There. I said it.
Really, it feels about the same.
I had thought about doing a podcast like the one James Whittingham did a few years ago which he recorded at midnight heading into his 40th birthday. Instead, I thought I’d recount 40 memories that help tell the story of my 40 years. These are not “THE” stories. They’re just stories that happen to be on my mind these days.
By the way, I wrote this straight through so don’t get upset with any spelling or grammar mistakes.
- Lego was a religion for me for many years. I could entertain myself for hours building and playing.
- One of my main distractions was a Radio Shack 100-in-1 project kit my parents bought me as a gift. While I enjoyed a variety of projects, by far my favourite was the radio transmitter. I spent many hours in our basement broadcasting from in front of the console stereo which allowed me to spin tunes for my audience — a transistor radio that sat on the opposite side of the room.
- The 100-in-1 project kit led me to make regular trips to our local Heathkit store. I remember building a crystal radio and spending hours sitting on the floor by the outlet under my window listening to AM radio. I also remember discovering that at night I could pick up AM radio from hundreds of miles away.
- I know there were lots of class parties, especially when Bar and Bat Mitzvahs kicked in. One party that I will always remember was at Ariel Dalfen’s house during grade 8. She had a DJ and I remember very distinctly when Safety Dance came on and suddenly the awkward “I’m not dancing” feeling everyone had evaporated and everyone started to dance.
- I wasn’t much into reading, though I had a healthy love of radio. I remember setting an alarm for midnight to listen to The Zero Hour on CHEZ106.
- Tim Carley was the only person I knew whose family had Pay TV. Not only that, they had First Choice and Superchannel. I slept over there often and we’d stay up late watching movies and The Police Synchronicity concert from Le Spectrum in Montreal.
- Using the money left to me by my grandmother, I got a Commodore Vic 20. With that computer and the Commodore 64 that came after, my dad would spend hours in the basement with me, helping me type in the code for games and other programs from the back pages of Compute! magazine. I also remember when he and I went to the computer store and bought our first printer, a Mannesman-Tally dot matrix.
- Somehow I landed the gig of mowing the lawn of local radio celebrity Brian “The Source” Murphy. Brian was a walking library of music, and his house was the physical manifestation of that passion. The best part is he paid me in blues mix tapes and bootlegs of Police and U2 concerts.
- School was not my strong point. I just wasn’t into academics the way I was into socializing. That’s probably why Mr. Mitchell told me before the end of grade 9 that I was an underachiever.
- One of my great high school successes was meeting Jamie O’Farrell, who would become my best friend. Jamie and I spent so much time together that I eventually became a surrogate member of the O’Farrell family.
- If The Police weren’t going to keep releasing albums and touring, I’d have to settle for Sting. I waited outside Sam the Record Man for it to open the day Dream of the Blue Turtles came out. I listened to the album, start to finish, three times that morning.
- I really found my love of radio when I spent a co-op work term at CHUO, the University of Ottawa’s cable radio station. I reported to Tom Metuzals and worked closely with George Regan. I think I still have a cassette with some PSAs we produced against drinking an driving.
- On the advice of Mr. Ashworth, my high school co-op advisor, I spent my second co-op work term at the accounting firm of Ginsberg, Gluzman, Fage and Levitz. Mr. Ashworth saw that I’d done well in my accounting class (doing well stood out on my report card) and felt it would be a good fit. I really enjoyed my time there, though I did very little in the way of accounting work for the firm. I did spend a lot of time fixing up their basement file vault where I discovered a rat problem. This led to a well-paid summer job with the firm. I remember that Love and Mercy (Brian Wilson) and Everlasting Love (Howard Jones) were in incessant radio rotation that summer.
- My father rarely took me out to practice driving. Instead, he’d take me out to parallel park for an hour or two. I despised parallel parking and I would imagine terrible fates for my father. To this day I can parallel park on a dime.
- The first bass guitar I bought with my own money was a metallic silver Ibanez RB-820. I found the bass in the classifieds and took the city bus to Orleans to buy it without telling my parents. It was a great bass, though I remember it weighing a ton.
- As high school wound up, Jamie and I talked about forming a band. Jamie enlisted his older brother Bob who apparently liked how diplomatic I was after our initial phone conversation about the band. Jamie, Bob and I became very close. I was eventually ribbed by other friends that I couldn’t refer to one and not the other, making it sound like “Bob-n-Jamie” was one person.
- Bob-n-Jamie and I spent a lot of time writing and recording music in their parents’ basement. I have a box of cassettes with original songs, covers and recordings of our live shows. We dabbled in a variety of styles and tinkered with some of the coolest analog and digital technology. We were a great team when it came to getting ideas developed and recorded. To this day, of all of the musicians I’ve played with and projects I’ve worked on, I’ve had the most fun working with Bob.
- Once, when my parents were away, I had some friends over to watch movies. I threw a bag of popcorn in the microwave, set the timer for five minutes and went down to watch more of the movie. The popcorn was in for about 90 seconds longer that it should have been. The microwave belched smoke into the kitchen. It was incredibly thick and was spreading to the dining room before I came up from the basement. It took the rest of the time my parents were away to air out the house.
- Besides being in a band together and hanging out all of the time, I eventually took a job with Bob. We worked for a woodshop. On my first day, Bob and I had to deliver custom trays for artifact storage to the Canadian Museum of Civilization. As I coached Bob when he was backing up the truck, I slapped the back of the truck with my hand and then quickly lay down so my legs could be seen emerging from behind the truck in the side view mirror. Working with Bob proved to be as fun as everything else which we always seemed to do together.
- On the subject of that woodshop… I once picked up the owner’s Casio PDA, an electronic toy which he never used. I figured out how to type in a note for him. Two months later he went into a tirade when he turned on his PDA and he saw the phrase “Eat fibre”.
- My favourite theatre was any drive-in. It wasn’t unusual to go once a week, sometimes two nights in a row.
- I began my career at iSTAR. It was an incredible workplace and time to be entering the IT world. It was particularly exciting since it was a startup and there were plenty of opportunities to get experience with different technologies and projects. Perhaps one of my best memories from there was being a part of the trade show team. Our booth was monolithic and took a team of about 12 of us, 20 hours to build.
- I met Andrea at a Christmas party thrown by one of Bob’s former roommates. Andrea was on a date she didn’t want to be on so her friend Kita tagged along. I wanted to speak to Andrea and didn’t have the courage to approach her. If it wasn’t for Kita intercepting Bob and me on our way out to go to another party we’d been invited to, I wouldn’t have met my soul mate. In fact, it’s kind of incredible to think of everything that had to happen for us to meet.
- Lucy was born by C-section after three days of induced labour (poor Andrea!). When the doctor first saw her she said “he’s looking right at us”. Andrea and I were both a bit surprised when we heard “he” since all of the ultrasounds indicated we were expecting a girl. I could barely see Lucy when she was handed to me. I was so emotional, it felt like I was looking at her through a swimming pool.
- Lucy was 10 months old when our friend Rick drowned while fly-fishing in the Ottawa River. He was last seen on the banks of the river the day after my 30th birthday. His body wouldn’t be found for another 10 days. I would drive from work in Kanata to sit with Rick’s family and other friends during my lunch hour, watching the diving team looking for him and remembering the last time I’d seen him, just one week before he disappeared. It was the first time I ever had to say goodbye to a friend.
- Bayla was born by scheduled C-section (like Lucy, she was overdue). It was kind of surreal that her birth was such a scheduled. We made the day before “Lucy Day”, spending our last with Lucy as an only child doing things like going to the brand new Little Ray’s Reptile Adventure where she held a tarantula and had a scorpion climb up her shirt. Bayla was born with a full head of dark hair. The doctor sent me and Bayla out of the room so Andrea could be stitched up and I remember being alone with Bayla, singing to her and telling her about me and our world for what seemed like an eternity before we were reunited with Andrea.
- While I admit I was never much of an academic, test anxiety caused the worst damage to my grades. So, passing my 6-hour CISSP professional certification exam in 2004 was a huge personal victory. I became disenchanted by the certification, though, since it did very little for my career. I decided to not renew it when it expired 3 years later.
- For my 35th birthday, I went in to the recording studio to record my own version of a song I’d written with Bob O’Farrell 10 years earlier. It was meant to be the first track of a CD I wanted to record, and remains the only track I’ve recorded for that CD to date. The experience was amazing and I still have plans to work on that CD. In fact, I’d hoped it would be done for my 40th birthday. My discovery of podcasting derailed that effort. I wonder if I’ll ever get back to the CD.
- I was at what is believed to be the first podcast meetup in Canada. Tod Maffin organized it when he was in Ottawa to deliver a keynote speech. Maurizio Ortolani of the NAC was also there. It was great to be with other people who understood the excitement of audio production and was the start of two very good friendships.
- Tod was back in Ottawa a few weeks later and a much larger podcast meetup took place at the NAC. Besides local podcasters including some high school friends I hadn’t seen in years, a group of podcasters made the trip from Montreal. That’s the night I met Bob Goyetche (and his wife Cat) and Julien Smith. The podcasting community was still small then and this meeting became important in the evolution of the Canadian community.
- Bob Goyetche and I reconnected at the famed Montreal Podcast Meetup a few months later. That’s the famous meetup which Bruce Murray arrived in the form of a cardboard cutout. It was also the night Bob and I came up with the idea of the Canadian Podcast Buffet, an effort to bring together the various regional podcasting groups that had formed as part of Tod Maffin’s efforts.
- I’ll always remember the feeling of 80 podcasters from across Canada and the United States coming together for the first time at PAB2006, and event I co-founded and co-organized with Bob Goyetche and his wife Cat and Andrea. Everyone was excited to be there and be meeting each other for the first time. There were no egos, just sincere enthusiasm to meet each other and learn from each other. We all really felt that we were part of something new and important.
- Perhaps the most exciting result of PAB was that Andrea suggested we do a podcast together. Less than a month later we launched Just One More Book to promote a love of reading and great children’s books. We were nobodies in the children’s book community then and didn’t have any particular plans other than to have fun. It was fun. Andrea and I were a great team in making that podcast turn into a community and we became an important connection for publishing industry insiders. I have many favourite moments from our three year run with JOMB. I’ll identify interviewing Henry Winkler as a standout since his name will come up again below.
- I’m surprised when I think about how I handled the break-in of our home. I’m not sure if it was a defense mechanism that I focused on getting life back to normal or if I was really that driven to be a problem solver. I remember deciding in the moment I discovered the burglar alarm was the real deal that I would lead the family through the recovery and not get caught up emotionally.
- Despite being a major fan of The Police when I was growing up, I had to wait for their reunion tour to see them in concert. A group of high school friends and I did a road trip to Montreal together to see them perform during the first leg of their tour. It was a fantastic road trip and an amazing concert. I saw The Police for a second time when they kicked off the third and final leg of their reunion tour in Ottawa. My daughters remembered that when the tour was announced I proclaimed that I would dye my hair blond if they came to Ottawa. My daughters reminded me of that when the Ottawa date was announced and I did indeed have my hair dyed for that (although, it came out kind of strawberry blond).
- My Toastmasters club-mate and friend, Marcel, was killed in a car wreck two years ago. It was extremely hard for me to understand how that could happen. It was a very difficult time for me and made me think more about life and death. Thank goodness I was part of an amazing Toastmasters club. We served as a great support system for each other. Nevertheless, I found Toastmasters meetings painful for the next 9 months.
- The most important speech I’ve ever attended was delivered by Henry Winkler. More than being inspiring, his speech was about real life, real people and real possibilities. He wasn’t selling anything but recognizing your own potential and having the confidence to be yourself from the inside out.
- My world was rocked when Andrea was diagnosed with breast cancer. My fear led me to envision a much worse outcome. It’s amazing that we’ve come so far and I’m inspired everyday by how Andrea is handling this journey. After she was diagnosed, I invited all of our JOMB interview guests to leave a voice message with good wishes for Andrea. I sent out 220 requests. The first person to respond was Henry Winkler. He left a great and personal voice message.
- In the period of a week, two of our close friends finished their journey through cancer. One of our friends had beaten the odds and was deemed to be cancer free after being handed the equivalent of a death sentence 7 months earlier. After getting over the excitement of her situation, we learned that another friend, the younger brother of Bob-n-Jamie, had succumbed to a cancer that took over his body in the same 7 month period.
- Even though the bell didn’t live up to my expectations of it, I will always remember the feeling of being a part of Andrea’s last chemo treatment. That day made me realize that anything is possible. It proved to me so much about my life and the potential that lies ahead. That CD of mine will really happen. In fact, last night I dreamed that I was in a recording studio with Bob O’Farrell and Stewart Copeland. I’m not suggesting it will happen… but… it could. I’ll make that my selfish birthday wish.
Thank you to everyone who has been a part of my life so far — too many to mention. You’ve helped shaped my experiences and the person I am today.