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Your Creative Refresher Bomb

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man pulling hair

AAAAAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY… my head’s exploding…

All of the new streaming services that sail content into our homes – yes, Amazon Prime, Disney+, Netflix, Crave, Apple TV, Hulu, YouTube, et al… the list is growing like a nuclear mushroom cloud – are calling for more and more creative thought and projects: TV shows, music, movies, computer games, books.

I’m getting exhausted at the mere thought. I should lay down.

And it reminds me that I’ve run out of ideas. For blog posts. For writing music.

WAIT … that’s WRONG! Of course, we’re never out of ideas. NEVER

The joy and fun of creativity is a tough master to keep fed. The blazing brainchild fire needs a steady supply of dry wood. It’s like a mental climb up Everest. But did I mention?

It is fun.

And it runs in cycles, like your blood sugars after a superbly gooey cinnamon bun (OMG, you should try the ones I greedily gobble at GROUNDS FOR COFFEE in Vancouver)…. whoa… up she goes, and then… *screaming*… the rollercoaster plummets.

cinnamon-buns grounds for coffee.jpg

The job for myself and any of you who thrive on the act of creating – something, anything – is maintaining a sense of balance on life’s beam and understanding the cycles that can leave you with a big bipolar headache.

Please don’t ever believe that creativity will wholly happen consistently because you’ve been magically blessed with some supercharged gene from your Cave-person forebears.

Remember the old Dick Van Dyke Show where Rob and Buddy and Rosemarie sat around in an office all day/every day throwing around comedy ideas for the Alan Brady show?

What? You don’t remember? Sorry, this is OK Boomer talk!

They sweat their idea machinery for hours day in and day out.

Most minds are not instantaneously creative… which is why the 1% who are truly and consistently creative (I lag in the pack well below the 1% group, but I score the participation prize), the ones who are more than “one-hit wonders”, just so happen to be the most sticktoitive kind of folks.

New idea sex, that seductive synonym for creative purpose, can at times flow easily, like the fabulous ideas that float into your head while dreaming (I love these).

… but, my friend … and this is THE important point of my post this morning.. the BOMB if you will … and the thing that took me decades to learn myself … sadly, most good stuff comes because you and I MAKE IT HAPPEN.

creative bomb

We sit and think, sometimes for minutes, but more likely hours and days… we cogitate ideas back and forth like an intense tennis match, keeping the ball aloft and moving, making a few good lobs and passing shots, and then finally… finally… a kill shot materializes.

It’s a process that evolves the 10,000 hour rule into the 10,000 ideas stratosphere.

……………..

Creativity is only good if you do it.

Thinking about being creative isn’t enough. You know all about good intentions.

Intentions and positive thinking are the start line, not the glorious arms-raised finish.

Creativity is invisible work until you decide that your child can be released, sent to school, and shared with the rest of the world.

Sure it can be a bit scary. I know for myself that sharing my songwriting lyrics on this blog site is sometimes exposing my inner being, my self worth – both the good and bad – to anyone and everyone. Risk is part of the creative process.

Certainly we can enjoy the fruits (and popcorn) of creative labour of all those in the media industry and consume consume consume.

But I believe that the greater joy of this and every season is when you produce something that you’ve poured yourself into with an element of your unique inner brilliance and passion.

It’s the gift that you give to yourself and others. Something that has released a part of your creative fire and spirit.

Now, let’s celebrate with a fabulous cinnamon bun!

creative fire

The Christmas Twins

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xmas twins

It’s the most …..?….. time of the year.

I’ll leave you to fill in the blank because each of us has our own different word that lies in our head and our heart.

I’ve been struck… haunted actually… for a long time, by the juxtaposition of Christianity’s drive towards joy at a time when I see and encounter so many that are bereft and lonely, depressed and distant from the concept of “joy”.

I’m talking Christmas here.

It’s a snowflake dream and a teary conundrum.

…………………..

It’s the hap-happiest season of all
With those holiday greetings and gay happy meetings
When friends come to call
It’s the hap-happiest season of all
(Best LGBTQ verse ever!)
…………………..
.

Who doesn’t love the idyllic dream of warmth, good food, and comfort in a time of family, friends, and sharing. Filled with iconic trees and sleighbells and characters, pious and secular.

But internally for me, there just isn’t enough money or time that I can give to others to square or compensate for the abutment of seasonal bliss vs sorrow.

The visions and sounds of Christmas fluff up intense exhilaration in some, while at the same time casting others into hell.

All of these opposing thoughts bring me to the music lyrics I’ve written this week.

The lines below are a troubled expression of the mixed emotions I feel and experience each year as December rolls around. Maybe I’m just emoting and puking out this internal dialogue of guilt in knowing that I have so much daylight in my world even as days grow short.

Christmas Echoes

Christmas Echoes

by Larry Green

Two echoes in the mirror
twins tied by ribbon and twine
Two troupes can’t quite see the other
one story yet never aligned
fa-la-las and white christmas
Gemini visions blur the same line.

Like Wolf and the Hawk
when night melts in decline
seek a god of hope and elation
or a god of life flat-lined
my season’s ecstasy meets foul
my smile spins to grime

The crescendo of hymns
the peal of the bells
cinnamon and clove scents
waged battles ‘tween heaven and hell
blazing fire in the hearth with
cozy stories of stables foretell

On the streets in the alleys
Grendel and Cain’s curse in hot flames
but this day isn’t their story
why should angels be ashamed?
my questions prickled thorns
my answers dark stained

CHORUS

I smile for the joyous
I cry for the pained
dissonance of a single note
free hope where it’s enchained
Cuz my eyes have looked round
both sides of this mirror
ofttimes the same day

hope twins.jpg

Am I A (Gentle)Man?

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LAR GORD HOCKEY TIFF (1).jpeg

I grew up on sports.

Yup, that’s me above dropping the puck for my brother on the backyard rink our Mom built us over many late and frigid nights.

When I was a kid, I played hockey and football and baseball. I golfed and skied and tennis’ed. I swam. I biked. I ran. I even bowled.

Lots of team sports. It was camaraderie in a peck of pals.

I hugged and patted the butts of many a young boy in my childhood which seems a bit creepy now that I think about it!

Before and after school, anytime I wasn’t delivering newspapers or sleeping, I was across the street in the park with a glove, a ball, a stick, a club, or a bat in my hand.

Like every day. Rain and snow… yes, even mud… just added to the “fun”.

Before and after family meals there was a steady stream of friends calling at the door… can Larry play street hockey? football? baseball?

I loved sports. I loved my buddies.

I’m thinking about sports this week because of flamboyant Canadian jock-jerk Don Cherry who poisons the well of understanding and compassion by calling out others who don’t look or act like him… in this week’s case… immigrants.

Previously, over many years, he’s attacked: French-Canadians, Europeans, people of colour, and women, with Trumpian insults.

Don cherry

He’s opinionated, aggressive and boorish. Yet, many adore him.

Not me.

I spent a lot of time in dressing rooms and locker rooms as a youngster. Comfortable and at home until … I reached the teen years and … things changed.

Listening to Mr. Cherry reminds me of this uncomfortable transition period in my life.

At 13 or 14 years old, when the brawny hormones and cultural conditioning kicked in, many of the nice, kind boys I hung out with for years put on unusual costumes that I didn’t recognize.

Their bodies were changing and they became young men.

The tone of team sports changed too, into a more macho’ized form of activity. The games we played grew more aggressive and angry.

Team sports felt less like games and more like an outlet for anger and short fuses.

Sure, sportsmanship continued to exist, but was harder to find in this virile forest.

Slower than most, I too became a man, but I think in a slightly different way than many of the guys surrounding me.

Months and years passed and I grew more and more uncomfortable with the “toxic masculinity” that necessitated frequent swearing, heavy drinking, misogynistic joking.

Toxic.jpg

It was growing harder to be a “gentle man” and still remain a part of the core of the team, regardless of talent and skill.

For me, the fun in participating in team sports sadly faded.

I participate in lots of physical pursuits today, but team ones? well… infrequently. My last organized hockey game was more than 10 years ago now.

Like everyone, I have my contradictions.

I still enjoy watching most team sports… I’ve been an avid booster of the Hamilton Tiger Cat football team for decades… OSKEE WEE WEE (don’t even ask!).

Hockey (minus the fighting) is physical and fast and can be as exciting as ever.

Soccer mastery amazes me.

I idolize the dedication, passion, and skill exhibited by athletes. Sport at its best is a beauty and an inspiration to our world. The Olympics give me goosebumps.

When I see examples of observable good sportsmanship, I shiver inside. One small example:

In a cross-country running event in 2012, Spanish runner Ivan Fernandez Anaya had an opportunity to win the race after Kenya’s Olympic bronze medalist Abel Mutai slowed near the finish line thinking that he had won.

Instead of overtaking Mutai at the last second and claiming glory, Anaya urged his opponent over the line and settled for second place.

Anaya later told the media that he didn’t deserve to win and Mutai had created a gap that he could not close if he hadn’t made the mistake.

sportsmanship

That, my friends, is a gentleman, and likely a better man than I.

Our “civilized” world today is dealing with anger and aggression in far too many places. Many leaders and people of influence (like Don Cherry) are directing us towards our inner darkness.

We need more and more examples of positive leadership and good sportsmanship to encourage, inspire and lead us to become our “better angels”.

We’ve come a long way Baby towards sculpting the clay of more gentlemen into “gentle men”. Still, the journey isn’t near over yet.

But the departure of Don Cherry is one more positive step along that road.

gentlman boy

 

 

 

Photographs Of A Sponsored Life…

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scarlett

A year back a pretty young Instagram “influencer” from London, England, posted the photo above.

Nice, right? Picture Perfect Idealism …

A happy little breakfast scenario that ordinarily (I gather) results in comments like “WOW!” and “You’re so beautiful…“.

Standard Facebook/Instagram/Twitter stuff…

Not so this time.

She was slammed with more than 100,000 angry replies and “dislikes” and prompted a wave of criticism, with the more printable comments ranging from “Fakelife!” and “Bunny-boiler” to “Let’s pop her balloons” and “Who keeps Listerine on their bedside table? Serial killers, that’s who.”

The internet sharks smelled blood and encircled her with abusive rants and taunts. So much for the pleasant and innocent online communities of Instagram.

“Each time I refresh my page, hundreds of new nasty messages pour on to my Instagram, Twitter and YouTube, some of which have contained malicious death threats,” she wrote in a follow-up post. “There are now hundreds of thousands of tweets circling the internet, shaming me.”

There’s a hunger and need for likes and positive comments to allay our fragileness. I admit to swelling when I get “like”ed… affirmation and acceptance and approval are a part of my fuel too.

It is the darkness that quietly lies within/beneath our world of social media that inspired my writing of this week’s music lyrics.

As alluded to in these lyrics mentioning Janis Ian (who wrote a troubled teenage girl’s anthem, At Seventeen, in the 1970’s)… the burning desire for acceptance and love is a huge part of the human “story”.

How Liked I Am Today

The reply said fuck you lady
She shook and took a bite of Big Mac
some sauce dripped on her jeans
wiped it quickly with the napkin
then turned to see if anyone had seen

Sleepless held her hostage once again
no model hair was out of place
even 3:30 near the morning’s dawn
her jacket had the perfect cut
honey face perfection by Revlon

Sweet hearts surround the placid scene
jarred vampires in the web
teacup smile and hairline cracks
forged feeds of reality on a stage
faux bronzer on her back

A baby slurp of bottled water
head down she scanned her Instagram
past ads by KFC and acne cure
this barrenness of checking
flawless photos of her old friend’s wedding

Her Mother’s generation
embraced its FOMO too
the girls in high school bathrooms
where Janis Ian held their torment
wrinkles cursed like webs in wounds

Scales can lie, hold magic high
smiles that sometimes fool you
strawberries often hold no juice
while clots and plaque grow thicker
are photos forever true?

The table finally wiped clean spotless
sun stirs and rubs its eyes
as tears inside are swept away
another day of trademarked life
Look how liked I am today

social media.jpg

EXTRA EXTRA! Get Yer Antiquated Newspaper

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YE Olde Newspaper.

I delivered newspapers for about 10 years as a kid.

Monday to Saturday. Rain. Wind. Snow. Oh yeah… snow!

All my siblings delivered newspapers too. It was in our DNA.

I was a GREAT paper boy. It took years to wash the newsprint ink off my arms afterwards.

I won trips to Detroit and Montreal and Ottawa for being a GREAT paperboy (my brother won a trip to California, he was the GREATEST!)

larry-spec-carrier-tiff.jpg

I read newspapers avidly for about 50 years.

I was a GREAT newspaper reader, maybe the GREATEST.

I subscribed to 2 or 3 dailies, a financial weekly, and also to a bunch of magazines of different flavours.

Nowadays…. nowadays… I barely scan a newspaper. Not one made from actual paper at least.

I subscribe to ONE physical newspaper… Penticton Herald – and ONE paper-full magazine… Acoustic Guitar… no Macleans, no TIME, no National Geographic (African Lady porn, we all know), no Nose-Pickers’ Weekly.

So. Have I changed or have newspapers changed?

Both answers are incorrect… wrong you might say.

THE WORLD HAS CHANGED.

And of course, it’s not just newspapers. They’re merely one example of a huge picture.

Used to be that jugglers were special and rare. Jugglers schmugglers…

We turned on Ed Sullivan (who?) on Sunday night to watch somebody throw 2, then 3 balls, and if they were really good… 4 balls… in the air without dropping any.

We were GOBSMACKED at their ability and talent.

Today, unlike 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago, we don’t watch Ed Sullivan (he doesn’t look so good now anyways).

Today, WE ARE THE JUGGLERS. (OK, sometimes we do still watch other jugglers… Cirque du Soleil jugglers manage 50 or 1,000,000 objects simultaneously. Ridiculous)

cirque juggler 2

We all have dozens of metaphorical balls in the air and the internet is the wind beneath our wings that helps us keep this all afloat.

We multitask in 6 different directions and the ease of internet access facilitates our distractability. How many windows are open on your phone or desktop right this second?

Paper news takes time and money out of our lives, our pockets.

At essentially no cost, we can monitor news up to the millisecond from 1,000 sources… most terribly disreputable, but still many that have quality journalists and writers on staff, despite what that Fake News hawker south of the Canuck border whimpers and cries about daily.

Right now as I write this I can call up news items from 1 minute ago from any corner of the world without moving anything other than my arm and fingers. Amazing, huh?

Is it any wonder that our western population as a whole is in adipose collection mode? (In 1978, about 14 per cent of Canadian adults qualified as obese. That number climbed to 28 per cent in 2014- Public Health Agency of Canada)… but I get distracted, another side attraction/horror to the internet.

computer obesity

Physical newspapers don’t carry news anymore – they bring us history.

Each day, a newspaper recounts to us all the things that we already know happened because we read it on our internet feed the day before. Right before we closed our eyes and began snoring!

Truly, The New York Times or Globe and Mail aren’t “newspapers” in 2019.

These are news “sources” that we tap into at any moment of the day or night to discover As The World Turns, both in our personal world (Facebook, Instagram etc) and the larger world.

If there is a newspaper delivered to my house in 10 years, I’ll s**t myself  be shocked out of my solar-powered underwear and AI brainscan-monitored mind.

Reflection.

We will all spend more and more of our coming years reflecting nostalgically on the way things once were. Yes Virginia, it’s inevitable and understandable.

The changes we encounter are/will wash over us at a tsunami pace that thrills and terrifies us simultaneously.

EXTRA! EXTRA!… remember, you read it here first … in the MAN ON THE FRINGE internet news!

NO Fake News here…

Old news 1950

 

 

 

What If You Landed On A Strange Planet?

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UFO

Freefallin’…..

UFO’s have been in the news quite a bit lately.

I’m intrigued by the notion of UFO’s and how we humans visualize what an alien landing on our “shores” might look like or act.

Rarely do we see an imagined extraterrestrial closely resembling an earth human… more often we see greenish-toned creatures with scales and large ferocious teeth.

UFO’s are scary and threatening to us in most cases.

Yet, if we were to travel to another planet that had living beings, would we really enter their air space with murder and mayhem in our hearts? Wouldn’t peace and harmony be our message?

And so we come to this week’s blog… this week’s song.

To make this more real and “down-to-earth”, I’m posting this set of song lyrics about “aliens” in my own world, equating their arrival in Canada to the scenario of a UFO arriving on the surface of our earth.

In previous posts I’ve talked about how I work and play with a Syrian refugee family in my area who have lived in this foreign land of Canada for almost 4 years.

The old world they left behind, and the new one they entered when they disembarked from a jet onto the tarmac at Pearson Airport in Toronto are light-years apart for these lovely people.

The young parents’ lives have been flipped and shaken as if they were rag dolls.

Syrian family

Musically, I hear a quiet bass droning in the background as the melody of guitar and recorder plays out a march, like a ticking clock moving forward in time.

This song could be sub-titled:

One Small Step for Man, One Giant Leap for a Syrian.

YOU ARE A UFO

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

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

….

CHORUS

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

….

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

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

You feel the stares the daily threat
the stories from the news
when you wander streets with kids in tow
lunch-bags and schoolbooks under arms
others spy your covered head and shake
about dangers that somehow you impose

BRIDGE:

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

The pace is slow the march relentless
new words bloom up like flowers
low prayers take hold in clash of courage
coiled spring relinquish power
now worries that afflict the native ones
are the stakes that frame this brand new cage

….

CHORUS

You are a UFO that landed
in this universe apart
in hibernation from your nation
soul burned across a border
and a house that looks like… home

happy syrian family

The Magic of Fingers and WHY

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30

My youngest daughter turned 30 last week. Not oldest… youngest!

I turned 30 just the week before. OK, maybe 2 weeks ago.

No, I’m not a time traveller, but the sensation of time is a fluid, rapid thing like warm sand slip-sliding between your toes at the beach.

Being 30 means you’re not middle-aged yet, but you’ve definitely boarded the ocean liner that carries you over the seas from childhood and the orbit of your parents into the grown-up world with most of the trappings of adulthood.

Job. Home. Maybe kids.

You should can wander around your house naked if you want to and your Mom won’t scream at you.

It’s mostly fun and exciting but scary and jammed with worries too.

I worry about my kids because I’ve lived through the years that are to come for them.

The time between say, 30 and 60, is where you strap on your seatbelt and buckle in for the bumpy ride. Some cope well and fly to the stars, others flounder and drown beneath the weight.

Either trip is filled with challenges.

Family, jobs and responsibilities grow and multiply, and then somewhere in there… most of us exchange the solid ground that is our parents beneath us, and find we’re freefloating with a parachute attached to nothing but cool, thin air.

It’s like we’ve thrown away our diaper now and hope like hell we don’t sh*t our pants.

why.jpg

After 30 is also when we begin to discover if the directions we’ve chosen are where we truly saw our dreams… our WHY… or perhaps if it’s someone else’s dream we’re pursuing.

We all develop a definition of success – in it’s myriad forms – in our heads… the WHY is hopefully what leads us down that path.

WHY is a million questions, but it’s the answers that tell us who we really are.

A small example… I ask myself WHY do I write a blog post every week with no attempt or hope of ever making a livelihood from the effort expended.

My readership (thank you for being in that group) is small and swamped in a expansive world of words and thoughts from every direction.

The voice that ponders and then answers my WHY question is the one that finds expression in writing where it can’t seem to find it in spoken words.

Things happen when I sit to write, just as they do when I sit and play my guitar.

I THINK IT’S ABOUT MY FINGERS.

There are guidelines, understanding, and points of view that reside somewhere deep inside me and refuse to come to the surface until my fingers are moving… it’s like my brain and fingers have a mystical connection… I don’t even try to look behind the curtain for the Wizard, because a wizard, a muse if you prefer… is magic.

Perhaps you find that same wonder through your religious beliefs, or it could be that you have a connection between your brain and your tongue that I lack.

I like the illusion of magic and wonder so I don’t question. I accept. It’s pretty childlike really.

Maybe that’s why I like children’s books.

They engage our imagination and sense of wonder whether we’re 3 or 30 or even 60-something.

Writing this blog draws out my own wonder about myself, you, and the cosmos surrounding us.

Talk about magic in my fingers… ABRACADABRA

 

guitar magic

Photographs and Memories Are Silly

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family photo 1960.jpg

You know how you enjoy going through old photo albums and reminiscing about your friends and family and your bizarre hairstyle – and OMG those clothes you were wearing?  Why did your mother let you wear THAT skirt? What the hell were you thinking?

So silly.

I’ve been writing this “Fringe” blog for 7+ years now and after 384 posts, I’ve packed up a suitcase load of words and shared mercilessly.

I’ve filled buckets of seriousness and barrels of silliness… it’s a recipe that kind of sums up life, doesn’t it?

And for anyone who thinks that workplace retirement is a time of total relaxation and leisure, there’s another door you might want to look behind in your own Oz-World that contains a few dozen time-consumers…

Which brings me to this blog post… I have a closet-full of items to be attending to this Canadian Thanksgiving weekend (cutting down monster hedges and music practice and tutoring and meal prep for a large gang) … and so I’ve given myself permission (thank you Larry) to recycle and reuse… no, not my favourite old and well-worn Calvin Klein boxers… nope… today I’m recycling/reposting a blog post from this month 5 years ago.

Speaking of Oz-World, I took in the film JUDY this week… Ms. Garland was trapped in a world of sadness mixed with ecstasy and way too much drugs and alcohol. Perhaps a dose of silliness like I’ve described below would have de-stressed her days a tiny bit… maybe silliness would have allowed Judy to spend a bit more time on this planet amongst us… but alas, she’s over the rainbow now…

On this Canuck Thanksgiving weekend, I hope you find a few moments of silliness to tickle your inner self … cuz, Thanksgiving is… In Your Pants!

 

Silly is … In My Pants

October 4, 2015

PEI Autumn

I’m just beginning to see millions of leaves succumb to their slow, colourful deaths as we pass the fall equinox. It makes dying a beautiful thing.

And it got me to thinking about changes, and seasons, and those things that are predictable in our lives and other things that change and surprise us.

Take the moon for example. We all know that full moons contribute to the “surprise” factor.

Full moons make crazy things happen, things we’d never expect. This past week’s Harvest “Blood” Moon – wasn’t it stunning? – probably had more impact than usual.

Something that surprised me? Maybe it was full moon inspired?

Singer/Songwriter James Taylor got really silly on Jimmy Kimmel’s late night show the other night.

Yup, James Taylor. I love his music but he isn’t normally a silly kind of guy.

“You’ve Got A Friend” and “Fire and Rain” are beautiful, deep, hardly silly songs. He croons serious songs that melt into our hearts and our heads.

Silly? Adding the words, “in my pants…” at the end of each line of Taylor’s music definitely qualifies as silly. ” … But I always thought that I’d see you again… in my pants

So it must have been the moon. Right? Must have been.

Thank you James for reminding me that we all need to be silly sometimes.

Silliness can be an important part of our humanity, our ability to cope when times grow tough. Norman Cousins (Anatomy of an Illness) wrote all about finding humour and laughter in life when confronted with serious pain or illness.

Sometimes I find myself slipping into an earnest seriousness. I have to slap myself on the side of the head to remember to be silly, not to take everything so damned humourlessly. Then I feel better.

Fix the mood and everyone dances like feathers …

There’s a guy who is my age that I work with in the Greek restaurant where I’m a bartender … he’s a server/waiter. Let’s call him Fred.

When everything is calm and quiet, he’s sweet and charming. Full of light humour and smiles. Mr. Congeniality.

But once lineups form at the door, tables in the restaurant fill up, and the hum of activity snarls into a roar, Fred turns into a yelling monstrosity of an animal. He becomes a toddler that only knows “ME“!

It’s like he might just throw himself to the floor and begin crying and stamping his feet unless everyone does everything for him … RIGHT NOW!!

Cosby as Dr. Jeykll

I don’t like Fred much at these moments. His blood pressure readings must be reaching into the clouds way above us.

Later, when customers begin shuffling out of the restaurant, sated and satisfied and a teensy bit tipsy from the delicious libations I’ve poured, Fred sloughs off his nasty mask and returns to his “resting pulse” rate of friendly and charming.

He’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with a serving tray and a menu pad.

I can’t blame the moon for Fred’s tantrums. This is his normal reaction, the way he copes when stress begins to pile on.

I feel badly for him and badly for those around him who have to do their jobs despite his vile behaviour. Fred should try singing, “… in my pants“.

But let me tell you about another server I work with – let’s call him Mark – somewhat younger, who always finds a way to laugh and giggle through the busiest times.

He’s smart and good at his job, just like Fred, but Mark always finds a way to stay calm and goofy.

Mark gets the same work accomplished as Fred but everyone around him is more relaxed and smiley as he does his thing.

Mark works two jobs most days and is on his feet for hours and hours at a time, always with a smile and a goofy laugh. I like working with and being around Mark. He makes me calmer and sillier.

We all have our own unique personalities and ways of coping when things turn tough. It’s hard to smile sometimes.

I know I can stress out and get tense and humourless.

But I’m trying really hard to find the silliness, the humour in every situation. Really good or really bad.

Humour is like air … you can’t always see it with your eyes but it’s blowing and floating around us, helping us survive the tough stuff.

Maybe humour is like a religious tonic for non-believers, soothing us when times get rough, a bridge over troubled waters.

When things get busy in the restaurant this evening … while Fred is flailing disruptively, I figure Mark and I will be hearing “…in my pants” dancing in our heads.

... in my pants ... and I ain't afraid to show it ...

 

When Atlas Shrugged

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Atlas Shrugging

Pack of wolves…

For millennia, boys and men have felt nature’s sense of entitlement… entitlement based on a physical strength that accorded power and control to the strongest.

Darwinian capacity fulfilled.

Women were born to a position of weaker subservience, and often fear, when physical strength meant more than common sense or morality or intellectual capacity.

This is the world I was born into and have hesitantly participated in to some degree… less than some, and more than others, I’m sure.

I carry within me a gnawing sense of guilt and shame for my gender’s role in the historical storyline, almost like any slave-owner or pillager of history should.

And so, with these thoughts rolling around the back recesses this week, I’ve penned a lyrical song/story of male privilege in this #MeToo world that was a long time coming.

Overdue charges are calling out for recompense, and it sometimes – often – is a confusing place for us men who are learning and adapting to a new world order where equality in all its forms is on the rise.

I envision approaching this musically in a Jim Croce ballad-style (think New York’s Not My Home, or Lover’s Cross) with lots of soft finger picking and a crescendo towards the end of the chorus.

confusion um

WHEN ATLAS SHRUGGED

We’d play out in the schoolyard
I’d pull your hair and trip you
we kids all knew that that was fun
and even when those days were done
we’d still do this after we’d grown up
and somehow’s still alright
Cuz you’d just grin and bear it
shed tears alone at night

Fancy jobs they came along and
all I’d have to say was
I need this for my kids and wife
god weren’t those good times of life
I’d smile that knowing grin
you’d stand back and watch me rise
that was OK back then right?
when we were golden guys

CHORUS
I’m only a confusion
A child was born
but man was made
This bed of rock
has turned to dust
Athena shared her misty shadow
When mighty Atlas Shrugged.

My libido took a mountain climb
Titanic in my pants
a few bucks and a winking eye
young corner girl that he can buy
Your kids cry out for milk and bread
slip on a slinky dress, tuck away your pride
turn and wipe away the sticky mess
was it worth the twenty-five?

BRIDGE
Voice’s changing
Marching of the guard
Voice’s changing

CHORUS
I’m only a confusion
A child was born
but man was made
This bed of rock
has turned to dust
Athena shared her misty shadow
When mighty Atlas Shrugged

woman carrying man

Boosting Your Empathy Muscle

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empathy2

Oh … good morning… and welcome. Only a month until Halloween!

I’m talking to myself here today, but you’re most welcome to listen in…

The word I’m hearing in my head is empathy.

Empathy is an elusive killer for me.

I search under the couch pillows for it (score, a nickel!) but can’t always find it.

Empathy is a daily battle against our internal hurricane forces.

Empathy is difficult for most of us. For Trump, empathy is a word that doesn’t even exist. Too bigly maybe.

Empathy is all about understanding. Flushing ignorance. Discovering compassion.

When I feel anger and distrust and suspicion and fear it’s often rooted in my lack of empathy, an inability to put myself in someone else’s shoes.

I see it over and over again in others too.

My Dad used to have a small slice of birch wood etched with the words from a poem titled Walk a Mile in His Moccasins written in 1895 by Mary T. Lathrap  (often attributed to various First Nations tribes):

Pray, don’t find fault with the man that limps,
Or stumbles along the road.
Unless you have worn the moccasins he wears,
Or stumbled beneath the same load.

There may be tears in his soles that hurt
Though hidden away from view.
The burden he bears placed on your back
May cause you to stumble and fall, too.

Here’s an “empathy” example from this week:

It seems really strange to me when I’m helping out at the local soup kitchen and a fellow volunteer (sometimes several volunteers) gets pissed at the downtrodden clients at the serving window.

Stringy hair, missing teeth, stained and torn shirts, bruised eyes and vacant stares. Some better, some worse. All hungry.

Just yesterday a usually lovely, friendly woman chopping carrots next to me turned in snarl and said: … they’d have more success in getting volunteers to help out here if it wasn’t for all of these freeloading fruit pickers.

I cringed, blood filling my ears. Instantly – empathyless – I wanted to yell at her and add sarcastically: … sure, and how about all these drug addicts and homeless people that won’t go out and get a job?

angry vegeatbles

This is a double conundrum.

I’m hearing a lack of empathy for these folks in her anger, her refusal to wear another’s moccasins … plus I have to suppress the bitter distaste I feel towards her for her unkind beliefs and my struggle or refusal to wear her moccasins.

In my head I’m saying to her, why the hell do you come to work here (for free) if you don’t feel that the people coming in should get a free meal? This is a f*%#ing soup kitchen!

Angst comes from a lot of different directions.

It’s hard to see a homeless person in the street. Maybe you  have a relative in the hospital. Or a friend in jail. You’ve watched someone descend into an addiction. You scream and swear in a rage at the a**Hole that just cut you off in traffic.

I often don’t know how to deal with the vitriol in life. Sometimes I’ve been stupid and just avoided these people. That’s my fear speaking.

But no, I tell myself, this lady chopping veggies may have had a rough start to her day and her minor frustrations are boiling over in a weak moment. It happens to us all, right?

Maybe her house had a water heater leak overnight and caused a minor flood. Lots of maybes…

Of course being empathetic doesn’t mean you have to be abused by anyone. There are some people we’re better off leaving to stew in their sour anger and frustration. We can’t save everyone.

But we can take the time to breathe, think, and reflect and look a bit deeper for the reason, the root of someone’s anger, frustration or unhappiness.

Empathy takes time and patience and a positive view that sucks energy like an old 100 watt light-bulb.

Yes, empathy needs an energy generating bootcamp.

Compassion and empathy are muscles. And it’s important to exercise. Empathy bootcamp.

And the best way to change someone’s life is when they really need your help and you have the ability to give it, if only in gracious restraint and a willingness to accept that everyone has their own unique troubles.

Exercising empathy is probably the healthiest muscle to exercise.

Wise idea? Maybe…

I only hope I can listen to my own words going forward…

NB: This blog post is dedicated to the memory of Julia Christine Lane (1986-2019), a beautiful, compassionate, and highly empathetic soul.

empoathy heart

 

 

 

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