Sophat Vann

Unbeknownst to me last Saturday night, I ate at one of the favourite spots of Ra McGuire, the lead singer from Trooper. It’s information like that that doesn’t change your life but might lead one to pause over one’s Phanaeng Goong (spicy shrimp in basil peanut coconut sauce). [If I see him, there bending over noodle soup noisily, I will call him “Trooper Boy” – I will, I will…]

The Whig last Saturday had a great full page on Mr. Vann…or Mr. Sophat…who has started five different Cambodian restaurants in downtown Kingston – he starts one, gets it going, sells it to someone he trains for a few months and then goes on to open another. When I first moved here I asked whether there had been an immigration wave at some point, thinking it would take a fair number of families from one culture to sustain five restaurants. I got some odd looks. It was, I now learn, a one-man piece of work, creating a momentum for the stuff that helps keep the downtown thriving. Way to go. I have only attended one of his earlier shops, Cambodian Village, so far but his own kitchen Cambodiana is right around the corner.

This is the way it should work. Coming from Nova Scotia, I was used to Lunenburg Greeks, the Lebanese of 1948, the Greeks of the mid-50’s, the Vietnamese of the mid-70’s, the Lebanese of the late 70’s, a guy in my class called Zoltan whose folks got out in ’56, and the former Yugoslavs and their neighbours in the 90’s – and ate their sausage, kibbe, mousakka, croissants (remember the guy at North and Agricola who was a Saigon french pastry chef?), donairs, kapusta and other stuff. In undergrad, I wouldn’t trust a pizza not made by a guy who wasn’t raised on the Mediterranean. I would eat their mother’s home cooking, whatever it was. Food should be an entry to the immigrant experience for the non-immigrant. Eat curry and nans when you are 18 and get a little understanding of understand Mr. Khana, the grade 12 supply math teacher who posed unbelievably hard questions to keep us from being little bastards. Eat a donair from Sam Kasam and Lebanon is a little less about terrorists. Have apples and honey and listen to a friend’s grandfather quiz the young rabbi into embarrassment, think about the menorah. Share a joke over Tom Yum Goong and the jokes at the expense of others quickly sour. All in the cause of shaking up the brain and its residue of preconceptions through tasty food.

Even though I am the kid of two immigrants, I don’t, however, expect to see diners based on smoked herring and haggis. Your loss. Maybe in south-east Asia there are trendy corner stalls with chip butties and Irn-Brew…and deep fried Mars bars.

A Fund for George (II)

Going through the Yahoo Group I mentioned that Brian Cormier set up for remembering George Earles, I noticed that there was a photos section and I saw this. First week of third fourth year out to Peggy’s Cove to drink bad white wine and watch waves. Luanne would be soproud to know I am a Mason. [I still think its fairly foolish but you can’t take it away from me – except if I get caught saying its foolish.] Who took the photo?

How could I have been so thin, I thought when I saw the picture…nineteen years ago. Well there was that thing called summer unemployment which saw me humping my increasingly diminishing arse all over Halifax looking for jobs that were not there until I had to go back to Truro to mow lawns. Good old George. Didn’t get to get old. Makes me as sad as I was when I heard he died seeing that picture.

Send to the fund: (902) 422-1271. They take VISA.

A Fund For George

I got an email from my pal Ann in Winnipeg about a mutual friend from University of Kings College days, George Earles, who died earlier this year. Brian Cormier, another Kingsman, has set up a web group. At Brians site, there is a bit of a bio of George and some posts from friends which goes with the picture at the right: “George Earles, BJ Hons. ’86, University of King’s College. Born on May 7, 1964, George passed away in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, on March 4, 2003. Family, friends and colleagues are welcome to post messages and photos to remember George.” George was well loved by all who knew him, even if, sometimes, we suffered from his Newfie wit turned on our inability to keep up.

Ann wrote:

When I was in Halifax this August I dropped into the Alum Office inter alia (as lawyers say) to see how the endowment for George’s memorial scholarship was doing. I just got an update letter with my tax receipt saying that it is sitting at $7700 – $2300 short of the $10,000 needed for the endowment. Do you think there are any Crows who would be inclined to support the scholarship but haven’t gotten around to it or don’t know about it?

Here is the contact information for UKC alumni:

Bev Mahon, bev.mahon@ukings.ns.ca
Alumni and Public Relations Officer
University of King’s College
6350 Coburg Rd.
Halifax, NS B3H 2A1
Phone: (902) 422-1271
Fax: (902) 425-0363

Put the hand in the pocket, guys and give Kings a call. And if you have lost touch with someone…give them a call, too.

Warsaw Voice

In the good old days of 1996 before needy ernest blogs, e-mail clogging spam, Lord Google, when flaming and cross-posting was killing off Usenet, when you used to surf the net to find stuff knowing it was all entirely unreliable gossip, I used to copy the weekly quotes from the web version of the English language paper The Warsaw Voice to mail to my buddy Gary, then in Vancouver.

I lived in Poland in 1991 and would, when on the trains to some end of the country, at stations with unpronouncable names, grab any copy of the tissue paper printed rag I could find. The life of an English as a Second Language teacher in a coastal city in Poland was pretty pleasantly self-defined and small. Having little access to TV or local chit-chat (only 8 people in the City seemed to have any grasp of English, others preferring to curse at us behind our backsNeimieck! which means both German and something like “not human” – to which my retort of being Canadian and therefore an ally against the Nazis often brought great wailings of apology and hugs from stinky drunk pensioners), The Warsaw Voice told us that life in Poland was not all cream cakes, tinned boar or elk and Russian champaign: we lived in a still-subsidized Baltic resort fairly oblivious even of the Balkin wars starting a few hundred kilometres to the south.

The newspaper at least let us in on the very grim Polish humour in relation to news of the day, government officials and Germans, which grimness I suppose is natural when your country has been a playground for other’s generals for centuries. Here are some I saved from then:

“He was very, very handsome.”

A Polish woman at the Polish consulate in Paris, in enlisting help to find the French father of her baby.

“The Germans approach these mementos with a sense of humor and sometimes buy them; for them they are funny souvenirs from Poland.”

A shop assistant in an Old Town store selling original Nazi medals from World War II and photographs from Hitler’s occupation of Warsaw

“My sports results depend mostly on what time my buddies drag me out of the bar.”

-S³awomir Drabik, Poland’s speedway champ, about his career

“We have many regular customers. The record holder was someone we discharged at 7 a.m.-he was back at 3 p.m.”

Doctor at a Warsaw drunk tank, commenting on its recent increase in “visitors”

“Germans pay more, because they are more cultured.”

A mobile restroom agent at the beach in Gi¿ycko, explaining why the price is listed as gr.50 in Polish but zl.1 in German

“His lively movements assured me that everything was all right.”

Henryk Wojciechowski, newly appointed Gdañsk province administrator, telling reporters about the accident when, driving in the heart of the city, his driver ran over a boy who got up off the road and ran away.

“It’s not a sacrifice but a sensible act of civic duty.”

Zinaida Bolieva, a 46-year-old resident of Northern Ossetia, who offered to be a donor if Boris Yeltsin needed a heart transplant.

“Today, not having regained consciousness after a long illness, the secretary general resumed his office.”

A Soviet joke from Brezhnev’s times, recalled by General Aleksandr Lebed in an interview for Stern magazine. Lebed said that with Boris Yeltsin’s illness, the Kremlin situation is reminiscent of the Brezhnev joke.

Po-Tree

About twenty years ago right about now, I was entering the third year of my four-year slacker-paced BA in English Lit. I can’t say I have carried the literary banner high since about then, especially as law just about killed my ability to read books – as being an usher in a playhouse just about killed my ability to sit through a play or a movie. But, this being the first summer since 1991 that I have not spent September picking beans, digging up spuds or braiding onions, one poem kicks tricking its way into my mind: Keats’s Ode to Autumn. [Once, when absent mindedly signing up for seminars, one of the others, all-female in romantic poetry, tuned and said – “sorry, I took the last Keats”. I couldn’t recall when I had been aleing with her. I had thought she said “Keith’s”]   So, in honour of three years of English Lit classes, the impending season and our planning for the next garden plot in, maybe, 2005, here you are, copyright-free ’cause he’s a long time dead.

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,–
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Hmmm… full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn… time for the mint sauce.

Andy Blair and Relatives

Leaf in LiverpoolYou may have noticed I am not camping in New York or attending Bread Day at the state fair. Colds have struck. So I am rummaging.

The gent to the left is Andy Blair who in June ’29 was enjoying his first summer as a NHL player after finishing his rookie year with the Leafs. My grannie-in-law, then Evelyn Whillans, his 1st cousin, took the photo as a 13 year old spending some of her teen years in Liverpool. I wonder what the building behind him is. Later Blair would provide the Whillans Saturday night tickets including the opening of Maple Leaf Gardens as well as the longest NHL game in history. Her father, a minister, kept getting up to go saying that it was crazy, that he had a sermon to give in a few hours, only to sit back down at the roar for another close play.

Another five cousins, all Drydens of some relation, made the NHL including Murray Murdoch (Rangers left wing: ’26-’37, then coach at Yale for about 30 years) who I spoke with on the phone about a year before he passed away as the then oldest NHL alumnist, a very sharp mind in its late 90’s. Murdoch grew up in Winnipeg and said he was the best player in the City until Blair, two years younger, showed up during the depression. Both played for the University of Manitoba in the early 20’s.

Four years to Mr. Hitler's gamesGrannie-in-law also relates being at the front of Maple Leafs Gardens with another cousin, Syl Apps (the kinda gawky 17 year old in the white pants to your right, my left) and Blair the day Apps signed for the Leafs. Blair, an All-Star for the Leafs in ’34, was telling him to sign anywhere but Toronto as they treated players badly. Apps started his Leafs rookie year in 1936 after representing Canada at the Berlin Olympics. Blair was traded for cash to the Blackhawks on 7 May 1936. I wonder if the windows were open a few floors up.

In the 1936-’37 season, three cousins played on three teams: Leafs, Hawks and Rangers (two All-Stars, three Cup winners, one Calder and Bing and another the first Lester Patrick winner). In the early 70’s three (two being brothers) played again for three teams – the Sabres, Habs and Penguins: Dryden, Dryden, Apps (all All-Stars but not in together in one year…and one also earned some hardware).

Keith Haring

I was looking at a blog I had not read before this morning and came across reference to Keith Haring, a NYC subway artist from 1980 to 1985, who died of AIDS 13 years ago. His images are very familiar. I was especially interested as I spent an afternoon in 1986 walking through an exhibit of his at a museum in Amsterdam, at the time when I was working in the Netherlands at the big cut flower auctions of Aalsmeer. I now see it is referred to as his 1986 solo exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. One web bio for Haring states:

Haring’s earliest critical acclaim and museum exhibitions took place in Europe, in 1985 at the Musee d’ Art Contemporain in Bordeaux and in 1985-86 at one of Europe’s most prestigious contemporary art venues, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.

The display was immense. Room after room of floor-to-ceiling canvasses with bright-coloured cartoony stick people, some with extraordinary privates. I remember not having enough change for both a T-shirt and a bus ride home. I figured the 15 km or so hike was not worth it. [Dumb kid. Same dumb kid who didn’t spend the 25 bucks a few weeks earlier in Paris to drink a botle of wine from the year he was born 23 years before.] I left the museum without catching the artists name, most of all from being overwhelmed with the art. I think I came upon the exhibition after looking and asking directions to the Van Gogh museum. People only kindly but inexplicably told me how to find the “Vin (hork)-aw-(hork)” musuem…so I never found the place.

Asleep on the Beach

 

I've grown in so many ways in the last 17 years

As my life as PEI resident comes to a close – the water test was clear – I thought I would pull an old chestnut out of the photo album from one of my first “” experiences in the Province.

Taken in 1986, it shows your gentle correspondent in repose on the beach at dawn after about 14 hours of wild-eyed pintin’ at the shore at a cottage in the Darnley area. You will see in the foreground both an empty Keiths and a film case laying next to my sandy head. Through the night I took about 5 rolls worth of pictures of the 30 or so of us which, care of the tripod, came through the event far clearer than I did.

This photo was taken by my buddy Jonny with the last frame of the last roll before he himself keeled over one night, one summer seventeen years ago.

Kołobrzeg! Kołobrzeg!

When looking through the web stats, I got to wondering why, outside of North America, Holland would be the hotbed of the greatest number of my readers when I realized it is the Google effect. Having used the word Nederlands and therefore been linked by a few Dutch blog trolling spiders or bots or whatever they are, I get a bit of a boost on Dutch Google and, bob’s your uncle, I stand tall in the low countries. So…can this be manufacturered?

My wife and I met in Ko³obrzeg, a resort city on the Baltic Coast of Poland where the Nazis met a well-deserved, nasty fate at the hands of the Red Army on the beaches after running out of both land and options in the spring of ’45. The ever patient Ellen and I both taught ESL there and, unlike most others who travelled to Eastern Europe to teach a decade or so ago, briefly enjoyed a rather splendid if corney luxury lifestyle – Bulgarian wines, tinned elk and boar, first walkman in the province, at $400 a month an income 3 times that of a doctor. A sense of the place can be seen in some of its websites for a sanitorium/spa, a hotel/spa, spa-tourism, spa-fishing-poets, spa-investment, yacht-spa, people at the spa town…I suppose I could go on…Anyway, this is an open invite for discussion of all things Ko³obrzeg. What the hell.

PS – if your computer shows a small raised “3” between the two o’s of the name, it is spelled Kolobrzeg with a little bar across the “L” kinda pronounced “e-u”: “Ł” or “ł”

[Update in 2016: proof of the finding of Kay…]