Facer Street European Festival 2018

Facer Street European Festival 2018

Today I had the opportunity to visit the area, during the annual Facer Street European Festival. It was a hot day, but my wife and I, with hats and sun screen, braved the temperature and ventured out to the historic community. We weren’t sure what to expect, as we had never been to this festival before. We were pleasantly surprised.

The festival was a mixture of Polish, Ukrainian and Italian heritage and this was reflected in the music, food and festivities that ran the length of Facer street. Everything from Pirogies to Pizza and Ice Cream to Sour Kraut Soup could be found. There was an abundance of good food that left an abundance of full stomachs and broad smiles.

There were two stages set up for various forms of entertainment. There were a couple of venues that were licensed for the sale of alcohol, The event was well attended even in the stifling heat, nothing can prevent a great party.

For my wife it was a little walk down memory lane, it had been quite some time since she had walked the streets that she had lived on as a little girl. She showed me the “swear” corner, the place at the corner of a church no less, where as a child she got into trouble by her mother for using less than savoury language. She is still not really sure how her mother found out about it though. We strolled past where she used to live and she pointed out where here friends used to live, and then passed her old school. She showed me how she and some of her friends used to walk to school. It was a little look back into her past.

A place like Facer Street is a community unto itself. Even thought it is part of a larger city, it is the parts that make the whole. It is the small places that contain the stories and creat the memories that make the reality of the place.

Books and Brews: Chapter One

A good time was had by all …

Museum Chat

Book Club PicksThe first meeting of our new “Books and Brews” book club was held this past Tuesday, July 19. Not only was this our inaugural session, but also my first foray into the world of book clubs, so I thought I’d share my experience and impressions here for those of you who are book club pros and those who might be thinking of joining in! For our first session, we discussed Joseph Boyden’s Three Day Road.

It’s not as intimidating as you think.

Full disclosure, I’ve shied away from book clubs in the past because I’ve been worried that I wouldn’t have anything to contribute, but discovered that fear was unfounded – the other participants and our moderator created an environment where everyone’s opinions, no matter how varied, were welcomed. Our moderator, Museum Curator Kathleen Powell, had a good mix of discussion questions addressing “big picture” themes and connections to our…

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Night at the Museum – Books and Brews

My wife went out on a limb and purchased tickets for the Books and Brews Book Club event as a Father’s Day gift.  As it turns out it was a perfect gift as I like to read and drink beer. I had never been part of a book club before so I didn’t know what to expect, I have to say that I was very pleased with my first experience.

As the name of the event suggests it was a combination of  some beer, wine and light snacks provided by Mahtay Cafe and Lounge located here in St Catharines , and books that have a consistent theme. This was the first event of this type that was put on by the St. Catharines Museum and Welland Canal Center and from my limited knowledge of book clubs, this event  appeared to be a wonderful success.

The first reading selection for this club was a great book written by Joseph Boyden called the Three Day Road. It is a story of war, tragedy, and in the end some redemption. It is a story of diversity and of the hardships faced by indigenous peoples of Northern Ontario in the early part of the last century.  Mr. Boyden does an excellent job in drawing the reader into the lives of the main characters Xavier and Elijah  as they enlist and head off to the First World War to fight fight as warriors for King and country.

Our first meeting took place on July 19th 2016 and the chosen location for this meeting couldn’t have been better.   The setting for this meeting, of our freshly minted book club, was in the museums exhibit entitled “Doing Our Bit: WWI from St. Catharines to the Western Front”.  For me, discussing this book surrounded by artifacts of the era in which this story takes place served to reinforce the enormity of the conflict and the hardship the main characters had to face. I have to thank the Museum Curator Kathleen Powell for an informative curators tour of the exhibit  prior to our book discussion, accompanied with some wonderful tasting craft beers. The exhibit itself gives a good cross-section of what life was like for those Canadians that went off to fight an empires war. If you haven’t seen this exhibit yet I highly recommend that you do so.

I found, as I’m  sure most in attendance did, the question and answer discussion very insightful specifically with the answers that were given by participants. I found that discussing this book was for some, a window into a history they had never known or knew even existed. I am not speaking of the history of the war itself but of the treatment of indigenous peoples, while in the service of Canada.

I am looking forward to the two follow on meetings in August and September where we will be discussing Emancipation Day written by Wayne Grady and The Danger Tree written by David Macfarlan. I think a book club in the museum is a great idea and whoever came up with the idea should get a pat on the back for a job well done.

The Travel Writers Bag

The Travel Writers Bag

By Jack Profijt

The writers bag

The Writers Bag of Tricks

There are tons of articles on the net about travelling and where to go and what to see. There are plenty of different things to read about different travels, and how to get to where we want to go. But have you ever given thought as to how travel writers, or writers in general get what they see and experience onto the written page? All people that write can call themselves writers or authors, however they all have their own style of how they get the things they see or experience on paper or the electronic screen.  I have been asked in the past what I carry in my satchel (Man Purse) that I find to be indispensable as far as getting the ideas right.  So here is what I carry.

First you need a good bag to carry all of your writer junk in. One that is compact yet sturdy, however it doesn’t have to be expensive, but keep in mind you get what you pay for. The one I use has plenty of pockets and a place for everything, including a water bottle and a snack.

A good camera is also a good investment if you plan on doing any of your own content creation. I am currently using a Nikon DSLR3100. I think this camera provides a good balance between portability and quality. It has a crazy amount of options and shooting configurations, and can be mounted on a tri pod. I also carry a cell phone camera as well, this is also a cheaper option. Some of these modern devices have exceptional photo quality as well.

My choice for a note pad is quality over quantity. After all pen and paper are the tools of our trade, so I chose to work with the good quality notebooks bound in an Italian leather case (thanks to my wife). At the very least, I would also look for a refillable book cover, for obvious reasons. Along with this I use good quality pens. Parker Pens are my weapons of choice, if you asked my wife she would tell you that I am a little fanatical about my pens and note books but that is another post. It also doesn’t hurt to have a pencil packed into your writer’s bag of tricks.

One thing that I think is overlooked in the modern age is the good old fashioned voice recorder. You never know when those thoughts are going to strike or if you come up with an interview idea on the spot. Voice recorders can be picked up cheap from any electronic store. However in my case my wife found mine in a puddle, put it in a bowl of rice.. presto chango .. Good as new.

This may seem over the top but a good knife/blade is always useful. It harkens back to my Army and Boy Scout days. It’s better to have one and not need it than to need it and not have one. Besides you never know when you will need to slice into piece of French bread and butter or uncork a bottle of wine or trim a cigar.

Last but not least on my list of items in my writer’s bag of tricks are my watch, wallet, cell phone and of course my glasses. My watch is a Tissot with date and illuminated hands. My phone is an iPhone 4s on which I have an app called Commander Compass. It acts as a GPS and compass. With this app I can find points on a map using several different coordinate systems and then set way points with those coordinates. It is a useful app with too many features to list here. Also the phone carrier that I have has great overseas coverage so I am never out of contact.

So now ya know what’s in my writer’s bag of tricks

An Adventure Can Start In Your Own Home Town

One of the things that I often hear from friends and acquaintances is that traveling to faraway places is too expensive to the point where it is cost prohibitive.  So they don’t go anywhere or do anything that they would consider “traveling”. I think this view is very wrong or a the very least a bad attitude when it comes to what I call the Vagabond Spirit.  What I mean is that the spirit of travel should start with the person, and at home, where they already live.

An adventuring spirit can start right in your very own home. You don’t really need any expensive equipment, just a will to explore. I usually start with a good old fashioned book. Yes I said book. The kind that has numbered pages and crazy stuff like that. The book can be about anything really but they are usually what give me my ideas on what to write, or about places I would like to go. Once the seed is planted the rest just kind of happens. One thing leads to an other and the next thing I know I am out the door.Fountain Montebello Park

To illustrate the point, on the last occasion where I needed to quell the Vagabond Spirit, I took a walk and found myself in a park in my area. Montebello Park in St. Catharines, Ontario for those of you that care to look. I had been in this place a hundred times before but on this occasion I found that I was looking at it through different eyes. It was a place of beauty and quiet, in an otherwise  busy little city. I snapped a few photos and and just sat in the park and watched the world go by. For those that have never tried this I highly recommend this because it is such a simple pleasure.

After my little visit to the park, I recalled that someone had once told me that this park was designed by a famous landscaping architect. So I thought I would take a look and see if there was any truth to the story. Well after a quick google search I found that the story I was told is in fact true. The park was originally designed and created by Frederick Law Olmsted. I found that our little park has lineage with places like Central Park in New York City, the Grounds of the US Capitol Buildings and Mount Royal Park in Montreal.

Rose Garden

Rose Garden

This little piece of quiet in the city has 25 varieties of roses in a well-kept rose garden, and peaceful fountain in the center. It’s a great place to spend a few hours with a good book, on one of the many benches or to listen to music at the many festivals that are held throughout the year.

This little story just serves to show that you don’t need crazy amounts of money or an expansive budget to have a little fun and adventure. It can start with a simple step out your front door.