Growing up, I’d heard the story many times: grandpa was a young sailor with the merchant marines when his ship that sunk at sea, grandma saw the newspaper article with his photo and dreamed of marrying him years before she’d met him, the incredible twist of fate that brought them together, and the moment she was shocked to find out he was the man from the newspaper article years earlier.
I’ve always wanted to document my grandparents’ story, not just because it’s so fascinating and unique but because, in a way, it’s my entire family’s story. As it’s Valentine’s Day, I thought the time was right to finally write it, and I feel extremely privileged and honoured to have been able to do so for Zoomer Magazine:
On August 27, 1946, violent ocean winds pummeled the merchant marine freighter Fort Boise against the unforgiving rocks off Dog Island shoal, near the coast of eastern Canada. Fog engulfed the doomed vessel and, according to an account in the Toronto Daily Star, the wind and waves conspired to, “(break) her back within an hour.” Blind in the haze and tossed about in the wreckage, the crew made a desperate dash for the lifeboats….
In Toronto, the annual launch of the Canadian National Exhibition, or The Ex, often serves as the wake-up call that summer is almost through. Then, once Labour Day hits, the reality sets in that summer’s done and it’s time to start thinking about Thanksgiving, Halloween and, soon enough, Christmas (only 115 shopping days left!).
Now, before the end of season depression kicks in, consider that things could be much worse come Tuesday morning. I personally count myself lucky as someone who is working in the profession he always wanted to. But it’s hard to imagine someone aspiring to be, say, a funeral clown or a lunatic keeper.
Sound ridiculous? I would have thought so too. Then I did some research for a piece for Zoomer magazine called “Labour Day: Be Happy You Don’t Have These Jobs.” These professions existed, along with many other strange and often extinct ones like it. Some are questionable, while others top modern lists as professions considered “the worst” in Canada or the U.S.
So for those dreading Tuesday morning, read the Zoomer article and count yourself lucky that at least you’re not going back to your job as the person with the bucket who stands under the elephant. What am I talking about, you ask? Read it and you’ll understand. Trust me.
Actually, it’s Sugar Beach in Toronto. Personally, I find it hard enough to get into the beach-going spirit in man-made sunning spots, where the sand is kept within a neat patch of land surrounded by sidewalks and large buildings. It doesn’t exactly scream “day at the beach.” However, when there’s a large rusty tanker dominating the view from your Muskoka chair it completely kills the illusion.
The image of people at the beach with the tanker in the background evokes a post-apocolyptic city — a manufactured urban landscape, synthetic, even toxic. The funny thing is, the adjoining park and boardwalk near the Chorus entertainment building, and the building itself, is quite nice. In a city where condo developers (or more recently, enterprising casino builders) circle around empty patches of waterfront like birds of prey, it’s not a bad place to visit on a sunny afternoon. Just don’t turn your head to the right.
A few weeks ago, walking along Toronto’s harbourfront, I was approached by a curious little duck who proceeded to stare up at me before taking some time to chew on my shoelace.
Luckily, I had my camera on my and started to take a few shots as this little guy tried to figure out what this clicking machine that I stuck in his face was. He was a great subject too — he seemed to pose every time I wanted to take a shot. I guess it was a duck version of “blue steel.”
I left after a few minutes to run to the store, but when I returned a passing dog had scared him away and I was left standing with a loaf of bread and no fowl to feed. That meant a lot of sandwiches for the next week or so. And with every corned beef or tuna and cheese, I thought of him.
Photo courtesy of Benurs - Learning and learning... via Flickr (CC)
I saw this really sweet, genuine situation play out on the subway after work the other day and I’ve been meaning to write about it. This is all 100% true, which is why I want to share it:
An upbeat, joyful girl, probably around 22 or so, came walking through our crowded subway car during rush hour, handing out lollipops to strangers. She was sweet and trying to spread a little happiness to us weary commuters. She approached a really timid, somewhat lonely looking guy and asked him if he wanted one. Being that she was very beautiful and clearly very forward, the guy looked away shyly and shook his head.
She moved on, sitting at the other end of the car went and began talking with some other people she just met and gave lollipops to. After a few subway stops the really timid guy got up and walked across the car and over to the girl. In front of all the people gathered around he reached into his jacket, pulled out a large Dairy Milk bar, and handed it to her. She was overjoyed and thanked him. All the people she was sitting with applauded his effort and she was beaming with happiness. You could tell it took all his courage to make that simple but bold move. The guy then went back to his original seat without saying a word to the girl or anyone else. He didn’t stop smiling all the way to his stop, and neither did many of the previously grumpy commuters, including myself.
Two strangers on a crowded train during rush hour in the big city, offering gifts without asking for or expecting anything in return. Brilliant.
On the theme of April Fools and jokes, this is a shot taken when I met and interviewed Terry Jones of the legendary British comedy troupe Monty Python. I have a short list of people I hope to meet and interview during my career, and this interview allowed me to check off one of those names. On this day of gags and pranks, I figured I’d post a shot of myself with one of the greatest comedians of all time.