Saturday, June 25, 2016

Shoe Dog - A Memoir by the Creator of Nike

I recently read Shoe Dog by Nike creator Phil Knight. It's a relatively new book that came out earlier this year. I saw it advertised by Indigo and reserved it at the library.

I have to say, even though I knew generally how the story would turn out, it was riveting. Most people know that Nike is a juggernaut in the footwear and apparel business. But I'm not sure how many people know they almost never made it. In fact there were numerous times that they almost folded. Incredible.

The book opens in 1962 with the 24-year-old, Knight, a recent college grad pondering his future. He decides to take a shot at selling athletic shoes imported from Japan. At the time they were a less expensive option to imported German shoes such as Adidas. This was all in a paper he wrote while studying for his MBA at Stanford Business School.

While on a trip around the world he made a stop in Japan and visited the Onitsuka shoe company in Kobe. There he met with some executives and convinced them to send some samples to him in the U.S. where he told them he would be their distributor. When asked the name of the company he was representing he quickly came up with the name Blue Ribbon (having won some as a runner through the years).

Upon his return to the States, Knight had to wait until early 1964 before his samples came. Excited, he sent 2 of the 12 pairs of Tigers he received to his University of Oregon track coach, Bill Bowerman, hoping to drum up sales. Knight got more than he bargained for. Bowerman was so impressed with the shoes he requested to be partners with Knight. Thus the journey begins.

The book journals the many ups and downs, victories and defeats the young company endured. Many times they were on the very precipice of defeat, but against insurmountable odds, rose from the ashes. You couldn't make this stuff up.

The push that turned Blue Ribbon into Nike was the betrayal of the company they were trying so hard to promote in the U.S.. A blessing in disguise that almost did them in. Behind their backs Onitsuka was trying to find another U.S. distributor.

This forced Blue Ribbon to not only to look for a new supplier, but instead, go further. The decided to look for a company that would manufacture shoes they designed instead of selling someone else's. They found this in a Mexican company named, oddly enough, Canada.

The book also details how Knight met his wife, Penny. She was one of his students when he taught accounting at Portland State University. It also mentions the birth of his first and second sons, Matthew and Trevor. But, very strangely, makes no mention of their daughter Christina.

Nike is currently a multi-billion dollar company. Their shoes and clothes are in 5,000 stores worldwide and they have 10,000 employees. After 40 years at Nike Phil Knight has stepped down as CEO, but has stayed on as chairman. He is worth upwards of $10 billion.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Hearn Generating Station

Peter suggested we visit the Hearn Generating Station for Luminato this year. It's a decommissioned power plant located on Toronto's waterfront. Our friend, Jeff Wesseling, joined us too.

Opened in October, 1951, it was a coal-fired electrical plant until 1983 when it was converted to natural gas. It ran that way until it closed in 1995. In its peak, during the 1960s, it employed nearly 600 people.

It's still owned by Ontario Power Generation, but has been under lease to Studios of America since 2002. They've shot a bunch of TV shows and movies such as Suicide Squad, Pacific Rim and 2015's Robocop there.

The Hearn is an amazing looking building. It's largely empty and in a crumbling state. But that's what gives it its gritty, industrial charm. It's great for taking photos. Sort of like all those abandoned buildings in Detroit, except that it's generally safe. We did see some people trip on the uneven ground though.

For Luminato there were a number of performances (musical and otherwise). We didn't see any of them. We just walked around taking pictures of the structure and viewing other free art exhibits there.

One draw was the huge 2-story mirror ball hung from the ceiling at the east end of the building. When the light shone on it it lit up the whole east part of the building.

After shooting most of the first floor from 7:00 to 8:00, Peter and I made our way to the back to shoot the mirror ball. Peter got a few shots before I walked over to join him. That's when the lights reflecting off the mirror ball went out.

We waited for a few minutes... then a few more... then some more. Nothing. The lights never came back on. It was only after asking a volunteer there that we found out that they shut the lights off so as not to disturb another performance that was going on there. I asked how long the performance was and the girl said, 2-1/2 hours!

Well, of course, we weren't going to wait that long to be able to take some shots of the mirror ball. So we walked around some more taking other photos.

While taking a break on the main floor at the Van Houtte coffee station (where they were giving out free cups of their fancy coffee). We noticed the mirror ball lights went on again. Peter and I rushed out to get some shots while Jeff waited (having taken his shots earlier).

It turns out that they turned the lights back on for a short intermission before turning them back off again when the performance resumed. No matter... we got our shots. Whew.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Camping at Awenda

Peter, Justin, Gabe, Cynara and Jonathan and I went camping at Awenda Provincial Park this past weekend. It wasn't a long weekend or anything. We just went because we wanted to go to the Ontario's Best Butter Tart Festival in nearby Midland. It's about 2 hours north of Toronto via Barrie.

The festival was held on King Street, north of Yonge. It's one day only, on Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.. There were over a hundred vendors of various kinds. From butter tarts to birdhouses, you could find it all.

The day was overcast, but still quite hot. The high was over 25C. Still, it didn't deter the crowds from coming out. It was quite busy and we were lucky to find parking on a side street a few blocks away.

We arrived around noon and were surprised to find some of the more popular tarts were already sold out. Some vendors offered samples which we tried and made note of. We walked up and down the street and came back and bought a half dozen tarts each from Grandma O'Reilly (at the Whistle Stop Café) and The Maids' Cottage (with pecans). We couldn't eat much more considering how sweet they were.

We got to the campground by around 3:00 p.m. and set our tents up. After that we decided to go for a hike to the beach. Justin decided to hang around and start the campfire. Though, at first, he couldn't find his axe for making kindling. So he used his kitchen knife to slice bits off a log. He didn't have to do it long. Gabe found his axe sitting on the picnic table. Disaster averted.

The walk to the beach was farther than we anticipated. We took the road out and it really wound around. On the way back we took the Bluff Trail which took us through Wolf Campground. We had to take a few roads back to our Snake site.

We had beef ribs and wings (marinated by Peter) for dinner. Some of it was cooked over the fire as well as the camp stove. Cynara and Jonathan brought corn on the cob and sweet potatoes again too.

After dinner we drove back to the beach to try some night photos. It was semi-overcast, so we didn't get any star shots. I still got some shots with the moon and clouds in the skies that looked all right.

It was windy at night. But, thankfully, not too cold. I had a bit of trouble falling asleep. Not because of anyone's snoring, but possibly because of the flat beer I drank. I thought I'd try it instead of tossing it. Maybe not such a good idea.

Justin took off after breakfast on Sunday. The rest of us went on a hike around Kettle's Lake. Originally we were considering the 14-kilometre Bluff Trail hike, but decided to take an easy. The Kettle's Lake hike was only around 5-kilometres with nice scenery around the lake.

After the hike I hitched a ride with Gabe and Peter while Cynara and Jonathan took her car home. Another nice weekend of camping.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Sod Rules

Peter and I met at Justin's place on Saturday morning to help him re-sod his front lawn. He had rented a machine from Home Depot that would cut up strips of his lawn and we would roll them up and dispose of them in a large bin that he also rented. After a breakfast of bacon and pancakes prepared by Justin we got started sometime around 11:30.

Since we didn't want to take a chance wrecking the machine Justin rented we decided he should work it the whole time. At first Peter and I took turns rolling the sod and bringing it to the dumpster ourselves. But then we decided to specialize our tasks. Peter would solely roll the old sod strips and I would carry them over to the dumpster and toss them. I think it was more efficient this way.

Still the work was hard. The weather wasn't bad. The temperature topped out at around 26C. Not as bad as the previous week when it was probably closer to 30C plus humidity. Still it would have been nicer if it were a little cooler. And not as sunny. We spent a good six hours in the sun. We were all pretty well toasted.

Gabe came a bit later. He was busy in the morning and early afternoon. He arrived at around 3:00. Just in time to help us clean up the last bits of the old lawn and start laying down the new sod - over 100 pieces (cut in lengths at 9-square-feet per piece).

Again we split our roles up. Gabe and I carried the pieces of sod from the pallets on the driveway over to where Justin and Peter lay them out across the yard. The middle part of the yard was easiest. It's around the edges and around objects such as trees where you have to do the most work. We had to cut certain pieces to fit snuggly around these items.

I believe we finished by around 6:00. Justin and Peter barbecued ribs that Justin had bought. Justin also made cornbread. And we enjoyed some cold beverages in the backyard afterwards. Our reward for a hard day's work.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Where is Everybody Going?

It's true. A lot of people I know are going away/have left. First Robert passed away. Now our long-time church secretary, Loletta, is leaving us. And, worse... she's jumping to the "competition", TCBC, the Baptist church down the street. May 29th was her last Sunday at church. If we ever want to bug her I guess we can walk 5 minutes down the street to cheer her up.

As well, one of our regular waitresses at Rol Jui left. I'm not exactly sure when. But we hadn't seen her in 2-3 weeks. Willy, Wilson and I go there almost every week for lunch after church. The circumstances of her disappearance are mysterious. We're not exactly sure what happened.

Lastly, the long time hostess at Edo, Karen, is leaving. She's moving to New York City. Karen had the nicest smile. Whenever I delivered hot towels to their Eglinton location she'd be there to greet me and sign the delivery slip. In early 2016, they had a fire and she was relocated to their Bayview Village location. I didn't see her for quite some time then.

On Sunday, May 29th, after bowling, I went to the South St. Burger at Bayview Village with Willy and John to grab a bite. I decided to drop by Edo to say, hi, to the girls. That's when Karen told me she was leaving. Friday, June 3rd would be her last day. What a shock. Everyone's going, all at the same time. I'm glad I was able to say, good-bye, beforehand.

Friday, June 3, 2016

RIP Robert Cormier

I received some sad news recently. One of our friends at Mrs. Carter's (Kelly's) boarding home, Robert Cormier, passed away. I can't exactly remember when we first met him. But I know it's been longer than 10 years because that's when the photo on the left was taken.

Robert was goofy, funny kind of guy. He had a mischievous air about him. Sometimes he'd tell silly jokes when we saw him at the boarding home then give us his big, goofy grin.

He also loved playing his guitar. When he had one. He was always buying and then selling his guitars to the local pawn shop whenever he was strapped for cash. At Christmastime he'd play carols. The rest of the time you might hear John Denver's, Take me home, country roads, or other oldies hits.

Over the past year or so Robert wasn't doing so well. I'm not sure if he was at CAMH, but he had to go away for treatment at least twice. When he returned, he wasn't quite himself (at least some of the time). He also lost a dramatic amount of weight. It was pretty shocking.

Before he passed away I did join him in his room because he wanted to show me a list that he made up. I think it was of things he enjoyed doing or something like that. Normally we're not supposed to go to residents' rooms on our own, but I'm glad I broke the rules this time. It was nice to spend some personal, one-on-one time with him. He was quite happy to show me what he had written.

Little did I know that would be the last time I saw him because I missed our last visit to the boarding home. That was over the Victoria Day long weekend when I went up to Tobermory to camp with my friends.

I hope you're in a better place now, Robert. One where you can play your guitar freely and not have to worry about any demons bothering you.