Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Picking up where I left off


It looks so cozy, a warm earth-bound bed with my name on it.  Oh, but wait a second, that's not me, I can tell by the dates, and by the name of my grave-mate Anna Irene.  This past weekend David, Nan and I made the 2 1/2 hour trek along the 401 and QEW, to a land of peaches, grapes, and cheesy amusements to watch David and several hundred other crazy marathon runners cross the finish line in the annual Niagara Falls International Marathon.

I have fond, but failing memories of many childhood trips to Niagara Falls, where my father was born, to visit my paternal grandmother and a myriad of curiously interesting relatives.  Often on the way home we would stop at one of the fruit stands to pick up a basket of juicy peaches.  My sweet grandma was the second wife of my namesake, James Paul Corcoran (the 1st, I suppose), who had three or four children from a previous marriage.   Grandpa died the year before I was born, (I arrived too late for my namesake to revel in this tribute to him, the first of many disappointments that I would be Irishly punished for by my dear dad) but from the snippets of history that I have been able to extract from my father and his kin, James was a feisty fella, often in trouble with the law, (he once told a police officer to shit in his hat), a bootlegger and hotelier by trade, a pistol wielding, typically tough, Irishman with a grumpy, discipline based approach to business, parenting and marriage.  All this to say that his remains are presumably marked by the substantial chunk of granite shown above.  In an interesting twist of fate, I was born on the same date, (32 years later mind you, that James married Anna Irene).  Back to the present day: Dave, Nan, Rusty and I stayed at the Marriott, with a room almost overlooking the falls, but close enough to allow Nan and I to make the short pilgrimage to the Casino for some voluntary taxation.  Unfortunately, Nan left her wallet in the car, so I had to gamble solo, which turned out to be a net loss for the casino!  Getting Rusty in and out of the hotel un-detected was quite an ordeal, but you kind of had to be there to see the humour in it.  I must say that while the falls themselves haven't changed much over the years, and really are incredible in their sheer magnificence and power, the area around the falls is much improved with the new hotels and the area now known as Fallsview.

On Sunday mom and I took in mass at St. Pat's R.C. church downtown, where grandma used to take us as young children.  When I first walked in, nothing felt familiar, but after an hour or so, memories started to creep out of the recesses of my mind; I think grandma sat on the left hand side of the aisle, and I'm pretty sure the church has been updated in the past 25 years. Other than that, a few streets looked familiar, and I think we found grandma's last apartment on Simcoe St., along with a playground where she used to drop my sister Anne and I off while she ran her errands.  I'd love to go back with my mom and dad, a camera and some notepaper to preserve a little more history before time steals it away.  Getting back to the cemetery for a second; I had a bit of a revelation while searching for the graves of my grandparents; our bodies are like cars - they function a lot better when they are maintained and when they have a good driver, but when the car ultimately breaks down and the driver moves on, both are still real, just separate.  David's body proved once again that training pays off - congratulations on your second successful marathon, and on your ongoing recovery from your skiing accident.  But remember, ski season is just around the corner!

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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Kelly's Big Day

I often blog about the many great benefits that I enjoy as a spa owner and entrepreneur.  I hope my faithful readers don't tire of my self congratulatory smug tone on this subject, but I really feel blessed in so many ways.  So much so, that I also think that if there is a next life, what could my creator have in store for me to provide a contrast to so many good things?  Best not dwell on that.  Yesterday, a young lady who I have known for the better part of 15 years had the main street of Cobourg all a-buzz as she officially opened her new business venture - Lia's Boutique - a store primarily targeted to women looking for smart accessories.  The Town Crier, The Mayor, The MP, and the Chairman of the DBIA, along with a handful of friends, family and well wishers were in attendance as the ribbon was cut and the politicians took advantage of the moment to blather on about how great an environment they had created in Cobourg for small business.  When I first walked into Kelly's store a few weeks ago to help with some of the final touches on the electrical side of things, I was really quite impressed with how she had pulled things together.  Kelly has worked at Ste. Anne's in many capacities, most recently in retail sales, but also in the spa as an esthetician, and in the dining room.  She is a bright girl and she deserves to do well.  I hope that the experience that she gained at the spa will provide her with the tenacity that any new business owner needs to beat the odds and to succeed.  Her three beautiful children were also in attendance, Madison, Sam, and Zoey.  Kelly named the store after her younger sister's baby daughter to avoid causing any fights between her children.  Clearly Kelly has a good understanding of politics!  Good luck in your new business venture Kelly!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Turkey time

While Thanksgiving is supposed to be all about family, this year it seems as though most of my family is elsewhere, so tonight we'll be having a small Sunday night dinner, at which the main attraction will be a medium size turkey from Walmart which I will be heading home to put in the oven just as soon as I finish this posting.  I don't think I've ever cooked a full size turkey before, so I will probably do a quick search on the Internet to see what I need to do to achieve the perfect balance between too moist and too dry.  Wish me luck.  I suppose the consumption of a big dumb bird is an appropriate conclusion to this week just passed, as there were a few moments where I felt like a bit of a turkey myself.  In an effort to get some out of the office exercise, I loaded up little John Deere with a chain saw and made my way into one of the pastures to clean up some standing dead wood that was making it difficult to herd cattle (see last week's entry).  In the course of my manly woodsman adventure I managed to get the chain saw stuck in several large logs, I hit myself in the tooth with a hammer, I ran out of fuel, broke a sheer pin in the wood chipper, and made the chain come off of the bar.  Oh well, at least there were no flesh wounds (yet).  In the middle of the week we had our annual septic system inspection, only to find out that the person who we thought was cleaning the filters thought that we were doing it, which resulted in a small spill beside one of the tanks.  We knew this because the ground was mushy, and the grass was growing extremely well.  Looking at this from a farming perspective, and being a guy who is constantly being accused of smelling like either cow or horse poo, I'm not sure what the big deal is about a little human effluent leaking into a vacant field, but the ever vigilant forces charged with protecting the environment see it a little differently.  We ended up hauling 7 loads of very rich topsoil to a landfill site at a cost (remember, we are depositing dirt in a landfill) that would shock just about anybody.  I only hope that there is some light at the end of this rather dark tunnel.  Finally, I spent 3 hours trying to corral 1 more cow into a pen using all forms of humane coercion, and intimidation available to me, stepping in fresh poop several times in the process.  No animals or humans were harmed in the making of this blog.  Have a happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Look out Jim, 1 Cow Out

I was born in Toronto, on a lovely treed street in Moore Park called Inglewood Drive.  From age 4 to 18, I grew up on a farm in Nashville, Ontario.  Our postal code was L0J 1C0, which I remembered with the words Look Out Jim 1 Cow Out.  Moving to Nashville was my father's idea.  I don't remember being consulted, but then doubt that I was consulted on too many things back then.  Looking back, I can honestly say that growing up on a farm had some real benefits.  However, I can't really imagine how my life would have turned out if I had grown up in the city.  For most of the time while we lived in Nashville we had animals on our farm.  We started off with Black Angus beef cattle, which were later replaced with the Charolais breed.  At one time we actually raised a calf in our basement.  I think it's mom died giving birth and we brought it into the basement to keep it warm and so that we could feed it.  Well before we realized it this calf had grown into a cow.  It was embarrassing when we would have dinner guests, only to have to explain the mooing, not to mention the smells wafting from the basement.  Although our basement dweller became quite domesticated, getting him up the basement stairs proved to be quite a challenge.  Ultimately, he ended up in the freezer and then on the dining room table.  We also had chickens, goats, dogs, cats, Guinea pigs, gerbils, fish and rabbits.  I tended to prefer the smaller animals to the cows.  Cows seemed to be a lot of unpaid work, and they were unbelievably stupid and not very cooperative.  They also created tons of manure, which we (7 farm labourers, otherwise known as kids) moved out by hand and pitch fork as part of our "farm chores".  Other choirs included fencing, (not with swords), de-horning, castrating haying, and feeding.  All good character building I'm sure.  Fast forward to 2010 and Jim the spa guy has 22 cows being fattened up for use at the spa - all Black Angus.  This weekend I thought I could single handedly move these 22 cows from one pasture to another across a paved road by tempting them with a couple of buckets of grain on the back of my truck.  This worked reasonably well until the steers discovered the juicy tall grass on either side of the road, and of course a straggler messed up the whole plan by refusing to leave the original pasture and playing catch me if you can.  Fortunately for me, my brother John, his wife Nancy and daughter Jenna showed up just in the nick of time to help corral my furry friends in the right direction, and the day was saved, except for the one loner who separated from the herd.  He'll come around; he'll miss his cow friends and his grain, they always do.