The Hazards of Paul Alexander

So, out the gate, perhaps my title is misleading… I bet there are a few people from our small town of Hudson that are gonna see this blog title and think they are clicking onto some wicked small town gossip, but I’ll fess up, sorry ya’ll this is a book review. Please bear with me as…well….I don’t really do book reviews but I feel I gotta get this out there.

Paul is one of those dudes that you don’t call him Paul, nor Mr. Alexander, but…Paul Alexander, like it’s one word. Maybe it’s because he has a first name for a last name who knows, it’s just like that.He isn’t himself a hazard…well, I don’t think you’d want to be on the wrong side of em that’s for sure but he’s also the kinda guy that will easily engage with anyone and pretty sure if you asked him he’d give you the jacket off his shoulder.

The reason I called my blog post this title is because his book, I ripped through it in two sittings, ignoring my household duties, ignoring my work colleagues during breaks and downtime and to much more of their dismay I refused to put my radio on while I have been reading. (I’m that guy that controls the radio here in my shop 😉 )

I completely shut out everything else while I was reading it.

The cover is great, some golf clubs leaned up against a Caddy that has a license plate that says “Par Tee” and a case of Rolling Rock torn open from the middle.

The Hazards of Golf – Living on the Fringe with Cadillac Willie and Wino BobIf that title doesn’t catch ya…

Now I have to be careful here not to give anything away here in this post, so forgive me if this reads sloppy.I wouldn’t consider myself a huge reader…I’m no bookworm by any means, but I constantly have a book going. I can always answer when someone asks “what are you reading right now?”

I tend to stick away from Sci-Fci and stuff like that, but do love fiction. Stories… especially ones that are totally plausible. Seem completely insane and highly unlikely…but totally plausible. I dig the imagination. I love well thought out plans and of course revenge and this book delivers it with a perfect amount of humour.

You know, some books or stories, especially if they get past or near a 300 page mark kind of go up and down… high points and dull spots. This book is a straight from page one right to end. It kept me interested, it kept me involved and the character building was spot on.

In my head I can picture what each character looks like, and each of the day’s throughout the chapters I know if they’ve shaved that day and what they are wearing even though this description only happens at first meet of the character.

Not gonna lie, “Craig” looks an awful lot like Paul Alexander. And maybe it’s because I know the author, as I was reading I could totally hear Paul Alexander’s voice in some of the remarks.

The book opens up to your standard legal jargon, and…a shout out to my extremely hot Fiance Erin which I’ll totally take as a compliment.

From that point on there is no wasting time. Characters and backgrounds are introduced, the story is well under way and soon enough you realized that you haven’t eaten and had way too many coffees.

I wouldn’t say the story builds to a climax, but more of a slow motion wrecking ball throughout that suddenly goes full speed near the end.Now, I consider myself good at seeing what’s coming. I often guess correctly when a mystery is about to unfold, but I honestly didn’t know what was gonna happen here.I kept pausing, squeezing how many pages were left trying to come up with a “way out” kinda thing.Then it happened.

The thing is with this story, if you’ve ever lived in a small town, hang out at the local bars with regulars, are a member of a small town private club… this whole thing is totally possible. I feel like I can take any character from the story and match them with someone I know in real life. If a book does that, that alone makes it a success.

Erin and I are fairly new to the Private Club scene, and although we are members at a Yacht Club and not a Golf Club the idea of what happens here can easily be transferred. The tension between certain types of members, the snobbish ways and weights some carry. Makes for a great setup and you won’t be disappointed.I myself am not a golfer, I understand the lingo and terms but even if you know nothing about golf, you won’t have a hard time understanding. Although it’s based around golf, it’s not a golfing book.

So, without giving anything away and me not being a golfer, I’ll try to explain it in racing terms. That’s what I do know.Picture this:Last lap of the Daytona 500 and a Ford, Chevy and a Toyota cross the finish line at the exact same time. Just imagine that.

All in all I really enjoyed this book. It is good natured and fun. Characters are relatable and the story backs itself up, keeps you entertained and there is good closure. (which drives me nuts when books end abruptly). Obviously there is a hint at a sequel in which I’ll be 1st in line to buy. I do hope there is a sequel.

Thanks Paul for this gift, I appreciate your imagination and I encourage you to keep going man. You’ve made a new fan.

As for a rating? I give it 10 Cookies a Big Budweiser and of course, some Purple RainCheers!

Here’s a link to the kindle and paperback version

The Hazards of Golf on Amazon

Cheap Instruments, killing talent everywhere. Advice from a non parent?

Lately it seems, more than before I’ve been asked my opinion on musical instruments for friends kids. Maybe it’s this never ending winter I dunno…
Winter never ends in Hudson it seems

Parents will send me a message with something like…”hey, my son is interested in guitar, any recommendations?”

Which leads me to this post, in where I feel the need to express my opinion on cheap starter equipment.

To give you a background, I’m a guitar player, always have been and always will be. I cherish this instrument. I consider myself a good guitar player and feel confident enough in my talent and experience to offer this as solid advice. While I do play other instruments and even though this generally applies to all of them, I will use guitar as the lead example.

I started playing as soon as I was old enough to hold a guitar steady on my lap. I’ve played virtually every style of guitar available… solid body, hollow, electric…acoustic…3/4 size, all of em and through different value sets. Ranging from a 10 dollar beat up used cheapy to a $10k+ Les Paul.

My guitar of choice is a 1995 American Standard Fender Stratocaster. Her name is Jessica and I love her..

There literally is an option available for every talent range, and every budget range.

My ’95 Strat and Mustang IV amp

I was very lucky when I started playing seriously. My father, a guitar player himself has a beautiful 1964 Burns, a jazz guitar that sounds like heaven. I played on that for awhile and at the same time my neighbor had lent me an early 60’s Guild Starfire. That big ol’ hollowbody was magic…but large for my size.

Serious business happenin’ here

My father’s ’64 Burns Splitsound after I refurbished it in 2016

Jammin’in’Jammies

The first guitar I purchased was a Vantage electric guitar in which I later traded for…God knows what.

90’s something Vantage

Then came my lucky day. For my 18th birthday my parents got me my Jessica. Oh the sweet sound of an American Standard Strat. The envy and dreams of guitar players everywhere. The single coil cream of the crop. Bursting onto the scene in 1954 it has been produced every year with virtually no change. Options like neck shapes and pickup variations are available but the general aspects have been the same for 65+ years.

Being the choice of greats like Hendrix, Clapton, Holly (The 1st Strat hero) …Stevie Ray Vaughan and his brother Jimmy, U2’s Edge, Raitt, Cray, Johnson, Gilmour…..man the list goes on and on and you would have a hard time finding an avid guitar player that doesn’t have at least one variant of a Strat in their collection.

They are pricey though, and of course high end guitars and instruments are not the point to this post…cheap ones are…so let’s get on with it shall we?

Now, this part coming, can be a little …let’s say controversial. Well, it has been in the past anyhow. The reason being is here I am about to give you parents some parenting advice while here I am as…not a parent.

Erin and I don’t have kids and although some will say this disqualifies me from offering this advice, I don’t believe so and hey…it’s my blog and I’ll say what I want 😜.

Every kid…every single child has a talent. Some can sing, some can draw, some can skate, some can run and hey, some can do it all. But what they don’t have, is a label on them when they’re born saying “Hey Mom! I’m the next Aretha Franklin!”

I feel it’s up to us, the adults, to discover which talent is going to shine through. Doesn’t matter if you’re the parent, coach, Aunt, Grandpa, teacher, counselor or whatever role you play in their life, it is our duty to help evolve and shape that child into what they will become. We have to give them the support and tools to do it and we owe it to ourselves to pass along the knowledge that was taught to us.

Which brings me to my part in this. Although I don’t have direct parenting experience, I have equipment experience. And a lot of it.

This is where my gripe with cheap instruments comes into play.

The market these days, it will produce anything, as long as it sells. And the cheaper the cost, the better the bottom line for the company.

I understand this, but it has created a wall that divides the child between themselves and the artistic values that are trying to break through. Quality is the trade off for mass production.

I’m not going to call out these companies by name but you could guess that these “instruments” are readily available at Walmart and stores of the like.

Let’s take a girl of 5…6….7 years old who has expressed interest in drawing or painting. The next logical thing would be to supply her with coloured pencils, a drawing book…or an easel and paint etc…perhaps later some art classes.

Let’s take a boy, same age who has expressed an interest in soccer, well call up them Timbits and let’s cheer of em on from the sidelines of the local soccer field right?

We have to, we have to let children explore.

What we won’t do though is give that little guy a soccer ball made of lead to kick around in the backyard, or give that girl paints that run and brushes that leave strands all over the canvas. That won’t help much. All that will do is turn them off, ignoring their instincts and shielding natural talent.

This is how I feel about these cheap branded instruments. If your son has pictures of guitar legends on his wall and spends his time listening to them you may end up thinking about Christmas and having one wrapped up under the tree.

But if it plays like a dumptruck, if it won’t stay in tune, if the cheap strings cause bleeding, if it’s uncomfortable to hold…if it’s just plain ugly… I bet it won’t be very long before it’s collecting dust and you end up putting it up on Varagesale for 10 bucks and the future Jimmy Page is possibly gone forever.

(This is what do with 10 dollar varagesale guitars, I screw em to my fence as decoration)

Now, I understand that this sounds awfully pretentious of me, and I’m fully aware that I was lucky enough to grow up on quality instruments but fear not! I’m going to offer some great alternatives!

I’m not just gonna leave it like this saying HEY BE A RESPONSIBLE PARENT AND DON’T BUY CRAP GEAR… not at all.

We all got budgets, and coupled with that is exploration. What do you do when you’re not 100% sure your little one will actually like it and stick with it? What if they are expressing interest in multiple things? For some, it isn’t possible to buy hockey gear, a guitar, a microphone, a sailboat a +++ whatever they are showing (or what the school fad is that week). So we have a bit of an issue, but here I’ll address the musical side of those.

Here are some options if you’re either unsure or need to be budget savvy. That being said, I’m also saying that if you are able to afford it, you don’t need to go out and get em a $3000 Gibson either.

Acoustic Vs. Electric

I myself would recommend acoustic. Reason being is not only do you not have to buy an amp, and a cord etc, they make playing chords sound a tad smoother helping with confidence. Through and amp, an electric guitar can shine a spotlight on every imperfection while practicing, while in reality, flubbing a particular note in a chord is ok, and will naturally be corrected with practice and guidance. This could be a testy discussion with a kid who just listened to some rock God shred on an Ibanez but generally I think that kids who get guitars will be thankful with whatever they get.

Size: Full or 3/4

You can see sorta on this chart the difference between a full size and 3/4. To put plainly, take a guitar and as if you threw it in the dryer for awhile. It’s a shrunken down version of the real thing. It can make starting out a ton easier with a child who has smaller hands than us adults. Lil easier to play the notes, chords…etc. The transition to full size will be a breeze.

When I started, I was a lil dude, looking back I would have loved to have a smaller version. The Burns and Guild that I mentioned earlier are actually quite large guitars compared to others and I do feel it hindered me. I to this day have a few 3/4 guitars that I still play daily.(see video below) Plus they’re easy to learn on and easier to lug around town.

Entry level: New

In some big box stores, there are kits. They have say a guitar, pick, case…a book or DVD perhaps and that’s all fine and dandy but the quality just isn’t there. They are difficult to tune and difficult to play. For not a lot more, you can get a better brand that will be easier to play. There are plenty of lessons on YouTube and it’s enough to get going.

Avoid the big box stores and find your local guitar shop. They have quality instruments in every budget. Of course, it won’t be as cheap as that $79 kit from Costco, but I’ve purchased guitars for about 100 bucks that I still play today. They’ll probably throw in a decent gig bag and some picks for 20 bucks as well.

Entry Level: Used

Probably my highest recommendation.

There are a ton of instruments out there on sites like kijiji and varagesale (not for 10 bucks) that are good quality…just used. And there is nothing wrong with buying a used guitar. Garage sales are also a good spot. And hey, even just putting the word out to your friends on Facebook could yield you a little gem.

My go to acoustic is my Fender CD140SCE. They sold for 5-600 bucks and I got this full mahogany version used in great condition for 200 bucks.

My go to Acoustic Fender CD140SCE

Lately I’ve seen some really nice Yamaha’s, Epiphones and Jay Turser’s all for decent used prices that will impress and help shape your child’s talent.

If you buy a decent instrument and your child doesn’t end up sticking with it for any reason, you will be able to recoup most of your money by selling it. The cheap ones will be a straight out loss.

I bought my youngest Niece a used guitar. Actually, I bought 2 but really liked one so I kept it and found her another one. (see quick vid below)

It’s decent quality and she still plays it today. She carries it around with her lil gig bag an has a ball with it…and that’s the point. Keep it fun.

Trading

It may surprise you to find out that there is quite a community out there that is willing to trade stuff. Take a look through your garage or basement… got something decent that you don’t use? Try trading it for an instrument. I once got a nice JJ45 for some duplicate tools I had.

If you are say a “varagesaler” put a lil note at the bottom of your ad saying you are willing to trade. You’d be surprised.

Slide sounds better on a boat

Borrrow

It is totally possible. If you aren’t quite sure about your child’s interest, put the word out. I’ve lent out guitars before for this reason, I get it. Many school programs have this available as well. Check it out maybe you’ll get lucky.

There are many avenues to get your kid going. Hiring a local teacher is great. They can give you personalized advice for your starter.

Your local music shop will also help guide you in the right direction and will have instant options available.

Perhaps your greatest resource could be your friends. You know a guitar player, I guarantee it. Ask them, anyone who is a fan of music, will be more than happy to share their knowledge. Music is an art and as a musician, I love helping. I also have a big group of musician friends and I would bet 10 to 1 that anyone of em would be willing to help in some faction.

Oh and hey, if you are just starting out, just because your child is left handed, doesn’t mean they will play guitar left handed. I’ve seen this multiple times. Imagine trying to learn something off handed, it’ll turn you off pretty quick, especially a young one.

True story, absolutely that I was lucky growing up. I came from a highly supportive family of musicians and my folks have always been behind me 100%. That being said, I’ve seen kids who I know had talent straight out give up because of their piece.

Learning something new can be difficult, it can be trying, it can be frustrating at times, but it has to be fun over all. There has to be a reward. Kids move so fast from one interest to another, especially if something has no value at the end. Imagine playing pool with a rope, tennis with a badminton racket or bowling with a hockey puck. You can practice all you want, but you will never get the result.

Kids amaze me. Their brains just soak up anything we throw at them. When I’ve myself seen failure, more often than not it’s the piece and not the person who was the problem.

Hope you enjoyed my 2nd post of my site, feel free to share and give me any feedback. Cheers all…let’s do it for the kids.

Is it inevitable? 2018 Floods

I didn’t think my first post here was going to be a negative, or something mysterious, sad or scary but yet here we are. I guess it’s like that when you live close to a water line.

For us here in Hudson, we share the Ottawa River with Oka on the other side. We dock our boat at the Hudson Yacht Club and spend a lot of time out in Quarry Point (Parson’s Bay) in the summer/fall months.

Our river is beautiful. She’s also dangerous. She has a wicked current out in the channel aided by the Carillion Dam and the depths are quite impressive.

She was pretty mean to us last year. She gave us all a reminder that she is the boss and if we don’t treat her right she will let us know.

Last years melt, the runoff was severe and instant. Heavy rain, mild temperatures and a frozen terrain sent the water right into our bowl. Carillion and Cornwall–>Valleyfield had no choice but to let out what they needed which naturally ended up straight to us. We are pretty much in a “V” with the Ottawa to the North and the St. Lawrence seaway to the South.

The result was natural. Hundreds of homes damaged if not destroyed. Debris littered yards and shores. The volunteer effort was nothing short of incredible, but questionable of how much it actually saved.

If anything though, perhaps it was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen in my life. Neighborhoods and volunteers from everywhere came together to help strangers. Our military was available and spirits were strong… although the reality of the damage soon set in.

Right now as it stands, 5pm Mar.28 Carillion is outflowing 1,450 cubic meters per second.

Last year at this time it was 3028.

So far….so good….I think… only that…the water level didn’t go down in the summer months.

Put it this way, our boat is a 21ft cruiser. We we are docked in the inner harbor. We are normally harbourlocked for a couple weeks in August…meaning that the water is so low that we can’t get out of the club.

This past year… I barely even used my trim, and by the looks of the shoreline…etc, there is plenty of water and the melt is just starting.

I do have faith in those running the dams…controlling the output, making the decisions, but hey man…we are all nervous.

I still have friends that aren’t back in their homes. Government vs insurance vs bylaws vs natural disasters….nobody wins.

In light of all this, Mayors from all across the shoreline are doing their best to prepare. Sandbags, water retaining equipment and public announcements have already been seen. By-laws have been put forth, such as restrictions on building in 100 year flood plains as our Mayor has. All these things are great, our fire department is ready to go, I’m certain volunteers are ready to go but one has to wonder…what can really be done to actually stop a flood?

I’m not sure who was the hardest hit. Neighboring Rigaud (pictured above) took a beating…upstate NY declared an emergency and as far as Montreals West Island was impacted. The sheer range of this all is difficult to even imagine.

I myself am clearly not a scientist, weather expert…geographical scholar nor a disaster relief veteran so I absolutely do not have the answers. I’m just not sure that anyone at all does in fact have a solution.

One thing I’ve heard mumble about is a possible new basin in the area. Where runoff spring water can gather. From the looks of the maps and reading multiple articles, it’s as if our particular watershed hasn’t “needed” one….until now that is.

I believe along side of what are we going to do this year, we should also be talking about what we are going to do forever. Flooding is controlled all over the world, I believe we have the technology here and I have faith our political leaders and environmentalists are looking at this…I just wish I could fast forward until it’s done done.

All that being said, our Kichisìpi is tough, fast and resilient. She is breathtakingly beautiful and vicious. She provides power to our homes and businesses, let’s us leisure in the bays, allows us to fish, hunt and water ski…sun tan and swim…she is alluring, unassuming and captivating but the one thing that she isn’t…is forgiving.