Stephen Good = Good Stephen

The first time I ever met my friend Stephen Good (who, at the time, confusingly enough, was named Stephen Elliott) was on the lawn of 107 Hazlitt Street in Peterborough, Ontario.

Stephen was spreading out a collection of soaking wet ephemera that belonged to the absentee owner of the house. The previous tenants of the house had fled in mid-winter, leaving the door wide open, causing the pipes to burst, causing there to be 3 feet of ice through much of the house for 1/2 the winter. Which encased said ephemera in ice, and rendered it soaking wet come spring.

And this just wasn’t any ephemera. The owner of the house collected everything: telephone books from 1973, endless reams of newsletters, books, brochures, and so on. He was a linguist. He was a pack rat. He was weird.

And somehow it had fallen to Stephen to be his agent. Stephen was the guy who had to dry everything out, and was under strict orders not to throw anything away.

The reason that I met Stephen that day was because my friend Simon Shields (who is still named Simon Shields to this day, but who used to eat meat and was a militant vegetarian storming the gates of Marineland last time in checked in) had decided that it would be a good and cheap idea for the two of us to move into the sodden shell of a house.

And it was cheap. And in its own special way, it was good: the house sat right on a beautiful park, at the end of a street, within view of the Otonabee River, over which you could take a foot bridge and be in downtown Peterborough in 5 minutes. If you squinted your eyes, you could imagine that you were in a country estate.

But of course you were also living with a collection of soggy, moldy 1973 telephone books, in a house with plumbing held together with duct tape. You had to squint your eyes a lot.

Simon and I had many interesting days at 107 Hazlitt Street, culminating in a shocking robbery on my last day of residence in which nefarious criminals broke in, stole all of my cassette tapes, my late grandfather’s Philishave, and my other late grandfather’s Olympus Trip 35 camera, and then poured strong smelling aftershave over everything else I owned, following up by sprinkling it all with sea salt. I spent several years de-encrusting my life’s possessions and living in a salty tasting, Old Spicey world.

As that summer played out, I met Nancy, Stephen’s wife at the time, and we spent many happy nights watching thirtysomething and It’s Garry Shandling’s Show together in their little house around the corner.

Fast forward 15 years: Stephen’s changed his last name, has divorced and remarried, has 4 kids (one of which, Anna, I am the God Father of), has trained as both a librarian and a lawyer, and is living and working in Lubbock, Texas. Oh, and he Found God.

For years now Stephen has been sending me long letters with no paragraph breaks. Originally these were written on manual typewriters, then on electric typewriters, and finally via email. The only downside to the conversion to email is that he can no longer send me vintage Heaven Can Wait laserdisks and old copies of the Whole Earth Catalog.

I have known and kept in touch with Stephen longer than almost anyone else I know. At times it’s been a challenge — it’s hard to be a Godless heathen when you’re corresponding with someone who is prone to starting sentences like “I remember what Jesus said about bowling…” But we’ve worked out a common ground (he leaves out direct God references and I leave out my constant questioning as to the actual existence of God), and I’m sure we’ll be friends until we die.

This is all a very long introduction to, which I created for Stephen late last week. He’s just getting warmed up. Watch that space.

Faster, safer, cheaper?

The Confederation Bridge is running an ad right now in which the tag line is “Faster, Safer, Cheaper.”

I can understand the faster part. Although even there, if you’re going to Antigonish, NS, you’ll do better on the ferry if you time things right (MapQuest says it takes 3:51 to drive to Antigonish from Charlottetown via the bridge, and 1:47 via the ferry. Add on the 75 minute ferry ride, and you still get only 3:03).

The cheaper part is certainly true in terms of absolute dollars out of pocket: the ferry is $49 for a carload while the bridge is $37.75. The ferry website makes a case that you save $32 in vehicle operating expenses by not driving the 100km that you save, but I think that’s a stretch, and not of much consolation when you have to fork over the extra $11.25 at the booth.

But safer? This I had to know more about. I phoned the Bridge’s handy toll-free information line and asked about the safer part. I said “safer than what?” They said “than the ferry.” I said “the ferry is dangerous?” They said “well, there’s more rocking back and forth.” This didn’t seem convincing.

Whether to Bridge people can prove that the Bridge is safer than the ferry seems irrelevant: it doesn’t exactly seem like fair ball to suggest that people are going to become hurt or killed by using your competition. Even if it is true, it certainly isn’t honourable.

Solution to Clock Problem?

Here’s a possible easy, 2 hour solution to the Bank of Montreal Clock Problem: remove the hands and replace with a witty slogan. Result: no more clock that’s always wrong, and you win over the hip ironic set to boot.

Clock at the Bank of Montreal in Charlottetown

This visual depiction of a possible solution to the problem of the Bank of Montreal not fixing their clock isn’t intended to suggest any relationship between Reinvented Inc. and the Bank of Montreal or between Reinvented Inc. and the clock industry or between Reinvented Inc. and the country of Switzerland. This is a work of fiction. We’re sure the Bank of Montreal is a fine bank. We deal with the Credit Union. They don’t have a clock.

The Clock that Doesn't Tell Time

On Grafton Street in downtown Charlottetown there is a branch of the Bank of Montreal. On the front of the bank is a large outdoor clock. At one point this clock may have actually told the time, but for as long as I can remember — at least a couple of years — it has not:

Clock at the Bank of Montreal in Charlottetown

While this is annoying, and perhaps even irresponsible on behalf of the bank, more so it is just plain stupid marketing for the bank: if they can’t even fix their clock, I say to myself, what are they going to do with my money? Are their computers and adding machines and timelocks broken too?

I can’t imagine an amount of money that would be too much to prevent the Bank of Montreal from simply getting someone in to fix the clock and, if it cannot be repaired, simply replacing it with something else.

The Battle of Paardeberg

If you have visited the Coles Building, or Province House in Charlottetown, or even just driven down Richmond Street between Queen and Prince, you are sure to have seen the statue of a soldier on a Boer War Memorial battlefield, bayonet at the ready. The statue is old and green and not in the best of shape. Perhaps you’ve heard it referred to as the “Boer War statue.”

Somehow I missed the Boer War in school: it fell between the cracks between the Family Compact and World War I. Today I found myself, camera in hand, in front of this statue, and after taking a couple of pictures I decided I should find out more.

The Boer War, which began in 1899, was a war between two colonial powers, the Brtish and the Dutch, over control of (and fought in) South Africa. The war was supposed to be a quick affair but, like most wars, it dragged on much longer than the British thought it would, finally ending in 1902.

One of the major battles of the war was the Battle of Paardeberg, fought on February 18, 1900. Among the dead that day were two Prince Edward Islanders, members of the Second Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment. Their names were Roland Taylor and Alfred Riggs. And their contribution to the war, and their death in it, is memorialized at the base of the Boer War statue.
Boer War Memorial

The head of the Boer contingent at the Battle of Paardeberg was General Piet Cronje. Cronje made a stand in the path of the Canadians, and 60 yards west of this stand, known as Cronje’s laager, is where Riggs, W.A., Pte., R.C.R.I. 2nd (Special Service) Battalion, “G” Co. is buried.

The Boer War statue was constructed in July of 1903, making it 100 years old next year. To quote from Catherine Hennessey’s website:

It is a fine monument, too and it needs cleaning. The sculptor for it is prominent as well. Hamilton McCarthy, a British sculptor who had settled in Canada was one of the two artists for The Alexander MacKenzie monument on Parliament Hill, and he himself did the South African War Monument in Ottawa and that wonderful piece on top of the hill, near the Art Gallery, of Samuel de Champlain.

Although our piece of sculpture was not as grand as we had hoped for it’s pretty nice. On that July day in 1903 when it was unveiled what was lost in stature [so to speak] was made up for by the numbers that attended and “by the order, precision and dignity ” of the event.

Next time you’re walking by, stop for a second and remember.