Monthly Archives: September 2010

Moving Day


Yes, we’ve clicked on the button and moved the evergeen Road-Dave to wordpress.com.  Why?  Because the original host, Mothership, decided to give us the chance.  This would be the third iteration of Road-Dave.  The first was on the personal websites that Microsoft would allow you to create, if you had a hotmail account.  Then they closed that down and moved us to live.spaces.com. 

Now, the Redmond Brain Trust has ported us to wordpress.com.  So, to find your favourite writin’ from Road-Dave, it is now here:  roaddave.wordpress.com.   Here’s hoping!

Nine Years Out


I was on an aircraft, leaving Ottawa, heading for Chicago nine years ago today.  It was a bright sunny, September morning, just cool enough to be enjoyable.  Wheels up, we headed for O’Hare winging along the border with the US. 

The objective was to fly to San Francisco to start work on a new set of presentations and computer images with a learned colleague in SF, then spend the next several weeks touring the US, doing the presentations to clients.  It was what we did back then:  On the road for weeks at a time, living out of a suitcase, on room service, a new city every few days.

Except I never got there.  The aircraft was rerouted, back to Ottawa, told to land and park it.  Something had happened.  Something bad.

There is something profound about dragging your luggage into a packed Ottawa airport witnessing 3,000 people not making a sound.  All eyes staring at the TV’s suspended over the heads of the crowds. 

Seeing a distraught young couple trying to get a dial tone on their cellphone to call family back in the US, watching their panic rise.  Handing them your own phone, so they can call and check in.  A distracted, muttered thanks from them, as they not dare to take their eyes off the television, watching the smoke billow out of the towers.  Nobody pushing, yelling or jostling, each of us wandering slowly, not understanding what our eyes were seeing and not wanting to look away.

I was home in time to take root in front of CNN, still not comprehending what I was seeing.  Calling my boss at home on the West Coast and rapidly explaining I wouldn’t be in San Francisco later that day.  It was early on the coast:  Nobody was up.  Nobody knew.  Then, almost instantaneously, everyone was up, plugged in and fully alert.  BBC, CBC, CNN, the major networks, all showing the same plumes of smoke. 

The replays came in, the second airliner plowing into the tower, the fireball arcing, spitting silver slivers across the September blue sky.  You knew it was a whole airplane, full of fuel, food and folks, but it looked so beautiful for a moment.  Your heart going up, then plummeting down in horror.

Then the image of a skyscraper telescoping in on itself, falling inward as the grey clouds of smoke billowed out and up.  Reporters not saying a word, the pictures telling the story.  I sat there, with my mouth open for a full minute, not knowing what to say, do or feel.

I still don’t know, nine years later, what to take from that day.  Confusion, sadness, anger, fear, curiosity, these feelings still tumble over each other when thinking about that day. 

So does the feeling of sleepwalking, not being entirely connected to your body, knowing something is not right and there is nothing, anything you can do about it.  Waiting, inexorably for the second tower to fall, as the reports started to come in about the Pentagon and something bad happening there.

After nine years of reflection, there is the indelible image of the grey pall of smoke across downtown New York, with two landmarks missing from the horizon.  It still doesn’t register properly. 

The rest of it, since that morning nine years ago, has been a jumble of madness, sadness and anger that has touched just about everyone on the planet in ways we never will fully comprehend, if we let it take control.

Or, we can look out the window right now at a sunny, clear, blue sky on a cool Saturday morning in September. 

Take a moment to give thanks to whatever particular belief set you might have, for the ability to enjoy these small things right now:  This second.

We might never make sense of 9/11 and the immeasurable losses since, but we’re still here and we’re still living every day with courage, grace, humility and gratitude. 

That is the best memorial.

 

The Stig


If you watch the BBC’s flagship car/motoring show, Top Gear, you’re probably familiar with the character of The Stig.  He’s the tame racing driver who does the high speed test laps of cars featured on Top Gear, as Clarkson, the Hamster and Captain Slow can’t get around the track consistently.  The Stig also trains the celebrity guests, who drive a hot lap in the Star in a Reasonably Priced Car segment.

(If you’ve never seen Top Gear, here’s a link to their website.  Search for an episode and come back:  We’ll wait for you.)

The running gag with the character of The Stig since 2003 has been his anonymity, in which, the British media, the BBC, the production company and the show itself have been willing co-conspirators.  It adds to the slightly silly and iconoclastic bent of Top Gear.

Now, Ben Collins, in a roundabout way, has come out as the White Stig.  The BBC tried to get an injunction stopping Collins’ autobiography from associating Ben Collins with the character of The Stig and the BBC got shut down. 

The unfortunate part is that now a lot of non-gearhead/petrolheads know about Top Gear and The Stig.  It used to be our little secret:  A private handshake between the lads. 

If you could appreciate a piano being dropped on a Morris Marina out of a clear blue sky, or caravans being used as conkers, hung from construction cranes, then you were part of the club.  Oh and the news and reviews of the cars of course, then you understood the essential nature of Top Gear.

It really isn’t about the cars, more to the point, Top Gear is about enjoying automobiles, aside from their essential nature as transportation, but as their cultural identifiers, shorthand, or captions to a group of people.

For instance:  A BMW M5 with rubber-band 30 series tires and $10,000 worth of rims tells me you are a complete idiot who most likely does not have even the basic motor functions of a brain stem.  But you have a lot of money.

If your ride is a 1985 two-door Ford Tempo GL with running boards, neons and gradient tint rolling on 18 inch spinners, then you should be sterilized for the Good of Society and permanently banned from the Accessory aisles of Canadian Tire. 

However, if the same car has been restored to original glory, complete with the dog-vomit coloured upholstery, then you understand the essential irony of the car.  You actually have a mind:  A sick one, but one worthy of consideration.

At the same time, if you can react fondly to the Fiat 850 hatchback, or the 1972 TR6, without the kneecaps on the bumpers that ruined the 1974, then you grew up across the street. 

Incidentally, if you own an SUV and live in an apartment or high rise condo, without a rural address at the end of a logging road, you are unworthy.  Especially if your SUV is either a Land Rover or a Cadillac.  Please proceed to the fitting department for your personalized asshat.

That’s the thing with cars.  They touch weird nerves in unusual ways at deep, elemental levels that are hard to define, impossible to communicate and confusing to write about if you don’t have the peculiar genetic makeup that tags you as a gear head. 

That’s also what appeals to us about Top Gear.  It’s OK to be a petrolhead and why, at the end of the day, it’s sad that The Stig has been unmasked.

Some say that his left nipple is shaped like the outline of the Nurburgring and that he suffers from Mansell’s Syndrome.  All we know is we call him The Stig.