Writer, Broadcaster

Category: Travel (Page 1 of 3)

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?

Artspace Book and Zine Fest Coming up in Peterborough

I’m looking forward to attending the 5th annual Artspace and Zine Fest coming up in Peterborough on Saturday February 29th. It will be held at the Peterborough Public Library in The Community Room, which you’ll find on the bottom floor of the library at 345 Aylmer St N.

According to the organizers, “The event will feature artist-made zines, comics and graphic novels, letterpress prints and cards, the work of small presses, woodcuts, screen prints, handmade books and other types of book and paper arts.”

It’ll also feature me! Along with my friends Tanah Haney and Tanah’s husband Mark Harrison, with whom I’ll be sharing a table. Tanah is a local poet, harpist, novelist and music teacher. Mark is a photographer, graphic designer and digital artist. They’ll be there with their collaborative work “Where the World Bleeds Through,” which represents a collaborative journey through poetry and art spanning over 25 years. I’ll be there with my debut novel A Time and a Place and my new short story collection, Other Times and Places

Hope to see you there Saturday, February 29, 2020 10am to 5pm!

Find out more here: https://artspace-arc.org/event/5th-annual-artspace-book-zine-fest/

End of Year Q and A

My friend and fellow writer Angela Misri just tackled this list on her blog and for some reason it resonated with me, so I thought I’d tackle it here. Here goes:

1. What makes this year unforgettable?
Definitely a trip to the United Kingdom with my family (England and Scotland). I saw Stonehenge during that trip, which I never thought I would ever see, and yeah I know it’s a bunch of rocks, but rocks don’t get much cooler than Stonehenge. The history! And did you know they have graffiti on them? Roman graffiti! We also spent a lot of time in London, the Isle of Skye, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Great family trip.

Me and Lynda at Stonehenge

2. What did you enjoy doing this year?
Wait, didn’t we just cover this in question number one? I should probably learn to read ahead. Okay, aside from a trip to the UK, I enjoyed working on a couple of special projects. One is novel number two (working title Captain’s Away) and the other is a secret project I’m helping a friend with. It’s really cool, and I’m honoured to be helping him with it.

3. What/who is the one thing/person you’re grateful for?
My wife Lynda. Kind of a miracle that not only did she show up in my life but that she chose to stay there. If we expand the list to include three people, which I insist that we do, it would include my daughters Erin and Keira too. I must have paid extra in the Before Life for the Super Special Family Package, and I’m sure glad I did. Worth every cent.

4. What are your biggest wins this year?
Pleased to have successfully put together a little short story collection, which I’m calling Other Times and Places. There were a few wins in my day job, too, just a few projects that came together nicely. But the biggest win is probably the trip to the UK.

The new short story collection

5. What did you read/watch/listen to that made the most impact this year?
There’s one movie I saw that I keep thinking about. It’s called The Life and Times of Colonel Blimp, a British film that came out in the early forties. I discovered it when Jim Donahue @otherjimdonahue mentioned it on his twitter feed. I knew Jim had interesting, eclectic taste, so I went looking for it. It did not disappoint. It’s about the lifetime of a soldier who’s lived through the Boer War as well as the First and Second World Wars. It’s really about growing older. You see an old person, you’re just looking at the tip of the iceberg. Behind what you see is an entire lifetime of experiences, not immediately visible. How did they become who they are? What did they go through to get there? That’s a part of what The Life and Times of Colonel Blimp is about. But it’s also about changing times. How what might have worked for you in, say, the Boer war might not necessarily serve you well in the Second World War, against the evil of the Nazis. Fascinating movie, and one of Martin Scorcese’s favourites, that directly influenced how he made Raging Bull.

6. What did you worry about most and how did it turn out?
I worried about a book fair some friends and I put on in May. Concerned it might turn out to be a complete disaster. There were disastrous elements, but we survived. We didn’t go broke, some people sold a few books, and we got some great interviews out of it. .

7. What was your biggest regret and why?
Long ago I vowed to live my life without regrets. With that mindset I make the best possible choices I can. In retrospect, they may not be the right choices, but looking back I know that they were the best possible choices I could have made with the information I had at available at the time.

8. What’s one thing that changed about yourself?
I care even less whether anyone likes me. Or so I tell myself.

9. What surprised you the most this year?
I discovered that I can’t do word problems involving math under severe time constraints surrounded by Vice Presidents, engineers, surgeons, and nuclear physicists working (more successfully) on the same problems. I really shouldn’t have been surprised by that, but I was. This happened at a course I took at Queen’s University Smith School of Business. A man’s got to know his limitations. I guess that’s one of mine.

10. If you could go back to last January 1, what suggestions would you give your past self?
Write more, better, faster. Completely useless advice, but it’s what I’d tell myself.

Joe’s Top Travel Tips

I travel a lot for work these days. This travel has taken me to every province and almost every territory in Canada as well as to parts of the U.S. Like John Candy and Steve Martin in one of my favourite movies, I’ve travelled by plane, train and automobile. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have been able to see a bit of the world this way.

As a way of paying it forward, here are a few travel tips I’ve picked up along the way.

Become a Trusted Traveler

I have no idea whose hands these are

If you travel frequently, consider getting a Trusted Traveler Nexus card or the equivalent. This can expedite travel through major airports. While everyone else is lined up waiting to get through security, Trusted Travelers are usually whisked through. You still have to do security like everyone else but there will only be a handful of people ahead of you in the Trusted Traveler line. Caveats: Smaller airports don’t make a distinction between Trusted Travelers and everyone else. And on one occasion the Trusted Traveler line in Toronto actually took longer than the regular line, but in my experience this is unusual. Getting such a card will take a bit of time; you fill out an online application, wait, and have to do a physical interview at the airport, but it was worth it for me.

At the Airport

Random airport shot

I think everyone knows to get to the airport early, but every now and then I forget that excellent advice and cut it a bit too fine (usually this has to do with early flights and wanting more sleep). I recommend building in extra time in case your ride arrives late or doesn’t show up at all.  Ideally I plan on being at the airport at least one hour before boarding begins.

A few words about getting through security. Make sure your fluids are travel-sized and fit in the small bag the airport provides. Double bag it within a ziplock bag to prevent spills in your travel bag. Know and follow the airport rules. No knives etc. as they will be confiscated. Don’t wear metal, or make sure you take it off before you pass through the security scanner. I stubbornly wear a metal belt that I always have to take off before stepping through the scanner. It is my one inefficiency. One day I will find a plastic one. But dammit I like that belt. And keep your hands out of your pockets as you step through the scanner.  

The Perfect Bag

My bag. I love it

I only ever travel with one piece of carry-on which I never check unless I’m forced to. My longest trips for work so far have been seven days and both times I managed no problem with just the one bag. I love being able to walk right off the plane into a taxi.

I use a small carry-on with wheels and a padded compartment for a 13” laptop. It’s perfect. I made sure to get one small enough to fit into just about every airplane overhead compartment. Because I travel often, I always keep my bag partially packed. I have toiletries and cables just for travel that live in that bag permanently. I can pack the rest of what I need in minutes.

Accessories

These aren’t actually my accessories. I was too lazy to take a picture of my actual accessories

I always bring a pair of headphones for the plane and for catching the odd Netflix show in the hotel room. Like everyone else on the planet these days I carry a cellphone, and I make it work for me. I have apps on my phone for Air Canada and WestJet with all my info, including my Frequent Flyer numbers. When possible I download my boarding passes directly to these apps.

I always travel with a battery charger for my phone and at least one spare cable. This is especially important when my flights are long and involve multiple legs, and I’m relying on electronic boarding passes.

I carry a hair brush, a toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, spare shampoo (twice the hotel didn’t have any), Ibuprofen, my laptop, a power cord for the laptop, and that’s about it.   

Identification

I have no idea whose half a head that is

Once in Iqaluit the authorities almost didn’t let me fly home because the name on my ticket was Joe Mahoney but the name on my Nexus card is Joseph T. Mahoney. It took almost an hour to convince the authorities that Joe Mahoney and Joseph T. Mahoney are one and the same. I nearly missed my flight. Now I always make sure the name on my ticket is exactly the same as the name on my identification.   

On the Plane

One day I will get my own plane

I always book an aisle seat when possible. When I first started travelling I always booked window seats because I enjoy the view, but that was soon overshadowed by the need to pee at least once every trip because of my tiny little bladder. Now I love the convenience of aisle seats where, if I have to get up during the flight, I can do so at my leisure without bothering anybody. Now other people bother me to get up, but I don’t mind.

I always bring a good book and my laptop. I rarely take advantage of inflight entertainment, preferring to either read, work, or nap.

Airlines

I took this shot after being ejected from a flight one day, on the way down. I thought it displayed incredible presence of mind

In Canada, I prefer Air North. Unlike southern airlines such as Air Canada and West Jet, Air North always feeds you, anywhere from a steaming hot pasta dish to a hearty sandwich to (once, for breakfast) a muffin (it was a damned good muffin). On a recent trip to Whitehorse, Air North concluded lunch with chocolate chip cookies. For half an hour the entire plane smelled like freshly baked cookies. The cookies were delicious.

If I can’t fly Air North, I choose West Jet. Unlike Air Canada, West Jet still serves pretzels along with their free beverage, at least the last time I flew with them. Also, you can upgrade your seat to Premium seating with more leg room and a few more snacks for as little as forty bucks.

If I can’t fly West Jet, I grow a pair of wings and fly myself.

If I can’t do that, I fly Air Canada.

Take the Train

Whenever possible I take the train instead of flying. I highly recommend Via Rail Business class if you can swing it. They feed you in Business Class, and the food is good. The train takes a bit longer than the plane but it’s so worth it. It’s better for the environment, for one thing. And you have the option of booking a seat all by yourself. A window seat, no less.

Meals

At first, eating out every night while travelling for work is a treat, but if you travel often this can become an insidious trap. It’s easy to spend too much, eat too much, and make poor choices. The less you spend, the more you benefit from your per diems. Consider adopting a specific strategy to ensure that you eat well consistently. One day, one day soon, I plan on adopting such a strategy.      

See the Sights

One fine morning in Iqaluit

I don’t often have much in the way of spare time when I travel for work, but I usually have at least one evening to myself. If I’m some place new, I like to take a walk around, get a bit of exercise, see the sights, take a few photos, and eat at a restaurant unique to that location. I’ve really enjoyed exploring Iqaluit, Yellowknife, Calgary, Winnipeg, Kamloops, Prince George, Kelowna, Victoria and New York this way, and I’ve been fortunate to have friends old and new show me around St. John’s, Rankin Inlet and Washington, DC, to name just a few locations.   

I hope you find some of these tips and observations useful. Feel free to share your own travel tips and thoughts in the comments below. Or not. Hey, it’s up to you.

Safe travels!

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