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WORLD ON FIRE!

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OK fire

Okanagan Valley fire this week…

FIRESTORM…

I’m a new age kind of primeval guy…

I love words and their power and usage… and … I love fire, although at times I fear its power and usage…

Fire can be fun, even flirty.

I play around with words like kindle, spark, burning, ignited, flicker, fuming, blaze, zeal, combustion, inferno, smouldered.

Every one of these words says FIRE.  But in your mind, each also kindles other thoughts, right?

Let me give you a small example of some presumed (cheesy Harlequin-style!) fiery narrative from the movie When Harry Met Sally.

The first time they met through a mutual friend, Sally didn’t have even a flicker of love for Harry. By contrast, as he spit grape seeds out the car window on a “friendly” road trip to New York, Harry looked over and thought to himself, “Sally is hot.” 

Ten years later when they met once again, they instantly felt a spark of sexual attraction, a kindling of desire for each other, but they tried to ignore the inner coals of ardour.

Beneath it all however, their true feelings kept smouldering.

Finally one night, in an unexpected development, their passions inflamed and blazed, and they made love. 

That was fun FIRE.

Sally Orgasm2.jpg

BURNING INFERNO!

Language fills me with delicious wonder in how we transform and manipulate certain words into other meanings that give depth and nuance to the joy of speech and writing. Wordplay in the novels we read, the movies we watch, brings us a kaleidoscope of delight.

But. Yes, there’s always a but.

Fire can be frightening.

Today, I’m looking over this computer screen and out my window at a not-too-distant wall of grey-white smoke.

A sooty curtain obliterates any view I typically have of the picturesque hillsides filled with Ponderosa Pines speckling the east side of Okanagan Lake.

Three nights ago, forks of jagged lightning dramatically crashed to ground minus any rainfall that may have quelled the youthfully energetic flames that erupted.

As the sun set, creamsicle-orange flames flicked the dark sky, reaching their fingers up to share their fiery heat with the moon and stars.

It was as startlingly beautiful as a Hawaiian sunset over the Pacific but much more ominous than romantic.

And now, when the sun arises each morning, the beautiful clear vistas we’ve enjoyed for the first month of summer have transformed into hazy greys and browns and oranges set against a noisy sky full of water bomber planes, aircraft bearing huge bellies of bright red retardant, helicopters with big buckets trailing beneath.

The heavens are abuzz as if a heavy, swarming mosquito infestation has suddenly hatched.

The perennial regularity of fire is the new normal in this dry interior valley; each summer season brings a host of rippling flames to one section or another of our tree-laden hills.

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Fire is heavenly… fire is hell… we love fire… we hate fire.

I’ve played with fire my entire life… most psychiatrists would slot me into the pyromaniac category with little hesitation.

The best part of camping when I was a kid was the arrival of sunset in the trees, when I’d kindle little fires inside a stone circle next to our family tent-trailer, happily feasting on the heady scent of smoke, poking away at the mesmerizing glimmer of coals crackling and popping.

I loved receiving cheap cologne sets as a birthday gift, not only because it triggered a momentary sense of being grown up but… yes… the alcohol in the fragrant elixir made for fun little fires on the concrete floor in my garage… thinking back, I probably smelled of smoke until I was 13 years old. Bottle that, Calvin Klein or Armani!

Later on, in my first lab job in Yellowknife, while collecting blood samples, I looked forward to entering the hospital rooms of tiny elderly Inuit women who’d be snacking on wild red berries and who reeked of strong wood smoke. I’d breathe deeply of the musky scent they carried from their far north homes. So much sweeter than my birthday colognes!

Fire can create sadness and calamity.

A woman I work with when I’m bartending these days lost a child in a motel fire years back. Her baby snatched away in an instant. How could she ever again look at or think of fire without reliving a horror tragedy? Where does she find her smile thanks to fire?

Musically, I remember Stan Rogers, a treasured Canadian singer/songwriter (Northwest Passage , Barrett’s Privateers) with huge potential who perished at age 33 in an airplane fire on the tarmac in Cincinnati. Smoke-snuffed possibilities and promise.

FIRE. Beauty and the Beast.

Where would we be as humanity without fire.

The fire in her eyes. The fire in his belly.

Fire is enthusiasm, fire is lust, fire is fearsome, fire is strength.

You’re fired! Fire at will! 

It’s fire that feeds our hungry bellies and fire that feeds our vivid imaginations.

Yes… merely peering out my window this week at wind-fanned smoke and flames has struck a fire in my head with words and ideas that carry me along this journey from my past…  to my today… and give me inspiration for the future.

That is one powerful word.

FIRE.

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Surprises, Epiphanies, And Seeds.

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seeds

In 1977 I had a life changing-, life expanding-epiphany.

The epiphany? I had choices. WE have choices. 

Seeds.

I had just recently left my teen years, turning 20 years old, a freshly minted college grad… thick, dark hair and a future of limitless potential, but…

… I didn’t know that I had choices. Really?

I knew there were boxes I could open that contained minor differences, but the general course of my life was pre-determined as if I were some young Amish kid.

Pre-determined similarly to 50 years earlier when girls had free choice to be anything they wanted, you know, either… teacher or nurse. Woo Hoo!

Choice?

Not real, life changing choices where I raised the jib and held the rudder. Choices that let me contain and control the wind.

Foolishly, I didn’t know that until I picked up the phone one late September morning and a lady on the other end of the line said:

“Larry, this is Marg Ramsden in Yellowknife. We received your resume for a lab job and we’d like you to come and work for us.”

Yellowknife! Yellowknife?

Did I really send a resume to Yellowknife? What was I thinking? Yellowknife?

Arctic-ice-cold-dark-winter-night-isolated-Eskimo-territory Yellowknife? (remember, Eskimo was a happily acceptable term for the Inuit in 1977).

Then… I was offered another lab position that very same day in the Hamilton hospital lab Blood Bank where I had interned.

That was the box I was conditioned to expect.

Obviously an easy decision, right? At least I thought so.

Nice big city 600-bed hospital job crossmatching blood vs. tiny cold remote northern 72-bed hospital where I’d cover all the lab departments (hospital labs usually encompass Blood Bank, Haematology, Microbiology, Histology and Biochemistry).

Why would I trade the familiar homey scent of Hamilton smog and my “Oskey Wee Wee” Tiger Cat football team for belligerent black flies, murderous mosquitoes and -45C temperatures?

Then I surprised myself.

Yup, there can be unexpected earth-tremors along our journey.

Surprise. Life changing.

Yes, I burned away the easy choice and nervously put myself onboard a Pacific Western Airlines (PWA) Boeing 737 in Toronto that touched down first in Edmonton, then in Yellowknife, on a chill October Arctic evening as lovely tiny snowflakes fell.

I was so isolated and naive in my little world that I had tried to book a flight on TWA (TransWorld Airlines) instead of PWA … the TWA agent had no idea what the hell a “Yellowknife” was… I had no idea what the hell a “PWA” was.

My palace was shattered like a beach sandcastle hit by a rogue wave, but I only realized that in retrospect.

That was the first seed.

crumbling palace

As I slowly grew acclimatized and comfortable in this foreign northern life, my slightly older roommate kept talking about the great time he’d had travelling throughout Europe a couple years back. I would never do that. Never.

Of course, my roommate did a lot of crazy things like drinking an entire bottle of beer while standing on his head at parties.

I’d never try that either. NEVER.

But the seed was planted.  No, not THAT seed! I’ve never quaffed a beer while standing on my head.

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And so, two years later in 1979 I backpacked my way throughout Western Europe. (a few years ago, I wrote about an unusual event from that trip in another post.)

Another seed.

That was a surprise. Never ever dreamed of doing that until I did.

It was slowly dawning on me that the choices in my life were mine to make if I only opened my head to possibility… oh yeah, that and… conquering the fear factor, just like I conquered (OK, conquered may be too strong a word… I edged by…) the fear factor in jumping out of an airplane a couple of weeks ago.

I’ve enjoyed gardening, sowing and tending beautiful flowers and vegs and fruits since I was a wee gopher. I know, weird kid!

Once you become a gardener and can finally see that seeds are what grow into luscious plants that nourish us, well, you begin paying attention and looking for seeds to blow into your yard.

Some seeds turn out to be weeds that are ugly and beg to be pulled and composted. Out, damned spot! out, I say!

But then other seeds land lightly, push through the fresh earthy humus and put on an amazing display like you’ve never ever seen.

These are the seeds and plants you tenderly water and provide nutrients so that artistic natural beauty is of your own making.

Choices are the seeds that we can select to make into our life art.

Not every seed is a ravishing stunner, a scented rose, a splendiferous bougainvillea, but we can’t always tell the beauties from the rejects until we give them a try.

As John Denver sang, “… some days are diamonds, some days are stone…“… or why not a bit more bluntly from Mary Chapin Carpenter, “… sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug…”

A tiny example? Sure. More recently, a small seed that’s become a beautiful bloom for me has been tutoring a young Syrian fellow.

While he thanks me profusely, believing that I’m giving him a big jump in his new calmer world in Canada, in reality, we’re both gardeners that are enjoying the fruitful benefits of expanding our worlds.

The laughter we share when he knows he’s being mischievous in English and whispers the “F” word with a sly grin reminds me of how interconnected and similar we all are despite the huge differences.

I’ve had lots of surprises and epiphanies and seeds that drifted into my sightlines over the years.

My eyes may be growing older, but in some surprising ways, I can see better now than I ever have in my life.

Baby-With-Funny-Glasses

13 Ways To AVOID Checkout Diarrhea & Vomiting

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General-Store

grocery aisle

Supermarket shopping is kind of routine fun, isn’t it? Sometimes?

Most weeks, like children with baby carriages, we roll our little buggies up and down long concrete-floored aisles, each side of those aisles filled to the gunnels with FOOD.

How things have changed.

One hundred years ago, you’d walk into a shop with a bell above the door that jingled when you entered.

Then, you sidled over to a counter where a man or his wife, that you’ve known your whole life, stood with a neat apron ready to gather the provisions you’d need to eat and live for the next week, or two weeks, or a month.

Once collected together, there were no plastic or paper bags to put it all inside. Perhaps you had a hand-sewn sack you brought with you to carry your sugar and salt and flour.

It’s a scene plucked right from Anne of Green Gables; Anne Shirley and Matthew Cuthbert place their order while Anne fantasizes about puffy-sleeved dresses in the window and Matthew fantasizes on buying a butcher’s knife to hack out his sister Marilla’s tongue to stop her incessant nagging and chatter!

But… I have yet to see a historical film or photo that showed ANY magazines lined up in neat racks beside the counter for the amusement or education of the shopper.

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Through today’s eyes, how did we ever survive without this information and hot tips, advice and enlightenment? 8 Ways To Easily Gut A Hog or Pick Your Perfect Corset would have sold faster than buckets of lard or molasses in 1906.

All of this is to say that shopping has changed dramatically and is changing even more at this point in history.

The mags and tabloids play on our insecurities of how we do everything from painting window trim to whether anal-oral sex is A-OK (yeah, it’s not!).

The headlines foment worry and anxiety.

One of the best ways to avoid anxiety and stress – to avoid fears of inferiority or inner terror – I’ve learned in my many many years of shopping, is to avert my eyes totally from the magazine shelves at the checkout cattle chutes.

DANGER & CAUTION warnings should be placed in front of each display where photos of beautifully coiffed stars and starlets, or grotesquely photoshopped pics of Jennifer Aniston or the latest Bachelorette adorn the covers of the glossies along with the BEST information and advice ever offered for incredible sex or amazing beauty or stupendous rock hard pilates abs.

Which all brings me to my point. Sorry to have subjected you to 400 words of nonsense. But thanks for sticking with me this far.

The meat of this post comes now…

Magazine advice

I will share my expertise with you and it won’t cost you a dime.

To save you the bother and distress of exhausting your psychic energy and hard-earned dollars on next week’s grocery run, look away from THOSE headlines and ingest the following simple and succinct (AND free!) advice on trouble avoidance as I offer you …

MY top magazine-style tips:

  1. AVOID STD’s easily don’t get naked with anyone other than yourself. This will also avoid the laughter that accompanies your lover’s first views of you al fresco.. who needs that?
  2. AVOID Childhood Obesitydon’t feed your children. Today’s kids spend far too much time indoors glued to technology. Healthy children will get tons of exercise foraging outdoors for sustenance alongside rats and raccoons.  
  3. AVOID Holiday Weight Gain don’t feed yourself. However, if you insist on pigging out, consume only foods you’ve left at room temperature on the kitchen counter overnight or salads prepared on cutting boards where raw chicken has recently been dissected. 
  4. AVOID Alzheimersdon’t grow old… ever. Participate in fun sports like mountain-climbing, scuba diving, running of the bulls, and skydiving to nudge the avoidance process along.
  5. AVOID saying SH*TKeep your mouth shut. Opening it results in 4-letter profanity of all kinds + obesity, so just keep it closed. If this is too difficult, Home Depot carries staple guns that are invaluable in achieving this objective. Think those words all you want in the wasteland between your ears…
  6. AVOID Airport Security Worry stay home at all times, bombs are everywhere. Want to travel? Watch Anthony Bourdain or Rick Steves on your phone or TV.
  7. AVOID Climate Changepurchase BEANO or anti-gas tabs of your choice… it’s not only cows that produce climate changing methane gas. Mens’ clubs are a dying breed for a reason.
  8. AVOID Gun and Knife Deaththe knights of old wore chain-mail… cops and soldiers wear bullet-proof kevlar vests… so what’s wrong with the rest of us? Why don’t grocery stores and Walmart offer fashionable anti-missile wear for the everyday person? Trés chic … DUH!
  9. AVOID ProcrastinationLook down at your shoes. Are you wearing NIKE runners? Good … then JUST DO IT!
  10. AVOID Food Wastestop buying food that is healthy for you but you hate. Have you seen how much green leafy vegetable matter goes into compost piles and landfills? Nobody throws out potato chips or deep fried fish sticks. Simple, eh?
  11. AVOID Unwanted Pregnancy – see Point #1 above… nobody ever got pregnant masturbating…
  12. AVOID Shark Attacksmove inland and stay away from any water source that contains NaCl. FACT: There have been NO recorded deaths from shark bites in ANY freshwater lake in all of human history… moving inland also offers good anti-tsunami protection as a side benefit.
  13. AVOID naming children Angelina, Brad, Jennifer or Britney – these names are the kiss of death and will bring you a lifetime of astounding wealth but also heartache and unrelenting paparazzi attacks far worse than any shark bite.

Brad pitt.jpg

So there.

You now know how to live a satisfying, diarrhea- and vomit-free grocery shopping life.

Of course in today’s shopping world you could easily avoid ALL “checkout distress” by simply ordering your groceries online with delivery to your door.

Truthfully, I’d hate to miss the myriad joys of grocery shopping: the harsh fluorescent lights, the spills in Aisle 7, shopping cart handles saturated with bathroom bacteria and snotty viruses, pumped in Muzak, screaming children and exhausted parents, frigid cold frozen pizza aisles, cart wheels that won’t run straight, and supermarket dents in your car door.

Who would ever really want to avoid THAT?

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Freefalling…

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freefall

 

A slightly muffled engine roar intrudes through the World War I-style headgear…

… my racing heart nuzzles upwards into my throat as I watch the digital readout on my tandem buddy’s altimeter climb higher.

The fateful number 10,000 is getting excruciatingly close…

10,000.

As in, 10,000 feet above the Okanagan Valley bottom that we left about 20 minutes earlier.

As in, 10,000 feet of air to fly through with the aid of a parachute before kissing firm ground once more.

Don’t forget to bend your legs at the knees and tilt your head back when we first leave the plane, keep your arms crossed over your chest until I tap you on the shoulder“, yelled Rocky, my tandem jumping partner, over the plane engine noise.

Really, I should be relaxed and enjoying the sublime views of blue sky, marshmallow-fluff clouds and green valley farms, homes and hillsides below.

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And sure, I am enjoying… Okanagan Lake looks fabulous, blue-black tears in the quiltscape of blues and greens stretched out across the arc of earth…

… but… my mind is becoming more and more focussed on the excitement – more focussed on the fear – factor.

I begin editing my obituary in my head… Suddenly on WednesdayUnexpectedly as a result of …

My friend Jennifer looked back at me in her aviator’s cap – she would jump with her tandem-partner Brett moments after I was airborne – we smiled at each other and fist-bumped.

Then Rocky swung the airplane door up and open and a huge rushing tsunami of wind pulsed over us; we swung our legs, one by one, out the door against the gale and onto the strut a foot or so beneath the opening. OMG, this is really happening

Until this morning, this lovely birthday gift (which I have talked about as a bucket list item for the last couple of years) from my wife Maureen was a fairy tale, a far-in-the-distance occurrence that would eventually happen one day but never today.

Until today became TODAY!

I’m not typically a thrill seeker… NOPE. I singularly lack courage. I fear paper cuts. I feel for the Lion in The Wizard of Oz.

And yet, in the last decade or so it has dawned on me that life is meant to be lived for each moment, each day.

It’s taken me a long time to live and breathe through my fears and not turn away from them as much as I once did.

On the other hand, I may just be stupid.

My mind wandered for a few seconds as the last moments pass before freefall.

I pushed away the ear worm that says “you should be listening to Tom Petty and Freefallin’...”.. I hate that song… get lost Petty!

More interior wandering… leading up to this day, I’ve had an uncomfortable dream where I jumped tandem from the plane, securely connected to my sky-high friend who carried OUR parachute on his back.

The freefall was cocaine-laced amazement.

When my jump-mate pulled the cord to release the parachute, I could feel the upwards tug as the rippling chute gasped and unfolded, catching the air pocket inside.

Then just as rapidly I could sense myself uncoupling, separating from my partner and feel myself continuing along in speedy descent as the metal clasps that had tied us so tightly together mysteriously unlatched and unleashed me once more into fretful freefall. Noooooooo……

the scream

Back to reality… I took one final panoramic glance over the valley, the clouds, the water and pill-sized homes… arms crossed over my chest, head tilted back.

Then we began to rock.

Forward once, then back … forward again, then back… forward again …

…and …  forward more… weightless

… the atmosphere was cool, sky bright, there was no here or now, no bills to be paid, no chores or other people … nothing but rushing air … weightless

Inexplicably, Sarah McLachlan quietly sang In The Arms of The Angel in my ear.

… Rocky took us into an immediate somersault where the sky became the ground and the ground the sky.

No fear now, no shock now, only amazement.

Coming out of the somersault, Rocky tapped my shoulder and I stretched my arms out into wings where I could feel the intense pressure of air against my chest and face, my cheeks and nostrils buffeted up and skyward.

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This is the moment I wish I could freeze-frame and hold onto for seconds, minutes, perhaps hours.

Click. Snapshot. Seconds speed by like the hurricane wind surrounding us.

I can barely absorb the meteoric moment before it’s … gone like a human lifetime set against eternity.

The nightmare dream I had envisioned before quickly evaporates when Rocky releases the parachute and we pulse gently upwards with wind beneath our wings.

It almost seems like a complete halt in the sky at 5,000 feet after the flush of freefall. Our bodies sink into an upright stance and the rushing shrill of wind goes silent.

OMG Rocky, that was incredible. How many times will you do this today?

Could be anywhere from 5 to 10…

The adrenaline rush begins to dissipate and a calmness settles over me like a quiet hug… or maybe that was just Rocky pressed against me. Is that a gun in your pocket?…

Whatever… Rocky loosens off some of the tethers that have bound us closely like conjoined twins. Deep yoga breath. We lift our eye visors and enjoy at a serenely relaxed pace.

Rocky begins giving me an aerial tour of the valley, pointing out landmarks as he “steers” the parachute so that we turn this way and that, looking out in all directions.

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Then he has me take the reins. I tug hard on the yellow straps that dip one side or the other of the chute allowing us to turn easily.

The earth grows ever closer as we dipsydoodle like a child’s crayon on paper with no lines to stay inside.

I crank my head upwards and can spot blue and red-chuted Jennifer floating above us a few hundred metres away. I look down and see my family crew craning their heads skyward back at us.

The ground is coming up fast now and Rocky brings us swooping into the grassy field with a flourish that slows rapidly at the last second as our feet slide over the ground.

We glide on our bums for a few feet, a puff of small gravelly stones and dust streams up.

Then all is still, all is quiet.

……….

We live in deeds, not years; In thoughts, not breaths;
In feelings, not in figures on a dial.
We should count time by heart-throbs.”

 Philip James Bailey

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Divine Guidance or… Where The Muse Really Resides

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gods creativity

I heard a guy interviewed on the radio yesterday.

He said, I don’t know if any of us are actually creative.

I say… BULLSHIT!

Here’s some more of what he said… Steve Engels (Associate Professor of teaching- Computer Science -University of Toronto):

I don’t know if humans are creative sometimes.

I mean it’s the idea of creativity is something, well and I’ve studied is getting inventions or innovations. A lot of things that we create that are new are really inspired by things that we’ve seen before.

Very few people come up with something completely original in a vacuum. And so we find ways of combining and recombining things we’ve seen before and we do it in new and innovative ways. So we try to draw from that in order to come up with something that models human creativity.

But I don’t know. I mean I sometimes think the more we dig into this to try to figure out whether our A.I.’s are being truly creative the more we are questioning whether any of us are actually creative.

He just defined creativity while calling it “not creativity”.

I get where he’s coming from.

For most of us, creativity suggests making something from nothing; God-like lego assembly with no kit or instructions included.

But creativity can’t break the laws of physics any more than I can reject gravity… or banana cream pie.

This is my take.

Reality laws tell me that creativity is taking a million great ideas from every sector, every personal experience, every gender, every religion, every song, every story, every invention….

…. then tossing it all into a blender and whizzing it around like Dorothy’s house cannonading from Kansas to Oz… until a “new” concoction comes frothing up that no one has ever seen before.

Sara Blakely did that.

“I look at any object and try to think of any use it has other than what people had planned for it.”

And then she acted on it. She saw a pair of pantyhose, cut off the feet and created a multi-billion dollar company, Spanx. 

That’s creative, isn’t it?

Spanx men

The most creative of modern musician/songwriters like Brian Wilson and Hank Williams and George Harrison freely admit to consciously or sub-consciously borrowing ideas from other songwriters in their music.

Harrison’s My Sweet Lord has the same chorus melody line as The Chiffons’ He’s So Fine. But it’s not the same song.

When I sit and strive to write a meaningful song with lyrics, melody and harmony that meld together as a coherent whole, I’m not starting from scratch (even though it feels like it!) Oh no…..

I draw on that old Idea Sex where I lay out a recipe card that mashes together my love of country and folk and classical: a teaspoon of Keith Urban, a cup of James Taylor, a pinch of Civil Wars’ guitar work and a dollop of Mary Chapin Carpenter-type imagery.

Paul Simon, Tommy Emmanuelle, Eric Clapton, Valdy and Lady Antebellum are all crowded around peering over my shoulder too, pointing a finger here and there as guidance.

Even Bach, Beethoven and Mozart didn’t create something from nothing. They thought they were receiving divine inspiration from above, but really it was their peers and ghosts of the past that silently infiltrated their writing quills.

They were inspired and molded by a profusion of others’ “creativity”.

In turn they inspired dozens of generations afterwards.

I recently finished a book titled “How To Fly A Horse“, by Kevin Ashton. Ashton relates that all creative ideas are built on the shoulders of hundreds and hundreds of generations of talented, motivated, creative people. Each generation adds more blocks to the structure of art and architecture and every other field of progress.

Steve Jobs didn’t wake up one day from a halcyon dream and decide out of nowhere about designing the iPhone.

It took millennia for thousands of engineers and inventors and dreamers to bring us to the magical moment where Jobs could creatively piece together something that has revolutionized and altered our world tremendously.

Funny-Iphone-02

Creativity is really about taking a whole bunch of lego sets and instead of building the structure pictured on the outside of the box, we use our childlike imagination and life’s experiences to make a new construct that no one else has envisioned in its totality.

Creativity is hard work. Exhaustingly hard.

Inspiration is only the start line and the end result lies a sweaty-hard one hundred metres down the track… sometimes 42.2 kilometres. Not everyone who lines up in the blocks makes it to the finish line.

But those who don’t put in the effort and time to try (yes YODA, there IS try…) will never triumph.

God doesn’t pick a favourite football team to win and the Muse picks no favourites to be creative.

She sits in her beach chair waiting patiently at the finish line, sipping chilly Pinot Gris, cheering and begging us forward but never lending a hand to draw us the last few metres.

It’s inside of us.

That’s what divine creative guidance is all about Charlie Brown.

Julie Moss Ironman

Julie Moss crawls across Ironman finish line in 1982…

 

 

Cake Therapy With CNN

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I am a CNN fan boy.

A few years ago, I’d catch the occasional minute or two of Wolf or Brianna or Anderson. On Blitzer… On Keilar… On Cooper… 

It was passerby TV viewing. Ho hum… take in a moment of toothy-grinned Obama speaking to the camera and merrily continue on with MY day.

ROUTINE World. Happy World.

Sadly today, I’m a full-fledged CNN addict.

They handcuffed my inner liberal bias and are holding me hostage. I’m in their grip and I can’t let go. HELP!!

I feel dirty.

Thanks Donald.

NON-ROUTINE World. Sad World.

In the old world, it used to be that “polite” Canadians genially crossed paths and discussed the changing weather patterns. Gonna be a hot one today eh Ginger Snap?…

Today, the passing eye-rolls of interchange revolve more and more around what shovelful (dump truck!) of nonsense hit Twitter overnight. OMG, Can you believe that sh*t?…

500+ days back, when the U.S. election results were shockingly finalized, I predicted we’d do a throwback to the Dark Ages for a few years.

But it’s become even darker than I could have pie-in-the-sky imagined.

It’s like the 50 Shades phenomenon a couple of years back. A huge portion of the population was swept into a surreal madness of worship of a man who merrily abuses and proudly dominates women.

My understanding sense was senseless. I didn’t/don’t get it.

Trump 50 shades.jpg

And now there’s this insanity sweeping a whole nation, a nation that has been a world power, the beacon of hope and possibility for a peaceful and tolerantly accepting world for 100 years.

Sure, every story has its dark sides and America has held a few snotty handkerchiefs in its back pocket, thanks in part to slavery and misogyny and treachery. Nobody’s perfect…

…oh yeah… cake. Don’t forget the cake.

I always buy too many bananas at my local Superstore.

It began as an accidental overbuy when I’d purchase a 6 banana bunch (… daylight come and me wanna go home…) and then always find myself with 2 or 3 extras at the end of the week when we’d head off again and buy 6 more bananas.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat… Buy. Blacken. Buy Again.

Maybe it’s an OCD thing. Maybe it’s a “don’t carry out the same action and expect different results” scenario.

Where was I going? oh yeah… cake.

I love banana chocolate chip cake (I love lots of cakes… almost any cake in fact).

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The deliciously smooth moistness and combination of banana and chocolate builds a delectable ambrosia effect that piggybacks on my love of peanut butter and banana sandwiches.

It’s a relatively healthy addiction, unlike my desire to smoke one Cuban cigar per week during the gorgeously sunny summer months.

And it doesn’t involve me spying through my neighbour’s window while they’re having sex…. EWwwwwwww! See? Healthy!

Building a banana chocolate chip cake is my sugar-drenched passport, my freedom to exclude the gluten free, superfood, and paleo folks who buffet me with their winds from all sides almost every day.

Take this!… eggs… and this!... white flour…. and THAT! chocolate…

So almost once weekly, I turn up the volume to CNN and gorge on the fetid faeces that emanate from the cake-hole of the TRUMPster whilst mixing flour and eggs and brown-black bananas and sugar … baking a yummy sweet cake for MY cake-hole.

Soothing with food.

My mind wanders in loop-de-loo circles and twists… why would Butch and Sundance think they could ever shoot their way out of that little Bolivian town?… I miss watching my young kidlets at their end-of-the-year ballet concerts… will the fear be greater in my head or my stomach when I dive out of an airplane in the next couple of weeks? I hope the spy couple who escaped back to Russia in the TV show The Americans, will get to see their children again in their lifetime.

Butch and sundance.jpg

Weird random thoughts.

But anything to escape the CNN-Trump vortex for a few blessed minutes.

It’s a perplexing thing where I hate the impulse to watch Trump as he clumsily – spitefully – maliciously – twists and batters our 3rd rock world towards an unhappy ending.

Baking a cake is an antibody vest I can wear (and eat!) to protect myself against the nastiness and darkness coming from the south-of-Canada kingdom. It makes the world feel normal again somehow.

As written in DESIDERATA, I have to accept that there are some things I can’t change in the world.

It’s OK for me to be narcissistic in my own space, show up and focus on getting better in my own world today and not fret about the future.

We can’t always magically succeed. But we can get better.

My banana chocolate chip cake can always be better too, but it does take continuous practice. Weekly, in fact!

Oh… and here’s the simple recipe I use to anti-Trumpify myself while watching CNN … You’re Welcome!

LARRY’S BANANA CHOCOLATE CHIP CAKE

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup butter, melted

1 cup white sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup sour cream (low fat works fine)

3/4 cup chocolate chips

2 ripe, medium bananas, sliced or mushed.

PREPARATION

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 9×5 inch loaf or 8 inch cake pan.

In a large bowl, stir together the melted butter and sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla, mix well.

Combine the flour, baking soda and salt, stir into the butter mixture until smooth. Finally, fold in the sour cream, chocolate chips and bananas. Spread evenly into the prepared pan.

Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the loaf comes out clean. Cool loaf in the pan for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

EXERCISE!…

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comes in lots of forms

… they all hurt until they feel great.

 

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  • Writing this blog exercises my writing mind, pushing me to be as clear in my communication as possible.

I spend a good deal of time writing, rewriting, editing and re-editing these posts to make them as understandable and relevant as I can manage (you may think I fail terribly… oh well!).

It’s frustrating and sometimes hurts my head trying to finding new ideas and new approaches that fulfill my needs while also hopefully finding a message that occasionally intrigues you.

A satisfying payoff comes every 4 or 5 blog posts when I hit on a thought, maybe a metaphor or a way of thinking that sends a chill of thrill up my spine.

It’s like finding a hidden cinnamon bun in the freezer and no one is around to catch you eating it… 0 calories!!

  • Playing and practicing my guitar exercises a part of my brain that requires coordination and memory and nuance of tone, timing, and volume.

I rehearse and practice songs over and over, trying out different keys and styles of approach (is this better in country format, jazzy, or slow and soulful?).

Jackson Browne would sit at his piano practicing a song, or even just one line of a song for hours until he hit on just the right sound he wanted. I think the best musicians follow a similar pattern to Browne’s.

Tonight I’ll sing his song THESE DAYS at an Open Mic with my own interpretation that I’ve practiced over and over.

The hurt heals to delicious pleasure.

Jackson brown piano.jpg

  • Investing exercises another part of my brain.

It’s the numbers part, the analytical and decision-making areas that weigh and decipher and calculate risk vs reward.

There’s a large set of reality-based and psychological components that need assessment and a steady mindset to produce a High-5 satisfactory return on dollars invested.

The level-headedness required to persevere when bad stuff happens to good investments is challenging, but ultimately rewarding when good analysis turns into good returns.

  • Running and other physical activities like spin class, yoga, and boot camp exercise my body.

Physical exertion forces large volumes of oxygen-rich blood to the areas where it’s needed to perform and work hard.

I try to work myself hard for at least a small amount of time each day… sometimes as little as 20 minutes with high intensity stuff. Half marathon training can consume a 2 hour period for long runs in preparation for a race.

I don’t mind if my body screams and hurts a little. Sorry to disagree with the “experts”, but sometimes… a little pain does produce gains.

The best showers are the ones that rinse away a ton of salty sweat.

sweaty guy

Exercise of all kinds comes down to habit and focus. Yes?

Self- discipline. Yes?

We all know that exercise in all forms is important in our lives.

Wrong… MOST of us know.

Here’s what Donald Trump thinks about exercise.

In a book (Trump Revealed) by the Washington Post’s Mike Kranisch and Marc Fisher:

After college, after Trump mostly gave up his personal athletic interests, he came to view time spent playing sports as time wasted. Trump believed the human body was like a battery, with a finite amount of energy, which exercise only depleted. So he didn’t work out. When he learned that John O’Donnell, one of his top casino executives, was training for an Ironman triathlon, he admonished him, “You are going to die young because of this.”

And, like all things TRUMP, I disagree. Every reputable scientific study disagrees… but there I go off on an unfocused tangent. Bad Larry. Yes, I digress.

Exercise is about habit and focus and self-discipline. But we also know that exercise is usually hard, a challenge to body, mind and soul.

Sometimes to pocketbook. OUCH!

For me in my life the hardest exercise is the creative process.

creativity ocean

 

Being creative exercises my sub-conscious mind and my powers of observation and interpretation and Idea Sex.

I can procrastinate my life away when I become lazy and try to avoid the creative process that I both love and hate.

I love the end result. I hate the process that takes me there.

We went to see the movie DEADPOOL 2 this week. WTF, Another tangent?

It’s the kind of movie you either love or hate.

It’s the 21st century equivalent of those 80’s and 90’s movies like AIRPLANE! or NAKED GUN… a bit of silly slapstick, a bit of Monty Python, buckets of blood and comic “violence”, even a kiss of romance.

But OMG, its approach to the superhero genre is so irreverently abrasive and inventive and original and CREATIVE.

I am in awe of the thought process (plus the multi-millions of dollars spent in its production) and independent manner that led screenwriters down this path.

I must have had some exercise in watching the show because my laughter muscles hurt afterwards.

Laughter can be THE best exercise, right? Shower time!

deadpool 2.jpg

 

A Masterpiece… Am I Ready?

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Okanagan Lake.jpg

Ommmmmmmmmmm…..

When we take a deep yoga breath and open our eyes and senses to the world around us we can see the universe as a beautiful painting. The breezes flow like fairy sprites across the canvas blending colour and texture.

To truly appreciate an exquisite piece of art, we first have to stand back and absorb the totality before we hone in on the minuscule fine points that, brought together, produce a masterpiece.

Masterpieces are created one step, one brush stroke at a time, in the same way that a war is looked back upon as a series of battles that produced a final outcome. OK, maybe that’s not a pretty comparison, but you get the point.

Bob Ross painting.jpg

Life is made from science but is best appreciated as art…

In a few weeks I’ll become a granddad for the first time.

My baby is having a baby. I’m not sure I’m ready.

Am I ready?

I always ask myself, “Am I ready?

I’ll tell you my answer at the end of this.

Soon, a small genetic piece of me will usher himself into the world and hopefully live for 100 or more years as a fractional portion of my proof of existence.

He’ll grow and laugh and cry, living his life one heartbeat, one day at a time just like I have, just like my mother, my grandfathers and great-grandmothers did.

This isn’t light stuff. This comes down to the meaning of life and weighty philosophical thoughts.

Granddad. It’s a title that I can’t quite grasp.

grandfather painting

In reality, for my entire life, I’ve struggled with titles of all kinds … paperboy, burger flipper, laboratory technologist, husband, father, brother, gardener, hockey player, writer, triathlete, musician, tutor, cook, bartender, the list goes on and on.

Every time a new title presents itself I’ve sat and asked myself, “Am I ready?

I’ve shivered and trembled and worried. My first niece was born when I was 11. I shivered. I married when I was  24 years old. I trembled. My first child was born when I was 26. I worried.

My first grandchild will be born when I’m 60. I shiver and tremble and worry. The beautiful masterpiece, the fine details and curlicues of a perfect life might turn into tangles and knots. But that’s short-lived worry that is really a mirage.

I know it’s insecurity that makes me think this way. I know it has to do with self-esteem and confidence. Am I ready?

It’s silly really because we all find ourselves “titled” every day by the roles we play, the things we do.

Not one of these titles has sat well on me because they’ve all been challenges that defined me and encased me in shoes of concrete. I am this. Or I am that. To be or not to be… and most importantly… can I do it?

These titles in some way – and in my interpretation – suggest that I must have some sort of expertise that I feel uncomfortable claiming.

Yes, I am a musician… well actually I play a bit of guitar and sing but Sir Paul is truly a musician, not me.”

Sure, technically I’m your father, but I don’t bring all the wisdom and wonder to the role the way Atticus Finch did in To Kill A Mockingbird, or Charles Ingalls on Little House On The Prairie. Now those men were Dad’s.”

atticus finch.jpg

For many years I struggled with the sense of inferiority that often held me back through fear of failure. If I aim for this “title” and don’t quite make it, well, people will look down on me as a total failure.

The good news is that while in my 50’s, the fear of failure and insecurities that held hands with that fear slowly melted away like the globally-warmed ice glaciers in Alaska…

Titles don’t have the power to shape my view of myself the way they once did.

I don’t like failure any more than I ever have, but I accept that bastard failure as part of the process that carries me forward and gives me great satisfaction when I do overcome an obstacle.

And truthfully, I haven’t cleared every obstacle.

I took violin lessons for 4 years. I practiced and practiced. My family suffered the earfuls of pain. I never could coax a beautiful sound from that fiddle. Honestly, I sucked. OK, so violinist isn’t a title I hold; I’m good with that because I made a valiant attempt at learning. I grew in the process of sounding bad.

Today, although they still sound a bit foreign in my head, I’ve come to view titles as honours, accolades, recognition of what I’ve accomplished. Titles don’t define me, but they reflect the journey I’ve taken, the rivers I’ve crossed: some quiet babbling streams, some raging torrents.

Or in the case of the title Grandpa, a recognition of how far my children have come, an indirect reflection of the painting I began years ago when I was an intern in life (I’m still an intern).

Which brings me back around to the question I posed earlier… Am I ready?

I regret that I was never able to make a connection to any of my own grandparents as they were already gone or nearing their end when I arrived – the curse of being born to elder parents.

Now here I have an opportunity, a once-in-a-lifetime chance to carve out a connection as a grandparent.

It’s a title that requires nothing more of me than a loving presence.

There is excitement and newness in the beginning of a life, the anticipation of what-will-be. The joys and the worries.

OK…

My paintbrushes are cleaned and set to dab on the unvarnished canvas that awaits a brand new masterpiece.

Put me in Coach! I am ready.

……………………

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man in the moon…

 

 

 

 

It’s Been A Pretty Fine Dream Life

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Daydreaming is better than Daydrinking.

When I was 10 I wanted to be a doctor.

A rich doctor.

Don’t believe me? Here I’ll prove it to you.

LARRY SPEC CARRIER TIFF

When I was 20…

I wanted to be a singer/songwriter star. Maybe a Cat Stevens wannabe… again, let me show you.

When I was 30…

I wanted to be a blueberry and sheep farmer.

When I was 40…

I wanted to own a BunsMaster bakery franchise.

When I was 50…

I wanted to be an Entrepreneur that helped older folks write their memoirs for their kids and grandkids.

When I was 60 (now)…

I still harbour songwriting and rock star fantasies like when I was 20. Some of us never grow up, right Peter Pan?

Version 2

None of those fanciful dreams were ever totally fulfilled.

No doctor… no bakery… no sheep… no Groupies.

A lab tech… some cinnamon buns… a few chickens… and Open Mic’s.

Am I disappointed? Nope…

My happiness and success aren’t measured by the end result as much as the process.

A life of failure? Nope…

It relates to Robert Louis Stevenson’s quote:

To Travel Hopefully Is A Better Thing Than To Arrive”

Wants and dreams are the summer clouds that shift and re-shape in the sky when we lay on our backs in the cool, soft grass. One moment there’s a T-Rex, the next a leaping horse.

What’s wrong with chasing after dreams from cradle to coffin?

I’m very aware that life is finite.

Yes, Santa Claus is actually Mommy and Daddy, and yes, life ends… I’m sorry if I’ve burst your bubble…

Damn Adam and Eve screwed us and immortality all over one silly apple. Snakes.

Philip Roth, the famous, and infamously cranky American writer (Portnoy’s Complaint, The Human Stain) who died this past week said about death:

“Oblivion. Of not being alive, quite simply, of not feeling life, not smelling it. But the difference between today and the fear of dying I had when I was 12, is that now I have a kind of resignation towards reality.

Reality.

The idea that I’ll melt away into some bone meal fertilizer relatively soon is both scary and motivating.

Scary, well there’s nothing I can do about that… you know, Desiderata’s accept what you cannot change.

Psycho.jpg

But motivating, now there’s something I can participate in.

Reinvention and creativity and self-discovery are themes I come back to again and again in my blog posts because I need to remind myself ad infinitum that life doesn’t end at any particular age.

Signposts like age 65 or retirement are made-up constructs, kind of like legal drinking age. I know the law says no alcohol before 19, but that didn’t stop me and my little buddies from throwing up on homemade red wine beside the elementary school at 13!

I’m gobsmacked when I read of the young age of passing in many famous persons who imagined and created wonderful projects in such a short lifespan.

Sylvia Plath, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, George Gershwin, Martin Luther King, Vincent Van Gogh, Eva Peron, Avicii.

But I’m also energized and stimulated when I see those who created their best in later decades:

12 People who found late success

Staring out my window on this summer’ish sunny morning, a lemon-yellow Swallowtail butterfly lazily rests on a pale pink dogwood bloom, absorbing energy from the sun’s morning warmth before resuming its purpose. I’ve seen this a hundred, maybe a thousand times and it still invigorates my spirit.

These are the quiet moments that recharge my batteries and lower the temperature of the boil that sometimes brings me close to the exhausted edge. It’s like cross-training my muscles so that I don’t get crippled by laser-focusing only on one area until a hurtful flame erupts. Soulful respite.

Life and vigour move along hand-in-hand for as long as our bodies, and more importantly our minds, remain awake and enthusiastic for the passions that burn inside.

This week I’m reminded of mortality since I’m practicing some music pieces like Dust to Dust (The Civil Wars) and Angel (Sarah McLachlan).

It would be possible to feel despair but what I take away is inspiration to continue daydreaming, searching those fluffy cloud formations for ideas and visions.

Do you think it’s too late for me to become a rich doctor?

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Will Run, For Food… or Sucking Face

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BMO Half.jpg

Veni, ego ran, comedi…

This is a running story.

I came. I ran. I ate. 

It’s also a story about appetites.

It sounds pretty simple but it’s that middle part about running that always hurts. Sometimes the hurt is good, sometimes it’s the shits.

Either way, it’s a lot of work for a banana and some energy juice like Gatorade…

Actually… this year’s energy drink at the BMO Vancouver Half Marathon Aid Stations was called NUUN… as in NUUN of the good tasting stuff… it should be renamed … YUCK.

Finally, this is a story about different reasons for running.

CAVEAT EMPTOR: Not all of the words I write in this post will caress the politically correct or gender-sensitive #MeToo notes that will please you all.

Don’t shoot me, I’m only the messenger.

Let’s dive in, shall we?

Running Reason #1 – As a man, I figure it’s important to subject myself – as if I’m in the throes of childbirth labour – yes, to subject myself to a mere couple of hours of discomfort building into a major pain in my lower half by the finish. Surely this makes me more empathetic to the suffering of my female brethren who bravely bear little vernix-greasy ragamuffins.

Understanding in all its forms makes the world a better place, right?

Man gives birth.png

Running Reason #2 – One of the big reasons I used to run in marathons and half marathons and 10k races was for the food.

They say that running is supposed to make you a healthy stud but MY big motivator after the gun or horn sounded to begin the race was to drive a mad headlong rush towards the food table at the finish line.

In years past, the food table… sometimes called the refreshment or recharge zone, was an enticing spread: lots of fresh fruit and muffins and donuts and bagels, chilled chocolate milk, occasionally yogurt or ice cream, even pancakes with strawberries and whipped cream. Wine or beer. Guilt-free gluttony.

I’d walk the line, sweat dripping profusely and load my arms to the gunnels with carbs aplenty.

Who wouldn’t run 21.1 or 42.2 kilometres for this buffet of gustatory delight?

More recently, on a tragic note, my experience has been a dwindling of the repasts that greet us sweaty, smelling-like-The-Walking-Dead-zombies at the finish line. They boost entry fees ever higher while trashing the carb quotient… WTF!

In future, I’m going to stage a sit-in at the halfway mark and disobediently refuse to run further until the food situation is remedied… or… they institute a tradition akin to that at the Boston Marathon as outlined below…

Running Reason #3 – The Boston Marathon offers another type of buffet… another appetitic (my word!) temptation for the runners.

Thousands of young women from Wellesley College, scholarly ladies all, line the halfway point of the route in the renowned “Scream Tunnel”.

Kiss Me, I’m an International Student”; “Kiss Me, It’s My First Marathon”; “Kiss Me, I’m an Econ Major”; “Kiss Me, I’m Single”; “Kiss Me, I’ll Try Not To Puke”.

Yes, for decades now, freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors from Wellesley have mobbed and “signaged” the 21k. point of the marathon: screaming, high-fiving… and… kissing the athletes.

Like ghoulishly-garbed kidlets candy-counting their Halloween loot, the young women compare kiss counts at the end of the day.

And a large group of sweaty, blotchy runners get a joyful moment of reprieve from their discomfort.

OK, it’s maybe not #MeToo friendly, but I won’t judge!

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Wellesley kisses.jpg

kreiter__wellesley marathon2_spts

Running Reason #4 – the final, and for me, the most important reason for running is the endorphin-laced sense of achievement.

Crossing the final few metres of a long run where your Prussian blue New Balance shoes feel like they have gooey bubblegum attached, body caked in salty sweat, scanning the timing clock ticking off the seconds, hearing the cowbells and the announcer’s voice and the loud music is high on the heaven-on-earth scale of inner joy.

Running is a solitary challenge to the body, mind and soul.

Solitary while surrounded by thousands of other human passengers all in alignment with their personal dreams and goals, the joys and sorrows that brought them here to persevere through the taxing kilometres.

Solitary while jostling along the imagined food table line, angling for the freshest, yummiest, chocolate-dipped donut on the serving platter. The final endurance test.

Soul food for the soles.

 

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