News and Views from the world wanderings of Pj Kwong.  Finally!  A place for all of the things I write and think about!

Posted By SkatingPj

I have a small Toronto home.  There is a family (mine) that lives in this home which includes 2 dogs and 2 + 1 + 1 kids.  In case you are wondering about the number of kids - here is the "new math" explanation:  2 kids are living at home presently + 1 kid who is currently in Africa + 1 more (god)kid who is with us temporarily til she can move into her first apartment.

Every year at this time, I put together a list of projects that I want to try and tackle.  This list varies from year to year but this year included re-doing my "sun porch."  In a moment of inspiration I thought it would be great to have the room painted.  I have this idea in the back of my mind wherein the sunporch is transformed into a small sanctuary of sorts where I can come and sip flavoured coffee and read the paper in some sort of fluid yet flattering lounging pyjamas.  Of course they keep forgettting to deliver the papers and I am not all that crazy about flavoured coffees - and there is no such thing as fluid AND flattering lounging pyjamas - but one hill to climb at a time.  Painting this teensy room is today's hill.

I was walking through a local shopping mall last week with my Mom and we came across a booth in the center advertising painting services for $189 per room (with some restrictions and exceptions.)  Perfect! I approached the woman in the booth about the special and she said that it could all be explained to me at an in-home "consultation".  In a moment of lunacy and clearly against my better judgement, I agreed to an appointment.

Promptly at 10am on Monday the estimator arrived, or as I like to call him the P-estimator (or P-Esty for short).  He took a cursory glance at my sun porch and commented on the 4  windows, screen door, french doors and front door - all in a room that is probably 7 by 9 feet.  In other words, not a lot of wall and therefore not a lot of painting. 

So P-esty asked me if there was anything else and I thought since he was here why not have him take a look at the rest of the main floor.  His first mistake was walking into my family room and commenting that "with a room this small you should never use a dark colour" - my back went up a little.  First of all my family room is the "big" room in my house AND I really love the warm golden yellow colour on the walls.  He started to flip through his stack of colours to show me what should be on the walls and as he headed to the whites and off-whites, I said in a way that was reminicent of the most petulant three-year old  "I LIKE COLOUR!" 

He realized he may have stepped in "it" and said "well if you want to live this way...." <lol>

So, then came the moment of truth: "I don't even need to measure the sun porch to estimate."  I said "Great"  He said:  "It would cost $1,400."  I said :"WHAT???!!"  He looked surprised (not as much as I was I can assure you.)  He said: "More than you thought?" "Um...well . YES...only because your flyer said $189!!!"  He said "Oh"

I wonder what the exceptions were - was it that mine is a house for humans and not dolls?

Truth be told, P-Esty did me a favour.  With the $1,400 I saved - I may be able to make the French Riviera yet.

In the meantime - if you feel like painting - lie down til the feeling goes away. 

The solution to my sun porch problem came in a gin and tonic, a new throw rug and a couple of toss cushions. 

It looks like a brand new room - especially when you walk through it quickly!

Posted By SkatingPj

Time and time again, as I interview people for my book, (Taking the Ice)  I realize that many of us who are 'in skating' feel the same way...and that is that skating has taught us valuable lessons about how to be in the rest of our lives...namely taking pride in one's job more than one's accomplishments and the importance of generosity and volunteerism in today's world.

Recently, I had a chance to catch up with Coach Extraordinaire, Carol Lane - part of the coaching team responsible for Canadian Ice Dance sensations Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier.  She told me about being at a seminar recently and being asked how she could explain the success of Vanessa and Paul.  "It's simple" she says "I coach them every day the same way that I have been for the last 10 years."  She demonstrates commitment to her job and her desire to help her students improve.  She could be seen just as proudly at the local Winter Glitters competition with her Pre-Preliminary Ladies as she was at the Olympics or Worlds.

I have had similar experiences when people have expressed surprise at seeing me announce at home club North Toronto's club show.  I am always surprised at the questions.  I am delighted to be asked. It's great when people think you do a nice job at something even nicer when you can offer that skill in your own backyard.

Last week the coaches at my club hosted an Awards evening for the first time where we invited all of the kids and their families. We asked them to bring a pot-luck dessert for our table and a non-perishable food item to be donated to a food bank for someone else's.  We decided as a group that we would nominate and vote on a recipient for the first ever "Skater of the XXX Session".  We had a great time doing it and we think that the kids were also delighted to know that they had been observed and their hard work acknowledged.  The biggest problem was trying to come up with a small token for the 5 winners - fortunately for us Jason Dietrich of the Figure Skating Boutique kicked in some goodies for really cool gift bags for the kids.

On Saturday night, I was asked to fill in as an announcer for Kevin Frankish, a wonderful Toronto-area morning TV guy on Breakfast Television.  He was to have announced the COS Margaret Garrison Memorial Show at the Hershey Centre and had to pull out because of a familly emergency.  Kids from Canskate level to Patrick Chan all dontaed their time and energy to this wonderful cause and it was a great show.  Here is something that stood out - The Icemen performed and we determined that along with their predecessors, Ice Nightmare, these guys have raised about $45,000 for breast cancer esearch during their history.  Way to go guys!

As an aside, if I could go back and answer a question differently that was posed to me in an oline interview recently, I would:

"Have you ever coached anyone of any note?"

I wish that I had said:  "Yeah - every last one of my skaters."


Posted By SkatingPj

It should not have come as a big surprise but for some reason, I was caught off guard.

Last August, I was approached by a man named Robert about writing a book.  Turns out Robert is a Toronto area publisher and has a daughter who skates which started him thinking about  a book about figure skating and one thing led to another and he decided to contact me.

When I first got the email, I thought it was some sort of a joke or maybe a pyramid scheme?  I was sure that I was going to have to pay someone something. In truth I thought I was going to be donating a chapter to a figure skating book (if I was accepted) and that somewhere down the road it was going to cost me. 

So, I armed myself with as much information as I could gather (thanks John!) and I met Robert for lunch where we discussed "the book".  Listening carefully all the while pretending that I had a clue, I found out that it wasn't a chapter I was looking at but in fact writing a whole book. Hmmmm.  My friend John had recommended that I try and go after writing the whole book and I either had convinced Robert with my long and seriously intense artistic gaze OR (and this was more likely) there really wasn't anyone else out there for this particular project because by the end of lunch I was writing a book.

Keeping my wits about me, I asked reasonable questions should the book be about? To which I was told - "Whatever you want."  (no help)  " Mom is going to have surgery in about 5 weeks - so can I start now?" and he said "Whenever you think" (still no help)  "Ok - um - what do you need me to do?" He said "write the book".  Well not a lot of direction but a starting place at least.

Here we are several months later and I have been writing a lot of stories and thoroughly enjoying the entire process. 

Here's the rub: I thought by "book" he meant that I could phone/meet with people and talk to them and find stuff out that interested me and then write about it.  Just Pj's stories.  Finding answers to questions I had always had about people and being able to translate the whole experience into words. 

Believe it or not, it didn't occur to me that by "book" he meant for me to take those same stories that I have been writing all this time and send them to him to be put into some typesetting program and then onto paper and bound into books. 

YIKES!  Not what I was expecting at all!

I am sure I will be able to wrap my brain around it but for the moment it has snuck up on me and the fact that I didn't see it coming - well - typical me and it makes me laugh.

Posted By SkatingPj

While at Canadians, a fan sent me a note asking me to please stop using skating jargon like triple or quad toe.  They wanted me to use the "correct" term of triple or quad toe loop.  The only problem is that if the takeoff edge is an inside and not an outside, then correctly it is called a triple or quadruple toe walley.  In other words, "toe" works; skating jargon or not.

Another fan asked me to stop talking altogether. ( Actually maybe not so much of a fan?)  Truth is, I am more afraid of my bosses wondering why I am not talking, as they are paying me to comment about skating,  (hence the term "commentator") than I am about a "notfan" asking me not to.

I digress...

The same could be said for my initial confusion and TV lingo.  My education was not in TV (except watching it) and the words and terms at times are a little confusing.  The first time I heard I was working for "host" I thought to myself ....hmm...does that mean as low person on the ladder I will be the one going to be doing the coffee runs?

My Australian friend Jon (or as we like to call him Jonny from The Block) got the nod to work for "host" at the Games in Beijing at volleyball.  Like me, his background wasn't in TV and when he went into the office to talk about it, they said that this was the "number" they they were working with in order to make it "happen."   He quickly did the math and thought it manageable, because it was going to be the chance of a lifetime. He tried to think about how he was going to present it to his wife and what it was going to cost him over the long haul with respect to anniversary/Valentine's/birthday gifts and the like.  In a blink, he said he would do it. After all what were savings for?   Handshakes all around until J-Fo asked when he had to bring the cheque in?  "For what?" he was asked.  "You know, the amount you said so I can go to the Olympics" he ventured with confidence.  A look of confusion crossed the boss' face until he said "Jon there is no cheque necessary.  We pay YOU."

Hmmmph - and I thought I had a lot to learn!



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