If you want to sleep well, steer clear of brushes with greatness. The risk is a hideous reacquaintance with adolescent insecurities but the upside is you might be reminded that we all put on our pants the same way, one leg at a time.  

The risk is hideous reacquaintance with adolescent insecurities …

Let’s say you find yourself in the company of Dirty Harry. What do you imagine you’d talk about? It’s a situation where you’d be spoiled for choice. Clint Eastwood has been an iconic actor and director for decades. He’s recognized for his musical abilities. He’s had a run as a politician. He’s an avid golfer. He’s had some interesting relationships along the way. Sooo much to work with, right?  Through a strange twist of fate, I found myself standing alongside the High Plains Drifter. The line, “So, do you feel lucky, punk?” played on a loop in my head. What could I possibly talk about that would be of any interest to him?

High Plains Drifter, staring Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry. Photo by Radio Times

So, you know what we talked about? We talked about the weird stuff people collect. He said he’d been in one of those ‘antique-y’ stores and had been surprised to discover that you could buy those little paper tabs that came on vintage milk bottles. I told him that, in the ‘antique-y’ trade, stuff like that was called ephemera and included things like old theatre stubs, luggage tags and Chargex statements. He shook his head, amused. Whew! Clint Eastwood was easy to talk to and seemed like a regular guy. I did not feel like a goof, after all.

I’ve met exactly one American president. He wasn’t president at the time but he was pretty darned famous. I was a guest at a party at the Mar-a-Lago beach club and found myself standing alongside Donald Trump. At the time, the idea of Trump running for president was just comedic speculation so there was no Secret Service detail cordoning him off. The music was loud but The Donald and I spoke. What was he like? I’m going to be politic here. He was exactly as advertised. 

I was at an art gallery event when I was introduced to Ted Danson. He was at the height of his Cheers fame and I was biggest fan. I remember shaking his hand, desperately conjuring what I could say past, “I’m your biggest fan”. I must have landed on something decent. We chatted at length and he told me a story about how he came to know one of his oldest friends. His family moved to Arizona when he was just a kid. As he stepped out of the family car in front of his new home, a boy his age came up to him and said, “Wanna play?” He told me that they’d been best buds since that moment. 

“I’m your biggest fan!”

Years ago, I’m standing on Rodeo Drive about to go play the sticker shock game of browsing the boutiques. I have only Canadian coins and the parking metre doesn’t recognize them. A woman is walking toward me. I hold up a US $5 bill and ask for change. The woman starts fishing around in her purse. I blather on about the currency problem. The woman looks up from her open purse, and says,“Oh, that accent! You’re Canadian! Where are you from?” 

It’s at this moment that I realize the woman fishing in her purse is Shirley MacLaine.

In my heavily accented Canadian, I splutter, “I’m from Vancouver.  

“Vancouver!? You must know Jack Webster!”  

By the time this exchange is over, Shirley MacLaine is plugging my metre with coins and telling me to be sure to say ‘hi’ to Jack.

The truest thing about these stories is that, whereas I’ve trotted them out again and again, we can be sure that neither Clint, Donald, Ted nor Shirley ever thought of them again.  Nevertheless, I think of them.

Especially the Ted Danson one.

Yeah, especially Ted.

This week’s question for readers:


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Submissions to last week’s question:

What are your stories from DIY land? Successes? Failures? Fiascos?

I can’t imagine taking on the challenge of re-plating copper pots!  Over the years I’ve learned to be cautious when I hear that little voice say, “ But how hard could it be….” .  Ignoring that has led me to replacing the shakes along the roof ridge, re-blacking the driveway, repainting the bottom of the pool, reupholstering the chesterfield, driving across Canada with three kids and a dog, and similar fetes of bravado.  My most dangerous undertaking (unbeknownst at the time) was replacing the ratty rec room rug with a wall to wall patchwork quilt of rug samples.  These were installed using contact cement in an unventilated downstairs room next to the furnace pilot light!  We should have been blown to pieces!  It makes me think WorkPlace BC should adopt the motto from Lotto BC.  “Know Your Limit and Play Within It”!

June Macdonald

In the fall of 1996, I stood in several inches of water in the basement of the Art Moderne house I had just made an offer on. The real estate agent, standing high and dry on the first step, asked me if I was sure. I said “I don’t see anything here I can’t fix”. Fast forward to 2023 and everything, from basement to roof, inside and out, is renewed, renovated or restored and we are getting ready to pass it on to its 3rd owner. It was a fantastic experience!

Mark Levey

In 1973 my young wife and I bought a one-acre lot in Squamish.  We then decided that I should take leave from teaching to build a house.  This decision to build was a significant act of hubris on my part, and of unjustified faith on my wife’s; my previous building experience consisted of constructing a dog house, which ended up pleasing the dog more than the eye. After a year of mashed thumbs and a lot of learning, we moved into the home where we raised two daughters, and in which we still live fifty years later.

Rick Price

My father was the consummate jack-of-all-trades. Even his name was Jack (not John). He was an electrical engineer by profession but his hands were constantly in the dirt. It seemed that no home repair was too daunting. As a young man he renovated our homes doing all the building, wiring, and plumbing. As a little girl I remember him saying that he could fix almost anything “unless it was plastic”. Washers/dryers were his specialty. I have photos of him on the roof replacing shingles, on ladders washing windows or trimming tree limbs, in the garden digging out Douglas fir stumps. His work was not perfect, but ”functional” he would say. Some repairs might not meet everyone’s standards but his immortal words were, “if it bothers you, don’t look at it”. He was called upon by neighbours and friends until his 94thyear. He had a stroke while working: cutting the lawn.

Bette Cosar

After 45 years mowing lawns with a hand mower, in 2000 I bought my first power mower for the cabin (I kept using the hand mower at home). By 2016 I had most of the rocks in the meadow shaved down so I could mow over them without a loud ”Klang!” But then the handle broke. I bought a new one,  pricey at $95: it had to be special-ordered for that old mower. In 2017 the motor self-destructed. The repair person in the nearest town said it was dead and sold me a new one. I stored the 2000 model behind the shed, awaiting disposal. In 2021 a freak wind storm blew two giant cottonwoods down on my shed, smashing the new mower. I took it home to repair, and brought along the 2000 model for disposal. After fixing the 2017 model, I noticed the 2000 model looking forlorn. I poured in a bit of fresh gasoline, pulled the crank, and darned if it didn’t cough out a cloud of black smoke! With a bit of tinkering—and the help of a friend—the 23 year old lawnmower is purring like a kitten! Now I have one for home and one for the cabin.

Lee E. Harding

I figure I can at least attempt any repair before I surrender to the so-called experts.  It often costs little to try and it’s educating.  It’s a shame high schools don’t teach Shop the way they used to.  Domestic skills are essential in life for everyone.

A. Arnott

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