More random musings

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Just a few things that have occurred this week that need some comment:

1. Libel laws precluded KTW from printing any of the letters received after we published a column on Mary, a woman fleeing an abusive relationship. Each was heart-breaking in the retelling of the individual stories, but each also ended with a declaration from the writer that this will never happen to them again.

It's a noble sentiment, one I hope they are able to follow through on. But, in 2008, it's simply wrong that we haven't moved any further than the generation of my parents, when men -- and yes, some women -- feel it is alright to abuse their spouse, be it physical or emotional.

A co-worker asked me if it's true that women really do celebrate International Womens Day. I don't know how many do, and lord knows my days of all-day-long involvement in the events are long gone, but as long as one person raises his hand or his voice to his partner, we sure do need it.

2. I guess the fact that spring is almost here hasn't hit the news managers at the other paper. Why else would they glorify that age-old tradition of skating on a frozen lake just as all those frozen bodies of water start to react to the warming temperatures? Springtime -- yup, that's a great time to suggest the kids strap on their skates and head out to the weakening layer of ice.

3. Every time I drive by Convergys now, I wonder if the unspoken message in its CEO's recent speech will come to fruition and the multi-national call centre will take its low-paying jobs to even lower-paid workers in Asia. The mayor says in this global community, these things are a reality, but he also acknowledged losing 1,200 jobs would be a major blow to Kamloops.

On the bright side, maybe we could then get some sort of decent retail outlet in that massive expanse of business and start to see some growth develop in the Valleyview/Dallas area.

4. Boy, the Blue Grotto is doing some great stuff these days. Econoline Crush, our own Joey Jack and crew (and yes, Joey is very, very funny), Hayley Sales, Justin Nozuka (above) . . .the list goes on. And it's not the only one putting some oomph into the local music scene. My other favourite is the Leisure Loft, a brilliant use of normally vacant space by Mike Turner. Check out some of these places; you'll be surprised. And the price is right too -- Nozuka's got a Juno nomination and the admission for his show, shared with Sales, was about the same as a double-double-non-fat-soy-based-with-a-shot whatever that would be.

When people gather, trouble may follow

Several years ago, while working out of town covering a conference of homebuilders — who, it must be said, know how to party — I stayed in a hotel that was also home base for several hockey teams competing in some big tournament.

These kids were in their teens, all were chaperoned but boy, were those a couple of sleepless nights as these athletes basically turned the hotel into their own personal playhouse.

They ran up and down the hallways, picked fights with each other in the elevators and carried on poorly, much to the surprise of at least a couple of the parents, who apologized to some of us for their behaviour.

A few years later, I was attending a gathering of professionals when I met one of the organizers — as he was thrown through a wall of the hosting hotel, beer bottle in hand and plenty more behind him.

Everyone thought it was very funny. I couldn’t figure out how people who usually spend their days in offices following proper decorum could become wannabe Animal House frat-boys.

And fortunately, I missed the drunken brawl that ended a soccer tournament here in Kamloops a couple of years ago. Police were called; arrests were made.

Never been to a Mountie Stomp, either, so I didn’t get to watch the cops square off against each other after at least one of them had way too much to drink.

Missed the cop versus citizen fight at Cactus Jack’s Saloon, too.

Wasn’t living in the province when the Penticton Peachfest riot happened, either.

None of these incidents were expected by the organizers, none were predicted and each happened.

It’s the result of a simple law of nature: put plenty of people together in one spot, give them all something that links them, throw in the appropriate environmental influences and, odds are, the true nature of some will appear.

And so, yes, it’s possible that, should Kamloops city council do the smart thing and welcome the annual Wakefest this year, there might be some drunken spectators.

There might even be a fist fight or two. And yes, there will be litter on the ground, just as there is in Riverside Park after virtually every event it hosts.

We’ll need to have some extra policing on site, just like we do — well, for Blazers games at home.

Last year, this three-day event drew 34,000 people to Kelowna.

That’s a lot of economic spin-off. A lot of hotel rooms filled, restaurant meals eaten, cab rides taken, parking-lot fees paid and souvenirs bought.

It’s a lot of new visitors to Kamloops who might decide the city’s worth another trip or two.

It’s another notch in that Tournament Capital of Canada belt the majority of residents were so eager to wear. After all, the moniker isn’t Tournaments-that-can-promise-no-problems-at-all Capital of Canada, are we?

We spent all those millions of dollars fixing up and creating some pretty nice sports facilities.

We brag about the one sports venue true nature gave us — although it did, unfortunately, create that hornet’s nest of a north-south issue — but now, given the chance to take advantage of the river, the beaches that can hold those dozens and dozens and even more dozens of lawn chairs.

The organizers have promised to ensure this year’s event doesn’t bring with it the woes that forced Wakefest out of Kelowna. No doubt they’ll be required to pose a surety to cover the costs of any “hooliganism.”

Our local police will be all-too-aware of the potential for trouble Wakefest has, so we can expect increased diligence.

In fact, should Wakefest be brought to our river, the tension will be palpable among all the various stakeholders: city hall, police, the tourism sector, the athletes, the spectators, the organizers will know they’re in a spotlight.

And yes, that won’t matter to some. There will be trouble. There always is at large public events.

But those people who work in the Tournament Capital of Canada or live in the Tournament Capital of Canada have to realize that we want to bring tournaments to our city.

It’s how we define ourselves. Apparently, we figure we’re very good at hosting these sports events.

So let’s host Wakefest and prove to the naysayers that Kamloops knows how to throw a tournament.

Step by baby step, women will get there

Monday, February 18, 2008

Throughout the city, women are planning ways to celebrate International Women’s Day next month.

But for one woman, it’s a celebration every day she gets up because, now, she can face the hurdles in front of her, accept the disappointments the courts have meted out and move on after leaving an abusive relationship.

In a perfect world, we could print her name so that others could know of the experiences she had, how the judicial system treated this unemployed mom when she fled and how difficult it is to maintain any credibility when the one she has condemned is a church-going professional man.

But because there are ongoing legal issues to resolve, we’ll call her Mary.

And we won’t be giving her ex-husband a name, because this is Mary’s story.

It’s the story of a young single mom who met a man. Before she knew it, they were dating, living together and planning a wedding. It was quite the whirlwind romance.

Now, she realizes she was seeing the first steps of those men who control and potentially abuse their partners exhibit. But, at the time, it was simply thrilling to have someone who said he loved her and her child.

There was no need for her to work after their marriage; he would be the family breadwinner for her, the child and the baby on the way.

Mary didn’t realize this was also indicative of a potential abuser.

She thought his belief in rigid gender roles and the way he identified himself through his marriage were more signs she was genuinely loved.

She started to think there was something wrong when the only way he could discipline her child was with spankings.

And, when she told him she disapproved of her daughter seeing him walking through their home naked constantly, Mary says he belittled her but grudgingly agreed to wrap a towel around his midriff.

Unlike many women who take decades to realize the marriage they thought was ideal is far from it, Mary figured out within a couple of years something was wrong.

They separated, with Mary keeping the children and with the goal of trying to work out their problems — until days later, when her drunk husband burst into the house he had agreed to leave.

Mary says he tried to strangle her, something a friend who witnessed the scene corroborates. Mary grabbed the baby and locked herself in another room while the police were called.

And, when they arrived, her husband blamed it all on Mary. She’s crazy, she caused it, she made me mad.

Now, after much counselling, Mary knows that’s yet another sign it is time to get out.

Which is what she has done.

Now divorced, unemployed, unable to continue her studies because of her inability to concentrate, Mary is fighting for her children.

She just doesn’t buy the line she’s heard tossed around in court that being abusive toward her doesn’t mean he’s a bad parent.

That walking around naked in front of his children doesn’t mean he’s a bad parent.

That telling the courts he’s taken parenting classes and has learned the errors of his ways carries more weight than her own fears.

Mary is angry not just at her ex, but at the system in which she finds herself. She has no income to afford a high-priced lawyer, as he does.

Legal aid has done all it can and won’t fund her appeal of a court ruling giving her ex access to the baby.

She’s angry that the day a no-contact ruling expired, he was calling her first thing in the morning, berating her — and there’s nothing she can do about it.

She can’t believe her ex still has the credibility to be allowed access to their child when he has admitted in court he lied in previous hearings, beat her and hit the daughter.

Mary’s called many different agencies for legal help. Everyone she has talked to commiserates, but no one has the resources to help her continue her fight through the courts.

What she’s learned, however, is something that Mary says will guide her the rest of her life. She’s learned to stand up for herself. She’s learned to trust her instincts. She’s learned she can survive for a month on the kind of money many would spend on coffee in a four-week period.

Women have been celebrating International Women’s Day for almost a century now. We’ve had to convince the world we deserve to be considered people, know enough to vote, can fight in any man’s army and even head into space.

When will we all learn it’s not OK to allow any man to abuse us?

Mary’s learned.

She’ll teach her daughter.

Baby steps. Eventually, we’ll get there.

Random Musings #4

Sunday, February 10, 2008

I still remember the day I decided journalism was for me.
There wasn't any "calling" or "save the world" inspiration; there was a pamphlet in the guidance counsellor's room promoting a full-ride four-year scholarship to the University of Western Ontario to study journalism.
Now that sounded pretty darn sweet, the criteria didn't look too difficult (able to write, knowledge of current affairs, understanding of grammar, stuff like that).
Bunch of interview and aptitude tests later and there it was -- my B.A. basically paid for and a job through university to boot.
And that's why I became a reporter.
Why I remain a reporter is much different.
After retiring from it once (having put in the requisite 25 years), the allure dragged me back a year after moving to Kamloops because if there's one thing that is predictable about being a reporter, it's the unpredictability.
Consider some of the moments from last week:
* Someone called and left a strange voicemail message (yes, I know her name and have her phone number now) about how to steal electricity from others. At least I think that's what it was; her voice was soft, almost whispery like she was revealing some kind of conspiracy.
* In the pursuit of a potential story, I learned from the school board that if a teacher is charged with sexually assaulting a child, but it's plea-bargained down to something minor, that teacher gets to keep on teaching. Talk about inspiration to really go after this story.
* A woman stopped me on the street to tell me I'm missing the "real" story at RIH. Apparently they're hiding the fact people are dying there. I'm not sure if she's read one too many Robin Cook novels or if she hasn't figured out that sometimes, people die in the hospital. This harangue continued with my teen tapping his toes loudly, wishing she'd stop, I'd stop her -- anything so we could get going.
* A friend called with a real concern about RIH. I listened, commiserated and, when she asked me to do a story, had to explain to her that I don't do news stories that involve friends, and would pass the info on. A lot of friends have had to learn that I'd prefer they remain friends and not become stories for me.
* Yet another friend sought me out to tell me the Daily would be doing a feature on her and she hoped I didn't mind. Had to explain to her the above.
There was a lot more, but these provide a glimpse into life at the massive, ancient wooden desk I call home for many hours of each day. I talk to drug addicts and businesspeople, little old ladies and MLAs.
It's a far cry from the post-retirement gig at the federal passport office, where even your break times were assigned.
Sure, I take some of my work home in my head at night, and sometimes contacts find me in the phone book and start calling outside of work hours, but for the most part, that's not a problem because, when the paper is delivered, even though I've worked on much of it, there's something tangible that shows the work had some meaning.
And that's cool.