Mo­ti­va­tion lost, and found


It’s been more than a year since I had the time and mo­ti­va­tion to write a col­umn.

I would like to use the term “ writer’s block,” but in my case, it was more like a “ writer’s sub­di­vi­sion.” Too much had been go­ing on, pre­vent­ing me from get­ting back to the key­board.

Over the last num­ber of months, I took ad­van­tage of some down­time to start re­search­ing in­for­ma­tion for a his­tor­i­cal novel I’ve had in mind for sev­eral years. Af­ter all, it has been said that ev­ery writer has at least one book in him ( her), but it’s not al­ways a sim­ple mat­ter to work out. Al­though the core idea is there, it has to be de­vel­oped me­thod­i­cally and ac­cu­rately. With 30 years plus as a jour­nal­ist, I can never take ev­ery­thing at face value. All the facts must be checked, and boy, can it ever be­come te­dious.

One bad habit I have while do­ing re­search is that I tend to branch off into too many di­rec­tions at once. If I only had more dis­ci­pline, I could prob­a­bly ac­com­plish more. What hap­pens is that I come upon some item of in­ter­est and im­me­di­ately, I’m off on an­other tan­gent. And in this case it re­sulted in yet an­other book idea, not even re­lated to the first. I’m keep­ing the top­ics se­cret for now, and the way I’ve been go­ing, they may very well end up re­main­ing a se­cret for quite some time.

In the mean­time, I’ll at­tempt to in­form and en­ter­tain our read­ers, es­pe­cially the Baby Boomers.

Columnists, in gen­eral, en­joy hav­ing their egos stroked, be­cause it al­ways makes one feel good, know­ing you got your mes­sage across. Many Boomers have thanked me for re­mind­ing them of things and events they have for­got­ten over the years. One woman I met in the gro­cery store said, “ You’re speak­ing for our gen­er­a­tion.” I only hope I can live up to her ex­pec­ta­tions again.

In bid­ding farewell to the ( lousy) Sum­mer of ’ 09, I can’t help but re­call those care­free sum­mers of the ’ 50s and ’ 60s, when the best way of cool­ing off was a dip in the city’s long­est swim­ming pool, the his­toric Corn­wall Canal.

Ev­ery­body seemed to have their favourite spot, start­ing at the east end of the canal, where the dry­docks once were. Re­mem­ber the boardy bot­tom, by-wash and the sil­ver bridge? And just about any spot along Wa­ter Street, where there were con­crete steps lead­ing into the wa­ter? And who can for­get how some of the guys dried their bathing suits? Hang them from the car an­tenna or out­side mir­ror.

My most un­for­get­table sum­mer was the one where I saved a friend from drown­ing.

One of the gifts I had re­ceived for Christ­mas was a diver’s mask with twin at­tached snorkels, along with a pair of swim­ming fins. Santa knew that I was a big fan of the tele­vi­sion se­ries Sea Hunt, with the ad­ven­tur­ous diver called Mike Nel­son, played by the late Lloyd Bridges.

That sum­mer, I spent a lot of time un­der­wa­ter, search­ing the 14-foot depth of the canal and im­prov­ing my swim­ming skills.

Any­way, a bunch of us from Pine Street were swim­ming at the for­mer swing bridge, at the foot of Au­gus­tus Street. One of the kids had lost his glasses and I was try­ing to find them. I was on the sur­face, get­ting ready for an­other search, when long­time friend, Gerry Ward yelled out, “ Mike, Roy’s go­ing down!”

It was Roy Ri­ley’s first time swim­ming at the bridge, and as soon as I heard Gerry call, I saw Roy go­ing down quite quickly. I had no res­cue skills so I sim­ply swam down be­low him and swam back to the sur­face with him on my back. As soon as we reached the sur­face, Roy started cough­ing and spit­ting and his red eyes were as big as saucers. I’ll al­ways re­mem­ber that look.

We got back to the em­bank­ment and help­ful hands helped Roy up. Af­ter he got his breath back, the first thing he said to me was, “ Don’t tell my mother; she’ll kill me.” There are still liv­ing wit­nesses who can at­test to this.

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