Monthly Archives: September 2014

Hump Day: Dining experience is as much about style as it is about food

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014
Moncton Times & Transcript

My friend Bob and I have dined together hundreds of times, especially when we used to co-write the Two Fat Guys restaurant review column many years ago. (We no longer write the column.) Most restaurants were reasonably good. I think I only gave a couple of zeros out of a maximum rating of 10. It was rare – and it had to be an experience reminiscent of Armageddon to get me to be that tough.

We tried to give the benefit of the doubt whenever possible. One waitress was wearing what was clearly a stained blouse – and I don’t mean just a little bit. We gave her a pass because she also appeared to be the only waitress – nay, the only employee – in the entire place. She was running around like a chicken with its head cut off and was more than a little frazzled. We gave her credit for still being on her feet and still being able to crack a smile when she served us.

Some experiences were amazing! I remember one magical piece of butterscotch pie. I swear I’m going to petition the provincial government to allow humans to marry pie. That’s how good it was. If you think same-sex marriage was controversial, you haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen me walking hand-in-hand down Main Street covered in butterscotch pie filling, holding an empty pie plate and yelling for my rights to be recognized. Oh, there’ll be protesters, I just know it. Probably those uptight blueberry pie lovers. My mama always told me never to trust anyone whose teeth were stained blue.

Food is one thing, but atmosphere was another. Some places were trying to emulate Antarctica with temperatures that only a penguin could love. Others were so warm that the chef just left a raw steak on your table and it was cooked five minutes later. Cutlery isn’t supposed to glow red.

singing waitersThe worst offender for ruining an atmosphere, though, was noise. If I’m sitting next to you in a restaurant and have to speak into a megaphone so you can hear me, it’s time for the restaurant to turn down the volume of the music. Sometimes, it wasn’t the music, it was the staff. One restaurant’s gimmick was to yell out every order that was ready for pick-up. ‘Boiled gazelle tongue with dishwater gravy for table 53!,’ a cook would yell at the top of his lungs.

It must have happened 25 times when we ate at that restaurant – and would always happen just when the din in the restaurant got tolerable. Just as you were starting to relax, another cook would yell out an order that was ready and the boiling hot coffee you had right at your lips would fly over your face after you got startled. At the end of the night, the waiter asked me if I wanted anything else. ‘Yes, a fresh pair of underwear would be nice because your chef wouldn’t stop scaring the daylights out of me.’

A few days ago, Bob and I went to eat at a popular local restaurant chain. This is one of those restaurants popular for birthday celebrations. I can see why! The birthday boy/girl has to wear a silly hat while staff members sing happy birthday. It’s all in good fun.

Well, it’s all in good fun until someone on the staff screams out in the restaurant, “Your attention please! Gertrude here is 107 today, so let’s all give her a round of applause!” This, of course, is after the entire staff walks through the restaurant clapping their hands and yelling toward the table where Gertrude is. It’s not exactly conducive to a relaxing night out on the town. I’ve heard quieter war zones. And at that age, Gertrude takes her life into her own hands whenever she sneezes, let alone gets yelled at.

After about 10 birthdays in the couple of hours we were there, I was ready to tackle one of the staff as soon as I saw them start to clap. They wouldn’t be standing up long with me hanging off their back. I’d hold their shoulders against the floor and tell them sternly, “That’s enough! No more clapping! No more yelling! Just stop! See what you did? You killed Gertrude!”

To dine out in peace and quiet from now on, it looks like I’m going to have to resort to sitting in an abandoned building with a dried-up baloney sandwich bought at a convenience store – as long as the rats don’t know how to clap and sing. Then it’s war!

Hump Day: Don’t confuse willingness to believe with mere gullibility

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2014
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

Journalists, newspaper columnists and media people who’ve been in the public eye to varying degrees for a number of years all have tales to tell. Some good. Some bad. In my case, thankfully, it’s all mostly good.

The good part is the many people who contact you to tell you that they like what you do. That’s always very nice and it’s certainly always a boost to the ego. I love hearing from people who’ve been touched in some fashion by a column – either emotionally or because it made them laugh. Or perhaps because a rant of mine that they read perfectly reflected what they’ve been thinking all along.

Once in a while, though, the odd ducks come out to play. There was the woman who emailed me years ago about a missing person’s case. They knew the entire story of what happened and would tell me everything in an interview. Sure, I’d love to talk to you, ma’am. But before I called her (which I had no intention of doing), I contacted the RCMP and let them know. Within an hour, they were knocking on her door. She immediately recanted her story. I guess she just wanted to feel important and thought this was a way to do it. Talk about something that backfired!

Then there was the anonymous online stalker who’s no longer anonymous after a very expensive day in court. And then there was the usual nastiness that most people who put themselves out there in the public eye have to put up with. The emailed insults and the vitriolic comments left on blogs and various social media outlets. All part of the so-called freedom of speech they all claim to love until you shine a light on the cockroaches and they all scurry away back into the darkness.

Last week, I wrote about the passing of my uncle. Interwoven with that story was information about my father. I’ve mentioned their names in my columns and on my website. If you take the time to search, it’s not difficult to find obituaries and a bunch of other personal information. I’m not that private of a person and am a writer, so if you want to find out something about me, I’ve probably mentioned it at some point in one of the approximately 450 Hump Day columns I’ve written since 2005.

Now, I’m not a cynical person by nature. I’ve written about this topic a number of times.I think politicians are pretty good people who want to do good work for the community – at least most of them. I don’t think most rich people got to where they’re at through fraud and deceit. I’m pretty sure that most of them worked darn hard to get where they are today. What’s a rich person doing when a jealous person is sitting on their sofa complaining about how corrupt the rich person is? Well, they’re probably working. I can assure you they’re not sitting on their sofa whining about others.

And I’ve also written a number of times about spirituality. I’ve read a number of books on the subject and I know what I believe. I’m definitely not an atheist – not in the least. But I’m definitely not a Bible-thumper either. And yes, you can be very spiritual without believing every single word in the Bible. And no, I don’t read the never-ending slew of letters in the newspaper debating the real meaning of Bible quotations. At this point, that ad nauseum debate is just white noise to me. My eyes glaze over and I just ignore it. There’s only so much I can take.

psychicI tell you all this because someone tried to play me last week – and I’m not sure if they were trying to be nice or trying to be a jerk. I think they were like that person who called me about the missing person. I think they just wanted to feel important. Well, just so that you know if you’re reading this, you failed miserably in your mission.

I received an email from an individual who claimed – for all intents and purposes – to have channelled the spirits of my father and uncle. In their email, which they didn’t sign,they wrote a number of messages. Miraculously, they knew the names of my father and uncle. They knew the name of my dog. They knew that my uncle had three children whose names started with the letter ‘T.’

They also claimed my father acknowledged the various signs that he’d sent my way – including the phantom telephone call on the day after he died and the butterflies chasing each other in front of my windshield on the day after my uncle died.

For a split second,I was like, ‘Wow! This is incredible!’ The next second, I was rolling my eyes at how bloody awful the author of the anonymous email was at trying to trick me. Everything in the email was stuff from their obituaries or details you can find out about me online. My dog’s name is Milane. You can find that on my website, in columns and on my publicly accessible ‘Brian ‍Cormier‍’‍s Readers’ Facebook page. These were hardly state secrets embedded on a computer chip and swallowed by a CIA agent before jumping into a volcano to be instantly cremated.

So I kept note of the email address. And, like other odd emails I get, I Googled the address and found out some information about them through comments they’ve left online in the past. I could probably be knocking on their door within an hour just by making a few phone calls and searching a few things online. It’s not difficult, but I won’t.

It just goes to say that being open-minded about something doesn’t mean being gullible. Yeah, I’m open-minded about psychics, but don’t walk up to me on the street and tell me I’m balding and expect me to hand you over my life savings for being so incredibly gifted as a psychic. My intuition for hoaxes is pretty much like a laser beam. I can smell a ruse a mile away, so before you try to pull one over on me, you’ll have to do better than that you Amazing Kreskin wannabe. Don’t quit your day job.

Hump Day: Sometimes evidence of ‍afterlife seems right before our eyes – and ears

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

Tuesday, Aug. 26, was the second anniversary of the passing of my father. At the time, little did I know that, exactly two years later, my uncle Cammy Cormier would be fighting for his life in the hospital. And little did I know that exactly two years (to the hour!) after I stood alongside Cammy and peered down at my father lying in bed, his soul having departed this earth, that Cammy’s family would be doing the same for him.

He was the last of my father’s siblings. They’re all gone now – and I still can’t believe it. Luckily, we have photos and videos to remember them all by, including some precious home movies from the 1960s.

Cammy was diagnosed in January with stomach cancer. Despite some ups and downs and dashed hopes at keeping the cancer at bay through chemotherapy, radiation and surgery, eventually it became obvious that there was no hope. He accepted it with dignity and kept on joking to the end. While I’m sure there were moments of sadness and fear, the stages of grief worked their way through, as they always do.

I was deeply impressed at how welcoming he remained throughout his illness. He didn’t hide and remained active. He didn’t push people away. He graciously accepted visitors and was always appreciative. He and my aunt Marguerite raised a very close-knit family of three children and had eight grandchildren. Family was very important to him.

The day Cammy died, my mind was on my own father since it was the second anniversary of his passing. Of course, it’s easier now, but anniversaries are always a bit melancholy. I knew Cammy’s time was coming and remember telling my father that day (in my head, of course) that it was time to go get Cammy. He was so sick and he was suffering. Luckily, he had not been in much pain during his illness, but at the end it was obvious that he was in some level of physical discomfort. It was time to go.

I’m not sure what your belief system is, so perhaps you think this is all some sort of hocus-pocus, but I’m a big believer in an existence beyond what we know in the physical world here. I experienced a sign on the day after my father died that he was OK. Now, I know what you may be thinking, “Oh that Brian Cormier chap has finally snapped! He’s smelled too much newspaper ink after all these years and he’s hallucinating.” Well, maybe and maybe not.

Telephone ringingOn the day after my father died, I was talking to my mother on the telephone (about my father, of course) when the telephone handset in my bedroom started ringing out of control in a ringtone I’d never heard in my life. It couldn’t be a call coming in. I was already using another handset and the line was busy. Besides, I don’t have call waiting anyway. So as the handset rang, my mother asked me what that noise was. I told her the telephone in my bedroom was ringing off the hook for some reason in some weird ringtone I’d never heard. How could that be? We were already on the telephone!

Finally – half in jest and half not – I declared that it must be Dad and that he was just letting us know that he’d arrived at his destination safely. It had never happened before and it has never happened since. Can I prove it was a sign? Of course not. Am I convinced it was a sign? Absolutely. (By the way, I did answer the phantom call, but the only ones on the line were my mother and me. Or were we really the only ones?)

On the 27th, the day after Cammy died, I was driving by The Moncton Hospital, where both Cammy and my father had passed away, and was thinking of them. They’d died at suppertime on Aug. 26, which was a beautiful warm and sunny evening in both 2012 and 2014. As I was thinking of them, two white butterflies started chasing each other directly in front my windshield.

Of course, I immediately took it as a sign that it was Dad and Cammy letting me know that Dad had heard my plea to him the day before, had gone to get Cammy and now they were both free from sickness. Again, can I prove it? Nope. But do I believe it? Yup. For the record, I don’t ever remember two butterflies chasing each other right in front my windshield before. Coincidence? Perhaps. Perhaps not.

I’ve heard all kinds of stories about signs that people who have recently died have sent to loved ones to let them know they’re OK and that their energy still lives on. Who am I to argue with them? The butterfly sign could be a stretch, but I’m wholly convinced the telephone ringing with that bizarre sound was a big nudge from the beyond that Dad was safely with the rest of his family who’d passed before him.

A retired firefighter with 25 years of experience with the Moncton Fire Department, Cammy was known for never being in a bad mood and always quick with a joke. He had the loud Cormier laugh reminiscent of his mother – my grandmother – whose laugh could pierce through a room like a bullet.

I was particularly touched during visitation at the funeral home when an honour guard of Moncton firefighters held vigil as a sign of respect for Cammy. I was honoured to be a pallbearer at the funeral, and as we descended the steps of the church with his casket toward the waiting hearse that would bring him to his final resting place, I was touched again by the salute he was given by the honour guard of honourary pallbearers from the Moncton Fire Department who were lined up on each side of his casket.

Rest in peace, Cammy. You’re no longer sick and are somewhere where illness doesn’t exist. I can hear that laugh piercing through the clouds now. Yes, you’re free.

International Literacy Day Forum in Moncton on Monday, Sept. 8

MRLC logo
The Moncton Regional Learning Council cordially invites you to attend the International Literacy Day Forum on Monday, Sept. 8, from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at the Moncton Lions Community Centre, 473 St. George Street, Moncton. Registration will start at 8:30 a.m. A continental breakfast will be available.

Low literacy continues to be a critical issue in this province on many fronts, from economic growth to public health. Forum attendees will gain a better understanding of the impact of low functional literacy skills among our older youth and adults and how we can achieve significant improvements by working together.

To help meet the Forum’s objectives and to set the stage for the subsequent discussion, you will hear from a panel of local experts:
• Deanna Allen, Executive Director of Laubach Literacy New Brunswick
• Michelina Mancuso, Executive Director – Performance Measurement, New Brunswick Health Council
• Nadine Duguay, Executive Director, 21inc.
• David Campbell, President, Jupia Consultants

Guest speakers at the event will include:
• Marilyn Luscombe, President and CEO, New Brunswick Community College
• Kathy DeWitt, Manager of Employment and Recruitment, City of Moncton
• Jules Côté, a 19-year-old Moncton resident whose literacy journey continues to inspire

The Moncton Regional Learning Council, a member of Laubach Literacy New Brunswick, has been helping older youth and adult learners improve their literacy skills through a one-on-one, free and confidential tutoring program for more than 35 years.

Admission to the Moncton Literacy Forum is free of charge, but your presence and participation are priceless. We hope you will join us. To help with the planning and catering arrangements, we kindly ask that you RSVP by Friday, Sept. 5, to Peter Sawyer at petersawyer@bellaliant.net. If you require more information, please do not hesitate to call Peter at 388-3013.