A semi-retired aspiring sci-fi author, John is full of stories about his life and experiences, and very passionate about science, the economy, and current events. John recently received his one-year medallion from AA, and he definitely deserves a huge round of congratulations for his hard work and commitment. Read on to learn more about the challenges John has faced, and how drastically his life has changed in the past year.

Well, okay. I’m 63, and I’m semi-retired. I’m still looking for something part-time to do, to pull in some extra bucks and fill my time, stuff like that. But currently I’m in the midst of writing a book. So really I’m mostly just acting as chief cook and bottle-washer at home. My wife has her own business at home now, so I keep the place tidy and make supper for her and whatnot. I help with her business when and where I can. I did some volunteer work for the City of Ottawa to fill in some time and as a type of therapy.

One thing you should know about me is that I love animals. I have two cats at home, and my wife has got a cockatiel that she’s had for years. Nobody knows how old it is because someone else gave it to her, but we reckon it’s probably getting close to 20 years old. It flies around, you know, walks around on the carpet. I also have a ferret. Ferrets are very intelligent, very curious creatures. He’s just the cutest thing. 

Can you tell me more about your book?

It’s hard science fiction. There’s science fiction, science fiction-slash-fantasy, and then there’s hard science fiction.  Hard science fiction basically has to do with stuff that is either current technology or near-future technology. My book starts in the 1920s with Wernher von Braun in Germany. The beginning is about his experiences during the Second World War building the V-1 and V-2 rockets, but then it goes on to after the war when he joins the Americans and gets involved in their space program. Then it gets into the present-day and talks about the current economic situation where the worldwide economy is starting to slip. One guy has a vision of creating a generation ship, where a group of people take a 200-year journey to a habitable planet in Alpha Centauri because World War Three is about to break out. I’m about a third of the way done writing it. I just pick at it when I think of something. It could be 3:00 in the morning, but if something pops into my head I’ll get on the computer and then go back to bed.

You mentioned that you volunteer with the City of Ottawa as a form of therapy. What does that involve?

I was working with the City of Ottawa Health Department. You’ve heard of the City of Ottawa needle exchange program? Well part of my job was an extrapolation of that. I made drug cookers for addicts. These are basically blank bottle caps, and we have a special punch tool we used to punch a couple holes in the side of them, and then we threaded a paper clip through to make a handle. We sent them down to drop-in centres all over the city, and then addicts can pick them up, use them once, and throw them away.

How did you get started doing that? 

Well, that’s a bit of a story in itself. I was working for Nortel, but in December 2006 I got laid off. I got quite a good severance package, so I decided to take the year off. That might have been a bad idea because after a year when I tried to get back into the workforce again, getting a job in the IT field was hard. Also there are a lot of younger people in the market, with more education, and they are snapped up first.

I started to get pretty depressed about the whole thing, and I started drinking pretty heavily. Then in January of 2010 I tried to commit suicide and ended up in the hospital. I had brought my barbeque into the bathroom, closed the door. When I was in the hospital I got involved with AA. Along the way, my doctor suggested that I apply for some volunteer work so I had something to do during the day. Between the three – the support group, AA, and volunteering – it’s kept me off the booze up to now. I just got my one year medallion in January.

When I was drinking in 2009, I had no thought of the future. I really thought the best thing was to end it all. But now that I have a goal in writing my book, I have a whole new outlook on life. 

We did your photos at Andrew Haydon Park. Why is that an important place to you?

My wife and I go to Andrew Haydon for a lot of activities. On Canada Day they have a fireworks show there, and we can walk from where we live near Bayshore. There are always lots of things going on. We’re over there quite a bit.