Posts Tagged: Waterstreet

The summer before my brother moved away

Though it feels like it all happened last night, it’s been several months now since my brother moved away. He, his partner, his stepson and their friendly black Lab lived just a short walk up the hill and around the corner from our street.

On warm evenings last summer, my wife and I would walk over there for supper and a few drinks, and we’d often end the night with a campfire and a big yarn in the back yard. We’d sit around telling lies and stories long into the evening, watching the stars and flankers shine faintly above, and after a few hours my wife and I would walk back home, arm-in-arm, just around the corner and down over the hill.

To say that these evenings last summer were anything less than magic would be to lie. And now they’re gone.

Though my brother and I still talk and laugh and carry on everyday, it just isn’t the same. The words of Irene Peter often echo loudly in my ears, sadly and without consolation:

Just because everything is different doesn’t mean anything has changed

she once wrote. But yet it isn’t a vague ‘anything’ that troubles me these days— it feels like everything has changed.

Will we ever get those magic summer evenings back? I’m not sure. The optimist in me is ever reluctant to see the passage of time as a permanent thing, but there certainly is a nagging feeling of permanence about the passing of evenings like these. A feeling that although the evenings will carry on, they’ll do so with a certain emptiness about them. They’ll pass without the laughing and the stories in the backyard, and they’ll do so without the smell of smoke from the campfire. It feels like they’ll just pass without any specialness to them at all, and I’ve been feeling a bit sad and nostalgic about that for a few weeks now.

And sure, you could certainly say that there’s no real need for any of this sadness at all—he and his family have just moved to the other side of town, for God’s sake—but still, it does make me a little bit sad and wistful for the long evenings full of food and wine and stars and warm summer wind and that magic feeling that you can only feel as a family.

30 things learned in 30 years

  1. Jeffrey Zeldman will ruin your current career. He will also help you find the one you were meant for all along.
  2. Home is where you are, not where you’re from
  3. The internet is a popularity contest, just like high school
  4. Your family matters more than anything else (including everything on the internet)
  5. Job unhappiness will very quickly lead to life unhappiness
  6. Life is far too short for bad salads and “French” dressing. The only salad dressing you will ever need contains:  Dijon mustard, honey, red-wine vinegar and olive oil in a  1:1: 2:4 radio. Add a pinch of salt and a squeeze of lemon at the end.
  7. Your values and principles are the most important things you own. You lose something of yourself every time you compromise them.
  8. Fur Packed Action will never release another cd. Doing so would only muddy the memories you already have.
  9. A pension is not more important than your happiness
  10. Do and be what you are
  11. Spend less than you make every year
  12. Be independent. You are the only person out there you can truly depend on.
  13. You should have one primary goal every single day: Be to be nice to people
  14. Knowing what personality type you are will help you all the way along. I’m an ENFP.
  15. Debt is a bad thing and should be avoided at all costs
  16. Spending the smallest amount you can on things that don’t matter (your house, your car, your flat-screen TV, etc) will allow you to spend more on the things that do matter (eating out, travel, good food & wine, etc)
  17. You can’t change someone. You can help make them better in certain areas, but you’ll never change them
  18. The best tool for the job is the one you have in your hand
  19. Don’t ever settle: Not in a relationship, or in a job, or in a town. Long-term dissatisfaction is directly correlated with #23 below
  20. Don’t settle for bad coffee either. Good coffee doesn’t come from the supermarket, and should be ground right before you brew it
  21. “Success is not what you do, it’s how you inspire others” — Gordon Parks
  22. The reason your shoes don’t fit is because you have wide feet. It’s absurd that you haven’t discovered this by now.
  23. Stress is precisely like cancer. If you don’t/can’t get rid of it, it will kill you
  24. Go to your friends’ shows and parties—you’re not being a friend if you don’t support them
  25. Don’t sweat the small stuff.TM It really, really, really is all small stuff
  26. Don’t lend your time or money unless you can afford not to be paid back
  27. There’s magic in long bike rides at the end of long summer days, just as the sun is going down
  28. Being impulsive is better than being safe
  29. Stop spending money you don’t have, to buy things you don’t need, to impress people who won’t care
  30. Figuring out who you are is key to the previous 29 items

Notes on Shopping at Sears

I shop at Sears now. [There, I’ve said it.]

This is a sentence I wasn’t sure I’d ever write or speak publicly, though I’m not exactly sure why that is. Since I started shopping at Sears, probably two years or more ago, I would typically walk to the men’s area, somewhere near the back, and start sorting through racks of pleated Arnold Palmer golf pants and argyle-printed sweater-vests until I found an armload of clothes to take to the dressing room to try on. Always while rifling, I’d keep my back to the main aisle, and always keep an eye over my shoulder to see if I recognized any passersby. Or, more importantly, to see if they recognized me.

It isn’t that Sears is some evil place. I mean, I’m talking about Sears here, not Walmart. But still I had fairly strong reservations about becoming one of their regular patrons. I would often hide in the back of the clothing racks, discretely buy things and try them on when I got home, coolly walk through the men’s area on the way to the appliance and tool area [these are at opposite ends of the store, fyi], casually grabbing a shirt or two as I went.

But all of this is absurd behavior, right? It isn’t normal to be ashamed of being seen in a store? Is it? Maybe it is a little crazy, but it is also a lot explainable: Growing up in a small town just barely within reach of a Christmas Wishbook catalog, results in you showing up to school and other social gatherings looking a lot like your peers. By a lot, I mean, identically.

—I wanted to get the blue, button-up one too, but mom said only the green pullover was on sale.

Was a sentence I heard more often than once between two people, sitting awkwardly and similarly dressed at a dance or birthday party. Hence, Sears became a bane. It stripped us of our individuality, and reduced us all to life-less drones — teal-coloured-silk-shirt-with-bolo-tie-wearing drones. Sure they sold quality, comfortable clothing at moderate prices, but when has that ever mattered to anyone other than Mom?

In recent years, however, all that negative perception has melted away to reveal what was really there all along: a sobering realization that Sears really isn’t that bad a place to shop. We have four notes today to support this realization. These are:

  1. Sales

    It doesn’t matter where you shop, a sale is a sale. Any time a store offers to save you money on something you would have bought anyway is a good time. And in the land of sales, Sears is king: White sales, Weekend sales, Super Saver Saturday sales, Sears Days sales, Appliance and Home Furnishings sales, Winter sales, Spring sales, Summer sales, Back to School sales, just-because-it’s-Tuesday sales. Pick any random date and I can personally guarantee that there’ll be a sale on at Sears.

  2. Dire Straights

    I’m not sure why, but Sears plays a lot music from Dire Straights. I presume it’s to appeal to a broad a spectrum of people in the easiest way, and honestly, I can’t think of a better band to do this than Dire Straights. And I’m not talking about just repeating Sultans of Swing, either—just yesterday, for example, I heard Walk of Life coming through loud and clear on the store’s PA system. Walk of Life for God’s sake! I love that song.

  3. Comfort fit

    I don’t want to delve too far into this one for fear of incrimination. I just want to draw to the readers’ attention that there exists in this cold, cruel, skinny world, pants that expand to fit virtually any waistline, even as it may change on an hourly basis (like in the hour following a buffet dinner, for example). And that’s all I want to say about that.

  4. Meat slicer demos

    That’s right, meat slicer demos. Find me another store where you can have your boring shopping experience delightfully interrupted by a large man with a megaphone, standing atop a milk crate asking for audience volunteers to come up and help him verify that his meat slicer is better than all the competitors. Go ahead, just try and find it. If you don’t believe that this happens, all I can do is beg you to trust that this is not something I would either make up, or lie about.

None of these, of course, are enticing enough reasons to visit Sears on their own, but when coupled with the fact that Sears has become the only store in town with clothes to fit my 6’3” frame, I think you’ll admit that I’ve really struck gold here.

But what to say now of my past perceptions? My former opinions? What to make of the fact that not long ago I had made merciless fun of the seemingly un-ending litany of sales, of the largely dull pastel-nature of the Arnold Palmer collection of summer leisure suits? What can I say about all that now?

At this stage, I’m not entirely sure what to say about it all. But, as I sit here and write in a pair of dress pants that stretch past my ankles, with a sweater on that’s long enough to cover my belt, and a pair of soft, Grandfather-esque, brown leather shoes (double E wide) on my warm, dry feet, I can tell you that I’ll happily take back all of what I said.

You got the last laugh, Sears.


Although she said yes several months back, I was still quite pleased to see her at the church on the day of. After just a few short weeks, I can confirm that the ring is starting to get comfortable.

A computer for Nan

I got a Facebook message last night from one of my great aunts wishing me a happy birthday. It was a fairly typical annual note – happy birthday, looking forward to seeing you, have a great day, etc – but there was something extra at the end. She was talking to my Nan earlier in the day and, not owning a computer of her own, Nan asked that she send a message on her behalf too.

—Put a message on Facebook for Terry, she likely said.

There’s a whole pile of reasons why Nan and Pop don’t own a computer – the cost, having another monthly bill for internet access, finding somewhere to setup a desk, and most importantly, finding someone to teach her how to use it. Several times I’ve heard Nan dismiss the idea of getting a computer outright.

—Too much trouble

In a Perfect World
In an absolutely perfect scenario, Nan would get up in the morning, make coffee and browse the latest posts on Facebook. Pop would have the news and weather read to him, and look up a few troublesome answers on his crossword. After lunch Nan could Skype with her grandkids, look up recipes, see all the new pictures on Facebook, and send birthday wishes. She might also play Scrabble with my mom, read forwarded jokes from me, and even see in real-time the great-granddaughter that she’s never seen before in real-life. All these things are so mundane and easy to do now technologically, that they seem silly to even talk about. But yet, as technically yawn-ish as they are, there’s no way Nan and Pop would be able to get from where they are now to there.

The interface is the message
As the US and Canada debate and legislate the right of all people to have broadband internet access, I really hope the conversation does at least a brief diversion to issues of interface. I’m not just talking about the Facebook interface, or the Hotmail interface; when I talk about interface with respect to Nan and Pop, I’m talking about the whole experience.

I’m talking about them having something that’s easy to setup and use, easy to manage, easy to type into and speak into, easy to look at, easy to listen to. I’m talking about something that makes their lives better, not more complicated. Sadly, the modern ‘computer’ that we know today isn’t it. Our modern computer has to be setup, has to be upgraded, has to have virus scanners and anti-phishing(?) software. It has to come with huge technical overhead; it has to be learned.

What’s sadder still is that until we have something better and easier to use, Nan will continue to send me birthday wishes via my aunt, and will continue to miss out on this huge opportunity to make her daily-life in a small, quiet, sleepy rural town a little bit richer.