I don't really know much about what my mother did when she served as a Wren with the Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve during World War Two. This is the only image that I have been able to dig up so far. She is back row second from left. She passed away in April 1970 at the young age of 46 as a result of terminal cancer. I only knew her as a young child but have memories of her as a loving mother and a caring individual who was well liked in the neighborhood where I grew up. I have been making inquiries and will know much more about her in the near future.
Here I am associating with some of the upper crust of Montréal's aristocracy. From left to right Marcel Tremblay ( brother of the mayor of Montréal ), Ron Francis ( entreprenuer extrodinaire ), yours truly and Mr. Gérald Tremblay ( Mayor of The City Of Montréal ). Much was discussed and accomplished on this very auspicious occasion. The hope, the bread and the wine was in the air as we discussed potholes, snow removal and doggie parks. Important stuff.
I have seen every Clint Eastwood movie ever made. Even The Bridges Over Madison County.
In 1995 I had the opportunity to meet the great man on the 18th hole on the Banff Springs Hotel golf course in Banff, Alberta. He was taking a breather from the filming of Unforgiven, some scenes for which were being filmed in High River, Alberta. It was my buddy's girlfriend Jessica who made the sighting of him at the bar standing with something in a brandy snifter. She dared me to go up and talk to him. I had a few in me so with a big bottle of courage I went up and introduced myself and shook his hand. We chatted for about 10 minutes and he was all gentleman. Jessica said that it was hilarious. We looked as if we knew each other forever. I got his autograph and wished him good luck on the new movie ( as if he needed that from me ! ). Needless to say I haven't washed my right hand since this memorable event.Here's some Clint Eastwood words of wisdom that I have compiled from some of his classic one liners.
They say mariages are made in heaven but so is thunder and lightning.
I tried being reasonable but I didn`t Like it.
Mathematics & Logic ( Dirty Harry )
I know what You`re thinking. Did he fire six shots or only five? Well. to tell you the truth In all this excitement I kind of lost track myself but this being a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world and will blow your head clean off, you`ve got to ask yourself a question. " Do I feell lucky today ". " Well do ya punk? "
Confidence ( High Plains Drifter )
I`m faster than you`ll ever live to be.
Gun Control ( Pink Cadillac )
I have strong feelings about gun control. If there`s a gun around I want to be controlling it
Go ahead make my day
The Word Impossible Does Not ExsistIn My Vocabulary ( Heartbreak Ridge )
You improvise, adapt, overcome.
Foriegn Policy ( Magnum Force )
Nothing wrong with shooting as long as the right people get shot.
Diplomacy ( The Good The Bad & The Ugly )
In this world there are two kinds of people my friend. Those with loaded guns and those who dig. You dig.
Health ( Heartbreak Ridge )
I `ve drank more beer, pissed more blood and banged more quif than all you numbnuts put together.
Women ( Magnum Force )
If she wants to play lumberjack then she has to handle her end of the log.
Violence ( Unforgiven )
Hell of a thing killing a man taking away all he`s got and all he`s ever going to have.
Democracy ( Magnum Force )
I hate the god damned system but until someone comes along with something that makes sense, I`ll stick with it.
The Arts ( The Rookie )
You know what a real crimminal is ackerman ? The son of a bitch who painted this ca, that`s who.......can you imagine defacing a work of art like that with a colour like that. The guy ought to have his ass removed.
Judge Of Character
I'm a libertarian, I`m always suspicious of people,left or right, who want to tell other people what to do.
Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one.
Crime ( Dirty Harry )
When a man is chasing a woman through an alley with a butcher knife and a hard on, I figure he isn`t out collecting for the Red Cross.
Fidelity ( Heartbreak Ridge )
I piss napalm.
I've been hanging around a while.
Movie Directing ( True Crime )
It's not the kind of movie they're doing today, you know. It's hampered by a story. But I think there's somebody out there who appreciates that, so I'll keep trying.
I`m Not quite sure how I met Catherine Motuz but it was somewhere around the McGill University campus when she was studying for her masters degree in music,performing on her sackbut and teaching while I was still chasing my head around. Sackbut?.What the freak is a bloody sackbut? Sounds like some sort of French cuss word. Well I didn`t know prcisely what a sackbut was until Catherine enlightened me.Let me try to explain as best I can. It`s a trombone from the renaissance and baroque time periods that can trace it`s origins back to the early 1400s and could even date to as early as 600 B.C. according to suggestions in the Bible. It comes in several sizes alto ( which is what you see above ),tenor, bass and double bass. It is a very versatile instrument and is used in small chamber music ensembles for ceremonies, church services and even operas. It can also be used for less formal musical presentations such as dance music in festivals and celebrations.Maybe you could even use it in a heavy metal band if you wanted to.
I had the privelege to see Catherine play and sing ( she can sing too! )on a few precious occasions. The most memorable "gig" was in the chapel at McGill University when she was part of a rather large ensemble which included a harpsichord player who was a bundle of nerves and had a hard time keeping up with the group.But you live and learn and I`m sure that that night was a learning experience for the girl.It was a magnificent recital nonetheless and Catherine came to see me afterwards to sign an autograph.Just kidding ,she just wanted to see how I enjoyed the show. I think she saw the big beer bottle under my jacket but she didn`t say anything. I think that I might be the only person on God`s Earth who would have the audacity to drinlk alcohol in a church during a recital of classical music.
So I`m going to hell.
Anyway, there were no more than 40 people (plus one drunk) at this wonderful FREE recital that autumn evening.It sort of escapes me and leaves me in wonderment why something as exquisite and intimate as a recital of early music can only attract so few people while garbage like U2 and their decadent stage setup on their latest 360° tour that makes them look like fleas performing at a circus can attract millions.It really does make me wonder about people.Fortunately there are dedicated young musicians like Catherine who prefer to propogate traditional early music in it`s true form employing archaic instruments and techniques such as the sackbut which allows audiences a rare glimpse into the artistic past.
One day I decided to put Catherine to the acid test and put a couple of CDs by the 1970`s ecclectic rock band Gentle Giant in her mailbox at McGill and asked her to review one of them ( her pick ) for progarchives.com where I write my own crappy progressive rock reviews. Gentle Giant`s music was very complex and incorporated many styles from medievalisms, classical as well as straight rock so I thought it would be right up her alley. I didn`t think she would take this seriously but I was more than suprised and delighted when an email arrived with an in depth kick ass review for Gentle Giant`s 1972 album, Octopus. She even corrected some of the Liner notes which were written by the band themselves!
Her humility, love for music and life will always stick in my heart. Right now she`s over in the Swiss Alps studying at The Schola Cantorum in Basel.She has also toured extensively around Europe playing in Amsterdam in the Netherlands,Vienna Austria, Antwerp Belgium, Kiev in the Ukraine as well as music festivals across Canada particularily in her hometown of Ottawa, Ontario spreading the good musical word. Next stop Alpha Centauri.
Captain Kenneth Clayton-Kennedy ( rear cockpit ) with unidentified student in a Be2c multi-purpose trainer at Hendon, England in 1916. The rather nasty looking arrangement of 4 Vickers machine guns was meant to teach students to fire the guns from all quadrants. This was before more advanced scouts were introduced that had synchronized guns that fired forward through the propeller arc.
When Canadians think of World War One heroes the name that usually immediately comes to mind is Billy Bishop whose exploits have been imortalized in books, plays and even discredited by a National Film Board documentary. We don't think of the early airmen who weren't even really airmen but infantry and artillery officers who had been seconded or had volunteered for flying duties. Back in 1914-15 it didn't take long to train a man to fly a plane. Sometimes only a matter of weeks. Because of their understanding and experience with ground units many officers initially trained as observers flying shotgun and reporting enemy developments on the ground to higher formations so it could be distributed to ground units engaged in battle. Many would later cross train as pilots and as the war progressed pilots were being selected from the applicants off the street who possessed the proper physical and educational qualifications. I got to know one of the Canadian veterans of fledgling days of the Royal Flying Corps. His name was Mr Kenneth Clayton-Kennedey who lived down the street from me while I was attending university with hopes of joining the air force and going out and doing the same sort of big and glorious things as he did.
I came to know Mr. Clayton-Kennedy through the most unexpected of circumstances. I had a friend named Dan who owned a store called Aeroplane Records & Books in Notre Dame de Grace, a borough of Montréal where I would hang out and listen to freaky music and shoot the breeze with Dan whenever I had time. One day Dan suggested that I might want to meet this elderly gentleman who was attracted to the store one day because the old spelling of the word "aeroplane" aroused his curiousity. Dan informed me that he was a former World War I pilot who had fought the Red Baron ( not really, but this is what Dan said ). He gave me a paper with his name and address and the times that I could go and see him. This sort of freaked me out not only because he lived a few houses away from me but because according to my math this guy had to be at least somewhere in his 80s. I asked Dan how in hell did the guy get down the bloody stairs. Dan said, " very slowish. And he can't hear either so you have to write everything down when you talk to him". I went home that night and checked a book that I had about the Royal Flying Corps in Canada during the First World War , The Royal Flying Corps From Borden To Texas To Beamsville by Wlliam Chajkowski ( cover pictured below), and found out that he was an instructor at the School Of Aerial Fighting in Beamsville Ont. in 1917 and found him in a group photo.
I was in a bit of awe when I set out for his house which was only just down the street from where I lived. I brought the book along and rang the bell with some apprehension. I wasn't sure how I was going to be recieved and felt like I was going to see The Wizard Of Oz. His caregiver who lived upstairs answered the door and I introduced myself and explained to her that he had met a friend of mine who owned a book store who said that I might want to meet him. I still felt like I was going to meet The Wizard Of Oz. The lady showed me in and a very slight yet astute elderly gentleman still wearing the old style hanlebar moustache in the photo in the book rose and greeted me very warmly and asked me what I wanted to know about the Flying Corps. I had to write down my requests on paper because he had become rather deaf over the years. He reminded me that things like that could hapen to you when you reached 94 years. 94 tears! I couldn't believe that he had made it over to my friend's store which was a good mile and a half away!
Above are two specimens of the RCFC prototype pilot's qualification badge. The top image shows the wing that is in possession of a collector in Vancouver, British Colombia whom I have been unable to track down. I lifted it from Canadian Flying Services Emblems & Insignia 1914 - 1984 by Bill Hampson.From the brief description in the book it is obvious that the author really doesn't know much about it. The lower image is of Mr. Kennedy's wing that was donated to The Canadian War Museum in 1983. I obtained this high definition image ( CWM19830326-001 ) directly from the Image Archives and Reproduction Services of the museum in May 2011 that came with dimensional and colour references. Note the slight differences between the two specimens ( photos are not to scale with on another ).
Photo taken in June 1918 when Mr. Kennedy was an instructor with The Scool of Aerial Fighting in Beamsville, Ontario. He is standing 4th from left. Two officers on either side of him were also instructors while guys with the white bands on their peaked caps are the student pilots. The aircraft is a Curtiss JN-4 Canuck also known as the " Jenny ". The photo with a detailed caption appears in the book by William Chajkowski.
I found out that he was part of a group of officers that had been charged by the Department Of Militia & Defence ( as the Department of National Defence was called back in 1916 ) to form an autonomous Canadian flying service as Canadians had been flying with Royal Flying Corps squadrons up until then and were treated like subordinates. He gave a flying demonstration in a Vickers FB 5 Gunbus like the one pictured below on August 9, 1916 in front of some big shots to show the British that Canadians were fully capable of creating their own flying service and an article appeared in the Montréal Gazette on August 23rd declaring that "Canadian Flying Corps Now Seems To Be Assured" but the idea was shot down by the brass and the Canadians never achieved idividuality and continued to be attached to British squadrons for the rest of the war. The Australians managed to form their own flying service in 1914 but always operated under British command. Mr. Kennedy showed me a prototype pilot's badge on that first visit of which he was particularily proud. At the top of the section is a representation of a standard Royal Flying Corps wing which was worn by Canadian pilots serving during the First World War with the British Royal Flying Corps. Mr Kennedy donated his prototype wing ( one of 4 known to exist ) to the Canadian War Museum who appraised it's fair market value at $17,000 in 1981. It is not on public view and despite my enquiries nobody seems to know anything about it. I have recently written some letters in hopes of getting it displayed in their extensive collection of flying badges.
Mr. Kennedy was originally from Sherbrooke Québec and joined a local Artillery regiment, The 35th Battery Canadian Field Artillery arriving in England with the 1st Contingent of The Canadian Expeditionary Force in 1914. He was wounded in France in April 1915 and after recovering from his wounds, trained as an observer . Attched to No 4 Squadron, he flew contact patrols in Vickers FB 5 Gunbus aircraft that had just partially equipped the squadron. Although they were not very fast they were able to challenge the new Fokker Eindekker monoplanes because they offered the observer/gunner a wide arc of fire because of their pusher engine configuration. On July 29, 1915 Mr. Kennedy ( as a captain ) saw action for the first time and encountered a Fokker monoplane near Cambrai, France. The Fokker managed to maneuver into position underneath the FB 5 and damaged the wing and severed a bracing wire. Mr. Kennedy and his pilot , Captain Reese, managed to limp back to base and the encounter earned him the distinction of becoming the 4th Canadian to see combat in the air and one of the first commonwealth airmen to engage the new Fokker monoplanes. The Fokkers were the first aircraft to be fitted with an interupter gear that allowed their guns to fire through the propeller arc allowing it's pilot to aim his aircraft directly at the opponent which made it particularily lethal and afforded it a distict advantage in aerial engagements. Mr. Kennedy retrained s a pilot shortly thereafter and saw further combat over France before returning to England to take up instructional duties. He returned to Canada to set up a flying training syllabus that was located far away from the battle where he trained pilots at The School Of Aerial Fighting in Beamsville, Ontario which is located about halfway between Hamilton and St.Catharines Ontario.
During my many visits with him one of his favourite stories included washing future Prime Minister of Canada Lester B. Pearson out of flying training for lack of moral fibre as he referred to it. While taking off in a Be2c from Hendon, England on his first flight Pearson crashed the plane. Although he and Mr.Kennedy survived, Pearson was injured and never returned to flying duties. The fact that Pearson always downplayed his military sevice didn't sit very well with Mr. Kennedy and he had to keep reminding me of this on many occasions. Mr. Kennedy also became involved with postwar investments in Turkey and told me about some harrowing business capers when he was part of the Ottoman American Development Company. He also had a squirrel friend who would show up for nuts at about the same time every day interrupting our discussions ( I think it was more than one squrriel).
Most of all my visits with the old flyer were fascinating in the sense that I got to visit and talk with a piece of living history and hear things straight from the proverbial horse's mouth. And the living history usually would tell a different story from what you read in official histories. I asked him once what he thought of Billy Bishop's controversial claims and being awarded the Victoria Cross with no witnesses. He told me what Bishop did was an insubordinate action whose results were embroidered to boost morale at home and everyone in the Flying Corps knew it. "Bunk" as he so forthrightly put it. He would always stress the importance of the aeroplane as a tactical apparatus and how it was over-romanticised by newspapers. It was serious business and the lone wolf one man air force stories were not entirely representative of what they were trying to accomplish with the aeroplane in the early days. When I would ask him how many enemy planes he personally shot down he would become modest and answer me with explanations that even turned into mini- lectures of the tactical value of the aeroplane emphasizing the point that they didn't go out looking for a fight but to glean information about the battlefield ( he nonetheless admitted to shooting down " four enemy machines " ). This was the mentality of the early fliers who, as I mentioned earlier, came almost exclusively from artillery batallions who had clear scientific tactical battlefield knowledge.
Although this fine gentleman who so kindly took so much time to chat with me is no longer with us, the memories that I have of my visits with him will always rest fondly in the pages of my mind. ( I've got more photos of him that I'll post in the near future ). As I mentioned more recently I have been writing letters to the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa to try and find out why his prototype flying badge is not on display . I think I'll have to go in person in order to get some answers. One day I hope that it an be displayed so for Canadians to see that there were actually some early attempts at forming an autonomous air force before the Royal Canadian Air Force was officially created on April 1, 1924. Instead, Canadians like to dwell on misrepresented heroics and the failure of a Canadian supersonic fighter called the Avro Arrow. When true and honourable deeds go virtually unnoticed.
Here's a short video that illustrates how frail these early warplanes actually were. It features a restored Curtiss JN-4 "Jenny" which was a training aircraft type that was flown by Mr. Kennedy when he was attached to The School Of Aerial Fighting in Beamsville Ontario. After the war many were used by by barnstormers who would fly to fairgrounds and rural areas offering rides and thrilling crowds with daredevil feats of flying . This particular machine belongs to collection of World War One aircraft they have at the Old Rhinebeck Airfield near Albany, New York. I've visited it many times and it's just like stepping into a bloody time warp. Not only do they have airshows every Saturaday & Sunday from June to October that include dogfights and barnstorming stunts, there are also period fashion shows and airplane rides that incude flights in the "Jenny". There are also tons old vehicles to check out including military and emergency vehicles,motorcycles, speedsters and bicycles.Check out the link for the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome website. The newest artifacts you'll see here date from 1939!
Recently there wasa torrential dowpour and I had to take refuge in a bus shelter where I met a charming lady by the name of Elizabeth Gibson. She was a school teacher and we got talking about our favourite music. She was a big Diana Krall fan and told me a story that was really touching and worth relating. I can't recall the year but Diana was playing at Place Des Arts the main concert hall here in Montréal. The cheapest seats were $125 and the most expensive I think something in the $ 200 range. Well Elizabeth had only $20 on her and the concert had been sold out. She happened to be nearby and came across a scalper. It was about a half an hour before showtime so she threw caution into the wind and went and offered him the $20. He said the lowest he could go would was $125 but he said "you could go around the corner and ask my boss you can't miss him he 's the guy on the cell phone". So she went around the corner and explained to him that she was a big Diana Krall fand and that she only had $20. The scalper actually had a big heart and gave her the ticket for free on the codition that she didn't talk to anone seated around her. The seat was in the sixth row right up in the front of the stage. Elizabeth was a bit confused when he told her not to talk to anyone so she asked the scalper why not? He said it was because he had sold some of those tickets for as much as $300! Elizabeth had a wonderful time, could even see Diana's fingers dance over the piano keyboard and didn't talk to anyone.
I guess the moral of the story could be that anyone can have a heart even a ticket scalper.
Apart from seeing Jeff Healey in concert on umerous occasions I had the privelege of meeting and talking with him. The first time I saw him play live I was completely awestruck. The gig took place in Gertrude's Pub in McGill University in Montréal shortly before his 1988 album See The Light had been released so I had never heard of him at all. My buddy Eric who was working security guided him up to the small stage so I said to myself well, the man must be blind. Then he sat down and his guitar was placed on his lap and then he just cut into a blues rock inferno. Now, many people think this is the way blind people play guitar which is false. Healey developed this unconventional lap style on his own making use of all 5 digits on his left hand. When he started playing at the age of three the guitar was just too freaking big to hold in the usual manner. Many other blind guitarists such as Doc Watson & Jose Feliciano play the instrument conventionally. When his first album, See The Light, came out in 1988 I snapped it up right away and it remains to this day on of my favourite albums of all time.
In the autumn of 1990 I went to a memorabilia trade show in Toronto that not only had records but anything else that was collectible from hockey cards to action figures. I had no Idea Jeff Healey was going to be there. He was sitting at a table all alone with a pile of old jazz albums. I knew he had an extensive collection of old 78s and did a retro jazz show on CBC FM so this made complete sense. I managed to find a See The Light album for about $10 although this was around the time his second album Hell To Pay had just come out. I went up to him and introduced myself and he extended his hand. We chatted a little bit about his music at the time that he considered to be rock rather than blues after which asked him if he would sign the album. At first he was a bit reluctant fearing that I only wanted the autograph so I could sell it. I assured him that it was for me. He warned me jokingly that he had his spies and signed it.
Watching Healey play on numerous occasions enlightened me somewhat. He demonstrated to me that blind people can see albeit in a completely different way that's foriegn and abstract to sighted people. I once shared a table in a restaurant with a blind man and an appropriate opportunity arose for me to ask him how blind people percieve their surroundings. He said it was like everything was brushing against his eyes. Obviously the way they percieve the world is not like a sighted person would by merely closing their eyes. I took a humanities course in CEGEP once and a section of the course dealt with the rights of handicapped people. One afternoon we had to don blindfolds and go out in pairs around the campus just to get an idea of what it was like to be blind. I felt that this wasn't really accuarate simulation of what it was like to be blind because we were familiar with the campus and could imagine everything visually. A blind person would have become familiar with it in a blind person's way ie without ever having seen what anything looks like. This blind man I had dinner with was not bothered by the fact that he was blind because he had never known what it was like to be able to see like a sighted person and he didn't even consider it a handicap. I guess it would be different for a person who loses their sight later in life.
Jeff Healey passed away on March 2, 2008 at the age of 42 a result of a form of cancer known as retinoblastoma. I was shocked because I was unaware that he had previously undergone several operations to remove metastatic tissue from both of his lungs as well as two sarcomas or tumors from his legs. He was taken from the Earth much too soon. Here's a video of him playing with Marcus Miller on Bass, Omar Hakim on drums and Dr. John on the piano one of his best performances that I could find on youtube.
People remember how and when they met the Lord Creator for the first time. Just like they have their own special individual relationship with the big man. I must admit that in my short fifty years down here I've been waiting for him to show up but so far he's been a no-show ( so was the Loch Ness Monster when I was waiting for it while on holiday in Scotland ). However, I've come acrooss many people who have found him with very little sluething. I guess you don't really have to try that hard because apparently he is everywhere. The clause is that he is not going to come and find you ( he's a busy man ). I met a young man named Alex one morning on Sherbrooke St. just by chance. Well, maybe not just by chance. Here's the story.
I had misplaced my wallet and had to resort to asking a complete stranger for passage fare for the local transportation system. I met this young man and briefly explained my unfortunate predicament. Instead of giving me the $2 I was missing, he invited me to breakfast. I was feeling a bit peckish and wasn't in too pressed for time so I accepted his offer. We found a small café, ordered breakfast and over the course of our conversation somehow the subject of God came up. I sort of expressed my doubts about the existence of a supreme being but was open to any explanations. He decided to tell me how he came to find God and I found ithe story so interresting that I asked if I might use the story on my crappy website using a bit of artistic license.
He was waiting to get on an airline flight and for some odd reason he decided not to board the aircraft. Now, we all know of stories about people who didn't board flights for various reasons whether it be by premonition, a screw up on part of the airline or they had to return home because they forgot to feed their pet goldffish and then their flight crashes into the face of a mountain killing all on board. One of the most famous premonitions occured in May 1979 when a young man by the name of David Booth awoke from a rather disturbing dream. For some reason the events of the dream informed him of an impending air disaster. The dream even provided him with the name of the airline, aircraft type and cause of the crash. He telephoned the Federal Aviation Administration and informed them of his dream and of course they thought he was a bit looney tunes and just dismissed the call as some sort of prank. Not 3 days later American Airlines Flight 191 crashed on takeoff at Chicago's O'Hare airport killing 271 people making it one of the worst air disasters in American history. The aircraft was a DC-10 wide body airliner just as in the dream.. This is a well documented story and not something from the pages of The National Enquirer. pretty spooky.
The reason Alex decided not board his flight was that he had simply found God. I guess this seemed such a revelation to him that he had to stop everything and take a breather. At this point I had to interject, "and the airplane you were supposed to get on crashed " He said no. The aircraft reached it's destination safely. This suprised me, "it didn't crash?" I couldn't believe this until I convinced myself that he wasn't making this up. I might add this young man was no slouch, very articulate, well dressed etc. and most of all had a big heart and gave me the 2 lousy dollars I needed to get on the bus just after settling the breakfast bill..
There are many different ways I've heard of how people have found God such as surviving near death experiences ( "please God get me out of this mess and I will go to church every Sunday" ) and the like, but believe me Alex's story takes the proverbial cake. He could have been on a crowded bus, witnessed something that was rather incredible and out of the ordinary such as a UFO landing in his backyard or he could have just been walking down the street, almost stepping piece of dog poop lying on the sidewalk.
His story told me that God is not hiding underneath a rock, he is everywhere seek him out and you'll find him.. He is there to be found.
Here's a video featuring the song " He's Calling " by Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush.