Whine 'n' Cheese

A fifty something guy caught between earning a living in the corporate world and trying to live a personal life as a latent hippie.

Location: Toronto, Canada

Fiftysome male working in the corporate world to make a living but not a life. My interests in life are diverse from enjoying the city with it's music, theatre and range of characters to enjoying being in a canoe miles from nowhere in peace and quiet. My 14 year old son is the greatest blessing in my life even though he lives with his Mom he spends weekends with me and adds colour to my life.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Paddling My Own Canoe

The attached photo is The Queen Mother Café which is located on Queen West. I enjoyed a very tasty pasta special as my brunch on Saturday while I was wandering this favorite part of the city. I love the character and characters that you find in this section city.

The weekend was chilly but then again this is Ontario and it is February and we ought to expect this sort of weather. The fact that we are having this sort of weather is a good sign because it is a positive in the face of the treats of global warming. The weekend before the one just past my son and I enjoyed a day of skiing, I am here to tell you that it can get really cold on the chair lifts out in the wind when the temperature is running in the minus teens. We had a wonderful day because we dressed for it; the slopes were in good shape and the line ups where very short. We are planning on going again next weekend and we are looking forward to good conditions as new snow is forecast a couple of times this week.

On Saturday after having enjoyed myself on Queen Street, shopping for some new CDs and spending hours in one of Toronto’s best artist supply stores on Spadina I was feeling great. In the evening I was to meet another fellow who is close to my age and who is also single. He has been pressuring me to join him at one of the singles dances he regularly attends. I go through cycles, at times I am very content with my own company but every once in a while I miss having a woman to share some of life experiences with. My friend caught me on such a day and he was able to persuade me into agreeing to attend this dance. I really should know better.

When I arrived after, having some difficulty finding the venue, I was faced with a room filled with about 200 people. First of all my idea of a singles event is that it is attended by singles yet what I found was that most of the attendees were already in couples. My friend located me and seats me with some folks he knew. The ladies were very nice but as I chatted, or tried to chat over the blasting music, I could not visualize one of these people being remotely comfortable in being in a canoe, or biking on a trail, skiing or hiking. They could talk about television all night long. Yesterday I was with some friends trying to explain my frustration. I don’t want to meet someone twenty years my junior because I know from experience that doesn’t work and I don’t expect someone to share a common interest in all the stuff I do but I want to meet someone who has an adventuresome spirit and takes are real interest in life and will at least try to do some things with are physical as well as cultural.

The end result is I guess I’m canoeing alone for the next few decades.

Monday, January 15, 2007

First Day of Winter

I awoke this morning to a typical winter morning with my car coated in ice. Hard as it may be for some people to appreciate I was quite happy to finally have winter arrive here in this part of southern Ontario. Much of the rest of Canada has been caught up in the grip of winter for quite some time but we have enjoyed warmer days with sunshine and temperatures that had yet to dip below freezing during the daytime hours.

Both Christmas and New Years were warm enough that you could have been on a patio. I don't enjoy a green Christmas and I would have loved to go skiing during the holiday week. In fact the ski areas north of the city have not really been in operation yet this year so I am sure that they finally breathed a sign of relief this morning. Today weather report calls for below freezing temperatures for the entire week. Now we just need some snow to go with the cooler temperature then we will be off to the north to throw ourselves down some beautiful slopes.

Last Saturday morning when I picked up Mike, my son, he announced as soon as he was seated in the car that we were going downtown, he really wanted a peameal on a bun. He feels as I do that living in Woodbridge just isn't the same as being in the core of the city. We just can't get excited about being stuck in the endless residential maze broken only by strip malls and discount centres. I know that if I spoke Italian I may be invited into some the private Italian clubs but I don't and as a consequence I feel isolated up here. So last Saturday we made our way downtown wandering around the St. Lawrence Market.

For those of you who may not be Canadian and no idea about what this peameal stuff is that was the source of my son's craving, let me explain. Here in Canada they produce a form of back bacon or cured loin of pork which is rolled in a dried meal of ground yellow peas. Now In know that doesn't sound too appetizing but I assure you that sliced and properly cooked it is flavourful and moist, and when it is piled high and served on a freshly baked kaiser roll it can be heavenly. There, hidden away in the corner of the market, is a small cafe where they have been serving these wonderful peameal sandwiches for many years, I personally can only vouch for the last twenty five years during which I have been occasionally enjoying these treats.

With Mike's encouragement we enjoyed spending most of the day wandering around the market. We came home with vegetables and a little meat and Mike chose some mussels and wonder fresh fillet of Grooper for our supper. Mike has grown up with spending many Saturdays exploring the market and learning to appreciate the world of food it offers. I love the image that the market offers of the cultural diversity of this city; the smells, the noise the range of languages just the beautiful colour of life. This is only one example, and we have many here in Toronto with little enclaves, which may only last for a few blocks, but present the cultural heritage and identity of the countries of origin with which many people identify. I am pleased and proud that we have these differences and that they exist side and side in peace and harmony.

Mike has grown up experiencing these snippets of other cultures as I dragged him around the city and through that exposure I think he has grown to appreciate their differences and the similarities. I am proud to say that I have never seen any signs with him of prejudice or bigotry and I hope that he maintains that openness throughout his life.

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Looking Forward to a Wonderful Year

Happy New Year to Everyone!

My son and I would like to wish everyone a very Happy New Year we hope you keep your resolutions and are blessed with a year of happiness and prosperity.

Personally I will be facing some new challenges but I have made up my mind that I am going to make this a great year no matter what I am faced with. I have so much to be thankful for that the few problems I face are minor in comparison. Most of all I have my son and we share good health and a positive outlook on life.

Tonight I will be toasting the new year with a half dozen friends in walking distance from my apartment. I look forward to tomorrow and the start to a new year. As my Mom used to say to me, "New Year's is a special time when you have a new opportunity to live your life however you choose ; rather like the first day of a school year with a clean notebook with no smudges it's up to you to keep it that way."

I will keep this short today but I will be back soon and more frequently.

CHEERS and all the best for 2007!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

I Am Still Alive

Sorry I haven't posted for such a long time but I have been both busy and not in a frame of mind to want to post. I'm still not in that frame of mind but I guess I need to vent.

I will make this short for now but in case anyone has wondered yes the company is sold and no I don't know whether I will still be employed. The official announcement will be made to the employees next Wednesday which I think is pretty lousy timing since most employees are not working after next week until the first of the new year. They will go home to spend the holidays full of doubts and fears.

From the bits and pieces I have been involved with so far I have to say that I am concerned to say the least. I have met with a half dozen of the senior people from the new company and most recently with a senior vice president who appears to be second in command. He spent a half hour with me asking how I was going to communicate to our employees if it was decided to discontinue their profit sharing program. That program equals between a tenth or twentieth of their annual income and these people are not paid very much to begin with. Then he went on to ask me how I would be able to reduce the workforce by about 20 employees which is approximately 1 person in 10. Then he had nerve enough to ask me if I thought that their was any possibility that the employees might consider beginning in a union. I don't know what is different south of the border but up here in Canada if you make the employees feel insecure and start to reduce their compensation and threaten their jobs they will certainly look for protection with a union. Dam fool if you ask me.

During the last week I was directed to do up severance calculations for all employees who were away from work due to illness and no work related accidents. We have about ten people in that situation and they vary from a few months of service up to 19 years of service. One lady is terminally ill with cancer and yet they intend to terminate her employment, benefits and life insurance because they can get away with it legally because this is an assess sale and not a share sale. The employees in our plants will be more than just upset when they learn of that happening.

Well on the personal side I did finally have my son with me last weekend which was the first I had seen him for almost a month. We didn't do much but we did have a good time. He will be with me from noon on Christmas Day and through Boxing Day, unfortunately I will have to be back at work on the 27th through until the 29th. On Christmas Day I will do a dinner and I may break with the turkey tradition and see if I can find a goose instead. I know they are a lot greasier and probably not all that healthy but like a larger version of a duck they have more flavour than turkey does. Anyway we will see what happens he may still end up with turkey the goose thing was just an idea.

I don't think he will be very interested in spending New Years with his old man but he will be back the next weekend. As for me if I don't have him with me I really don't know what I will do. The local pub where I go is closed on New Years Eve and I really don't want to take the chance of driving downtown. We are beyond any effective transit lines into the core from here and a taxis would be about a fifty dollar ride. In any case I'm not sure I want to just go into one of my former hangouts on the off chance that someone I know may be there. So I guess maybe I just end up at home this year.

This time of year and being alone is when I start to wonder whether or not I shouldn't make the effort again to find a partner to have someone to share these times with. Well it's a little late for me to start to think about that now.

Well I think I will sign off for now but I will return before the holiday break to wish you all the best of the season. Take care and hug someone.


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Topsy Turvy

I haven’t had an opportunity to update for a while as things in my life have been upside down and I have been struggling to keep it sane. The company is sold or the deal appears to be close to being completed.

As I mentioned earlier we are being acquired by a large holding company based in the United States. I began by feeling very insecure and for good reason. I have been through four prior acquisitions earlier in my career and in each case my position was made redundant. So far in the current process the key group of managers, of whom I am one, have met with four different senior people from the new company. These meetings have been formal group meetings outside of the company, since our employees have no idea that this process is taking place.

Finally on Monday night I had a one on one with the Senior Vice President of Human Resources and the Canadian President of the new company. I came away from that meeting feeling a little more secure. At least in the initial stages I will have a position and we will have to see if that remains at its current level or expands further into their organization or God forbid if my position is eliminated. I have the feeling that I have more experience and a better skill set than anyone else in their organization here in Canada but that doesn’t mean that I will fit the mold of what they are looking for.

I hate the feeling of not knowing what my future may be. I try to keep my life fairly stable. Not to say that I am opposed to change, far from it. I love change and I love new challenges but at this stage in my career I don’t want to be out on the street trying to sell myself to a new organization. So I have my fingers crossed.

On the personal front I finally got to spend last weekend with my son. We didn’t do too much but we ended the weekend by watching the CFL East championship game in which the Argos, which are our Toronto team, lost terribly to the Montreal Alouettes. The Argos played like a high school team and their game just came apart at the seams. So they are out of it again this year for the fifth year in a row and each year they have lost to Montreal.

I have wheels again, well sort of. The transmission in my Sunfire died and to replace it, even with a used transmission is joining to be around a thousand dollars. On top of that it is due for an emissions test, needs the brakes redone and it could use a coat of paint. So for two weeks I walked or rode my bike back and forth to work. Today's photo is one which I took during one of those walks which I guess ought to be entitled the "Last Rose of Summer".

Last Friday I bought an old Oldsmobile which was a car belonging to the Mother of another fellow at work. The lady had passed away a few months ago and he was left with taking care of her will. This car had not even been started in more than a year so it is a real unknown right now. But it only has just over a 100,000 kilometres which is very little really. The car seems to be basically okay but time will tell. I went and got a temporary license sticker for it which will allow me ten days to have it safety inspected and emission tested. I am going to redo the front brakes and change an oxygen sensor and then take it to be tested. Hopefully that will be all that is required for now.

I have to run now as I am in the process of getting ready for two days of Profit Sharing meetings with our employees. I have to stand there and tell the company line while all of the time knowing that this may be the last such meeting that we ever have as our current company. It’s not lying to them but it sure isn’t telling them the whole story. I am looking forward to this all being over and getting my life back on track, hopefully before the Christmas Holidays.

Got to run hope everyone is hanging in there and enjoying the ride. Take care.


Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Change of Attitude

I woke up this morning and decided before I got out of bed that have to shake myself and get out of this negativity. Yep shit happens but I can’t let these things get my down. This is my life right at the moment and it is up to me to find the positives in what is going on and make the best of it. It is my own attitude and my own perception that are making these matters negative, things just happen and life unfolds and by the way, assholes exist.

So to get to work on all of that this, it is the second day at work without a car and I walked in again this morning. I can make it in about 25 minutes and though this morning the weather wasn’t as nice as yesterday I do feel really good when I arrive. I need the exercise and fresh air, in fact this morning I said to myself, since I was the only with me at the time, even when I have a car back on the road I ought to leave the car at work and walk back and forth just because it makes me feel good. Without a car I haven’t been able to get to the gym so I need any exercise I can get.

As far as work goes I guess the bottom line is that I just can’t spend my time worrying about whether I will have a job or not. I have to be proactive and clean up the resume and start to get it out there but that is it. They may decide to keep this old guy around and use my experience to help them in their other Canadian locations. I can’t let the uncertainty make me miserable.

This whole process has caused me to look at my finances, which isn’t a pretty sight I might add. Repairing the car will have to wait until my next pay because I just don’t have the cash on hand and I refuse to borrow to get it done. I have to change the way I handle my money so that I always have enough in savings to handle smaller unplanned emergencies. I have never done that in my whole life. I have always lived up to the maximum of my earning power, in fact in most cases beyond it. Maybe at 60 it is time I actually grew up.

Last year I used my annual bonus to purchase the travel trailer. I think this year, provided I get a bonus, I will take the majority of that money and use it to build a nest egg in my savings account. The trailer has come along really well with the renovation I did this year and I have already done the major things, this year I will just keep puttering along. I want to build a roof on the deck so that we can use it rain or shine. I am also planning on changing the sleeping arrangements inside. My son is going to have a new day bed in place of the current bunk and I will rebuild the double bed table affair that I use.

I am going to add a photo of the front of the trailer so that those of you who read this and are familiar with trailers can see what I am referring to. This trailer is a smaller one at only about 22 feet long but it is fine since it is only intended for my son and I. Last year I put in a new ceiling and a new floor and painted the walls and cupboards. It has a fridge and stove and a small washroom with a mini shower but it works for use. I am adding an entertainment unit with a small TV, DVD player and CD player so that my son won’t feel like he is totally isolated. I would like to have a better source of music but I could live forever without a television. Instead I read.

Well it is time I got to work whoever you are hope life is treating you well and you have someone to love. Send me a hug I could use one today – and everyday.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Life Goes On

I haven't had the camera out for a few weeks so that I don't even have a photo to add some visual appeal today. I am trying to do my best to stay positive throughout this process and quite honestly I do believe that life is really is a joy and worth living. I haven't seen or heard from my son for a few weeks and I do miss him because he does add so much meaning to my life. I will call tonight and try to talk with him just to let him know I love him and miss him.

Well the fellows from the American firm which is purchasing us, came up on Thursday and Friday to meet with us. They have been through our plants under another presence so our employees are unaware of what is taking place. The only people who are included in these conversations at this point are the President and four other senior managers who are also minor share holders and then the four other managers of whom I am one, who he has designated as key members of his management team. So all we can do is talk among ourselves and not with any of the others within the company. The Americans haven't really offered any information other than to say that they want the management team as much if not more than the company. In this case I am quite cynical since I have been through this before and heard the same lines but was still let go at the first opportunity once the deal was complete. They just don't want us to rock the boat during the process.

Sure maybe this time it will be different but I don't hold out much hope. Here it is Sunday afternoon and I am here in the office pulling together more information which they have requested. I really do need to get home and have something to eat do some laundry and relax before another week begins. I will try and get away in an hour or so.

Friday night after I left work and was heading home the transmission in my car gave up the ghost. I knew that it had been making a few strange noises but I just hadn't had the time to take it in for someone to look at. Today I had to call a tow truck and have the car moved from the side of the road where it had been since Friday night and brought back to the house while I try to figure what to do with it. I am expecting that I will opt for a used transmission which will run over a thousand dollar when it is installed. I really didn't need this expense or added frustration right now.

Well at least I got to bike in to the office today and though it was really windy it did feel good to get some fresh air and exercise. The wind is pretty typical for this time of year. The air is getting cooler by the day, in fact we have had frost on a few nights already. Most of the trees have lost their leaves and during the ride today the few remaining leaves were assaulting me and the wind wiped them free.

Today my friend "E" dropped by on her way home to invite me over to her place for a coffee. She needed to talk since had been at a funeral yesterday for a male cousin who had taken his own life of Thursday. I dropped over for a hour or so and she was telling me stories about his fellow. He had just turned forty and had never been married or in any type of permanent relationship. Seems he had told people years ago that if he didn't have a wife and life he wasn't going to sit around past forty. I guess he was true to his word. I think it is quite sad that he hadn't found enough in life even though he was on his own to make it worthwhile. I live alone, very alone and yet I can always find value in living.

Suicide is a very sensitive subject for me, but my friend is not aware of enough details of my past to know that. My father took his own life when I was sixteen and it was I who found him. I had been living with him alone since I was about eleven. My parent separated who I was nine but my Mother had sent me back to live with him. He was a tyrant who made my life a living hell and killing himself in a way that I would find him was probably the cruelest thing that anyone could do. I would have suffered less if he had shot me but instead he left me to live with that day for the rest of my life. I had hated him so much when he would beat me black and blue but that was nothing to compare how I felt when I had the relive the details of that day a thousand of times over and over again. Suicide is the cruelest thing that anyone can do to those around them.

I don't how I got started on that subject today; but right now I have to go and turn my head off and try to get focused back on the things I have to accomplish, then get out of here.