2003 marked the second full year that Victoria and I lived in Ottawa. I had been made permanent and continued to work at a call centre taking calls for Enbridge Gas but if I remember correctly, call centre operations were taken over by Accenture around this time. Victoria finished work on her masters degree and found employment working for the government of Canada. With both of us working (and in my case, lots of overtime), I managed to make a serious dent in my student loan, we started to put some money away, and began to live a little bit more comfortably.
Other than all that, I’d say the most memorable event of the year for us was the great power outage that summer. Dubbed the Northeast blackout of 2003, over 55 million people lost power in Ontario and in eight US states, in an outage that lasted anywhere from 2 hours to 4 days, depending on the region. I remember I was just finishing off my shift on a Thursday afternoon and given that all the traffic lights were off, I figured it would be quicker to walk home to than take the bus. It struck my funny bone seeing everyone outside of their homes, actually meeting their neighbours, sharing barbecues and trying to cook up as much food as they could before it spoiled. I remember hearing stories of ice cream shops giving away all their wares before it melted and pizzerias doing big business, cash sales only. I reported to work the next morning but was sent home because the power had not yet returned so Victoria and I decided to take our friend Eileen up on her invite for us to join her and her family at the Sandbanks, our first ever visit there. This spur of the moment mini-getaway was just the start of a love affair with Prince Edward County and of course, it helped to pass an otherwise, wasted weekend, When we returned to Ottawa in Sunday, the power was back and life had resumed.
As huge as this event seemed to us at the time, so much more happened this year outside of our little lives. For instance, Yugoslavia was officially wiped off of Europe’s maps when the remaining territory was renamed Serbia and Montenegro. The Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated upon re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere, killing all seven crew members aboard the craft. An Italian gang pulled off the Antwerp diamond heist, dubbed the crime of the century, and though charges have been laid, many of the valuables have never been recovered. The US invaded Iraq and took control of Baghdad, bringing to an end the rule of Saddam Hussein. Saddam was captured later that year as well. And finally, severe acute respiratory syndrome and its acronym, SARS, officially entered our vocabulary when it spread to various countries, including Canada, in an outbreak that lasted several months.
Sadly, the world lost Mr. Fred Rogers (everyone’s favourite neighbour), June Carter Cash and Johnny Cash (singers), Katharine Hepburn (actress), Carol Shields (writer), Gregory Hines (dancer), Charles Bronson (badass actor), and John Ritter (Jack Tripper). Conversely, we gained one Greta Thunberg (climate change activist) and one Olivia Rodrigo (singer) and perhaps a number of other great individuals that haven’t yet stepped into their light. And then of course, there was the music, which is the real reason we’re here, so let’s get to it. No more blabber, here are my 30 favourites tunes from 2003.
#30 The Coral “Liezah” (from Magic and medicine)