Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Coming of Age: A Novel by Slim Fairview , Sample Chapters.



Slim Fairview


Québec is a city in the Province of Québec in Canada. It is a walled city. Québec was built at the top of the steep cliffs rising from the St. Lawrence River. It was once a fort. When Québec was a fort, Canada was only a part of what was once known as the New World.

On the plains above the cliffs, the Plains of Abraham, overlooking the St. Lawrence, outside the walls of the fort, the British General Wolfe, defeated the French General Montcalm and claimed all of Canada for England.

However, while the French army was defeated, the language was not; the culture was not; and the religion was not. Québec is now two cities. One is Upper Town, Haute-Ville, on the upper banks. The other is the portion of the city huddled on the sliver of land at the foot of the cliffs. Lower Town.—Basse-Ville.

Though the city is no longer a fort, the wall is still intact. Cannons still stand guard along the ramparts. Canons still stand guard along the rampart. However, the city has grown both in size and in population. It now extends beyond the walls to the St. Charles in the north. To the west, it pushes back the frontier; it abuts the unknown. Its population swells with the arrival of immigrants and with people from the countryside looking for work during hard times. It swells as the heart swells with tired blood; and, as with the heart, it pumps the people, the lifeblood of the New World, out again, into the body of land that will become a nation.

It is a Catholic city. Its sections proudly bear such names as St. John Ward, St. Lewis Ward. In

St. Sauveur Village, the streets run: St. Michel, St. Augustin, St. George, and on and on.

In Québec, in Upper Town, in winter, the steel blades of the cariole cut effortlessly through the snow. The windows of houses are frosted; warm air in candlelight frozen, glistening in the cold. Through the windows of these many homes, when the frost is wiped away, the snow can be seen glistening.

In Lower Town, Basse-Ville, in winter, on any of the narrow winding streets, there are few if any tracks in the snow made by the runners of a cariole—only many footprints. Along the sides of these streets, the snow is piled high with only a narrow path leading to each doorway. In the evenings as the light fades, the snow turns grey, glistening only beneath the gas lamps. In the snow, the many footprints seem to lead everywhere: to homes, to jobs, and to taverns; and to nowhere.

When the seasons begin to change, the snow disappears, but the temperature at night still drops to very low, dry cold that numbs the senses without chilling the body—that stiffens the outer layer of flesh. Footsteps are crisp echoes trapped inside little boxes; and now, there are millions of unseen footprints—and the cold. A silent waiting death.


Robert Duval stands alone on one of the narrow streets of Québec Upper Town feeling the chill of the evening as it settles into the fibre of his clothes. Lamplighters are beginning their rounds. The crowd of those heading home from work is beginning to thin out.

Robert Duval scrapes the last few flakes of tobacco from a crumpled packet, carefully sprinkles them over the small piece of paper he holds carefully between his grimy, calloused fingers, and with the skill of a surgeon, rolls the paper into a very thin cigarette.

“Damn wind,” he mutters as he huddles close to the grey stone wall of a building to light the cigarette. “I’d better get something out of this.”

He inhales deeply, then sits down on the bottom step of a stoop and pulls a newspaper from his coat pocket. The newspaper is two days old.


Arson Suspected

Robert rereads the story. Long, difficult words he says aloud. Slowly. He goes up there looking for a job when new houses are being built; but there he is told what everyone is told. There is no work.

He thinks about the fire and feels reassured. He is not alone. There are more who feel the way he, Robert Duval, feels. He is so deep in thought that he doesn’t notice the arrival of the man he is waiting to meet:


Robert jumped up. Though he was standing up one step, he still had to look up to look into the chiseled face framed by a shaggy mane of black, curly hair—the face of Tom Priou.

He felt threatened by Tom’s height, broad shoulders, and piercing, coal-black eyes.

“Yes.” was all he could utter.

“I’m here. What do you want?”

Robert looked up and down the street. “Can we go somewhere to talk?”

“About what?”

“I—I want to join.”

“Join what?”

“Your organisation.”

Tom Priou’s face was blank.

“You do have an organisation,” Robert stated, attempting to sound sure of himself; to convince Priou he was worth considering. “Don’t you?”


Robert failed. He felt his stomach sink. He felt like a plod of manure stuck to the heel of Priou’s boot, something about to be scraped off against the curb.

However, as Tom Priou turned to leave, Duval grasped at the sleeve of his coat and blurted, “St. Sauveur Village.”

Priou stopped, turned his head, and started down at Duval.

“What about it?”

Robert felt desperate. He thrust his jaw forward and squared his shoulders. “That organisation.”

Tom knew it was possible for Duval to know that an organisation existed, but not that he was connected. He’d argued with Pierre about this meeting. The election was too close.

“Come. Let’s go where we can talk.”

Robert walked quickly, attempting longer strides and a faster pace to keep abreast of Priou. Up Rue St. John, through the Gate of Hop, Robert watched as they walked, hoping to memorise the directions to a secret hide-away; but the brisk walked ended at an alley. At the end of the alley was a large oak door bearing a sign: Le Baptiste. A tavern.

Inside, Le Baptiste is one large room. Windows to let in light are too high to see though to the outside. In the middle of the room is a large, wood burning stove. Around the stove is a cluster of tables. Around each table is a cluster of men. The bar is to the left—the length of the room. Waiters in leather aprons carry pitchers of ale, loaves of bread, and wedges of cheese to the patrons. The mood of the patrons, unlike the mood of those in the street, is happy. Troubles are left at the door. Here, for a few cents, each man can fill his belly and drown his sorrow. Tom held up two fingers. A waiter nodded. When they found seats at the edge of the crowd, Tom spoke. “Now then, what is all this about an organisation?”

Robert Duval took a deep breath. The beer arrived in time for him to pause, to think, to drink. Tom Priou waited. Finally, Duval spoke.

“I was at La Rouge. I was there with a friend. I heard you talking in the meeting room.”

Tom lit a long, narrow cheroot and puffed. “Was that friend Jean Duffet?”

Robert nodded. He sipped his beer. A mistake, he thought, mentioning Duffet’s name. Still, Tom had to have checked to know, but it was the only way to get Tom’s attention.

“I remember what you said about joining together.”

Tom remembered the speech. A unity speech. He had been trying desperately to gain support from the conservative Catholics while trying desperately to get money from the Anglais

Tom looked at Robert’s large, beefy hands, thick neck, and broad chest. His worn coat was stretched over him. Expensive but worn. Too small. Duffet’s coat.

“There are many organisations; but I am not the leader of some secret society. I was telling the privileged few at La Rouge that divided we cannot stand. It will hurt us all. I am sure you know that better than your good friend Duffet.”

Robert was quiet. He drank. Tom Priou slid a packet of tobacco and some papers across the table. Robert muttered a barely audible ‘merci’.

“Let me buy you another.” Tom signaled the waiter. He could see Robert was visibly shaken. Humiliated. Tom knew that in a moment this would turn to resentment, then to anger, and then boil to the surface. Tom drained his beer. The waiter brought two more. Robert fooled Priou. His response was controlled. Measured.

“I know you have to be careful; but, I can be very useful.”


“The fire in St. Sauveur.”

“What about it?”

“I could have set it.”

“Did you?” Tom knew the answer.

“No, but I could have.”

“Why didn’t you?”

“I was planning it. Someone got to it first.”

Tom was quiet. He could have asked Duval why he didn’t start another. He didn’t.

“That is why organisation is important. The workers can’t do it alone.”

Tom recognised the words from the Manifest of Marx being circulated privately among the students at University.

“And what would you want in exchange for this support you are prepared to offer?”

Duval spoke slowly. “A job. Food. A warm coat.”

“You planned to burn down a house. Why not plan to steal a coat?”

“Would that find me a job?”

Jesuits, Tom thought. “Jobs are hard to find.”

“I know there is an organisation. Are you going to help me or not?”

Tom paused to contemplate Duval’s sincerity and stupidity. Then, he leaned back and laughed. “Salue.” He raised his glass and swallowed up its content. Then he leaned across the table.

“To deny it is useless. You wouldn’t believe me. But to announce it to the world is foolish. It’s how men get killed. I will tell you this much. There are many organisations. Perhaps I can find someone willing to admit it and to put you up for membership; but I can’t make you any promises. I can’t find you a job that does not exist. Jobs are scarce. That is why there are so many organisations. People are busy not working. Be patient. It will take time. Trust me. Tell no one you spoke to me. Not even Jean Duffet.

Outside, Robert Duval stood erect, squared his shoulders, and strolled boldly back the way he came. He passed again through the Gate of Hope; but from there went to the Esplanade, to the Gate of Louis Quatorze, to Rue St. Louis, to D’Ursule, to Rue Ste. Genevieve, to the house of Jean Paul Duffet; but Jean Paul was out. Robert left a message. I was here. I will be home. That was all he wrote; but as he walked away, he hoped it would be enough to get him a decent meal; and with the taste of beer still in his mouth—more to drink. Robert walked across the park, past the Haldimand, and down the hill, braced against the cold wind blowing from the north.

* * *


Copyright © 2011 Slim Fairview

My Comments on the Hiring Process Today #8

It is not a zero sum game and the two are not mutually exclusive.
You run two firms. One is a mold-making firm. One is a consulting firm. For the purposes of this discussion, I apply for a job. One of two ways:

1. I submit a resume, cover letter, etc. I seem to have the qualification for the job. Experience in running machines and for the most part keeping them running. If this is an analogue operation, I need years of experience to develop the skill. If this is a digital operation, I need sufficient knowledge to programme the computer for the machine to produce products to spec. Assume I am qualified for the latter. The HR process "processes me." Evaluates my credential, checks my references, sets up an interview or two (the foreman, the maintenance supervisor) discusses my application, sends me a letter of acceptance, and invites me in for orientation and explains the benefits package to me. Fine. HR did it's job. You have a safe hire.

Plan B.

You and I meet here on Linkedin. (We will assume I live nearby.) I tell you I did this work. (We will assume I did) You invite me in, we chat. You have a problem similar to a problem that had to be solved at a company I worked for. They were bidding a job to manufacture a part that didn't work properly for the customer. Think of a long, triangular tube. Into it, another triangular tube had to slide easily in and out. It didn't. The engineer could not solve the problem. The man with many years of experience showed me the blueprints, the spec sheet, and the proto-type. There was a + or -- .50 degree tolerance. 60 degrees + 60 degrees = 120 degrees. However, 60.50 degrees and 59.50 degrees also = 120 degrees. 60 + 60 produces a part that does not function. 60.50 + 59.50 produces a part that does work. Why? I don't know. I am not an engineer. (I do come from a generation that taught us to say, "I don't know," when we don't know, but that is a social issue.)

Now, why bring this up? I might get a job working as a mold maker in your mold company (If I have some credentials.) if I go through the HR process. I am a safe hire. However, if you and I chat (assuming I am the "other guy") you will hire the better
candidate for the job. HR hires me. You hire the other guy.

HR give you the safe hire. You, management, end up hiring the best employee. Does your HR. person have engineering qualifications? (I am not saying this to disparage your or anyone else's HR dept.) Let HR do the benefits thing, and so on. Hiring, in your profession, requires that you, the foreman, the engineer, the maintenance supervisor (keeping the fancy machines functioning because the safe hires can't and it would definitely be cost prohibitive for you to duplicate skills) interview and decide on the applicants.

My Comments on the Hiring Process Today #7

Post war Japan built a gobal economy through the efforts of people and what we here refer to as cottage industries. (Thomas Edison in Orange, N.J. Microsoft in a friend's garage.) If you subtract the 3% from the 14% call unemployment 11%, project job growth by extrapolating the the growth of small businesses (The backbone of our economy) and don't scorn the informal economy--while it may not provide taxes and limit the ability of the Govt. to "help" people in the informal economy make fewer demands on Govt. services and create less of an economic burden on the Govt.

Improved workplace environments will draw people into the more formal economy and productivity will aid the bottom line.

One thing I remember from my school days is that Argentina's economy is resilient. With productivity, success breeds success and based on your information, Argentina has much to look forward to.

Ultimately, with the global economy gravitating to new opportunities, multi-national is no longer a word triggering fear of losing control, but of different people from different nations gaining control over an increasingly larger and more complex economy.

Good luck to you in Argentina. Thank you for the data. And, not to let Scott feel neglected, while News Channel experts may seem to behave like a dog with a bone, the real problem is that the marketing strategy (read advertising strategy) of news today is like the old communist aphorism about bread and circus. Unfortunately, watching people juggle loaves of bread has replaced eating bread as a national pastime. However, fear not, when the masses get hungry enough, they will turn away from the clowns and back to the bakers.

My Comments on the Hiring Process Today #6

Please allow me to offer a translation of what people here in the States and in other places understood you to have said.

"On the other hand...they might believe that somehow, they are doing what's politically correct."

There are many who believe the term "politically correct" (A term used derisively by the extreme conservatives) is coded language for hiring minorities who are unqualified. It is used here, by some, to disparage minorities.

Case in point: I put up a post here at Linkedin, Understanding Group Norms in the corporate world. It evolved due to the postings by others into the worthy topic of discussing different cultures. Whereas Linkedin is a global meeting place, this will help us to understand how different people around the world feel about different issues.

In another posting, I pointed out that here (US) HR has become a separate "industry within an industry". If HR would be content to limit its responsibilities to employee benefits, workman's comp, compliance with laws and regulations covering employees, ie: OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), discrimination complaints, harassment complaints, etc. while allowing "corporate" to fill leadership positions through a personnel dept. that processed the paperwork and allowed "corporate" to do the interviewing and hiring, the hiring process would be much improved. Corporate leaders would no longer be hiring the safest, but would be hiring those people who are conspicuously qualified to do the job.

The main difference: The Boss hires on the basis of qualifying while HR hires people on the basis of quantifying.

Great to hear from someone from Argentina. After the New York Times came back from its strike back in the late 70's. (Circa 1978), there was an article on the Argentine economy. The first third of the article avoided telling the readers what the article was about, the second third of the article began discussing the Argentine economy, and the last third of the article offered no conclusions. (25% of the article was taken up with a picture of an oil tanker sitting offshore. Not pertinent to the article, but to explain that oil tankers, like the one in the photo, sit idle off the coast of Argentina.)

It had been my understanding that among the many understandings of the Argentine economy, 40--35 years ago, was insufficient capital reinvestment during boom times that would have helped to streamline or upgrade the infrastructure, perhaps reduce debt, and "cover the costs during lean times."

What is the perspective of the corporate leaders in Argentina? (On the economy, not on the quality of the New York Times writers.)

My Comments on the Hiring Process Today #5

The broad topic of hiring begs the question, "Who is hiring whom to do what?"

If the accounting department needs another accountant, presumably, HR looks at applications, the head of accounting conducts interviews, and voila, another young spirit is crushed -- oops -- I mean another young accountant is hired.

I say this because two of my nieces were hired by two "nice" accounting firms. They'd interned (hold that thought) and were hired, and by now they've presumably moved up.

My one niece explained what she does. Interesting stuff but not the stuff of legend. (Anyone remember the Chartered Public Accountant who flew from England to Canada to commandeer a ship and sail it back to jolly old England. What? Answer: Repo-man. I'll bet they're still talking about that.)

Now let's move on to CNN. We all see ratings are dropping. Fox is moving up. The spirited debate is over ideology. CNN is committed to its vision. Fine. But ideology might not be the problem. The problem might simply be format.

Who at CNN is responsible for raising his hand at a meeting to say, "Maybe the reason we are losing viewers has nothing to do with ideology. Maybe it has to do with format."

What might result reminds me of the comic strip where a peace-nik is debating nuclear weapons with a General. The peace-nik uses the analogy of the two of them standing in a room up to their knees in gasoline. Each has a book of matches. The Peace-nik says, "The answer is not more matches." The General replies, "You're right. The answer is bigger match-heads."

While I admit my wife was not surprised to hear that CNN did not renew some of the contracts, (and upset with rumors they did not renew some of the others' contracts), the prognosis is that CNN is simply going with "bigger names". (I also admit to hiding behind a woman's skirt--but that's okay, the woman wearing the skirt is my wife.)

I not only read 4-5 newspapers a day, I also channel surf the cable stations. (They say everything come in threes. That must be true. The big three cable stations seem to run the same three news stories on a nightly basis.)

Now, what is this all about? Who is hiring whom to do what? At some point in time, when things are not going well, it is incumbent on those at the top to seek a fresh perspective. Just, please, don't hire anyone with a mission statement on his resume.

My Comments on the Hiring Process Today #4

If I said, "loyal", you might think I don't agree with you. I do. Therefore, I will describe the talentless as obsequious. Uriah Heep.

It wasn't too long ago, those with ambitions were advised, "Make your boss look good. (That, along with make yourself indispensable.) Then, when he moves up, you move up with him.

Alluding to my topic on group norms in the corporate world, the aforementioned is a cultural norm--corporate culture. Too often a vital one if one does not want someone taking his job away from him.

CAESAR: Let me have men about me that are fat; Sleek-headed men and such as sleep o' nights: Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look; He thinks too much: such men are dangerous.

ANTONY: Fear him not, Caesar; he's not dangerous; He is a noble Roman and well given.

CAESAR: Would he were fatter! But I fear him not: yet if my name were liable to fear,
I do not know the man I should avoid so soon as that spare Cassius. He reads much;
He is a great observer and he looks quite through the deeds of men: he loves no plays,
as thou dost, Antony; he hears no music; seldom he smiles, and smiles in such a sort
as if he mock'd himself and scorn'd his spirit that could be moved to smile at any thing.
Such men as he be never at heart's ease whiles they behold a greater than themselves,
and therefore are they very dangerous. -- Shakespeare

My Comments on the Hiring Process Today #3

I like the insight: Companies keep the good ones (presumably) and the only people available for hire are the unwanted. (I'm not being snarky, but look what happened when Ford fired Lee Iacocca.)

Too many people are not being fast-tracked or, if you prefer, mentored. Think back to your school days. Didn't everyone know who the bright kids were? At recess, didn't everyone know who were the "captains" for soft-ball, kick-ball, etc?

Then again...

"When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him." -- Jonathan Swift

My Comments on the Hiring Process Today #2

Those of you who are internet savvy will no doubt remember the Powerpoint presentation that went viral a few years back. It is called, "Yours is a very bad hotel."

It was a major blast at a hotel by two businessmen who had booked rooms, paid for them, advised the hotel they would be arriving late only to arrive late as they said they would to find out Dave had given their paid for room to someone else.

Google it. Consider it a cautionary tale. I don't find as much fault with the "$5 dollar an hour desk clerk on the night shift in a hotel as I do with senior management who couldn't find a middle management person capable of setting and enforcing the parameters of staff responsibility.

ps. There is no such thing as a "safe" hire. Only a senior management person not capable of hiring the best.

My Comments on the Hiring Process Today #1

Years ago a headhunter called me. He received my name from the OM at a company I was working for as seasonal help. (One day the OM said to me, "I'd never want to have you working for me." Rather than take offense, I asked him, 'why not?' He said, "Because I'd always be afraid you have my job." Okay, I was young and less restrained--Theory X and all that.)

I found out, in talking to the headhunter, that he'd been VP at the company I was working for. He'd set up the operation where I worked. We talked about the "personnel director." He said to me, "When we were in New York, she was not allowed outside the personnel area." To be accurate: 'She was not allowed to leave personnel'.

Today, personnel is Human Resources. As I research, I check ads for HR directors. Obviously, HR is no longer personnel. It is a separate industry within an industry that is its own product. Call me old fashioned, but I think HR should be separated from personne--analogous to your primary care physician sending you to a 'medical care facility'. To say that in English, your Doctor is your Doctor. If you need tests, you go to hospital. Personnel should be personnel. If you need the services of HR, you go to HR.

Now, to the subject of hiring. I must have been charming when I was younger. For my first real job, one of the partners took me to lunch, saw I went to Seton Hall and Georgetown, and spent the lunch talking about basketball. The second real job, the same thing. When I decided to "drop out" and write the great American novel, I applied for a job as a security guard. The same thing happened. (The irony is, no one who went to Seton Hall and Georgetown knows less about basketball than I do.) Later on in life, when I gave myself a sabbatical to go back to my novel, I applied for a part-time job in a store where I was a regular customer. The owner hired me. He didn't even know my last name.

To improve hiring, you have to dump the process into the laps of the people the candidate will be working for. That person has to be able to determine if the candidate qualifies. No, that's wrong. The person "...has to be able to determine if the candidate can do the job." Slight difference? No. Big difference.

ps. When I was a security guard (I am incorrigible) I wrote up a management training programme. I gave it to a co-worker who handed it in to management. They implemented the programme. He was the first candidate. I was happy for him. This was not going to be my career, but it might well have turned out to be his. Also, it was a good programme. My pride (goeth before the fall) came from having the programme implemented, not in my getting credit for it. As Lord Byron once said, "Fame is the thirst of youth."