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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Help is on the way ...

Funny thing about the Air Ambulance, there are so many of them down south, where so many communities and hospitals are close together.  In Northern Ontario, the air ambulance is literally a lifesaver for so many because medical facilities are so few.  If somebody in a remote reserve or a mining camp gets sick or injured, it would take hours for a land ambulance to get the proper attention for the victim. Thank goodness that the helicopter service is there. By the way, the air ambulance service was set up in the 1970s, mainly to serve the North. I live in the part of Timmins where I see the helicopter come in to the hospital quite often. I am glad to see people getting help. This patient was injured this past Sunday while out on a frozen lake about 50 kilometres west of Timmins. Luckily, he was found and rescued.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Remembering Bwian...

I don’t know how or why this came to mind today, but I was remembering a friend from several years back. His name was Brian. He was a mentally challenged adult who had a hare lip and could not speak correctly. Brian could not say a word with the R sound. He replaced it with a W. So when he introduced himself, he would say, Hiya, I’m Bwian. And Brian knew just about everyone in Timmins. And he always had a wave and a smile for you. He was always at every hockey game, or baseball game. So one fine summer day I was sitting in my car on Third Avenue, at Pine, facing the bus station. The light was red and Brian was walking along the street saying hello to everyone. “Hiya Len. How’s Tewwy?
So as he was crossing the street, Brian suddenly stopped. Something had caught his eye. It was a pop truck, parked in front of Bucovetsky’s department store. Now back in the day, pop trucks used to have open sides. I guess this made it easier for the driver to reach the cases of pop and bring them into the stores. It also made things easier for Brian. He looked around the intersection and brought his finger to his lips with a big Shhhh sound. And he smiled. And then he ran over to the pop truck, reached in and stole a six pack of orange pop, turned and ran back along Pine Street.  I will never forget how happy he looked. I looked around and saw other people on the street watching and smiling. Several of us made eye contact and we all laughed. I guess it’s one those reasons I’ve always enjoyed living in Timmins. I haven’t seen Brian in years, but if I do I will tell him he has to buy me a coffee or I will snitch on him. Just kidding.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Hollywood sucks. Thank God for books.

I was feeling disappointed these past few days as I sat down to call up an online movie through my Roku box. I went to Google Play, which is supposed to have all the best movies from recent years. Bahhh on that.  Roku is great, but the movie choices from the past few years are just terrible. No wonder I am not inspired by the Academy Awards any more. It has become such a dog and pony show and it seems the only thing people care about is what other people are wearing. Well they should be wearing shame for one thing. Hollywood really sucks lately.
There are always exceptions of course. I was pleased to watch the film Lincoln starring Daniel Day-Lewis. For a few moments I really believed I was seeing the face of Abraham Lincoln.  Brilliant movie. And it was directed by Stephen Spielberg, who is beyond brilliant. But when I look the few choices left of really good movies, I say thank God we have books.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Bye Buddy.

I was saddened this week to hear that Jennifer’s dog Buddy died. He had cancer. He had to be put down. Jennifer was obviously sad when she told me, saying she and Scott were just at a loss. Tyler and Nathan were also terribly upset. One forgets how much a pet can connect to a family. Buddy was so much a part of Jenn’s family. He was big, very big. He was calm and he was gentle.  I confess I didn’t spend much time with him, but whenever I went to Sudbury and drove up the driveway, Buddy would get up and come over to me, tail wagging, and sniffing around. Once he was satisfied everything was okay, he’d go back to the snoozing by the front step. That’s how he was. Reassuring. I am glad there were times I could sneak him a piece of bacon, or a beef bone. I am going to miss him.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Trains are still the best ...

In the past month I have covered two major CN rail train wrecks near Gogama, just south of Timmins. Luckily, no one has been hurt. But the two train wrecks have caused a huge mess in the environment. One wreck involved a train on the mainline between Foleyet and Gogama. The other was also on the mainline just a few kilometres west of Gogama. In both cases the trains were hauling tank cars loaded with crude oil. Both trains had massive fires.
Here’s the thing. Regardless of the huge mess involving dozens of broken and burning tank cars, CN managed to get the tracks repaired and the mess cleaned up within three days. I am not praising them, just saying I find it amazing they can work so fast to get back in business.
I expect there will be a lot more in the news about these particular derailments in the weeks and months ahead.
 Anyway, I still like trains. Several of my friends have suggested they will never travel by train. I still look forward to my next train trip.
I have enjoyed several excellent train trips over the years. One of my favourites was the night train from London to Edinburgh, where we sat up till 2:30 a.m. drinking excellent FREE Scotch, and eating bread, cheese and fruit. Another was the VIA Canadian from Vancouver back home to Ontario. I really enjoyed riding VIA from Sudbury to Toronto one night with Tyler and Nathan so we could have a short holiday in the city.  It was great.

I find trains just so relaxing and a great way to spend that other luxury – time.
Photos: 1-CN Rail derailment and fire Gogama, March 7, 2015.
2-Amtrak Cascades train in Seattle station.
3-VIA Canadian stop for sandwich and beers in Jasper.
4-Jacobite steam train arriving in Morar, Scotland.
Photo 1 by Transportation Safety Board.
Photos 2,3, 4 by Len Gillis ©

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Getting mellow

I told some of my fellow reporters this week that I think I am getting old and mellow.There was a time that drama was everything in a news photo. I ignored that this week. I was at the scene of a house fire at 5:30 in the morning. These things are never happy occasions. But they are dramatic.
A house was burning. The air was thick with smoke. The street was awash in frozen spray and water. Firefighters were shouting above the noise of the engines from several firetrucks. Neighbours were out on the street, wearing parkas, pyjamas and snowboots to see what's going on. I always have my camera ready, holding it inside my parka. It takes only a moment to move it to my eye and snap off five or six photos when I have it in burst mode. I looked up to see paramedics coming toward me from about ten feet away. I realized the ambulance was behind me. The two paramedics were walking either side of a distraught woman. She was wearing only a blanket. Her bare shoulders and bare legs were obvious. It was 33 below zero. The woman was crying and oblivious to everyone, except perhaps the paramedics supporting her. What a picture it was ... or might have been. I didn't raise my camera. I stepped aside and let them pass by. I felt awkward for being there. Twenty years ago, I would have snapped the picture, telling myself this shows the true drama and tragedy of a domestic fire. On Wednesday morning I just felt I was intruding on a terrible day in another person's life.

Overdose on television

Frank Underwood is back on television so I cocooned this week, watching the new season of the hit television series House of Cards. I feel guilty about it ... for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the new season was released on Netflix last Friday. So this past week, I watched every new episode. Yes, an entire season. Sometimes staying up as laste as 2:00 a.m. on a worknight.
Secondly, I was secretly admiring the main character Frank Underwood, who fought like a deranged animal to become president of the United States. Frank is a despicable person, but he does whatever it takes to win. Why on Earth would I cheer for the bad guy? I don't know.
By the way, Frank has monogrammed cufflinks. They say F U.