Day 243 - Craig (1st person I approached)
August 31, 2014 - Craig was sitting outside a local hardware store when I approached him. He had a bicycle tire inner tube in his hand and a pair of riding gloves. He told me he would have loved to chat but that he was running a quick errand and then going off to meet someone. I thanked him, and was about to turn away when he said,
"You know what, let’s do this, it sounds really great. I’ve got time.” I let him know that I would also want to take his picture, which he was fine with. I said I’d show him my Facebook page, and he told me not to bother
“You seem like a nice guy, it's okay. I trust you.” Read me like a book!
Craig was born in Leamington, Ontario (widely known as the tomato capital of Canada).
“I’m the youngest of three boys. My oldest brother is six years older and then the next brother is three years older. We’ve always been very close. Best friends for life. For sure we used to beat the shit out of one another as kids, yeah. That’s what brothers do. But I always won. I was the taller than both of them,” he says, matter-of-factly. Craig did all of his schooling in Leamington until he was fifteen years old.
“My (middle) brother was manic depressive. He had a pretty tough time. I wouldn’t let other kids tease him, and I got into a lot of fights protecting him. I had my own stuff, but I wasn’t going to let other kids bad mouth him and call him names, especially when he wasn’t there. This one day, after sticking up for him about seven or eight times, one kid said one thing too many. I grabbed his coat off of him and laid into the guy pretty good. I just beat the shit out of him. It was a cumulation of that day, the previous things and all the other times that I fought for my brother,” said Craig.
“I went home that night and told my father I couldn’t do this anymore. My mother is bipolar so my Dad knew what I was going through. May 24, 1998 was the day my life changed.” Craig’s oldest brother had been involved with the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP). Initially started as a program for ‘troubled’ youth, it is a school-to-work transition program. (*Fact Check - see link below.)
“My brother went through OYAP in the tool and die sector. I applied to go in for the Culinary Arts. I had my interview and got accepted. That was May 24, 1998. Truly, my life changed that day,” said Craig.
“My parents were going to drive me everyday, it was in Windsor (an hour away). But a family friend knew of a dormitory-type place that had accommodations. So I stayed there. It was scary at first, but there was also a sense of freedom. I could do my own thing,” Craig said.
“The OYAP allowed me to have my main focus on Culinary Arts. At the same time I attended classes for Math and English, so I was able to finish high-school. I was in that program for three years, and then I went to St Clair College in Chatham for a year to get my diploma. It’s like a Community College,” he said. During one of his summer breaks, Craig got a job working in the kitchen at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel.
“I worked there for three months, cooking. After I completed my diploma at St Clair College, I worked in a couple of other restaurants, constantly learning as I went along. I wanted to open my own place, and spent about seven months working on that, but it never quite came together,” he said.
"I met a girl and we started dating. She was from Georgia, in the States (USA). We had been dating for about a year and a half, and when I was twenty-one, we got married. We moved to Banff and I started working at the Banff Springs Hotel again,” he said.
“We did that for about eighteen months and during that time, because my wife was an American citizen, she couldn’t work. We were going through the steps to get her papers in order. It was tough, because she couldn’t do much. She was getting restless and we had talked about moving to Calgary or back to Ontario. But then we decided on Vancouver. On February 19, 2008, another milestone date, we packed up a UHaul (trailer) and drove here to Vancouver. We had limited cash, no jobs and didn’t know anyone. Sometimes you’ve just got to do things. Take a risk, and see what happens. It's better than not doing anything.”
Their relationship continued to deteriorate, until his wife got everything sorted out.
“She went to school and found her freedom. I got a job working at (a five star french restaurant) as a junior Sous Chef. That made things worse. I was working fifty and sixty hours a week, she was going to school and we didn’t see much of each other. We talked and talked and one day, I just came home and told her ‘Look, we’re not happy. The isn’t working out. You should do your own thing. You need to be happy and so do I.' We had spent two years by then trying to make things work. We separated. She still lives here in Vancouver and we’re still the best of friends. Divorced, but still the best of friends,” he said.
Craig has been working at the same french restaurant for five and half years now.
“I was offered another opportunity to work elsewhere. It would have been a step-up, but it would have meant I’d spend more time doing paperwork, ordering and administration stuff, not as much time cooking. I didn’t want to do that. It’s the cooking that I love, so I turned it down,” he said.
"I’m a rational kind of thinker. My tire on my bike blew out yesterday. I’m getting it fixed today. That’s just how I do things. Other people might wait a while, or put it off for the rest of the season. I like to get things done.” #notastranger
*Fact Check - OYAP - http://bit.ly/1lrZOaw