Thursday, December 29, 2011

Retrospecticus, 2011

   Well here we are at the end of another year. For me 2011 flew by just as fast as any other year, and they seem to get faster as I get older. A lot has happened in my life this year, and honestly the majority of it hasn't been all that great, but I'm not going to write about that. There were plenty of great experiences this year, and the positive memories from those experiences far outweigh the bad ones.
   This is the time of year when most people will sum up the past year in list form. Everything from news stories to favorite songs are usually put out in a Top Ten list, so following that format I've decided to share my Top Ten Memories of 2011.
  1. Mexico. From Feb. 25 to March 4th, my wife and I took our first ever trip to Mexico and stayed in a nice, all inclusive, beach front resort in the beautiful city of Puerto Vallarta. I could go on and on telling stories from that trip, but that would fill this page. Seeing humpback whales and exotic birds up close and steering a 47-foot sailboat by myself are definite highlights, but my wife and I also took in the local culture and didn't just stick to all the usual tourist traps. We also made some new friends that I hope to see again sometime soon. Overall, that whole week was the best week of the year.
  2. Half My Life With My Wife. In August my wife and I celebrated 17 years as a couple, and we've been married for three of those years. I was 17 when we met and I'm 34 as I write this, so that means we've been together for half my life! I've got no problem being with her for the rest of my life, too! :)
  3. A Day At Wild Play. On a nice day in July my wife and I got together with a bunch of our good friends and spent the afternoon going through Wild Play Amusement Park's "Monkido" course. The course is made up of different obstacles suspended from trees such as tight ropes, zip lines, rope climbing, and all kinds of other challenges. Everyone is rigged in for safety and just goes at their own pace. I have no fear of heights, so that was no issue for me, but some of those obstacles were still pretty tough. It was worth it though. All of us felt a hell of a sense of accomplishment when we got through it. Afterwards, all of us unwound near a historic lighthouse then went to our homes to freshen up and later reconvened at one friend's house for a few drinks. A perfect day.
  4. My Turn on The Zone. This was just back in October when my favorite local radio station allowed regular listeners like myself to come in each day throughout the month to guest host our own one hour shows - playing our favorite songs, and chatting on air with the host. The real deal! I had a lot of fun during my turn, though when I listen to the playback I think I rambled a bit too much about my job during one segment. Nerves, I guess. Fortunately the host Pol helped me stay on track and I redeemed my cool factor by playing some great songs.
  5. Jump Ship. The word "epic" gets tossed around a lot these days and doesn't always apply, but honestly epic is the best way to sum up that day. It started with gathering in Victoria's Inner Harbour with our friends to watch a bunch of BMX riders perform stunts on a barge tied up to the dock (thus the title Jump Ship), and the day just took off from there. After the event the lot of us wandered around downtown for a while, stopped for lunch, wandered some more, saw a bunch of naked cyclists, made our way to my home, then up to the lake nearby to meet another friend, then back to my home, then out for dinner, then finally out to another friend's house for drinks. Again, epic.
  6. Sam Roberts. Now there`s a Canadian artist I`ve been wanting to see in concert for a while now and this year I finally had my chance. Mr. Roberts and his band rolled into town in October and played at the historic Royal Theatre and just the venue alone was worth the admission. What a beautiful building with great acoustics! The show went on for roughly two hours and everyone was moving. They played all of their well known hits and extended a few of them with nice little jams giving each musician a little solo here and there. I hate to say it, Sam, but I think your saxophone player stole the show a few times! I`d see them again if they come back to Victoria.
  7. The Zone`s Toy Drive. I wrote about this event not too long ago. This was the second year I took part in the radio station`s Christmas Toy Drive and I`ll do it again next year too. It all goes to such a great cause and it makes me feel good to know I`ve done my small part to make some underprivileged children happy during the holidays.
  8. My Birthday. As I mentioned above, I turned 34 this year, and this was the first time in many years that more than just one of my friends was able to make it to my birthday party. Thanks for coming out and making it a good one, guys. Just six more weeks until my 35th!
  9. Building RMS Titanic (in 1/700 scale). I haven`t built a model ship since I was in my early teens, but in the summer of 2010 a good friend of mine, knowing my fondness of ships, gave me a plastic kit of the famous ocean liner saying it would look good in my den/office. It sat on my shelf until I finally had some time off last winter, then I went out to get some supplies and paint and had a go at building the kit. I started just before Christmas and finished this year just after my birthday in February. It does look good here in the den! I`m quite proud of how it turned out.
  10.  Highest Roof In Town. The job site itself may have been a nightmare with so many other different trades around, and our task at hand was a daunting one to say the least, but there`s something to be said for having the privilege of seeing the city from a perspective that few people ever get to see it from. Although geographically there are higher points around Victoria, none offer the view you get from the roof of the 23-storey Orchard House building near Beacon Hill Park. When it wasn`t raining, it was downright beautiful up there and made up for all the job related crap we had to deal with. It also helped that a few of the guys I was working with are good friends of mine. If we didn`t have each other to vent to, we would have likely un-clipped our safety gear and taken a dive! (Okay kidding, but it was a rough job.) Thank goodness for good friends.

   So there you have it. Ten highlights from an otherwise not so great year. I`m looking forward to 2012, even if the Mayans are right and the world ends. I`m going to try to make the most of it, and you should too. Remember the people who are most important to you in your life and make time for them. Do things you wouldn`t normally do, but be safe about it. You want to make sure that if there is a 2013 you`re here to see it.
   Until next year, my friends.

The Wandering Oak

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Christmas Poem About Our Cat

This follows the rhythm of the 1822 classic “The Night Before Christmas”.

'Twas just days before Christmas and all through our flat, the only creature 'twas stirring was our little cat.

We awoke late last night to the sound of a clatter, followed quite promptly by an ominous shatter...

Three o'clock in the morning and without any warning, our cat had decided to do some exploring.

From the top of our book case, about 5 feet tall, he knocked over a jar which bounced off the wall.

A collection of rocks, found on various beaches, mixed in with the glass now in razor sharp pieces.

Fearing he might get a swat on the ass, kitty ran off and hid as we cleaned up the glass.

Soon kitty came back to the scene of his crime, but we’d never hit him. We love our feline.

So we found a container to hold all our rocks, then crawled back to bed until, oh, 6 o'clock.

The Wandering Oak
A Note From The Author: Based on the 1822 Clement Clarke Moore classic “Twas The Night Before Christmas” (also known as “A Visit From St. Nicholas”), I originally wrote this in 2005 and posted it on a former blog that I’m no longer maintaining. It then appeared in my Notes on Facebook back in 2007. For 2011 I made a few minor adjustments to the phrasing and added another line.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Another Successful Year For The Zone's Toy Drive

   For the second year in a row, Zone listeners have knocked it out of the park and have made the Second Annual Toy Drive a huge success, and it never ceases to amaze me just how generous people can be even in hard times.
   This is what the pile looked like when I arrived just after 8:30 this morning...

   The event is put on by my favorite local modern rock radio station and benefits the St. Vincent De Paul Social Concern Office. Interestingly enough, one of the women that works for SVDP happens to be the mother of morning show host Dylan, and she is certainly one of the nicest women I have met.
   I participated in this event last year, and I was more than happy to take part this year. For me it feels good to help others because I didn't have a lot when I was growing up. In fact, I can remember a few Christmases that would not have happened if it wasn't for the kindness of strangers. Although I couldn't donate a lot, I still showed up with a bag full of cute stuffed animals that I know will make some kids very happy this Christmas. Then I stuck around and mingled with  the Zone staff and everyone else who was there as we watched the pile grow and grow.
   This is what the pile looked like less than two hours later...
   You can't even see the sleigh anymore! I stuck around until the end to help load the truck, and believe me when I tell you it was full! There were cash and cheque donations made as well, and last I heard the total was around $6000! Zoners, give yourselves a pat on the back!
   A few other personal highlights for me are:
  • Getting a round of applause when I arrived with my toys. Everyone got applause as they arrived and it just feels good, doesn't it?
  • Making morning show host Jason laugh with my "I'm a knock-off" joke. It's always funny when you can make a comedian laugh instead of the other way around.
  • Getting a new Zone lanyard. I just mentioned in passing that my old one is wearing out and wasn't expecting Allie from promotions to find a new one for me. Thank you so much, Allie!
  • After helping to load the SVDP truck, Dylan's mom gave me a big hug. Did I mention that she's one of the nicest women I've met?
   I'm happy that the Zone has made this an annual event. I will definitely be there next year! My friends on Facebook can see more photos from this morning once I get them posted. Happy Holidays!!!

The Wandering Oak

Friday, October 28, 2011

Elementary School Hero

   Today I am a hero to one young man at the elementary school I've been working at this week. I've got to say it feels pretty good too. Here's the story:
   Wednesday afternoon was just like every other day. I showed up at the school near the end of the day when all the kids were about to leave, checked in at the office, and went about my normal routine of setting up my ladder and my paints. Most of the time I pretty much ignore the kids as I go about my job and they generally ignore me, though there are a lot of curious little ones that will stop to ask me what I'm doing.
   "I'm painting these pipes."
   "Because they're all rusty and ugly, so I'm going to make them look nice."
   Anyone with kids knows that this kind of conversation can go back and forth like that for a long time, but it doesn't bother me. I was just as curious when I was that age.
   Anyway, back to my story. So Wednesday afternoon I was up on my ladder painting away and I couldn't help but notice that there was one little boy who was very upset about something. It turns out he had lost his treasured Vancouver Canucks jersey and he was heart broken. It was an authentic, kid-sized NHL jersey too, not one of the cheap ones. The poor kid looked high and low for that jersey and was convinced someone had stolen it. I felt so bad for him.
   The next day as I was setting up again I saw that the kid still looked pretty upset over losing his jersey, but there was nothing anyone could do about it. It hadn't turned up in the lost and found box so it seemed as though it was gone forever. But it wasn't.
   Later that evening, long after everyone had gone home and it was only myself and the janitor in the building, I started painting above the stage in the gym. As I was working I had to move the heavy red curtain and lo and behold I spotted a little bit of blue and green poking out from under it. Sure enough, I lifted the curtain and there was this little Canucks jersey. I'm not surprised the kid didn't see it because when the curtain was pulled open the jersey must have gotten caught underneath it, dragged to the far right hand side of the stage, and pushed into the corner.
   So I took off my gloves to avoid getting paint on the jersey, gave it a good shake to get the dust off it, and promptly took it to the office. I didn't want to just leave it in the lost and found box where anyone could just take it. I then wrote a little note on a scrap of paper explaining the story with the jersey and to make sure that it was returned to its rightful owner.
   Just to make sure this story has a happy ending I called the school this morning. Sure enough, the jersey I found did belong to that kid and, according to the secretary, he was "thrilled to get it back." I wish I could have seen the look on the kid's face. It's too bad I'm not going to return to that school tonight as I have a job to do elsewhere, but it still feels good to know I've made that kid's day. I'm like a hero to him now, apparently.
   Sometimes something so small can make a big difference to a kid. Hopefully he's learned to pay a little more attention to his belongings.
   That's my story, dear friends. I hope it made you smile.

The Wandering Oak

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

On The Air

   I have some exciting news, dear readers! You may recall in a previous blog that I mentioned I want to take a course that will hopefully get me back into working in the wonderful world of radio broadcasting. What? You don't remember? Didn't see the blog? Well, scroll two blogs down for a second. I'll wait...
   Caught up yet? Alright. Well here's the news: My favorite local modern rock radio station The Zone @ 91.3 is doing something all this month called My Turn Month in which regular listeners like myself get to host our own one hour show playing some of our favorite songs and chatting about whatever. From the hundreds, possibly thousands, of applicants for My Turn they chose mine! That's right, I get a chance to be on the air!
   My Turn on the air will take place tomorrow, Wednesday Oct. 26th, from 11:00am to 12:00 Noon Pacific time. Am I nervous? Only a little. Mostly, I'm excited. I've been on the radio before, but that was back in the late 90's at a small town AM radio station that was strictly formatted and played some awful music. I think my toaster has more wattage than that old station did. This is an opportunity for me to get a taste of what it's like to work for a big market FM station. I'll be sitting in the same room that countless rock stars and local celebrities have sat in, not to mention all the cool people who have had their chance at My Turn before me. Can we say stoked?
   What will I talk about? Well, I'm not sure. I'll most likely end up talking about my life as a painter here in Victoria. I might even answer that age-old question: Why do painters wear white? You'll have to listen Wednesday to find out.
    If you don't live in Victoria or within broadcast range you can go to The Zone's Website and click on "Listen Live". Remember I'll be on the air from 11:00am to Noon local Victoria time. Hope to see you there! Oh, wait, it's radio. I won't see you. Okay, tune in tomorrow. Yeah, that sounds better.
   Until then, this concludes my broadcast day. :)

"I sit alone and watch your lights. My only friend through teenage nights. And everything I had to know, I heard it on my radio." Queen - Radio Ga Ga
The Wandering Oak

Monday, October 3, 2011

Road Re Do

   All summer long the neighborhood I live in has been undergoing a major transformation. The shopping centre down the street is being erected at break neck speed and the highway behind my building has been repaved. None of that is as bad as the road re do going on in front of my home.
   Imagine waking up to this outside your bedroom window at 7:00am...
Notice how only a couple of guys are doing the work while the rest of them are just standing around talking about it.

   I understand that upgrades need to be done. Old utility lines and sewer pipes need replacing every few decades. What I can't understand is why is seems like they're doing everything twice. Or several times over for that matter. The crew will dig a hole and cart the dirt off in dump trucks, then they'll do whatever work needs to be done and bring in new dirt by the truckload. Then, the very next day, they'll dig that same spot back up and repeat the process. Can't they get it right the first time?
   Perhaps the biggest blunder has been with the sidewalks. New sidewalks were poured last week and they've already had to break some of them up and re pour them. In some spots it's because they forgot to install something underneath and in others I'm guessing the measurements were off. Again, can't they get it right the first time?
   More than anything else, I wish it would rain more. The dust generated by all of this has completely coated the entire neighborhood and the watering trucks have failed to keep up.
   I also miss the oak trees that were outside my home when I moved here last year and I really hope they replace them with new trees. Since the new sidewalks will be right at eye level with my kitchen window, and 10 feet closer, I really feel like we've lost our privacy. Here's a wider view of what the area looked like last summer...

   The old retaining wall shown in this picture has been completely covered over and the new wall shown in the first picture is much closer to my balcony. The new sidewalks are right about where those trees were. I hate people staring into my home as they walk by.

   I know that when all is said and done we'll have a nice new road outside our home and things will be quiet again, but it sure has taken a long time. The original bulletin said "July to September", but the new projected end date is sometime in late November! My tax dollars at work indeed. I hate to say this, but sometimes my wife and I regret buying into this building. Too bad houses on nice quiet streets are stupidly expensive in this city.

The Wandering Oak

Friday, September 16, 2011

Has It Really Been Seven Months?

   Indeed it has. Seven months since my last post here. I really can't explain the long hiatus. Call it a serious case of writer's block I guess. Actually, a few of my hobbies have been neglected lately. I don't play my guitars as often as I used to (though I still pick one up now and then), and I haven't taken too many photos recently.
   A lot has happened in the last seven months that I could have written about, both good things and bad things, but I never really intended this blog to be one of those daily diary blogs so there's only so much of my personal life I'm willing to share with the Internet.
   I can say that my work life has really taken up the majority of my time lately. I think my job's also what's been completely draining the inspiration from my life. I started working for a different company a few months ago and it's been a difficult transition to say the least. While I still take pride in my work, recent events have made me realize that I don't want to do what I'm doing for very much longer.
   So it's time for a change, and that's where there's some good news in this post. I'm going to go back to school. I'm interested in an Applied Communications course that could lead to a career in arts and media such as radio, advertising, music production, film, or anything else in that field. I had a part time job years ago at a radio station and I loved it. In fact, I'd say that stands as my favorite job so far in my working life, so why mot persue what makes me happy? This time with proper training.
   Nothing's carved in stone yet, and it may be some time before the course begins, but I have been registered to attend an information session next month so we'll see what happens. I'm optimistic.
   In the mean time, I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing and make the most of it. I'm also going to make an effort to write more. I forgot how good it feels to write.

The Wandering Oak

Monday, February 7, 2011


   Tomorrow is February 8th, which might already be today wherever you are in the world reading this, and I'm celebrating my 34th birthday. I share my birthday with my very good friend Jennifer and I must pause here for the obligatory shout out.
Happy Birthday, Jennifer!!! I sure hope the card I mailed her got there in time.

   I'm okay with getting older. The way I see it, I'm still young enough to have fun in life, but I'm old enough to be smart about it. Adult responsibilities like having a job, being a good husband, and paying my bills and mortgage take priority of course, but I can still cut loose and have fun with my friends once in a while. Such was the case this past weekend when some friends of ours came by for a little pre-birthday party and I got delightfully inebriated. Pictures will appear on my facebook page soon enough. When I wasn't getting up for another drink, or to mingle, I played my guitar for most of the evening and must have sounded better than I give myself credit for. One friend actually told me I sounded so close to the songs I was covering he forgot it was me playing! I'll take that as a compliment, thank you!
   In all honesty I can ask for nothing more for my birthday than that. The feeling I get from having such great friends and family, and of course my beautiful wife. I really wouldn't be me without all of you.
   Okay, I must confess, there is one thing I look forward to on my birthday, the bombardment of greetings I get on my facebook page. I'm sure most of you can relate. All year long you do your best to acknowledge every one's birthdays no matter how well you know them on facebook or in the real world, and then you get that one day out of 365 (or 366 on a leap year) where it seems like the Internet revolves around you. It feels pretty good doesn't it? Or is it just me?
   So again to my friend Jennifer, and anyone else born on Feb. 8th, Happy Birthday!
I leave you with a great quote I got from a cousin of mine (not sure where he got it from), "Nice guys finish last... cause we're too busy helping others get there first."

The Wandering Oak
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