Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/6/2013 (1097 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
My buddy Jim Ingebrigtsen is draped in the flag.
I mean that literally.
It's a sweltering summer afternoon and Jim has Canada's red-and-white Maple Leaf flag wrapped around his shoulders as he excitedly roots through several plastic storage bins in the basement of his Silver Heights home.
As I look on, he plucks a flag from one of the containers, carefully unfolds it and holds it up for me to admire.
"This is from Kazakhstan," he chirps, displaying a sky-blue banner with a brilliant sun shining over a golden eagle. "It came from a friend who was a cameraman with the CBC. When he goes to a country, he'll call me up and say, 'Do you have this flag?' "
Next, Jim pulls out a shiny number featuring a golden lion clutching a golden sword.
"It's from Sri Lanka," he explains. "A woman I worked with at Manitoba Lotteries went there on vacation and brought it back."
In a nod to my Gaelic heritage, out comes the national flag of Scotland, a white cross on a blue background. "It's not that complicated a flag," Jim snorts. "X marks the Scot!"
What you already know is Jim, 63, is one of this city's most recognizable, longtime TV personalities, a man who has hosted more charity events than Lindsay Lohan has tossed back vodka martinis.
What you don't know is he has a secret passion -- he's a vexillologist, by which I mean a person who is passionate about studying and collecting flags. He also has a pre-Canada Day patriotic message for everyone, and we'll get to that in a minute, but first I want to tell you how my puckish pal became a flag fanatic.
It was about 30 years ago when a beloved older neighbour confessed to Jim he'd become hooked on collecting flags.
"He kept them at his cottage," Jim recalls over lunch. "He had a flagpole and any time a friend came to visit, whatever their nationality was, he'd fly the flag from that country out of respect.
"If his friends went on vacation somewhere, he'd ask them to bring back a flag."
For Jim, the seed was planted.
Over the last few decades, thanks largely to vacationing friends, he's built up an impressive collection of over 150 flags from more than 100 countries.
You name it, he's got it -- national flags, provincial flags, U.S. state flags, civic flags, Grey Cup flags, a Queen's Diamond Jubilee flag, a NATO flag, a Pan Am Games flag.
"It just seemed like an interesting thing to do," he says. "Flags can be very beautiful. The Canadian flag is usually voted in the Top 10 of the world's most beautiful flags."
This seasoned master of ceremonies once hosted a Canada Day event at The Forks when a military helicopter flew in with a mammoth Canadian flag.
"Everyone sang O Canada," he sniffed. "It's one thing to hear O Canada at a hockey game; it's another to see this huge flag and look at all those smiling faces, young and old, getting emotional."
The highlight of the day was meeting Dr. George Stanley, dean of arts at the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont., and the man who proposed the design for our historic red-and-white Maple Leaf flag, first flown on Feb. 15, 1965.
"He was a very dignified, classy guy," is how Jim put it. "I knew he was going to be there, so I brought along a flag and asked him to sign it. I'm glad I did. I don't know how many of those (autographed flags) are around. He was a real gentleman."
Which brings us to Jim's heartfelt Canada Day message, which is this -- Canadians should start acting more like Americans, who are renowned for their flag-waving ways.
"The flag is a reminder of how fortunate we are to live in such a great country," he declares.