Ernie Kalwa and his Barber Shop

While I was trawling through the archives of Arthur from 1985 this morning, I noticed that there was an ad in every issue for Ernie’s Barber Shop – “Ernie & Pauline, Operators” – on Simcoe Street:

And then, in the issue of November 11, 1985, a review of Ernie’s that I wrote – my first newspaper story (although it ran, oddly, without a byline), headline “Real haircut”:

For the past 15 years, I’d been making the monthly trek out to the old “Long Acres Barber Shop” near home; Kurt, Louis, Joe and Mike were always there, always friendly and had become like members of the family. Moving away meant saying good bye to all that; facing the world on my own: finding a NEW barber.

I roamed the streets of Peterborough … oh there were places to get your hair cut — “Rice’s House of Unisex Hair Design,” “Fernando’s Hairateria”, “The Hair Cutting Ranch” — but no real barbers. In desperation. I let my fingers do the walking and pulled out the yellow pages. There. between “Dynasty Hair Design” and “Esquire Hair Salon” was what I’d been looking for “Ernie’s Barber Shop”.

Quickly I found my way to 173-1/2 Simcoe Street. At first I thought that Ernie’d been bought out by some crazed lawn ornament salesperson. There were all sorts of things — I think they call them “curios” — in the front window. It turned out that Ernie IS the crazed lawn ornament salesperson: I guess you can’t make a living just cutting hair.

I opened the door, walked in, and immediately knew I was in my element. I was greeted by Pauline (Ernie’s protege) and escorted to a real barber chair. Pauline was extremely friendly and my fears disappeared within minutes. The conversation was pleasant, my fellow customers interesting (there’s one lady who comes in nearly every day and has been for the past couple of decades) and the hair cut superb (I was assured that if I wasn’t pleased I could come in anytime and they’d touch it up “on the house”).

That article in Arthur caught the eye of James Ramsay, also an Arthur writer and a Trent student a few years my senior. James also grew up in near Aldershot, and also got his hair cut at the Long Acres Barber Shop. We remain friends to this day.

I had my cut for years thereafter at Ernie’s, sometimes by Ernie, and sometimes by Pauline (although after a while Pauline left and Ernie was on his own). Eventually the original location closed and Ernie opened up in a more modern space around the corner, and I followed him there. Who knows how many times Ernie cut my hair.

Toward the end of my time in Peterborough I went into Ernie’s for what turned out to be my last haircut in the the city and my last hair cut from Ernie. As I was sitting there in the chair with Ernie at work I noticed a newspaper clipped taped to the corner of the mirror: it was my article from Arthur.

I thought about telling Ernie that I was the writer – and for all know he’d figured it out — but I decided to remain anonymous. My haircut done, I paid Ernie, left him a tip, and headed out, a satisfied customer.

I learned this afternoon that Ernie died, of lung cancer, a couple of years ago; here’s his obituary

KALWA, Ernst “Ernie” Erwin, born 26 October 1929 in Osterode, Germany, succumbed to lung cancer in Peterborough on 01 December 2012. Ernie immigrated to Canada in 1953, and came to Peterborough on the recommendation of a man he met on the ship. He found work as an orderly at St Joseph’s Hospital where he met Registered Nurse Muriel Doris Calberry of Hastings. They were married 26th October 1955. He began barbering in 1954, operating Ernie’s Barber Shop on Hunter Street, and later on Simcoe Street, until retiring “a legend in barbering” in September 2012. Ernie was an avid angler and horse-racing enthusiast. He is survived by his loving wife Doris, son Paul Elliott Allen Kalwa of Peterborough, son Ernest Larry Kalwa (Elysia DeLaurentis) of Elora, sister Elli and brother Walter, both of Germany. He is predeceased by his parents Johann and Augusta Kalwa (née Opalka), brothers Adolf and Paul, and sisters Ida and Hedwig, all of Germany.

It amazes me to learn that Ernie was still barbering until two years ago, 27 years after I first walked in his door.

Thank you, Ernie, for filling an important void in my life at an important time. And for getting me started in the writing game.

I Grew up at Trent Radio

Perhaps no institution was as important to my education in my twenties as Trent Radio, the campus-community radio station in Peterborough, Ontario.

My entrée to the station came via an ad in the October 7, 1985 issue of Arthur, the Trent University student newspaper:

Clipping from Arthur, Volume 20, Issue 5

The meeting was well attended: among others there was Betsy Trumpener, Stephen Badhwar, Thomas Haig, and Jake Berkowitz. The product of that first meeting was a radio series we called “Nouspeak” and we were quick off the mark: in the very next issue of Arthur I had this update in the Letters section:

Clipping from Arthur, volume 20 issue 6.

And by the November 11 issue of Arthur we were already running “best of” episodes:

Clipping from Arthur, Volume 20 Issue 9

My first piece aired on Thursday, November 21, 1985; titled “Phoning the Kremlin: Getting the Feel of a Global Village,” it consisted entirely of my attempt to phone somebody at the Kremlin in Moscow, a montage of various conversations with international telephone operators playing over Supertramp’s Fool’s Overture:

Clipping from Arthur, Volume 20 issue 10

While I can’t make any claims to it having been great radio, it was an interesting experience, and I regret that there is no copy extant (my personal copy was stolen in a house break-in some years later).

I continued to be involved with Trent Radio for several years after that initial foray, producing music programs, an experimental unhosted call-in show called “Dead Air” (a tape loop ran over and over inviting callers to phone and “fill up the dead air”; as soon as they called, they went live to air with no intermediation), and a variety of other shows, both musical and spoken word. I worked as an “operator” (Trent Radio parlance for “the person who unlocks the doors and makes sure the producers show up), as the paid programme director. And I took on Trent Radio’s “producer oriented radio” mantra – wherein the emphasis is on radio production, not radio consumption – as a personal one, something that stays with me to this day.

Over the 5 years I spent in and around Trent Radio in various capacities I made good friends, fell in and out of love several times, and learned much, much more than I ever learned in the single year I spent as a student actually enrolled at Trent. It’s not an exaggeration to say that Trent Radio is where I grew up, and I owe the institution a great debt for that.

I was moved to write all this because today is the day that Trent Radio is celebrating Trent University’s 50th birthday; starting at 17:00 Eastern Daylight Time, you can listen in to the Trent Radio web stream and hear programming from producers-past. Here’s the broadcast schedule, liberated from Facebook:

  • Friday August 8th: 17:00 Barb Woolner; 18:00 Glen Caradus; 19:00 Paul Cleveland; 20:00 Atticus Bakowsky; 21:00 Bill Kimball; 22:00 Laurel Paluck; 23:00 Jack Smye; 23:30 Alex Karas.
  • Saturday August 9th: 00:00 Andrew Foogarasi; 01:00 James Kerr; 02:00 Sable Guttman; 03:00 Anthony Gulston; 04:00 Jess Grover; 05:00 Matt Jarvis; 06:00 Blair Sanderson; 07:00 Stephen Couchman; 08:00 Good & Country; 09:00 Jim Doran; 10:00 Steven May; 11:00 Rob Thompson; 12:00 Me Show; 13:00 Trent Radio Hangout LIVE w/Anthony Gulston & Philip Benmore; 18:00 “Arthur” Live; 21:00 Live from the Sadleir House Dining Hall.
  • Sunday August 10th: 02:00 “A” is for Aftermath w/Joe Lewis.

I recognize many of those names, and I’ll be listening.

But I didn't like when others did so...

I’ve been reading House: A Memoir, by Michael Ruhlman, and really enjoying it. Who would have thought you could make a chapter on pre-purchase home inspection a gripping read?

The book, in addition to being a blow-by-blow account of the purchase and renovation of an old Cleveland home, is also a paean to Cleveland itself.

Ruhlman writes, while walking over the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge, for example:

I loved traversing this bridge for this view of the city and its terrain, a city beside a river basic. And I loved Cleveland unabashedly, but like most here I have a bipolar relationship with it. I could adore it and denigrate it in the same breath, often for the same reasons. But I didn’t like when others did so.

Could the same thing not be said about Prince Edward Islanders?

Indeed, not understanding this very fact is likely a primary reason why new Islanders are so often chewed up and spat out: unless you can find the right tone at the right time – and “the right time” involves a 10 to 15 year long quiet period – it’s usually best to say nothing critical about the Island lest your opinions be taken not as the loving self-criticism of one who belongs but rather as a holier-than-thou pronouncement from one who doesn’t.

Bertha Called

The Old Farmer’s Almanac long-range weather forecast for the Atlantic Canada region for today called for “tropical storm threat”:

Screen shot from showing long-range forecast.

Environment Canada’s tropical cyclone information statement for today:

Bertha is now being declared a post-tropical storm. The forecast for offshore waters remains unchanged. Minimal effects for land areas except for some ocean swells.

Like they say:

However, although neither we nor any other forecasters have as yet gained sufficient insight into the mysteries of the universe to predict the weather with total accuracy, our results are almost always very close to our traditional claim of 80 percent.

Hacking The Guild Calendar

The Guild, which is home to the Reinventorium, is also home to a black-box theatre, a theatre that happens to be located less than an arm’s length through the wall in front of my desk where I type.

This theatre plays host to a rollicking schedule of productions over the summer months, and while I’m generally happy to have my work happen in a space that oozes creativity, sometimes that oozing interferes with the quiet contemplation needed to do complex digital work.

All of which is to say: sometimes it’s hard to get work done when a troupe of fresh-faced triple threats is belting out Anne of Green Gables-themed show tunes in the room next door.

So the question then becomes: when is this happening?

The snappy new Guild website has a helpful calendar right on the front page, but the schedule information there isn’t much use to me if I’m not making a daily visit to the website: I want the information on the same day-to-day calendar that I used to manage everything else in my life, a calendar that appears on my laptop, my iPad and my phone and automatically syncs among the three.

So the question becomes: how to liberate the calendar information of of its website prison and into a shareable object?

This turned out not to be too difficult; here’s how I did it.

Look under the Hood

Firebug is a very useful tool for looking under the hood of a website: it’s like a super-charged version of “View Source.” Using Firebug’s “Network” tab, I watched as the The Guild website loaded:

The Guild website loads as I watch in Firebug's Network tab.

I noticed that one of the things to happen as an HTTP POST to a script called admin-ajax.php with the following parameters:


The important bits here appeared to be the start and end, which were unixtime values for July 25, 2014 and September 7, 2014 respectively, which is that range of dates on this month’s calendar.

The response from this POST was a JSON-encoded array with the events taking place between these start and end dates, like this:

    "id": "10",
    "title": "Anne & Gilbert, The Musical",
    "start": "2014-07-29 13:30:00",
    "end": "2014-07-29 15:30:00",
    "allDay": "",
    "className": "cat4 aec-repeating",
    "editable": "",
    "repeat_i": "1",
    "repeat_f": "1",
    "repeat_e": "2014-10-11"
    "id": "10",
    "title": "Anne & Gilbert, The Musical",
    "start": "2014-08-05 13:30:00",
    "end": "2014-08-05 15:30:00",
    "allDay": "",
    "className": "cat4 aec-repeating",
    "editable": "",
    "repeat_i": "1",
    "repeat_f": "1",
    "repeat_e": "2014-10-11"

The important bits of information here were the title, the start and end date, and the “cat” in the “className” element. The “cat” was important because the calendar lists both theatre shows and art gallery shows, and I only want the theatre shows on my calendar, so I want to exclude any event with “cat1”.

Converting JSON to iCalendar

The iCalendar format is a simple, well-documented plain text format for representings events; it’s the lingua franca of calendaring apps, and you can import iCalendar files into Apple’s Calendar, into Google Calendar, and into most anything else that reads and writes event data.

To convert the JSON-encoded calendar data on The Guild website into an iCalendar-format file, I wrote a little PHP script called harvest-guild-calendar.php that uses cURL to issue the HTTP POST to The Guild website, requesting events for the next 90 days, and then parses the response and outputs each event – minus gallery shows – into a iCalendar file.

The resulting file (here’s a full snapshot taken today) looks, in part, like this:

PRODID:-//Reinvented Inc.\, //TheGuild 1.1//EN
SUMMARY:Anne & Gilbert, The Musical
SUMMARY:Anne & Gilbert, The Musical
SUMMARY:Anne & Gilbert, The Musical

Spreading the Calendar

With the iCalendar file in hand, it was short work to create a shareable Google Calendar for The Guild, and to make this available in several formats:

  • iCalendar (suitable for importing or subscribing to in Apple’s Calendar for OS X or iOS, etc.)
  • XML (suitable for viewing in feed readers)
  • HTML (standalone viewing in a browser, or embedding in another website)

Using the Calendar

In my case, I took the iCalendar-format file and imported it into my ownCloud calendar, which then automatically echoed it the Calendar on my desktop:

And the calendar on my Android phone:

And to everywhere else I see my calendar.

As a result of all this, I have continuous awareness of when Anne & Gilbert are about to break out into song.

Like – as you can see from my phone above – in about 35 minutes from now.

Time for lunch.