Friday, May 27, 2011

Facing the Music

When I walked in the door yesterday evening, my ears were assaulted by a wailing sound, which I eventually deciphered as a female voice attempting Amazing Grace. I traced the ruckus to the living room television.

"Somebody shoot that lady and put her out of her misery," I said, as I hung up my coat.

"That's Aretha Franklin [you idiot]," Erinn replied.

"She's a singer?"

"She's a legend."

Oops. I guess I've been cloistered in the peripheral edge of the universe a little too long. Both of my parents are talented musicians, and I grew up in a world of Beethoven, Mozart, and concertos played on our two pianos in the living room. Our record player played it's fair share of other music as well, including Negro Spirituals, which by the way are the root of modern soul music. As I grew older, I expanded my tastes to include other genres, but somehow I missed this segment of my education. I didn't question Ms. Franklin's musical prowess, but I did wish that she would just hurry up and sing the blasted song.

[Side note: You may be appalled by this melodic sacrilege, but remember it's only my opinion. Feel free to give yours in the under-utilized comment section at the bottom of this post :-)]

We're all products of our upbringing, good, bad, or indifferent. Even firefighters, who share a common mission, are separated by the cultural differences that shaped our communities and careers. We are like a professional European Union. We agree on some things in principal, but are as diverse as the Sicilians are from the Swedes.

The OAFC conference was like a cultural roller coaster for me. The business meetings in particular were like the proverbial ethnic melting pot. I had little interest in collective bargaining issues and municipal relations, but I suspect that the others in the room felt the same way about northern volunteer problems. Like all meetings, occasionally the issues on the floor turned into a game of Ring Around the Rosie to the tune of Robert's Rules. A few times I felt like Aretha Franklin singing Amazing Grace . . . can we please hurry up and just sing the blasted song already?

I was impressed though, that we managed to tolerate each others' regional madness without calling for a shotgun to put the other guy out of his misery. The members even voted (unanimously I believe) in favour of two resolutions presented by Thunder Bay area chiefs.


Late one night in Toronto as I sat in the hotel room blogging and mulling about the connection I felt with my cultural kaleidoscope of fire service friends, I had a moment of enlightenment where the stars aligned and the craziness in the world made sense for a brief second. I realized that I was magnetized toward these people because they cared. Fire chiefs, captains, training officers, deputy chiefs, editors, firefighters, volunteers, career . . . Toronto, Fort Frances, Oakland, Upsala, Atikokan, Thunder Bay, north, south . . . the unifying factor amongst them all was not the job, it was the passion.

How’s that for an Oprah moment.

The next morning I announced this revelation at Perkins while having a 6:30 breakfast with Andrew, a Toronto fire captain that holds honorary Northwestern Ontario citizenship. He raised an eyebrow, looked at me over his unfinished coffee, and said, "Huh?" which translates from the original Torontonian as roughly, “I always knew you were a little odd.”

Speaking of people that care, Reagan Breeze from Dryden Fire Service hosted an Emergency Preparedness Student Survival Challenge at the local public school. He is extending a friendly challenge to other towns to participate as well. You can get more information on bringing the challenge to your community at the Emergency Management Ontario web site. In light of recent disasters across the continent from fire, flood, and tornadoes, preparedness makes a lot of sense.

On that same theme, if you live in Ontario you can subscribe to EMO's public warning system to get email and text alerts about various types of emergencies in the province. Click here for more details.

There you go. A little disaster management to bring balance to a soul searching, feel-good post. Don't fault me too much for the Oprah undertones. Now that the Queen of Talk has retired, someone has to take up the torch.


  1. I'm glad you're filling Oprah's shoes and honored to be among the group of fine fire-service types you mention (unless there's another editor in your life!).

  2. You are the editor. I failed to mention Newfoundland, but hopefully Vince realizes he was included by the fire chief reference.

    I don't find the Oprah shoes to be a good fit, but it was fun to try. :-)


Have a comment? Go for it! It's lonely out here in bloggerland . . .

Search This Blog