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Tech Time Machine… You’re On A Rocket…

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Marty McFly… let’s hop into your DMC DeLorean time machine and juice up the flux capacitor.

OK, set the time back by 30 years to 1990 (if this takes you into prenatal times, please please tell me what that looks like, I want to know the answer to that as much as I’d like to see into my post-life times).

I’m thinking about time travel right now for a reason.

Looking back with today’s eyes, 1990 was a “foreign country” for us all.

Thirty years ago this week, I stood in chilly Okanagan Lake waters at 7 am on a Sunday morning with nearly 1,000 others clad in wetsuits.

Supportive family members and friends came from near and far to give me a cheering boost for an event I had trained so hard for in the year leading up to this day.

My heart was pounding in my throat, both in exhilaration and terror (the good news is that in the lake, you can pee your pants and no one knows better other than the swimmer directly behind you. Sorry… TMI?)

We participants were all ready to dive in at the sound of a booming cannon – the cannon that starts the Ironman Canada triathlon race, a 3.8k swim, followed by a 180k bike, finishing with a 42.2k run. Great way to spend a relaxing Sunday.

But today, I’m not only thinking about the gruelling race, but also about the huge changes to our world in these oh-so-short 30 years.

Here are a few other things that cross my mind.

It’s about our world and technology.

I’m thinking about how many folks pulled out their cellphones and snapped photos of their friends and loved ones jumping into the water that August 1990 morning. How many photos got posted online for the world to see within seconds…

Here, let me answer that for you… pull out my calculator… hmmmm, 960 participants multiplied by an average of 4 or 5 relatives and friends watching from behind the barriers…

… and the answer is???? ZERO. None.

Huh? Why not Larry?

Well, a myriad of stuff has changed for you and me in 30 years… call a taxi… right! Wait until next Tuesday to watch your favourite TV show… hardly! Meet your life partner-to-be at a bar… *cue laughter*….

A few more examples…

1990. No smartphones… a few cellphones (owned by 4% of North Americans in 1990) sure, but pretty much no such thing as a smartphone with a camera embedded. The first early versions were still 12 years in the future.

These days, when I enter even the tiniest running or other athletic race (in non-COVID times)… camera phones are everywhere, all the time.

In 1990, there were no smartphones, no text messages… no Tesla’s or other electric cars… no BlueTooth, no Facebook, no YouTube.

In 1990 you paid your utility bills at the bank or by snail mail with a personal cheque.

Watch a movie in 1990? Just run by your local VHS rental store or Blockbuster and make sure your neighbours aren’t there when you sneak into the “ADULT” section in the back.

In 1990, you answered your landline phone (usually corded) because it was someone you knew calling (although no call display told you who), no telemarketers or scams.

In 1990, when you wanted to find a street address or your way through a strange city, you hauled out something called a map and found the location with your fingertips, not your GOOGLE.

In 1990, people read books. I mean books made of paper and glue and hard and soft covers that had pages you turned and needed a flashlight to read under the covers. No eReaders, no Kindles (first released in 2007), no Kobo’s. Bookstores were popular “social media” gathering spots in 1990.

In 1990, did you drive through your local Starbucks for a Sexagintuple Vanilla Bean Mocha Frappuccino? Of course not. Starbucks had barely 100 stores in 1990, probably none in your area. Just Mary & Joe’s Cuppa Joe House (or Timmy’s for us Canucks) was on your corner in those prehistoric coffee days. Espresso drinks were something Europeans drank.

In 1990, a blog? Is that something stuck in your toilet?

In 1990, when you listened to recorded music, it was usually from a cassette tape, a big step up from 8-track tapes! Your choices were vinyl or cassette. CD or mp3? Huh??

In 1990, a restaurant meal or a plane trip usually involved breathing in someone else’s secondhand smoke. In my province of B.C., smoking was legally allowed in restaurants until 1996. Smoking on flights within Canada was first banned at the beginning of 1990.

Feel free to tell me some other things I’ve missed.

And finally, in 1990, when I crossed the Ironman finish line (below) as the evening sun set and my muscles cried, my kids were 5, 3 and 1 years old. It’s so long ago that I can barely picture them in my head. They were so cute.

Right McFly, bring me back to 2020.

Those little kids are older and smarter than me now. Yes, that’s right, they are older than me… I was 19 years old in 1990 and today I’m still… 19. (I turned off my time machine long ago. That’s new math for you.)

More importantly though, they were healthy then and they are healthy today.

I’m a lucky man to return to 2020 in my older DeLorean body.

OK Boomer…

YOU’RE A UFO – The Song

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In the distance, they hear ruinous bombs detonating near the house they fled only an hour earlier.

Fear and worry overwhelm their hearts and heads.

The ground they walk over is rough and difficult to manage when carrying a one and a 3 year-old… but happily the Jordanian border is just another kilometre or two over the next hill.

Flash floods of humanity rush and surge and overflow upon us… still.

Syria, Central America, Venezuela, South Sudan, Myanmar, Somalia… the list goes on…

Conflict and climate and economic refugees of different stripes and colours and ethnicities continue to pour across borders and oceans like sand slipping between our toes on a warm southern beach.

For many or most of us, this is a distant reality… we see it on TV and read about it in our internet news feeds, but we rarely really touch it with our own eyes and fingers.

For 3 and a half years now, I’ve been getting together once or twice weekly to work on English studies with a man whose life and whose family’s lives have been torn apart for no reason of their making.

He’s a Syrian refugee – one of 5.6 million of his countrymen since 2012 – who was “fortunate” enough not to be one of the hundreds of thousands killed by their own government with Russian complicity.

His parents and siblings have fled their generational homes and are spread far apart in Syria, Jordan, Canada, Denmark, and Britain.

He and I have become good friends, and I’ve gained a tremendous amount of understanding and compassion for the plight of refugees because of our time spent together.

We’ve shared birthday celebrations, and the joy of an additional two births within their family since arriving in Canada.

All of the children speak fluent English (in addition to Arabic) and are now Canadian citizens, while Mom and Dad study in preparation for their citizenship tests which will come up soon.

He didn’t know one word of English when he landed at Pearson Airport in Toronto – but he absorbed “thank you” quickly.

One thing he has since learned – NO, not from me – is the “F” word.

He grins and laughs about it because he knows it wields great power in the English language, although he’s not quite sure why… I haven’t explained that one well to him so far, but I advise him to keep it inside his head (or at least to voice it ONLY in our sessions)!

Today, after 5+ years in their adopted country of Canada, they continue to struggle daily with the sea change that befell them. The confusing blend of cultural and religious differences are akin to mixing oil and water for them.

They are like UFO’s coming to a planet

they have never seen before.

They try. They grapple with totally foreign ideas and social norms, strange foods and ways that people dress. They appreciatively wonder at the acceptance they encounter, and fret about the dark, overt racism that also comes their way.

While appreciating the freedom and safety to raise their children in peace, they can’t help but miss their old lives tremendously.

Canada (government, private sector, and individuals) has done an admirable job of keeping them aloft with financial support for their home, healthcare, educational opportunities, children’s activities… not perfect, but … I am proud of this country that brought them to safety and is able to share its wealth in ensuring they are reasonably comfortable.

For my own small part, I help them over the many hurdles of Western life and government bureaucracies, yet I often feel impotent and powerless to “make things right” for them, even when I know there is much I just cannot do.

Which all brings me to….

… a blog post I wrote on October 19, 2019.

I wrote and posted these song lyrics about this family’s journey to where they are now.

Today, I’m sharing this song with music attached… I’ve removed two of the verses because it was becoming too long (BIG size is a favourite trait of mine that I’m trying to kick (at least in music)).

Finally, in case you’re interested in the anatomy of a song’s production, here are a couple of things to digest.

I’ve added in an underlying deep cello “drone” to hint at slow plodding (like refugees walking) and suggest drama.

And in the chorus, I’m doing a vocal harmony that is a I-VII interval that gives the music a more unsettled or uncomfortable feel that hopefully matches the lyrics. This is instead of the more typically melodic I-III or I-V harmony that we usually expect. Bonus points if you notice.

YOU’RE A UFO

by Larry Green

Schoolyard dust a daily friend
farm that held no borders
The air was calm and warm
your brothers’ calls familiar
then a new day broke hell
with clouds that lit a storm

You packed a bag and wandered far
along quiet lines with others
left your home where soldiers warred
where bombs and bullets threatened
bully tyrant who ripped your life
your tears he never cared for

CHORUS

You’re a UFO that landed
in this universe apart
in hibernation from your nation
soul burned from your heart
and a home that’s just a house

….

Years slid by in sun-baked camp
your eyes so shy, smile drained and dry
yet morning breaks another day
phone call beckoned with your chance
one week later you climbed the steps
to a westward craft of hope

Aliens greeted you with smiles and promise
strange words that made no sense
trembling smiles over months and years
memories crushed under winter’s ice
through long night’s darkness cloak your kids
they never saw your tears

BRIDGE:

How long will this prison hold you?
when will the air smell sweet again?
and carefree gossip with your neighbour
turns your hair to grey

You feel the stares, the daily threat
stories ripped from the news
wander streets with kids in tow
schoolbooks under arms
others spy your covered head and shake
about the dangers you impose

CHORUS

You’re a UFO that landed
in this universe apart
in hibernation from your nation
soul burned across a border
and a home that’s just a… house

As Different as Poutine and Apple Pie

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Guest Post by Jim Ferguson, Oregon, USA

Welcome to something new and something different… a guest post…

Jim Ferguson is a Baby-Boomer-Physician-Assistant-Canuck who lives in Yamhill, Oregon with his wife Deborah, a Physiotherapist. He is also the part-time co-founder/tender of the “Sheltering Branch Farm”, and a huge Montréal Canadiens booster.

Jim is a long-time friend of mine from our 1970’s days working in the Arctic at Stanton Yellowknife Hospital, and is a frequent commentor and supporter of my blog with many insightful, positive, and compassionate thoughts on the state of our world.

OK, I’ll let Jim speak for himself…

Larry Green here back for another blog installment…Heh…wait a second…you are not Larry Green! What are you doing high-jacking Larry’s blog?

Is this some weird episode of the Twilight Zone?

Well not exactly…Larry asked me to contribute a guest blog about some differences/similarities between living in Canada vs the U.S. and I offered to step up to the “blog plate” and give him a wee mental rest.

Larry told me to keep my verbal diarrhea in check and keep it under 1,000 words so here goes.

Have you ever wondered just how different Canadians and Americans are?

I have and not just a passing thought either.

I am a Canadian who has lived in “the states” for the better part of 40 years and happily I might add (inserted in case my American trophy wife Deborah happens to read this) and I have had a front row seat in observing differences and similarities between us.

I take great pride when, even to this day, the majority of people I encounter recognize me as Canadian by my accent and the familiar “oot and aboot” and “eh” and other language nuances that are unique to us Canadians.

My Canadian pride runs deep even after four decades away from “home”.

While I am a Naturalized citizen of the U.S., I am Canadian right down to my bleu, blanc, et rouge Montreal Canadiens hockey sweater and my current Canadian passport. You can take the Canadian “oot” of Canada, but you cannot take the Canada “oot” of the Canadian.


I am here to tell you that Canadians and Americans are different in many ways.

We Canadians are NOT simply a kinder and more respectful version of our American neighbors! Us Canadians have our own unique “culture” which runs deep in us.

You might be asking “what culture is he referring to?” Though we live on the same continent separated by an imaginary border running along the 49th parallel, there is much more than that which distinguishes us from Americans. Here are a few examples.


The most glaring difference that struck me upon my arrival in the summer of 1980 is this feeling that Americans are “#1”!

Many Americans (not all) see themselves as better than everyone else and when one listens to the political posturing here during election years, it is obvious that this image of “America is best” is a major platform issue of every candidate.

I mean, which politician is going to have “Don’t Make America Great” as their campaign slogan? That will be the death knell of any campaign in a nation where people see themselves as better than everyone else in the world.

I quickly realized that if America was #1 then other peoples and nations are 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and the list goes on. This feeling of national superiority struck a nerve with me. I observed the divisions so prevalent in American society (social status, class, race, gender, religious, etc) as people came here from every nation in search of the “American Dream”.

The feeling was palpable that no matter where you came from or how long you lived here, if your family didn’t come over on the Mayflower then you are “not as American” as those that did, this despite the requirement to renounce allegiance to your former country when becoming naturalized (I refused to utter those words during my ceremony).

Coming from Canada where we are proud of our nationality and have a culture of being friendly with and open-hearted to all nations and peoples, I was a bit taken aback by this brash exclusivist nationalism.


The political systems of each country and the story of how they got to this point in history are different.

I was aware of this since childhood growing up in Nova Scotia and studying about our neighbors to the south.

We have a parliamentary form of government with a Prime Minister fashioned after Britain’s government, while the U.S. broke away from Britain through a bloody revolutionary war and established a constitutional federalist republican form of government with a President. Canada has a 3-party system while the U.S. has a 2-party system.

One other interesting observation – I remember learning a lot about U.S. history in school.

When I arrived in the U.S., I felt I was well-educated about the U.S. and could hold my own in any Trivial Pursuit game where questions about the U.S. were posed – politics, sports, geography, history- no problem! I am a wealth of knowledge on things American (thanks Ms. Callahan for the excellent history classes).

This was not the case with my American friends and their knowledge of Canada. Most knew little about Canadian history and our way of life.


I cannot tell you the number of times I have heard the phrase “as American as baseball and apple pie”. Baseball is considered the great American pastime with stories of “the Babe” and “Say Hey Willie Mays”, etc known to many.

Well, that saying does not cut it in Canada…more like “as Canadian as hockey and poutine”. Most here in the states have no clue about the “Stratford Streak”, “Chicoutimi Cucumber”, the “Rocket”, etc (or poutine for that matter).

While baseball is part of American culture, hockey is a MAJOR part of Canadian culture (it has now spread to the states but is well down the list in importance and fan interest after baseball, football, basketball, NASCAR, tiddlywinks, and lawn bowling).

We are not baseball ignoramuses in Canada thanks to the Expos and Blue Jays, but hockey and Canada are synonymous.


Well…there you have it! Some observations about Canadian and American life from a Canuck who fell in love with a Yankee and ended up south of the border. Let’s hear your observations in the comment section. AND Larry…under 1,000 words too! Boooyyyaaahhhh!

Jim and Deborah Ferguson

HUXLEY STONES – The Song

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Wedding Day June 8, 1899 – Margaret Gray and William Miller (my grandparents)

In nighttime fog, as you press yourself through tangled cobwebs and gauzy mist, where do your dreams take you in time and place?

Do you, like me, sometimes “chat” with a departed relative or friend almost as if you’re at a seance?

Might it seem so real that you can feel your grandmother’s hand on your arm… or smell the scent of tobacco on your favourite uncle’s breath? Hear the excited timbre of your childhood friend’s voice?

I have very fond memories of childhood (and adult too) visits to a cemetery at a countryside junction between Wellington Rd 24 and Sideroad 27 in the bucolic rolling hills just outside of Hillsburgh Ontario. Huxley Cemetery.

There, I’d commune with my grandparents and their siblings, my aunts and uncles – some that I had met, and many more that left this little blue planet before I drew my first breath of air.

Nowadays, when I’m not at the actual cemetery “visiting”, I sometimes have nighttime explorations in my dreams and fill my head with the imaginings of these ancestors whose very presence made mine possible.

My life rests upon their lives, even though I never knew them apart from family stories and old worn photographs. They were real flesh and blood people with all of the troubles and joys that I have felt in my own life.

In this week’s lyrics post, I’m taking one of my imaginary journeys into the world of my forebears for a dusky chat with my grandparents, Will and Maggie, buried side-by-side many years back along the grassy slope of Huxley Cemetery.

What sort of conversations do you have with your past?

Huxley Stones

by Larry Green

Intro

Before these stones

before this granite’s tome

before you go no further this day

before your sand returns from bone…

slip through the cracks of Craigh Na Dun…

Verse

“… pull up a chair beside

and chat for just a few, would you?

tell us first, where have you been?

We’re sure there’s been so many changes

Since your last drop by to see us

We’re not mere misty strangers

hazy illusions of a painter’s brush”

Verse

“Could you tell us all we’ve missed

these 80 years or so

the big the small dear share it all

parcel up the news from near and far

Were you your parents’ sheen and shine?

we worried so about your mother

to carry such a worried mind”

Verse

“We catch the roamer’s stories

in glimpses as they pass

what war or peace was seen of late

whose hearts are filled with love and hate

If only we could trade places,

to wander streets and dance vivacious

what might we see out there?”

Verse

“And what of your siblings dear?

So sad we never got to know you all

anywhere ‘cept here

by this chiselled quirky stone standing tall

where kinfolk talk in whispered tones

We see the wrinkles on your brow have grown

reminding how days and nights have flown

your face now weathered like our own”

Verse

“Oh my we yawn and close our eyes

under sun it’s hard to fathom

how we weary now, no chore or two to ply

God knows we toiled long and hard

in our many days gone by

this stone of dates you touch is chill and sterile

but in you our hearts stay warm this while”

CHORUS

Tell me, are you a

caregiver creator lover jester

warrior outlaw explorer sage?

Blow the grass, lie with us forever

look up and see the clouds as we do

your bones and blood a part of us together

Are You Suffering the Slings of PTVD?

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No, not PENILE TRANSMITTED VENEREAL DISEASE

…that’s so 1960’s and ’70’s.

You wouldn’t believe how many times – while working in a hospital lab in Canada’s Arctic region – in the late 1970’s, I isolated a fun bacterial bug scientifically labelled Neisseria gonorrhoeae on my lab culture plates.

You know… The Clap. Venus’s Curse. The Drip.

Nasty bug (although admittedly kinda cute microscopically) for sure, but with proper treatment it went away more readily than will the PTVD I’m discussing today.

Yes, the PTVD I’m talking about here is Post Traumatic Virus Disorder.

In many ways, it’s spread through person-to-person contact too… albeit socially-isolated contact ie. daily news reports and social media websites.

Remember a year ago (or was it a decade?) when we panicked and washed canned goods before setting them onto a pantry shelf? When we rushed to fill our carts with rare exotic gems such as toilet paper, flour and yeast?

It’s really hard these days to see life through anything except “virus” glasses.

Yup, our days are lived out in some form of Post Traumatic Virus Disorder.. maybe forget the “POST” part… it’s still just Traumatic Virus Disorder.

For about 400 days and 400 nights now (sounds slightly biblical, doesn’t it?) we’ve riddled and sieved and parsed everything we do through the virus filter.

Should I go here? should I do this? will my friends judge me for not wearing a mask at the Starbucks drive-thru? am I likely to pick up – or transmit – the virus if I do that?

For many months, trauma and guilt have been built-in to every decision we’ve made, accompanied by… sometimes righteousness, sometimes worry, sometimes rebellion, sometimes disgust.

And much like the recent American election where opposing sides dug-in to their polarized stances on politics and “swamps”, most of us world-wide have similarly dug-in to a position on the relative seriousness of the COVID virus, the efficacy of masks and gloves, the meaning and dividing lines of personal freedoms.

Families, friends, and neighbours split up on either side of the volleyball net.

They lob volleys of logic or loose thought at each other, stealthily trying to score points, rarely taking notice that they’re actually playing on different courts, so that neither side can win regardless of the quality of their “spike shot”.

It’s become an ugly game.

I have definite strong thoughts about this.

You can probably guess where I come down on the matter with my science-based lab background – but I understand there’s not a great deal of hope in persuading others who oppose me of my beliefs, no matter how well thought-out or expressed.

Or honestly, to be swayed in a different direction myself. The trenches are deep.

Virus-wise, I sweat out and contemplate my choices daily, often many times daily. There are personal and moral dilemma bridges to cross.

Sadly, and somewhat distressing, this divide is an ocean, a divide with no boats available to span the distance without large societal change.

To use the American example once more, the virus is a microcosm of heavily-partitioned Democratic vs Republican thought.

These are large issues, politics and viruses… issues larger than my brain capacity.

I wish I had the mental acuity to work out a solution to the monumental challenges that face us in months and years to come.

I know what I’d like to see, but alas, I don’t have the recipe (*can you hear me singing?… And I’ll never have that recipe again, oh noooooo)

Fortunately (for my mental health), I’m confident and optimistic that there are and will be solutions found along the road to overcome the difficulties. But. It will take time.

When humanity has appeared doomed (eg. during previous World Wars), approaches and answers were brought forward that allowed us to progress into a hopeful future… not a perfect future, but a hopeful one.

It’s tough. But both Penile Transmitted Venereal Disease and Post Traumatic Virus Disorder are largely solvable and will allow us to share “intercourse” once again with our fellow citizens…

Let’s remember what Voltaire said,

Perfect is the enemy of good. Done is better than perfect. The best is the enemy of the good.

To Be Childishly Wise And Wisely Foolish

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*head to the bottom of this post for my recording this week of a Lindsey Buckingham (Fleetwood Mac) instrumental piece simply titled STEPHANIE.

The fool doth think he is wise,

but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.

So, am I wise?… or a fool? Oh, what a tangled web…

Good ole Will Shakespeare poured forth his great nuggets of wisdom through the jesters and fools within his plays.

We often absorb serious messages more readily when we don’t know we’re being schooled… it’s a bit like when I’d blend vegetables into what I was cooking so the kids wouldn’t realize they were eating “health” food (shhhh… they’re all in their 30’s and still don’t know).

To write a few words of wisdom – I’ve discovered a thousand times – is no easy feat. To paraphrase E.B. White, the perfect sentence is one from which nothing can be added or removed. Every word plays its part.

You know the power of a mere few words… yes, the classic example of Hemingway’s famous 6-word story of sorrow: For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

Like just about everything I do in my blogging and songwriting, I’ve once more been on the hunt for inspiration. And while I’ve been called a jester or a fool many times in my days – wise?… well… I’ve not often stood accused.

It’s pretty clear that most of our wisdom is acquired through the experiences of life… the hard knocks, the tumbles, the luck, and joys… still I believe some can be taken in more casually and obliquely through the process of osmosis ie. reading, playing, and enjoying the simple joy of cartoon characters.

Have you noticed how much of the great wisdom of the world today comes, not only from the Shakespeare’s and Hemingway’s, but… in a complexly simple form… from the mouths of children or children’s writers?

To wit, I’ll share a tiny morsel of the “accidental” sagacity that, like seeping slickness, comes our way in cartoon word’ish wizardry.. I give you THE TAO OF THE ‘TOONS

Dr. Seuss rhymed these wads of wise thought:

Today you are YOU, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You. YOU are the only YOU. Isn’t that awesome? There’s nobody alive who can be you better than you. So never aim to be just like someone else. It’s a waste of a perfectly good you.

I’m afraid that sometimes you’ll play lonely games too. Games you can’t win ’cause you’ll play against you.

Be who you are and say what you feel because the ones who mind don’t matter, and the ones who matter don’t mind.

Linus van Pelt (of Peanuts fame) is the thinker and philosopher. He’s thoughtful and respectful and is often the voice of reason among his Peanuts gang. Linus clings to his security blanket while remaining perpetually hopeful.

Linus blanketed us in great perception:

Brothers and sisters should never be in the same family.

Most psychiatrists agree that sitting in a pumpkin patch is excellent therapy for a troubled mind.

• I dread getting old… I don’t want to have to wear bifocal teeth!

There’s a difference between a philosophy and a bumper sticker.

Life is like a ten speed bicycle. Most of us have gears we never use.

Calvin (Calvin and Hobbes) is an Obi-Wan of a kid too.

I think night time is dark so you can imagine your fears with less distraction.

Getting an inch of snow is like winning 10 cents in the lottery.

Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us.

People always make the mistake of thinking art is created for them. But really, art is a private language for sophisticates to congratulate themselves on their superiority to the rest of the world. As my artist’s statement explains, my work is utterly incomprehensible and is therefore full of deep significance.

……………………

And finally, let’s leave the jesters and wise folks behind with their nuggets of words, and try out a nugget of music magic from the songwriting artistry of Lindsey Buckingham (written in 1973), interpreted by me “duetting” with myself on my guitar!

When asked where the name of the song Stephanie originated, Buckingham said: “The song Stephanie, well that was really just an instrumental piece that didn’t have a title, and, uh, Stevie said why don’t you name that Stephanie, and I said, OK, and that’s what it was.”

Another Year of the Non-Marathon – 8 Anti-Pandemic Motivating Ideas for YOU…

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It’s spring, at least for us northern hemisphere’ites… and all feels blissfully… normal…

… the birdies are totally randy and twitterpated (way too many PDA’s! even PDF’s!)… houses are selling above asking price within milliseconds of being listed for sale… daffodils and snowdrops and daphne are all in sunny rainbow bloom …

Springtime, and the acacias are blooming”… (The Eagles)

… but of course, not EVERYTHING is normal, not anywhere, at least not on this small blue planet that Elon Musk is trying to escape. Dark ominous shades of COVID clouds persist, for a little while more anyways.

We’re all finding NEW adventures and new ways of doing things we love because many of the old adventures and old ways have been subtracted from our daily arithmetic.

Maybe you’ve made 5,000 sourdough loaves, or crocheted 75 doilies, or binge-watched Bridgerton sex-scenes 6 times, and ZOOM’ed 10,000 work meetings or chatted with family members…

… in my case, I’ve spent my COVID sabbatical year writing and recording probably a dozen new songs, which is WAY above my normal productivity.

Sure there have been changes, and I really do miss helping out at the soup kitchen, but… most of the things I love to do haven’t been profoundly affected by this year of closures and partial re-openings followed by more closures, and then more re-openings followed by… you get the idea.

However, the one thing that I’ve missed the most is external motivation.

I thrive on motivation which is why I’m constantly searching for mentors and leaders and thinkers who inspire me to get off my butt and JUST DO IT!

Once again this year, for the second year “running” (thank you COVID), I’m missing my spring Half Marathon race in Vancouver (first Sunday of May) that typically pushes me hard – physically and mentally hard – in training from January to May each year.

It’s a beautiful spring run – surrounded by 10,000 other crazies like me – with fresh, early morning ocean air, and gorgeous snowy mountain vistas that blunt the mountain of advancing pain in the waning kilometres of the race.

Training preparation is the motivational voice whispering in my head that tells me to run a little farther, a little faster. I’m the dog with his ear listening intently to his master’s voice on the RCA Victrola machine.

Now, if you’re a strong self-motivator and don’t need a looming deadline, I hereby award you a gold star and applaud your discipline and energy; I bow to you humbly.

You’ve already graduated and can leave the classroom now. But, if you’re at all like me and need a reminder and a push… especially in viral times like these…

… well, let’s work together and push ourselves forward until this pandemic is in our rear-view mirrors!

In the “tips and pushes” I’m listing below, I’ve largely focussed on physical exercise for my examples… but they can just as easily apply to gardening or reading, piano or sewing, or a hundred other pursuits that get your heart rate or enthusiasm gene excited…

*8 Ways to Inspire and Motivate Your Way Through A Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Pandemic*

  1. My biggest personal item… JUST start. Don’t wait and wonder when the motivation or inspirational moment will arrive. For me, the stimulus occurs when I decide to make it occur. It ain’t magic, it’s simple (but ironically difficult) perspiration and dedication.
  2. EAT the elephant one bite at a time. Sure, a terrible cliche, you say? So true. It’s super easy to be dissuaded from starting a big project because it’s … well… BIG! Broken down into a bunch of tiny steps, it’s amazing how the big can be tamed by focussing in on the small stuff and taking one teensy step after another. When I run a half-marathon, I don’t cross the start line with the entire 21.1 kilometres coursing through my head… instead I focus on one kilometre at a time… first kilometre goal in 5 minutes and 15 seconds. Kilometre 2, can I closely match the first kilometre time? When I reach the final 5 or 6 kilometres, my mind tells me to try and only slow by no more than 5 seconds per each kilometre. Yup, one bite or kilometre at a time.
  3. FIND your focus – it’s easy (so so easy) to be distracted by a dozen or more things on your TO-DO list. It takes a lot of discipline to narrow your focus and decide on the most important stuff to tackle. This is why I usually do my run training early in the day, so I’ve accomplished this and can let my TO-DO monster go wild for the remainder of the day.
  4. TALK up your ideas and desires – by sharing your goals and plans with others you build in a voluntary “peer pressure” system for yourself. Many of us like to show our relatives and friends that when we say we’ll do something, we follow through and do it. YOU have sticktoitiveness… YES!
  5. MUSIC – this works even when I’m looking to motivate myself to write… music! Listening to music we love has a magical power to excite, energize, and motivate us when we need a lift. Today, 30 years after I first heard it, John Parr’s song MAN IN MOTION (also the theme song for Rick Hansen’s wheelchair-around-the-world-tour to raise money for spinal injury research) still pushes me to go much harder than I would otherwise, when running a track interval training session. Music is a genie in a bottle that needs a release… if you only let it…
  6. FIND your competitive spirit – no, not in the way we normally think of competitiveness. The approach that I’m looking for here is the internal drive to go beyond what we have done before. Maybe a friendly competition with yourself to, for example, finish a boring or routine task. Repeating a single line of a guitar lick in practice literally 100 or more times isn’t always fun, but eventually carries me to where I want to be. The routine things are often what we have to surmount to get to the greatness of our overall goal. Call it a necessary evil.
  7. AVOID the ruts… yes, ruts can and will kill motivation. And ruts, like SH*T… happen. Change and variety can bring you a freshness and new approach to your task, so mix things up. Try varying what you do instead of just going through the motions. As an example, when preparing for a half marathon, I mix up my types of exercise so it’s not only running. I bike or swim, or play some soccer for the mental break away from only running. Try listening to music and podcasts that you usually don’t listen to. A refreshed mind is a good way to keep the enthusiasm up. Rah rah!!

  8. REWARDS – this is the super fun part. If you’re really looking forward to a nice reward after you’re done with a task or a project, then your motivation tends to go up. Tea or latte break. Exercise break. CBD or THC oil break. Cookie or ice cream break. Martini or Margarita break. One minute “self-appreciation” break. OK, a Bridgerton sex-scene break! During the half marathon run, I readily admit that I begin to hallucinate and fantasize about the food table set up after the FINISH banner… cookies, muffins, donuts, bananas, juices. Dangle those carrots *ahem, more like chocolate Larry* in front of your nose and celebrate to keep your motivation up.

Congratulations… we’re fired up and ready to get going. Let’s not let this golden moment pass us by while we await our “old” world – somewhere over the rainbow – to return…

Good Ole Days for this Good Ole Boy

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Goodnight Jim Bob… goodnight Mary Ellen… goodnight Grandma… goodnight John Boy…..

… and on and on through the list of names called out in the cricket-clamorous darkness of a Virginia depression-era family.

Almost anyone of my vintage (or any of my children whom I forced to watch reruns!) would recognize the closing dialogue of this show…

Probably next to Hockey Night in Canada (Leafs vs Canadiens! GO Habs!!), my most treasured television program of my younger years was a treacly, heartwarming, and often bittersweet show called The Waltons (1972-1981).

I loved the show so much that we even named our eldest daughter after one of the show’s characters, Erin Walton.

The program for me was a bit like like Billy Joel’s lyrics…“it’s sad and it’s sweet and I knew it complete, when I wore a younger man’s clothes.”

WTH? Billy Joel on the road again?

I was perspiring, sweltering, glowing… working like a salt-stained Trojan through a treadmill run this week when I “ran” across a TV station replaying a 1970’s episode of The Waltons.

YES!

And yes again… because like so many things we look back on many years afterwards, it was even more syrupy and corny than I recalled, but still… I felt the heart-pulling pangs of lost innocence, the sweet scenes of family love and respect and order, even good Christian Godliness at its most pious.

The smell of pine trees and fresh-baked apple pies came through my TV screen; I could hear and touch the cool, rippling waters of the nearby fishing river and the hazy cloud of road dust clogging my nostrils as an old Model A Roadster or Ford Pickup rattled by on the 1930’s country roads.

My late father liked to describe his youth as “the good ole days“. As he spoke these words, I could see him playing “episodes” of his life inside his head.

As we age, we find ourselves looking back on the past in various forms of dreamy wonder and filmy carefreeness (I hope this is the case for most). Our minds fill with images and sensory input that meanders in and out while we sleep or as we pass through our daily lives.

Yet as sweet as the idea of “good ole days” is, I’d suggest that everything was rarely as fully idealistic and romantic as we might recall, but… so what… it seems better to try and idealize our past than to suffer through the traumas and dramas that were an inevitable part of those times.

Yesterday, just like today, was a mixture of breathtaking beauty and agonizingly beastly events. It comes to us all in varying degrees.

The Waltons helps me turn to this wondrous, dreamland state where it was always warm and sunny, everyone laughed and got along famously, Mom’s food (Mom’s were always the cooks in those days) was simple but delicious, and a summer day lasted a week.

Like the Waltons, my parents, siblings and I would come together and share Sunday dinners (always Roast Beef… in those times, the only vegetarian at our table was the cow we were consuming) each week as a group around the table.

We would chat and babble and portion out our stories of the day and the week just passed…

… my Mom would tell her tomboy tales of playing baseball on the farm with no gloves and smile as she reminisced of how her hands would ache from catching hard balls with no padding or protection; Dad would shell out his stories of his parents’ floral shop and his sisters playing piano in the parlour….

It was comforting to listen to sentimental remembrances of times I would never experience…

… and as I think back about all of this … I can hear those “Waltons” nostalgic sounds of harmonica and autoharp, the plaintive trumpet and accordion… as I enjoy the romantic memories of my own “good ole days”.

SLOW SPEED CHASE – The Song

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Have you ever witnessed something happening on the street or in your life that you think would make a great story idea, perhaps a novel… even a song?

It’s likely crossed your mind at least once or twice.

This happens to me quite regularly and occasionally, just occasionally, I actually spring into action and move on the thought.

A few years back (pre-COVID era!), during a bike spin class, I was panting and dripping a salty-sweat river like a torrent over Niagara Falls.

Our energetic instructor Therese would sometimes keep our minds off the “pain” of a hard spin by telling little stories from her daily life.

It’s a little like – using an example from my former lab life – distracting children while putting a needle in their arm. There, that wasn’t so bad, was it? *where’s my sucker that you promised me?*

Anyway, her personal anecdote this time began simply while driving down a street in the small town of Penticton next door to our tinier town of Summerland.

Therese’s miniature dog Sugar sat next to her in the passenger seat as she drove along early one summer’s evening.

In passing, her eye (and Sugar’s too) was drawn to a young, shoeless man walking… bedraggled, head hung low, dragging himself along the sidewalk. A lonely island.

A true Samaritan-type, she checked in her rearview mirror, pulled to a rapid stop and backed up her car – Sugar barking excitedly – to ask if he needed some help.

Poking his head inside her window with a relieved smile, he gently stroked Sugar on the head, and almost knocked them both over with a wallop of 80-proof alcohol-breath.

And then next… well… for the rest of this story, you’ll need to pull up yourself, and listen to the country-twang song of this story that I hijacked from Therese as my own, then wrote and recorded.

I call it SLOW SPEED CHASE… I’ve always had a blast playing this song and enjoy the response I get from audiences when I get to the words… right down there by the old stripper’s bar…. (lyrics follow below)

(As a postscript, little Sugar passed on to puppy heaven a year and a half back at the age of 17 years, may his memory live on in this song)

SLOW SPEED CHASE

Words & Music – Larry Green


Verse 1
It was just before dark and I was driving back home
Barely noticed your outstretched thumb
So I glanced in my rear view mirror
I could see your tears beginning to come
When I caught that you had no shoes to wear
It pushed the brake that was my heart
Sugar barked at me c’mon let’s pull on over
Here’s a guy that we can’t discard.

Verse 2
You wobbled to my door with your bloodshot eyes
Through my window breathed a liquor shot
I said get in we’ll take you somewhere safe and warm
Someplace nearby that’s got a coffeepot
Y’ said, could ya help me find my buddy he’s around here somewhere
You should meet him He’s a real cool dude
He can suck back a beer while standing on his head
He can do it, even do it in the nude

CHORUS
It’s a Slow Speed Chase
Where the rubber hits the road
And if I just unload
I can catch him at this frantic pace
So I creeped on over to the other lane
The meter hit 15 I felt just fine
So I juiced it up to 20 my heart started to race
There’s no escapin’ from this Slow Speed Chase

Verse 3
Tears of joy started pouring down your cheeks
Can you take me down to Oliver you slurred
No I can’t but the bus depot will do you just fine
I can send you on your way on bus 39

Bridge – Slow and sweet
You and Sugar are the sweetest things I’ve seen,
He said since my last hot tender cruller
And a double double right now would sip so good
Even Better … better…
Even better than the last beer in my cooler

Verse 4
Just then your furry hairballed eyes did spy
That good ole boy that you were searchin’ for
You yelled, follow him, c’mon let’s catch that guy
Sugar barked out “yep” like Toto on the handlebar

CHORUS
It’s a Slow Speed Chase
Where the rubber hits the road
And if I just unload
I can catch him at this frantic pace
So I creeped on over to the other lane
The meter hit 15 I felt just fine
So I juiced it up to 20 my heart started to race
There’s no escapin’ from this Slow Speed Chase

Verse 5
We pulled up along beside his swerving wreck
You rolled your window down and hollered out some words
I couldn’t hear but they must have had the right effect
Cause he inched his beat up Chevy right over to the curb
I kinda slowed and came to a rollin’ stop
Right down there by the old stripper’s bar
You jumped out and poor Sugar looked so sad
He was teary when you slid drunk into his car.

CHORUS
It was a Slow Speed Chase
Where the rubber hits the road
And if I just unload
I can catch him at this frantic pace
So I creeped on over to the other lane
The meter hit 15 I felt just fine
So I juiced it up to 20 my heart started to race
There’s no escapin’ from this Slow Speed Chase    

My Life As A Bigoted, Elitist, Racist, Misogynist, Atheist

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Y

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ou could hate me. Maybe you should hate me.

.

.

There is no doubt in my mind that I’ve done or said something in my lifetime that should enrage you… it’s inevitable that I’ve uttered undiplomatic comments about your gender, or sexuality, or ancestry, or intelligence, or religion.

I haven’t always been sensitive or “woke”. I can understand that you might hate me. I’ve had to erase many many words from my vocabulary that are laced with hidden, and often unintended, hatred.

I’ve lived the most privileged of privileged lives ever in history. I don’t have to buy a lottery ticket, because I won the biggest prize by merely being born a white-skinned male in North America in the 20th century. BINGO!

I’m a billionaire by universal standards of fortune. It’s both wonderful and challenging at the same time.

I’m living in a different world today than the one I was born into… and I’m adjusting and learning and trying… but I also know I’m living my days reading a road-map (without my reading glasses on) that doesn’t have clear cut directions.

In my early years, I said and did things that were hurtful and hateful and just plain stupid when I look back. Many people my age and in my circumstances did the same.

We echoed stuff our parents and grandparents said without understanding who we were mocking and knocking. I won’t give examples, but you probably know the kinds of things to which I’m referring.

It seems pretty clear to me now that making jokes about someone’s gender or sexuality or skin colour or religious beliefs – even hair colour – is crazy dumb and not helpful in any way.

Fortunately, my awareness factor has risen thanks to the resistance movements of Women’s Liberation, LGBTQ+, #MeToo, BLM, and a host of other trod-upon groups.

And yet… today I still get confused and make unintentional gaffes.

I know that no matter how much I try, I still stumble and hurt or offend. I take this for granted and carry the awareness or non-awareness around my neck like a scarf… one that tightens and restricts my breathing when I stray, and warms me when I’m on the right track.

The planet is growing smaller and smaller (metaphorically) and the privilege I was given as a birthright is one that everyone deserves no matter where they are born, no matter their skin colour or language, no matter their gender identification, no matter their choice of partner, no matter their belief or non-belief in a god.

I can’t change what I was or believed in my younger years, but today, we all can make a choice to accept and rejoice in the variety of humanity in much the same way I rejoice in eating delicious foods from India or China or Peru or France or even McDonald’s.

We ALL deserve a rightful and generous place in the world. At the very least, it’s a right we deserve to start out with and maintain if we live in a way that continues to earn this right. Does that make sense?

So, you can choose to hate me and I’ll get it.

But I’ll be a lot happier (and so will you I think) if you try… just try… to understand that I’m crawling, grasping my way out of this cocoon of ignorance, and will make slips and blunders as we wander this complex, cosmic road together.

I’m trying to leave my life as a bigoted, elitist, racist, misogynist, atheist behind… OK, perhaps not the atheist part!…

…and I will always wish for you and everyone the “billionaire” status I was given with my first crying breath, as a part of our birthright.

To Be A Millionaire by 35… NOT!

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Ay Ay Ay… I rocked my head in my hands.

It was a main course of gut punch accompanied with a side serving of humiliation and wounded pride. Nausea was my dessert.

I had just – overnight – lost about $25,000 on a publicly-traded company called YBM Magnex.

Not paper money, not Monopoly money… real money (or as real as the Canadian dollar gets).

I like money.

We should all like money to some degree… I know, I know, we could debate that degree until the cows come home… but I won’t judge you if you don’t judge me.

YBM was a not-inconsequential part of my family’s net worth when this happened about 30 years ago. It was a great company with wonderful financials…

WAS! More on this later.

I “dig” financial numbers and have a pretty decent understanding of what makes a company worthwhile when I’m looking to buy a chunk. YBM was definitely worthwhile.

This investing stuff might not mean a whole lot in your world, but whether you’re young or not-so-young (like me), let’s try to get you engaged for your future.

……….

Ah the hubris of my youth.

I told everyone far and wide in my 20’s and early 30’s that I’d retire by 35 and live comfortably on the millions I had invested and flourished upon.

In my heart I knew the map with directions to take me to the Land of Milk and Honey.

Turns out it was a semi-fictional map that led me to the Land O’ Skim Milk and Artificial Sweeteners!

I’m not complaining, just noting the true course of my investing ventures and adventures.

The investments I’ve made over the years have by-and-large been good ones, but honestly, the mega-blockbusters (the pros call them 10-baggers) have passed me by… nope, in re-thinking this, I’ve passed them by.

My biggest problem as I look back now is not the quality of my research and purchases, it was the quality of my “gut-strength”.

BUY LOW, SELL HIGH… you and I have both heard this maxim a hundred, maybe a thousand times. It’s kinda like saying, BE BORN YOUNG, DIE OLD. Easy to say, harder to do, right?…

You only really have a choice on one end of either of these equations with certainty. LOW and YOUNG both begin at 0… HIGH and OLD have no upside limit (OK… maybe OLD does have a finite point, but remember, bibilical Noah lived to 950).

I’ve been quite good at buying LOW… then too often sold high… but not high enough.

When my winners rose 15 or 20%, I started to feel the hair on the back of my neck creeping upwards … way too often I’ve sold for a modest profit rather than holding on to quality companies and letting them do what they do best… keep growing and adding big profits for themselves… and by osmosis… to me!

Well-run companies with great management have a way of thinking through the tough stuff and finding ways to continue to prosper regardless of the toughness of any economy, year after year.

My advice to myself AND to YOU?

If you should find yourself fortunate enough to own a bit of companies like Apple, Johnson & Johnson, Disney, Amazon, or McDonald’s, hold onto them tightly unless something dramatic occurs that will wound them irreparably… otherwise cling to them as they find a way to renew and carry on making you money hand over fist. (Full disclosure: I own Apple, Disney and Amazon, but sold both J&J and McDonald’s much too early)

It’s a test of our self-belief and “gut-strength”.

GUT strength AND balls…

If I could start all over with a small sum of money that I wanted to grow to a large sum of money, I would show more patience and resolve when the tides of a slowing economy or a rising share price have caused me to sell too soon.

Trust my research would become my mantra.

I’m not Bill Gates, I’m not Elon Musk, I’m not Catherine Wood, I’m not Warren Buffett… but as Larry Green I resolve to hold on to the investment rope when it gets a bit slippery – to trust my choices and decisions in the investing world.

Right… Back to YBM Magnex… remember them?… here’s the rest of the story.

YBM was a solid-appearing company with wonderful assets and sales and profits in producing and selling rare earth magnets to the technology industry. But there were worrisome whispers…

After a strong report from an internationally-renowned auditing firm that gave a green light to the quality of the company’s reporting standards, I stayed on board despite the various reports of fraud and money laundering.

WRONG! Early one morning, the FBI burst through the front doors of the company and uncovered proof of Russian Mafia money-laundering. Poof! My investment dollars disappeared like feathers in a hurricane.

My research had been fine, but my trust in “reputable” auditing companies took a big hit… expensive lesson learned.

Markets are close to highs right now. Riding a market tide-swell is a rush.

They might rise more, or… they might tumble mightily. I have no idea which will be the next stage. My crystal ball has always been murky.

But I will do my best to stay strong and ride whatever waves come my way. We survived (sort of) a period of Trump, and I trust that we can get through the next wave of worry, whatever it might be.

I know the map and the directions, now comes the trusting part.

PS. Despite my braggadocio, I did NOT retire at 35. I’ll never truly retire, but I DID leave my long-term medical lab career behind on my 57th Birthday!

PPS. Just one more thing… I’ve been a fan-boy of Australian acoustic guitarist Tommy Emmanuel for a few years (I have tickets to see him in-person once the pandemic undoes the handcuffs!). Stay Close To Me, the instrumental guitar piece I recorded (below) was written by Emmanuel… I use him as a source of incentive and motivation to work away at my guitar skills. If I can capture 25% of his skills, I will possess a million stars in my eyes (and fingertips)!

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