Remembering Peter Gzowski

I do not have many heroes, but Peter Gzowski was one.

I count as one of the highlights of my life being interviewed by him — about technology, along with Kevin Kelly and Gerri Sinclair — while standing in a meadow at UPEI in the early summer of 1995.

Gzowski was a masterful interviewer (it helped, of course, that I was playing the role of the techno-sceptic, which meshed with his own views nicely), and a perfect gentleman. He had that ever so rare ability to appear curious about pretty well anything, and anyone who has ever been interviewed can tell you that this is like gold to the interviewee.

I have never been a strong Canadian nationalist, and consider most of what we call “truly Canadian” to be either boring or appropriated. By Peter Gzowski was, I think, Canadian through and through, one of those people who just couldn’t be considered American (or anything else). Not because he was a strong nationalist (he was), or made false attempts at “reflecting the regions” (he didn’t), but because, in his endearing, rumpled, pondering, avuncular way, he was someone we all had in common — a nextdoor neighbour for the nation.

My fondest memory of Peter comes from an episode in Peterborough in the late 1980s. The local CBC affiliate, CHEX-TV, wasn’t a bona fide CBC station, and therefore wasn’t obligated to air the entire CBC schedule. The result was that we local viewers got Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy in place of shows like Adrienne Clarkson Presents and Friday Night.

For some reason the irked me strongly, and so I mounted a small rebellion involving letters to the editor, to local politicians and so on. I also wrote a letter to anyone else who I thought might share my concern.

Peter Gzowski was one of those I wrote to, and he wrote back a very nice note of support from his home on Lake Simcoe. For him to do that, amidst his life of Morningside and book writing and who knows what else, meant a tremendous amount to me.

I’ve since misplaced his note, but will never forget that, nor the endless hours of wonderful radio I listened to over the years.

I will miss Peter Gzowski.

Whirlwind

I’m always amazed when I travel how it’s possible to pack so much into one day.

Monday morning, as outlined below in some detail, I headed to the airport for the early morning flight to Boston. After the initial folly of the empty airport, the balance of the trip went surprisingly well: our plane landed at about 9:20 a.m. and I was on the highway in my rental car by 9:45 a.m. Total customs interaction: hand customs guy my (US) passport. He scans it in, and says “okay, thanks.” My luggage was waiting for me when I got to the carousel.

A trusty Subaru was waiting for me curbside at the Hertz location, and by 12:30 noon I was in the valet parking line at Mohegan Sun, the large casino in south-eastern Connecticut that is home to the new The Old Farmer’s Almanac General Store. There is no way to properly do justice to Mohegan Sun in words: it was simply larger than life.

By 2:30 p.m. I was back on the road, north on the I-395 toward Worchester, Mass, where I stopped in briefly at a Target store, just to get an update on their Michael Graves-designed line of products.

I ended up getting lost in downtown Boston around supper time: I tried in vain to find the Ted Williams tunnel, and finally gave up and parked the car and phoned brother Johnny, just landed at Logan Airport, and asked him to hoof it to the subway and meet me downtown.

After a brief dinner at Legal Sea Foods we headed north to New Hampshire in the Subaru, spending a frustrating 45 minutes in a mobious loop of intersections in and around Nashua, NH. Finally, about 11:00 p.m. we arrived in Keene, New Hampshire at our hotel and went right to sleep.

Two countries, two provinces, four states, 18 hours. Too much activity for one day.

Today’s tough new travel environment

4:45 a.m. — Previously arranged Coop Taxi arrives at the door. They have never missed an early call. Day starting well.
4:50 a.m. — Remember that it doesn’t take long to get to the Charlottetown Airport. Happy that I have heeded all of the advice from CNN to arrive at airport very early. Expecting huge lines, rigorous bag checks, chaos, etc.
4:51 a.m. — Enter airport. Find I am the only person in the airport. I don’t mean this is some exagerated ironic sense: I was the only one in the airport. No other passengers. No gate agents. No security people. Nobody. Have fears that I have woken up in Quiet Earth-like scenario.
4:53 a.m. — Another passenger arrives. Feel relieved. Then remember that the man in Quiet Earth found two other people left on earth.
4:54 a.m. — Security guy emerges. Says Air Canada people usually “show up around 5”. Another passenger arrives. Things are looking up.
5:03 a.m. — Now 8 people in line. Quiet Earth fears gone. Still no gate agent. Wondering whether CNN has it all wrong. Thinking I could have gotten 30 minutes more sleep.
5:05 a.m. — Guy who removes chocks from under plane wheels and uses glowing baton to guide plane out of parking space arrives.
5:06 a.m. — Luggage handler arrives. He looks like Matt Rainnie. Wonder if CBC pays Matt too little and he must work at airport to afford to feed family.
5:09 a.m. — No gate agent yet.
5:13 a.m. — Offer to check other passengers in myself. No humour in this found by other passengers.
5:14 a.m. — Gate agent arrives. Finally! Checks me in. Oops, boarding pass printer is broken. Brief delay. Move to another terminal. Get boarding pass.
5:15 a.m. — Try to use Aliant’s World Class Business Centre to get on Internet, but room is locked. Reminds me of other dealings with Aliant.
5:18 a.m. — Find Tourism PEI Internet kiosk is operational.
5:27 a.m. — Security call. Must run to plane. Mind still foggy. More later.

Heavy Early

I make this entry only to demonstrate to the world that it is possible to completely reverse the timing of one’s day: a week ago I worked late one night, and ended up not getting to bed until 4:05 a.m. This morning I awoke at 4:05 a.m., in time to catch the 6:05 a.m. flight to Boston.

So far I have not had a nervous breakdown, but the day is early.

The World’s Backup

Earlier today our trusty western chargé d’affaires Johnny overwrote a photo on the PEI Visitors Guide while doing some maintenance on the site. We didn’t have another copy of the photo easily available and although we could wait until Monday to grab one from the backup, that would leave a hole in the site.

Enter the The Internet Archive. Pop over the to their website, enter the URL of the missing photo, and blammo, there it is.

Neat.

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