Wednesday, 26 February 2014

The Man behind the Mask

Wally from Wawa writes:

For someone who spends a lot of time behind the keyboard, you sure don’t end up saying a lot about   yourself. You know, real details. I mean, you haven’t even taken the time to fill out your Google profile, have you? Come on, be real with us, for once!

Okay Wally, I’ll give it my best shot. We will have a bit of fun with it and will do it with a little twist though. I will give two answers to each question. One will reflect the truthfulness and veracity that I am well known for. The other, will reflect the more Gumby-like version of the truth that I’m used to stretching just short of the breaking point. My more astute readers will be able to pick out the wheat from the chaff on their own anyways. A significant portion of my readers don’t seem to care if they are reading the truth or not, and the remainder generally like to work with multiple versions of reality anyways  - building and maintaining their own personal version of whom Blair is any way.

 Blair, I read somewhere (GQ I think?) That you were raised in the  in the East Prussian town of Kriefkohl/Freienwalde, and brought to Calgary as a mail-order  groom in 2000. Is this true?

1.1) It irks me to no end when the press simply fabricates something instead of making the journalistic effort to find out the truth. I was born in the WEST Prussian town of Kriefkohl/Freienwalde, and brought to Calgary as a mail-order  groom in 2000.)

1.2) I was raised in the small town of Vineland Ontario (across the lake from Toronto)

2) I hear you had a big family. What was that like?

2.1) I was raised In a family of seven, six boys and one girl where it was a thinly veiled fact that I was the favorite. (I know, I know, you are not surprised). The term “flash mob” was actually coined by my brothers around 1967, describing the circling of the wagons around “Mama’s Boy” and pummeling him to within an inch of his life”.

2.2) I was raised in a family of seven, six boys and one girl where we were treated as equals to an agonizing extent. One consequence of that is to this day we can still put up with each other for extended periods of time. Blair was typically saved from being pummeled by his sister Linda (the lone decent one in the bunch), who seem to be the only one that escaped the effects of the recessive "stooge" gene in our family.

3) Tell me about your education Blair.

3.1) I was homeschooled by my brothers where I received instruction in most of the classic disciplines: Law and Governance: (Yes, we are the boss of you) Critical thinking/logic (why should we let you live?), Athletics (the piledriver, The Camel Clutch, The Mongolian Chop etc. ma), Psych

 3.2 My education was uneventful. Filled with platitudes, rote learning, and more planned (and executed) escapes them Prison Break.

4) If I googled you I might be surprised to find….
4.1) I rode my bicycle 11,000 km across Canada in the year 2000 starting in St. John and finishing in Inuvik, NWT.

4.2)    I have a Pole dancing move named after me - is an aggressive half pike, (if you have not had adequate Pole dance instruction, do not try this - it is the difficulty level of moves that you would see in the X games Pole dancing.

I understand you spent some time in Japan? What were you doing there?

5. I spent four years in Japan from 1996-2000 as an envoy for the Cretien and administration researching how better insight into Japanese humor could have potential for increasing our trade with Japan

5.2) I spent four years in Japan coaching at the University of Tokyo and then teaching English in a middle school an hour east of Tokyo.

 Do you expect there will be a cure in you your lifetime?

6.1) I don’t soldier on with the assumption that there will be a cure - but nor do I march any less fervently because of that.

6.2) Occupation?

I coached and managed rowing clubs for most of my working years in Winnipeg, Calgary, Austin Texas, New Brunswick, Ontario, and Tokyo Japan.

I started out with some of the the early Silicon Valley startups in the 70s and 80s and then worked hand-in-hand with Al Gore for many years developing a computer program called the Internet.

You seem fascinated with the DeLorean car -  Why?

The answer is chock full of symbolism the DeLorean, Michael J Fox’s car in the Back To The Future series ultimately symbolizes a cure.

Name the top three places you’ve traveled

I need five choices. please. Thank you. In no particular order, Oshima Island in the Pacific south of Tokyo. A frequent destination for us  on holidays while in Japan. Taking our bikes on the overnight ferry and circling the island the next day. The second destination is Austin, Texas where I coached for two years at the University of Texas Austin. the city is in many ways a musical, gastronomical, oasis in the middle of much else. A final choice is Inuvik, NWT, the arrival point at the end of my bike tour across Canada. Finally, Anywhere in San Francisco!

Monday, 17 February 2014

You're So Vain - You Probably Think This Post Is About You... Don't You, Don't You?

As the airport came into view on the horizon I realized that something else had changed. I used to savor the pre-flight routine - arriving early, settling in at the gate, quad espresso in hand, and setting up camp over three or four chairs in anticipation of a good read or a movie. I had let the uncertainty (however exaggerated) of traveling by myself hijack my thoughts yet again and it wasn’t a good feeling. I was consumed with what could happen if my gait went south during the boarding. flight,or deplaning process.

I opened my iPad to the blog entry I had been working on about “Doc”. I was  content that I had covered most of the bases, but wholly unsatisfied on a personal level with my inability to draw out any life lessons that had made a difference for me. I started at the top again for one last read…

“Phil Fitz-James was a flawed human being like the rest of us. Where would newspaper headlines come from otherwise? Decades have passed since I was last cursed at with the same conviction. “Doc”, as he was known by most, was my rowing coach in the early 80’s at the University of Western Ontario. To others, Doc was a husband, a father, a farmer, a world-class biologist. I would think with few exceptions though, all of us would agree the Doc was a prickly son of gun.

To myself, Doc’s persona was truly an enigma. While he had all the straight lines and simplicity of a paint by number, he had at the same time the complexity and subtlety of a masterpiece. This was a man that you could begin a conversation proclaiming he was a “simple man”, yet find yourself arguing fervently by the end that he was a “complicated” figure. Fiercely independent, he wore something on his sleeve, but it sure as hell wasn’t his heart.

Though you frequently walked away from an interaction with Doc with an abrasion of roughly 60 grit, he also posessed, a razor-sharp wit wit. Doc had a bone-dry sense of humor and many a time used it to diffuse situations. (often where he himself had lit the powder keg :) His self-deprecating side was demonstrated no better than in my third year when he began to call himself “Shithead”.

Now, to a bunch of young men who still had one foot in high school, this brought him down to our level. One of the boys bought him a ball cap featuring an incredibly realistic big stool on the brim. It was presented to him on his birthday which happened to be a regatta day in St. Catherine’s. To our juvenile astonishment, he put it on and kept it on all day. To give this group of young men permission to call a world-renowned biologist and coach “SHITHEAD” was a gift of unparalleled generosity. We were absolutely beside ourselves all day.

Pretense was an enemy of the state in Doc’s world. With a greeting deemed small-talk, (if you were lucky enough to get one), any laying of conversational footings leading to a  crafty segue was pointless as Doc would lay you bare like an airport full body scanner. If you needed something from Doc you were highly advised to be upfront about it. The only other possible consequence was that you and your idea would be poked so full of holes that you would shy away from H2O for days.

It is important to mention the Doc had a battle with with Elephantiasis in his younger days leaving his right leg approximately three times the size of his left. Its appearance was not for the faint of heart and it disgusted me that he didn't have the decency to cover up in the summer months so we didn't have to feel uncomfortable. (It took me years to figure out exactly whose problem that was :-).  I never heard Doc  mention it to me in conversation, nor anyone else. Most tellingly, I can’t recall him blogging about it either.

There was one facet of Doc’s personality I found absolutely intoxicating - best illustrated by his oft-used phrase “I don’t give a shit what you think”. I’m not speaking of its use when conveying “it’s not your place to comment” or “I’m not asking for your feedback” etc. It was his total and complete inability to waste even a second on issues that didn't really matter - the size of your legs, the way you walk. your weight, how you look when your Sinemet level is dwindling... Many of us attempt to embody this to varying degrees of success. The remarkable thing about Doc was that this was him. It described every fiber of his being. There was no need to internalize, incorporate, or rehearse it - this was the essential Doc in the same way the  nudist proclaims that  “this was the way I came into the world, and this is the way I’m going out”. This WAS Doc.

Fast forward 3 decades, 25 neurologist consults, 14,600 dopamine highs...

My wife and I parted ways at the airport curb. I strode through the door with ease and then immediately launched into a few stutter steps. I bid a hasty retreat back to  a chair by the window to re-evaluate my planning. It didn’t take much to realize immediately that in the approximately 50 paces since the curb, I had micro-analyzed 1) What if I can’t walk to the gate? 2) What if my gait fails on de-planing, or 3) What if my gait fails on arrival.  I quickly took stock. While every one of these events was possible at this point, it would be very unlikely. What a waste of energy, focus, and great holiday.                                                              

“You’re so vain… You probably think this song is about you, don’t you? don’t..." The song wafted through the airport like it was my national anthem. As I climbed up on the podium to accept my dubious honor, I think you can now understand how the painful irony began to set in. Here I was writing about Doc, recalling times  I was begging him to show a shred of  vanity and cover up his unsightly leg and here I sit, managing an absolute boat full of vanity and pride, that was threatening to curtail, or even derail entirely various activities in my life, Despite my doubts that I, to speak frankly, had the balls to compete at Doc’s lofty “I don’t give a shit what you think” level (he was world-class - maybe I could be competitive at a National or Provincial level?),  recognition of the issue was good first step.

I stood up and walked over to the lineup to check-in. As I gazed at travelers walking down the concourse, my eyes were drawn to an elderly man with the  whitest, wispiest patch of hair you have ever seen. I vaguely recognized him but could not place him. He looked out of place in the airport - strolling down the terminal clutching only a Safeway bag. Though he seemed at ease, he looked like the kind of guy that would be more comfortable on the top of a tractor, or a fisherman hunched over a 9.9 Evinrude. Oddly, he seemed to float over the tile  floor defyying your expectations of a pirate-like swagger given his misshapen form.

Heading directly for me, he proceeded to deftly cut the line in front of me mumbling some vaguely familiar expletive and  adding a "pay attention this time".  The man glided through the check-in seemingly in seconds, pulled a ball cap out of the Safeway bag, pushed his hair underneath it, looked back, gave me a “Tip o’ the Turd”, and disappeared into the crowd towards the gate.

Shithead had written my ending…”

Saturday, 8 February 2014

'Cause I really wanna know (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)

You thought you could skulk away in the night, sight unseen, didn't you? I saw you leering over my fence again all paparazzi-like. I really feel for Justin now that I know what he goes through.. The least you can do is come in and introduce yourself and maybe get an autograph or something.

I know a lot more about you than you think. I know what operating system you use. I know what browser you are fond of. Really none of my business, but my blog stats also tell me that you are currently only flossing about 4.5 times per week. You should know that that is clearly inadequate - sometimes I worry about you.

All I'm saying, it would be nice to get to know my neighbours little more. It would be awesome to get a G'day from the handful of Aussies that Google tells me are in the crowd. Those from Germany and Mexico as well. Would love to know how you found this site. FYI, if you click to comment on a post, I need to approve it before it appears. (Primarily to prevent my family from posting any drivel about me). If you want to comment on a post, but do not want it to appear on the blog, just let me know in your comment. If you want to email me directly, you can reach me at my first and last

If after all is said and done, you still want to remain someone who just leers over the fence, that's fine. But just remember I have one hell of a watchdog who isn't trained to take prisoners, and only gets dry dog food - if you know what I mean….

Oh, and one more thing from my Google stats. Guys - you think she doesn't know you drink straight  from the carton. Man, o man, you are so naive ;) If she doesn't know - she suspects, and she WILL catch you.