storyteller, broadcaster

Archive for April, 2012

ramblings of a temporarily homeless person ..

The calendar has turned into the month of May and all is well, despite a ‘slugger’ of a thunderstorm in the Queen City.
The movers emptied my apartment last Saturday, and the benches are actually quite comfortable in Victoria Park, and it’s a short walk to the bar in my favourite hotel in the entire world….lol  

I should not even joke about such things because, as I described in my last post, I have never been anywhere near being homeless, or having no fixed address. That was the phrase I first heard 42 years ago, used by police to describe someone charged with a crime.

In war, when a soldier is captured, they are obligated under the Geneva Convention (?) to provide their captor with name, rank and serial number.

Do soldiers still wear dogtags, the little metal disc that Steve McQueen’s character held up after crashing his motorcycle into a maze of barbed wire in The Great Escape ? That has to be the greatest war movie of the 1960’s and one of the greatest ever, even if it was a bit ‘fanciful’ to say the least.

In truth there were no Americans held prisoner at Stalag Luft III, yet the 1963 movie, produced by the Mirisch brothers and directed by John Sturges, focussed the story on Steve McQueen and James Garner. In reality several dozen of the POW’s in that camp were Canadian. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing a couple of them. They didn’t mind that substantial ‘liberty’ with the truth that Hollywood has been fond of taking. They were just grateful that the story was well told, and that honour was paid to 50 who were murdered by their German captors.

I digress. It happens when you have no fixed address, and you’re up too early using a borrowed computer.

Among the treasures I unearthed when I was assembling my worldly goods in prepartion for moving was a beautiful framed tribute from the Manitoba Theatre Centre in Winnipeg. It was given to me when I left Winnipeg in 2000, and it’s a photo of actress Seana McKenna from her performance as Blanche Dubois in the Tennessee Williams classic A Streetcar Named Desire. Blanche says “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers”, as she lives as a guest of her sister and her hubby Stanley Kowalski.

Half a dozen years after receiving that lovely gift from the folks at MTC, I had the honour of telling the story of that great Canadian theatre in MTC 50, my first book.

If Winnipeggers reading this are interested, the book will enjoy a brief revival on Wednesday May 9th at McNally Robinson’s Grant Park store.

http://www.mcnallyrobinson.com/event-11385/A-Celebration-of-École-secondaire-Kelvin-High-School

In honour of the school’s upcoming 100th anniversary reunion, I will be one of several alumni of Kelvin High School signing books at a special event. I graduated from Kelvin in 1965, and my co-host on May 9th, and again at the Reunion’s Gala dinner on May 26th will Fiona Odlum of the Class of 1990. She patrols the sky over Winnipeg every weekday morning, reporting to CJOB and Global TV.

April 30th is a day that is dreaded by many in this land. It’s the day we must pay the price for living in this blessed land called Canada. It’s tax deadline day. Early on in my working life, I had a few deadline days when I dropped my return through the Revenue Canada mailslot, just an hour or two before midnight. In more recent times, I’ve been much better organized, even managing to use online banking to pay my outstanding balance.

Even though the politicians and bureaucrats give us a neverending list of reasons to questin how our precious tax dollars are spent, it’s still a great investment in my view. 

My final week at Access Communications in Regina. What a wonderful and all too brief stop this has been on the journey.

Driving there as the sign rises on a beautiful prairie morn, I’m blessed by the joy of another rediscovery that happens when your sift through belongings, preparing to move. One of the almost forgotten CDs I came across was a live recording that Stan Rogers did 33 years ago this month.

I crank up the volume until the windows rattle on my almost new HHR.

My greatest lament about Stan Rogers will always be that I never knew he existed, until the day he died. In June of 1983, Stan had been performing at a music festival in Texas.
He was flying home aboard an Air Canada jet that was forced to make an emergency landing in Cincinnatti after fire broke out in a washroom. There were 46 passengers aboard the plane. Stan Rogers was one of 23 who died.

Why had I never heard of him until that terrible day? Because I was a news guy who worked in the private side of radio in Canada, and I didn’t attend events like the Winnipeg Folk Festival often enough. Commercial radio in Canada didn’t play artists like Stan Rogers, or if they did it was in strange time periods when they thought no one important would be listening. Don’t get me started.

Was there ever a more distinctive sound that his raspy baritone doing a rousing ballad like Barrett’s Privateers ?

Life is hugely unfair sometimes.

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Roger Currie is a writer, broadcaster and blogger.

For the past seven months he has been hosting Talk of the Town on Access channel 7.

He is relocating to Winnipeg later this week, but he promises to visit on more than just Labour Day weekend. On that occasion, he promises to wear a Roughrider jersey. He father Andy ‘Red’ Currie wore the Rider’s red and black colours in two Grey Cups, in 1928 and 1930.

Roger can be reached at rogerc@mymts.net

Moving is a time to count blessings, as well as pennies !

Did I mention how stressful moving is? It does though have its moments of quiet reflection.

Consider the shopping cart. My Regina home for the past six years has been on the 9th floor of an apartment building.

A shopping cart is a valuable tool for moving stuff up and down the elevator.

I must have done almost a dozen trips to the dumpster in the back lane.

Very often the bin is locked to discourage dumpster diving.

The dear old shopping cart is a convenient tool for most of us.

For dumpster divers and those who are homeless, the cart is their whole world.

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I have never even been remotely close to that state of affairs.

I’ve never missed a rent payment, and I’ve obviously never missed a meal.

I’m not even a particularly careful shopper.

I have never been without a car except when it’s in the shop for a day or two.

I think nothing of driving 50 miles to have lunch with someone.

I have always had access to indoor plumbing and electricity.

I can’t imagine not having cable TV, even if I didn’t work for the cable company.

I have many wonderful friends who have lovely comfortable homes where I’m welcome anytime.

As I cleaned out drawers and closets though, I couldn’t help hoping I might find a forgotten lottery ticket.

I’m not greedy, a $50,000 jackpot would quite fine.

Help me please who is that lady named Judy whose phone number I found on the back of a bar tab?

Chances are she hung up when I called.

Wow! Where did I get all those socks and T-shirts, and why didn’t they scrap the penny years ago?

 

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A lot of clothing, kitchenware and books I was able to donate to Carmichael Outreach in Regina.

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They distribute such things to some of those people whose lives are carried in a shopping cart.

They who grab a few hours sleep when they can on someone’s couch. I greatly admire the dedication of people like Shawn Fraser and his staff at Carmichael.

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Cleaning out the kitchen is next. The Regina Food Bank will get plenty, and bless them for all they do.

Some new tenants in my building are taking some of the furniture that I choose not to move, including a perfectly good 33 inch TV.

It’s not a flat screen though, and I’m glad I found it a home, at least for a while.

I shall miss looking north towards the Hotel Saskatchewan as I write thoughts like these.

And I’ll miss lots and lots of people, including the ones who push those carts.

How I wish I had more time to hear their stories, and maybe take them to Tim’s for a nice bowl of soup.

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Roger Currie is a writer, broadcaster and blogger.

 

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For the past seven months he has been hosting Talk of the Town on Access channel 7.

He is relocating to Winnipeg.

He can be reached at rogerc@mymts.net

Shave and a haircut please, but no sipping suds in the barber chair

It will come as no surprise that a haircut is not something I do very often, even though it’s one of life’s quiet moments of relaxation.

Earlier this year I broke in a new barber, and I shall be sorry to lose him so soon as I move east in a matter of days.

Craig Zamonsky did a number of things before opening up a traditional barbershop in Yellowknife. It was located on Ragged Ass Road, so he and his partner decided to call it Ragged Ass Barbers. That is perhaps where his troubles began.

Such a name does not even raise an eyebrow in the rough and tumble mining country of Yellowknife, nor is it considered strange in those parts to sip a brew while Craig takes a load off your head. But in Regina it’s a different story.

Craig moved his operation to the Queen City partly so that he and his wife Marianne could both be closer to family. He found a great location in the Cathedral area and business has been good. But Craig got some strange looks and pointed questions when he went to register his business name. My word, what might people think?

That may have also done him in when he approached Saskatchewan liquor regulators about getting a license to serve beer in the barbershop. “Absolutely not” came the reply, but Craig may have been caught in the crossfire of a much larger and older fight involving alcohol in Rider Nation.

Some of my friends and co-workers say I’m moving to Manitoba so I can watch women take their clothes off and enjoy a barley sandwich at the same time. Truth be told I gave up strip bars when I still had hair.

I’ve never seen it as a big deal, but some who live in Saskatchewan are embarrassed by the archaic law that says you can’t drink and watch exotic entertainment at the same time.

They think it makes the province look like a Sunday school class or something. I’m not sure about that, but there is quite a history of rigid attitudes towards liquor in the Land of Living Skies.

Back in the Tommy Douglas era you could be fined for daring to drink a beer in your back yard. In the late 1970’s, Saskatchewan was almost the last place on earth to get cable TV. One of the reasons was a fight over those evil American beer commercials that would suddenly be washing over us without warning.

Aside from those ludicrous examples, other Canadian provinces, including Manitoba, have had just as much difficulty dealing with the demon rum as Saskatchewan has. It’s truly hard to believe in 2012.

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Roger Currie is a writer, broadcaster and blogger.

He currently hosts Talk of the Town every weekday at Noon, 4pm and 10pm on Access channel 7.

He will be relocating to Winnipeg in May.

He can be reached at rogerc@mymts.net

Where is the love that inspired Earth Day ?

Earth Day has quietly come and gone, against a backdrop that has seldom been less peaceful when it comes to environmental issues in Canada.

The annual observance on April 22nd has had a very checkered history. It began back in 1970 when America was still fighting a war in Vietnam, and Richard Nixon was still testing nuclear weapons.

It would be another 20 years before Earth Day had much impact in Canada.

A pile of burning tires in a place called Hagarsville grabbed so much attention that Canadians were suddenly driven to tell pollsters that protecting the environment was job one.

In 2012 the picture is very mixed, especially here in western Canada which has emerged as an economic powerhouse driven by resource development.

In Ottawa we have a majority Conservative government which has never done much more than pay lip service to environmental concerns. Now they seem to be pushing those concerns beyond the back burner. They’re just about right off the stove as the mantra of Stephen Harper and company has become “Get on with it”.

Major energy developments like the Northern Gateway Pipeline are being fastracked like never before. Ottawa does not even have an identifiable strategy when it comes to climate change, and they seem determined to silence prolonged debate on the issue.

The new pit bull on the issue is Joe Oliver, the minister of Natural Resources. He seems to have marching orders that are very clear.

This past week David Suzuki resigned as head of the foundation which bears his name. He did so in the face of threats by Ottawa to revoke their charitable status because of political activity, some of which is paid for by interests outside the country.

Suzuki calls it bullying, but before he goes too far he should look in the mirror. The foundation has all but written off both Alberta and Saskatchewan in their annual report cards on efforts to curb emissions of greenhouse gases. In earlier pronouncements, the media superstar has urged that politicians who don’t take the threat of global warming more seriously should end up behind bars.

Whoa ! Time out ! Has everyone in public life in this country been watching too much hockey? It’s becoming harder and harder to remember the days in which the original Earth Day took place.

One of its early champions was actor Eddie Albert. Some say it’s more than just coincidence that his birthday was April 22nd. We remember him mostly as the star of “Green Acres”, the popular sitcom about a New York businessman who opts for a simpler life in the country.

His character’s name was Oliver Wendell Douglas, but that’s about the only possible connection to Joe Oliver. Behind the scenes Eddie was a quiet promoter of many early efforts to save the planet.

Canada could use someone like that about now. 

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Roger Currie is a writer, broadcaster and blogger.

He currently hosts Talk of the Town every weekday at Noon, 4pm and 10pm on Access channel 7.

He will be relocating to Winnipeg in early May.

He can be reached at rogerc@mymts.net

The joy of moving

So, what are life’s most stressful events? The careers of many brilliant minds have been dedicated to that subject, and the lists they come up with are what you might expect. Death of a spouse, divorce or separation, getting married, going to jail, etc ..

What surprised me was what I did NOT find on the top ten list … moving! That is my challenge at the moment. As most of you may already know, in a couple of weeks I’ll be heading east to Winnipeg. I’ll be back to visit often, I promise. And I will cheer for the green team at least as much as I cheer for the blue team, if I survive the stress of moving. Six years have gone by very quickly but boy do we acquire a lot of stuff !

I’m not a hoarder but I am a procrastinator. Rather than make a decision about what to do with something, I tend to put it behind a closet door. “I’ll deal with it if I ever move.” I’m beginning to think that’s why a lot of us do NOT move because the mountain just becomes too high.

Moving from one province to another in Canada brings in a whole different set of challenges. And if you want really ratchet up the stress level, try buying a new vehicle at the same time as you move across a provincial boundary.

It’s a lesson I should have learned because would you believe I did exactly the same thing 12 years ago? The human psyche must automatically protect itself by shedding stressful memories.

Over the past week I must have spent more than a full day doing the purchase and trade, figuring out insurance, transferring plates and on it goes. I can tell you that two things are absolutely certain. Safety checks are a pain the neck and probably a ripoff, and where there’s a tax to be collected, governments will figure out a way to collect it.

Oh and by the way, you know how politicians are fond of promising to eliminate red tape and paperwork and make our lives simpler. I can testify that, like the promise to ‘consult’ with stakeholders before bringing down a budget that blindsides someone, the promise about red tape and paperwork? It’s a lie.

Excuse me but it’s time to go pack more boxes.

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Roger Currie is a Regina writer, broadcaster and blogger.

He currently hosts Talk of the Town every weekday at Noon, 4pm and 10pm on Access channel 7.

He will be relocating to Winnipeg at the end of April.

He can be reached at rogerc@mymts.net

Pat and his councilors should buy their own political meals

I have attended many a political fundraiser over the years, generally as a reporter.

The last time was the Premier’s Annual Dinner in Regina 12 months ago.

As dessert was being cleared away, Brad Wall sat down with me in front of TV cameras and gave me a very dutiful 20 minute interview.

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It was for my weekly program Currie’s Corner on Access TV.

As such interviews go, it was fairly ‘unremarkable’.

But it may well be the last time the two of us get to talk one-on-one on the record.

Wall managed to win re-election last November without ever appearing on Talk of the Town.

That was his choice and I’m sure it did him no political harm as the Saskatchewan Party scored a landslide victory over the NDP.

Politics in Saskatchewan is second only to the battles involving the Roughriders when it comes to ‘blood sports’, and the political fundraiser has achieved a bit of a strange status.

When I attended that Sask Party bunfest, I was a bit surpized to see just about every member of Regina City Council.

It turns out there was very easy explanation.

Regina taxpayers bought the tickets for them at more than 200 dollars a pop.

Documents released by the province’s Chief Electoral Officer show that the city of Regina has spent more than $5,000 over the past five years so that all councillors could attend major fundraisers put on both the Sask Party and the NDP.

Lameduck Mayor Pat Fiacco says it’s a completely proper use of taxpayers money.

 

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He says the public expects council to have a good relationship with the province’s two major political parties.

He says great information is shared at such dinners, and it’s important for city politicians to attend.

If homeowners were asked a direct question such as “Are you OK with your property tax dollars being used to buy a free meal for your councilor at a political fundraiser ? “, would we hear the same answer that Pat Fiacco puts forward?

Somehow I doubt it, but chances are we’ll never know because it’s one of a long list of valid questions that taxpayers will never be asked.

Mayor Don Atchison and the gang in Saskatoon got it right.

 

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Several of them attend similar dinners in the Bridge city, but they pay for their own tickets.

In doing so, by the way, they get a substantial deduction on their income tax.

The Saskatoon approach is the right one for many important reasons. Hopefully Regina’s next mayor will realize that and make changes.  

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Roger Currie is a Regina writer, broadcaster and blogger.

He currently hosts Talk of the Town every weekday at Noon, 4pm and 10pm on Access channel 7.

He will be relocating to Winnipeg at the end of April.

He can be reached at rogerc@mymts.net

Are comments from blogreaders important? Help me on this please.

Just putting out a brief note on this right now. When I started to blog, a couple of months ago, the Jeph Maystrucks of the world told me “You must get readers to post comments. It has to be interactive”. I’m not so sure. Being from a traditional media background that predates the whole cyberworld by many years, my experience has not been geared in this direction.

Reading news stories and blogposts, and the comments that follow, I have to say I have some serious doubts about the value of the comments.

Lots more to come another day when I have more time. But what do you think? On this point at least, I would love to hear from you.

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