and constitutional head of state for Canada. No, they’re fascinated because they are global celebrities, famous for being rich and powerful and connected and, well, famous for being famous.

It’s interesting that none of what they have is actually earned through vision and innovation and hard work but rather it was – through no fault of their own -- handed to them as birthright. I’m not suggesting they’re not decent folk. They seem swell.

I’m just saying, what exactly have they done to merit thousands of people lining up on a street for four hours in blazing sun on the off chance of seeing them drive by?

If Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Michael Dell and Roberta Bondar stood on one side of Parliament Hill shaking hands, and Will and Kate stood on the other side doing the same, which group do you think would draw the biggest crowd?

Read more on the News of the World story here, from a UK competitor of the tab.

And there’s a broader piece here on the criminal fallout.

- - -

Credit where credit is due:

We bought an LG flat-screen TV before Christmas. I did not buy an extended warranty, or as they call it at big-box electronics stores, extended profit margin.

About a month ago a vertical white bar started occasionally showing up on the screen. It became more regular. On Monday I called LG Canada. They asked for the serial number, model number and date of purchase. They asked some questions.

They said a service company will call you. They will be there Wednesday.

The service company called. Because it was late in the day Monday they couldn’t get the parts they needed until Wednesday, so they arranged to come Thursday.

They arrived on time. The guy replaced three parts in the back of the TV. He made a copy of the receipt for proof of purchase. He left.

The TV works fine.

In a world where we all have horror stories about trying to get warranties honoured, this was an absolutely painless experience. Granted, that is how things are supposed to work, but customers are so used to having to scream and fight for anything that dealing with a company that just listens, nods, and then fixes something was entirely unexpected.


I recommend LG televisions.

- - -

Roadside berries: yes, way better than buying them in a supermarket. But I wasn’t standing on Dundas Street on the edge of a field, I was standing in front of 300 boxes of local berries in a supermarket.

I have to confess my first instinct wasn’t to get in the car and drive north.

But still, a good point.

Having said that, I got an email from a friend who said he bought some berries from a roadside vendor west of Oakville. When he got home he noticed the goods stamped “Product of the USA.”

Hmmm. Buyer beware, I guess.

- - -

It’s shaping up as a hot, sticky, sunny weekend.

No lacrosse. No grads. No guests. No parties. No hockey. Well, one game Sunday night.

We’re hoping for two quiet days, sleeping in a little (for us, and a lot for the boys.)

The Indy race is this weekend if you like that sort of thing.

Wherever you go, drive safely. Watch out for the crazies, as my mother would say.

And hug the kids.


July 6, 2011

OK. Smells of summer, volume 2.

Railway ties.

I will grant you that this one may be half a bubble off centre for some of you, but then you didn’t grow up 100 feet from a rail line that wound through a small rural community around several lakes and across a bunch of streams and creeks.

I got off the train in Oakville last night and it was hot and a little sticky. The train stopped on the track furthest south, meaning I had to walk along the platform to the stairs to get to the tunnel and then to my car. (As opposed to walking right into the parking lot.)

And en route was the unmistakeable odour of creosote-soaked railway ties.

In colder weather rail ties don’t really have an odour. But in a hot sun, they do and I won’t embarrass myself by trying to come up with a description.

But for me it’s a smell that transports me back a bunch of years.

When we went swimming or fishing when I was a kid, we had to cross the tracks.

When I was a little older, I would walk along the tracks to places where I was sure the swimming or fishing was better.

And my dad and I would often walk up the tracks after dinner in summer, to where they ran along side the golf course. We’d hop the fence and walk through the woods along the fairways hunting for golf balls, and we found plenty, too.

I have one other memory of that smell, and that’s from riding a bike along paved paths next to the Ottawa River and going under railroad bridges in summer. Same smell.

Laura and I would spend a fair amount of time on the bikes back in those pre-children days.

Don’t tell me it was 20 years ago because I won’t believe you.

- - -

The Leafs’ rookie camp opened yesterday in Toronto.

No real surprises, but it’s just nice to read stories with some names I know very well from our own hockey travels.

Click here to read a good overview from Day 1.

There’s another good piece here that puts the challenges of making the Leafs in perspective for a lot of these kids.

- - -

For the rest of the guys out there still chasing their own version of the dream, the summer brings no rest.

I got home last night around 6:30p and Pad was asleep on the couch in the family room.

The first two days of summer training have been hot and hard. He’s having a lot of fun, but I think he’s learning that a moderately early bedtime isn’t a bad thing given the rigour of his day.

Sooner or later, they figure stuff out.


July 5, 2011

Is there anything that defines the start of a Canadian summer more than local strawberries?

Through the long winter we are actually quite lucky to have access – for a price – to California-grown berries. And they are a marvellous treat on a winter night when it’s hard to imagine summer will ever arrive.

But, compared to local berries they are hard, bland and nearly flavourless.

You don’t just taste a local berry. You experience it. The aroma can be detected across the room from the lucky soul standing over the sink rinsing and husking the berries.

And in all of Creation, very few scents come close to fresh, local strawberries.

As a kid, there was a local hobby farm in Windsor Junction that grew berries and the first days after school closed were often spent picking. Or more accurately, my sisters days were spent picking.

The berries came in small boxes made of wafer-thin wood, stapled to hold its shape, and inevitably stained by the berries and soaked with that wonderful aroma.

The end of the school year and the availability of local berries is a Canadian tradition.

And so it was that I found myself in a local market Sunday, standing in front of a large supply of local berries.

I bought two pints (I think they called them pints) and was hailed as a hero at home for buying them and as an idiot for only buying two boxes as “these won’t last until dinner time” and she was quite right.

I took Monday off and among my errands was a stop at the Maplegrove Sobeys for various things, but alas, no local berries.

Then later Chris and I went to lunch at Boston Pizza at Dorval Crossing and visited Metro but again, no luck.

It was hot and I said to Chris, let’s do mom a solid and roll to Sobeys Glen Abbey and see if they have berries.

And Chris smiled and said yes, let’s do that.

And then he added: “I like those strawberries, too.”

And we were off like a shot and – bulls eye! – lots of local berries. We bought five boxes this time and I husked them myself and my shopping acumen and general utility around the kitchen were hailed as visionary and, umm, useful.

In a life full of lots of things to be thankful for and about, Monday’s thanks were all about berries and summer and the end of school.

It was fun and tasty.

- - -

Pad’s graduation last week – blogging has been sparse since – was great fun. My sister – his godmother – made the event a memorable one for him, what with the champagne and cigars.

We were up late, slept late, and did pretty much everything late the next day.

Canada Day weekend was enjoyed at a slow pace that included a trip into the hills north of the city for golf and swimming and fun with some friends.

We’re now into a bit of a routine – of sorts, and only for a short time.

Pad is doing his summer training thing, with an hour or 90 minutes of ice a day and then three hours in the gym. Chris is sleeping late and Laura and I are working.

Laura and Chris will head out for NS in less than a week and Pad and I will try to find a window of opportunity to do the same soon, we hope.

Blogging will continue to be indifferent.

But I won’t be far away.


June 30, 2011

The Pad Grad. Mission accomplished.


During . . .



After. . .


The cigars were props. The bubbly was real but distributed judiciously. His godmother's visit, with Uncle Gregg and the cousins, set the bar high for Chris, who says his grad party will be in Vegas.

If commencements are supposed to be about beginnings, then he's truly off and running.

It was a fun night and kudos to Laura for making it spectacular.

And the morning after, London officially invited him back to their 2011 main camp.

A pretty good 24 hours all in all.