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Elton vs Freddie

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freddy vs jason.jpg

I know the title sounds gruesome, like the name of a horror pic… weird white masks, long claws and blood-dripping knives … but … no.

Horror ain’t my genre (CNN is close enough!) …

But music is.

This past year has brought us two highly-hailed musical icon biopics, although inexplicably neither the (Failing) New York Times nor The Globe and Mail contacted me for my reviews.

Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman.

Freddie Mercury and Elton John.

Elton and Freddie

By modern musical standards, both Brits are brilliant at the craft of songwriting and music production.

Interesting similarities … British, gay (or bi-sexual), piano players, ultra-flamboyant performers, the same manager for a period of time.

There are a lot of reviews of each of the flicks that dispute the honesty and full-disclosure and timelines of the stories – but you know what? I don’t really care.

Every life is a sh*tshow of interpretation and false-memory and all the bad and good put into a blender of individual perspective (kinda like history in general).

Besides, books do a far better job of relating the nitty-gritty details of a life… movies capture highlights, usually entertain … and in these particular cases, highlight the discography of the musicians. And that’s enough.

I knew of these two artists in the 70’s, and in looking back over time to my formative years … I was all agog over Elton … his Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album was a masterpiece encompassing many musical genres.

At the same time, I knew and enjoyed some Queen tunes but Mercury never quite caught me in the same way that John did.

I was Elton’s slave where pop and rock music was concerned. Just to be clear, we never had sex (it never occurred to either of us, go figure).

That was then. This is now.

Today, I’ve switched allegiances somewhat. I haven’t lost my sense of awe in the songwriting of John … but …

… years of listening to the complex orchestral and harmonic brilliance of Bohemian Rhapsody (and to a slightly lesser extent, the larger Queen repertoire) has elevated and shifted my joy of their songs.

But back to the movies themselves.

The flicks took a different approach to the era from which they both emerged… the in-your-face sex and drugs of Rocketman contrasted against the more scratch-the-artist-surface storytelling of Bohemian Rhapsody.

None of us is so naive to believe these were musical angels in disguise … no doubt the sexual encounters and hazy miasma of drugs were large parts of the life and creative existence of both, but brought to the screen far more graphically in the telling of John’s life.

Fantasy scenarios and telling his story through the medium of his songs was a cool and innovative approach for the Elton movie, but somehow it couldn’t draw me in to its narrative in the same way the Mercury one did.

Queen - Bohemian.jpg

Ultimately, I think the reason I came away enthralled from Bohemian Rhapsody and not from Rocketman comes down to the main actors.

Elton John’s portrayer, Taron Egerton was always a person, an actor, playing Elton John … he never inhabited the role of Elton. He was Taron singing Elton.

But when I watched Rami Malek … I was taken in, absorbed … and believed that he WAS Freddie Mercury … from his actions, to his voice, to his vulnerabilities.

The movie battle of the musical icons is over in my mind …  Elton vs Freddie brought Freddie as the clear and easy winner. Hail Freddie and Bohemian Rhapsody.

… but …

Oh, I’ve finally decided my future lies … in going back to my (long gone) vinyl collection and enjoying the REAL Rocketman, Elton John.

Yellow Brick Road.jpg

 

 

Let’s Bake You A Banana Cake

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beatle bananas

Remember a couple of weeks back when I said I’d be using you to help me work on songwriting? You do?

Fabulous!

‘Cause this is where we are today and I’ve got a few lyrical lines to share.

They’re pretty simple ones… nothing too flowery or poetically profound … but heartfelt and melancholy for me … and for others in my family.

I confuse myself. There must be a fatal flaw inside me because when I sit to write lyrics I almost always begin with the thought that … “this one I want to be light and fun and maybe even silly”

… and then this shade of darkness bubbles to the surface out of nowhere… maybe I’m the Nowhere Man I mention in the song … maybe …

Anyway… here are some song lyrics I’ve written about my older brother – diagnosed with Alzheimer’s about 7 years ago.

He rides the amusement park rollercoaster where he’s stuck on the downhill slope with no chance for an uphill boost.

Screenshot_2019-06-08 Louis Tomlinson Helps 83-Year-Old Man Whose Wife Died from Alzheimer's Check Things Off His Bucket List.png

Today he’s far removed from the erudite, quirky intellectual – a PhD chemist, Monty Python lover – his family and friends knew for many decades. He lives in a care facility where he slowly dwindles but retains his easy smile and gentle demeanour.

It’s such a common scenario for so many …

If you have any suggestions or ideas for improvement, fire them at me.

Let’s go my friends:

Let’s Bake You A Banana Cake

VERSE
I called my brother the other day
when he answered I knew he wasn’t there
his voice held up strong but
the same world we didn’t share
at least not anymore.

VERSE
It’s funny that you can hear a smile
though the sound travels a thousand miles
the words are a salad, they even sound sane
Do you think you can remember my name?
No, not anymore

VERSE
Books linger hushed on your shelf
framed photos pretty your little room’s walls
with blue summer skies and childhood smiles
are prairie breezes sharing your favourite waltz?
I don’t think so anymore

CHORUS


Maybe you’re Lennon’s Nowhere Man
so let’s bake you a banana cake
’cause you’re kind of already there
there’s a batter of sorts
all mixed up of course
And you don’t know what you’re missing

VERSE
So let’s chat lightly for a bit mon frère
I’ll ask the questions, make the chatter
You’re pretty cheery so does it really matter?
We’ve sipped some wine, skied some trails
but, perhaps, not anymore

BRIDGE
There’s a thief in the house
taken the marbles and flown
the halls echo empty where you once roamed

CHORUS


Maybe you’re Lennon’s Nowhere Man
so let’s bake you a banana cake
’cause you’re kind of already there
there’s a batter of sorts
all mixed up of course
And you don’t know what you’re missing.

banana cake.jpg

The Horrible Shame of Being Human…

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terrible children.jpg

Let’s face it… YOU are terrible. I am terrible.

Humans are horrible.

Modern North American life is a life of shame…

Every action I take makes me a bad person.

I don’t want to be a bad person.

I try to remember all my family’s and friends’ birthdays. I even bake them cakes.

But then I don’t think and eat an almond. Damn, uses too much California water. Spit out the almond.

Try a bowl of raisin bran with milk and banana. Healthy. Good. Can’t go wrong there. But…

Raisins = sulfite preservative = sugar-coated = Bad…

Milk = cows = too much land required to raise and treated poorly = Bad…

Bananas = monoculture = Bad

Spit out the cereal Larry.

Don’t even get started on eating meat products. Killing + Fat + Land Use = Bad.

Right … so I’ll try Beyond Meat … no animal product consumption there … lots of good pea protein… WHEW I’m good …. except … Beyond Meat and Impossible Burgers have more saturated fat and sodium content than a comparable beef burger… OMG! And just wait for the next scientific study that proves vegetables are truly able to feel pain … yes, carrot juice IS murder!

green pepper

I’ve gotta do something to redeem my hellish sins…

Drive my car to help out at the soup kitchen. Good? Nope, bad.

Driving uses non-renewable fossil fuels and contributes to global warming. Drive a battery-powered Tesla? Hmmm… uses a ton or two of energy consuming metals and the battery has to be landfilled after 10 years.

I’ve got to escape for a few from the guilt of my feckless faulty footprint … I won’t read a book because that has paper … the destruction of forests on my head? No thanks. I’ll just read some Stephen King on my Kobo (e-reader) … breathe deeply and relax.

Wait… that e-reader consumes electrical power from a hydroelectric dam (on First Nations territory) in northern BC that wiped out hundreds of square kilometres of animal habitat and besides…

… the electronic reader I’m holding was shipped from China on a freighter that drank a gazillion gallons of fuel and dumped plastic into the ocean … and …

… the wifi electromagnetic waves that it receives invisibly through the atmosphere cause brain cancer. Oh good grief…

Forget vacations that involve airplane travel… jets devour gas like it’s icy-cold cerveza on a hot Mexican playa. Too much noise pollution too.

Recycle? Follow Canada’s lead and send your plastic to Malaysia or the Philippines for them to hold for a few years before shipping your shit back to you …

Speaking of …

SHIT? Do you know how much human excrement is sent into our rivers and oceans?  One extreme example … the Ganges River in India absorbs more than a billion gallons of raw sewage and industrial waste every single day. Enjoy your swim.

swimming in garbage.jpg

Everything I do … you do … comes at a cost… because every stone we throw hits the ocean, and ripples of the water hit every shore … which leads to the question…

I try to be a good person, so what are the rules that can lessen my shame?

Let’s face it, the guilt and shame are the stink that can never be fully washed away… no tomato juice baths will make any of us squeaky clean. Ever.

It’s old and it’s hackneyed and it’s cliche.

Think globally. Act locally. Vote for the politician who thinks not like a narcissistic buffoon but like a chess player … 8 moves ahead … 8 generations into the future, considering the consequences of our actions on the world.

And as much as I hate the word for its lack of clear meaning… be moderate … and in the end… forgiving of yourself. The world is complex and terrible and homely, but also kind and beautiful and enthralling.

I know I’m very lucky. I try to be healthy. And generous … when I help others, my own happiness increases.

Clint Eastwood, the wise old cowboy Yoda, described us as we are …  The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly.

the good bad and ugly

 

This Song’s for You

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Version 3

Next month marks 7 years of this weekly diatribe, this wordy assault of inner thought in my character of MAN ON THE FRINGE.

In June of 2012 … I began a meandering reflection totalling 365 weekly posts (with the rarest of exceptions) to date.

My intent at the time was to personalize the differences, the commonalities, the challenges and beauties and frustrations between men and women. All from the viewpoint of a guy who doesn’t fit neatly into a box of manly genderociousness.

But as I’ve learned over these years, as you probably have too, gender labels are fluid and there is danger in categorizing and putting lives into tidy little boxes.

Yes, nothing in human relations is simple. When I think I’m smart, I’m actually stupid.

Over time I’m realizing that perhaps I should re-brand, re-label as PERSON ON THE FRINGE.

But that’s just a touch of lint-gazing into my not-so-pretty navel (who designed belly buttons for God’s sake?). Let’s move forward, shall we?

Given that I’m a guy who has a mixed relationship with routine, I’m patting myself on the back for staying with this diurnal habit – this diarrhea of words with no seeming end – and I plan to carry on for a wee bit longer… but … but …

… perhaps with a slight twist to my “norm”.

There is a price to be paid for attempting to absorb too much of the vigour and energy that surrounds us.

Diversification in investing is admirable, smart even, but too much diversification in real-life can become deworsification.

The dilution of what we really appreciate and want, dilution of what drives us becomes a painful irritation of casting about in a huge ocean.

I need to spend more time on the things I love.

For the past few years I’ve been focussing more on music, and one of my desires… my goals … is to write music … meaningful lyrics, melodies and harmonies.

It’s narcissistic and self-aggrandizing to some extent to believe we have something important and meaningful to add, but it’s a draw into humanity that refuses to be ignored… it just is.

Every spring I plant flowers that I know will return to composted soil in a few short months for another season, and still I return each year to the seeds of growth because the ephemeral beauty is too luscious, too sweet, to turn away from.

I’ve said more than once that I use you as a juicy, delicious Bugs Bunny carrot of motivation in writing this blog. You are my personal assistant sans pay!

My proposal is to use you (again) as my motivator … my muse … the fire at my feet to take my disciplined approach in writing this blog every week and carry it over into the passion of songwriting.

Guitar music.jpg

So going forward I’ll take a break from my every week yada yada yada posts to morph into regular lyric writing, an internal friendly exchange of prose for poetry.

No, not every post will become a tuneful poetic ode but I see it as a refresh and a push to spend more time on something I love … the personal expression that comes out of my head and my mouth in harmony.

You’re welcome to comment on my writings and also to share your lyrical thoughts back if you care to “expose” your inner expressive words for others to enjoy.

So… here’s a song I’ve had in process for a little while now, not complete yet but so be it … a nod to those who struggle with interior thoughts of suicide… I’ve used the late Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade as a means of personalizing the unbearable pain many suffer:

THIS IS WHO HE WAS (Anthony & Kate’s Song)

Camera catches amber light
that last bite was great he said
giggling of a child with bread
smiling host whose face was red  
eyes just a little wide and wild
This is who he was

Sad can’t be the sun in sky
When setting at the end of day
maybe clouds will always stay
when you fly a million miles
blindness hides the fragile eyes
This is who he was

CHORUS
His Days were numbered
our days are numbered too
sometimes we choose to count them down
sometimes they’re counted down for you
smiles within a smokescreen
sun comes shining through the clouds
yet there’s nothing left but rain

Born a Christmas Valentine
In a castle with your schoolboy prince
Cast your eyes on Central Park
Colours helped you make your mark
For every girl who wanted to be you
This is who she was

Whispers in your playful smile
Like snowflakes ‘cross your spirit while
The ones you’d helped to come of age
Blinded by your hidden pain
Or the one you left behind who carries on
This is who she was

BRIDGE 
Our loss has no end
Listen to the mystic hymns that guide us back to life

CHORUS-
Her days were numbered
Our days are numbered too
sometimes we choose to count them down
at times they’re counted down for you
the smiles are just a smokescreen
of normalcy through pain
the sun comes shining thru the clouds 
yet there’s nothing left but rain

… nothing left but rain… nothing left but rain…

anthony-bourdain-kate-spade.jpg

 

A Square Peg… Or How I Started As A Wine Virgin

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funny wine

Mmmmmm… nice overtones of peach and grapefruity citrus with a strong acidic finish and a light touch of oakiness.

Yes… a pretentious yet sensitive wine with a sunny hint of snot, clown tears, and liquid viagra. Great with roadkill or Cap’n Crunch.

The wine world is viewed by a lot of people as a mixed word salad of pompous ostentation.

Pinot Meunier, Reisling, Cabernet Merlot, Chardonnay. Still or frizzante. White, red or rose.

For someone who doesn’t drink much booze, the demon drink has been a prominent part of my life for the past 5 years since I hung up my laboratory petri dishes… a new set of chemicals (ethyl alcohol) and microorganisms (yeasts) has displaced the E. coli’s and Salmonellas that I sniffed and puzzled over for more than 3 decades.

Each of the past 4 summers I’ve mixed and poured my heart out, bartending a couple of nights a week at a local Greek restaurant. Martinis, Margaritas and Sangrias were my stock in trade.

I thrived on the enthusiasm and fast pace – the steady flow of staff and patrons that cascaded life right back at me. Bartending has a certain scent of glamour and mystery I love.

However, for a guy who routinely wakes up each morning ready to fly (or spin or HIIT) at 4:30 or 5:00 am, concocting colourful umbrella-festooned drinks at 9:00 or 10:00 PM, well… it’s not the very best collaboration conceived.

Be Best.

Thanks Melania… my best is early in the day which makes my new summer job a “best” fit.

Living in Canada’s Okanagan Valley today means an exposure to grapes on just about every hillside… we’ve become a pint-sized version of Napa or Sonoma,  Mosel or Reine, Loire or Bordeaux, Tuscany or Collabria, Coonawarra or Kangaroo Island.

So this summer, I’ve decided to hang up my evening bartender’s apron and try on a daytime sommelier’s cape.

Signing on for a couple of mornings each week at a winery 5 minutes walk down my road is just the fresh breath I need.

8th Gen wines 2

My morning role is minimal – I set up and send boxes of wine to restaurants and wine club members who receive regular shipments of the fermented juice.

And when (if) my time allows I’ll set up shop at the counter of the tasting room and pour out mini-sips of liquid and words of wine wisdom to the visitors passing through.

But back to the jargon of wine country.

The other night, for a few hours, I and the entire crew of wine hosts (perhaps 12 of us) sat and quaffed our friendly owner/vintner’s full line of libations. Being paid to drink and eat is hard work!

Like car salespeople, we were test-driving the vinos on offer to the local and tourist throngs that flock to this region in the summertime.

Of course I’m new to this world. A square peg in a round hole. A virgin in disguise as a well-oiled call boy.

The other hosts/sippers have mostly completed college and university courses that detail the importance of terroir (terror?), the crush (schoolyard romance?), the malolactic fermentation (marshmallow what?).

The table was covered tip to tail with long-stemmed and tumbler-style glassware of different sizes and conformations. In front of me I counted 5 unique sipping vessels.

I immediately displayed my impeccable knowledge-base of the fermented grape by sloshing a generous spurt of water into the Cabernet Merlot tumbler. Oops! Nothing to see over here folks…

The wine was skilfully poured by our smiling hosts (the wife and husband owners) and with each sip we were served an encyclopedic description of where it was grown in the valley, the soil type, the micro-climate, the time of picking, crush method, fermentation approach …. and on and on … did I mention… on?

Yes, it was overwhelming for this neophyte. Fascinating, but overwhelming.

8th gen vineyard.jpg

The descriptor word salads were sashayed forth in great abundance and splendour… yada yada yada

I smiled, and in contrast to my younger years when I would have blushed and tried desperately to fit in, I didn’t make any attempt at looking remotely intelligent (like the others).

I didn’t even verbalize any (not one) erudite comments that displayed my astounding breadth of knowledge as a oenologist. This is good and oh, this one’s yummy maybe wouldn’t have added to the mastery and understanding of the gathering.

I came, I sipped, I listened. And I enjoyed. You translate that into Latin!

I fit in like the paparazzi observing a special event, recording and enjoying but also realizing that I’m not (yet anyway) a true part of the world of this vintage group.

The good news is that no one made me feel lesser for my “virginity”. The warmth of the evening and the people I shared it with was a tasty introduction to my new “chemical” society.

Afterwards I shuffled (straight, mostly) home and whispered quietly into the cool night air and stars above … Cheers… Salud… Prost… Gun Bae… Santé…

cheers

 

Don’t Do This …

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hummingbird and lilac

Can you smell the delicious sugary-sweet scent of roses and lilacs in the light spring breeze? Stop … slowly … breathe in deeply …

The hummingbirds and bees turn the dial in their noses up to high before diving in to get their mind-blowing fix of nectar. It’s their cocaine snort. Maybe that’s why they buzz …

Speaking of buzz …

Hey Larry, how was your weekend?”, someone probed me on Tuesday this week.

Well… sniff… er… umm… oh yeah, I ran a half marathon with 18,000 others in Vancouver on Sunday … but I can barely bring it to the surface.

I hate it when someone asks me what I did last weekend. Or what I’m doing next weekend. Shit … I don’t know.

It’s not because I hated what I did … it’s because …

… I can’t remember what I did yesterday, or the day before yesterday, or the past weekend. What I’m doing tomorrow is pretty foggy.

What did I have for breakfast? Who did I help out? To be or not to be…

Days, weeks, months and years flash by… it was 2010 yesterday.

Give me my calendar and my notes so I can re-live the past and remember the future.

forget me not.jpg

No, I don’t have Alzheimer’s or dementia (yet, I hope)… it’s just that my process is do … done … move forward to the next do and the last do that’s done is filed at the back of my internal hard drive. Got it?

How many weekends do I have remaining to forget? chggg cgghhh rumbl grggl (internal calculator adding up)… let’s say I live to 75 … I have about 700 weekends to enjoy and remember before last call.

……………..

In many of my posts over the years, I’ve listed a few things we can do that I believe work well for the construction of a life well-lived.

Today I’m taking the reverse course and telling you NOT to do what I typically do. Yes, I’m embracing negativity as a life lesson to you.

RUSH RUSH RUSH… This is not a process I recommend to you.

These days we hear a whole lot about meditation and mindfulness… I have friends out there like Jimmy and David and Denise and Marsha who take the time and patience to focus intensely on the moment at hand. Smart folks.

I admire those who stop and smell the roses and lilacs. And remember.

Alabama had a great pulsating song:

Can’t be late
I leave plenty of time
Shaking hands with the clock
I can’t stop
I’m on a roll and I’m ready to rock

Oh I’m in a hurry to get things done
Oh I rush and rush until life’s no fun
All I really gotta do is live and die
But I’m in a hurry and don’t know why

I’m in a hurry, yes, and I do know why.

I was at an Open Mic a couple of nights back. It’s an experience. It’s a memory. I wanna drink in as much as possible and the friggin’ clock never stops tick-tick-ticking.

Each experience we inhale – we participate – slows it all down. Injects a moment with life.

Treadmill existence is both good and bad. I know this. I know I rush too much.

I’m gonna try (yes Yoda… try!) slowing down a tiny bit.

But at this point I also know that when I slowwwwww down too much (for me)… I feel the urge, the burn, the ache.

So perhaps do as I say and not as I do …

I want to live forever and continue to – in my own hapless way – forget, yes, forget… all the great things, the activities, the people, the conversations, the corny puns and silly innuendo, the luscious foods, the harmonies, the books, the Cuban cigars and Gewurztraminer sips, the blog posts…

… and especially, the sweet flowery perfumes and birdlovesongs that sail gently through my window on brilliant spring mornings.

rose at window.jpg

 
 

Trivial Pursuits… Ken vs James … A David and Goliath Moment?

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Jennings and Holzhauer

… In the red corner, checking in at 162.5 pounds, soaking wet … undisputed champion and winner in 74 rounds of nerdish intellectual battle …

Kennnnnn Jennings (and the crowd roars…)

 

… and in the blue corner, weighing 165 pounds… the up and coming contender, the king killer from Las Vegas, Nevada…

Jamesssss Holzhauer (another sizable roar…)

JEOPARDY

The regal sport of trivia nerds and Alex Trebek groupies.

If you’re of a certain age… you might remember when Muhammad Ali was at his peak of boxing perfection and popularity. Everyone oohed and ahhhed when he’d “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” in the ring. He was brash, loud and seemingly invincible.

In 1969, some promoter dude concocted a “reality show” where he spliced together a fictional dream boxing match, titled The Super Fight, between 2 undefeated pugilists from different eras – Ali (31-0) and Rocky Marciano (49-0).

At the time, Ali and Marciano were the only undefeated heavyweight champions in history and fans often debated who would win had they met in their primes. Ali and Marciano were filmed sparring for 75 one-minute rounds producing several possible scenarios for a genuine fight, with the result claimed to have been determined using probability formulas entered into a computer.

Who won? Drum roll….. sorry … no spoiler alerts here…. head to the GOOGLE for your answer.

ali-marciano.jpg

And today, we could see another Super Fight, a match of kings-at-their-trade with Trebek in his role as the referee.

It’s been 15 years since Ken Jennings packed his big punches while James Holzhauer (at this writing), remains on a roll like a hot bettor at the craps table in Vegas.

Jennings and Holzhauer are freaks of trivia nature. The hard drives inside their heads are multiple times larger than 99% of us. Their ability to retain gigs of data, access it quickly, and then skilfully out-click all of their opponents consistently is … well … mind boggling.

So, for those of us who enjoy the sport of watching excellence vs excellence in any arena, a pitched match between these 2 trivia superheroes might be just the thing to take our minds away from the 10,000 lies and Congressional hearings and Venezuelan coups.

OK, it may not attract the feverish crowds that slurp at the trough of Game of Thrones or Avengers: End Game and their huge markets of physical battle-related contests and the endless speculation of who will be having sex in next week’s episode.

I’ve yet to see anyone naked on Jeopardy, much less have a sexual encounter, but intellect can be sexy, don’t you think? Ohhhh hunny, it makes me so hot when you know the capital of Lithuania…

I admit that I’m a Jeopardy fan… a trivia nerd if you will.

I shout out my answers (sorry, questions) at the TV with no buzzer button to handicap my responses. I play my Walter Mitty part and accept Alex Trebek’s congratulatory handshake at the end of the episode.

I’ve dreamed of becoming a contestant – to match wits and tidbits of esoteric info that float through my head.

Yes, I even took the online qualifying test, but alas, have never heard back.

I harbour no illusions that I would ever make a close battle with James Holzhauer… the friendly, little daughter-loving, quiet but clever-spoken whiz kid.

I’m just hoping for a Super Fight between old master Ken and young grasshopper James.

And the winner is … Who is Sean Connery? No, I mean Turd Ferguson….

Nope, these days it’s always James Holzhauer.

Funny Jeopardy.jpg

 

 

 

 

Some Hero Sandwiches Just Smell Bad

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Confusion.jpg

I lived a confused life.

  • It might be that I’m getting old.
  • It might be that I’m an entitled white male.
  • It might be that the Trump world we currently inhabit is spinning off provincial and national despots faster than the acceleration in Elon Musk’s Tesla car or  SpaceX rocket.
  • It might be the minute concentrations of toxic chemicals in the water I quaff in quantity during my runs.
  • It might be my boyish enthusiasm simply overwhelms my good sense.
  • It might be that I switched years back from briefs to boxers.

Or…. It might be that through the internet, human understanding and relations are evolving so rapidly that none of us can live with any certainty of what is appropriate for more than 15 minutes.

I seek out and bow before skilled mentors and inspirational folks that guide me forward towards the “better”. Musicians, athletes, politicians, philosophers, mothers.

I possess a pedestal-in-waiting for the human Wonders of the World.

A fairly recent phenomenon has us (mostly appropriately) tearing down the reputations and glories of people and monuments that we’ve held in high repute for eons.

Columbus NOT

I grew up believing (based on my school teachers’ lessons) that Christopher Columbus was a pioneering hero, Lance Armstrong was a cycling god, Bill Cosby was a comedy legend. The names add up: Michael Jackson, Ben Johnson, Tiger Woods, Mel Gibson, countless politicians and entertainers of all stripes, and on and on.

All fallen angels (though Tiger’s wings have recovered somewhat lately). We see our world through the eyes of today and the knowledge that informs what is good for all.

This week has added a new demon to the pile: Kate Smith, the singer who famously belted out God Bless America to Philadelphia sports’ fans in the 1970’s and 1980’s.

Discovered to have sung songs with racist lyrics decades earlier, Smith’s reputation has posthumously crashed like a Boeing 737 Max airplane. Statues and accolades are melting away like Confederate army memorabilia.

Kate Smith syatue

History viewed in retrospect is a harsh judge.

There are two schools of thought on the concept of hero worship:

1. The personal lives and peccadilloes of high achievers remain separate from the achievements themselves. The greatness of the act supersedes the nasty underbelly of the individual. For most of my life, this has been convenient and I’ve subscribed to this notion.

2. Greatness of achievement and quality of character are inextricably entangled. The eminence of the act must be equally matched by the essence of the person themselves.

Now, because life is complicated and nuanced, a third option has occupied my mind space and is my current default.

Like everything else going, this too could change over time.

Here’s my thinking.

3. There are some inherent evils that are pretty much non-disputable, regardless of where you come along in history and the mores of the time.

If you kill, rape or abuse others… common sense, and every religious text has some pretty clear guidelines that forbid inhumanity to humanity and other life forms.

So, when any achievement is glorified or assisted by the placing of one’s thumb or boot-print on another, how can we praise such an accomplishment?

Crossing an unknown dark ocean despite the fears and the secrets it held was an amazing attainment by Columbus and other explorers… but what they did to the peoples they encountered at landfall was barbarously cruel and inexcusable.

How can I celebrate the performance of any politician who (knowingly) advocated that young Aboriginal children be removed from their parents and families and whisked off to residential schools for years?

While the songs that Kate Smith sang (and honestly, Smith was NOT a great singer) are abhorrent in today’s world, I don’t believe that she was a bad person who wished to hurt others… merely a product of the life into which she was born.

We’ll all be judged tomorrow for our beliefs of today. Heaven help us.

Damn… I started out really wanting this post to be light and humorous. MAJOR FAIL! No monuments for me …

I guess that the intermingling of my confusions and my desire to find appropriate mentors dodged its way past my humerus.

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Cosby’s Evil Fingers

Happy Money And The Gift Of Time

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6:30 am Pacific Time.

Every weekday at 6:30 am (Toronto and New York stock markets fire up at 9:30 Eastern time) I log onto QTrade and check the share prices of stocks in my own accounts, my wife’s accounts, and each of my kids’ accounts.

It’s a numbers’ obsession. It’s a money obsession.

When markets wake up feeling depressed and downcast and I see my lifetime cache of dollars slowly circling the drain in a downward spiral (like a good part of last year), I catch a lonely grey sensation, rub my eyes and forehead, and remind myself that stock markets are bi-polar … doom and gloom one moment, sexy exhilaration the next.

Yes Larry, This Too Shall Pass.

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And then, on other mornings, I sip from my steaming cup of latte – the frothiness on the surface forming happy little animal clouds –  and jump up and down inside when everything is floating upwards (like this year so far), the $$ in my accounts gliding up the x and y axes of the graph like a jet roaring upwards and away from the runway at 250 kph.

Yup, on these good days, I silently kiss myself for the wonderful assessments I’ve made of the various companies that comprise these portfolios. I feel like a clone of Warren Buffett. (Then I remind myself: A fool is wise in his own eyes. King Solomon)

It’s energizing and exciting. It’s Happy Money.

Or it can be.

Let’s face it, we need money only slightly less than we need oxygen and sleep and sex.

Happiness gets a boost in my world when there’s an increase in money… and … when there’s an increase in time.

OK, we all know that time will never increase, which is why it is so valuable for those of us mortals (everyone) that will revert to dust in too short a time frame.

Which brings me to today’s book tip (more valuable than any hot stock tip I might offer):

Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending… (Elizabeth Dunn/Michael Norton)

My eldest daughter, a pretty smart cookie, went to a talk by the book’s female author in Vancouver and suggested I take a look at the book.

The bottom line message the authors send our way is to spend money on things that will actually bring us more joy in our lives.

  • Buy Experiences
  • Make it a Treat
  • Buy Time
  • Pay Now, Consume Later
  • Invest in Others

I won’t go into great detail about the contents here, because I’m gonna use my time to enjoy the experience of playing my guitar.

A couple of small examples that might send you on your way to happy money?

I savour the flavour and texture of a morning latte… hot, sweet and frothy. Caffeine wet dream.

But I know if I quaff this sensual treat every day it loses its delicious lustre. I become desensitized to its yumminess.

So… I consciously decide to regularly go for a day or two and sip milky tea or regular coffee instead – both enjoyable in their own right, but not so sumptuous.

When I return once again to a creamy latte, I’m transformed and delighted (Aside: this is why daily sex can be a bad choice too! … just sayin’).

Another example. When I travel, I avoid last minute bookings even though the money savings can be substantial. A healthy dose of the joy in travelling comes in the form of anticipation … the daydreamy visions and expectations that float through my head as I conjure the people, the sights, the scents and tastes costs me nothing and yet adds exponentially to the overall enjoyment of the upcoming journey.

Money is a passport to time. Money gives me the freedom to help others and explore regions of personal passion, like music and nature, running, cooking, and even for this Number’s Guy… investing in the stock market.

6:30 am is one small part of my weird but Happy Money time.

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Wondering Where The (Dande)Lions Are… The Migration of Birds, Wines and Music

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Sun’s up mmm hmmm looks OK … the world survives into another day … and I’m thinking about eternity … (Bruce Cockburn)

Everything’s behind normal (is there really such a thing?) in the spring season in this part of the world.

Even the dandelions are hiding away in fear of an unvaccinated chill.

But that’s all changing …

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The delicate, darling cedar waxwings who swoop in from parts afar have made their first guest appearance this week – almost 3 months later than we normally spot them swarming in like honeybees to the Mountain Ash tree and its fermented orange-red berries.

The waxwings and robins stagger away in wobbly circles after feasting in a drunken haze, like Star Wars X-Wing fighters.

American Goldfinches parade across the yard, little wind-blown soprano-voiced daffodils, as Downy Woodpeckers lightly punch a quiet percussion rhythm in the tall birches overhead.

Regrettably, the flickers too now hang like feathery rock climbers on the wood siding of the house, attempting their best break and enter. Noisy thiefs.

Yes… SPRING is here… the world is twitterpated with life and sensual exhilaration.

There is sex going on all over my yard. I have to close my blinds to the rampant fornication.

Moving on …

I know I’m not snowdrift crazy (sidebar: that’s fake news) when, as the days grow longer in daylight length, the musical soundtrack inside my head shifts into a new phase, a new mode.

Don’t you feel the changeover happening inside you too?

It’s the same as how my wine preference migrates away from the dark meaty reds … the Pinot Noirs and Merlots … into more sparkly rosés and Riesling/Chardonnay land, even Gewurztraminer!

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Birds migrate, wine migrates, and music migrates too.

The denser, more complicated musical arrangements of autumn and winter have been boxed up and sent to the basement of my brain until the snows of December return.

Sunshine that lasts as long as the limbs on Daddy Long-legs spiders now suffuses me with bright pop-py tunes that lilt and float and flit like hummingbirds from ear-to-ear through my heart and back out through my mouth in trumpeted sounds of joy.

And… the migration of the music is slightly changing its tune this time around the sun for me.

Over the past year or so I’ve begun collaborating in musical partnerships of different stripes.

Each week now, not unlike birds migrating into my yard, a lovely coterie of talented musicians and singers drops by the mini-music studio that is my living room – the chairs and couches happily sharing their space with the cords, microphones and amplifiers, the recording studio mixer board, the guitars and banjo and mandolin hanging from the walls.

When I strap on my guitar to play, the euphoria and enjoyment of my music soundtrack is expanding just like the universe. Stephen Hawking would be so impressed.

This is good stuff.

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Music is a universal experience. Every culture, every person has an internal musical dance they love.

I’m listening to and playing my “normal” folk and country-style tunes -yes,  the James Taylors and Carole Kings and Paul Simons – while at the same time adding in sweet French love tunes, some mournful blues, the 50’s Everlys and Elvis, even a bit of jazz.

Each one of my musical guests sits and settles in – a cup of herbal tea or a glass of wine at their side, and shares their talent with me, adding a syrupy richness to my soul, tablespoons of delicious spice.

There is such a beautiful magic that happens when we share our voices, our instrumental talents, our ideas and excitements …

… the harmony of springtime and music shared is uplifting, a spiritual energy re-born as the flowers and birds rejoice along with us.

And shhhhh …. sometimes, a sip or two of delicious spring wine while playing and singing makes the song even sweeter … just ask the lusty cedar waxwings, little drunk revellers carousing out in the trees.

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