You can’t go ROM again

One of my childhood thrills was going to the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in Toronto, and by childhood, I mean lifelong, never-too-old eternal childhood. Visiting those familiar hallways and displays has always been like wrapping myself in a comfortable blanket of love.

Until yesterday.

I spent 3.5 hours wandering many of those same exhibits with my camera and left somewhat depressed. So much of that familiar charm feels gone or is relegated to a back corner of the hallowed halls.

Back in 2007, as part of the museum’s revitalization and expansion program, the ROM unveiled The Crystal, which the museum describes as:

“Considered to be one of the most challenging construction projects in North America for its engineering complexity and innovative methods, the Lee-Chin Crystal is composed of five interlocking, self-supporting prismatic structures that co-exist but are not attached to the original ROM building, except for the bridges that link them.”

Depending on whom you ask, this structure is either the most beautiful addition to Toronto architecture ever or the biggest monstrosity of ill-conceived architectural hubris.

I tend to fall into the latter category, as the addition feels like something that was slapped onto the old façade rather than something that is an organic extension of the pre-existing structure. And to make matters worse, although there has been some nod to design on the outside of the building, the inside still displays unfinished work that looks like particle board held together with visible screws and grated flooring. Only the lack of builders’ chalk marks signal that this is not a work in progress but rather is the final product.

But back to my depression.

As I ate lunch in the ROM cafeteria, I realized that I hadn’t been through a couple old familiar displays, including the old dinosaur dioramas that I loved as a child. Flipping through the museum guide, I suddenly realized: they were gone. The dinos of the Crystal were all that remained. A significant part of my childhood was gone.


Of the 170+ photos I took yesterday, I will likely only keep a dozen or so…and of that dozen, I may only be happy with 2 or 3.

Apparently, the camera was willing but the spirit was gone.


Additional note: While I am unlikely to wander the ROM’s halls much in the future, I will still visit on occasion when a new exhibit comes to town. The present show—Wildlife Photographer of the Year—is stunning.

The day I killed my friend

I’ve had bad days throughout my life. Watching loved ones get hospitalized. Attending funerals and giving eulogies. The break-up of my marriage. Suffering pain from illness. But none of them compare to the day I killed my friend.

Before I go any further, this isn’t a drunk driving story. This wasn’t an accident with a hand gun. This wasn’t a childhood dare gone wrong. All of those would be horrific and I count myself fortunate never to have experienced anything remotely like that.

This was the day I euthanized my beloved collie Rebel.

Rebel had started life as my family’s pet, a puppy we bought from a breeder friend of ours. Although he was a thoroughbred who won his modest share of ribbons, he was a pet first, show dog second. As my mother’s living arrangements changed, she could not take Rebel to her new apartment and so I became his host (we both knew he was the master).

He lived with me for several years in my boxy one-bedroom apartment while I did my graduate training, spending almost as much time with my grandparents who lived in the same building, as he did with me. He was a constant companion for my grandfather throughout the day, and my roommate throughout the evening and morning.

Eventually, I bought a house not far from my grandparents, which was a bit of an adjustment for me and an even bigger adjustment for Rebel, who now spent his days on his own. When I got home from then work, he would be waiting anxiously by the door, doing his best to wag his tail while keeping his legs crossed to keep from urinating.

In the evenings, while I would read or listen to music, he would lie by my side. While cooking dinner, he would sprawl across the kitchen floor, a perpetual tripping hazard. And when I would sleep, he would take up two-thirds of the bed, preferring to sleep diagonally so that I learned to sleep with my feet dangling off the bed.

And when he wasn’t sleeping on the bed, snoring in my ear, I could find him sleeping with his head in my closet. It took me quite some time to figure that one out, but eventually I realized he was sleeping on my discarded clothes that awaited a trip to the laundry. He was immersed in my scent, which made him hardier than most people I knew. His security blanket was my old jeans.

As with all of us, pets grow older, and soon, Rebel was unable to make it up the stairs to the bedroom. Accidents increased as no doubt his anxiety increased, and I found myself spending more nights on my couch than in my bed…we had a partnership, after all.

Eventually, though, my life grew more complicated and it was getting increasingly difficult to get home in a timely manner. As ashamed of it as I am, Rebel became less of a priority. There were times I considered him a burden. But he was my friend. My beloved companion.

I wish I could say I made the appointment with the vet because Rebel had a fatal or severely debilitating illness. I wish I could say that I merely wished to put him out of his misery and that his cries in the night were from something other than loneliness and confusion.

I can’t.

The appointment was made more for me than for him.

I was fortunate to have a friend staying with me on the day of the appointment. He drove Rebel and me to the vet’s and waited outside.

I lifted Rebel onto the metal table, and while he never much liked the gripless surface, he settled quickly. The vet came in and had me sign some forms, and then as Rebel lie quietly, the vet injected him.

I stayed with Rebel throughout the final moments. All I could do was cry and tell him how sorry I was. Rebel didn’t flinch, never moved, never whined. He merely stopped breathing.

I waited a few minutes with him, knowing any attempt to pull myself together was futile. I didn’t want to leave and I couldn’t stay.

Eventually, I made my way out of the examining room and handed Rebel’s leash and brush to the vet’s assistant. They understood…the bill would be sent later.

My friend took me home and plied me with food and beer as I wept on the front porch all night.

The next day at work, I started the day as usual reading the Toronto Star comics, but today was different. I got to Lynne Johnston’s strip For Better or For Worse…the day beloved sheepdog Farley died saving the daughter April from a river. Within two frames, I could see what was coming and I wept. This was definitely for worse.

To this day, I feel the guilt of my decision. To this day, I want to apologize to my mother and to my brother Scott, who was particularly close to Rebel, for my selfish decision.

And rare is the day that I do not wish I could hear the gentle snoring of Rebel next to the couch or feel his chin resting on my lap as I read.

His photo sits on my bedroom dresser as a reminder of a love I have not experienced since.


Earlier today, an acquaintance of mine put down his beloved friend of several years, in this case, because of inoperable and untreatable cancer. My friend is hurting in ways he may never have thought possible and my thoughts go out to him, and to anyone else who has been through a similar experience.

I wish I could say, 18 years later, that the pain goes away. What I can say is that the loving memories remain.

Do you feel a draft? It’s time to revise your manuscript

Because the only thing more tedious than a reblog is a reblog of a reblog, but at least this time, it is someone else’s voice (although in fairness, I have never heard Ned speak, so he may actually use my voice).

Ned's Blog

Do you feel a draft? Hey, it’s Friday! What? Still not good enough? What if I also told you it’s time for Ned’s Nickel’s Worth on Writing! Okay fine. But it’s still Friday and you should be happy. I know I am. Especially after Publisher’s Weekly recently called my Nickel’s Worth “…writing tips that are worth every penny, unless you factor in the cost of inflation.” So we obviously both have a lot to be thankful for today. However, before we get to this week’s NWOW, I’d like to point out how the image accompanying this post is…

Uhhh ladies? Eyes over here please.

Thank you. As I was saying, the image is one I’m sure many of you remember — some in amazing detail. Although my wife still isn’t completely convinced, I’d like to clarify those are not my actual cheeks. Sorry. But as a journalist, I felt the need to explain that…

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Focus – a 400th blog entry

400 celebration monument

Well, it has taken about 10 months, but I have managed to reach my 400th blog entry. Now, admittedly, a few of these were reposts from someone else’s blogs, but the majority were the ramblings of li’l ol’ me.

So, first, thank you all for your patience and support. You have been victim of a seemingly ceaseless assault of verbal and visual abuse that bordered on the ludicrous with two or more posts as day for several months.

But, second, you may have noticed I have slowed down in that onslaught for the past month or so. I promise, it is not for lack of ideas but more for volume and variety of media with which I deal on a daily basis. And it is this volume that has had me thinking lately (and I hate thinking).

I have spread myself too thin…I am trying to do too many things such that I don’t know that I’m doing anything. Thus, for the next little while, at least, I am going to focus my efforts on just a few projects that I think will have the greatest impact.

This is not a resolution—I don’t do those anymore—but an admission that if I don’t finalize something, I will never get out of the basement apartment and will perpetually be tied to my previous careers as sources of $$$.

So, my completion priorities for early 2014 (in no particular order):

  1. Re-evaluate, rewrite and sell/option my screenplay Tank’s.
  2. Rewrite and sell/option my Santa screenplay The Naughty List (working title).
  3. Establish a screenplay reading/coverage service to make money now!
  4. Generate a book on creativity and writing from my blog entries.

That last one was actually one of the motivating factors for creating the blog in the first place…to finally make myself write down my thoughts, experiences and understanding of the creative process with particular focus on writing. This is not to say the postings will disappear from my blog, but my plan is to assemble the most salient ones, with editing, into a book format for sale.

For all of those with whom I am working on projects not listed above as a priority, I have not forsaken you and will continue to work on those projects…just not as a top priority. I can only hope you understand (and suspect you all will).

And again, to my blog followers, I thank you for your patronage and hope to continue to amuse, intrigue or stimulate you…just at a more leisurely pace for both of us.

Love to you all…Randy