October 29, 2013

It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown

The story begins with Linus as he writes a letter to The Great Pumpkin:  Dear Great Pumpkin. I'm looking forward to your arrival on Halloween night. I hope you will bring me lots of presents.

His friend Charlie Brown arrives and puzzles over his friend asking "Who are you writing to, Linus?"

Linus replies "This is the time of the year to write to the Great Pumpkin. On Halloween night, the Great Pumpkin rises out of his pumpkin patch and flies through the air with his bag of toys for all the children."

"You must be crazy" says Charlie Brown. "When are you going to stop believing in something that isn't true?"

"When you stop believing in that fellow with the red suit and white beard who goes HO! HO! HO!"

Charlie Brown responds "We are obviously separated by denominational differences."

Later on Halloween night, Lucy, Charlie Brown's little sister is angry for waiting with Linus for the Great Pumpkin, while everyone else was out getting treats (except Charlie Brown of course).

"I was robbed! I spent the whole night waiting for the Great Pumpkin, when I could've been out for tricks-or-treats!" She gasps in recognition at what she has just said. "Halloween is over and I missed it! You blockhead! You kept me up all night waiting for the Great Pumpkin, and all that came was a beagle! I didn't get a chance to go out for tricks-or-treats! And it was all your fault! I'll sue! What a fool I was! I could've had candy, apples, and gum! And cookies and money and all sorts of things! But no! I had to listen to you. You blockhead. What a fool I was. Trick-or-treats come only once a year, and I miss it by sitting in a pumpkin patch with a blockhead. YOU OWE ME RESTITUTION!"

It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown was first shown on CBS in 1966. It was from the Peanuts comic strip that first appeared in newspapers in 1950. The creator was the much loved Charles M. Schulz (1922 - 2000).

Photos and above pumpkin by Jim Murray. The pumpkin to the right is by a non-believer (in the Great Pumpkin). Copyright 2013.

October 27, 2013

Paths less travelled

Recently, in the fog, Sherry and I hiked the paths and trails around Cleveland Dam on the North Shore. It was good exercise, and refreshing to be almost alone in the forest.

For some reason, the paths we hiked reminded me of parts of The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck (1936 - 2005). I read the book in the mid 1980s, and all his books thereafter. His words about a spiritual life, grace, evil, and suffering resonated with me then, as they do now. As I recall, Peck began with the line: Life is difficult.

Choosing paths in a forest, in a city, or in life, can be difficult. Does this one lead us somewhere, or in a circle? Will we find our way back if we take this one? Are we there yet Dad?

Each one of us must make his own path through life. There are no self-help manuals, no formulas, no easy answers. The right road for one is the wrong road for another...The journey of life is not paved in blacktop; it is not brightly lit, and it has no road signs. It is a rocky path through the wilderness.                  - M. Scott Peck
Returning to the city, and ultimately, albeit several days later, to a brief moment of sunshine, pathways returned to us, and they were beautiful.

No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. 
We ourselves must walk the path.       - Buddha

Sometimes the path is clear. Sometimes the walk is the easy part. And often, neither is obvious.

Photos by Jim Murray. Copyright 2013.

October 26, 2013

Odd Society Spirits ~ the media event

About ten days ago your faithful correspondent received an invite from a public relations firm to attend a private, media-only event at Odd Society Spirits. Followers of The Murray Chronicles on at least three continents, possibly four, will remember my earlier post about this new craft distiller in Vancouver. But media? Am I a member of the media? Is The Murray Chronicles a publication? The definitions of ten or fifteen years ago don't apply anymore, and there's vodka to be tasted. I replied affirmatively.

A week after the invite I appeared at the appointed hour. Odd Society Spirits has changed since my last visit. There's a new awning, inviting windows and a great interior that boasts a fantastic looking bar.

There's also a new partner to Gordon Glanz and Miriam Karp, in Joshua Beach, fresh off a flight from the EU. Josh was a fellow student of Gordon's in Scotland, where they both earned degrees in distilling. Friendly and engaging, Josh is as passionate as is Gordon when talking about spirits.

Eventually the invited journos assembled and the tasting and tour began. Phones were pulled out of pockets to take pictures, though some of us had actual cameras. Some even had notebooks and pens, but not your faithful scribe; it's hard enough lugging around this clunky camera thing.

The first spirit produced by the Odd Society is East Van Vodka. Made from malted barely, it has a slight taste, ever so subtle, not unlike malted barley perhaps. My initial impression was to the sweetness and thickness of the vodka. I'm no expert but it was extremely pleasing and it went down very smoothly. Wonderfully in fact.

Next up: a delicious cocktail created by guest bartender Matt Martin called Odd Aviation. Some fresh lemon and a wee bit of Luxardo Maraschino, a couple ounces of East Van Vodka,  and ... yes, this is good too.

Now, at this point I haven't eaten anything all day, apart from a couple of double espressos, and I don't think that counts as actual eating. I probably should eat some of the great looking canapes that have arrived for the media, which includes me of course, but I'd hate to be the first to do so. Better to wait I think, and at present I have only the mildest desire to operate heavy machinery.

And with the finishing of that first cocktail, or was it my second, the tour of operations began. The two 350 litre copper pot stills from Germany remain impressive, and the 4.5 metre vodka column, next to a new floor-to-ceiling glass wall is very much a highlight. The first barrels of whisky are present and could be the highlight three years from now.

However, getting back to the vodka, and why not I thought, as a member of the media, the next cocktail from Matt Martin was called Sour Owl and featured an Odd Society Creme de Cassis created by Herve Martin of The French Table. This was a dangerously deceiving drink indeed. It went down smoothly, without any indication of its 2 ounces of vodka. I'm now beginning to think more seriously about eating something, anything, or possibly driving a large tractor trailer rig through the mountains. In the end, the canapes, from nearby Kessel and March, won out, and were delicious, especially the salmon, horseradish and dill on potato slices.

Odd Society Spirits is open to the public for sales, tastings, tours and cocktails. It is a true craft distillery, meaning all spirits are fermented and distilled on site, made from BC ingredients, and produced in small batches using traditional methods. East Van Vodka is already available at some private liquor stores and featured in some restaurants around town. Wallflower Gin, the second spirit to be released, is expected by early 2014. I hope there is a media event for that release too.

Photos by Jim Murray. Copyright 2013.

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October 25, 2013

Fog in Vancouver

For much of the past few weeks, the south coast has been dry, which is strange enough at this time of year. Stranger still is the enduring fog that has covered the region for days and days.

The fog has been heaviest especially in the early morning, and while we get an inkling of sun at midday, it seldom appears for long.

Years ago, possibly while in Grade 4, I read a poem in class that I remember to this day. It was not the first poem I had to read in school, but it was the first to appeal to me. It was different from the old, rhyming masters we had been reading and it opened a creative window of sorts for some of us: rules don't always apply, and images can be simple and powerful.


The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

During the past few weeks, the fog has come to our harbour and city, silently to be sure. It hasn't moved on. Yet.

Fog is by the American poet and writer, Carl Sandburg (1878 - 1967) and first appeared in his collection: Chicago Poems published in 1916. I'm not quite that old. 

Photos by Jim Murray. Copyright 2013.

October 16, 2013

Jeem's United Way Adventure

So where in the world is Jeem these days? Apparently people are asking.

Since the end of August I have been seconded by my employer, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, and my union, Local 704 of the BCGEU, to the workplace campaign of the United Way of the Lower Mainland.

I am one of a number of loaned representatives to the United Way, from a variety of organisations, like HSBC, UBC, Canadian Border Services, the City of Burnaby, and others, including KPU. My employer generously loans two people to the campaign for four months: one from faculty, and one from staff (that being me). In both instances, our respective unions are involved in the process. Because KPU pays us, the United Way gets the benefit of our work, at no cost, hence keeping their overall expenses down. In fact, among charities in Canada, the United Way has some of the lowest overhead costs, partly due to the loaned rep program.

And what in the world is Jeem doing these days?

Well, I call on a variety of "clients" and assist them with their workplace campaigns to raise money for the United Way. I have eleven accounts and most are with the Government of Canada: Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Transport Canada, Statistics Canada, the Office of the Auditor General for Canada, etc. I have one agency outside the government, that being the City of North Vancouver, and I assist other loaned reps with their work at various locations throughout Metro Vancouver.

I work out of the United Way building in Burnaby, just across from BCIT on Canada Way. My work space is in an area called "the hive" and at times it buzzes with activity. At other times, many of us are out, calling on various work sites, and the hive is quiet.

On several occasions I have become Care-y, the mascot of the United Way. Care-y is a strange sort of costumed character and has been known to make some children laugh and others cry. It isn't easy being Care-y. I was Care-y for a City of Coquitlam event when the air temp was 28 degrees. Inside the costume it felt about 40 degrees. This was not a pleasant experience for Jeem.

I have difficulty wearing my glasses while inside Care-y, though that wouldn't help much as my eyes don't really line up with the "eye holes". Still, I get to meet other super heroes ... I get to shake hands with great kids, and ... I get to make automatic doors stay open ... all the time. It's one of the perks of being the mascot.

The United Way makes a world of difference throughout our region. Check out the website and take just a few moments to view our new video. We can make a difference. Change can happen.

Copyright 2013 by Jim Murray.

October 14, 2013

Forever Autumn

The summer sun is fading as the year grows old.
And darker days are drawing near.
The winter winds will be much colder,
Now you're not here.

I watch the birds fly south across the autumn sky.
And one by one they disappear.
I with that I was flying with them,
Now you're not here.

Like the sun through the trees you came to love me.
Like a leaf on a breeze you blew away.

Through autumn's golden gown we used to kick our way.
You always loved this time of year.
Those fallen leaves lie undisturbed now.
Because you're not here.

Like the sun through the trees you came to love me,
Like a leaf on a breeze you blew away.

A gentle rain falls softly on my weary eyes,

As if to hide a lonely tear.
My life will be forever autumn,
Because you're not here.

Words: from the song Forever Autumn by  Jeff Wayne, Gary Osborne and Paul Vigrass. The original song was sung by Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues, and it appeared on the album: Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds. Released in 1978, it featured the voice of Richard Burton.

All photos by Jim Murray. Copyright 2013.