“I do not think there is any thrill that can go through the human heart like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success . . . Such emotions make a man forget food, sleep, friends, love, everything.”
― Nikola Tesla
The Mysterious Castle
One of the most magical places that I visited as a young child was Boldt Castle on Heart Island in the St. Lawrence Seaway. There were a few details of this trip that I remember well. It was technically my first river cruise. The wind blowing on the deck of a boat, smelling the water, and the occasional dot of moisture on my skin, it always brings back memories of a great boating adventure. This was also a time when wearing hard baseball batting helmets were all the rage. In my case, I had found a Toronto Blue Jays helmet and wore it with pride. These images link the memory together: a boy, the water, a trip to a magical castle, The Blue Jays, it’s all there.
In 1900 George Boldt built a castle for his family on the lonely Heart Island in the St. Lawrence Seaway. The main reason for building the monstrosity was a gift for his wife Louisa. Now I don’t know if this part is entirely correct, but for some reason, I keep thinking that George had the famous Nicola Tesla build his power station on the island who was also a close friend of Louisa. (Tesla has always held a place in my mind as the most interesting inventor and designer, right up there with Buckminster Fuller). The story takes a turn for the worse and tragedy strikes and his beloved wife Louisa falls ill and dies. George is devastated and he abandons the multi-million dollar project cold turkey. The island became a famous place where vandals could go and spray paint to their heart’s content. The ghosts from that desolate place have haunted me ever since.
Knowledge and Wisdom
Another lesser known part of the Boldt story was how George grew his fortune up by being the proprietor of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. The Astor family let him build businesses that supported the hotels, one of which was a cigar importation company. George did very well finding an ultra wealthy niche market. I also recently discovered that to pay off his bill at the Waldorf, Tesla mortgaged the Wardenclyff tower to George. When Tesla couldn’t pay, George took possession and eventually had it torn down to make the land more attractive for sale. It was the symbolic nail in the coffin for the great Nicola Tesla. In retrospect, it’s an odd coincidence that the man who built a castle that has haunted my thoughts for so many years ultimately put to rest one of the most daring electrical engineering projects of my other childhood hero. It’s a story of inspiration and tragedy.
When George Boldt’s wife Louisa died it must have cut him to the heart, so much so that he halted all plans for construction, costing him a huge sum of money. I could not imagine what it was like to lose his beloved. His project was derailed, and ultimately the plans scrapped. Although our losses are different, I have felt the exquisite pain of loss which I detailed in an earlier blog post. On a side note, while not quite the same caliber, I can currently identify with dramatic life changes.
Transplant At Your Own Risk
It’s been said that some nursery plants do not transplant very well, and I sure feel like one of these. Although we moved up in the housing market, to a beautiful area, filled with trees, great people, and a healthy school for our boys, I cannot explain clearly why I feel slightly “off.” The only way to describe it is a sense of unease and nervousness about the future.
To add to the feelings, there have been many changes at work that I have yet to wrap my head around. The golf season is quickly coming to an end and very soon I will be transitioning into the curling season. This change is usually abrupt and it requires that I hit the ground running. The seasonal switch is expected, but all the other changes caught me off guard.
The snowball started with the catering manager leaving for a new position across town at the St. Catharines Club. Small change, but I will be working with a new co-worker this season across the hall from my office. The second dramatic event is the hiring of a new chef. While this doesn’t affect me directly, my relationship with the chef is an important part of getting around in the club. The third change was the General Manager announcing he would be moving on to another club. This move caught me by surprise. As much as I thought I was adaptable and able to roll with punches, this one made me step back and question the future. I was getting a new boss whether I wanted on or not. I’m confident the new selection by the club will be great, but change is never fun when it is forced.
Rip Off The Bandaid
The fourth and final bombshell is the resignation of my father. Although I knew he had already decided that it was time to retire, he had said this was going to take place after the Scott Tournament of Hearts. Unfortunately, with the added stress of the GM leaving unexpectantly, the retirement plan was shifted forward. This day has been a long time in coming.
My father and I have worked with each other now for over 10 years. He has also been instrumental in helping me install the curling ice, of which I took over from him years ago. When he “officially” retired from the ice making business, he took on the full-time role of managing the building maintenance at the St. Catharines Golf and Country Club.
My father has seen many managers come and go at the club and I think he just couldn’t envision himself having enough gas left in the tank to retrofit himself for another big change. It was time. Just how George Boldt left the whole project behind after his wife died, and I can see how projects you had so much enthusiasm for in the past lose all life once the people you were serving have left. It’s going to be a huge adjustment to make without the guidance of my father around. Although he still lives only fifteen minutes from my new house in Niagara Falls, I will miss the many coffees we shared in the Curling Lounge.
An Ulterior Route To Success
Fortunately, there is a light at the end of this dark tunnel. If I have described myself as a plant that doesn’t transplant well, there is a flip side to this. In my mind in the midst of all this change, I have finally decided to put some roots down. No matter how bad the economy tanks or the skies fall down, I have decided not to run from the whirlwind, but rather stick my damn roots down like a slow growing Oak Tree. Oak Trees have the tenacity to weather the storms while other trees get swept away. As slow as they come, finalizing a decision feels good. Part of the process of putting roots down has come with figuring out the real purpose of this blog.
The first step will be to continue to reach out to the community around me and engage in conversations that work the best over a delicious pint of fresh beer. The second step will be to inspire others to learn how to brew, and appreciate and investigate this ancient artform. Maybe there is a course brewing in the background. My new garage would easily support a beer tasting room and instructional brewery. The greatest part of this transformation has been the understanding that I don’t need to build a commercial brewery to be happy. I’m happy and rich in my tiny beer niche in this world, free to brew as much or as little as I choose, whatever and whenever in my brand new brew cave. If George Boldt can come up with Thousand Island Dressing maybe I can come up with a wild and wonderful brew to serve up to my tribe.
Thanks for reading! Cheers!