Looking Back & Looking Ahead

Posted: January 10, 2012 in events, life, local, writing

Nice knowing you, 2011.

Another year has come and gone, and just as I’m sure everyone else says it, I’ll say it too – where the hell did the last twelve months go? Is it just me, or does it feel like it was only May or June a couple of months ago? Yet we’re over a week into 2012 already. Son of a bitch!

I work in a very lightning-paced environment. Now this requires some explanation, because I DO NOT mean that my two coworkers and I run around the office like tweens loaded up on Red Bull. In fact, there are days that seem to crawl by with little to no activity. No, I mean that this chosen profession of ours – the weekly newspaper gig – operates under a five business day cycle in which the ultimate goal is to be done with one issue on Tuesday afternoon and already try to have in mind what’s going in the next issue before the current one even arrives by courier to our back door. What might be the hottest topic of one week is just a memory after two or three more issues, and the cycle continues as I resume that voodoo that I do do.

It’s because of this that time seems to jet by without a moment’s notice, and 2011 is now in the record books.

With that, I feel it’s appropriate to try and make sense of the last 365 days and highlight some of the most notable occasions that I’ll take with me to my grave.

Overall, I feel that my 2011 was a pretty good year, all things considered. Work has been steady, and the raise I got near the beginning of the year was a nice boost to my morale in addition to my bank account. In non-office related news, my Stephen King project, “Mute”, saw some significant progress, though I’m still a good deal away from yelling “ACTION” on set. So far, the script has been finished for nearly a year, having been completed after an all-night write-a-thon and hitting ‘Save’ at roughly 5:30 am on Saturday, February 19. Perhaps the biggest chunk of the project’s budget was taken care of in October, when I snagged the camera I’m going to use to shoot it, as well as any other ideas in the future – a Canon Vixia HF M-400, one of the newest ones on the market. This came as a result of a car rally that my mom hosted at her bar (that’s Ma’s Tavern in Conquest, everybody!) that people paid $5 to take part in. It raised over $260, so it was a huge help in buying the camera. Yes, you read that right – people in small towns still help each other, and being neighborly is not a thing of the past.

Right now, I’m trying to get my hands on a few set pieces to use and hammering down locations, as well as working on getting the script to a few actors, although I do have my ‘deaf and blind’ hitchhiker cast, so that casting call has been heeded! If I were forced to reveal any kind of deadline, although there isn’t one and I’d only be giving myself a date that would be looming over my head, I’d say that I want to be finished shooting by the end of April and use May as my obsessive, two packs a day, mucho-cursing-from-the-basement editing period. Progress is slow, but it’s coming.

The recent Christmas and holiday season was a damn good one, at least from my point of view. We were done here at the paper on Wednesday, December 21 and had a sweet, mini-vacation of an eight day break before coming back on the 29th. From there, it was just two days of work before the New Year’s long weekend, and here we are, back into the groove once again.

My Christmas celebrations shaped up like this:

December 21: Done work for over a week, I celebrated by preparing myself a gourmet feast and popping the most enjoyable Christmas movie ever made into my PS3 – “Die Hard”. Consisting of a baked lobster tail, two seasoned chicken breasts, potato wedges and crab-stuffed shrimp, the meal cost a little more than grabbing a burger and fries (altogether, and glancing at grocery store receipts, it was roughly $38), but I had a holiday to ring in, dammit! Hardly the modest type, I snapped a pic and threw it on Facebook, claiming that I had just “won the Internet tonight” before chowing down.

December 23: The day before Christmas Eve, I got together with my gang of fellow rapscallions – Alex, Chris and Kyle – up at Alex’s condo in Saskatoon for a night of movies, cards and intelligent discussion and debate regarding the state of the world economy as we head into 2012. (Try and guess which one of those is complete bullshit. Oh c’mon, guess!) As plans have a way of changing, we ended up getting together a little later than planned, but all was well when Kyle finally got to Alex’s at roughly 8:00, having made the drive all the way from Swift Current, and a kudos to ‘Big Country’ for making the cross-province trip with no complaints. We had originally planned to watch a few movies, but once I brought out the cards, we ended up playing and sitting around Alex’s kitchen table all night, talking about anything and everything and listening to ’70s and ’80s classic rock (thank you, Sirius satellite online radio). Exchanging gifts, it turned out my friends decided to go the gift card route, as they doled them out from Best Buy, Walmart and HMV, respectively, and I think they were happy with the t-shirts I found for each of them, consisting of Ghostbusters, Mortal Kombat and Back To The Future, respectively.

Though there was no tree or turkey to tear into (we opted for Domino’s), the night was a huge highlight of my holiday, and I think it was something that all of us needed. Among the bigger news items to come out of it was the fact that Chris and his wife Kristin have found a house they want to buy and are currently in the midst of a mountain of paperwork and negotiations. Here’s hoping they get it, even if I’m just looking forward to the housewarming party. Hehehehehehehe, is he joking?

December 24: Running around and picking up a few last-minute things before all the stores close, I ran into an old chum of mine in front of the Co-op in Outlook, Kevin Guillet, who was down for his own massive family gathering out at the farm. Kev lives in Victoria, a former stomping ground of mine, and seems to be doing well for himself with film and video gigs here and there. Back at home, we had Christmas Eve celebrations over at my brother Perry’s, though by this time a stubborn and ill-timed nose congestion really decreased my enjoyment. We played Uno, ate food, joked around – a typical Ruttle family gathering. When everyone else either went home or back to their motel rooms, Brendon and I stayed behind and we all watched “A Christmas Story”. I hadn’t seen that movie from start to finish in years. After getting home, I wasn’t ready to go to sleep so some fat guy could break into my house and leave me a bunch of shit I didn’t ask for, so I watched “Christmas Vacation”, a must-see staple of the holiday season.

December 25: The main event. I was the last one to wake up – remember my duty to watch Chevy Chase attempt a family holiday at home – and open a few gifts, consisting of some new clothes, new bedding, couple of books, and some other stuff I can’t remember right now. I never asked for anything specific and made no list of any sort, so whatever I got, I had to be happy with. No complaints. We had our big family dinner, gift opening and all the aftermath at the tavern, which was an odd idea on paper but turned out great because it had tons of room. Again, more food, more games, lots of photos taken and yes, just as an Irish-Scottish family will partake in, plenty of liquid courage flowing.

The rest of my time off before heading back to work was spent unwinding and recharging my batteries, as well as blowing my nose alot and trying to get that cleared up. I also watched a ton of “Degrassi Jr.” and then “Degrassi High” on Netflix, which really took me back to my childhood when I watched the show on CBC after school every day. Someone send the guy who invented Netflix the finest bottle of scotch they can find, and send the bill to someone who isn’t me.

On December 30, I hit the city looking for some good shopping deals and came out of it pretty decent, picking up seasons three and four of “Oz” and the TRON: Legacy soundtrack for the magnificent total of just under $22, thanks to Kyle’s HMV gift card. I cruised over to Amazing Stories and bought a Batman comic collection I’ve been looking for forever, as well as a neat Freddy Krueger action figure, and he now stands on one of the shelves of my entertainment unit at home, guarding the place along with my larger figure of The Undertaker in all his finger-knived, red and green-sweatered glory.

After satiating my retail urge, I went and saw David Fincher’s North American remake of “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo”. Overall, I thought it was an incredible film, unique at times and very disturbing in others (rape is a heavy theme), but Fincher knocked it out of the park. I wasn’t exactly ‘wowed’ with “The Social Network” last year, but “Dragon” is Fincher at his best – directing an epic (nearly 2.5 hours) with real, gritty and dark drama that makes for some fantastic storytelling. Daniel Craig sure as hell isn’t James Bond here, and Rooney Mara – a relative unknown now getting some much-deserved attention – throws herself into a role that more than half the actresses in Hollywood don’t have the balls to try. As well, it doesn’t hurt that the opening credits sequence of the film is a total creative mind-fuck. Just gotta see it.

My New Year’s Eve was actually quite uneventful, to be honest. I don’t usually make a big deal out of it, as I consider Christmas to be more significant during that week-long time period where both events take place. I cooked up some skewered shrimp (or lollipop shrimp, as the marketing folks at President’s Choice call it), poured myself a rum n’ Coke or three and bounced back and forth between the South Park and Drew Carey Show marathons on TV. Man, what a bad boy I grew up to be.

Rewinding back to the summer months of 2011, I loved the Conquest Centennial long weekend celebrations back in July. I wore many hats over the course of those three days; reporter, photographer, proud Conquest resident, as well as a son, brother, nephew, uncle, and pyrotechnics supervisor as I blasted off a bunch of fireworks on the night of July 1. Saw some family, took in the events to celebrate my hometown’s 100th, and just enjoyed being in that environment.

I gotta say though, I think the village of Milden got it right with their own centennial celebrations just four weeks later. They kicked it off with a parade on Saturday morning that seemed to never end, and had a street dance that night, filling the prairie air with the sound of music. As fun as our own community’s weekend was, I wish we’d taken advantage of what we have and done the same things. Oh well.

In August, I took a day out of my two-week break from work and drove up to my late uncle’s old cabin at Candle Lake at the beginning of August. It was only for one day and night, and I was by myself, but I have to say that it was the best thing that I experienced last year, bar none.

My original intention was to just make a day of it and actually drive home late, but I’m glad I ended up staying overnight. Making the four-hour drive and armed with a loaded MP3 disc, a change of clothes and my trusty Canon PowerShot, all my old memories came flooding back to me almost instantly as I approached the cabin. This was a place where my family vacationed for many summers when I was a kid, and I hadn’t been up there in 11 years. Older, wiser, and experiencing a lot more in life since that time, I started to feel like a kid again as I saw all the same buildings and businesses that made my summers up there so memorable; the general store/laundromat that even in 2011 still rents out VHS tapes and VCRs, the walk-up fast food restaurant on the corner with vintage advertisements and a carnival-like color scheme, the mini golf course, the petting zoo, and everything else from the mechanic shop to the restaurant/lounge. There’s also quite a bit of new infrastructure up there, including more food services like Family Pizza, a clothing outlet, and even a health centre. What’s neat is the way Candle Lake has been able to adapt to the new century and capitalize on the economic boom and public demand, but a lot of things are still the same and seem to have not changed a bit. It’s an old school meets new school fusion that seems to work for everyone.

I got to the cabin and just took in the surroundings. It’s definitely an old cabin, and quite frankly you’re living a bit rustic when you’re up there, but it’s got power and four walls, so I was happy. I grabbed my camera and just took a drive around the area, taking in the sights and getting reacquainted after a decade-long absence. Saw some wildlife, checked out the trout pond used by those who just want a quaint and quiet day of fishing instead of the choppiness of the lake, and obviously, Candle Lake itself, which seemed no more bigger or smaller than when I was a kid. The water had a silvery grey color to its surface and was alive as it churned tide-by-tide to the shore.

I picked up some dinner, consisting of two medium pies from Family Pizza (pepperoni & bacon, shrimp & mushrooms), as well as a few things at the store before sitting down to watch some electrifying entertainment – whatever the hell was on either CTV or CBC. The cabin is equipped only with an antenna, so you’re stuck with whatever happens to be on those two channels. To hell with it, I say. In the middle of summer, you shouldn’t even be indoors at Candle Lake during the day. I watched the news and then went back down to the lake, relaxing in my lawn chair with my feet in the sand. It wasn’t long before I walked into the water, and doing so once again threw me back in time to when I was up there as a kid, splashing around with my brothers and tossing handfuls of wet sand at each other, which the other guy would take square in the chest and pretend he got shot.

I'll be back.

I fired off quite a bit of photos while both on the sand and in the lake, simply because my surroundings were begging me to. It was roughly 8:00 pm, and the sun was starting to call it a day. As it descended in the northwest, it created an incredible silhouette out of a bunch of tall trees, and the dimming light had begun to shine a light off the surface of the water. It literally looked like some painting a tourist would buy in a gift shop, so I snapped away. The lake is surrounded in this U-shaped section of land, and trees and lakeside cabins dot the properties, which has always made me jealous. I’d kill for a cabin right by the water up there, because I’d be driving up there all the time and nobody from around here would see much of me in the summertime. Christ, I wish I was there right now. No lie.

The next morning, I took one last drive down to the lake and just sat there for a little while; looking out at the beach, the water, the cabins all around the area, a few boats cruising around, and some family enjoying the day. I told myself that I’d be back a hell of a lot sooner than another 11 years, and I fueled up before making the long drive back home.

I intend to keep that promise. I don’t mean to get all soft and ‘deep’ on this, but I went up there to try and reestablish a connection that had gotten lost years ago. I wanted to feel like a kid again. In this hyperspeed world we live in, life jets by waaaaaay too fast at times, and we get lost in our daily lives that consist mainly of work and just waiting for Friday to come so we can recharge and get ready for another workweek. You have to wake up and smell the coffee. Step back and look at things from a different point of view. I went up to Candle Lake to try and reawaken some form of worry-free emotion in my gut that everybody had when they were growing up; to take in my former source of childhood memories and – even if only for one day – not worry about a fucking thing else on Earth and just do as Frankie says, and that’s relax. I’m happy to report that I was successful on all fronts.

And it seems that I got up there just in time, as the word going around my mom’s side of the family is that my aunt Hazel has told her kids to put the old cabin up for sale. Not that it’s worth much, and frankly it’s mainly the land that someone would be buying, but I still wish they’d reconsider and keep it in the family in some way. Hell, I’m sure my family would put some money into it and share it with someone. Time will tell on that front, but when I return to Candle this coming summer, I’ll more than likely be renting a cabin anyway.

From asking ‘Are we there yet?’ to renting my own cabin – yup, getting old sucks.

From there, I actually drove home into a somber affair. My aunt Mabel, on my dad’s side, had died in June and while there was a funeral service out where she lived in Cochrane, Alberta, the graveside service and burial was in Conquest in early August. As my clan tends to do, we managed to turn a negative situation into a positive, and the outpouring of relatives that I hadn’t seen in many years made it into a makeshift Ruttle Family Reunion as we celebrated Mabel’s life with enough food to feed two and a half countries and plenty of alcohol. Hey, it’s what we do.

Looking back, these events were really just a taste of what I encountered and experienced in 2011, but they were the ones that left the biggest lasting impression by far. I don’t know how your year was, but I can look back on mine and say it was satisfying on several different levels. Hope you can say the same.

With that, I don’t know what 2012 holds for me. I know what I’d LIKE to accomplish – getting “Mute” off the ground, shot/edited, and then submitted to film festivals around the country – and I know what I’d like to do again – return to Candle Lake – but that’s the mystery of a new year, I suppose. No idea just what will happen.

In the meantime, it’s nice to think about.



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