Four on the Floor!

Ian was kind enough to tag me with yet another meme that’s sweeping the Canadian blogosphere. I’m supposed to list four things about myself in a number of categories. Sounds like fun. So, here goes:

Four Vehicles I Have Owned

  1. The most recent vehicle is one we bought just about a week ago, a 2005 Hyundai Elantra that will ferry Vivian up to Erin’s work so that mother and daughter can do lunch. As I’ve already commented, the car illustrates how car-oriented Kitchener-Waterloo remains, though I appreciate the ability to go out of town on a Saturday afternoon with Erin and Vivian to write in a coffee shop somewhere. This car has been named Lance. Lance the Elantra.
  2. The only other car we’ve owned is a 1991 Ford Escort, gifted to us by our father-in-law and dragged across the border in a three-day-long bureaucratic process that cost us $2000. I personally had to stay with friends in Michigan for three days (which I didn’t mind, actually) while U.S. Customs officials made sure the car wasn’t stolen before they cleared it for export. Then, crossing the border, I had to report it immediately to the Canadian Customs officials and stood in line for about two hours in order to pay GST and a freon excise tax. Then the Province of Ontario got involved with safety checks before they would give me a license plate. And then came insurance. But it was worth it. Freddy the Faithful Ford had already clocked 170,000 miles, and we put on an additional 30,000 over the next three years, including trips to South Dakota, Montreal and Buffalo. It died when the wiring for the fuel pump shorted out — another $700 expense on thousands that had gone previous. We realized that, at 201,000, the car owed nobody anything more, and it retired to the great parking lot in the sky.
  3. When I was in Toronto, I had access to a single gear bike.
  4. A tricycle.

Four Jobs I Have Had

Since graduating from the School of Urban and Regional Planning and discovering that Mike Harris had taken all of the government planning jobs away (and before that, some would say that Rae had taken all of the private practise planning jobs away), the major components of my job history have seen me struggling to find myself, and realizing that I can’t do a job wherein I turn my mind off. I have to work at what I love, and what I love is writing. Unfortunately, funds can be scarse here.

  1. From 1996 to 1999, I worked for Mortice Kern Systems as a database manager. I landed this job as a temporary worker (fresh out of leads for planning work) assigned to a data entry job, and I managed to leverage it from a temporary job cleaning up a sales database, to a permanent job maintaining it. At first, I loved the fact that I had a permanent job with benefits, and as I had joined the company at the beginning of the tech bubble, the future seemed bright. But these guys weren’t content to own me from 9 to 5. These guys worked hard and played hard, and the company seemed to feel that workers should commit their souls. I also struggled with the fact that I had no formal training, and was well out of my depth in being a database manager. Relations soured, and I finally quit when I realized that it was either my workplace or me. When I joined MKS, I was given stock options — the right to purchase 2000 shares at $6 apiece and sell them immediately at the market price. When I left, the shares were worth $4, meaning the options were worthless. Six months after I left, MKS share price jumped to $16, meaning that if I had held out for six more months, I could have walked away with $20,000. But Erin says the money wouldn’t have covered the therapy.
  2. After MKS, I worked a couple of temp jobs, and then landed a six month contract with the Bank of Montreal, to create an MS Access database of financial indicators for a particular department in First Canadian Place in Toronto. As it was once the tallest building in the British Commonwealth, I chuckled over the fact that I worked in the third floor. I remember this job because it was my first contract position. No benefits, but considerable flexibility. I also had to commute from Kitchener to Toronto. In this I was fortunate. I was a ten minute walk away from the VIA Rail station in Kitchener, and work was a ten minute walk away from Union Station, and trains were available which made a 9-5 day in Toronto possible. My father bought me a laptop so I could write on the train, and I bought myself a subscription to the Globe and Mail so I could read on the train, but I spent most of my commuting time asleep on the train. I admit that I thrilled to the jet-set life of working in Toronto’s Financial District, returning home by train, and earning far more cash than MKS was willing to pay me, but the fact that I was on the road from 6:30 in the morning to 7:30 in the evening took its toll, and it was fortunate that the job didn’t last more than six months. It’s also very fortunate that VIA Rail was there to serve me. I rented a car at one point, and tried the commute on the 401. It was insane, although pulling off at Milton and taking the GO Train was workable.
  3. After the Bank of Montreal came my freelance database management/website management period, from 2000 to 2002, capped off with nine months as an administrative assistant until May 2003. The contract work worked out well, although I had no great love of the stuff I was working on. The administrative assistant position did not work out because of personality clashes and the fact that I was just not cut out to taking on a secretarial job as anything more than a temporary assignment. I then moved into the current phase:
  4. Freelancing in the publishing industry. Thanks to Erin’s leads, I managed to land a series of contracts with small-press magazines, including Alternatives Journal and The New Quarterly. During this period, I got to be circulation manager and office manager and jack of all trades, and I quite enjoyed helping to put these magazines together. It’s a far bigger sense of accomplishment to hold my work in my hands and have it be a magazine instead of some appointment book. During this time, I pushed ahead on trying to write professionally, landing a gig at Business Edge and, of course, successfully publishing The Unwritten Girl. This will continue, alongside my fifth and most important job: of being a stay-at-home Dad.

Four Places I Have Lived

Erin and I have only lived in two places: the current house we own (since September 2001), and an apartment near downtown Kitchener (from August 1997 to September 2001). The apartment complex, our first place together, was built in the late 1960s and was the place to live during its time. The families who lived there stayed there, getting older, until they started passing away, allowing a new generation of young families to take their place. Thus the white buildings at Queen and Margaret Street came to be known as for “newlyweds and nearly deads”. We had no complaints about the landlord, the condition of the apartment or our neighbours, and we had a good view of the city, being on the eleventh floor. But owning a house (especially this house) is much better.

Before that, I lived with my parents in Kitchener in the house they bought when they moved from Toronto (in 1991). A good place on a nice street. For about a year before that, we lived on the first floor of a duplex in Forest Hill — temporary accommodations while I finished my last year of high school before we moved to Kitchener. A great neighbourhood, but expensive digs. Before that, from 1975 to 1989, we lived on 214 McCaul Street in downtown Toronto, in a house my grandfather bought in 1949 for $5000. We were the last line of housing before the skyscrapers rose up. Our front windows looked out on the Ontario Hydro parking lot and Mount Sinai Hospital, but I liked it. Before that, I have vague memories of my parents’ apartment on Walmer Road in the Annex.

I’ve only lived in Kitchener and Toronto. Erin has had a far greater mix of cities.

Four Vacations I Have Taken

It’s embarrassing to admit, but until I trekked out to Chicago to meet Erin for the first time (the full story of our courtship is here), I’d only ever been out of Ontario twice: once to Hull (1984) and once to Montreal (1993). Since acquiring American in-laws, I have travelled through and to over a dozen American states, including Florida, South Dakota, Minnesota and Nebraska. Every visit to the in-laws is like a vacation to me, but a few stand out.

  1. Erin, Wendy and I travelled to see my mother-in-law and her husband in Pierre, South Dakota. We visited the Black Hills of South Dakota and I got to be the highest I’d ever been. The story was captured on this blog and it starts here.
  2. I’ve visited Chicago a few times. There was the time in 1995 when Erin and I met at a science fiction convention and there was the time when Wendy, Lars, my mother-in-law, her husband, Erin and I went up for a weekend in 2003 and I toured Frank Lloyd Wright houses and rode the El for fun (pictures here). Chicago is a fabulous city, although, unlike Greg, I rate Toronto higher. Toronto has fewer incidences of derelict neighbourhoods.
  3. There was the working vacation Erin and I went on in November 2003 to Moncton, Fredericton, Charlottetown, Halifax and Antigonish to promote Ghost Maps (travelogue starts here. The Maritimes were a wonderful place to tour; great landscape and great people. I crossed Confederation Bridge and rode back on one of the Ferry’s, and I added three provinces to my list.
  4. And last, but not least, there have been various visits to Montreal, including the time I finally tasted Schwartz’s Montreal Smoked Meat

An interesting post to read related to this is the unTravelogue. I have travelled far more in the last ten years of my life than I have in my first twenty-three. Interesting, that.

So now comes the time to tag four other people with this meme. With that in mind, I select:

  1. Erin (as she has lived in far more interesting places than I have)
  2. Dave at Blogography (as he has vacationed in far more interesting places than I have)
  3. Cameron at Canadian Lemming (as he is just plain interesting)
  4. Jay Currie (as a break from politics)
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