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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

2500 Miles!

This morning while walking with Kie to the GO Train station I passed the 2500 mile board in my journey.

In my continuing walking journey going nowhere, today I would be in Pritchard, BC, a name on the map about 24 miles east of Kamloops, BC.

Becoming complacent, yawning and then with ennui thinking, "Just another hundred miles" is at time tempting, but the fact is each mile is a challenge to accomplish. 

Some days I just don't feel like walking, but as a worst-case scenario heart attack survivor, I push myself to keep going. I have seen other cardiac patients in the hospitals, people who may never be able to walk a mile again, or lead a normal life, and maybe never be able to go home again.

God has been generous to me, and I am reminded of this every single mile.

Deo gratias,

The Oddblock Station Agent

Addendum May 16, 2017

Yesterday afternoon I quietly passed mile post 2600 in my continuing journey to nowhere, but if I was still heading west, then according to the map I would be in the Fraser Canyon about 5 miles east of Spence's Bridge, BC.

This past April I walked 91.1 miles, the first time I've been able to achieve more than 90 miles in a single month. The cooler than normal spring weather certainly helped.

Addendum July 05, 2017

Today I quietly passed mile post 2700 in my ongoing trek to nowhere, but continuing as if I was walking to Vancouver, then according to the map I would be exiting the Fraser Canyon into the Fraser Valley about 2 miles east of Ruby Creek, BC.

Vancouver is now less than 100 miles distant, a destination that now seems achievable instead of next to impossible.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Waiting for that Building to Fall Down

Once upon a time... this event actually did occur, but so long ago now that the story can legitimately begin with once upon a time... 

Anyway, I was a patient in the Royal Victoria Hospital in 1958. I'm no longer certain of the time of year but I seem to recall the season was spring, after all the snow melted but before leaves came out.

This was the image of the Royal Vic that I recalled seeing when I looked out windows - thinking those were stairs leading to the top of a mysterious castle - and of course wishing I could climb up there to explore.

At the time of my hospital stay I was just short of my fourth birthday and I required what was always referred to as a hernia operation. Of course most details about that visit have completely faded from memory but a few odd tidbits still hang around in the cobwebs.

I do not recall being afraid or upset about being alone and away from home; I was just there because I had no choice.

My hospital bed was in the middle of some type of large ward because I remember seeing all the other kids - mostly "big kids" to me. Some were not able to get out of bed and others had tubes and bottles hooked up to them. A few others had bandages and one older boy in particular had bandages on his neck and throat; he was unable able to speak. Another girl in a corner seemed to be very ill in bed but one day she seemed a little better and someone had tied her long dark hair into braids with ribbons.

An astonishing last-minute prior to posting internet find! This 1950's scene was actually recorded in Montreal's Royal Victoria Hospital and is very much the way I recall that children's ward.

Back in 1958 parents were not able to visit and stay in the hospitals with their children the way they are able to do so today. I recall that all of us there were alone by ourselves most of the time except of course for nurses and helpers. This said, I do remember my paternal grandmother and mother visiting but not for very long.

A few days later when I was able to get out of bed, I found a small tricycle and remember riding it around in the ward, then in the hallways to the elevators. That elevator had an operator and that elderly gentlemen kindly but firmly refused to let me ride the trike on to the elevator.

But after all these years, one particular mystery has stuck in my mind.

I encountered a man who was alone in one of the hallways; he was silently staring out of a window. I had no real idea why he was there or what was attracting his attention, so I asked him.

He told me he was waiting for that building across the street to fall down.

I remember being absolutely astonished by what he had said and of course fully believed it too. Yes, I then spent some time watching and waiting for that building to fall, which of course it never did. I clearly recall repeatedly asking him when the building was going to fall because nothing was happening. He just kept telling to wait and watch so I would not miss it.

Impatient I suppose, minutes later I was running around a-la Chicken Little and telling everyone I saw, nurses, patients, strangers, everyone what was going to happen. Of course no one believed me. 

Yeah... Chicken Little does exist.

Anyway I never saw that man again and I quickly forgot all about him and that incident until these many decades later. Again, I wonder why he was there.

As a parent I've decided that he was likely a father with a child who was ill in the hospital; probably shouldering that heavy, awful and unwanted burden of waiting. Perhaps he was in anguish and despair at being unable to do anything about whatever circumstances he may have been wishing were different.

Of course I have no knowledge whatsoever what may have happened to him and his waiting or whether or not all turned out okay for him. I shall never know.

When I started looking for pictures of the Royal Victoria Hospital for this post, I had no idea the hospital had closed.

My vignette was not prompted by and has nothing to do with the closing. Simply coincidence and a short story to tell... the type that are the ramblings of an old man getting older.

The Oddblock Station Agent


Monday, February 6, 2017


Lilac was never a source of usable wood/lumber that I ever considered until three years ago when I had a conversation with Mike Chase, a professional wood turner displaying his skills at the Farmington Fair. He enthusiastically spoke to me about the merits of lilac as one of the best woods for turning and he suggested I give the wood a try.

Three years intervened before I was able to revisit Farmington, Maine, and have another conversation with Mr. Chase. In our subsequent discussion about woods and wood turning, I mentioned our previous conversation about lilac but had been unable to source a piece. 

Upon hearing that, Mr. Chase generously offered me one of the two lilac squares that he had with him. I accepted his kind gift and promised to get back to him with the results, which I have since done. This said, I decided to add this update to my previous post, simply because lilac is unusual.

Surprisingly, to me anyway and flowers aside, hundreds of images and postings appear on Google relating to the wood itself... meaning that I am not adding anything new or profound.

Lilac is indeed an excellent wood for turning. Yes, wood from that same bush/small tree that flowers every spring.

The lilac square that I accepted had a couple of cracks and soft spots so I allowed it to acclimatize for about a month before working with it.

The checking cracks did not extend deep into the wood and one soft spot (embedded decay) is the only remaining unusual characteristic. Most may simply label that soft spot a defect but I prefer to see it as an unusual characteristic unique to this piece of wood. True, some spots may cause problems or tear-out, but in this case it did not, as the above photo shows. 

I've since completed turning the piece round just to try the wood but haven't decided what to do with it. I suppose in the back of my mind I'll think about using it in a walking stick; I make those and this piece will be ideal for that.

Conclusion: lilac is indeed an excellent wood for turning, one of the best I've worked with. 

The Oddblock Station Agent

Thursday, January 26, 2017

37 Years!

Today marks 37 years since Kie and I were married, a special event we have planned to quietly celebrate together.

Our second night in Indonesia (24 hours after we first met) was spent travelling from Jakarta to Surabaya in a first class coach on an overnight train named, Mutiara. Seated directly behind us was Kie's father, no doubt keeping a watchful eye on us.

Whether by train, car, aircraft, boat or just simply walking, we have journeyed through life together.

Over the years we have travelled across Canada by train... so a few train-related images seem appropriate today. 

Kie on the go - riding a GO Train actually.

Watching the world go by as well as the years. We had this car to ourselves.

A few scenes...

Summer 1981 in North Hatley on Lake Massawippi

Somewhere in the wilds of New Hampshire... but wasn't for long.

An autumn visit in Milan, Quebec.

Kie, Kimberly and Kiera at Serampus Falls in Maine.

An avid K-drama fan... pointing out the Korean.

Kie holding Audrey... in her favourite role as Grandma

Minutes away from Kimberly's wedding

A few minutes on the station platform during a brief stop at Melville, Saskatchewan.

A walk in the woods.

Instriku tercinta, terima kasih!

Kie, thank you for choosing me to make this wonderful journey through life with.

Deo gratias

The Oddblock Station Agent

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

God was our Matchmaker

37 Years!

Kie and I were two individuals on opposite sides of the world who had no connection whatsoever and we should never have been able to discover and meet each other. Nonetheless by the astonishing grace of God, and in spite of what seemed to be impossible, we did meet and marry.

37 years ago this date, Kie and I were married in the government office in Malang, West Java, Indonesia. Of course our life-changing detail has been mentioned before in other postings, however, we are still together and here to celebrate another year since that wonderful.

In a departure from the expected usual, I have chosen to add images from other dates rather than January 18, 1980.

January 26, 1980, in Surabaya, Indonesia

"He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favour from the Lord."
Proverbs 18:22

The outside temperature that rainy season afternoon/evening was in the 30's and even warmer inside; humidity was like a sauna. Our crowded wedding reception venue in Surabaya was not air conditioned, and yes, we were as warm as we appeared in the photo.

The following four images were recorded a little more than five years later in June 1985, during the photo session immediately after my sister's wedding ceremony. Kie was one of the bride's maids.

Uncle Rod's home backs on to Riviere des Prairies in Pierrefonds and the beautifully landscaped back yard lent itself well for wedding pictures.

June 15, 1985, saw Kie and me in Uncle Rod's back yard

"A good wife, who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life."
Proverbs 31:10-12

Kie, beautiful as always.

Although not right away, following Kie's arrival in Canada our family saw a few changes when we welcomed the first of the new generation. 

Kimberly was the flower girl

David accompanied the flower girl

Time does indeed pass relentlessly and surprisingly quickly too; Kimberly and David are both married and have their own families.

"A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever."
Ecclesiastes 1:4

"There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be a remembrance of later things yet to happen among those who come after.
Ecclesiastes 1:11

These words are true also; nonetheless, important dates in our lives should be remembered with gratitude and joyfully celebrated while we are here. 

Deo Gratias

The Oddblock Station Agent

Monday, December 5, 2016

Memories of the Montreal Gazette's "Addressograph Department"

The other day I was scrolling through the contact information on my iPhone and for a few seconds pondered the drastic changes that have occurred with information technologies since I was a highschool student. What's all the more startling is to realize how much has been replaced, discarded and forgotten while making this journey from the not too distant past to the present.

My first 'real' job came in winter-spring 1970, albeit on a part time basis, and landed me in what was unofficially called the "Addressograph Department" in the Montreal Gazette's Circulation Department located on the 7th floor of the former Gazette Building at 1000 rue St. Antoine.

The former Montreal Gazette building located at 1000 rue St. Antoine in Montreal.

These are a few fading vignettes from those experiences and the impressions they made upon me, and as I make this nostalgic journey back into the past, I do wonder how many of the young people who may have once worked there are still around today; many people came and went during my three-year tenure.

Anyone and everyone stepping into the lobby were soon greeted by elevator operators Roger Tessier or Hermos Wagner; those two Gazette ambassadors always knew where everyone worked and where everything was.

At 08:00 that first Saturday morning, I started my learning under the tutelage of Muriel Rutherford; a seasoned veteran whom I thought was probably my grandmother's age. Miss Rutherford ran the Addressograph Department and she also seemed to live there.

Through careful hushed whispers I often heard her referred to as an old battle-axe, so I quickly learned that most people seemed to be afraid of her, but I never perceived her in that light during the brief time I was one of her fledgling peeps. 

Anyway, that first morning she patiently taught me how to use this ancient machine and what it was used for.

The keyboard was identical to that on a typewriter. Instead of typing on paper, this machine stamped out letters and numbers on small metal plates. The machine's words per minute speed was slow; maybe 20 to 30 at best. Although I was not a typist by any definition of the word, I was soon able to type faster than the machine could accommodate.

A metal plate as seen from the back
This example of a typed metal plate is actually as seen from the backside. Plates were typed backwards for one obvious reason; so that printed impressions came out forward.

Reading backward soon became second nature because doing so was much easier than removing and re-inserting the plate into the machine's carriage to read them from the backside.

Spelling and other errors were easy to correct on a metal plate. The error would simply be "blanked" by using the key (Just like a delete key today) that would flatten offending spots that would then be typed over.

The metal plate inserted into a metal frame
New plates were relatively clean to work with but almost all work involved existing plates which were coated in ink from their usage. In seconds one's finger tips would be blue from handing them. 

When taking a break or when work was finished, a special hand cleaner was required and that ammonia-laden smell was overpowering for anyone unprepared. The challenge during the day was to avoid touching or scratching oneself anywhere... otherwise telltale blue smudges would be left behind everywhere... and I mean everywhere.

The finished plates were inserted into a metal frame and collectively this too was usually referred to as a plate. As this example details, the typed plate has been inserted face-forward and a yellow cardboard impression has been inserted above in that spot to hold it. This format made reading, finding, handling and filing thousands of plates much easier.

(to be continued)

The Oddblock Station Agent

Thursday, August 18, 2016

2000 Miles!

Yay !!

If you miss the train I'm on, you will know that I have gone,
You can hear the whistle blow two thousand miles.
 Two thousand miles, two thousand miles, two thousand miles, two thousand miles,
Lord, I've walked two thousand miles on this road.

Two thousand miles, two thousand miles,
Two thousand miles, two thousand miles,
Lord, I've walked two thousand miles on my way.
Two thousand miles, two thousand miles,
Two thousand miles, two thousand miles,
Lord, I've walked two thousand miles on this road.

(With thanks to that Peter Paul and Mary song, 500 Miles)

Today I can boast just a little because this morning I passed the 2000 and 2001 mile boards in my walking journey to nowhere.

Yeah... it's for my thoughts.
To place 2001 miles in the context of a walking journey across Canada that started from the corner Front & Yonge in downtown Toronto, I would now be about 2 miles east of Alderson, Alberta, a tiny location about 35 west of Medicine Hat.

To be honest, I was never certain I would reach 1000 miles and was often less certain I could pass 2000 miles.

My goal now is to reach Vancouver by the end of 2017.

This stated, my immediate thoughts are just about being able to go out again this evening and walk another mile, and be just as grateful to God to be able to accomplish this much today. 

A Nickel's Worth of Hope
This other coin on the left is for another journey detailed in a book I read quite a while ago.

"A Nickel's Worth of Hope"

An amazing true story of one man's journey; hitch-hiking from Holland to South Africa shortly after the end of World War II. 

Each person's journey through life if different, leading over different trails to different places and into different events.

Enjoy your journey while you are on it! 
 And don't rush just to get there!

Deo Gratia
The Oddblock Station Agent

Addendum October 05, 2016

Yesterday morning I passed mile post 2100 in my continuing journey to nowhere, but if I was heading west, then according to the map I would be about 8 miles west of Gleichen, Alberta.

I wonder; when shall I be able to catch a first glimpse of Calgary's skyline in the distance?

Anyway, like that bunny, I'll just keep on going as long as I am able.

Addendum November 08, 2016

This morning as I walked with Kie to the GO Station I quietly passed mile 2200 in my continuing long-distance walk to nowhere. 100 more miles in 35 days!

In my ongoing imaginary journey from Front & Yonge, mile 2200 would now place me about 50 miles west of Calgary and parallelling the historical Canadian Pacific Railway, just past Seebe, Alberta, a name on the map.

On this note, yesterday, November 07, 2016, marked 131 years since the ceremonial last spike was driven at Craigellachie, BC., finishing construction of the CPR and Canada's first transcontinental railway.

As I have said all along, I'll just keep on going as long as I am able to.

Addendum January 02, 2017

This morning and without fanfare, I quietly passed the 2300 mile board. I had hoped to reach this distance prior to the end of 2016, however, that did not occur. Regardless, I did log 801.6 recorded miles walked in 2016.

In my ongoing imaginary journey from Front & Yonge, mile 2300 would now place me about 4 miles west of Leanchoil, BC., a location that actually exists and a place I once briefly stopped at while passing through on foot in June 1975.

Michael C. and I were pack-pack hiking from Golden to Field and we stopped to rest and wait for CPR's Train 2, The Canadian, so I could take a picture. The train showed up on time, I got my picture and we then resumed our journey.

Anyway, these days I'll just keep on going as long as I am able to.

Addendum February 24, 2017

Early this morning and without the rain that was forecast, I passed the 2400 mile board.

The railway mileage shown in this table was calculated from Windsor Station in Montreal.

Travel in any form must entail both an origin and a destination; even in walking a loop. 

My location now in that ongoing imaginary journey from Front & Yonge to Vancouver, mile 2400 would now place me about 2 miles east of Three Valley Lake in BC., a location west of Revelstoke that actually exists on a map and in this old CPR train schedule as Three Valley.