Monday, August 30, 2010

So Ya Want Me to Spin a Wedding Yarn?

There has been zero writing done for several days now. This is entirely due to working overtime since last Wednesday and all day Saturday and Sunday. What a guy's gotta do to make a buck!

I did manage to present a #fridayflash story last week. The only reason that happened was the fact that I dug deep into the Davidson archives and dusted off an old class assignment from night school a couple of years ago. The biggest chore about that was changing it from first person to third person. If anyone missed the story, it is the previous blog posting.

Speaking of the Davidson archives...if you want some true Davidson dirt, you should head immediately over to Life on the Muskoka River where the creative and hilarious Cathy Olliffe is presenting another of her amusing and insightful wedding stories. The victim this time? Let's just say that he's not wearing a fez but he is wearing a tux and a black beard...enjoy. Drop by and listen as I tell the story of meeting and wedding my wife in the first person. And I hardly lie at all.

Friday, August 27, 2010

#fridayflash~The Disappearing Man

The Disappearing Man

Mickey Gerussi appeared in Bobby’s life with the suddenness of a special news report. It was as if he had stepped from the screen of the television that blared constantly in the front room; he was the Shadow, the Green Hornet and Batman rolled into one.

Bobby’s father had died the previous summer and his mother was forced to rent the attic space to help with the bills. One morning a pale man, carrying his belongings in a large lacquer box, was propelled through the front door by a blast of chilly air. He was tall, but did not fill the doorway like Bobby’s dad.

“Hey there, young fella,” he said, nodding to the boy. “My name’s Mickey.”

Bobby couldn’t place the man’s strange accent but he sounded like JR Ewing from that new show on TV. His brown hair extended past his shoulders and the boy noticed a scorpion tattoo on the man’s fist when they shook hands. Bobby thought that Mickey’s almond-shaped eyes and walrus mustache made him look Asian, though not as much so as David Carradine in Kung Fu.

They quickly fell into a routine that allowed Bobby’s mother to work late at her waitress job. Mickey always worked the overnight shift and slept during the day while Bobby attended school. At supper time he would emerge from the attic to make them fancy sandwiches. On one such occasion, while dressing up their bologna on kaisers with pickles, an olive magically appeared in his hand. He deftly produced another from Bobby’s shirt pocket. Mickey lacked David Copperfield’s talent, but he compensated with Doug Henning’s flamboyance.

“How did you do that?”

“It’s all in the misdirection.”

“The missed erection…?”

“Misdirection,” he said laughing, his narrow shoulders pumping up and down. “That’s when you use a quick distraction to divert a person’s attention.” Mickey spent the rest of the evening making nickels magically appear and teaching Bobby special card tricks.

The boys from school reported regularly to Bobby about the lodger’s activities. Tim’s brother often saw him drinking beer with tough guys in downtown bars. Alvin’s dad heard Mickey speaking French with bikers at the Brass Rail…even a twelve year old knew about that joint’s reputation.

Mickey always kept the door to his room locked. One morning he came home from work, unaware that Bobby was sick in bed. Hearing the shower start, the boy hopped out of bed and peeked down the hall. Bobby noticed that the door to the attic was open, so he crept up the creaky stairs to inspect Mickey’s lair.

Clothes lay heaped on the floor and the lacquer box sat neatly at the foot of the bed. Bobby had never noticed that it was painted—a pair of birds and large flowers on its side. On the dresser he spied a photo of soldiers standing in front of a helicopter, one much larger than the ones he’d seen on M*A*S*H*. Mickey’s wind breaker, the one he always wore to work, was hanging on the back of a chair. Bobby still heard the shower downstairs so he gently lifted it to try on. Beneath the jacket was a small gun tucked in a worn, leather holster. Breathlessly, the boy ran his fingers over the rough grip of the weapon. At that moment the pipes rattled below the floor, indicating the shower had stopped. Bobby took a final glance around the room and quickly fled downstairs.

While making sandwiches together that evening, Bobby noticed a small triangle of colour peeking out from the arm of Mickey’s T-shirt.

“Is that a tattoo?”

“Yes,” he said, not looking up from slicing a tomato.

“Were you in the war?”

“Yes I was.”

“Can I see your tattoo?”

Mouth set grimly, Mickey sighed and lay down the knife. He rolled up the shirt to reveal a red lightning bolt with the number 23 at its center.

“Cool. What’s the number? That how many guys you’ve killed?”

“No, that was the number of my regiment,” he said, idly scratching a jagged scar on his other arm. Bobby was a bright kid and, having watched enough TV shows about war vets, figured Mickey was an undercover cop. He was like Kojak—without the lollypop, like Baretta—without the cockatoo. Starsky without Hutch.

The house was unbearably warm that summer and Mickey, when at home, often dragged Bobby outdoors on his “Get Bobby away from TV” initiative. Mickey taught him to play catch and soccer and even badminton. The physical activities were fun, yet foreign to the boy as he and his dad had only ever watched TV.

Bobby discovered Mickey smoking on the back stairs one evening. He stared into the garden’s depths as if seeking a safe passage through the thick patches of sunflowers and hollyhocks. His long, nicotine-stained fingers pinched a small, wrinkled cigarette that smelled unusual yet strangely pleasant to the boy.

“New brand of cigarettes?”

“Yeah, but it’s no good for me and I think it’s high time I quit,” he said as he ground the dead end into his plastic ashtray.

On a warm October evening, after eating pastrami on rye, Bobby saw Mickey for the last time. They were laughing, wrestling among the crisp leaves that obscured the front lawn. Bobby was pinned and conceding defeat when a red Pinto, its windows tinted, pulled up to the curb. It idled noisily for a moment and then the horn beeped twice. Mickey frowned and held up a finger, motioning the driver to wait. He dashed into the house and returned wearing his wind breaker.

Mickey tousled Bobby’s hair as he passed. “See ya later, kid,” he shouted and jumped into the passenger seat of the waiting vehicle.

Bobby chased after the car as it drove away, its exhaust pipe emitting blue puffs. They hung momentarily in the air, like smoke from his dad’s clay pipe, but a light breeze spirited them away.

Mickey did not return the next morning. Not the day after that either. A week after his disappearance, Bobby’s mother emerged from the attic carrying his lacquer box. He followed her out the front door and wept as she passed it to the men in the black sedan. They soon got a new lodger, and Mickey G. was never spoken of again.

Bobby still thought about him, though, while watching Magnum on TV.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Saint Pierre, part trois

I now present the third and final instalment of photos of the Saint Pierre visit. This is, of course, the topic the horror writers have been waiting for. The cemetery with its above-ground tombs in various states of disrepair. I don't know entirely why they are above ground, similar to New Orleans. If I were to hazard a guess it would be because the soil is shallow and very rocky much like many locations in Newfoundland.

I recall reading at some point during our visit that the cemetery was established in the late 1800's but has been relocated twice in its history. It is shown on the tourist map on the Saint Pierre website and listed as one of their attractions to visit. It's a strange feeling walking about the site, spread out across the top of the hillside west of the 'downtown' area.

The tombs are many shapes, sizes and colours much like the older dwellings within the town itself. Many tombs are well-tended and are no doubt often visited. Others are in complete disarray, perhaps because the family members have long ago left the community. There is a great view of the town and harbour from the cemetery (if the fog has lifted) and a view of the hillside that backs the town to the north. I'll stop yapping now and let the photos speak for themselves.

BTW, the banner above is a 'panoramic' shot of 3 photos stitched together by our camera...V likes to experiment with the camera. I thought it would look better shown up there rather than squashing it into a space in the post. For those who didn't get tortured enough enjoyed the photos, I will load them (and some that I didn't show) on my Facebook page over the next few days.

Does anyone know what the little 'port holes' are for?

Seeing that little window open kinda gives me the creeps...

This one kind of speaks for itself.

The End.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Saint Pierre, part deux

In this segment, I have included photos from: the streets of Saint Pierre, in a restaurant and inside the modern Musée et Archives de la Collectivité Territoriale de Saint-Pierre et Miquelon. Or as I prefer to call it...the Museum.

The streets were foggy and drizzly most of our visit but I have tried to include a few pictures that show the hilly nature of the town and the colourful homes, qualities it shares with neighbouring Newfoundland. Three days (one evening, 2 full days, and a morning) are enough to take in everything as you can walk from one end of town to the other in about 1/2 hour.

There is a small museum of cinema, but we avoided it as it was a bit pricey to get in and smelled like granny's damp basement. The main Museum, however, is very modern and heavily subsidized by the French government. There are a lot of artifacts depicting the early fishing heritage of the islands and displays that describe the history of the early native settlers. Again, a background similar to that of Newfoundland. The guillotine is very popular with the tourists but is tucked away in a corner as if they were embarrased at its presence. Interesting. You can browse the Museum web site here. Not to worry, click on the 'translate' button to get the information in English.

There was one large liquor store in town that had a large selection of many beverages. Sadly, my knowledge of French wines is lacking (c'est dommage!) so I didn't purchase any. However, a fancy 12 year old Scotch winked at me...

We discovered that there are five main restaurants where fine French cuisine was available. It took a day to discover the quirky hours (by our standards, at least). They opened for lunch from about 12 until 2pm and then closed until about 7pm and stayed open until about 10:00pm. A word of advise...a reservation is always necessary in Saint Pierre. I have never been to France, so I can't compare the meals. However, I have been to Montreal and Quebec City and the dining was comparable to the fine eats available in those locations. I had a very nice pepper steak one night and a fillet of cod with a very nice coating of almonds served on a bed of peppers. I could continue but I think we should move on to the pictures.

Street scene looking east towards the harbour

Narrow streets and colourful houses aplenty

The duck house in the pond near the cemetery

Once a forge, this building demonstrates the architecture of over 100 years ago. The use of timbers, filled in with bricks is visible on the near end wall

The gardens in front of the cemetery

A small French import called an Aixam. How small is it? Scroll down....



Yep, that's me protecting my privates with a plastic bag. Small car, eh?

This was the logo just to the left of the door (V took this photo, not me...)

Relaxing in a nice restaurant after a day of walking in the fog

Can't go wrong with caramel cheesecake and coffee (anyone hungry yet?)

One of the many artifacts on display in the Museum and Archives. Admission price is 4 Euros each (about $5.50)

While in the museum, a wedding party arrived for photos in the premises.

The happy couple...and a little kid. That reminds me, Cathy Olliffe has been nagging me about a wedding story to post at her blog. Ours was a sordid affair...should I participate?

The infamous guillotine. It was used in 1889. The one and only execution by guillotine in North America.

Slide on in. Try it on for size.

Want a cliche? A clean, close shave...

I hope you enjoyed the second installment. I'll close off here but will return for the final segment, part trois, where I shall continue the morbidity with a pictorial tour of the Saint Pierre cemetery.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Saint Pierre, part une

I have quite a few photos to bore you with present to you about Saint Pierre, so I'll break this into three segments.

A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I spent three days on the French islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon just off the coast of the Burin Peninsula here in Newfoundland. It's a little known location to most of the population of North America. I only learned of the 'overseas collectivity' just four years ago when we moved here. Most school age children in Newfoundland are familiar with Saint Pierre as they often run school trips there as part of French language programs.

The archipelago has a population of about 6200 people, about 5500 of whom live on the smaller island of Saint Pierre to the south. The ferry from Fortune takes about 1 hour 45 min to cross to Saint Pierre. The ferry, though, does not take cars so we left our van in a secure compound back in Fortune. I was surprised at how many of the passengers on the ferry were French citizens on their way home from visiting/shopping in Newfoundland. We were later to discover that many of the young people finish school and attend universities in Quebec as well as France.

The islands, similar to the coastal areas of Newfoundland, have a long history of disputes over the fishing grounds. Saint Pierre and Miquelon changed hands between the English and the French a number of times since its early occupation in the 16th century. The islands also have a strong Basque influence passed down through generations from the early settlers. You can read more in the Wikipedia article here about Saint Pierre and Miquelon. The article about the more populated island of Saint Pierre can be read here.

Oil rig Henry Goodrich in Marystown for a 2 month refit from White Rose Oilfield

A shot from the ferry at a neighbouring island as we neared the harbour

Sorry a bit of the zodiac tours available out of Saint Pierre

A harbour view of Saint Pierre as we approached the dock

Another view of Saint Pierre from the harbour

Yet another shot of town from the harbour...bored yet?

Another ferry in the harbour. For tours, I believe

School age kids getting sailing lessons on a foggy morning

A sailboat leaving the foggy harbour

Lighthouse to the east of the town

Fishermen's huts near the lighthouse

Place handle into vertical spindle to crank boat in from water


Ok, I'm sure that you've seen enough now. Take a break before I drop in another cassette and continue the slide show in Part Deux. This will have a few street scenes and the museum that houses the infamous guillotine. For those that want more information about tourism in Saint Pierre, they have a pretty good web page with information on hotels, B & B's, transportation, maps and tours available about town and to the islands of Miquelon and Langlade. Click here.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Fragility of Insular Bubbles

I had been planning to post a few photos yesterday. Some pics I had promised from our recent excursion to the French island of Saint Pierre off our coast. I was stunned into silence, though, when I turned on my computer to find post after post about the untimely death of an online writer I was familiar with.

Jamie Eyberg and his wife Ann died last weekend in a tragic accident in the well on their rural Iowa farm. I won't bother posting links to the story as those of you familiar with Jamie have probably already linked to it through Aaron Polson's blog.

I don't think that Jamie ever followed my blog, or at least not that I am aware of. I followed his because he was part of the first circle of bloggers/writers I became involved with online; writers superior to myself that I knew I could learn something from. Eventually it was evident to me that I learned less about writing from his blog (link to some of his stories here) and more about what a great husband and father he was to his wife and children.

I have come to view my online friendships a bit like a Venn diagram, as shown on the left. I know what this is because of supervising my son while doing his grade 8 math homework this past year. These online communities are individual circles with myself (or yourself) nestled comfortably in the center.

I wonder, now, if it's more as Aaron described in his post about the death of Jamie. He referred to the online community as 'strange, insular bubbles'. This works a lot better for me. Since hearing about the death of Jamie and his wife yesterday morning I have been left in a bit of a fog (both figuratively and literally...this is St. John's after all).

How can I be bothered by the death of somebody I barely know? After thinking about it for a while, I've concluded that indeed their deaths were tragic, but I feel sadness more for their children, Kennedy and Brendan...those left behind. Their deaths remind me, in a way, of my sister's untimely death back in 1984 and how it affected the family and friends she left behind. Whether our relationships are in person or online doesn't change the nature of those insular bubbles. They are fragile and we must enjoy them for as long as possible.

My thoughts and sympathies go out to the Eyberg family.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Horror Meme

The incomparable Aaron Polson has tagged me in a horror meme over at his blog. Also picked to play were horror writers Jameson T. Caine (whose story 'The Wind Whispers My Name' is up this week at 52 Stitches), Kara McElhinny, Jamie Eyberg and Cate Gardner.

The premise for this meme is simple: If you're tagged, create a blog entry with screen shots from horror films that follow a central theme. Below are my photo selections. I can't say what all of the movies are, but the images are fairly nasty at times. This meme has moved about for a couple of days so I won't bother tagging anybody. Though, if you are a horror buff, consider yourself a tagged for this meme and come up with some horrific images of your own. If you are a dog lover, I recommend you pop over to Wag the Fox who posted a number of photos photos of dogs in horror films.

I'll save you the bother of guessing my theme as it's fairly obvious. In my opinion, the use of children in horror is the subject matter that hits home the most with the viewing public. I think that it touches something primal in the adult viewer, especially if they have small children. The thought of evil happenings to the most vulnerable of our society is most horrific.

I have attached a dozen photos that I found with a few searches on the internet. I'll note here that not all of the photos are from horror films and I'll start with the tamest and move along to the most graphic. Viewer discretion is advised, ladies and gentlemen. Make sure the kids aren't peeking over your shoulder. But keep them near by to give a hug to later. Evil, yet cute

Bad, bad boys

Evil-eyed school children

Partially buried children (Ick)

Cute, yet evil
Eyeless dolls

Young, bloody vampires (Let The Right One In, 2008)

Poor, poor Regan (The Exorcist, 1973)

Black eyes & bloody mouth (this one will give me nightmares tonight)

Evil mother and child dolls

Zombie mother and child-to-be

Black-eyed, bloody and innocent (*sigh* more nightmares)