31 October 2006

Learn to Die Safely


Almost everyone has family they grieve for; that they pay respects toward. He had no one. No one here. He wasn’t here himself. He couldn’t be seen in the graveyards. Couldn’t be seen at the roadside memorials where the tragedy of travel had take someone to the final destination. Couldn’t be seen in the market or a convenience store buying cigarettes and mineral water. Couldn’t be seen in a café having a coffee: domestic or espresso. Couldn’t be seen talking with anyone because they would be seen by others to be talking with themselves.

Today felt like it was the dullest, deadest Halloween ever imagined, barer than a Scrooge Halloween. But that came of being so near the land of Transylvania, and not revelling in some post-Puritan city or town in North America. There were no pumpkins in windows with faces carved in them. No decorated buildings or offices. No workers in costume, Halloween costumes that is, going about their usual work, with a bowl of molasses kisses beside the cash register.
        The closest things seen to anything in the spectrum of Halloween spectres looked like good harvest tokens or tributes. Miniature smiling straw and corn husk stuff scarecrow men in shirts and pants sitting in wheelbarrows or on wreaths with small corncobs and dried flowers, occasionally with tiny, brightly-coloured gourds, plastic grapes, and replicas of apples, pears and other fruits.
        Some expats in the capital had their embassy’s Halloween party last Friday: a walking pumpkin, a handcuffed prisoner, high-steppin’ mamas—some in drag, Arabs in caftans drinking beer, naughty nurses and French maids, cowboys, courtly ladies, dead rock stars and actors, actresses, hayseed farmers, movie creatures, witches, skeletons, the grim reaper . . .
        Halloween in the middle of the week makes for more parties on Friday. This far north, where one has almost left one country, one culture, for another one, the local Catfish Bar wants a wild Friday night weekend kickoff: DJ Dawg on turntables, special drink drink specials, prizes for the best . . .
        Today’s farm market, at the end of the last day of October, at dusk, was still busy with vendors. Mostly sellers of flowers—singular and bunched . . . some of them plastic made in china—and farm and forest garlands—garlic braids, dried paprika strings, woven wicker and pinecone wreaths. The market busy with townsfolk who had left it until the last possible moment to buy the symbols they haven’t grown themselves, or otherwise made.
        Usually, by one o’clock, the market would have been empty of everything except a few squashed tomatoes and dropped eggs (except for that one toilet paper and plastic bag seller backed onto the vendors’ coffee booth—they bring their own cups/mugs to take their hot drink back to their own booths.
        Unless you’re serious, don’t get too close to the flower arrangements. Don’t appear so interested that you’d be read by the sellers as needful . . . The locals all know enough, or too much, about each other and their families: the living and the dead.
        Tonight, one could be painted, greased, wearing all black with metal—polished stainless steel stud and chain jewellery, hand-forged ironware, or from the hardware store or pet shop garden-variety pieces with purpose—for a multiple goth band and DJ underground Samhain party in the not-so nearby city of Sumbad.
        Could be sitting costumed in the livingroom or front porch of a decorated house with a bowl of “trick or treat” candy or something for the neighbourhood’s costumed children going door to door, cutting across lawn and through hedges, their footprints dark holes in the thin crust of icy snow on still green grass. Tomorrow it will melt and one would rake up chip bags and candy wrappers with the accumulated maple, poplar and birch leaves.
        Could be gathered with others of a similar spirit in a hilltop grove of trees. Everyone would have put something troubling them in a wooden box. After the homage, the blessing, the best wishes for a rapid journey to the faraway halls of untroubled afterlife, the box will be collectively lifted like a coffin to be placed in the bonfire. Consumed by flames taller than anyone standing in the circle around it, sparks will shoot even higher into the clear sky night. Always there will be a few passing airplanes on great circle routes to and from Europe and the occasional satellites winking between the people and their fires sparks and the so distant stars. The people will see similar bonfires on other hilltops. A bottle or two of uisca beatha will passed hand to hand around the fire, around the grove, heart to heart.

Tomorrow is the Day of the Dead. A big holy day. The biggest after Christmas and Easter. Some might say that it’s bigger . . . maybe in México where it’s especially celebrated. Mardi Gras in Rio de Janeiro and New Orleans is likely their biggest. But they have their dead there too. They respect them, and the man leading the parade.
        It will be more congested than rush hour at the cemeteries. Finding parking will be a nightmare. There’ll be no place for all the old bicycles and scooters to park. Misty-eyed families will walk hand in hand across the streets, between parked cars. The gates will be crowded with extended families festooned with gardens of flowers for their deceased family, and to be laid at the feet of Jesus, the Virgin Mary, the monuments to locally celebrated saints and heros, fallen colleagues and friends. The gates will be clotted by flower vendors for the truly last-minute griever, or for those whose arms empty before their grieving and respects are done. The air will be filled with the smoke and the scent of chestnuts roasting in with metal boxes perched atop orange propane tanks. The graveyard will be as crowded as midnight madness sales before Christmas. For many, this will be the only time in the year that they’ll be certain to meet the families of their dead’s neighbours. The handshakes will go on forever. The constant hugs will warm the coldest person. Bottles or flasks of homemade brandy carried in the inside jacket pockets of the men will be shared and discreetly nipped. There will be such a flock of perfectly ironed handkerchiefs that they’ll outnumber the doves and pigeons.
        Every year, before they arrive they know that more people have died. More people they know are in heaven, sitting at the right hand of God. More people who left before their time. And people who slipped away quietly in their sleep, God rest their souls. May they find peace in the hereafter. More people who died in domestic situations. Who personally failed Who were victims of meaningless, senseless, pointless violence. Who died in war. Who died elsewhere and never made it home. Who died because someone else liked killing. Who died because they just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Every year, the discovery of the loss of someone unexpected will catch them off guard.

“Before you can be approved to play, you must learn to fight safely. How to hit with a sword. How to use a shield to ward off blows. How to two-stick. How to pole arm. How to use a dagger. A mace. A great axe. You must learn to recognize when and how you’ve been hit and know how to call out your wounds, especially the loss of and arm or leg. You must learn how to fight with one arm. How to fight with no legs. You must learn how to fall. To die and to stay dead. You must learn how to die safely. You must keep your legs together. Never cross your ankles when you’re dead! You must keep your arms tight to your sides. Your shield on top of you can me good, but only if you die with it in hand. We can’t be having unnecessary broken limbs on the dead before play stops. Once fighting stops, the dead must leave the field. Some of the big battles with thousands of fighters have only minutes or seconds of live fighting time. Removing the dead fighters makes for a cleaner battle. Don’t have watch as closely for their bodies. Them’s the rules.”

I’ve seen a ghost shadow of myself standing in a flat-bottom boat on the River Csardas.
        A ghost I not yet am. A boat I’ve never owned or been a passenger on. A river I’ve only once waded in. Nothing more. Never immersed myself in the sandy water. Never swam.
        I never drowned. My body was not found downstream, bloated and ensnared on fishing lines or boat ropes. My body wasn’t lost in a mass grave, or the fires after a bombing, train wreck, or volcanic eruption. The earth didn’t crack open and swallow me alive. My body wasn’t swept into the ocean.
        No one grieved my passing. Not my parents. Not my siblings and their families living elsewhere. No flesh of my flesh. No one said, “So young. Why did have to die so soon? Such promise.”
        No one spat on my grave and walked away. No one danced on my grave. No one celebrated. No one said, “Good riddance!”
        Nothing happened that way.
        But today I saw myself as a boatman ghost.

Broken Jaw @ Beograd Book Fair 2007

Yes, folks, Joe Blades made it to his third consecutive Beograd Book Fair. Another hot weather week with temps often in the high 20s C outside and warmer in the trade show halls. The Canada Stand was again a great success. It's an incredible commitment and dedication of embassy staff and resources to make everything happen.

The participating Canadians authors & their book translators, publishers, and adminstrators, along with a large number of pubishers from countries of the former Yougoslavia, the Beograde Book Fair Council, and more ever invited to a gathering at the Canadian Ambassador (Robert McDougall) official residence. [Note the date typo in lower section—BJ]

Joe Blades, publisher and poet, and Olgica Marinkovic, Academic and Cultural Officer at the Embassy of Canada in Beograd, Serbia, during Broken Jaw's presentation in the Canada Stand on Friday, 27 October 2006.

23 October 2006

2001 interview, part two

The ongoing Canadian adventures of Publisher-Poet Jumping Joe Blades
Interview by Cathie Leblanc

First published on the website of the New Brunswick Filmmakers' Cooperative in 2001.

Cathie: So Joe, here we are again. Different location, different time.

Joe: Definitely.

Cathie: We both still have a coffee, though. This is a continuation of what we were discussing last time in part one of "Jumping Joe's Great Canadian Adventures," about the Festival in Labrador. This time you'd like to focus a bit on the documentary that was made behind the scenes.

Joe: Yeah, there was an unexpected aspect to the Festival, which I didn't know about at all until I was there. Even the first time I saw the crew I didn't realize what they were, I figured it might have just been part of a cable TV station, or a group out . . . you know, for CBC, because we had CBC Radio floating around a lot of times at workshops. I had no idea that we actually had a film crew there who were shooting footage to make a documentary about the Festival.

Cathie: And they were shooting you, as well.

Joe: Well, they were shooting all of us. Certainly in the first days that I was around I was just in the audience, and they were shooting the children's, the student's, plays on-stage at Goose High, and I think they were in some of the workshops that the other artists in the Festival gave.

Cathie: You'll know when you see the documentary.

Joe: I'll know in the end, yes.

Cathie: What was it like when things slowed down a bit?

Joe: It was on the weekend that things slowed down, naturally (laughter). It's good. Even though there were still lots of kids coming in from the coast there was no evening performance on the Saturday. Saturday night was off. This was a good time for them to have some fun. They fly in from their little towns of 250 to 600 people, they've got Saturday night off in Goose Bay. They're ecstatic, because a lot of them come from towns that have no restaurants, coffee shops, or anything, you know, they don't have video rental stores, none of that.

Cathie: I can't imagine.

Joe: Then they're in Goose Bay, and Goose Bay has actually mushroomed in the last couple of years, since the road came in, it's connected by road to Quebec now, so people can drive there year-round.

Cathie: Oh, that's really quite a difference.

Joe: It's a major difference. So now there's 31 restaurants, most of them of the fast food type, everything from Subway and A&W to Irish pubs. Not a lot of high-end stuff, but there's 31 eateries where you can go out, and sit, and have someone else make the food. They were doing their Christmas shopping, and all sorts of fun things like that. That was a good break, from giving five workshops a day, to doing that. On the Sunday there were no workshops scheduled at all, which I thought was . . . well, it didn't surprise me. I had no idea how religious they were, or anything, but I knew from my experience on the Coast that some of them were very religious because the schools, up to a year and a half ago, had been run by a missionary. So (laughing) I figured it's quite likely that Sunday there won't be much happening. But I had a phone call, and was asked if I wanted to go cabinning on Sunday. I said, "Cabinning? What's that?" It's what they call going to the cabin. (laughter). Cabinning!

Cathie: I guess we just call it, "Going to the cabin."

Joe: (Laughter). I had never heard of it as a verb.

Cathie: So you said yes?

Joe: I said yes, of course! Because I've always liked the real world, as opposed to just our nice little urban constructed houses, and roads, and streetlights, and all that sort of thing. This was a cabin that Tim had that was some ways out of town. I think it's in the Land Management area. I just know that we went alongside the bay of Goose Bay. There were a couple of van loads of us that got picked up and taken there.

Cathie: So it wasn't just a few people . . .

Joe: It was about half of the artists. What was surprising was that when we got there, the film crew was there as well. There were four of them. It was led by a woman named Marian Cheeks and she was the producer. Another person was on sound. Someone was doing camera, and then there was someone who was, essentially, directing.

Cathie: Were they shooting digitally? Or on film? Joe: I'm thinking it was video, but I could be wrong. It was a big shoulder unit, like CBC, so I'm thinking Betacam.

Cathie: Which makes it interesting, when you're not ready for something.

Joe: Yeah. They'd rope in people to help out on lights. If they needed some extra lights, they'd just ask someone to hold lights. Or the one who was doing some of the directing would ask questions off-camera that we would answer on-camera. At the cabin they did some footage with a few of us, and I was one of the ones who got asked to do it while I was out picking some Labrador tea, just for the fun of it.

Cathie: So you picked it yourself.

Joe: Yeah. And I'd picked it before, but I picked it in BC, I picked it in Nova Scotia, wherever.

Cathie: What does it look like when you pick it fresh?

Joe: Oh, they're small, long oval leaves that are green, a shiny green on one side,
and kind of fuzzy, rusty brown on the underside.

Cathie: And is Labrador tea really nice?

Joe: It's a very mild, calm kind of sweet tea. It was just for the irony of it that I picked some. But of course they spotted what I was doing, and asked, "What are you doing?" (laughter)

Cathie: So it became a little bit bigger than both of you?

Joe: Then I had re-enact it for the camera! To go and pick some more.

Cathie: Which sort of takes out the spontaneity.

Joe: Oh yeah, that's why I was telling someone I became a docu-actor on it, because . . . what are you when you're doing a documentary? But, it's still acting, I thought. It's not like footage of a hockey game, you know. They don't say, "No, no . . . Do that slam into the boards again! Again! Again!" You know, Take 3. It doesn't work that way. But they had me go out and pick leaves. I did it, and then we had a little conversation or something about myself, and why I was there, and if it was the first time I was to Labrador. That sort of question. I know they went off and got someone, one of the other writers, Toby, from Montreal, an Irishman from Montreal . . .

Cathie: An Irishman?

Joe: Yeah. (laughter) . . . who did storytelling, and had his bag full of whistles, and all the "appropriate" things for being an Irish storyteller. They talked to him down at the stream. At the back of where the cabin was a stream that dropped probably about 12 feet across the back of the clearing, through a series of rapids and little waterfalls. They talked to him down there, and we'd have to act going into the cabin, and close the door behind us, and then inside they had all these trays of, like veggie trays, from I think had been the soiree the night before, the after-performance party. We were sitting around eating this and just talking about stuff. They'd prompt some conversation amongst the group of us artists, to talk in some sense about our experience at the Festival. Until then I hadn't had a sense that this was a history of the 25 years of the Festival, that this was what was prompted the film. For most of us it was our first time there. I think only one of the artists who was at the cabin that day had been to the Festival before. So we had no history with the Festival. Since we weren't in on the organizing of it, we didn't know about the background, or their expectations. We could talk, but it was a very uncomfortable type of speculation that what we felt we were doing. I think, in the end, none of that, unless it's a very small incident, none of that will show up in the final documentary because we didn't really know any of the background, or the development through 25 years of this festival.

Cathie: Sort of odd, eh?

Joe: I thought it was a little odd, I think that's what we were all feeling. We were quite glad, actually, when the camera got turned off. (laughter). Apparently, the other thing that we were supposed to do there was make some artist books . . . for fun, and do a little poetry slam. But that didn't happen.

Cathie: Yeah, it really should have been a day of rest. Everybody needs a day of rest.

Joe: Yeah, it wasn't totally cabinning, much as there was a nice wood stove, and we made tea . . .

Cathie: It actually sounds more urban than I thought it would, just with all the people there, and the camera crew . . .

Joe: With the camera crew there, it really threw it off, but it was a small cabin that was warmed by the wood stove, it clearly had bunks, and if you wanted water you dipped it from the stream. But dropping the camera crew and the vegie trays in there I thought was a little . . .

Cathie: The world sort of came in, eh?

Joe: Yeah, a bit unreal. It wasn't quite cabining. So yeah, that was a little odd.

Joe: I got a card from the producer, at least, which gives me some contact info, so I can follow up on it. The next night at my reading, they were there. They tended to be at all the evening performances, because they were getting bits of the children's plays that they created in their communities, and what they reflected on, and what their concerns were, and all of that. I had my short moment in the light, you know, my 5 or 10 minutes, or whatever it was, it wasn't very long. After the reading, Marian came up and asked if I would stay behind afterwards to do a recording of one of the poems I had read during the reading. I said sure, I can do this. I said it might be a bit of a challenge, as it had been onstage because I had lost my eyeglasses on the Saturday afternoon at Muskrat Falls when we'd been out on a hike. I think I had just slipped, or that they had flown off while I was taking a picture. No idea. They were just gone. So I was there trying to read without eyeglasses and for me, since I'm far-sighted, that can get very difficult. It was a challenge when they did the lighting.

Cathie: Oh good, good. That'd be interesting.

Joe: But of course that's, what do you call it, serendipity? It was something I was reading, I was just reading poems from the book, but she, Marian felt that this poem had a strong tie-in with something that she was working through, for the whole film. How would I know that? I think that's serendidpty.

Cathie: It is funny how things work out.

Joe: I've heard that it's slated for Vision TV and CTV. I have no idea if that's something that's on paper, or just speculation. I don't know anything about them, so I think there's a little investigating to do to find out.

Cathie: Well, you covered quite a bit. I want to find out when we talk again where
you travelled to next. And that, my dear man, will be the next installement of "Jumping Joes' Great Canadian Adventures."

Joe: Sounds good to me, let's drink some more coffee.

(End of part two of "Jumping Joe's Canadian Adventures, February, 2001." On a regular basis new articles about our member's creative activites are featured in this section of the New Brunswick Filmmakers' Cooperative web site. Contact the Co-op if you have any questions.)

21 October 2006

A home, da.

still don’t have a kitchen sink
the loaner stove works great
the doorbell has been repaired
blinds were installed on “cold” room’s window
have a nokia mobile phone and charger
have a cellphone number
have a dining room/worktable
two plastic patio chairs
four wood table chairs
one stuffed ottoman chair
one ochre-velvet sofa-bed
one ex-paintball klub “beer” fridge
one upright wardrobe
three “Puka Funny Love” enamel pots
four plates
one frying pan
two cups and a mug
three juice/pivo glasses
six rakija glasses
coffee pot
an ol’ clothes washer (in exchange
for english conversation lessons)
bottle opener and canada flag on wall

T-shirt: Bagad Kelc’h Keltieg Kombrid
loc: I.L. Ribarar 23A
temp: 11 C, mostly clear night
sound: Tricky & DJ Muggs & Grease “Scrappy Love”

20 October 2006

2001 interview, part one

"Jumping Joe's Canadian Adventures"
Interview by Cathie Leblanc

First published on the website of the New Brunswick Filmmakers' Cooperative.

Cathie: I guess my first question, Joe, to get the dialogue rolling, is how on earth did you end up in Labrador?

Joe: From what I've been able to figure out, there are two main coordinators who have been doing the Labrador Creative Arts Festival for a number of years: Tim Borlase, who is with the Labrador School Board, used to be the Labrador East School Board, but now it's all one; and a woman named Noreen Heighton, who hasd been teaching, I think, for 20 or 25 odd years in the Labrador school system.

She contacted me the week she was moving to Halifax, to go to the University of King's College. This after teaching for 25 years. She said she'd gone to, I think it was the League of Canadian Poets' website; that they were looking for writers, and she was really excited because mine had said that I had done workshops, with students from elementary grades, and that I said on the site, "grades 5 or 6 to post secondary." They were really excited by that latitude, because usually they didn't have people with that range.

Cathie: It was usually really young kids, or much older?

Joe: When I was in Scotland I had done some elementary classes in schools. But I wasn't doing kindergarten, or anything like that. When I got to Labrador, I was.

Cathie: Which is cool.

Joe: Oh, yeah, but I had no idea beforehand. So that's where it started: Noreen had gone to this website and found out some stuff about me. Then she e-mailed and asked if I'd be interested.

Cathie: When was that? How far in advance to the event?

Joe: I'm guessing it was July or August.

Cathie: So they contacted you well in advance of the event?

Joe: Well, I think my name had been put on a list that immediately went in to the Canada Council Festivals Program. It had to be July or August, because when I was in Ottawa in September for the Writersfest [Ottawa International Writers Festival] I was talking to a friend of mine who had been on the jury that approved the funding.

Cathie: It's always nice to have friends on juries.

Joe: Oh, yeah, the Council is very excited and supportive of this Festival. Sheri-D Wilson said that they were really excited, really glad to see my name on the list too. They've had a number of writers over the years. Michael Crummey had been up there, and last year Sue Goyette from the Halifax-Dartmouth area had gone up. She was one of the Governor General's Literary Awards shortlisted poets. And there's a real mix. This year there was Lindsay Marshall, chief of the Chapel Island Reserve in Cape Breton, who's also a poet.

Cathie: Do you know if Sheree Fitch, and other people who write children's books go up to Labrador for this festival?

Joe: There were children's authors there this year. I don't know if Sheree Fitch has done that circuit or not. I think it's quite likely. I'd have to look through that handbook on the festival, it identifies everyone that's been there every year. I do know this, there are some poets I know who do work for children, I think Sonya Dunn had been there, and a few others. I think there'd be quite a few writers, but it's a Festival for the full spectrum of the arts, so there will be dancers, there will be musicians, there will be singers, there will be carvers, and bookmakers.

Cathie: That's what I find interesting about this festival. Usually these events have a main theme, and a lot of things are carried around that. I find it quite fascinating that they're able to put all these different things into it and it doesn't become too convoluted, it actually gives a person experience in each artistic specialization.

Joe: I would say that this festival does have a main theme: the children's own creativity.

Cathie: So the focus is the children, what they are doing, and to encourage them in their creativity.

Cathie: And they could be creative in so many different things.

Joe: Right. That's why there are so many different options and exposures. You get a jazz singer who goes into a town like Hopedale and gets the kids singing along with her. Katrein's a solo act, except when she's actually doing the jazz band scene, and then she has a back-up band. She worked with a group of school kids who came after class, after school every day for a week of the Festival, and they rehearsed. Then they performed in the Festival. The same thing happened with another group that I didn't get to see because I was out on the coast.

There was an a capella group from Saskatchewan called Streetnix. It's a four-boy band, except that they don't have musicians hidden behind a screen. All of their music, all the rhythm, percussion and everything, is all made by them with their mouths. They're doing all the drums, all the vocals, everything.

Cathie: So how did they sound, Joe?

Joe: It's incredible. I've got a CD of theirs, and you'd never know that it was only recorded vocals. One of the members, B.J., would go from doing the bass drum, with some overlay, and he's doing this with his voice, to singing. And then go back and just pick up the beat. It's absolutely incredible.

They worked with a group of boys. It hadn't been intended that it be all guys, but that's who signed up for it. They worked with them on performing one of the standards, "The Lion Sleeps Tonight", and then there was a song of their own choosing. Since I wasn't there that night, I don't know what they picked. I do know that they were very interested in early Aerosmith, that they wanted to do "Money" by Pink Floyd, but Streetnix said they couldn't do "Money" easily because it's a 7/8 song, it's too fast.

Cathie: So they're touring around, are they?

Joe: Streetnix tours North America continuously.

Cathie: Wow, so they must be doing quite well.

Joe: Without the big music splash, they've been doing very well.

Cathie: I was thinking, it's so unusual, do you think they'll break out? Just like for example, Ricky Martin?

Joe: Yeah, I think they will because they're a boy band with this difference. They are making all their own music with vocals. Yes, they have something.

Cathie: That's a real challenge, though, to make noises that sound like musical instruments?

Joe: And to keep all the rhythm and all that, but they're all trained musicians as well. Aaron who's the lead singer, and I would say the frontperson, as in an organizing sense, said he has never had a "real job" in his life. Early on he was trained on piano, and when he was still in school he started getting hired to play piano for a ballet school, in Regina or Saskatoon, wherever it was, where he grew up. He just sort of continued from there. He's been in music forever.

Cathie: What a lucky guy.

Joe: Yeah.

Cathie: So, Joe, more about you!

Joe: (laughter)

Cathie: Basically, you received this email from Noreen and you were sent an itinerary.

Joe: Oh, that was much further down the road. First I had to send some poems and some stuff. There was some funny correspondence in there, because they were concerned that the work not be offensive, or too heavy on the sex orientation, because it was in the school system.

Cathie: You had to give material that was along a particular theme suitable to kids?

Joe: Well, I sent a range of my poems. I had no problem about doing that, and to talk about what I wrote, because there's a lot of people's poetry and poems with animals and places. At some point, she sent an e-mail that just said, "You're hired." That was the subject line.

I met Noreen at Word On The Street in Halifax, at the end of September. Because she was in Halifax, she was interviewing Newfoundland writers as part of her course work. I think she was taking the one-year Journalism intensive at King's. We met there and talked a bit, and that was late September. It was early November before I actually had an itinerary. In between that I had to produce what they called a menu, which I didn't get at first. Because I thought I was just going to do readings. But they said, "No, no." Because there's a whole spectrum of artists being asked "What type of workshops or presentations would you do? What materials do you need to do them? What group size? What age range?" I said, "I don't know. I'm not the one setting this up."

Cathie: But they wanted you to sum it up, basically.

Joe: Yeah, which is very awkward, it's like I was to develop workshop modules. Then, seeing them, they would present them to the schools. It took a while for me, because of their wording, to clue in that this was what they were going to do. They would send our workshop proposals out to the schools for the schools to respond and say "Yes, we're interested in this. This is what we want. We would like Joe to come into our class[es], and this is what we want him to do". What I offered, primarily, I think there were three options, or three that were accepted. Obviously, poetry reading was one: readings of my own work, my own poetry. Another was to do poetry slams with the kids, because that got them writing, which went back to the core of the festival, their own creativity.

Cathie: It was probably fascinating, not knowing a lot about it. What is this, oh we've gotta try this. It sounds really cool. Even the name sounds cool.

Joe: I devised something, along the lines of: "If it's a class-sized group we should be able to start all the students writing poems, and get them to stand up and read their poems within the length of the class period." I had to find out how long class periods were: about an hour, usually. The other workshop, or presentation, that I suggested was journal writing. These were proposed without having any idea what they already did in the schools. I was flying blind. They were interested in the journal writing. I received this itinerary which gave me my flight times. Another thing they asked was if I was interested in going to the Coast, going to some of the coastal communities. I said, "Of course."

Cathie: You're hardly going to say "no".

Joe: I really wanted to go the Coast. Why would I go to Labrador and not take the opportunity? When I received the itinerary they had me down for two trips to the Coast, to Makkovik—that I'd been pronouncing Makk-o-vik, which was actually pronounced Ma-ko-vik (laughter)—and to Postville. I went looking on maps of Labrador to find these towns.

Cathie: Hard to find?

Joe: Very tiny. Postville is the smallest community in Labrador. It has 250 people. There were 66 students in the school.

Cathie: You couldn't burp in your backyard without everybody knowing.

Joe: No kidding. There's only 32 communities in all of Labrador. It's very tiny popoulation but very spread out. So they gave me this schedule, then gave me names of the schools: St. Mike's, or Our Lady Queen of Peace, which is a name I still want to stumble over. Some them were Moravian missionary schools, from when they had secular school boards up until about a year and a half, two years ago? There were Roman Catholic, Anglican and Pentecostal school boards, then the province got rid of them, and put them all together as one public school board. But they still have the old names. Our Lady Queen of Peace still had a 5 or 6 foot high white statue of the Virgin Mary over the entrance. (laughter).

Cathie: Well, it's sort of hard to get rid of Mary.

Joe: Well, yeah.

Cathie: So you travelled to Makkovik on the first day.

Joe: The very first day. On the Tuesday before the festival started proper, I flew from Fredericton to Halifax, Halifax to Goose Bay by way of Deer Lake. There were other people on the flight that I looked at, and thought, "Hmmmm, these people are likely going to the same place." I saw that some people had similar materials to mine, so I started tapping on shoulders and saying "Hi, are you going to the festival?"

Cathie: How many were going to the festival?

Joe: Fourteen of us on the plane going to the festival, on the one plane, all flying up.

Cathie: Did you end up talking with a lot of them?

Joe: Yes. Even the coordinator, Noreen Heighton, was on the same flight. She was one of the participants, doing workshops in the elementary schools. Which was a switch for her, being a presenter instead of just being on the coordinating end of it. There were people on the flight from Saskatchewan, from Manitoulin Island in Ontario, who had already done flight hops from Sudbury to Toronto to Halifax, or from Regina to Toronto to Halifax, to get on this flight.

Cathie: Long trip.

Joe: It was really long. I had no idea.

Cathie: So why did they schedule a trip on the first day you get there, though? Isn't that a bit tiring?

Joe: It was a little bit of a surprise.

Cathie: How long was the trip to get there?

Joe: Umm, much longer than I thought.

Cathie: How many hours?

Joe: Oh, it probably was . . . I don't think I got in to Makkovik until after 10:30 in the morning. But that's because I flew from Goose Bay "down" (northward) the Coast to Nain, which was an hour and a half, then all the short flights, the hops south along the coast were usually 20 to 25 minutes each. We flew from Nain to Davis Inlet, then we flew to Hopedale, and then to Makkovik, where I got off the plane. I had this big excursion along the coast of Labrador to get to where I was going, because that's the way the planes were, there weren't direct flights to these towns. It was one plane that stopped at every place along the Coast: a Twin Otter. Very sturdy plane. That's why, I flew out at 8 a.m. and arrived around, 10:45 a.m. It was after 11:00 before we got to the school.

There was another festival writer who got on the plane, though I didn't know it at the time, in Davis Inlet, who was going to the same school. We were instantly thrown into a couple of classes to do some half sessions, because we came in the middle of a period. It was that abrupt. They said, "Ok, you're going in here. It's a kindergarten class." I went, "What? Kindergarten? You didn't tell me I was doing kindergarten! No one told me I was doing anything with kindergarten kids! I'm not prepared." I mean, it's a big difference from saying you're going to do workshops with grades 5 to 6, and then being thrown in with kindergarten kids.

Cathie: But you know what, Joe, you've been doing all this stuff for so long, it wouldn't take you long to get into the swing of things. It's just very unsettling to arrive somewhere and just be tossed right into it. You usually you have a little bit of prep time.

Joe: A little bit of time to orientate yourself.

Cathie: And to relax, like maybe have a bite to eat.

Joe: Oh, we got a bite to eat afterwards. When it was lunchtime for the entire school. That was good. It was a little bit of a shock, and I had to do a very fast scan inside my head of all the poems I'd brought with me, to pick out some that would be appropriate for very young kids. I chose to read ones about basement wolves, because they are all fixated on wolves up there, and about worms—being a school kid getting worms and putting them in my coat pockets—that sort of thing.

Cathie: So they enjoyed them?

Joe: Yeah. Of course, I did other things. I got the picture taken of myself with the kids in that classroom. A lot of what I did was just rapport, the "I'm out here so I can talk to them about what I do. They'd ask me questions about where I lived, how old I was . . . those sort of things. They were very curious that someone would just appear out of nowhere, and then be gone.

Cathie: And they always wonder about what other areas of Canada, probably, what it's like? What did you do for the rest of the day?

Joe: I did other classes in the afternoon.

Cathie: You were probably a little more relaxed after you had eaten.

Joe: Oh, it was better, they were older. Obviously, if I start with kindergarten, and the entire K-12 is in one school, you're going to get older kids later on. I was mostly with junior high classes in the afternoon. They were mixed class groups because it wasn't planned beforehand. I thought that was just doing readings. They didn't tell me, and they hadn't specified workshops. I can do some of this stuff off the top of my head so it wasn't really a problem.

Cathie: The thing is, when you've been doing something for so long it's very easy to ad-lib, to be free flowing, it's actually fun once you get going.

Joe: Oh, it's really easy. And that's where I think the radio show helps a lot, too, because that is an ad-lib thing I do on air. You just talk and you do it, as part of that routine. You change your props and you keep talking, and people don't realize that the props have changed, because they're listening to the voice, and they're paying attention, and all of a sudden something new happens, and they say, "Where'd that come from?"

Cathie: You really like that, don't you? The radio show?

Joe: Yes.

Cathie: Yeah, I listen to it and some of my friends do as well.

Joe: It's six years old this month.

Cathie: Wow. Are you going to have a little anniversary party?

Joe: I should.

Cathie: Ok, so back to Labrador we go. You have the older kids anyway in the afternoon.

Joe: Yeah, I didn't get the high school kids. Louise Profeit-LeBlanc did. She was the other writer, the one who got on the plane in Davis Inlet.

Cathie: So you just had just older elementary?

Joe: And junior high, Grades 7, 8, 9.

Cathie: Would you have liked to have done something with the high school kids?

Joe: Yes, because I think it's really important.

Cathie: Because a lot of your poetry they would really groove with, I would think.

Joe: Yeah, there's that, and theres also the fact that it's a very crucial age to encourage them, to say, "You know what's incredible about poetry? Poetry brought me to Labrador. Go figure . . . You know, some of you are itching to get out of Labrador, and it makes you wonder how poetry brought me here. It's incredible that a poem could do that."

Cathie: Did you stay there overnight or go back to Goose Bay?

Joe: We did classes till 3:30 in the afternoon. We weren't in the school for very long, four hours at most. Got taken back out to the airport, waited for the same plane, the same crew, they'd been flying the same flinght circuit all day. They picked us up, and took us back to Goose Bay, over an hour's flight because it's all the way down [west, inland along] Lake Melville. We came in at sunset. On the plane is a group of students and teachers from Postville, the other town that I would be going to. I talked with them.

I didn't have time to go to my billet, still hadn't seen where I was going to stay. We were dropped off at an A&W and told, "Buy yourself some food." Then we went to Goose High, where all the evening performances were held. The performances were primarily two or three or four plays by student groups that come in from schools all over Labrador, with a few of the visiting artists doing short presentations. After that there was a soiree. We went to one of the organizer's house, and we had a huge spread of food, music, and talk, talk, talk into the wee hours of the morning.

Cathie: There's no little spot, where you can relax, it's just straight from one thing to another?

Joe: Oh, some of it was so flat out. Some days were like that. Of course, the teachers didn't have sympathy for us saying that this isn't how we normally do workshops and presentations. Because that's their cruel life: day after day they do class after class after class continuously. We weren't getting breathers. We'd finish a workshop and be shuffled right into the next class, instantly. You didn't even have time enough to turn around and stretch. It's like being at a tradeshow or something, and going from finishing a pitch to starting the next pitch.

Cathie: The first day sounds like it was just jam-packed full of things.

Joe: Oh, yeah. I couldn't believe I'd flown to all those places on the Coast that I'd heard about. My publishing company had published a book by a writer from Nain. I never imagined ending up there. I was told that going to Makkovik and Postville. But no, where I was on the ground in Nain, where this writer's from. Everyone on the plane knew my author. They were all government employees, involved with community health, social services . . . They all knew him. It was very weird. Then we dropped into Davis Inlet, with all the problems that Davis Inlet has had. It was just amazing. To do all of that, do the workshop, fly back to Goose, and then just go, go, go.

Cathie: In just one day.

Joe: Yes, that was just one day.

Cathie: Enough to last you for a while.

Joe: Oh, yeah.

Cathie: Ok, let's go to Day 2.

Joe: (laughter)

Cathie: Was it relaxed somewhat? I'm getting stressed out just listening to this.

Joe: Oh, well, no, the real stress was the waterbed that I had at the billet.

Cathie: You had a waterbed?

Joe: Yeah, I never try to sleep on waterbeds, if I have a choice.

Cathie: So that would be really uncomfortable.

Joe: It was pretty horrible in a funny way. I'd hold on. Just trying to balance, thinking, "It's going to calm down. Don't roll over, because you're going to sink and hit the bottom of the bed."

Cathie: Oh, yeah. If you're not used to it that would be hard.

Joe: That was more stressful than when I was travelling.

Cathie: You were staying with who?

Joe: I was staying with a teacher from St. Michael's, a junior high school in Goose Bay itself. He was hardly there and he was ill. He had been building a loppett trail, a cross-country ski trail, out in the bush. He was quite sick, from the weekend before. He'd gotten very cold and wet.

Cathie: So you had the place to yourself?

Joe: Often.

Cathie: It's probably good, because you need some down time by yourself.

Joe: You need some down-time. At the same time I had my computer with me, and I was using his phone for doing my dial-up to try to keep up on the e-mail, and all that work. I wasn't really trying to do much actual publisher work unless it was really pressing. But I was trying to keep abreast of the e-mail, because there's just too many of them in the course of a day. I had no problems at all doing that. What took longest was finding a local dial-up number for Happy Valley. (laughter)

Cathie: Ok, continue.

Joe: Day 2 I went to St. Michael's School, an elementary to junior high. Mostly I was with Grades 5, 6, 7, and it was mostly poetry slams. Getting them to write their own poems. I'd hand out paper and give they key words. I'd made up notes on themes, general themes, and a list of improbable words, then get them to pair the two together in a poem. That is what happens in the slams that are held in The Cellar in Fredericton. I was using those rules. I'd give them 15 or 20 minutes to write. Then encourage them to get up to read their poems.

Cathie: Were they nervous?

Joe: Some of them were very nervous. Of course, some of them just wanted to get up and do it. The thing that surprised me the most was that some of the kids got right into it. There was one group where I had a CBC [radio] reporter in the classroom, as well. The reporter was recording bits of the entire workshop, my presentation to them, the kids writing . . .

Cathie: And that's the footage you were saying that you wanted to get from them?

Joe: Well, this was just audio. But I want to get the radio piece, because it has me talking, and the students talking amongst themselves, or talking to her about what they were trying to do in their poem, or what they thought of it. That's very precious, I think, to have.

Cathie: So you would add it to your reel of stuff that you've been involved in.

Joe: I have boxes and boxes of cassettes.

Cathie: It's just to pick and choose, eh? What you want to represent as your body of work.

Joe: Yeah. This CBC piece was going to be on their local Information Morning program.

Cathie: So you had three classes in a row. Grades 5, 6, 7. That's a lot of poetry slams in a row.

Joe: Yeah, back to back. That's the thing. You know, 9:50, 10:50, 11:20. There was, I think, a half recess in here, a 15-minute break.

Cathie: Like you said, teachers have very little sympathy for any breaks.

Joe: Yeah. Then I got picked up and driven to another school during my lunch break, so I'm eating on the go. The drivers were very important too. We were totally dependant on them. Sometimes funny things would happen, I actually ended up driving a bit up there, I got dropped off one day after my sessions, and I'd wanted to go back to this gallery, because I'd seen a few carvings that I was interested in. The driver was busy, because there were other people there, too, and he said, "Do you have a license? Do you want to go pick up Tara down at the school?" So there I was hopping in his half-ton, and going down the road. I'd never expected to be driving in Labrador. Was good to get out on my own, too. It was excellent.

Cathie: What next?

Joe: More slams in the afternoon with high school kids.

Cathie: And then in the evening, what did you do? Another performance, social?

Joe: Another one of the performances at Goose High. There were performances every evening.

Cathie: And then the soiree, nice food and stuff like that?

Joe: Not every evening. There were three or four soirees. I still have my schedule for those that they gave us. But what would happen on the other nights, often, was that a bunch of us artists would get together, sometimes with some of the teachers from the coastal schools, and we'd go off to Mulligan's or one of the other pubs in the neighbourhood.

At times we could just wander off to wherever. It was all be very close. Which is good. The only times that I didn't have to attend the evening theatre was when I was out on the Coast. I just sat in the [billet's] livingroom, and I was the entertainment. A student I'd met would show up with a bunch of girls from the school, and then there was a constant stream of kids in and out of the house all night.

Cathie: That's funny, Joe. You became a source of entertainment. That has many connotations.

Joe: (laughter). It was very bizarre. Oh yeah, when I realized there was only 66 kids in the school I realized that 20% of the school population was in the house at times. (laughter) It was very bizarre.

Cathie: Ok, so we'll move onto Friday.

Joe: I was doing journal workshops because I asked, "Do you do any journal writing?" I found out they actually kept journals in the elementary schools, journals where they would have writing assignments, and they'd have to do one thing a week.

Cathie : What were they writing about?

Joe: It was often assigned subjects: one was an story from the lives of their grandparents.

Cathie: That's interesting. I didn't have anything like that when I went to school. I don't know if they do it in schools here in Fredericton.

Joe: I've heard that they do it here now, but they weren't doing it on their own.

Cathie: So you introduced them to something that was a little more free-flowing.

Joe: Very much so. I asked, "Do you have journals?" I took out my journal. It was bulging, and it got bigger as I added more stuff to it, and said, "This is my journal. Everything is in it, everything I do, everywhere I go."

Cathie: They must have been fascinated by that.

Joe: Very much so. What they started doing was drawings, and copying out some of their own poems and stories, and giving them to me to put in my journal. They want to be in it.

Cathie: But what about their own journals.

Joe: I think some of them were definitely interested in that. Some of the other artists in the festival have started journals because of that, too. There's any number of ways you can start a journal. I started my first one by going on a trip to Europe. I realised before I went, that I was going to be on the road for four months, and there's no way I was going to remember all the things I'd take pictures of, so the journal was the solution.

Cathie: Just to be able to look back over it, and recollect; it's quite sentimental.

Joe: Well, I go back and mine my journals, for my own writing, for my poetry. I've published pieces out of them. I also make artworks based on them. Someone mentioned that I could display the books themselves as pieces of art. (laughter)

Cathie: Ok, so on to another day, Friday. Another reception-type thing?

Joe: Well, first was the student plays, which were very interesting. The ones from the Coast were usually issue plays: racism, anorexia bulimia, et cetera. A play performed by a group from Davis Inlet was done without words. It was about gasoline sniffing, healing, and trying to move into a better life. I thought that was very interesting, that all the coastal communities were doing these serious issues. Except for some from the southern coast, they actually did a piece incorporating more expected Newfoundland comedy. That's because the people on the South Coast of Labrador really are Newfoundlanders. There's a distinction one can see.

The same goes for the group from Churchill Falls, which is mostly a white, middle class, community that run the hydro power plant, or the ones with the mines down in Lab City. It's a constructed community. They had a totally different sensibility, and they did a totally different type of play. The group from Labrador City did a history play, in the sense that it was a series of vignettes from the history of the town. It's quite amazing what the elementary school kids had created in some of their plays.

Cathie: They've gone through so much in those more isolated areas, at a very young age.

Joe: I can't say too much about certain areas and I didn't spend time in Davis Inlet. although I know there is very low morale in the school. Where I was billeted in Postville, one of the hosts was a teaching assistant who had two teenage sons who spent all their time at home down the hall listening to Korn, Limp Bizkit, and groups like that. They were totally up on it. They were obsessed with watching wrestling via their downloadable satellite system onto a hard disc attached to the TV. They could also get Hollywood movies there and all that sort of thing. There was no video rental in the town. Yet there was a community radio station that was on air for 5 hours a day.

Cathie: So all the stuff they're watching is not based in reality.

Joe: Not at all!

Cathie: Do you feel this gives them a warped perception?

Joe: I think it gives them a very warped perception. What they see is everything they're not. And it's all adventure and action and . . .

Cathie: Money.

Joe: Money. It's so totally removed from what they are, they're thinking, "That's what I don't have." It frustrates them. Then they go down to the food store—and in Postville there were two stores—and they'd buy junk. They didn't even call it junk food.

One of the student groups with Joe Blades in Postville, Labrador.

(End of part one of "Jumping Joe's Canadian Adventures," January 24, 2001)

18 October 2006

Corn cribs

Second time I came to Serbia, in October 2005, I started seeing these corncob cribs in house and farm yards as I rode shotgun in a minivan full of people bound for the YACS conference at Niški univerzitet. Often very close to the house, along with the woodpile, these cribs are hight enough off the ground to prevent most unwanted animals getting to the corn. [There doesn't seem to be a squirrel population here like we have in much of Canada, because they would have a feast here.] Most corn cribs are all wood. This one, with its metal pole frame is for a backyard chicken coop in Senta.

Close-up of the crib wall and its dried corncobs. It will stay here, in the open air, all winter with the pile dwindling as it gets fed to the pigs, geese, turkes, chickens . . .

One of the motorised devices that's caught my attention are these stripped-down motors with almost Easy Rider handlebars (usually more so than on this one), a seat (usually salvaged from another vehicle), and some sort of storage box behind the seat. They're usually seen in people's farm yards or on the roads loaded high with hay, or corn, or garbage, or construction supplies. Doesn't seem to be much of a motor for its work.

T-shirt: Mojo Club
loc: Adjanska 14
temp: 16 C, sunny
sound: some American movie on HBO (HU dub)

16 October 2006

from yesterday's journal entry

why put ketchup overtop of a cooked pizza?

no bedsheets in the open market
time to visit a china shop
or the town's one 2nd-hand store
pots plates cutlery bowls cups glasses
lamp towels power bars sponges
clothes pins toilet paper food
pillows and pillow cases blankets
alarm clock or mobile-cell phone
shower curtain toilet bowl brush
sunday morning woke up first
time in different old sofa bed
same town different street
different neighbour sounds
barking dogs but not the same dogs
new orientation on town hall clock
and in hour half hour ringings
new arrangement of church bells
no phone no television no alarm clock
head to the east blood pulled/pushed
toward wool socked big feet
different rooster sings same old song
first use of stove: turkish coffee
filling a canada flag mug
live on a old roman road
joe a milk chocolate covered
wafer snack bar by nestlé
could of had a johny cash beer
for breakfast and one more for desert
have a few clean shirts socks
towels but not other pants
closer to the train tracks
running through senta town

T:shirt: SFJR
loc: Ivo Lole Ribar br 23A
temp: 15 C
sound: Junior Brown Long Walk Back

11 October 2006

bus to Novi Sad

@ 07:45 I should be on a bus from Pale to Novi Sad. Wish me luck! I still have to manage to buy the ticket and find the right bus. At the moment, Pale has little more than a convenient pulloff for autobuses. Its capacity is greatly exceeded by the volume of buses that start and end their routes here filled with students, workers, and shoppers, or autobuses that pass through Pale on their Sarajevo to somewhere routes. A new, proper autobusova stancia is being build. This will be my first time crossing the Serbia-Bosnia border not in the UIS faculty van with Zeljko at the wheel. I hope that I will not be questioned in Serbian . . .

T-shirt: VII Nyari Ifjusagi Jatakok
loc: Pale, BiH
temp: 4 C
sound: arrival of the bldg cleaning ladies

10 October 2006

Forgotten Day

Until I visited One Thread Two Thread last night, I hadn't realised that I had just worked another Canadian holiday over here: Thanksgiving. The pumpkin beer in Jackie's posted blog comment should have triggered my realization but it didn't. I'm so far removed, the unless I chance to consult my daybook, or am told, I'll not have a clue when a floating holiday like Thanksgiving falls, and when it falls on another continent, I don't have anything to notice. It would have been observed in the Canadian Embassies in Sarajevo and Beograd but I'm so not there . . .

shirts: Joe Canada T-shirt + charcoal dress shirt
loc: Pale, BiH
temp: 4 C, partially cloudy with mountain valley fog
sound: Vera on office telephone

09 October 2006

"Native Speaker" report

I got through the [no, let's be posessive: "my"] introductory day of classes at the University of East Sarajevo. The morning was a terrible setup with all 1st year students in one group from 9 until 12:15. Too many students (about 75), and too long a session. Doesn't work on that scale for engaging in converation. Was supposed to be two 1.5 hour sessions with each session having half the students. Is supposed to be that way next time. Have received a syllabus for the English Department's "essay" composition component developed over several years by Nenad. He leaves here Wednesday morning for Calgary (he has previously studied, lived, and taught ESL courses in Vancouver). After posting this on my blog, looking at his syllabus is next on my "entertainment" list (there's no tv or radio in the faculty apartments).

My schedule tomorrow is three classes of 3rd and 4th year students: 9-10:30, 10:45-12:15, 12-2 pm. Zeljko, the driver, for some reason, assumes I'm travelling with him to Beograd in the van leaving noonish. Not! Not if I'm teaching until 2 pm (and not if means overnight in BG again with travel north to Senta on Wednesday).

If all settles and comes together here, I might also be interested in entertaining an opportunity to become the "native speaker" in the University of Kragujevac's English Dept. Nothing definite, but it was raised as a possibility yesterday by a professor from there during the drive to Pale, as was the question of whether I might be interested in editing papers written in English by Serbian academics . . .

Republika Srpska Ministry of Labour has not completed their paperwork and issued my work permit. I can't be given a contract to sign until that work permit is delivered. Additionally, the university accountant has found out that she cannot open my payroll deposit account at, I believe, Razvojna Banka (Development Bank of Southeast Europe, reputedly the largest bank in Rebulika Srpska, it's Banju Luka headquartered) until my work permit is issued. This bank has Visa cards that allow cash withdrawls in Serbia and "everywhere", in whatever the local currency is, once it has been sucessfully applied for and received. It is the bank where all UIS employees have a payroll account. Next month I should receive a first pay.

Good news is that I did receive an English Dept. office key and some cash today—a mix of travel expense refund and advances totalling about 180 KM. As a full-time lektor, I will also receive a 70 KM per month food allowance, and three "free" turkish coffees per workday from the faculty-only 4th floor cafe. Other than a pastry, sandwich or pizza slice from the ground floor cafe, all meals or food will have to be bought elsewhere in Pale.

The math prof from BG that I shared a faculty apartment with last night gave his exam today and went back to Beograd a day early. I'll have the room to myself for the next two nights. Nice!

Found out that elsewhere in Pale is the Phys. Ed. faculty, and that Economics just moved into the Law faculty building next door. Also that elsewhere in Pepublika Serpska are this university's campuses for electrical and mechanical engineering, art, and other disciplines. Will have to look into this further.

Didn't bring my camera's cable or software so I can't upload any new pictures while here. Will have to plan for that next time.

shirt: burgandy dress shirt
loc: Rm 401, Filozofski fakultet, UIS, Pale, BiH
temp: 13 C
sound: my typing, the computer, the building's elevator

07 October 2006

New Digs

I now have a 2-room flat on an old street in Senta. It has city gas for hot water heating. Below are a few shots taken while viewing the place . . . not that the owner saw them being taken.

Wood floor of the warm room, the sensible one to live in. Place is about 50 square metres . . . far more than I need, but one room can be cool storage. For 70 Euros (about $100) per month, it's a deal.

Had looked at another place nearby that turned out to be, for 50 Euros a month, a bedroom in a 3-bedroom apartment to shared with two girls (or young women?) already living there. Would likely have been an odd situation . . . (and I don't think that I want to live a Serbian return of Three's Company).

The challenge-problem is the kitchen stripped bare of almost everything: no sink, counter, cupboards, fridge, stove, et cetera . . . but that stuff is available. Some of it is easily available, on long-term loan, from a friend of a friend renovating a house almost immediately across the street that still has it's full set of furniture and fixtures. Some plastics, pots, towels, and stuff will likely be purchased after my return later this week from Pale.

Simple tiled bathroom or water closet. Need shower curtain and bathmat.

The view from the street. It's not the one and a half storey house with dormers and the built-in garage. The flat is behind this house. Number on the door marks 23A Toparska (Lake Bay Street) a.k.a. Ivo Lola Ribar (War Hero Ribar Street). Have heard that it's Eva & David's favourite street in Senta. It has rough, stone cobbles, not pavement, so it has no real truck or autobus traffic, yet it's very near town centar and near reka Tisa.

T-shirt: Bagad Kelc'h Keltieg Kombrid
loc: Adjanska 14
temp: 20 C, sunny
sound: Mandate for Murder (HU dub, on Hallmark channel)

06 October 2006



$2,500 PRIZE
> On the jury for the 2006-2007 Short Prose Competition are: Caroline Adderson, novelist and short-story writer, Governor General’s Award nominee, and Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize winner; Kathy Page, novelist, widely anthologized short-story writer, and Governor General’s Award nominee; and Andrew Pyper, fiction and nonfiction writer, best-selling author, and Arthur Ellis Award winner.

> Canadian citizens or landed immigrants.
> All writers who have not been published in book format.

> Nonfiction and fiction prose, up to 2,500 words.
> English language.
> Not previously published in any format.

> Postmarked November 3, 2006.

> $25 per entry.

> Typed or computer-printed, double-spaced, and numbered on 8.5’’ x 11’’ paper, not stapled.
> Submissions on computer disk or faxes will not be accepted.
> A separate cover letter with full name, address, phone number, number of pages of entry, and whether the submission is fiction or nonfiction. Please type name of entrant and title of entry on each numbered page.
> Results will be posted at writersunion.ca. Manuscripts will not be returned.
> Make cheque or money order payable to The Writers’ Union of Canada. Multiple entries can be submitted together and fees can be added and paid with one cheque or money order.
> Mail to:
Short Prose Competition
200-90 Richmond Street E
Toronto ON M5C 1P1

05 October 2006

Technical Difficulties

I’ve become intermittent with my blog posting (again) not through any lack of interest but couldn’t stay online.

First it was because I ran out of transfer Mbs on the wireless account. To me, it’s a strange way to buy internet access, especially since I can’t receive the emails that tell me when the account is running near empty. Error 691.

Next I received Error 800 when I tried connecting. SKS asked if I’d been messin’ with my wireless card. What the . . . ? It’s a built-in component of this laptop. Not something I mess with. The boys came over to check my network connection settings anyway. Wasn’t me and mine. Problem turned out to be that the local switch, next building over, had powered-off and needed to be turned back on.
Do not adjust your set.
Technical difficulties originate
with the service provider.
Worked fine for a few weeks. Then I couldn’t stay online for more than minutes at a time. Would get timed out while trying to open email, or to write a reply or to attach any sort of a fine. Nothing doing. What that . . . ! Continuous Error 800 messages. Why? They said I’d Disabled my Local Area connection . . . not knowingly, not by anything I was actively doing. After calling SKS and waiting late afternoon and again the next morning, I took the laptop into the shop where they showed me what-where and Enabled it. I went home and tried again. Got online. After repeated attempts via Messenger and then finally webmail I barely managed to sent some documents as text-free emails attachments. Counldn’t get back online to receive receipt confirmation . . .

What a hard-on-the-head struggle. Felt there must really be something wrong. Something changed or dying in the laptop? I didn’t know . . . That’s why, yesterday, after another morning of Error 800, Error 718 (Connection terminated because remote computer didn’t respond in a timely manner.), and “Limited or no connectivity.” messages, I slung the ’puter bag over my shoulder and walked . . .

This time, they said the the Adjanska switch was overloaded. They need more equipment at its location. I’m expecting their car or truck to show up on Adjanska (again). Not because the boys are hungry and going next door to Jail, a restauran-klub, for a meni lunch. But to install whatever is needed. Know that the adjacent house, Jail and a nearby youth internet games centar and more all trying to use this one switch with our little rooftop receiver antennae and ethernet cables running to our computers.

Until that time I can go to SKS and use my laptop there to check email, transmit files, blog, whatever . . . Thank you for this service. It’s still amazing to me that this whole web and internet thing was created and is available. In my books it’s certainly one of the build wonders of the world.

Shirt(s): SFRJ T-shirt, button-down black
loc: Adjanska 14
temp: 16 C, overcast w/ light showers
sound: Junior Brown Long Walk Back

04 October 2006

Thursday's Bike Ride

Finally close enought to see a train approach the bridge over the reka Tisa. This one a short one of liquid tank cars carrying I-don't-know-what. The only passenger "train" that I've seen, and it from a distance across town, was smaller than an old CN dayliner on the Annapolis Valley run. Looked to be the size of a transit bus on the tracks.

From the east side of the Tisa, this is Csardas kaffe bar where we were on several weekends.

One of the crazy big willow trees on reka Tisa's floodplain.

Even from atop the riverside dyke, the bounty and colour of these grapes is unmistakable.

The arse-end of the farming hamlet of Sanad. It's a little over 4 km upriver for the Senta bridge. Garbage dumb and logs from a cutting on the floodplain.

On the edge of the town of Coka are vinyards and winery of "Vinoprodukt Coka". The harvest was happening as I cycled past. Some of the women, with laughter, called out to me from were they were resting in the shade of tractos and wagons piled high with purple-red grapes. Bottled, the stores in Senta sell it for about 180-187 dinars ($3 CDN). I'll buy one to try it.

T-shirt: Mojo Klub
Loc: SKS offices
temp: 24, sunny/partly cloudy
sound: Wonderful Madness