Category: Friends (Page 1 of 15)

Parting Gifts

Me and Peter Chin in Radio MCR circa 1989

“How else you gonna be?”

That was Peter Chin a few days before he left us. We were talking on the phone. He wasn’t in great shape. They’d taken him to the hospital a couple of weeks earlier because he’d woken up with no feeling in his legs. He couldn’t walk anymore. I may have the details wrong. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that he’d been cheerful during our call though he must have known the prognosis wasn’t good.

“I have to say, Peter, you sound pretty positive despite everything,” I’d told him.

“How else you gonna be?” he said.

It was a gift. Peter had been good to me right from the beginning, ever since we’d met thirty-four years earlier serving the nation’s broadcaster in Radio Master Control. He’d mentored me, and I was awfully fond of him, and now here he was in the last week of his life and he had to have known it and he wasn’t anywhere near old enough to be in the last week of his life and he was cheerful. It kills me to think of it. But it was a gift he was giving me, it wasn’t an act, I’m sure of it, it was really Peter showing me that you could face that sort of thing, the end of your own life, with courage and grace and I will remember it to the end of mine.

Then there’s Gus. Gus was my next door neighbour, had been since 2001. He passed away a couple of months ago. You may think this is sad, me writing about good people dying, and of course it is, it is definitely sad, but it’s a part of life (“the last part,” a friend’s father once said) and we arguably don’t talk, don’t think about it enough. But bear with me, please, I promise you it’s not all doom and gloom.

The last thing Gus ever said to me was a joke. He’d had surgery and it hadn’t gone well. In fact, it had signaled the beginning of the end. He never got better. And he was sitting on his porch in his eighty-fifth year with the woman he loved, who loved him back more than anyone I’ve ever known has ever loved anyone, and who was there with him right til the end, and he was watching my wife and I move a ridiculously heavy couch from our basement to our living room through the front door.

“Good for you, Joe,” he told me, in his soft Scottish lilt. “Making your wife lift the heavy end.”

Gus knew the end was near but he faced it with good humour, joking to friends, family, and nurses alike right to the end. We lost him a few weeks after he poked fun at me.

My father-in-law Dave spoke to me via video from the hospital bed from which he would never rise.

“How are you, Joe?” he asked with genuine interest, my well-being somehow, impossibly, important to him during these last few hours of his life. “You look good,” he added, his attention firmly directed on those around him rather than on his own predicament.

I am not at all sure that I will be able to muster anywhere near the same courage and dignity when my time comes, but having seen it done now I shall certainly try.

Bill Lane. (Boy, I really feel like we’ve lost a lot of fine people in a short span of time this past year. I think about them often.)

Bill’s family reached out in his last few days, soliciting memories from those in his life. I shared one on Christmas Eve, honoured to have been included. So did many others. There’s a picture of Bill on Facebook taken on Christmas Day after having received those memories. He appreciated us celebrating his life. He’s lying in bed smiling. Smiling, though he would be gone a few short days later.

You see, don’t you? It’s possible to smile at the end. To joke, even. To be positive in the face of certain calamity. I am sad, thinking of my friends. I wish I’d gotten to know each of them better, spent more time with them.

But I am also braver courtesy of their parting gifts.

Review of Alpha Max by Mark A. Rayner

Available on Amazon and other online retailers


Great cover design by Xavier Comas

As I sat down to write the initial version of this review on Amazon, it prompted me by asking, “What did you like or dislike? What did you use this product for?”

I’ll answer the last question first. Oddly enough, I used this product for reading. I believe that’s what it’s best suited for. That can’t be said for all books; happily it’s the case with this one. Alpha Max is a book for people who like to read funny, thoughtful novels written in an engaging style.

Alpha Max is about a man, Max Tundra, who is recruited to help save the multiverse. Doing so he visits many different versions of Earth and meets many (sometimes unusual) iterations of himself. The story moves at a brisk pace with not a single dull passage toward an engaging conclusion as Max gradually figures out what’s really going on.

Mark Rayner has many strengths as a writer, among them charm, humour, and inventiveness, all of which serve a higher purpose, to explore ideas in a fun way. It’s all on display in Alpha Max as Rayner fires on all cylinders with perhaps his finest work to date.

What did I like? I liked it all, including the softcover copy, which looks and feels good. I love the cover design and the interior layout was a pleasure to read.

What didn’t I like? Struggling to come up with something here. Maybe the ISBN number could have been better. A few more 7s would have been nice. But hey, nothing’s perfect, at least not in this version of the universe.

Five out of Five for Alpha Max by Mark A. Rayner.

Nantes

Nantes, New Year’s Eve, 1993. I think that’s Nicholas holding the wine bottle

I’ve been digitizing some old photos and stumbling onto some interesting chapters of my life. I thought it might be fun to post some here and write about them, and in that way get the creative juices flowing before moving onto other, arguably more important work.

Some ground rules:

  1. The photos will be from my fairly distant personal past
  2. There’ll be some story associated with them
  3. I won’t overthink the writing, the idea is to get the story down quickly and post it

Now, to the story behind these two photos.

France, 1993. I was studying French in Aix-en-Provence. At the beginning of the year some friends and I had gone to a social event at a place called La Cave, which I think took place upstairs at the St. Sauveur Cathedral.

There we met some French guys, who were definitely more interested in my friends than me, cuz the French guys were single, in their twenties, and my friends were largely comprised of attractive Swedish, Danish, and Scottish women, but it didn’t matter because they were decent guys and we all quickly became good friends.

The two main guys were Nicholas and Francois. Around Christmas, Nicholas invited some of us to celebrate New Year’s Eve at his place in Nantes with his friends and family. I accepted along with my friends and fellow Canadians Deborah and Doug Cameron, who are the couple you see at the end of the table facing the camera in the picture below (and with whom I had celebrated an amazing vegetarian Christmas days before the trip to Nantes).

I drove to Nantes with Francois. I had barely three months of the French language under my belt at this point, so I was always learning new words and expressions. Unlike our native languages, which it seems we just pick up organically, I remember where I was when I learned most of the French I know.

Francois and I drove under a bridge.

Comment dit ca?” I asked him, pointing at the bridge.

Pont,” he told me, and my vocabulary increased by one. This would happen several times during the trip (and indeed the entire year).

In Nantes, I switched to Nicholas’ car and Nicholas and I drove around a bit, visiting some of his friends. It was pouring rain.

Il pleut comme vaches qui pisse!” he said.

Quoi?” I said, cuz I hadn’t understood a word of that.

We almost never spoke English, so he explained it to me in French, and eventually I came to understand that he’d said that it was raining like a bunch of cows pissing.

Back at his place, which you see in the pictures, we had a great evening of delicious food, vast quantities of wine, stilted conversation in French, and even some dancing. Nicholas’ sister taught me “le Rock and Roll” which was fun, but which, months later, none of my Quebecois lady friends back in Canada would dance with me because apparently it wasn’t cool there.

Because I was having such a good time, and because I’m not very bright, I drank way too much. The next morning I woke up in Nicholas’ house with a terrible hangover. And when I say “morning” I mean “afternoon” because I slept crazy late. I knew Nicholas, and had met his sister, but I hadn’t met anyone else in his family. Aware that I was essentially in a stranger’s house extremely hungover, I didn’t want to get up and go downstairs and meet everyone, with no idea what “everyone” would consist of.

I forced myself to get up and take a shower (with a weird French shower attachment that didn’t hang on a wall, but that you held in your hand while sitting in a tub, so that afterward you would realize that you washed every part of yourself except the arm holding the shower attachment). Clean but precariously nauseated, I went downstairs, where Nicholas’ family awaited me. His Mom, Dad, and about half a dozen others. Never was quite clear who was who, but there was a four year old boy who spoke better French than me, and about half a dozen others. Nicholas father looked strikingly like Patrick Stewart, or, considering he was French, Jean-Luc Picard.

We all went out to see the French version of the movie Aladdin (with the genie played by Richard Darbois rather than Robin Williams). Trying not to woof my cookies and thus embarrass myself in front of Nicholas and his family, and new to the French language, I don’t think I understood a word of it.

Back home we ate a special New Year’s Eve meal which consisted largely of cheese and a mystery meat. I had no appetite but they insisted I try the meat. They asked me to guess what it was.

Poulet?” I guessed. “Vache?” Chicken? Cow?

Wrong.

Autruche,” I was told.

“Austrian?” I said, shocked, still trying to grapple with the language, and the possibility that I had wound up amongst cannibals.

Everyone laughed uproariously, and someone corrected me: “Ostrich!”

Despite feeling ill, I had a good time. I was embarrassed for having overindulged the night before, and for having slept so late. Nicholas family was generous and friendly. Although I thanked Nicholas, and thanked his family at the time, I feel like I never really properly thanked them for their hospitality, and unfortunately I never saw any of them again.

May this post constitute a step toward a more proper thanks, then.

Yours Truly with the beard, Deborah and Douglas Cameron at the end of the table, and sadly I’m not sure the names of the others in this photo, taken New Year’s Eve 1993 in Nantes, France

Quid Novi?

The latest in Joe Mahoney news…

Some of you many have observed that I’ve removed most if not all posts relating to CBC Radio, including my memoir in progress “Adventures in the Radio Trade” (previously called Something Technical).

Sorry ’bout that.

My apologies in particular to those who’ve written to me lately expressing appreciation for said posts, or who have posted links to the material in question on other blogs (including Wikipedia, for which I plan to restore some of the material).

Don’t worry, I didn’t delete everything. I’ve just moved the status of those posts to “private.”

I’ve done this because I intend to release Adventures in the Radio Trade as a book, and I can’t have the material posted publicly on a blog and in a book. Well, I could, I suppose, but nobody would publish the book. For example, if Amazon detected material from the book on a website, they would decline to include the book among their wares. (They threatened to do this with my short story collection Other Times and Places after detecting one of the stories online, which I had forgotten to remove.)

I’d also begun to notice excerpts from my online version of Adventures in the Radio Trade on other websites, which, although somewhat flattering, made me afraid I’d never get it entirely offline when the need arose.

I did like the online version, which included many links and photos which I’ll not be able to include in the book version. But alas. The online version could never be permanent, whereas the book version can.

I’ve submitted Adventures in the Radio Trade to a handful of agents and publishers, but I don’t really care if it’s traditionally published. I’m perfectly happy to publish it myself, under my own imprint Donovan Street Press. I’ve also discussed publishing it as a joint venture with my sister Susan Rodgers, under her production company, Blue Mountain Entertainment. We shall see.

In the meantime, the manuscript, which includes a fair amount of material I’ve never posted before, is being edited by one of my two favourite editors (and good friend), Arleane Ralph. And I’ve already secured most of the permissions I require from the CBC to publish the book, just a few more “t”s to cross there.

Yours Truly and members of my family at Twin Shores, PEI August 2021

I’ve just returned from a highly restorative trip to Prince Edward Island where I saw several members of my family, many of whom I haven’t seen since before the pandemic. I would call PEI “the land Covid forgot” except I don’t want to jinx the place. But it was almost possible to forget about the pandemic there, where masks are not mandatory (we frequently wore them anyway). I loved it. I never want another summer to go by where I don’t visit PEI, which is where I grew up, and where much of my family still lives.

While there, I collected everything my dad, Tom Mahoney, ever wrote. One of my projects this fall will be to assemble it into a book, and publish it before Christmas, also under Donovan Street Press, in association with Blue Mountain Entertainment. His writing is almost entirely of growing up on top of a mountain near Johnville, New Brunswick in the thirties and forties. There are stories of ghosts, log drives, backwoods bullies, acrobatic dogs, and more. (One story was featured on CBC Radio’s The Vinyl Cafe with Stuart McLean).

Not only do I think it will be an entertaining collection, I think it’s of historical value, evoking a way of being largely lost to us now. Dad grew up with no running water and electricity. His father, my grandfather, wore his long johns all winter long to stay warm working mostly outdoors on their farm. There are crazy, memorable characters like Bob Tucker, a family friend and fellow mountain man who once crashed a locomotive, dynamited rocks in rivers to make life easier for himself, jumped off a train to avoid the first world war, got trapped in snow up to his neck, and whose first hot bath was in a hospital at the end of his life. I look forward to getting this collection out.

I’m three quarters of the way through a companion novel to A Time and a Place, called Captain’s Away, a straight up space opera set one thousand years in the future. It’s about the Doucette’s (descendants of Ridley Doucette) who are separated when their space station is blown out from beneath them at the onset of an intergalactic war. They have their own adventures while trying to find their way back to one another, each contributing to the war effort in their own way. It’s got spaceships and robots and evil emperors and princesses (or the like) and it’s a lot of fun to write.

Finally, while in PEI I had an idea for a mystery series that’s a bit of a departure for me, but that I also think could be a lot of fun to write. All I need is an extra twenty-four hours per day and maybe I can get all this stuff done (there’s still a day job, family, and de facto zoo to look after as well!)

That’s where I’m at these days.

How ’bout you?

Lorina Stephens Launches Dreams of the Moon

Recently I had the pleasure of helping my former publisher Lorina Stephens launch one of her own books, the latest of ten so far, this one a collection of short fiction entitled Dreams of the Moon.

The launch, which was conducted virtually (as so many necessarily are these days) was hosted by Richard Graeme Cameron, editor and publisher of the Aurora Award winning Canadian SF fiction magazine Polar Borealis.

As well as having run Five Rivers Publishing, Lorina has worked as an editor, a freelance journalist for national and regional print media, and (as mentioned) she is the author of ten books. She’s had several short fiction pieces published in well regarded venues such as Polar Borealis, On Spec, Neo-opsis, Marion Zimmer Bradley’s fantasy anthology Sword & Sorceress X.

Graeme recorded the launch, which included an interview with Lorina during which she expressed herself quite eloquently (certainly well enough for someone to invite her on, say, a national radio show about books, just saying) as well as a couple of short readings from Dreams of the Moon.

And here it is, in its entirety:

Other work by Lorina Stephens includes: And the Angels Sang; Caliban; Dreams of the Moon; From Mountains of Ice; Memories, Mother and a Christmas Addiction; The Rose Guardian; Shadow Song; co-editor Tesseracts 22: Alchemy and Artifacts; co-author The Giant’s Rib: Touring the Niagara Escarpment; Credit River Valley; Stonehouse Cooks

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