Saturday, October 21, 2017

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire - He's Been Dead for Ten Years. He Just Doesn't Know it.

He’s Been Dead for Ten Years –He Just doesn’t Know It
That’s what Davey McGregor said about his uncle Scotty who was teetering on his last mortal legs. He was in a nursing home by now and he’d asked his nephew (the only one in the family he’d consent to even talk to) to find him an honest real estate agent who wouldn’t cheat him.
I had worked with Davey for some time and we got along very well. In fact his niece was the receptionist in my office. She actually dropped off the key to Scotty’s place for me since the house was now vacant. It was on my way home anyway so I dropped in.
The property was wedged in behind a hydro line that must have been put in after Scotty had established his mink ranch. It was easier to drive down the line than the road to get to the property. Once I got there I was taken aback by the tiny little story and a half house perched on the edge of the driveway. It was like a little lighthouse overlooking the whole property as if keeping an eye on it.
I got inside and the place and though old, it was solid as the day it was built. Typical Scottish workmanship showed in all the cracks and corners. Kitchen, sitting room and bathroom on the main floor and two bedrooms upstairs comprised the whole house except for the little deck outside the one bedroom overlooking the whole property. From there I could see the concrete foundations of the sheds and barns Scotty had built. That it had been his little kingdom was patently evident.
It was in my mind that this would basically be a land purchase and the little house would be demolished and I advertised it as such. Little did I imagine the resourcefulness of my investors. It didn’t take me long to find one either. Fred Malik was a clerk at a local railway with what seemed to be a lot of time on his hands. His hobby was to renovate and resell small houses. He was good at it too. He should have been an interior designer.
I met Fred at his little home in Elmwood. The minute I walked in the door his designer talent was evident. There wasn’t one square inch of space that was unused or didn’t flow into the next. It was like a dream apartment for a single person and I knew just who might like it. Well I didn’t much get a chance to sell the property because a few other agents had got a look at it and it turned out to be another one of those pyramid deals where one was contingent on the other ad infinitum. I think there were at least five properties involved (and about three nervous breakdowns) before it was all done. At least I got one end of the commission out of it.
But I digress. Fred had a little camper trailer that he pulled on to Scotty’s property while he was busy clearing away surplus garbage, measuring and surveying the land. He discovered that he could split off a vacant piece of the property and be within the limits of subdivision so he worked on that and somehow managed to get it past council.
Well now Fred was in business. He was already working on Scotty’s tiny house, turning it into a hideaway for somebody liking the quiet of the country and now, he would finally build a house of substantial size for himself, one that would overlook the whole of this picturesque country vista.
As for Scotty, he was now well satisfied that he had taken care of the last of his earthly business and now loosened up enough to recall some of the early days on his mink ranch with his family, regaling in the good times they’d had. He even consented to visiting with the rest of his remaining family which in itself was another piece of the end of his mortal life being tied up.

Thus, according to Davy, he finally went to sleep for eternity one afternoon after telling one of his many stories. He was happy.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire - The Great West Summer House

The Great West Summer House
This is a story inside another story. In retrospect, I was becoming somewhat known in my area of the local community, largely because of (horses again) my acquaintance with horse people and their activities. We occasionally went to Hunt Club social parties with friends of ours. The upshot was that I knew a lot of people and was also becoming known in those circles.
I actually got to know Glen and Carol through the people at Anderson Animal Hospital. They were good friends of the Andersons. One evening I was there and we were all sitting out on the deck when Glen suggested I come over and have a look at his place. They lived on ten acres just down the road. Glen had throat cancer and he had a very short time left on this earth, so they wanted to take care of business while they still could. Both were retired and pursuing their hobby in the local Hunt Club. He divided up his ten acres into portions for sustainable grazing for his horses while Carol was the keeper of the hounds (about a dozen of them).
It wasn’t too long before the property was sold and Glen went to his eternal rest, leaving Carol and her dogs on their own. I bring this up for a reason. It seems there is a place for everyone and everyone (sooner or later) finds his/her place.
The year before I’d had a heritage house for sale nearby. It had been the summer house of the Great West Life founders. Now it was an operating hog farm or had been until Stan sold off the hogs to concentrate on his grain. As incongruous as it seemed, it was quite a tidy operation. Some sixty acres in the back provided for grain and the barns and buildings on the site were well positioned. Stan Watson had bought it a number of years before and set up his buildings according to his needs. It was quite a good operation for a number of years, quite out of the ordinary for what it had originally had been when it was built.
The house itself was about twenty-three hundred square feet with a great screened porch winding around the outside. The finishing and furnishings had never been updated and of all things, it had a swimming pool of poured concrete that was as solid as the day it was poured and a comfortable change house beside the tennis court.
That’s all I’ll say about it to give you an idea of its magnitude. I was pretty well flabbergasted when I first went to see the place. It was vintage enough to do a write up in the local newspaper and to set up an open house. That of course prompted a continuous procession of visitors – mostly tire kickers with nothing to do on a Sunday afternoon other than to admire a heritage home.
I guess the only reason the whole exercise wasn’t a complete bust was that I met another bunch of people I might interact with at some point in the future (which obviously occurred).But I really wanted to sell THAT house. It would have been such a feather in my cap. It never happened though.
When Stan got back from Phoenix, he checked everything out and the only thing missing was one of his tanks of purple gas had been siphoned out during his absence. But other than that everything was fine. I still had another month to go on my listing contract so I didn’t worry about it too much. I had other things to do.
When I did return a month later to renew the contract I was in for a shock. There was a set of kennels on the property that hadn’t been there before. When I knocked on the door, who should answer but Carol, Glen’s widow. Well, okay, I thought. She’s visiting. Maybe she moved the dogs there after the sale of her property. All of that was true of course, except one thing. Carol wasn’t visiting. She now lived there – with Stan that is. Good heavens, Glen’s urn was barely cooled off and Carol was already – well . . . .

They obviously didn’t want to sell the property anymore, so I wished them well and moved on.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire - Dog Stories

Dog Stories
It seems a little strange to talk about horses in stories about dogs, but they played a pivotal part in my interaction with dogs. Usually they would get a whiff of my pants and you could see the puzzlement on their faces, wondering what in blazes that smell was. It would confuse them enough that I’d usually get my business done by the time they became accustomed to me and left me alone. As a result I was never afraid of any of them.
That said, I met a man in the Anola area who wanted to sell his hobby farm. I don’t know what his profession had been but now he was retired and raising Morgan horses as a hobby. They were fine animals that he was more proud of than his lovely bungalow. The reason they wanted to sell was that he had become ill on their last trip to Mexico – some sort of stomach problem that he couldn’t get rid of, no matter the treatment. It was another case of getting his house in order so to speak.
I found a buyer, also in the Anola area who was going to deed his house to his son if he found the right property to move into. It was a long and difficult negotiation but finally it was done. I had the final counter offer in my hand and needed to present it to the buyer (whose home I had not yet been to) for his signature.
It was a Sunday morning when I arrived at the buyer’s home and as I pulled up in the driveway, there, standing in the middle of the front lawn in the direct path to the front door, was a great Rottweiler (dog), staring at my car. He stood like a statue, not barking, not wagging his bum, not growling – nothing. I knew I had to get from my car to the front door. I’ve found that in most instances, people will call their dogs inside to allow entry. It wasn’t so in this case. Not a soul showed up at the door or the living room window for that matter.
Now I had to decide whether I wanted to risk my life for the sake of a sale or not. Well, when you’re in the business the deal is always more important than your own life, so I decided to risk it. Confidently, I got out of the car and walked directly for the dog. He still didn’t move. As I passed him, he turned and followed me up the front steps. All the way up I was waiting for the inevitable bite in the butt (which never came). The owner answered the door and invited me in as though it was nothing unusual. He had been watching television and hadn’t noticed me pull up. I seated myself on the couch at his direction and the giant dog climbed up too, placing himself on my lap and licking my face like I was his long lost friend.
The whole affair was an awkward situation with me trying to pull my briefcase out from under this hundred and twenty pound lap dog. But finally I managed and we got our business done to everyone’s satisfaction. I left there with a new appreciation for Rottweilers.

As a sad end note to this story, the old fellow in the bungalow finally passed away from his illness. This in itself was a lesson in taking care of business.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire - The Ancient Mariner

The Ancient Mariner

You often wonder what people who sail the seven seas for years at a time think about in their quiet moments. They certainly wouldn’t be the same dreams that land lubbers have. Well, it wouldn’t really come up in your mind unless you were confronted with a situation involving it. I was, and it did.
Art Wolinski had been in the Merchant Marine for a lot of years until his retirement. I couldn’t even imagine all the places he’d been to or the things he had seen. But when met Art, he was living out his dreams. His dreams of course didn’t match those of his wife who had settled in to a life largely without her husband, of quiet living within the company of her circle of friends. How they ended up in Canada I’ll never know, but they did. I suppose it was the wide open spaces that had attracted him.
When I met Art he was already into his third year of implementing his plan. He had acquired an idyllic ten acre piece of property not far from Birds Hill Park. At age sixty-seven he had started to build his log house – himself. I say himself because his wife didn’t share his dream. He obviously hadn’t communicated it to her properly, or she just thought he was an idiot to start such a project at his age. Nevertheless he persevered. I think he never even noticed that she had left him.
I met Art one day in the fall, I think it was in early September or so. He had heard that I sold properties in the area and that I had some experience in log homes, so he wanted to meet me. Well, YES SIR! I didn’t put on any airs either in expressing my amazement in his building prowess. He had pretty well thought of everything from the foundation up.
The thing was that he didn’t want to advertise the property for sale now but rather in the spring when he returned from Mexico. He was willing to commit to a listing now though and I would have the winter to formulate my sales strategy. Well I set myself up as the agent of record and proceeded accordingly. The more I went by that place, the better I liked it.
Of course the old mariner was way ahead of me in his planning. For starters, once he had parted from his wife (or rather she had parted from him) he wasted no time in finding a little sweet heart in Mexico. In fact, he even had a little place down there. From the first of October to the end of April they would hang out there. Then, come spring, they would occupy his house in Birds Hill, living off the preserves he had stored in the cool area of the rather substantial crawl space/wine cellar.
Of course it didn’t occur to me until much later that Art had an overall plan in mind. For years he had dreamt of building his own place. The plan was well fixed in his mind before he even started. Now he’d done it and he could cross it off his list. What he wanted now was a little place in the town of Selkirk, within walking distance of the Legion. He was very specific about that (like everything else he wanted). He and his companion could spend the summers there and move quite conveniently between there and Mexico and generally enjoy life in what I suppose you could call retirement.
About the end of March I started putting out feelers to other agents about the property I had coming up for sale soon and true to the profession, I had a fight on my hands to keep the listing. Well it really wasn’t much of a fight since Art and I had an understanding. What I did have trouble with was keeping people off the property until such time as Art was back. It actually worked out well (for once) in my naïve planning. By the time I was able to show the property people were just drooling to get on it. It didn’t take long to get the job done except for the place in Selkirk I had to find. Well that didn’t take too long either. There was a place three doors down from the legion that fit the bill.

The details of everything that went on in this deal kind of escape me at this point but I think I got the general idea across. After it was all done, the whole thing kind of faded away – at least in my memory.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Liar Liar - Pants on Fire - Open House in the Country

Open House in the Country
The natty little guy with an armload of degrees had a listing in the country. Now you have to imagine a gentleman’s gentleman (often with a carnation in his lapel) and wonder what in thunder he would be doing with a property for sale in the country. I’m sure he wondered the same thing, but he was a convincing talker and had an excellent reputation. He had booked an open house at this particular place and told me he had a conflicting schedule that Sunday. Would I be good enough to sit in for him?
Would I? You’d better believe I would! There’s an old axiom that says you’re not there to sell THAT house, you’re just there to sell A house – in other words pick up buyers who want to buy something (or sell something). Of course you don’t advertise to your sellers.
I don’t exactly remember what I gleaned from that adventure, but I know it launched my country career in real estate. Suddenly I had three or four buyers looking for country properties. I really felt at home with this country business and things indeed were looking up for me. Not that they were easy by any means, but at least I had my foot in the door in an area I was familiar with.
Well, where do I start with my country adventures? I guess I’ll have to pick them as they come to mind. There was a guy named Penner (I think) who had a ten acre parcel of land on which stood his mobile home and a very large garage that he had fixed up as a second home for his in-laws when they came visiting. He obviously kept his vehicles outside. I don’t quite remember how I latched on to this listing, but it had a fairly long life.
A local horse breeder had just got rid of her husband and was looking for a place to set up with whatever settlement she’d got from the divorce. Well, the place wasn’t expensive for her and it was the right area to do her thing. Well, she bought it and set to work, converting the garage to a residence. She sold the trailer and built a barn for her horses. By this time it was probably August or so and she asked me to come out and look at the place. I did and admired the horses while I was at it.
She had a particular small Arabian two year old gelding I was looking at.
“You want him?” she asked. “He’s green broke and an adventurous horse. I’ll give him to you for $75.00.”
“That’s awfully cheap,” I said.
“He’s also a little bit stupid too,” she laughed. “About a year ago he ran headlong into a telephone pole and put his neck out. He seems to have outgrown it, but you never know. It could come back again. But he’ll make a nice pet.
So now I had another animal at my place to add to the two horses I already had. Well, I won’t go into that, but a while later I get a call from the mortgage company. Apparently this is now going to be a foreclosure. We inspected the property and found it to be in good condition. Okay, no problem. Enter Big Bertha.
Bertha had her house for sale in St. Anne and she was beginning to look around for another place in the country. She was drawn to my sign and the privacy of the property as well as the fact that it had no basement. I understood when I met them at the property.
Bertha WAS as big as her husband Bert was small. He was on disability and not very well while she was full of beans. Having a look around, they loved the place and made an offer, subject to the sale of their house. All fine and good and eventually Mr. and Mrs. Bertha took possession of the property. I get a phone call on moving day saying the water doesn’t work. What the . . . it was working on inspection. Now what? So I called the mortgage company to report the deficiency and they called the pump man. It turns out that the owner didn’t pay the pump man so he sneaked in after she had vacated the premises and pulled out his pump. The long and the short of it was that the mortgage company had somebody else install a new pump.
But Bertha didn’t like the siding on the house. She wanted it to have a stone facing. It should be natural stone from the area she said. I didn’t know how she would accomplish that, but okay – it was none of my business anyway so I left it at that.
First she made some changes to the inside the house. I assumed it was Bert doing the work, but no, he was just too sick to do much of anything. I have to say to Bertha’s credit that she did look after Bert and the fresh air and the trees around the property seemed to breathe new life into him. But no, she brought her good for nothing son home to help with the things she couldn’t manage herself. That didn’t work out too well either, but no matter, she carried on anyway.
It was some time later when Bertha called me. She wanted me to come down and have a look at her handiwork. So I drove out to her place and passed it twice before recognizing the exact location. What in blazes! She’d put up a picket fence across the whole front of the property – some five hundred feet of it. And it was all painted white and straight and plumb as could be. No wonder I didn’t recognize the place.
Well, her son had put in the posts for the fence and Bertha, annoyed with his inability to pound them in straight had taken over from there and finished the job herself. Now she could concentrate on the stone walls.
“Where’d you get the stone? I wanted to know.
“Oh, I got in the truck and went up and down the side roads, picking them up.”
I couldn’t get over her creative imagination and her ability to do whatever she set out to do.
Winter had now set in so she concentrated on her interior alterations and looking after Bert (who wasn’t faring too well). Sadly, he passed away, not unexpectedly, and Bertha carried on. Bert’s insurance gave her a new impetus to live life as it was meant to be. She figured she was getting a little overweight so she bought one of those fitness machines that she could use while watching TV.
She also bought herself a new snow blower that she didn’t know how to use, Rather than call her useless son who was now living somewhere else; she figured I would know how to operate it, so she called me. That was more of an exercise in patience than anything, but I got it done. Well I had a couple of tricks with two cycle engines that I showed her and she never needed me after that.
The following summer after Bertha had finished her stonework on the outside walls of her house, she called me to come have a look. I was amazed. It looked absolutely marvelous.
“Well, now I want to sell,” she remarked. “It’s getting a little lonely out here without my Bert. Besides, there’s not much left to do here. Can we get together?”
It turns out she wanted a two bedroom house without a basement. She was emphatic about that. Well, given her size, I could understand. So I started hunting through all the available listings and found a few. Bertha came in to my office and together we took off to view a few listings I’d made appointments for. I marveled at how my little car listed to port when she got in. Well it wasn’t so bad that it would tip, but just the same . . .
By the time we got back to my office we’d more or less had a full day and I’m sure all the places were whirling around in Bertha’s head. She needed some time to digest it all. Talk about digesting, Bertha was hungry too. She’d just pick up a couple of burgers from George’s next door to munch on during her drive home. Knowing the size of George’s burgers, she’d have to drive slowly to get it all down before she reached home.
At this point things get a little blurry in my mind. As I (think) recall Bertha listed her house (with me) subject to her finding a new place and a buyer was found for hers by another agent subject to the sale of their house and on and on. In the end I think there were some five transactions dependent on each other for it all to fall into place. There was a whole lot of hand wringing, dozens of phone calls and frantic real estate agents down my throat, but miracle of miracles, at the eleventh hour it all came together. You could almost hear a collective sigh of relief.
I didn’t hear from Bertha for a while and went about my business which was developing nicely.  One day I heard from her. Would I like to come over and see what she’d done to the place. Sure enough, she was up to her old tricks. Fencing had been done, most of the interior had been repainted to her taste, shelving put up in the furnace room, and now she was putting up a backsplash over the kitchen counter out of her favorite little stones, one at a time.
Well that wasn’t the last time I heard of Big Bertha. She had a reclusive sister named Evelyn living in another part of the city. Evelyn was known in the neighborhood as the “cat lady”. In fact, when the SPCA went in to her house they found some sixty-three cats in the tiny little home. They were all well looked after at the expense of the house. The cats were removed by the SPCA, leaving the house empty except for Evelyn. Extensive negotiations between Evelyn and Bertha in the parking lot of a large box store resulted in Evelyn moving into a seniors home and the house being sold for the value of the lot.
It was a bittersweet story between the two sisters. They hadn’t spoken for years. Big Bertha as you have seen was a bundle of energy and common sense while Evelyn was a shy, kind recluse who was fearful of people. The two managed to rekindle a bond (at least temporarily) until Evelyn was resettled. I managed to sell the property quickly and lost my memory of the incident fairly quickly.

As I drew close to retirement, I let Bertha know I would no longer be looking after her and introduced her to one of my other agents. I felt bad as did Bertha, but all things must come to an end. I must say that all my adventures with her were unlike anything else I ever experienced.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Liar, Liar Pants on Fire -Getting my Bearings

Getting My Bearings
Over the next number of days I was introduced to all the other realtors in the office. There must have been at least twenty – five of them. They came in all sorts of shapes and sizes and all from different backgrounds. There was an old truck driver, another, a structural engineer, an economist, an agriculturalist odds and sundry housewives looking for adventure and even a teacher or two.
It took a little while to get used to this collection of adventurers, certainly a different bunch of people than any I’d ever worked with. Largely, they were friendly enough, even helpful at times, but I’ll get back to them. There are certainly enough stories about them to fill a book.
It turns out the boss was right. The phone WAS my friend (from time to time). I got the hang of it pretty quickly. Not wanting to appear too obvious, instead of saying “Do you want to sell your house (or buy one) I opted to firstly announce that I was in the business and depending on the reception that prompted I would say something like did (whoever was on the other end of the line) know of anyone wanting to sell or buy. God help me if someone said yes.
Within two days someone did say yes and I was in for experiences I never would have imagined.  The owner of the house had a rental property right next door to his home and he was sick and tired of nonpayment of rent. He was an accountant so we never had a problem of establishing the value of the home. The place had been vacant now for about a week or so and the only problem he did have was to clean the place up so it could be shown.
Well actually, there was more than just one problem. Already the middle of December, it was a little chilly out and I could hardly wait for my sign to go up with my name on it. In the meantime, there was a little black mongrel dog lying beside the door on a raggedy old blanket, shivering coldly. He looked like he was on death’s doorstep. It was obvious that his owner had left him there for some sucker like me to pick him up – so I did, blanket and all, and put them in the back of my car. We hadn’t had a dog in a while so I had to stop and pick up some dog food, dishes, a leash and supplies. Finally getting home to our ten acres in the country, I let the dog out of the car, taking the supplies into the house. While I’m busy doing this, the dog takes off across the field and I figure that’s the end of him. I put his raggedy blanket out on the deck in case he comes back and continue bringing things into the house. Next trip outside and I see the dog come roaring back to the house and he stops dead in front of me. In his mouth is a yellow tennis ball.
I guess the heat of the car had revived the poor little critter enough that now he wanted to play. Where in all that ten acres he’d found my daughter’s tennis ball I’ll never know. She’d lost it about five years earlier and he honed in on it. We played ball until it was time to go pick the Missus up from her job. Both of us were exhausted.
Ah but I digress again. Proud as a peacock, I visited my “For Sale” sign every day, just to see my name on it.  I must have thought myself to be a rock star. It wasn’t too long before my seller had found a “buyer” himself. The only problem was, he had no down payment.
Not to put too fine a point on it, I had befriended a mortgage broker and a lawyer and with the help of my broker, I put together a deal where I contributed a dollar to make the deal binding and the seller would take back the whole mortgage for a year at which time the buyer would find his own mortgage. Well, fair enough, the buyer jumped through all the hoops, bought his own insurance, paid the legal and land transfer fees and I managed to put a sold appendage on my precious sign.
Two days later the seller phones me up and says: “Come look at your sign.”
“Uh oh, what’s wrong?” I wanted to know.
“Just come and look,” laughs the seller.
I go streaking out there like a bolt of lightning because I know something’s wrong with my precious sign. No, there’s nothing wrong with the sign, but the house behind it no longer exists. Well, a small pile of rubble and ash does but little else. The Insurance Company apparently vindicates the buyer and the seller and forks over the settlement out of which the seller gets his mortgage paid, the buyer ends up with a twenty-five thousand dollar vacant lot and I end up with a remarkable dog.

That’s as far as I want to go in analyzing this transaction.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

It’s been forty years since I started in the real estate business and fifteen years since I left it behind for my new career of retired. I’ve got to say that both careers are equally creative and inspiring, and at the same time equally challenging.
Given the title of this series, you might not believe me. In fact, I’m not sure I do either, but one way or another, it ought to be a fun adventure. Of course I’m too old and feeble to remember any of the names of my clients and associates, but that comes in handy in terms of avoiding being sued. So the names will all be fictional and the incidents may well have an element of truth in them, they may be by no means fully accurate, but I maintain my mandate of telling a good story regardless of the facts.
Real estate is an interesting career, exciting even. But it’s complicated to say the least. There is a huge conglomerate of entities with a vested interest in the real estate business, each with its own angle to get a piece of the pie. There’s the Real Estate Board for one who provide a service to the general public and to the agents to keep the game honest and above board. Then there’s the Securities Commission, a government agency designed to protect trust accounts and moral obligations of real estate companies and/or their agents. Beyond that you have your various associations, each of which has its own departments.
Well, as a brand new, naïve potential real estate agent, the first thing you do is to pay money – to the Real Estate Board for the two week course you have to take in order to obtain your license. Day after day the naive agent is lectured about real estate law, board rules, securities commission rules, property values and appraisals: on and on and ad infinitum.
One by one the novice agents were beginning to worry. When were they going to teach us how to get listings? When were they going to teach us about making a sale? When were we going to find out about doing business?
Well, they weren’t going to teach us any of that at all. Old Albert Schmidt, a bricklayer who was tired of laying bricks day after day was totally disgusted. In his words, what kind of stupid training was that? (Well, those weren’t exactly his words – I know there were a few variations of “Verschissen” in there). I think he went back to laying his stupid bricks having satisfied himself that real estate was not for him.
I’ll never forget the appraisal course I took later to get my broker’s license. There was an eye opening revelation made by the lecturer that proved to be far truer than any other mark of the value of a property. After he had given us all the considerations in the value of a property he said that if a seller complains he hasn’t received enough for his property, and the buyer complains he has over paid, and the deal is still consummated, THAT’S your fair market value. Too bad we can’t hit that mark every time.
But I digress. Finally done with my real estate course, I reported to my office and was shown to a cubicle containing my brand new business cards and little else. Well, now what? It wasn’t really as bad as all that. Our broker welcomed me and we had a nice chat. Then he took me downtown in his big Lincoln to introduce his new agent to the boss at head office. We hit it off nicely and I went back to my cubicle which was about the same size as the one I had left in the Engineering office I’d been bored stiff at. It was still as empty as ever, except for my business cards, oh and yeah, a phone.
“What do I do now?” I asked my broker.
“You see that thing on your desk there?”
“Yeah, that’s a phone.”
“Wrong! That’s your gateway to a great future in the real estate business! Get on it and let family and friends, business associates know you’re in the business and see if you can be of service to them. That’s your lifeline!”
Actually, I was more interested in the coffee machine in the back of the office.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Conscientious Objectors

Conscientious Objectors
You think you know a lot about a particular subject only to discover you know didly squat! That happens to me quite a lot, probably because I ain’t payin’ that much attention in the first place. I figured I knew a lot about conscientious objectors from my Mennonite background. See, back when Catherine the Great invited the Mennonites to Russia, one of the concessions she made among others was an exemption from military service. That blanket agreement changed over time to mean alternative service in work camps, mainly forestry work, and work in the Red Cross, in hospitals and prisoner of war camps. The Mennonites went willingly into that voluntarily. Given their strong morals and work ethic (at that time), them buggers could work.
I never considered it other than what it was in Russia until the subject came up the other day. So I researched it on the internet. Holy crackers! It’s been goin’ on a long time. Some guy named Maximillius objected to a particular war in 295 B.C. Of course he was summarily executed and became a saint some time later. Well it was somewhat the same in WWI and WWII, depending where you were from, although in some cases you could claim conscientious objection based on religious beliefs and I imagine there was a bit of paperwork that went with that. Still there was a lot of executions.
The thing is that in Canada these Mennonites (at least) did a lot of heavy duty work like buildin’ roads clearin’ forests an’ so on. This ain’t no light work neither. They looked after prisoners of war, were nurses in hospitals where deranged people were kept an’ some even served with the Red Cross – all for fifty cents a day.
Yet they’re cast as cowards. They’ll not pick up weapons against another person, but they’re good enough to do all the grunt work left behind by the killers who went to war. I really don’t get it. Oh sure, in the 1940’s we had to get rid of the Nazis, no question about that, but every action since has not been a credible war. Besides which, the Nazis are back now in Canada and the U.S. among other places. Where are the soldiers now I’d like to know?
From up here on the top shelf, I can only shake my head an’ be thankful that I ain’t young no more.

Just sayin’.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Love vs. Hate

Love vs. Hate

We’re all screwed! Well let’s face it. We’re all lookin’ at the same dilemma, only from different perspectives. The haters hate everything and are being emboldened to protest everything they hate. And they’re very vocal about it too. Not only that, but they get physical with the whole business an’ downright nasty.
We all remember how in the 1940’s we were killin’ Nazis by the thousands. We all defamed the KKK an’ the white supremasists who was busy killin’ black people. An’ now they’re all raisin’ their ugly heads again.
We’ve had just about enough o’ them haters! It’s time to stand up to them. They organize a protest against something or other, so we organize an anti-protest. Well what starts out as quiet dialogue soon escalates to yellin’ an’ screamin’ to fist fights to runnin’ over somebody with a car to police intervention to . . . .
God, we hate them buggers! Oops, what’d I just say?  WE HATE THEM? Darn right we do! Well that sets the stage for interesting dialogue doesn’t it? Look at what happened last week in Quebec. A bunch of white supremasists were planning a protest and were gathered inside a building until they could move out onto the streets and make their particular noise. So a larger group of anti – white supremasists  gathered around the building to drown them out and shout them down. The trapped protestors finally emerged and walked down to where they intended to go, in complete silence, then disbursing and goin’ home. They made the other group look like a bunch of idiots.
So from where I’m sittin’ on the top shelf, the dialogue looks to be: Haters –“We hate you an’ we want our way.” Lovers – Oh yeah? Well we hate you more an’ we want our way.” What kind of stupid dialogue is that? Like I said at the beginning- we’re all screwed!

Just sayin’.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls - Part Five

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls – Part Five
            I don’t know if anyone believes in Indigenous legends and the stories of times past.  But the legend of the Seven Sacred Fires would give you pause if you thought about it in the context of the forgoing blogs and the frustration of the families involved.
            To quote from the legend: “The seventh prophet was different from the others. He was young and had a strange light in his eye. He prophesied that in the time of the Seventh Fire, a new people would emerge out of the ashes of the old. They would ask the Elders for guidance on their journey but some of the Elders had fallen asleep for they too had lost their spirits.
'When they awaken to the new people they will have nothing to offer', said the prophet. Others of the Elders will remain silent because no one will ask anything of them.
These new people will need to carefully choose how they approach the Elders for their task will be hard. If they remain strong and steadfast in their quest, the Water drum of the Medewiwin Lodge will again sound its voice. The Anishinabe Nation will be reborn. The Sacred Fire will again be lit.
Now the light skinned race will come to a fork in the road. Should they choose the right road, the Seventh Fire will ignite the Eighth Fire. This will be the eternal fire of peace and brotherhood among all the people, men and women alike. But should they make the wrong choice, the destruction they brought with them from across the sea will return to them, causing much suffering and death to all of the Earth's people.”
I pulled that out of the stories of my book “TruthSeeker” that I published a few years ago. I don’t know how I came to it, but a combination of a number of things caused me to think about it (as I sometimes do). And suddenly, the whole solution of what I have been proposing was laid out in front of  me – as real as it can get, like a blueprint.
            Central to it is Wab Kinew, Manitoba Legislative Member running for the NDP party leadership. Now just think of his credentials. A journalist and author, broadcaster for the CBC, the TV station I mentioned earlier. He is also host for the documentary series The Eighth Fire (2012) of all things.  The list goes on. Not only that, but he is young as it says in the legend.
            And Wab is well connected too. Running for his party’s leadership, he is being endorsed by Ovid Mercredi, the fiery former chief of the AFN. And that brings up a whole other power base of Elders: Ovid Mercredi, Phil Fontaine, and Mathew Coon Cum to name a few. These are all former AFN chiefs, all fearless advocates for their people, each well connected in his own right.
            Well now if that isn’t a perfect resume for the task at hand, I don’t know what is. Of course, all I can do is to send this blog to him and hope he reads it. If he feels compelled to act on it, that’s his business. If not, at least he will know there is one old white guy who cares enough to make an observation. In any case, my work is done.

            Just sayin’.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Missing and Murdered Indigenous |Women and Girls - Part Four

Missing and Murdered Women and Girls – Part Four
            I suppose I could go on hour after hour, beating the dead horse but it would just be rehashing what has already been said. Clearly this, as much as other things within the Indigenous community, falls on the shoulders of the community itself. It has become totally clear that however well intentioned the government and its bureaucrats are, they are singing the same old song. Maybe they don’t know any better any more. And in the Indigenous community, the chiefs and counsels are sitting on both sides of the fence. And that leaves the victims of these horrific attacks being tossed back and forth like a political football with no resolution at all.
            These victims must mobilize the tools that are at hand to tell their stories in spite of governments and bureaucrats. They must call on the literary and film resources, the museums and public places to bring this to fruition. Indeed, The CBC, being a Crown Corporation and award winning documentary producer could well be the vehicle to bring these stories into being. If the government wants to participate, they may do so under the direction of the victims by providing the funding, the grants, and the public facilities for the display of these stories. Then if they further wish, they could listen and learn.
            You see, over the years of European contact, Indigenous people have been so denigrated and dismissed as inferior people by the “Empire Builders” and so enamored with their gifts and gadgets that they slowly accepted their subordinate place in society. And the “Empire Builders”, seeing their success at subordinating the Indigenous communities have just continued on until they themselves believe this to be right.  And so the Prime Minister strikes a committee to “fix” the problem. By doing so, he has inadvertently created the most colossal blunder of his career.
            Oh, don’t get me wrong. I believe Trudeau is sincere in his concern over Indigenous issues. He has his hand and his heart out to them, no question. But striking a committee of white Empire Builders to structure a path to heal the victims and their families and to zero in on closing the files successfully is the wrong way to go about things.  Firstly, empires are no longer in fashion. Neither are the means and the methods associated with them.
            Listen, here’s what has to happen: From the government side, the “whatever you want to call the department” needs to be scrapped and dismantled, its finances handed over to the auditor general for arms length disbursement and replaced with a committee of Indigenous nations to run by way of consensus. The government should then mandate the CBC to document all the stories to be told in documentary fashion and the storytellers be brought in to a studio to tell their stories, preferably in their own native language with visual translation on a screen. This should then be placed in the Museum of Human Rights for all to see.
             I can’t see for the life of me how the cost of this sort of program would exceed the cost of the committee and all its studies and consultations, especially if the chiefs and counsels were to give their time to this without compensation. It would likely be the first step to a true healing of the communities and rebuilding of self esteem of the nations.

            If you wait until next week I’ll tell you who should act on behalf of the government and who should act on behalf of Indigenous peoples and the ramifications of the proposal. 

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Missing and Murdered Women and Girls - Part Three

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Children – Part Three
            Ms. Poitras is right in her determination that these issues have been studied to death and discussed to death by now and none of the solutions have worked or are likely to. Bureaucrats are good at organizing meetings arranging study groups and so on. But what do they know of Indigenous culture?  What do they know about the deep and rich spiritual heritage that underlies the very fabric of Indigenous communities? You have to be an Indigenous person to know these things.
            And what do they know of the pain and anguish of those who are left to mourn for their loved ones lost in such a brutal way? Not much, I think. Still, they have a purpose. They are good at organizing and running focus groups, and they have access to funding. They should confine themselves to those tasks.
            It’s my opinion that the whole commission should be made up of those people victimized by these tragedies. These people will understand what is needed. It’s also my opinion that the commission should muster the many tools available to it within the Indigenous community. What I mean is that there are Indigenous publishing companies, a major Indigenous television station, writers and actors who can bring these stories into reality. And above all we have the Museum of Human Rights where the stories can be told for the whole world to hear. Where else will you get a better audience?
            To my way of thinking, the Indigenous community needn’t wait for some white man’s commission to go through all its protocols in order to tell its stories. Each nation and each community has its own management structure. And each has an affiliation to a national structure. If the chiefs ever want to do something for their people, they will join forces to marshal all these things together and begin the process of putting themselves on the world map.
            No one needs to wait for government approval or bureaucratic formatting for permission to tell their stories. You’d think there’d be a large studio in the Museum of Human Rights where people are brought in for this very purpose and the process begins. I don’t pretend to have any organizational knowledge of the process. I just know it can be done and a few people who could do that. Before you know it there would be a flood of people coming to share their stories and it would finally take shape for the world to see what Canada is made of and how we treat people of ethnic origin. But it takes the people from each community, not the chiefs and counsels. The people affected need to pressure their administrations to make this happen. Perhaps the “Idle No More” people can mobilize a groundswell of ordinary people to participate.
            My mention of the Mennonites at the outset of this series was not frivolous but had its purpose in pointing out the importance of stories. There is a whole shelf in my book case of stories told by Mennonites of that terrible era. We know what happened, why and how. That doesn’t make it any easier particularly, but at least we can move on, knowing our experience has been recorded for all time.

            But that’s the whole thing. There must be a groundswell from the people themselves. It’s time the government and the bureaucrats acknowledge that Indigenous people ARE people too.  They have a value! The pride in their heritage has been beaten down so much over the years by the Europeans that they dare not speak of their self worth other than amongst themselves.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls - Part 2

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls – Part Two
            I guess one of the reasons Mennonites empathize with Indigenous people to the degree they do is the similarities of their respective situations from the past. Me an’ the Missus visited the Mennonite Heritage Center a while back an’ on the way home she says to me, “Holy crackers, there’s Mennonites everywhere!” She was talkin’ about the Mennonite Central Committee and all its involvements in every corner of society.
            Well, it’s true. Them buggers are everywhere. They’re in government, in industry, in agriculture – you name it an’ you’ll find ‘em. The reason I bring this up is that given their treatment in the old South Russia, they should have pretty well been wiped out – but they weren’t. There are many parallels in the story of the Mennonites and the Indigenous nations, the difference being that it was the men and older boys who were taken away instead of the children. That left the women and younger children to look after the farms and businesses.
            What would happen was that in the evening or at night several armed authorities would show up at a given house and demand entry. Using their authority they would search through the house, looking for letters or papers jewelry or wealth of some sort to incriminate the resident. They would then give the head of the house about five minutes to pack a few clothes, a little food to eat and pack him off to a courthouse in another town, promising the mother and the children that he would return in a day or two. That of course was a lie since many of them never returned. It got to the point where every household had a package prepared to give to the head of the family for his journey to court.
            Well that’s a bit of an over simplification, but generally pretty close to what happened. There is a book with lists of people who were shot, or deported to northern Siberia or imprisoned for long terms, some of my own relatives among them. It’s a gruesome record.
            Now this is the point I’m trying to make. One of the women waiting to tell her story to the commission for Missing and Murdered Women and Girls is extremely frustrated with the commission and its activities. The hoops these people have to jump through to get at the commission overwhelms her and she is afraid she’ll never get to tell her tale. That is what confuses me. I totally agree with her in that every time you get to tell your story, you heal a little bit. So the stories must be told – all of them!
            The question is, must they be told to the commission being run by the government? No, they must be told to someone who will listen. To my way of thinking, the system is entirely backwards. Indigenous peoples have been telling stories for ever. They have good memories and a penchant for the truth. We see that over and over.
            So now we have a group of white people who were and are the enemy setting the terms of when and how the affected people can speak, subordinating the indigenous people once again.
            And who are these people setting the agenda? Oh yeah, they’re government people and bureaucrats who have no experience in being bullied by their own kind. They have no idea of what goes on in the minds of the people affected by these losses.

            Just sayin’.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls - Part 1

This is a new series coming up that I thought was important to talk about. It's not so much about the people who have gone missing as it is about the survivors and their families, and the commission regulating the procedure of dealing with the issue. I don't know how many parts there will be to this, but it will end when I've had my say. Here is part one:

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
            Well, let’s begin with studies and their costs. Forget that! There is so much of that out there it appears to be a whole industry in and of itself. I can remember that from my old real estate days when a fellow got a government grant to do a study on starting up a fish farm in Winnipeg, Manitoba. I think he got a $45,000.00 grant to study the feasibility of the venture that never got anywhere. But he was happy with the grant money and went on his way. Then there were the guys who wanted to turn water into fuel, and so on ad infinitum.
            The same thing more or less applies to Indigenous issues. Marilyn Poitras is exactly right in my opinion regarding these studies and inquiries. We’ve been there, done that, it hasn’t worked. So why are we still doing that? I’m not willing to believe that the Government is so naïve as to really think they need another set of studies to address the problem or even to define what the problem is – or if there is one. I rather suspect that these studies and inquiries are a foil to avoid making a decision or even to put it off. I imagine a good grant writer can make a decent living uncovering this stuff.
            Well, so much for the churches, the Government bureaucracy and all the other white colonialists intent on maintaining the status quo for as long as they can. It is they who are intent on maintaining this sustainable industry at the expense of Indigenous people. But sooner or later that must also stop.
            As for the Indigenous People, at least in Canada, they are not without blemish either. They were very quick to pick up on the white man’s ways in terms of hoarding money and keeping it from the communities who needed it, and could cite long winded explanations for it.
            And the Elders will not speak. They have nothing to say. If you look at the teaching of the Seven Fires of the Anishinabec, you will see that it is exactly what is foretold. But there is one thing I don’t quite agree with and that is that the people wait for a young man who will lift them out of their wretchedness and a return to the spiritual world. It’s not that I disagree so much as I don’t understand. Why are the people waiting for someone else to lift them out of their misery? Why are they not doing it themselves?

            Well, you mustn’t take too much stock in what I say. I am after all, speaking from the top shelf where all my knowledge and experience are put away as irrelevant, part of ancient history. But I’ll speak my mind anyway. It looks like this is going to be a multiple piece, so look for the next post after this.

            Just sayin’.