Hoito [Redux]

My late grandmother Nettie worked here. She was not Finnish. Neither am I. Nonetheless.

Talking to my mother this morning, I was reminded that Nettie once told me that to be allowed to become an employee there, she had to join the Finnish Communist Party. I’m fairly confident that this would be considered illegal today. Mom also was pretty sure that it’s in the Hoito where Nettie met my late grandfather Daniel Rukavina.

Which, in turn, reminded me of a song I wrote once, during those days when I sat on the back porch and wrote songs.

Middle of the 30s, 1936
He was mining gold way up in the sticks
She was waiting tables at the Hoito
25 cents for a meal, dontcha know

Nettie and Dan, Nettie and Dan
Oh they loved each other as much as anyone can…

The Hoito is in the same building as the Finnish Labour Temple. You don’t hear a lot about Labour Temples these days, but the way Nettie characterized them was a place where you went on Sundays if you were left of centre and irreligious. She used to talk about sitting on Sunday mornings at the front window of her house with her sister snickering at the Orthodox Catholics carrying their bread to church. Later they would go to the Labour Temple and play the mandolin.

We come by our iconoclasm honestly, in other words.

Mom and Dad and brother Steve are going to stop at the Hoito for lunch on their way from Saskatoon to Carlisle in early November. They’re moving Steve’s Life Stuff cross-country so he can start a new life as a Montrealer.

They’re also going to stop in Cochrane, which is Mom’s birthplace, and, I discover almost every day, home to most of the North Americans of consequence born during the twentieth century.

Crashing the CBC

Oliver and I are in Halifax this weekend, having some important Father and Son Bonding Time before he and Catherine head off to Ontario for almost a month for some much needed grandparent, great-grandparent, aunt and uncle visiting.

On our way to the ferry we were listening to CBC Radio and heard Bill Richardson invite listeners to come down to the special CBC Train at the station in Halifax. The train, a joint project of VIA Rail and the CBC, is a celebration of CBC television’s 50th anniversary.

So, at ten o’clock this morning we headed to downtown Halifax to visit the train. Except when we arrived, there was a sign at the door that said Private Function. Given that we had a personal invitation from Bill Richardson, we were not daunted by this.

And so we opened the door and walked in.

“Are you a CBC employee?,” the friendly gatekeeper asked.

“No,” Oliver and I replied.

“Are you a former CBC employee?,” she asked.

“Ahhh,” I thought quickly, “yes!”

“Go right in,” she replied, handing us CBC-branded brown paper bags as she did.

The secret employees-only inner sanctum turned out to be the morning preview of the attraction open to civilians in the afternoon. Besides free pastries and juice, it appeared as though the public and the employees (I mean “we employees”) got the same fun.

Inside the train was a neat, if abbreviated, collection of CBC artifacts, including Mr. Dressup’s tickle trunk, The Friendly Giant’s castle and set of small chairs, and, oddly enough, Fred Roger’s first “Land of Make Believe Trolley,” which I didn’t get the whole story on (although my guess is that we traded Fred Rogers to PBS for Ernie Coombs and a first round draft pick).

It was as odd being in a train station full of CBC people as it was being in a hotel full of librarians at the APLA conference a couple of years ago: CBC people are certainly of a type, and it was odd to have all that CBC energy concentrated in one place.

Fortunately Oliver and I didn’t win the door prize, so we didn’t have to claim that I was the weekend anchor on Compass or a key grip on Land and Sea.

Later in the day we ate Japanese for lunch, Indian for dinner, and Oliver and Yolanda (the daughter of our friends Bob and Yvonne) held hands.

As I type this by LCDlight in our room in the Holiday Inn, with Air Force One on the television and Oliver asleep in his pen, I’m prone to think, for the 1000th time, how strong Catherine must be to look after Oliver day in, day out, day after day: I’m exhausted.

The down side of our trip: Catherine and I celebrate our 12th anniversary today, she in one province and me in another. We’ll be home tomorrow.

Irving, Imperial and Competition

Can someone who understands the law better than I explain why, if the following sentence (from this CBC story) is true:

Under an agreement between the oil companies, Irving Oil will become the the distributor for all of P.E.I. and New Brunswick, while Imperial Oil will be the distributor in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.
Then this law which says, in part:

45. (1) Every one who conspires, combines, agrees or arranges with another person

(a) to limit unduly the facilities for transporting, producing, manufacturing, supplying, storing or dealing in any product,

is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or to a fine not exceeding ten million dollars or to both.

has not been contravened?

Queen and Country

Several years ago, both Leone Bagnall and I were on the board of the L.M. Montgomery Land Trust. I needed to get in touch with Leone about something, and I phoned her repeatedly over the course of several days and never reached her. “Where is she?” I asked myself in frustration.

The next night on Compass there was video of her receiving the Order of Canada in Ottawa. That explained that.

Yesterday I had business with the Legislative Assembly of Nunavut (never let it be said that my job is boring), and sent off an email requesting a reply as quickly as possible.

Today I received a reply with an apology that the matter couldn’t be attended to until next week because, well, the Queen was arriving today and everyone was preoccupied.

Queen and Country — always slowing me down.

How long has god been on the island?

After having ignored instant messaging for many years, I got the IM religion when brother Johnny on the opposite coast (of Canada) started working with me last year. We use a combination of MSN Messenger, AOL Instant Messenger and Jabber to stay in touch on a daily, and sometimes hourly basis. It’s saved us a lot of long distance telephoning, and has made it possible to work together.

That said, I have remained sceptical of the whole “group chat” thing — everything seems to go to hell in a handbasket when you get more than one person typing at a time.

If you need proof of this, witness this small lightly edited snippet of a longer instant messenger conversation between my brother , my mother and I:

Peter Rukavina says: Hello?

John says:  hello… its johnny

Peter Rukavina says:  Where did you get birthday photos?

John says:   Fran sent to me

Peter Rukavina says:   Mom, where did you get then?

Frances says:   Catherine sent them to me.

John says:   I saw God with the aubergine coat

Frances says:   Where has he been?

John says:   who?

John says:   God?

Frances says:   God.

John says:  in the sky, I suppose

Frances says:   no no

John says:  aubergine means eggplant

Frances says:   Did he live up to your expectations?

John says:   courgette means zuchinni

Peter Rukavina says:   Who?

Frances says:   I knew that too.

John says:   and cilantro means coriander

Frances says:   God.

Peter Rukavina says:   in the Aubergine Jacket?

John says:   yes

Frances says:   yes.

Frances says:   I thought cilantro was celery.

John says:   nono… coriander

John says:   celery is celery

Frances says:   I knew that.

Frances says:   How long has god been on the island?

John says:   ok

Peter Rukavina says:   For about 3 years.

Frances says:   Okay. You guys can go to work now. oo

I will stick to the telephone for complicated family conversations in future.