Sunday, March 31, 2019

One last blast through the snow

Let's go, Dad
London, ON
March 2019
This photo originally shared on Instagram
She needs a haircut. Desperately. Which makes me a terrible dog dad. But none of that mattered to her this morning. Puppies are like that, entirely devoid of self-consciousness, not caring a whit that they may not be ready to walk the red carpet.

But who am I kidding? She'll walk wherever she wants. And this morning, she was itching to tear into the late-season snow that blanketed the region overnight and prompted localized power failures and social media freakouts alike. But just as she has no use for makeup, mirrors, and self-help books, she also has no desire to complain about the weather when she'd rather bury her Schnauzer nose deep into the white stuff.

I suppose if she cared about social media, she'd have lots to say about folks who whine about winter overstaying its welcome, who bitterly muse about the unfairness of it all (oh, the humanity!) But she doesn't care. That dog thing again. It's glorious, no?

So we ignored the fake Facebook histrionics and instead explored our temporary winter wonderland. She snorkeled her snout deep into every thick, fat, wet drift she could find, and periodically kicked off the clumps of snow that stuck in the raggedy fur on her legs. She was happy, and I was happy to watch and listen, to feel the moment and witness joy in its most pure, canine form.

I suppose it would be more convenient to not have a dog at all, to get to sleep in on Sunday mornings and not have to head out, bleary-eyed in my jams, winter coat and Elmer Fudd-like hat. But then I'd miss moments like this. And since we're only gifted a limited number of them in the first place, I'll happily trade convenience for some quiet reverence with a dog who understands what really matters without ever muttering a word.

#Calli #CalliTheSchnauzer #LittleMissCalli #dog #puppy #schnauzerlife #schnauzermini #schnauzerpuppy #minischnauzersofinstagram #schnauzersofinstagram #minischnauzer #miniatureschnauzer #miniatureschnauzers #minischnauzers #schnauzergram #miniatureschnauzersofinstagram #schnauzers #schnauzersofinstagram #petstagram #instadog #dogsofinstagram #instapuppy #pets #family #everything #ldnont #london #ontario #canada @schnauzer_planet @schnauzerworld

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Dead fish in a Costco

Tonight's dinner?
London, ON
March 2019
This photo originally shared on Instagram
I'm walking through a crowded Costco outlet, pushing my cart like a spawning salmon fighting its way upstream. My wife has asked me to stop in on the way home from the office to pick up some stuff for dinner. We jokingly call it hunting and foraging, but there's nothing funny about the way my fellow shoppers absent-mindedly drive their carts through the crowded store. It almost feels like combat.

I know exactly what I'm looking for, and where I'll find it. And my head is on a swivel, looking for a break in the traffic so I can navigate across the open area between the bakery and meat section and find my way, unscathed, to the back of the store.

No one's speaking, which strikes me as odd. All I hear are footsteps, boots on concrete, shuffling feet and squeaking wheels. No eye contact. No interaction. All I see, and feel, is muted grey, even darkness, a generalized sense of muffled nothingness. It bothers me, and I start thinking of ways to find the light. What, in a giant warehouse-store, can prompt an immediate smile? My eyes and brain get to work.

It doesn't take me long, as the frozen fish display soon looms to my right. I wait for the attendant to wander away before I get to work. When I'm done, I look up at the label: Whole organic chinook salmon. It's as if the universe intended for me to find these fish today.

Yes, it's a dumb picture of a couple of dead fish. But it made me crack a smile in a time and place where I really needed one. Hopefully you, as well. That alone makes me glad I braved the current to capture it.

#ldnont #london #ontario #canada #costco #costcofinds #costcodeals #shopping #dead #fish #fishing #sea #nature #food #ocean #foodie #love #instagood #photooftheday #nofilter #nofilterneeded #photography #monochrome #google #pixel2 #teampixel #lifeinthemargins #family #everything

Friday, March 29, 2019

Empty platforms in the sky

Where'd everybody go?
Montreal, QC
December 2018
This photo originally shared on Instagram
I remember the moment well when I took this picture: Out for a walk in the neighborhood around my father-in-law’s hospital, as the sun quickly dipped toward the horizon, the sky a brilliant blue, the air crisp and clear, the bone-chilling wind turning my fingers blue every time I pulled my gloves off to take a picture.

I went to university not far from here, taking the bus through this neighborhood every day to and from class - and later on driving past in my very first car. When it worked.

At the time, I remember looking up at the balconies you see here and thinking how odd it was that no one used them. Abandoned platforms in the sky. In winter I could understand. But even in the summer, they remained empty.

The highest home I’ve ever lived in was a 6th floor apartment, and my wife and I used the balcony so rarely that I no longer remember what it looked like. So maybe the residents of this building were onto something.

But staring at this much taller structure with no one in sight, it still struck me as an opportunity lost, a missed moment within countless lifetimes where such moments weren’t infinite, but those living them seemed oblivious to that fact.

Maybe it’s a little scary to venture out past the patio door, to where it feels like you’re going to freefall into busy Sherbrooke Street below if you’re not absolutely careful. But it’s even scarier to have never ventured out there at all. Because to live without even a little flutter in your stomach, without that extra bit of late-afternoon light on your face, seems like a bit of a waste.

#montreal #quebec #canada #yul #hospital #age #aging #health #building #architecture #sunset #geometry #weather #wx #roadtrip #road #trip #travel #instagood #photooftheday #nofilter #nofilterneeded #photography #streetphotography #canon #canon_photography #canonphotography #lifeinthemargins #family #everything

Thursday, March 28, 2019

The vanishing view from above

Hoping for life's return
Laval, QC
March 2019
This photo originally shared on Instagram
I often stand in the window of my father-in-law's 12th floor condo and stare out at the neighborhood where I grew up.

I do so not because I'll see anything new, but because I feel time drawing to a close, to a point where we'll no longer have this place, this vantage point in the sky that was once so integral to our family.

We've resigned ourselves to the fact that he's not going to recover, not going to resume his once-independent life, not going to return home. He very astutely told us when we saw him just a few days ago that his room in a long-term-care hospital is now his home. Even within the fog that now envelops him, he can see clearly.

So I pick up my camera and point it largely westward through the dirty windows in the hope that I can capture the scene well enough so that when we can no longer come here, the memories will persist.

Photography has become something of a crutch to me, a means of remembering when you can't be there anymore. When the people and the associated things that matter most to you vanish into history, that two-dimensional collection of pixels becomes the last tangible connection, a trigger, if you will, of memories that hopefully make the transition easier to bear.

Or so it seems. I don't know if any of this accomplishes anything, but I do know it feels right to be here, quietly, in the stillness of an early morning before the outside world once again shoves its way back in.

The monochrome, bare trees in the undeveloped fields far in the distance seem to echo my mood. Grey, empty, lifeless, cold. It isn't a pretty picture, but pictures need not always be pretty to matter to us, and I'll keep shooting from this spot for as long as I am able.

#montreal #chomedey #laval #quebec #canada #yul #age #aging #health #roadtrip #travel #tree #trees #mother #nature #naturephotography #Nikon #nikonphotography #nikon_photography #dslr #photography #nofilter #nofilterneeded #photooftheday #instagood #monochrome #lifeinthemargins #family #everything

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Staring into my aunt's and uncle's past

Life's sunset
Cote St. Luc, QC
March 2019
This photo originally shared on Instagram
Sometimes inspiration strikes you when you least expect it, in the most unexpected places.

As we first took in my father-in-law's new room at the geriatric care hospital, I looked out the window and realized it was directly across the street from the building where my great aunt and great uncle used to live. I have fond memories of childhood visits with them. And later, as we grew up, got married and had our own kids, I remember Auntie Freda and Uncle Benny doting over our little ones in their small, homey living room. They were remarkably good souls, and seeing their old home from here gave me a dose of comfort at a time when I really needed it.

They've been gone for years, but their apartment remains in my mind as an anchor point on the map, a safe space where they gently watched over us and where we always felt like we belonged. We should all have places like this to tuck into our memories, to hold onto tightly when life gets rough.

I told my FIL where we were, and explained the connection to my family, but the ravages of what he's facing being what they are, I don't know how much he understood. Still, I've got to believe that in some way, he knows he's in a safe place, with the memories of some very special people keeping an eye out for him from just across the way.

#montreal #cotestluc #quebec #canada #yul #maimonides #geriatric #hospital #caldwell #apartment #age #aging #health #building #architecture #shadow #roadtrip #travel #instagood #photooftheday #nofilter #nofilterneeded #monochrome #canon #canon_photography #canonphotography #streetphotography #lifeinthemargins #family #everything

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

When life takes an ugly turn, look up

Maimonides from a different angle
Cote St. Luc, QC
March 2019
This photo originally shared on Instagram
This is my father-in-law's new home.

Walking back inside during golden hour just before sunset, I stopped in the perpetually windy parking lot and wondered if anybody else ever stood here and admired the architecture.

Probably not. It isn't exactly an inspiring design, after all. More mid-60s, low-cost, not-for-profit-forgettable than anything else. A built-to-a-purpose box without central air conditioning or working Wi-Fi. A long-term care facility most of us might ignore as we walk past.

Its purpose as a place where residents live out the often-challenging declining years of their lives further reinforces its forgettable nature. In the time we've been here, I've lost count of how many residents have had no one come visit them. This is a place where the sights and sounds can haunt, where some people get left behind. No one's going to admire the architecture.

Yet here I am in the clear, cold fading light, staring up at the boxed form filling the impossibly blue sky. Because even the forgettable can have virtue if you take the time to stop and look hard enough.

Maybe I'm supposed to be standing here. Maybe I was meant to find the beauty in a place most of us would assume has none. Maybe the beauty we all seek needs a new definition.

#montreal #cotestluc #quebec #canada #yul #maimonides #geriatric #hospital #age #aging #health #building #architecture #sunset #roadtrip #road #trip #travel #instagood #photooftheday #nofilter #nofilterneeded #google #pixel2 #teampixel #photography #streetphotography #lifeinthemargins #family #everything

Monday, March 25, 2019

Cavendish Mall Walker

Nothing in his way
Cote St. Luc, QC
March 2019
This photo originally shared on Instagram
I've come to this mall a few blocks away from my father-in-law's hospital room to try to get some work done. But in between curious onlookers and really bad Wi-Fi, it's been a struggle. Seriously, folks, is my MacBook Air's screen THAT fascinating?

So while I wait for the little voices in my head to return - and for the weirdo interlopers to disappear - I stare at the mall-walkers in this little shopping mecca-cum-community centre and wonder what their stories are.

Most folks here are elderly - no surprise given the general demographics of this neighborhood. If you're a retiree, you want to live here. Geriatric services on every corner. Incredible civic administration. Pedestrian-friendly infrastructure. I'll reserve comment on errant Toyota Corollas and Ford Crown Victorias for another time.

This man catches my eye. First, not a lot of single men here because, let's face it, biology sucks if you're a guy. Second, he walks slowly, but is so focused on getting to where he needs to go that nothing else seems to matter to him. I haven't seen that look of determination in anyone's eyes in a long while, and it inspires me to remember him above anyone else today.

As he shuffles around the corner and disappears from view, I think about the drive that keeps us going long after the rest of the world has otherwise moved on. I think about the twists of the universe that allow some folks to wander the local mall, while others are stuck on the inside, looking out. If they can look out at all.

Life isn't always comfortable. Or fair. It just is. And that'll have to be enough for now.

#montreal #cotestluc #quebec #canada #yul #cavendish #mall #age #aging #roadtrip #road #trip #travel #instagood #photooftheday #nofilter #nofilterneeded #google #pixel2 #teampixel #photography #streetphotography #fruitography #store #retail #life #lifeinthemargins #family #everything

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Fruitography in a strange place

Peppers galore
Cote St. Luc, QC
March 2019
This photo originally shared on Instagram
If you've followed my work for a while, you may already know that I have a bit of a thing for walking into grocery stores and taking ridiculous photos of whatever I find. It's usually, but not always, in the fruit and vegetable aisle, and I call it fruitography*.

My father-in-law was recently moved into long-term care, and in a rare moment of lucidity yesterday he asked for some Pepsi. So I did what any son-in-law would do: I walked to the supermarket a few blocks away and got him some Pepsi.

This journey being what it is, though, I needed to find the happy in the moment. The store is part of a mall called Quartier Cavendish (nee Cavendish Mall), in the middle of Cote St. Luc, a Montreal suburb I knew all too well growing up. Many of my friends lived here. I took lifeguarding exams in the long-demolished Y a few blocks away. My great aunt and uncle lived just opposite my FIL's window.

So being here again felt, I don't know, like I was coming back home, or reconnecting in a way And I thought today would be a fun day to introduce everyone here to fruitography.

I used my smartphone and shot fast (pro tip: they actually think you're playing Fortnite and not shooting surreptitious pics of the produce.) By the time I got to the lettuce display, I stopped counting how many sidelong glances were cast my way. I smiled back in the hope it brought them as much joy as it brought me.

Life is short, after all, and as long as we have the ability to wreak good-natured photographic havoc among the green peppers, we owe it to ourselves - and to others - to do just that. Maybe you'll see me by the rutabagas next time out.

#montreal #cotestluc #quebec #canada #yul #roadtrip #road #trip #travel #instagood #photooftheday #nofilter #nofilterneeded #google #pixel2 #teampixel #photography #streetphotography #fruitography #iga #grocery #store #retail #lifeinthemargins #family #everything

* More examples here, here, here, and here.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

The donut that made me smile

The colors of happiness
Port Hope, ON
March 2019
This photo originally shared on Instagram
The scene: An OnRoute highway rest stop near the ironically named Port Hope. My wife and I have stopped here on our way to Montreal, one long trip among too many long trips back home to see her ailing dad.

We don't want to be here - in this place, under these circumstances - but none of what he and we are experiencing has anything to with with what we want. Or what is fair. So we drive. It's what we do.

We've been up since before 4 a.m., and on the road before 6, so coffee is our friend. And while Debbie fetches some from the Tim Hortons, I find myself distracted by the donut display.

It's another stupid pic in a long string of stupid pics that I've been shooting of late. But this snippet of unexpected color makes me smile, which is all that matters to me in the moment. It also makes my wife wonder where I've gone - again - and more than a few folks in line stare intently as they wonder what I'm up to. After they realize I'm not a terrorist, they seem to find it amusing.

I believe photography, even when life hits turbulence, can always be a force for good. And I'd like to think that I've managed to prove that in this unlikely place, all thanks to some odd-looking donuts, some strangers, and a very understanding wife.

#port #hope #ontario #canada #onroute #highway #roadtrip #road #trip #travel #timhortons #donut #dessert #junkfood #sowhat #life #is #short #photooftheday #nofilter #nofilterneeded #google #pixel2 #teampixel #photography #life #lifeinthemargins #family #everything

Friday, March 22, 2019

Selfies suck, except...

Someone's watching you
Cote St. Luc, QC
March 2019
This photo originally shared on Instagram
I don't take a lot of selfies. I started this photography obsession long before selfies were even a thing, and as much as I enjoy the occasional casual head shot, there's something a little sad when every freaking picture in a given feed is a selfie. There's a whole world worth exploring on the other, non-selfie side of the lens.

There's more to life than my built-for-radio face, and I'm reasonably sure no one wants to see countless pics of me. If that ever becomes the sum-total of my photographic output, that'll be my cue to stop shooting altogether.

This one's an exception, a quickly-grabbed shot on a sad day in a sad place, a furtive attempt to find a happy where there otherwise was, and is, no happiness.

I do that a lot these days, shoot placeholder pics like this, like signposts of the journey. The EXIF data contains all the info we'll ever need to know, a diary of where and when it was taken. Put a string of these otherwise silly looking pics together and the story begins to take shape. It keeps me grounded. And sane.

So, apologies for the uninspired selfie. It's part of our ongoing story, and perhaps tomorrow I'll share more from a journey we'd rather not be on. The universe has other plans, apparently, so I may as well use the tools I've got to shine a light into the relative darkness.

#montreal #quebec #canada #yul #roadtrip #road #trip #travel #instagood #photooftheday #nofilter #nofilterneeded #google #pixel2 #teampixel #selfie #photography #streetphotography #life #lifeinthemargins #family #everything

Thursday, March 21, 2019

When Vipers fly in anger

Set burner to stun
London, ON
September 2018
This photo originally shared on Instagram
Ever have one of those days where you just want to mash the throttle in anger and put everything - and everyone - behind you?

I imagined the pilot of this plane - an F-16 Fighting Falcon belonging to the U.S. Air Force Viper Demo Team - might have that thought just before lighting the afterburner and turning fossilized dinosaurs into mind-warping acceleration. From the looks of it, whoever was at the controls on this day last September was too disciplined to take a joy ride, but I can imagine the flight lead cracking a tiny smile beneath the Darth Vader-esque helmet.

Because even crack aviators have souls. And the occasional moment of extreme noise, speed, and fury is probably good for the soul. Both theirs and ours. Whether or not we're anywhere near a plane.

#lockheedmartin #f16 #viper #fighting #falcon #usaf #demo #team #AirShowLondon #AirShow2018 #aircraft #airplanes #aviation #avgeek #grey #sky #photooftheday #nofilter #nofilterneeded #Nikon #nikonphotography #high #speed #photography #dslr #london #ontario #canada

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Same day, same beach

Why am I still here?
Jensen Beach, FL
December 2017
This photo originally shared on Instagram
I must have hundreds of variations of this photo in my archives, different views of waves crashing on a beach, the water tracing impossibly lovely, temporary sculptures in the roiled air. The next wave will craft an entirely new set, so detailed you can almost feel their texture on-screen. But they won't be the same.

It takes 1/1,600 of a second to shoot this, a sliver of time before the sun dips below the horizon and the few wanderers on this largely empty beach disappear for the night. The surf is so turbulent I don't dare get too close, so I stand far back and use my lens to reach deep into the zone where waves go to die, working quickly before the shadows take over.

I don't come from a photographic family, no shoeboxes of faded snaps from my childhood, captured by parents who felt the storytelling weight on their shoulders. A vacation album might have included one wide-angle view of a beach, beyond which it simply wasn't worth wasting additional film on something that had already been recorded. This is is partly due to the expense of film and developing - we live in a different digital age now - but it is also due to a very different interpretation of what a picture stands for.

This photo is the story of us, of what it felt like to he here, and what we might have learned in the process. It is the story that my children will carry with them when I'm not around to tell it. In telling this story, I believe we turn vacations, journeys, or even trips to the grocery store into something richer, something tangible worth remembering, worth holding onto.

It's why I continue to share slightly different versions of the same scene, seemingly to the point of over-repetition. Because it's those subtle nuances and shifts that set us apart from all the other people on the beach who stare into the tumbling waters and hopefully tell their own stories. I'd hate to think I'm the only one out there doing this.

#jensen #beach #jensenbeach #florida #Fla #Atlantic #ocean #surf #waves #water #splash #vacation #Nikon #nikonphotography #nikon_photography #high #speed #photography #dslr #nofilter #nofilterneeded #photooftheday #instagood #lifeinthemargins #family #everything

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The energy at the edge of the planet

What power looks like
Jensen Beach, FL
December 2017
This photo originally shared on Instagram
I'm standing on a windswept beach, the air blowing so strongly that I turn my back against it to keep my lens from being sandblasted. It's a risk I'm willing to take, because nothing feels as elemental as standing in the soft sand, toes slowly sinking in as you brace your feet, and point your longest piece of glass toward the pounding surf.

Life is chaos and answers are few, but out here, where land melts into endless ocean, none of that matters. It's just you, some incredibly dexterous and brave birds, and the laws of physics playing out on a scale almost too overwhelming to appreciate. I don't feel the wind as much as I smell it, that curious mixture of salty sea air, marine life and the occasional whiff of sunblock. It's intoxicating here, and yet I keep thinking about how little time I've actually got in this place before I have to head back. It's never enough.

Still, I've got lots of battery power and a giant memory card, so I shoot fast, fingers crossed that one of them turns out to be a keeper. I try different approaches, quickly reviewing each flight of photos before changing settings and shooting some more. There's no real plan, and I quickly realize that this is exactly the point.

I think about the birds and the wind and the waves at the beaches near our home, now thousands of kilometres behind me. They're on the Great Lakes, not an ocean, so the visuals won't be quite as spectacular. But it doesn't mean they don't have a beauty all their own. Or that I won't get the same feeling - minus the salty air - by standing just up from the water and allowing my toes to curl around the sand, my feet slowly sinking in until I can no longer see my ankles.

Because in the cold lens of hindsight, it's times like this that define whether or not we enjoyed the journey. And whether or not we did enough to inspire others to do the same. In that light, I hope I'm living up to my end of the bargain.

#jensen #beach #jensenbeach #florida #Fla #Atlantic #ocean #surf #waves #water #splash #vacation #Nikon #nikonphotography #nikon_photography #high #speed #photography #dslr #nofilter #nofilterneeded #photooftheday #instagood #lifeinthemargins #family #everything

Monday, March 18, 2019

A silent street corner moment with grandma

No one's home
Orlando, FL
February 2019
This photo originally shared on Instagram
I'm walking back to my hotel when I notice them: A stack of balconies on an otherwise unremarkable building, the midday sun painting stark, temporary, linear art against the concrete surfacing, largely ignored by the thousands of people who stream through the adjacent intersection on any given day.

So I do what I've been doing for much of my adult life: I decide to take a picture. I carefully slip my backpack off and slide it to the ground, then pull my camera out. An elderly lady with strangely blue-tinted hair and carrying a pink floral tote bag stops to watch. I'm sure she thinks I'm a terrorist casing the joint, but after I smile at her and she smiles back, I assume she gets it now.

I take my time composing this one. I've just closed off the conference from the main stage, and I'm feeling pretty good about what our team has accomplished. I'm walking back to my hotel room to power down for a bit before spooling back up for the long trip home. The building is hundreds of metres away, but the miracle of a long lens makes the shot possible. I rack off a few promising frames before just as carefully sliding the camera back into my backpack and hoisting the heavy load back up. That's when I notice my new octogenarian friend is still standing behind me, clearly interested in what I'm up to. But since she hasn't ninja-jumped me just yet, I figure we're OK.

I smile at her again. She waves before she turns around and starts walking away from me across six lanes of traffic. We haven't exchanged a word, yet somehow I suspect both of us won't soon forget this odd-yet-somehow-charming moment at the corner of International Drive and Destination Parkway. If her memory of this brings her a smile - as it does me - then we'll call it mission accomplished.

#orlando #florida #infotechlive #rosencentre #hilton #hotel #travel #travelphotography #travelgram #photography #line #lines #geometry #geometric #concrete #architecture #sun #light #canon #canon_photography #canonphotography #life #InfoTechRG #InfoTech #itrg #workhardplayhard #bestjobever #lifeinthemargins #family #everything

Sunday, March 17, 2019

A bridge (not) too far

Shadows in the afternoon light
Orlando, FL
February 2019
This photo originally shared on Instagram
A concrete and steel overhead walkway bakes in the Florida sun, its pastel-painted surface amplifying the intensity of the heat for anyone silly enough to be outside on this unseasonably hot afternoon.

The conference inside the hotel is on a bit of a break, so I take a moment to poke my head outside, to look at something other than a computer screen, a podium, or stage lights.

I'm simply here to get some air, to catch my breath, to enjoy a tiny moment of quiet before the next round of presentations begins. This isn't supposed to turn into a photo shoot, but the shadows seem to have other plans. I think to myself I should just come back later when I have a bit more time. But by then the sun will have moved, and the shadows will likely be elsewhere. Or gone entirely.

So I spend a minute waiting for a couple of stray pedestrians to disappear, then another two minutes taking bizarro photos of something I'm sure has no interest to anyone else.

But that's not the point here, anyway. I'm just taking a time-out from a marathon of frenetic activity to connect with the space around me, which I'd otherwise completely miss.

Waiting until later? Not an option. Something else - or more likely, many something elses - will come up. Or I'll forget. Or...you never know. Because none of us is ever guaranteed a next time. Or a tomorrow.

So I shoot now. Fast. As I head back inside to my customary spot behind the podium to introduce the next round of speakers, no one has any idea why I've cracked a wry smile.

#orlando #florida #infotechlive #rosencentre #hotel #travel #travelphotography #travelgram #photography #line #lines #geometry #geometric #concrete #architecture #sun #light #google #pixel2 #teampixel #life #InfoTechRG #InfoTech #itrg #workhardplayhard #bestjobever #lifeinthemargins #family #everything

Saturday, March 16, 2019

It only looks like a sheet

Looking at life in the margins
Toronto, ON
March 2019
This photo originally shared on Instagram
The scene: We've just wrapped up a long couple of days shooting videos in our Toronto office. We've completed two pilot episodes for a new - and really cool - series (more on that later), and I've learned a heck of a lot from my colleagues in the process. We're all feeling pretty good about what we've accomplished, and as I often do after an intense few days of effort, I try to slow the moment down.

I notice the covers on our production team's LED lights, and I zero in on the fabric diffuser/cover. The texture grabs my attention and refuses to let go. I'm weird in many ways, and this is one of them: I often stare at otherwise mundane objects and/or scenes for inordinate amounts of time, and I am patently unable to explain why.

On the train home, I review the pics on my phone and decide I like this one. I also decide I need to shoot more in-the-margins scenes. Because up until I shot this particular scene, I had been moving a mile a minute for days on end, and the moment you see here was the first time in an age that I had hit the brakes and allowed myself to breathe.

It's not an easy thing to prioritize, this stop-and-breathe thing. The planet seems to compel us to never stop moving. And even when we physically stop, our minds race, largely driven by the sub-life we now all live online. The digital/mobile/social era seems to leave no room for living in the margins.

Consider this photo my refusal to submit to that assumption, because always-on is hardly a recipe for a life well lived. And expect more pics like this in future. We'll hashtag 'em #lifeinthemargins. You're all free to use it. Who's with me?

#toronto #yyz #ontario #canada #google #pixel2 #teampixel #travel #travelphotography #photography #monochrome #white #black #video #videography #shoot #photooftheday #instagood #texture #sheet #touch #light #family #is #everything

Friday, March 15, 2019

The wisdom of the crowd

Take me out to the ballgame
Toronto, ON
July 2014
This photo originally shared on Instagram
I took this photo on a hot July afternoon in 2014 in Toronto's Rogers Centre stadium, where my little family and I joined a few thousand of our closest friends to take in a Blue Jays game.

Today it has even more significance, as it illustrates how we can, at once, be both unique and connected. And in light of the mosque massacre in Christchurch, New Zealand, I've been looking for ways to dampen the sense of despair that overwhelms me every time some hate-filled dumb-fuck, pathetic excuse of a human being decides to pick up a gun to "prove" something. There, I swore. Mark this day.

But on this typically perfect afternoon at the ballyard, I was feeling decidedly more at-peace with the universe. Bathed by a sunny, deep blue sky, the good guys beat the Texas Rangers 9-6, and my wife and kids were happy. Come to think of it, everyone around us was happy, even the folks wearing Rangers jerseys. There was lots of good-natured chit-chat flying back and forth in the stands, a reminder, perhaps, of our collective need to occasionally get away from the glow of the giant screens at home and experience an event first-hand, surrounded by strangers.

No one vilified anyone for being a Muslim, a Jew, an immigrant, an other. No one raged online about white power. We were all fans, 36,000 of us deciding to leave the world behind the turnstiles for a few hours while we hung out in the blue plastic seats and took in some ball.

In the end, I know I'm not kidding anyone: Monsters live among us, and they are increasingly emboldened to act. Nothing stops them from deciding that, today, it's our turn to be targeted simply because of who we are. But a quick snap of a crowd at a ballgame illustrates, to me at least, that we're capable of more. That it doesn't take much for us to gather, in a common place, around a common theme, for a common purpose, and simply enjoy the moment, together, for what it is. It's called being human.

#toronto #ontario #canada #BlueJays #baseball #Christchurch #NewZealand #NewZealandShooting #Rogers #Nikon #nikonphotography #nikon_photography #photography #dslr #nofilter #nofilterneeded #photooftheday #instagood #throwback #parenthood #family #is #everything

New Zealand mosque shooting targets us all

Your heart can't help but hurt upon hearing the news.

Your brain can't help but think, "Here we go again."

The headlines are too awful to contemplate: Gunmen targeted two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing 49 people attending Friday prayers (CTV, CBC, CNN) and seriously injuring at least 20 more. As if the prospect of well-coordinated attacks against members of a faith-based group couldn't be any more sickening, photos shared online of ammo reportedly belonging to one of the gunmen shows the name, "Bissonnette", an apparent reference to Alexandre Bissonnette, who shot 6 victims dead at the Quebec Islamic Cultural Centre on Jan. 29, 2017 and has been sentenced to 40 years behind bars.

So now, apparently, they're inspiring each other.

Let's be clear: This isn't just an attack on one community. It's an attack on all of us. On anyone who dares to be part of a community. Today our Muslim brothers and sisters were gunned down in cold blood because of who they were. Last October, Jews were slaughtered in Pittsburgh for having the temerity to attend synagogue. Next up? Who knows? But I cringe at the thought that there will be a next time.

We live in politically polarizing times, where some of our most powerful leaders dog-whistle to racist supporters, where white supremacy has been legitimized in the highest corridors of power, where the torch of anti-immigrant sentiment burns with an intensity not seen since 1930s Germany. We said "Never again", but we didn't seem to mean it.

In the wake of the 2017 Quebec City mosque shooting, I wrote this, and after re-reading it today, I realize not a whole lot has changed. The forces of hatred, legitimized as they have been by the rhetoric that fills mainstream and social media news feeds, aren't just theoretical constructs, anymore. They're real, and they're coming for all of us where we live, where we work, where we gather.

The solution? It starts with us, with one. If you do one thing today, please reach out to someone you know. Connect across the non-existent divides that the haters insist should define our time here on Earth. Muslims did this for Jews in the wake of the Pittsburgh shooting, and that more than anything reinforced, then as now, that there is hope. We're better than this. One relationship at a time, we need to illustrate to those who would push hatred and divisiveness that their world view doesn't cut it anymore.

When we say, "Never again", we must mean it. And we must be willing to act. Otherwise, our new normal will be this. Or worse.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

When dogs fly

She plays, hard
London, ON
March 2019
This photo originally shared on Instagram
We took Calli the Wonderschnauzer to the nearby dog run over the weekend in a vain attempt to wear her out. She may be small on the outside, but on the inside she's an endless bundle of energy, and she dominates every room she's in.

As you can see here, she seems to have enjoyed the experience. She's quite the jumper, and will happily snatch balls out of mid-air all day if we'll let her. So we played fetch, occasionally stepping back to quietly watch her do her thing. We do that often, just watch. Because doing so, especially now, gives us a sliver of time when nothing else matters beyond whether or not she catches a slobber-covered ball and whether or not she feels like giving it back to us. It's a good way to live.

In Calli's little world, life is as simple as it needs to be, and it allows her to focus on the here and now without worrying about anything else. Indeed, if I was flinging myself headlong through the air, I'd probably want to be 100% focused on that, too. I often muse that it would be fun to be her for a day. But since that isn't possible, hanging out with her in the snow will do just fine.

Conventional wisdom might dictate that a dog can't teach humans, but conventional wisdom would be dead wrong. This little one teaches us more than we - or she - could ever know. And as the snow slowly melts over the next few weeks, I see more playdates with a ball and open space and a flying, happy pup in our near future. If only the rest of our collective lives could be this simple.

#Calli #CalliTheSchnauzer #LittleMissCalli #dog #puppy #schnauzerlife #schnauzermini #schnauzerpuppy #minischnauzersofinstagram #schnauzersofinstagram #minischnauzer #miniatureschnauzer #miniatureschnauzers #minischnauzers #schnauzergram #miniatureschnauzersofinstagram #schnauzers #schnauzersofinstagram #petstagram #instadog #dogsofinstagram #instapuppy #pets #family #is #everything #ldnont #london #ontario #canada @schnauzer_planet @schnauzerworld

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Cathedral in the forest

Makes me feel small
London, ON
November 2017
This photo originally shared on Instagram
This was taken on a "before" day, before we learned to dread the ringing of a phone, before our lives turned toward the uncertain.

I was on a photo walk with our daughter, with no agenda for either of us beyond exploring a new-to-us space - in this case a jewel called the Sifton Bog - and shooting whatever happened to move us.

The cathedral of trees backstopped against a heart-stopping blue sky felt like an appropriate signature of an afternoon I wish I could seal away and preserve forever. She inherited not only the creative gene from her lovely mom, but the kindness one, as well, and days like this, where we hang out together and take in the scene through well-used glass, remind me again why becoming parents was such a good call for us.

It made us feel somewhat humbled to be in a place so rich with life - or in this case, potential life - and we swapped suggestions as we positioned ourselves on the narrow boardwalk and pointed our cameras skyward.

You hold onto the memory of days like this when the scene in front of you is significantly more challenging. And you quietly make plans to make it happen again as soon as circumstance allows.

Because life notwithstanding, we're all blessed in some way, and all we need to do is focus on the moments where those blessings, like an afternoon with my kid, present themselves to us.

#ldnont #tree #trees #sky #sifton #bog #blue #mother #nature #perspective #weather #wx #naturephotography #Nikon #nikonphotography #nikon_photography #photography #dslr #nofilter #nofilterneeded #photooftheday #instagood #parenthood #london #ontario #canada #family #is #everything

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Rebuilding the sky

Please don't fall
London, ON
December 2018
This photo originally shared on Instagram
Just across the parking lot from our new office, a major area developer is putting up a massive condo. It's a rare treat to watch a building take shape over the course of months and years, to watch it slowly grow, one floor at a time, toward the sky, to take in the redrawing of the skyline from just across the way. Every day brings something new, something unexpected. And no one else gets - or apparently cares - to be witness to the transformation. It's like your own private viewing party.

The crane you see here towers hundreds of feet above the project, a central player in an ongoing ballet dance of coordinated deliveries, lifts, and installations. They're pros here. Habe to be. I often look up at the crane and quietly thank the folks who designed and built it, as well as the teams that operate it now, for ensuring it doesn't squash any of us as we go about our day. I look at the ladder and realize every morning, one brave soul climbs it, alone. Now that would be a picture. Perhaps another day I'll be lucky enough to be around when the operator first gets here.

Eventually the building will be topped off. The construction crews will clean up the site, remove the hoarding, and disappear for good. Residents will move in, their stuff slowly spreading out onto the once-pristine balconies, the white concrete of the parking garage ramps slowly turning grey.

No one will remember what it was like during this temporary in-between state, when the sunset still shone unhindered. And all that remains of this transient moment in time, when emptiness was slowly transformed into something more tangible, will be furtively stolen moments like this one. Construction as metaphor for life? Maybe.

#ldnont #riverwalk #street #photography #downtown #urban #building #architecture #architecturephotography #design #buildingporn #architectureporn #steel #construction #engineering #lines #condo #life #ontario #canada #sunset #sky #weather #wx #canon #canon_photography #canonphotography #family #is #everything

Monday, March 11, 2019

A dark day for aviation

Fat Albert grows up
Toronto, ON
November 2018
This photo originally shared on Instagram
I'm a bit of an avgeek, but only if you replace "bit of" with "psychotically over-the-top". I've loved airplanes since I was a child, often lying face-up on our lawn for hours on end so I could watch jets paint the blue sky white with their contrails.

Why? I don't know. Part of it might be the absolute magic of hundreds of thousands of pounds of exotic materials hauling themselves into the sky and flying clear across the planet in less time than it takes to assemble LEGO's latest Millennium Falcon special edition set.

More likely, it's the transformative nature of aviation technology. It connects us, and opens up opportunities to improve our lives that wouldn't otherwise be feasible.

The numbers also tell us it's incredibly safe.So safe that you're at much greater risk of an accident on the drive to or from the airport than you are in the air.

But still. News of a major accident always hits like a ton of bricks. And yesterday's loss of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 - a Boeing 737 MAX - just after takeoff from Addis Ababa hits especially hard, as 18 of the 157 souls on board were Canadian. As the victims' stories are slowly made public, the heartbreak becomes even more overwhelming than it already was.

It's the second hull loss involving Boeing's latest model in 5 months, and parallels to October's Lion Air crash are eerie. The shadow hanging over the world's top-selling single-aisle commercial jetliner reminds us that even miraculous technologies have their limitations, and the miracles we take for granted today were - and continue to be - built on the unintended sacrifices of too many innocents.

I shot this last year, as I was jazzed to see my first MAX in the metal, those split scimitar winglets standing out in all their efficient, artistic, engineering glory. If only it could have remained so pristine.

#toronto #yyz #pearson #international #airport #road #trip #travel #travelphotography #travelgram #aircanada Air Canada #flight #flying #lasvegas #aviation #boeing #boeing737 #737max #avgeek #canon #canon_photography #canonphotography #ontario #canada #life #family #is #everything

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Life after Frosted Flakes

When the cereal runs out
London, ON
August 2018
This photo originally shared on Instagram
This building was built over a century ago, and for much of its history churned out millions of boxes of breakfast cereal. Little did I know when I was a child that the multicolored, bilingual boxes that dominated my kitchen table came from a faraway city I'd someday call home.

Changing times and tastes eventually led to the factory's closure. Kellogg's pulled out of London a few years ago as it rebalanced its global production portfolio. Corporatespeak notwithstanding, we just don't eat cereal like we used to. Given its questionable nutritional value that's probably not an entirely bad thing, but it left open the question of what to do with a hulking piece of industrial history.

We got lucky, and the massive space has since been redeveloped into a popular indoor activity centre and craft brewery, with a children's museum and more yet to come. We're even luckier that the architecture has been wonderfully preserved, its history still on prominent display even if no one here ever remembers or cares who Tony the Tiger was.

I adore buildings like this, and spent my first day inside wandering the halls drinking in what made - and continues to make - this place such a resonant monument to London's history.

A not-so-small group of developers, investors, civic officials, community activists, and others had the courage to honor its rich legacy, and we owe them all a debt of thanks. Imagine if every once-vibrant property were lucky enough to be similarly rescued from oblivion.

#ldnont #architecture #architecturephotography #building #buildingporn #grey #monochrome #concrete #block #steel #geometry #industrial #old #history #manufacturing #kellogg #cereal #factory The Factory #google #pixel2 #teampixel #london #ontario #canada

On living with passion

"None of us are getting out of here alive, so please stop treating yourself like an afterthought. Eat the delicious food. Walk in the sunshine. Jump in the ocean. Say the truth that you're carrying in your heart like hidden treasure. Be silly. Be kind. Be weird. There's no time for anything else."
Sir Anthony Hopkins
I've shared Sir Hopkins's wisdom before (here) and am so pleased that he's made it a regular thing. On so many levels, it feels like he's speaking directly to me. I'm guessing if you're reading this, here on Written Inc., you feel the same way. Neat.

See you in the ocean.

Saturday, March 09, 2019

On keeping good people close

"Stay close to anything that makes you glad you are alive."
Hafez
This one hit me like a ton of bricks, because it aligns so closely to who I am and how I choose to live. Time is the one commodity we can't control. We can't make or buy more of it. We can't retrieve it once it's slipped into the past. We can't slow it down or stop it.

So our only alternative is to make the most out of what we've been gifted. And I've spent a good chunk of my life learning one simple truth: You make the most of the time you've been given by hanging out with folks who feel the same way.

Everything - and everyone - else is immaterial, superfluous, and at the risk of sounding unkind, a waste of our time. If the folks around you don't make you happy to be alive, then change the folks around you. Now, not later.

Shadows across an empty office floor

The silence before
London, ON
March 2019
This photo originally shared on Instagram
Everyone's got a pecking order, a priority list of things they like and things they, um, like a little less. If you could see mine, befores would rank above afters.

Befores are all potential. The good stuff is ahead of us, something to look forward to, like a gift box waiting to be opened. Befores make us feel like kids, heads filled with wonder about the surprise just in front of us. We may not know exactly what that is, but we hope it'll be worth the wait.

Afters either live up to the hype, or they don't. The proverbial wrapping paper strewn on the ground can often be a sad reminder that we don't always get what we want. I'm lucky that way: My afters almost always fulfill the promises of my befores. Or maybe that just how I choose to see it.

The before you see here holds the promise of an eventful day in an office where we grant the wishes of those around us on a regular basis. Our core mission is to help others unleash the power of technology, to wow them with our knowledge and caring, to give them the tools to go further.

And in this resonant early morning moment, before everyone gets in, before the floors hum with intense focus, I often come to this particular spot to reflect on the day ahead, and think about how I'll turn those promising befores into tangible, fulfilling afters.

Wherever you work and whatever you do, I hope you cherish your own befores as much as I cherish mine.

#ldnont #life #kingandridout #345ridout #downtown #urban #building #architecture #architecturephotography #design #buildingporn #architectureporn #wood #floor #lines #sun #shadow #london #ontario #canada #google #pixel2 #teampixel #photooftheday Instagood Info-Tech Research Group @nicholsonsheffieldarchitects #workhardplayhard #bestjobever #hiring #family #is #everything

Friday, March 08, 2019

On sneaky happiness

"Happiness often sneaks in through a door you didn’t know you left open."
John Barrymore
I often speak about finding opportunity and inspiration in the margins, in the places you'd least expect, or would never look in the first place. This quote aligns with that mindset rather nicely.

I'll be keeping my eyes open, then. You?

Blue, icebound lake house

People lived here once
Mallorytown Landing, ON
January 2019
This photo originally shared on Instagram
I'm in the middle of a long, solo drive on a highway I've driven so often over the past few months that every interchange and every curve for hundreds of mind-numbing kilometres has now been committed firmly to memory. I don't need to look at the GPS to know what comes next, and which way I need to subtly shift my hands on the wheel to stay in the middle of the curving ribbon of endless asphalt.

A few hours into the drive, there's a regional highway that parallels the 401. It adds exactly 1 km to the trip, but it's worth the extra time. Because the road shrinks from 4 lanes to 2, the speed limit drops from 100 km/h to 80, and the route curves both beside and through the St. Lawrence River, meandering lazily along this mighty waterway and revealing awe-inspiring views at every turn. Way better than a soulless superhighway.

I stop at an abandoned visitor centre along the way, just because. I need to soak this place in a bit, in the faint hope that I'll find some kind of inspiration, some reason to smile, some way to break the gloom that's been gripping me since I said goodbye to my wife in Montreal and watched her fade from the rear-view mirror.

It's insanely cold as I get out of the car and walk across the creaking snow to the shore overlooking the solidly frozen bay dotted with countless homes built on tiny islands. In the dead of winter, they sit, empty sentinels to the awesome power of nature to redraw the landscape, to stop us in our tracks.

Just standing here, wondering about lives unseen, and the wonder of life on the water, is enough to briefly lift the darkness that's been haunting me. But the creeping frostbite in my fingers means I get less than a dozen shots off before I need to get back to the car.

I'll come back to this hallowed place again, on another trip. Hopefully there will be more life here then. Hopefully I'll have a better story to tell then, too.

#mallorytown #landing #thousand #islands #parkway #stlawrence #river #ontario #canada #random #country #photography #highway #winter #weather #wx #road #trip #travel #car #auto #automotive #carporn #stella #canon #canon_photography #canonphotography #family #is #everything

Thursday, March 07, 2019

On riding the roller coaster

"Life has got all those twists and turns. You’ve got to hold on tight and off you go."
Nicole Kidman
Yes, this. Just hold on.

Reflecting on a concrete journey

No life here
Toronto, ON
March 2019
This photo originally shared on Instagram
We've become creatures of habit, taking the same routes to the same jobs in the same places day after day. We barely give it much thought, probably because we're a little too focused on what awaits us when we get there, or how many hours we've got left till it's Friday. Till we can get off the treadmill for a couple of days. Till we have to drag ourselves back to the routine the following Monday.

Yet for something that sucks up so much of our wake-time, we have precious little to show for it. Because we rarely bother to remember what that commute looked or felt like. I'm not suggesting we shoot pics with our smartphones from behind the wheel, as that would be highly illegal. But a quick capture at a time, in a place where it can be done safely and unobtrusively could potentially start a conversation about the journeys we take, and what we encounter along the way.

My story on this day was a simple one: This is a concrete wall beside a snow-covered train track. It's located just west of Toronto's Union Station, and I took it a couple of minutes before arrival. I've become a regular on this train - for the record, Via Rail #82 that leaves London at 6:25 a.m. every weekday and arrives in Toronto at around 8:35 - and taking placeholder pics of the journey has become a bit of a personal obsession.

Without context, it isn't much of a picture. But in the moment, it tells a story of the things we do to keep ourselves, our families, going. It also tells a story of how far we're willing to go to keep the lights on, and how important it is to bring those experiences home at the end of the day.

Because in the end, my journey to Toronto on this morning was as much my family's as it was mine. And I'm guessing that logic applied to everyone on that train, as they continued their own journeys. We're never really alone, then, are we?

#toronto #ldnont #downtown #union #station #building #architecture #architecturephotography #buildingporn #architectureporn #concrete #monochrome #travelphotography #google #pixel2 #teampixel #instagood #photooftheday #photography #via #viarail #train #trains #trainspotting #trainstagram #rail #travel #ontario #canada #family #is #everything


Wednesday, March 06, 2019

On the power of assembled letters

"No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world."
Robin Williams
My day job revolves around assembling letters into words, words into sentences, and sentences into completed works. That's it. On the surface, it seems so nebulous, so inconsequential. Tap some keys and call it a day. And don't assume any of it matters.

But assemble these literary bits just so and maybe, just maybe, they'll move someone else in some way. To smile. To tears. To act.

There's power there. Mr. Williams was right, and we'd do well to listen to him.

When puppies wait by the door

Always watching
London, ON
December 2018
This photo originally shared on Instagram
We have a narrow window beside the front door of our house, and every time we come home, this little girl stands behind it and waits patiently for us. She's pretty easy to spot, thanks to those delightful Schnauzer ears.

I don't know what goes through her puppy head as she waits, or what she's thinking as we open the door and she goes ballistic, all 15 pounds of her bouncing crazily between us, the floor, the walls, everywhere. I do know it never gets old, the unconditional love you get from a dog every time you return home.

The world is a pretty challenging place at the best of times, and that is especially true for my little brood now. We dread the ring of the phone because it likely foretells bad news. We stare at the ceiling at night, wondering what will happen next. We don't plan too far ahead, because life will almost certainly rewrite those plans.

Calli doesn't know precisely what's going on, but she knows something's up. And having her here has been a blessing as she shoulders a burden none of us could see coming. A few minutes of play with her is a perfect escape from the relentless pressure, and I'll never tire of listening to the voices of my wife and kids when they're with her.

Because when they do, joy returns to our home. Sure, the phone eventually rings, the darkness inevitably returns. But our wiggly pup is always watching us, ready to tease out smiles and laughs, one moment, one hind-leg-dance, one schnu-hug at a time.

Because she's far stronger than she looks.

#Calli #CalliTheSchnauzer #LittleMissCalli #dog #puppy #schnauzerlife #schnauzermini #schnauzerpuppy #minischnauzersofinstagram #schnauzersofinstagram #minischnauzer #miniatureschnauzer #miniatureschnauzers #minischnauzers #schnauzergram #miniatureschnauzersofinstagram #schnauzers #schnauzersofinstagram #petstagram #instadog #dogsofinstagram #instapuppy #pets #family #is #everything #ldnont #london #ontario #canada @schnauzer_planet @schnauzerworld

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Breakfast in not-quite-paradise

When you're on the run..
Montreal, QC
February 2019
This photo originally shared on Instagram
So I have this habit that you may find odd: I shoot pictures of my food.

Please bear in mind I'm not a professional Instagram photographer and I don't spend hours at restaurants choreographing the quintessential gastronomic photoshoot. I don't do this every day. Rather, I shoot my meals typically when I'm travelling. Or when I'm stressed. Which usually happens when I'm travelling. Which is often these days.

The near-endless shuttle run back to Montreal that we've been on these past few months has given me ample opportunity to practice this weird photographic ritual. Typically, we grab coffee and a quick bite of breakfast at the coffee shop in the hospital's ground floor atrium. It's conveniently located as we get off the elevator from the underground parking lot, a final oasis of normalcy before we head upstairs into the decidedly unknown.

It's a Second Cup - sort of like an all-Canadian wannabe-Starbucks without the attitude - which means it's something we actually enjoy. Which is crucial when your life feels like a rusted Belmont Park roller coaster with Mario Andretti at the controls: You take your small pleasures wherever you can find them, and you do your best to control those small moments.

I've always been a somewhat slow eater, so much so that my late mother-in-law had to rewrite their family's decades-old rules of kitchen-table engagement (chiefly, no clearing till everyone finished a course) when Debbie and I got serious enough that she started taking me home for dinner. So I tend to linger over my on-the-run breakfast both as a reflection of who I am, and a coping mechanism with all of this. But before I tuck in, I feel this strange need to record it. As if I don't want to forget what we ate along the way, at each stage of this awful journey.

I end up with the weirdest photo roll, strange lame-foodie pics interspersed among the wheelchairs, corridors, stairwells, and tiny details that define this surreal world-within-a-world.

But weird is comforting. It's a tiny sliver of home. An anchor, of sorts. A reminder of what it would feel like if we were at home having breakfast in our kitchen, with the kids running down their day's schedule and our crazy dog dropping her ball at our feet while the local radio station plays brightly in the background. Weird reminds me why we're here, where we come from, and how all of these unexplainable details somehow connect up, somehow led us to this moment, in this place, on this day. Weird pulls me back from that overwhelming feeling of powerlessness that might otherwise freeze me in place. I hope weird helps my wife, too.

Thankfully today there is no paralysis. Because we've got each other, good coffee, a homey-tasting treat to munch on, and photos to match.

#montreal #quebec #canada #yul #jewish #general #hospital #jgh #roadtrip #road #trip #travel #instagood #photooftheday #urban #street #photography #streetphotography #secondcup #coffee #breakfast #life #family #is #everything
Breakfa

Monday, March 04, 2019

Puzzling

Shattered, for now
London, ON
March 2019
This photo originally shared on Instagram
We've had this puzzle on our kitchen table for the past few weeks. The inconvenience factor at mealtime is off the charts, as we're left with half as much surface area to eat just as much food.

But I'm not complaining. In fact, I welcome it, because there's something comforting about this chaotic-looking assembly of somewhat-matched-up pieces of cardboard. In our typically tech-infused household where each of us has a smartphone, smart speakers have sprouted in a few common areas, an app ensures our dog gets enough exercise, and a connected doorbell lets me freak out the UPS delivery guy from half a continent away, it's a bit of a revelation to gather around something that doesn't need to be charged, doesn't crash, and isn't online.

Somewhere along the way toward our geeky future, we seemingly forgot what it felt like to just be, to not be bathed in the blue-ish light, to not be zombified by an endless scroll of memes and hilariously inaccurately-served ads. And plopping an unassuming 1,000-piece puzzle into the middle of our kitchen has served as a timely reminder of why a little more technological disconnectedness can do wonders for our human connectedness.

It's been a bit of a marathon getting the puzzle done. We return to it in spontaneous waves, gathering around the table when we have a few extra minutes. We chat idly as we share the experience. Or, sometimes, we go at it alone. There's no plan. No rigidity. We just as often work on it in silence, our hands and our eyes dancing over the jumbled cardboard pieces, trying to make sense of the low-tech chaos.

Part of me looks forward to finishing it, but a bigger part of me will miss it. As I tap this out on my glowing smartphone, I wonder what we're doing to ourselves now that our every waking moment is governed by an electronic device. It may sound like heresy coming from me, but I often wish we could simply unplug.

I see another puzzle in our near future. Or maybe more than one.

#ldnont #london #ontario #canada #yxu #google #pixel2 #teampixel #instagood #photooftheday #home #kitchen #puzzle #game #games #time #family #is #everything

Luke Perry could have been me - or any of us

I'm not one to follow celebrity news. I find it all so vacuous, shallow, a general waste of otherwise-precious time. I don't think anyone cares about who I'm in a relationship with, where I go, what I wear, what I drive, or who I'm arguing with on social media. That cuts both ways: I don't care about the relationship, travel, fashion or automotive habits of anyone else, regardless of how famous they may be.

So I rarely write about Hollywood types because, frankly, I've got better things to do with my time.

Please remember that word, time.

Today's a little different. Luke Perry died today. You may remember him as Dylan McKay in Beverly Hills 90210, or as Archie Andrews's dad in Riverdale. He was 52 years-old, and never recovered from a massive stroke suffered last week. This is where a celebrity's story becomes directly relevant to me. Because I had a stroke a few years ago*. And unlike Mr. Perry, I survived.

In my ideal world, seemingly healthy 52-year-olds, no matter their station in life, don't get cut down by strokes. In my ideal world, everyone knows the risks, in themselves and others, and knows what to do if the worst happens. In my ideal world, everyone gets the help they need, immediately, and no one dies or is left disabled.

I've spent the years since my stroke advocating for better stroke awareness and education. Because studies consistently show a direct correlation between rapid medical response and survival. But I'm just some guy in Canada, whereas Luke Perry had an infinitely larger network. And if all of his fans shifted the time they'd otherwise spend watching breathless celeb coverage on TV, or posting thoughts-and-prayers comments to Facebook into, say, learning what F.A.S.T. is, maybe a life, or many lives, would be saved.

The Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada has a fantastic resource section. Read it here. Then print it and leave it on your fridge. And share it. Via email, messaging, social media, whatever works. Because stroke doesn't discriminate, and young folks can be just as easily picked off as anyone else. Because you can never be too annoying when it comes to educating your friends. I know this firsthand.

I realize I'm living in my ideal world. But unlike Mr. Perry, I was one of the lucky ones. We owe it to him, and others like him, to apply those lessons so that others may live.

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* Read about it here. More resources here: 

Death to smokers, sort of

Inconsiderate
Morrisburg, ON
February 2019
This photo originally shared on Instagram
The scene: A windswept parking lot along the 401 in Eastern Ontario. We've been through this particular rest stop too many times to count of late, and I'm not particularly pleased to be adding to our tally.

As we walk back to the car, I notice this rather disgusting mess and decide it needs to be shot. I'm pretty sure I'm mumbling something unkind under my breath about the unseen travellers who were too lazy or self-centred or both to take 15 extra seconds to do the right thing. I'm pretty sure said strangers have long forgotten about the scene they left behind in this place far from anyone's home.

When I return to our vehicle, my wife is cracking a wide smile - her first in a while - as she describes how many strangers looked at me funny as I crouched over the dirty, frozen pavement to get the shot.

And in an instant, she lifts my mood as I realize I'm never going to change the basic fact that people are pigs. Like it or not, we're surrounded by them, and my sanctimonious rantings notwithstanding, we always will be. I also realize I must now apologize to the pig community, because even pigs behave better than this.

At that moment, it dawns on me that the answer lies in finding the smile, the laugh, the kindness, despite the cigarette butts at our feet, or the other messy crap life decides to throw in our path. Our choice. No one else's. Somehow, we learn these lessons in the most unexpected places, in the most unexpected ways.

#morrisburg #ontario #onroute #random #urban #street #photography #shoot #shooting #park #parking #lot #highway #weather #wx #road #trip #travel #car #auto #automotive #smoking #google #pixel2 #teampixel #canada #family #is #everything

Sunday, March 03, 2019

Staring at concrete from a wintry sidewalk

Same building, different day
Montreal, QC
February 2019
This photo originally shared on Instagram
I've looked at this building many times in recent months. I've written previously about what goes on inside, the lives that are saved, the diseases that are researched, the hope that is both held onto, and returned.

And yet I keep returning to it. Why?

I'm guessing it's because we're here so often, and time being as constrained as it is when we're on the ground here, I don't have an excess of it to explore the neighborhood any more than this. As much as I'd love to explore the city where I was born, we're here for another, darker purpose. The tourist-in-my-old-hometown thing will have to wait.

But it's not all darkness. Revisiting the same places over and over, though, forces you to use other parts of your brain. You've got to tease out new ways of looking at the same old things. And that, in itself, is a blessing of sorts.

Because unlike so many people within this building - including my father-in-law - who literally can't walk downstairs and smell the fresh air, I can make that happen whenever I wish. I can hang out here on the sidewalk for as long as I can withstand the cold until the right composition pops into my head. I can still do so many things, while he, and they, can't.

So if having this easily-overlooked gift means I've got to find new ways to see the same buildings, to tell stories I may have told before, I'll take it.

#montreal #quebec #canada #jewish #general #hospital #jgh #building #architecture #architecturephotography #grey #concrete #facade #windows #design #buildingporn #architectureporn #streetphotography #canon #canon_photography #canonphotography #instagood #photooftheday #urban #street #photography #life #family #is #everything