Friday, October 24, 2008

The Beat Down

GOLF. A four letter word to some. Aggravating pastime for others. Still a game that a 70 year old Dad can play with his middle aged sons.
My brother and I first picked up the clubs in our late teens. We have been battling each other ever since. Good fun really. But family bragging rights are just that, rights.

My father watched his sons battle years ago before deciding to try his hand at this irritating pastime. When he first joined brother Dan and I on the course over 25 years ago, we didn't pay much attention to him or his score. You see the Titus brothers were there to settle their own war on the fairways of new Brunswick. This was an annual event that was always the highlight of Dan's visit from New Jersey.
Dad about to drain this shot for a par

Then one winter, dear ol' Dad secretly took golf lessons at the local club. When asked what aspect of the game he wanted to work on, his answer was quite direct to his instructor.
"I just want to beat my sons!"

Father Murman with a classic "I'm winning" smile.

Later the following summer, with the brothers again set to do mortal combat with drivers and putters, maybe a wedge or two, Father teed off the opening shot of the annual Titus Golf Classic. It was a straight shot, not particularly long, but it was the beginning of something that the bro's didn't even notice.

Dan reacts to a fairway wood second shot

This went on for the entire 18 holes. Pressure between Brother Dan and Brother Mur was intense. The trash talk never wained. It was a see/saw battle of Augustan proportions (well in our minds anyway).

It's in the hole! (for a 6)

Meanwhile, Father Titus, just kept his ball in play watching his sons beat the hell out of each other.

Brother Dan attempts a long par putt, but wilts under the pressure

As is the usual case the score between brothers was updated every couple of holes and added up as we were about to tee off on 18. Senior Titus score wasn't even thought of as the boy thought the old man was not a factor.

@#$%! Golf is a four letter word alright!

Then as the final putt makes that heavenly sound of golf ball in cup, we add all the scores. It looks like it will be a close one. There are checks and re checks. Then Dad takes the score card, both brothers trust their father to be the final arbiter of the match.
He adds Dan's score, then Murray's and announces himself as the winner, by not one, but by 9 strokes.

The brothers look bewildered. It seems they were too focused on each others game, dismissing dear old Dad as an also ran.

He's been kicking our asses on the course ever since.

He tells me it was the best 150 dollars (for the lessons) he has ever spent.
And on the occasion of his 70th birthday, we rekindled that old classic and wouldn't you know, the Old Man's still got game.

He crushed us both.

Danni, Dad and Me after we had been crushed after 18 holes at Hampton

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Surprise! You're 70.

Do you remember when you were back in grade school and the first assignment of the new school year was a composition about your summer vacation?

Well I just got back from mine, and I know it's not summer, but is was my vacation. One I needed for a very long time.

I chose to return to my hometown, a place I have not been for nearly a decade. I have family still there, as well as many friends. But what made the choice an obvious one was that my father, whom I have not seen for over 9 years, was turning 70, and the occasion of his birthday would present a great opportunity for me to surprise him.

My brother, who lives and works in New Jersey, and my sister, still living just outside my hometown would help spring the surprise.

As the date of my arrival approached, there was concern that my father would catch wind of my coming. A phone call to him just a day before I boarded an east bound plane, confirmed to me that he was completely unaware of my plans.

I would be spending some time in Toronto, before travelling on the last leg of the journey back to New Brunswick. The time there provided me with some much needed rest and relaxation before heading into the "family circus" that all home comings seem to evolve into.

Flying into Saint John on that autumn Wednesday evening, clear skies, and spectacular fall colors greeted me as we made our approach into the small town airport. I recognized many of the land marks. The lakes, the hill tops, the skyline all familiar, all inviting. My sister met me as I got off the plane, with a welcoming hug that still lingers to this day.
"You are going to have to hide for two days until Dad's surprise party." she said to me.
"Hide in this town? This town is too small, someone is bound to recognize me." I replied.
And with that we were off to drop off my bags at her place.

My nephew joined us at the house and we decided to go get a bite to eat. Vito's Pizza Restaurant, a local favorite and makers of the best Cesar salad anywhere, was where we headed.

I was not in the place for two minutes, when a familiar face said hello. A former hockey coach and friend of our family, Dr. Lou Simon. After the hello's and handshakes, I look to my sister and say: "see I can't hide here, we need to come up with a plan to surprise Dad before his big day."

Oh yes, by the way the Pizza and Cesar were fantastic!

The revised plan now would happen on the following evening. Brother Dan, who my father knew was coming for a visit, would meet Dad for dinner. My sister Carrie would join them a short time later. Dan and Carrie would make sure Dad's back was to the door and that's when I would walk in and sit down beside him.

Geeze, I hope that his heart is in good shape, surprising a 70 year old might not be the smartest thing for the preservation of life.
The plan was set. Dad was in place. I made my entry into the restaurant. I tapped him on the shoulder, and said "Happy Birthday Dad."

The Surprise as seen through the lens of my sister Carrie's Camera

Happy Birthday Dad! Surprise!

The shock didn't kill him, thank God, but the look I shall always remember. He wiped a tear as did I. It was the first time in 12 years that he had all of his children together. It was a moment I shall treasure forever.

Dad and Me

The next couple of days would include rounds of Golf, the "Official" surprise party, this time with all of Dad's brothers and sister, neighbours and friends and a Thanksgiving dinner at my father's. Plenty of rare quality time, without the separation of geography.

Murman, Dad, Carrie and Dan all together for the first time in 12 years

Friday, October 03, 2008


There is nothing like covering a large fire from the air. They are visual, they can be compelling and down right intoxicating. I have had two such fires in recent weeks.

The first was of an old soon to be renovated mental hospital in New Westminster, BC. The day was calm and clear and the fire provided a welcome break in the summertime "blahs" that had set in. I seem to remember getting the call from my desk just after lunch. A 2 alarm fire being upgraded to a 3 as we launched into the air. A cross street address was not needed as the smoke plume was visible from our hanger.
A shot out my window of CTV Chopper 9 over the Old Hospital as it burns
Off we went, heading straight to the plume. Flames were jumping skyward hundreds of feet. It was a big one. The complex was a large one and as fire fighters tried to battle the blaze, the flames continued to find new fuel and eventually spread to it's outer wings. Before long, the entire complex was a blaze.

Another look of the Fire scene in New Westminster earlier this summer

It was a spectacular sight. The heat was immense. Even at 1700ft we found ourselves dodging the odd piece of flaming debris. I managed to bang off a few shots on my Nikon between hits.

When it was over the blaze took most of the old complex.

This week yielded another BIG FIRE. This one in Surrey. A condo development as it was nearing completion. Again, the call from the desk. Again a plume that could be seen for miles.

The tell tail plume of smoke as we leave YVR. Frame grab CTV CHOPPER 9

No need for further directions. When we arrived it was fully involved. Aircraft buzzed around. To get the whole story on this one follow this link BIG FIRE

Frame grab from my FLIR Camera as we appoach the scene

Fire crews pour water over the inferno. Frame grab CTV Chopper 9

Close up shot of the heavy lift crane operator's cab as it bursts into flame. There were no injuries.

Wide shot of the complex as Phase II of the project burns to the ground.

The Day I met Steve Fossit

It was a cold blustery day back in February 1996. I was working for a News Bureau back in Saint John NB. As I recall I got up and cursed the weather and headed into work for what promised to be another day of cold weather stories and wishing I was someplace warm and sunny.

The news room was abuzz when I arrived. Assignments were being divided up and I was dealt an "out of towner" , one that would have me meet up with our Fredericton Bureau reporter Laverne Stuart at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown for an item on the field exercises as the men prepared for a deployment to war torn Bosnia.

Christ, it was going to be cold out there, remembering the last time on the base with Laverne years back. At that time the temps were near minus 40 with the wind chill. Our cameras barely functioned and our bodies were chilled beyond belief.

As I drove up good old NB highway #7 I received a page to call the office. It seems the assignment desk back in Halifax wanted me to "keep on the lookout, for a hot air balloon that was in trouble."

They further explained to me that the balloon in question belonged to Millionaire Adventurer Steve Fossit. He was attempting a solo circumnavigation to become the first human to do so in a hot air balloon.

I thought "what the hell are the chances of seeing this craft fly by, moreover, what are the odds of this record attempting flight, traversing the airspace of Southern New Brunswick?"

"Fat fucking chance" I resolved and continued with my original assignment.

Once in the training area of CFB Gagetown, I was in communicado, that is pagers and cell phones were useless. I didn't give the "balloon thing" another thought.

When Laverne returned to our Fredericton office to edit our story, that is when we found out that the high flying Mr. Fossit had crash landed his balloon on the edge of a farmer's snow covered field just outside of Hampton, New Brunswick.

It was quite a scene.

I thought "shit, the biggest story of the year, the world media all interested and calling our operation requesting feeds and interviews, nobody died and I am up here in Fredericton missing it all." Damn I was disappointed, nothing like this ever happens in sleepy hollow NB. Not only that, as it turns out Mr. Fossit's crash landing, now leading all of the casts, ABC, CNN, CBS, NBC ect,,, happened just 7 kilometers from my freakin' house!

Our visual story of soldiers in the field, during live fire maneuvers ended up buried in our show in section 3 or something. My dejected drive home was indeed a long one. When I arrived back at the Saint John office, I found it buzzing with activity.

Mike, one of my camera colleagues looks at me and says "Mur you missed a big one."

No shit.

He was just beginning to strike his final hit with Mr. Fossit after a successful feed to Ted Kopple's Night Line.

The next day I got to do a follow up piece as Steve and his documentary crew revisited the crash site. It again was cold and blustery on that day. As we interviewed Mr. Fossit, he shivered from the bitter cold.

"I'm sorry, but I have forgotten my hat and my ears are freezing off" he says as we were about to begin.

"Here sir, I have a spare toque in the van" I say to him.

"Thank you, that's very kind" he answers.

I never got the hat back, for all I know he may have worn it on one of his other adventures, it doesn't matter.

But that was the day I met and interviewed Steve Fossit, Millionaire Adventurer, and Aviator.

Steve Fossit

After that day, and as the years went by, I had always followed Mr. Fossit's exploits. I was saddened to learn that he had gone missing a year ago while flying. And to learn that earlier this week the wreckage and now his remains have been found.

Rest in Peace Mr. Fossit.