Friends are forever, now go make some breakfast

I’ve been home, not working, for about a year now and to be quite honest I prefer the discipline of getting up every morning and going to work. It has not been a complete lost however as I have been doing more and more around the house, writing on my blog and learning to cook dishes that do not include chicken. I try to get a little bit of house work done every day so when the weekend comes it about the grand children or just rest and relaxation. The grand kids visit and stay overnight just about every other week. We really look forward to the visits.

On the weekends when the kids do not come to our house, life gets to be quite interesting.  We are often lost as to what to do with our free time. We are not shoppers and Jo is a busy body but getting me to do things with her especially in the winter is no easy task. Also I find the more she hangs out with me on the off weekends, no kids, she too becomes a bit of a couch potato.  Santa gave her a Kobo for Christmas and she is going through the books like candy.

Do you know if someone (me) can learn to be a busy body?

Last weekend the kids stayed at home so we had to entertain each other. On Saturday morning when I came downstairs Jo was making coffee so I sat on the couch facing the window and soaked up some vitamin D. In the winter time lots of Canadians suffer from Vitamin D deficiency. At this time of year the sun is really far south (Calgary is really north) so the rays enter the house at a great angle for sun bathing. The house gets really hot; some of the house plants have actually withered away. 

Jo soon joined me in a rocking chair about 12 feet away. I was expecting her to make breakfast; instead she just sat there and made a comment about how wonderful life is. Of course it is, she has nothing to do and the house is clean.

I was thinking ‘woman go make breakfast’. Yea I am a tough guy.  She in now in Kobo land and my mind drifted to my buddy Atkin.

During the week Atkin and I would get together on FB and chat. He has incredible recall about our young days. It amazes me how easy it was for us to get back into the Village spirit after not seeing each other for over 40 years.  Atkin was a police back then and he took great pleasure of keeping the young Village guys in check. He told me he wore a gun back then but I don’t remember that, else I would not have teased him.

We would say to him ‘corpy bum stink’ and run, remember that? Of course he would try to chase us down but he was too slow, if you have FB go to his page and look at his spindly legs.

The last time I remember seeing him was in Anguilla back in the late 60’s. Recently he sent me a picture of his wedding day in December 1970 as proof that we saw each other after that. I am not in the picture but my best friend Junior is. What was he actually trying to tell me? Now, why would I remember his wedding, he did not invite me. Recently he told me it was because he didn’t like me that much. Nice guy.

Atkin, married his childhood sweetheart.  In my early teens, I liked his wife’s sister, but he thought he was in charge of her and would chase me away whenever I wanted to see my girl. Those of you who know his wife may remember that she lived at the end of an alley up Millionaire Street. Courting for me meant standing by her fence, she would stand by the window on the second floor and we would chat for a few minutes, Romeo and Juliet like. I never got any closer. Of course anyone in listening distance would hear the conversation.

If we missed the few minutes of courtship it could mean 2 or 3 days of waiting for the next opportunity. Her mom went to church on certain nights and those would be our nights we would ‘meet’ when Atkin was not hogging the space. I remember one night, it was not a church night for her mom,  I was moving down the alley in the dark toward their gate. As I got closer I could hear Atkin’s voice, he was chatting with his wife to be, I did not want him to see me. Remember what I said earlier, I was always running from him. I got close to the fence lining the alley and inched my way down. I could see my girlfriend shadow in the window so I waited. A car went by and I think Atkin must have seen me hugging the fence. He shouted, ‘is that you Tony hiding by the fence?’ He is a big man with a big voice. I think everyone in the Village heard him including my friend’s mom.

Ok one for him, I still have not forgotten buddy. Every dog has his day, or something dumb like that.

He is getting old so he goes to bed early. I think whenever he gets sleepy he would ‘remind’ me to go cook for Jo, we are 3 times zones away from each other and he uses my cooking as his exit.  He says, ‘I have to go downstairs for something’, every time.

That’s another thing, Jo gets her hot meals every weekday as soon as she gets home. So why wouldn’t I expect breakfast on a Saturday morning. Don’t you think I deserve that?

Jo and I both wear glasses but on Saturday we were without them. From 12 feet across the room we can barely see each other’s face clearly, but I know we were both glimpsing at each other to see who was going to move first. After a while I asked her, ‘aren’t you going to get something to eat?’ and she replied ‘no ill just drink my coffee and enjoy the KOBO’.  I knew she was bluffing. She wanted me to get up.

I am a couch potato, I could have sat there all day, so I dug in for the long haul.  I started thinking about my meeting with Gary earlier in the week.

I don’t know too many Kittitians in Calgary. I met a guy Dave when I first started going on Facebook and we have stayed in touch. He is a preacher. He tells me that there are other Kittitians around but I have never met any. I was told that my brother’s wife sister lives here, but I can’t find her and they are not in touch. Today I actually got reconnected with Russell, he has been here in Calgary for some time and he knows of another Kittitian that also lives here.  Things are looking up.

When a Kittitian friend shows up in Calgary it’s a big treat. Gary and I met at a restaurant in downtown; he lives in BC and was here for business. Today I am digressing a lot. When I was young, greeting a friend was touching your fists or doing some kind of silly hand slapping. If your friend was a girl you would wish for a good body hug but getting one was rare. My wife Jo is a hugger, damn she hugs total strangers and if they let her she would kiss them also, she says it’s a French thing. So I had to get use to hugging. I am really good at it know.

Gary is a lot taller than me so I was thinking high five. Gary is thinking hug, I forget that he had been in Canada for a while also and I believe he lived in hug county, Montreal. So we did it, a big fat hug, my face is buried in his chest, haha, silly stuff, I know what Atkin is thinking.

We were seated quite close to the kitchen and at first I was going to protest but as it turned out it was a great place, all the waitresses went by at least 30 times.

Our evening started at around 7pm and ended at 11:30, I would say we spent around 3 minutes talking about our life post 1971. We reminisce, we laughed, yes we probably talked about you, all in good fun. One of the waitresses came by to ask which one of us laughed so heartily. I have a dry laugh, like this, ‘ha ha’. Gary, he enjoys laughing. What a night.

It’s amazing how much he remembered about the late 60’s and early 70’s. He remembers everyone.  He even talked about my parents. I left home soon after my 18th birthday, was never really a man around my dad. Gary was able to fill in some blanks for me. He was totally amazed that I was able to get over my stutter, which took a lot of practise on my part.

As we were parting we hugged again and agreed to visit each other, soon.

When my family first came out to Calgary, we had lots of visitors from the east and overseas. In the first 3 years I missed my family so much, I made at least two trips back to Toronto annually. Would you believe it’s cheaper to fly from Toronto to St Kitts than it is to fly from Calgary to Toronto?

Moving to Toronto from St Kitts in 1971 was a lot harder than Toronto to Calgary because of the no Canadian Experience thingy, but over a short period of time I was able to find lots of friends from back home. It’s not so easy here.  There is no ‘club’ for Calgary Kittitians to go to meet each other, but it is getting better.

Back to my dilemma, an hour had passed and I was still sitting there on the couch, the sun had disappeared and Jo was on the rocker, reading.  I was getting hungry. 

I gave in, I said, ‘I’m going to make breakfast, do you want anything?

Jo, ‘yes please, how about eggs and vegetables scrambled with cheese.’

What a sucker I am.

The only Kittitian Couch Potato in Calgary.

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Ok maybe my next gig is the BIG one.

In 1995 my world seemed to stop dead in its tracks, work wise. I found myself looking for work to meet my short term needs, while at the same time attempting to get a new business off the ground. I had been around the track a few times now and felt that I was ready to fly on my own. As you know I had been designing software application for some time and had the blue print for an innovative software application.  I just needed someone who had the right skills or deep pockets to help me make it a reality.

I soon realized that I did not have the resources to pay a programmer with the specialized skills that was needed; the bank does not make loans for software development, ditto or the federal development bank. Software development generally has some financier with deep pockets.  I was going to have to settle for a partner.

Then Dave walked into my life. He was dating one of Jo’s friends.  One day we invited them over for some bubblies, we got along and things took off from there.

Dave and I would meet at his house in the beaches area of Toronto. Sometimes we would walk along the beach with pen and paper and draw lots of pictures. What we were working on was a state of the arts CRM solution that was designed to change as the user fed it data. Revolutionary. There is still nothing on the market quite like it. Today there are many really good CRM solutions available and most are quite affordable.

My job was to find companies, early adopters that would be willing to work with us during development.

Back then you would have had to spend a king’s ransom to purchase a laptop computer that I needed to travel to prospect office and demo the solution. I would walk about with a very heavy desktop computer with monitor and a cell phone that looked like a walkie- talkie. I could still feel the pain. I hit the road for a few weeks and was able to convince Eveready Canada to work with us.

Dave was an experienced programmer. I was adequate in RPG programming but we needed a language that would adapt easily to PC’s, so we choose Visual Basic.

A couple months went by with no end in sight, we were actually going backwards. Software development is very difficult. We would visit the client every two weeks to show our progress, mostly vapourware.

I would visit Dave every two days to make sure everything was going great. Normally I would call first and let him know I was on my way, but this day he was not answering the phone so I went to his house. He was not answering the door. I went back three days in a row, still no answer. I was panicking. I asked Jo’s friend if she knew where he was.  She had broken up with him a couple months ago. No one tells me anything. She gave me his sister’s phone number.

Dave was having one of his mental breakdowns and was in the hospital. Apparently this was nothing new for him. Like I said no one tells me anything.

I contacted the client; told them there would be a delay, no problem.

Three weeks later Dave told me his doctor advised him to take a long rest and he was not able to continue.

Ok Houston we have a problem.

I knew I was not able to continue the project as it was designed; I am not that smart, technically, so I contacted the client and levelled with them. I told them it was going to take a while. They told me when it was complete give them a call. I knew it was over.

I was unemployed and had nothing to look forward to.

What would you do?  I didn’t know either, so I cried a lot. I remember sitting on my car in the driveway one day and bawling uncontrollably. No one could see me, there was a big tree that hanged over the car, good thing too.  What to do, what to do. I was so close to my dream. Jo was working so I had a couple of months before I had to commit suicide. Haha joking, stupid thing to say.

Remember at the beginning we had done a prototype? Sorry that was the last blog post. Microsoft had released a cheap, actually it was free, database application called Access around the same time, which we had used for the prototype. Well I dusted it off and started wondering if it had potential. I did lot of research. Found out you can pretty much do anything with it if you can program in Access Basic, a version of Visual Basic.

I bought some manuals and spent all day and night reading. I started messing around with it. Wow, you have no idea what it feels like when you get a program to do what you want.  I imagine it feels a lot like marijuana, the way people describe it to me, of course.

Around the same time we had a nanny for the kids. We did not need her anymore as I was home all the time. My youngest son was with me until noon then I would drive him to pre-school. Life could not be better.

I had modified the design quite a bit. My focus now was mostly developing an application for central Help Desk. That was another new thing back then. Automated help desk solutions. One of the big features; I was able to get the application to print formatted reports like Quotes in MS Word and output data to Excel for analysis. WOW, at the time this was leading edge.

Microsoft also had a free product called FrontPage that allowed idiots like me to easily create a web site. Mine was www.icsstats.com, get it?  ‘Stats’ from the help desk, the ICS (innovative customer service) don’t go looking someone else now owns it now. I allowed the domain name to lapse. I didn’t think someone would want it.  Anyway, I was close to finishing my application so I started marketing.  

I am actually good at marketing and selling software.

I taught my son to file the business cards I was gathering in alphabetical order. He did a great job, mostly I had to go through all of them every time I needed one. He was my assistant. Today he is a whiz with the computer. Remember ICQ?

Shortly after I started marketing I was able to convince, Cineplex, The Toronto Real Estate Board and The Bank of Nova Scotia-Caribbean support and two US companies to purchase the application. The Americans paid in US$.

I was on a roll. The application worked.

Wondering if I got rich, right?

The Microsoft Access v2 was not good at managing record locking that allowed for many users doing the same things at the same time.  I found that out very quickly. The Toronto Real Estate Board had 10 users.  Even the others with 3 or 4 users had some record locking issues.

The solution?  Upgrade the database to Microsoft SQL. I was tired though. I guess I could have hired a programmer to move the application. Back in the 90’s a SQL resource was very expensive. Outsourcing to China and India was not on the radar. Also I needed to get paid. I actually did it myself, then found out that I had to rewrite the programs. I did that also. That took me almost a year, part time

I was suffering financially, so I took a contract job with another software developer, that way I was able to continue supporting the customers. The company had a ERP solution is the mid market space. At night I would work on integrating parts of my application with their solution.  

After a couple of months I approached the software vendor with my ideas of the integration. They liked it. Our first client was a company in Toronto that specialized on Event Staging. I tried to make a deal with the software company to license my portion of the application. They were not interested. I approached the client with the same idea. He could not justify it for his business.  I was really tired.

Today the company is still using ‘my’ software to run its business. After I installed the application I stayed there for 5 years supporting it before we moved to Calgary. While working there, sometimes I would stand in the hallway and look at all the users banging away at the software and being very productive. I felt very pleased. The owner always said the software gave him a competitive advantage.

The absolute best part though was being able to get my oldest daughter a job with the company. She is doing really great. Remember Poppy from an earlier blog?  If you need a stage a large event, email me, I will put you in touch with her.

A couple months ago, I destroyed the disks the software was stored on. I am now ready to move on to my next adventure.

There is still a big idea software application in me waiting to come out. If you know anyone with deep pockets I have some new ideas.

The only Kittitian Couch potato in Calgary.

PS, this was a bit of a resume, in case you did not get it.

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All I ever wanted was to be a businessman.

When I started my blog, as the name suggest, my plan was to build a chronology of my life experiences on how I got to be where I am in life. I don’t think my story is ‘special’ but I think it is worth telling. My plan was to start as far back as possible growing up in St Kitts and then my years in Canada. Once I got caught up I would then write about my daily experience and current affairs. Well that’s not the way it is going. I am not very organized so when I start I write about what’s on my mind at the moment.

It all started about eighteen months ago when I found myself sitting at my desk with nothing to do so I started posting my thoughts of FB. I was trying not to go senile. 

Writing and having people read it was a humbling experience, although I was accustomed to writing business documents, mostly ‘cut and paste’. Once I got past that initial toe in the water thing, I stared expressing myself more and liking it. Then my kids started reading and I saw it as a way to talk to them and teach them about their heritage.

That’s when some folks started encouraging me to write a book, I can’t even get my mind there.  I think to write a book I would have to return to St Kitts and reacquaint myself with the culture.

I like reflecting about my early days in St Kitts. I get emails from strangers who like to go along with me for the ride. I also get emails from others saying I am inspiring them to start writing. There is also a third group that says I inspire them in their career.

I call it food for the soul.

Last night I could not sleep, kept thinking about my past. Actually I kept waking up startled and would look around for the boogie man, nothing. I think my snoring was waking me up. Anyway while I was up I kept thinking about the way my dad ran his life.

I became aware of my dad in a business sense at around 5 years of age. His daily activities were pretty much the same. He got up and opened the shop on Cardin Ave around 7am. My mom would attend to us, getting  us ready and sending us off to school. When she was finished she would take over in the shop and he would leave to travel to the country to trade.  He would return in time for his afternoon siesta.

At around 4pm my dad would return to the shop and stay there until closing at 9pm. That was a normal day for him.

As I got older, I remember he built a two room house in the back of the property, moved us in there and upgraded the main house. I don’t recall him having a conversation with us. It just happened.

Then a couple years later, he upgraded the house on Millionaire Street, which he had bought earlier. I don’t recall when exactly, he then moved us in there for about a year, so he can upgrade the house on Cardin Avenue into its current state. It just happened.

He also bought the house across from the Millionaire Street house and rented it. It just happened. I didn’t even know he owned that house until years later.

You may get the impression that he was a quiet man, he was very stern, ran a tight ship, just very smoothly.  I don’t know too many people who were not afraid of him.

As I got older he taught me to manage his paper business, I would process the imports, go to the customs and clear his goods, count his money, that was the best part. I was very quick with math. He would sometimes make a bet with his friends that I could add 3 or 4 six digits numbers in my head faster than they could do it on paper. He was right. Add, subtract, multiply, divide, I was the man. I know what you are thinking, ‘you must be a math major’, right? Wrong. Give me a problem like a train is travelling at 10 miles an hour, how long it will take to get to Sandy Point from Basseterre; I would go, ‘huh’.

At night after a long day my dad would let ‘his world’ know how his day went.  He would be drinking, the entire village could hear him. Part of the mystery, I guess. He would talk about himself like he was talking about someone else. He had several names that he called that person, included C.O.C, his initials. He would repeat how he came to St Kitts and struggled to build a good business.

To me it was a like a fairy tale. I did not experience his struggles. I saw him calmly manage his affairs effortlessly.

He had dreams of his sons joining him and the Carters becoming the biggest grocer on the Island. I can only speak for myself, I am sure my siblings all have their reason for leaving home, but what I saw was very long hours of serving at a counter. I saw the other store keepers in the City, the big stores, where the owners did the same thing, they were always present. I would walk by Astaphan or Coury or Kawaja store and the owners were always managing things. That’s the nature of retail (cash) business.

 Wish I knew about franchising back then.

My reason for recapping that is to give you an idea of the environment I grew up in. We inherit some our parent’s habits, good and bad. As I said, my dad was Mr Cool in his management style and my mom worked like a dog. I inherited a lot of my dad demeanour. Some habits I avoided but others are just embedded into my gene and run my life.

One of my life’s drivers is the dream to own my own business. There was never a time in my life that I have not wanted that, still do.  In was not until the mid 80’s that I did something about it.

Let me bring you up to date where I was from my last ‘journey’ blog.  I had just gotten a job with an IBM business partner close to where we lived.  Do you know anything about astrology or numerology? Well I don’t really but when I went for the interview that was what came to mind. Check out these coincidences.

The manager’s name was Hamilton that was my grandmother maiden name. He was from Ottawa; she lived there when she was a teenager, back in the very early 1900’s. We had the interview on the Caribana Saturday, our last three kids were born 9 months after Caribana weekend all in the same week.  See, I just had to get that job.  Little bit of Tony humour.

You are probably wondering how I knew all these facts about my boss.  My interview style is to interview the interviewer. I take control.

The company sold a Logistic and Financial software package to small and medium size companies. My initial job was to ‘Canadianize’ the software. Canadian businesses that had US customers had to deal in two currencies and had to deal with a different tax system. When I took the job, I was thinking piece of cake. The task proved to be quite a challenge, for example the order entry program was 185 pages long.

One of my responsibilities included meeting new prospects and demonstrating the functions of the applications. I enjoyed that part. When we did get some customers, I had to modify the software to ‘fit’ the client’s unique requirements and then train the users. We were quite small at the time.

 As time went on and we got more sales I would supervise the programmers and trainers. I worked there for six years and even had tenure as the controller.

I think most people would be quite pleased with a job like that. Not me. I wanted to be like my dad. Mr Cool, wanted my own business, seems so simple.

We stared a tax business, Jo and I, then a book keeping business. It was hard to do after ‘work’.  You may remember Jo was home with the kids. When our last son went to school she went to work. I hired her.

My brother in law and I started a graphics and printing business. Again it was work after work.  The IT manager at one of my customers had inherited a whole lot of money from his mom. He wanted to start a business. He thought I would be a good partner. We opened a shop in Niagara Falls selling T-shirts. My brother in law printed the designs on the shirts. We were the supplier and retailer. Again work after work for me. My new partner had quit his job and was managing the store during the day. I would drive from Toronto to Niagara Falls at night to help. A few times when I got there he was not there. We kept getting in trouble with the mall managers.

A little sidetrack; one night after we closed the store, we decided to cross the border into Buffalo to go drinking. This bar had a weekly 50c beer and wings night. We had done this before. This was back in the late 80’s when crossing the border was not a big deal.  As I got to the US border guard, I realize I did not have my wallet, no ID.

 Simple right? Just turn back.

I had no ID and I could not get back into Canada either. So I got arrested, alien. A few hours later, the guards changed and this lady came in to question me. The first question she asked was ‘what is the name of the airport I arrived at’. Trick question, is what I was thinking.  The name of the airport is Pearson International. When I arrived from St Kitts it was called Toronto International. Only someone telling the truth would know that, she said.  She let me go, getting home was another problem.

This Niagara Falls venture lasted a year or so and did not end on a good note.  We also ended the printing business. Work after work is very difficult. I have 4 kids.

It was around year six with the Software Company that I lost my job. The big guy said I was not good at communicating. We had grown into quite a big company; I was getting swallowed up in the bureaucracy.  We had developed a software package which I played a major role in.  The software was sold to very large companies.

I just was unable to go there, mentally. My biggest asset is my ability to create business software. I understand business processes and able to translate that into automated solutions. I was lousy at internal politics.

During my last year I was writing a monthly newsletter (I had an editor) which we distributed to Owners, CEO and CFO in the corporate community. I would write about a paradigm shift in the way companies gather data, new ways to manage sales force and mobile computing; this was in the early 1990’s. My readers would actually come to the company showcase events to see this ‘new way’.

But I wanted to own my own business.

I was armed with a lot of experience, took some consulting positions while trying to figure out what to do. Then I met this guy, finally someone who understood what I was talking about, I had some unique ideas and he had the programming skills to make it happen. We met often and chatted about my ideas. We were on the same wave length.

We registered a corporation. Developed a prototype; just enough to be able to communicate my idea to prospective clients and before he quit his job, I went knocking on doors. Remember that newsletter? When I called the people I was sending the newsletter to, they recognize me. Life could not be any easier.

The only Kittitian Couch Potato in Calgary.

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