Day 234 - Jeff (1st person I approached)
August 22, 2014 - Jeff was picking cherry tomatoes from his community garden plot when I approached him. He readily agreed to chat with me, with a slight caveat.
“It can’t take too long, ‘cause my dog is at home and she’s not very well. She has explosive diarrhea so I don’t want to leave her too long,” he said, somewhat hesitantly. I’m sure that wouldn’t be pleasant for anyone involved, including Olive the one-eyed Dachshund, so I suggested Jeff keep doing what he needed to do while we chatted. And even though Jeff isn’t on Facebook, I assured him I wouldn’t make up anything about him.
He is the middle child of three boys.
“My father was a pilot in the Canadian Airforce, so we moved every two or three years. My mother refused to live on base which meant we didn’t go to school with other military kids. It seemed to throw some of the kids off; they couldn’t figure out why we weren’t going to school on base. And at every new school, especially in the smaller towns we lived in, everyone knew we were the ‘new’ kids,” said Jeff.
“It was easier as a young kid, but in high-school it felt more and more awkward,” he said. Jeff doesn’t remember when he started listing to alternative music, but he’s never been a fan of top forty hits.
“When I was in Grade 13, I would hang around with the kids in Grade ten. They were easier to get along with. I probably got introduced to some of the music I listened to by them. The Cure, The Smiths, I wore black whenever I could. My father being old-school military didn’t care for it much though,” he told me. Jeff wasn’t one of the black trench coat kids, he was one of the cooler, ‘alternative’ kids. He wasn’t that interested in sports either, but ended up playing rugby.
“I guess because I was a bigger guy people figured I naturally played sports. I was asked to join in a rugby game, and I actually enjoyed it. It had less rules than football, and was about playing a game, not being bound by a bunch of rules.”
After completing high-school, Jeff made his way to Algonquin College in Ottawa, Ontario to study Architectural Technology.
“I had always been interested in architecture from an early age. I think in part because of moving around as a child, we always lived in newer houses in new subdivisions or complexes. Seeing the different influences and design types across the country as well. Architectural Technology is like an Architect's support network. Just as the doctors in a hospital have nurses to support them, the architects have Technologists. Once again, it was an isolating situation. It was a new program and not everyone understood the role,” said Jeff. He completed the three year program, and then Jeff got a job working with an Architectural firm in Toronto.
“I was there for six years, working out the specs and doing the first rough drawings. The prep work. I attended classes in the evening where I was assigned to an Architect that would mentor students through the actual real-world work that they were doing. It was a great hands-on environment and learning. It was supported completely by volunteers. They were truly invested in providing a great experience for the students,” he said.
Jeff’s brother had gotten into computer generated effects (CG) for television here in Vancouver.
“I had always wanted to live in British Columbia (BC) and at that time, the industry was crying out for anyone who could work with the CG software. It was a three month course, which I did while still in Toronto. I moved out here to Vancouver and got a job working in television CG effects. I did that for a few of years. Then the gaming industry started to expand here. I shifted into games and have worked for a few companies but have been in CG effects in gaming for almost twenty years now,” said Jeff.
He has been married for eight years, and his wife is a teacher.
“It’s an interesting time in our house right now with my wife being a teacher. (*See footnote.) We don’t have any children. I mean, my wife has twenty-four children all week long. Neither of us have an extended family here, which makes it a tough city to raise a family in. We have Olive our dog. She was born without a large tear-duct in one eye. She had to have that eye removed when she was one and a half years old. We sometimes call her ‘Zoolander.’ If you call her name, she only turns to the right because of having only one eye. So she will turn 270 degrees to the right instead of ninety degrees to the left,” said Jeff. Amazing how animals adapt was all I could think.
They’ve had the community garden plot for three years.
“This garden was built four years ago. We missed out on the first year, and there was a waiting list. I like to cook a lot. I’ve taken many cooking classes, it’s kind of my thing I like to do. My wife and I aren’t really big on eating processed food. There’s nothing better than cooking with your own food that you’ve grown,” said Jeff.
“It’s great having this here.”
I asked if any of the things they grew had gotten taken by other people.
“All the time,” he says, looking up to the sky. “It’s something I’m working on for myself. My wife is much calmer about it than I am. But I’m getting better. It’s not just that the produce gets taken, it’s that the garden gets ruined in the process. If someone wants to come by and pick tomatoes and take them, then so be it. But it’s usually the plant that gets ripped right out. Things get trashed. Last year I had this wonderful chilli plant. It was about so big (using his hands to demonstrate, it would have been about the size of a large restaurant soup pot), and the chilli’s were about that (four inches) big. It was so close. Then one day we come down here and every single chilli was half broken off, and the remainder squished on the plant. Anyway. Maybe we should plant more than we need to allow for that. It’s still wonderful to be able to harvest our own vegetables,” he said.
I thanked Jeff for taking the time to chat with me and said that I hoped when he got home that Olive wouldn't have ‘redecorated’ their home.
“Oh, it should be okay. I’m still within the two hour window of time that she seems to be able to cope with.” Fingers crossed. #notastranger
*Footnote: Teachers in BC went on strike three weeks before the summer break, and it is yet to be determined if they will reach a settlement in time for the new school year to begin.