How I Found My Sixth Sense …

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Wake Up!

I must have a SIXTH SENSE.

Dead people












I see famous people (… not dead people) …

A few years back I remember sitting in a shaded outdoor cafe in central Barcelona before our Spanish language class.

Each early morning weekday we sat next to the narrow, bustling street across from the Babylon-Idioma language school and sipped cups of cafe con leche that sported a small sweet biscuit on the side.

Salman Rushdie (Satanic Verses author) would stroll past us each day as we drank our strong coffees and practiced verb conjugations before class. He looked calm and relaxed, not fearful at all of being assassinated by some swarthy Iranian bounty hunter.

There were more famous people.

John Cleese of Monty Python fame ate paella just two tables away from us at a restaurant on the Barceloneta district beaches. He wasn’t doing any silly walks or banging parrots on the table top, just eating.

Jason Alexander (George on Seinfeld) rode the metro with us each morning on our way to class. He wasn’t sleeping under his seat, hiding from George Steinbrenner.

costanza asleep

OK. You might guess that I’m not telling the complete truth. I hear the chickadees outside my window chirping, “Liar… liar”

It’s the “Doppelgänger” truth.


Back to the here and now.

Two days each month I volunteer at the local Penticton soup kitchen, called the Soupateria.

I chop onions, celery, carrots, parsnips, fingertips… wait… that last one hasn’t happened … yet.

We prepare 2 different soups – one meat-based and the other vegetarian – in big round metal pots. We throw together about 140 sandwiches of 4 or 5 varieties and we apportion 4 or 5 different dessert items onto plates and into bowls. One of the more popular desserts we serve is “nervous pudding” – jello.

By 11:30 am when the doors are opened, a mass of folks – First Nations, white, black, men, women, the occasional child – flow through the big glass doors and enter a beautifully soup-fragrant hall.

They file past the deep wood shelves containing bags of mildly stale loaves of donated bread and buns for the taking, and patiently queue up at the open kitchen window where 7 or 8 of us volunteers assist with their selections.

The great majority are wonderful, but struggling, troubled people who show gratitude with dentally-deficient smiles and heartfelt “thank-you’s”.

There are so many stories that come through these doors each day. I don’t want to pry into their lives, so I deduce what I can by watching and listening to their conversations.

  • Young francophone orchard workers with bohemian clothing and lovely accents.
  • Some heavily-tattooed young guys – head-down prayers over their soup bowl. The other day one young fellow easily spent 5 minutes head-bowed, talking over his soup.
  • Many grizzled, leather-skinned, middle-aged men wearing worn clothing picked up at the local Catholic church.
  • This week, one leather-skinned grimacing fellow held his hand to his cheek and jaw, nursing the pain from a punch he took to the face while attempting to protect a woman in the street two days before. He was so grateful when I offered him the phone number of the free dental clinic.
  • A 30’ish year old Asian woman with blonde and red streaked hair…
  • barely out-of-their-teens girls with hip-less bodies and mottled faces from crystal meth abuse.



And, just like in Barcelona’s streets, it keeps happening to me.

I see famous people.

Right in my local Soupateria line… most notably, William H. Macy.


Yeah, William H. Macy, that amazing character actor from a ton of movies like Fargo and TV shows like ER and Shameless comes to my local soup kitchen.

Most famous people avoid their fans by wearing sunglasses and baseball caps.

My William H. goes slightly incognito by cutting his hair shorter than in the photo above. He shaves his beard closer to his face, but it’s pretty clear who he is. At least to everyone but himself.

I thought I was stating the obvious when I told him that I knew who he was. There was a look of surprise in his eyes and puzzlement too.

He pretended he didn’t know what I was talking about or who William H. even was.

So the next soup kitchen day that I worked, I printed out the photo above to show him I was onto him. I also passed the photo to the others in the lineup outside the soup kitchen and they all agreed that sure, he was William H., no question.

When he saw the picture he smiled and looked quite pleased that I had noticed the “Doppelgänger” effect. He even asked if I would take his picture with my iPhone and send it to the real William H. Macy.

I took a photo of him smiling proudly, but I didn’t send it off, because, well, he’d obviously seen it already.


Some folks see dead people….. some lay on their backs in the soft green grass and see fluffy white elephants floating in the sky… some spot Elvis Presley or Michael Jackson in McDonalds’ restaurants.

My imagination is a bit more grounded.

I see famous, LIVING celebrity-type people wherever I go.

How is your sixth sense?

Do you have famous people walking through your daily life?

elvis and michael jackson


Sweetness in the Springtime … And the Living is Easy …

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sun thru window

There is something strangely delicious in the streaming rays of sun lancing – like blood spurting from a sharp knife wound – through the north-facing window of our bedroom at 5 am.

It’s especially wonderful because like a lunar eclipse, it’s both infrequent and fugitive.

For about a three month window starting in mid-May, the tilt of the earth gives us this bright early morning gift.

I wiggle with a boyish enthusiasm as I jump from my bed, almost as if it was Christmas morning and Santa’s treasures lay bountiful by the sparkling yule tree.

Spurning my more typical half- to full-naked walkabout the house to turn on tea kettles and release sleeping felines from their cozy bedrooms, I pull on some pyjama pants and a t-shirt, slip on the well-worn blue slippers anchored by the bed and dance myself outdoors to take in the heady smells of sweet lilac and pine and any other spring bloomer that happens to be awake and alive …

Fluffy neighbourhood cats, peering at me as if I were a predatory coyote preparing to feast on their flesh, scamper away when they spot me. The chirping of robins, the high-pitched song of the American Goldfinch and the occasional cry of a loon are sweet hymns in the air.

I look upwards and spy a couple of crossing white jet contrails against the azure background, like little frothy whitecaps on Okanagan Lake; a flying tin can filled with sunny vacation dreamers or darker worriers of a dozen kinds.



You know, I have to jump and take advantage of my excitement and enthusiasm at this time of year … because … if I close my eyes for even just a moment, the days shrink shorter like a man in an icy lake, wrinkled orange leaves drift softly to the ground and I’m left in a colourless, muffled, non-flora scenario.

Even Antonio Vivaldi knew how wonderful spring was when he composed his violin concerto The Four Seasons. Is any piece of music more evocative of springtime or any other season than his masterpiece?  I rest my case.

Of course the other seasons are beautiful in their own right, but they don’t trigger the same spontaneous enthusiasm from my inner core.

It’s a very special excitement mainly because it is so brief. If long, mild spring days lasted throughout the year, would I feel the same zeal, the same excitement that blossoms inside me each bright spring morning? I doubt it.


The things that are most scarce in our life bring on the strong urge to appreciate and treasure their uniqueness.

Let’s ponder this for a moment.

Those things that are plentiful in our lives we develop a muted response to, we become desensitized … a blasé sense of “it doesn’t really matter much”.

“Larry, I don’t quite get it …”, you say … “Can you give me a few examples?” 


Some things most of us have plenty (or too much) of:

  • Food
  • Water
  • Sight
  • Peace
  • Sex
  • Taylor Swift
  • Chocolate
  • Kardashians
  • Selfies

Swift selfie

We take these for granted because they’re always there, especially Taylor Swift and the Kardashians.

We forget that previous eras, earlier generations, struggled for survival in the wilderness and put their lives on the line through famines and wars and childbirth. We all know how that in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.

But we forget the attitude of gratitude. We become desensitized to the wonders of what we have.

Things we often feel short of:

  • Money
  • Time
  • Sex
  • Gratitude
  • Esteem
  • Helium
  • Chocolate
  • Laughter

chocolate laugh

Everyone seems to want the time and money to make their own choices, and yet, most of us work hard and long to pay the monthly bills. And so when the opportunity arises to eat some creamy sweet chocolate after a round of raucous sex, we feel the wonders of play. But if we experience this every day… well… it just becomes a chore that feels onerous and stale. Right?

I know… I know… I can hear you. “Larry… you put CHOCOLATE and SEX on both lists, what’s with that?

The Man on the Fringe knows that we all have different appetites when it comes to sweetness of all kinds … different strokes for different folks. I like to accommodate all tastes in my writing.


I love and appreciate springtime and then after its brief visit, I lament its passing.

The only thing that keeps me smiling after the daffodils and tulips finish their bloom is knowing, understanding, believing … that the start of another football season will finally bring my Hamilton Tiger Cats a long-delayed Grey Cup in November … close to the shortest day of the year when my springlike dreaming rises again once more.

And then I find my gratitude, realizing that I could have been born a Toronto Maple Leafs’ fan.

I rest my case.







Repelling the Age Demons for One More Year …

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I was young once. Of course I’m still immature.

There are halcyon visions of my little toddler kids doing upside-down twirls while hanging from the swing set in the backyard on bright summer mornings.

Gasping, I watched helplessly when my 3 year-old son Will fell from a head-down position and landed hard on his crown on the sparse grassy ground underneath; when the momentary shock subsided, he burst into wails of tears from the stun and pain.

I laughed when they twittered (NO… not THAT Twitter) their excitement over red wiggly worms or chirping hens.

I fumed when they bickered and argued with each other about Fisher Price toys.

Those days were exhausting, but I miss them.

In those earlier days I would wake up at 5 am and throw on my running shoes and run 8 or 10 hard, fast (for me) miles before breakfast. Weather be damned… rain, shine, frigid temps or blistering hot. It didn’t matter. I was young and nothing would stop me.

A few years have passed and now my birth certificate claims I’m not so young.

I still canter around the block in my high tech New Balance runners, absorbing the sights, sounds and scents of cherry and Ambrosia apple trees. But it’s just at a canter pace, no galloping any more.

And weather? Well, it had better be mild and at least moderately sunny or I’m gonna stay indoors and find my stride on a comfy, dry treadmill.

Running Van Half Marathon 2015

This is what “experienced” runners look like at the end of a Half Marathon…



Life is a beautiful, precarious, frustrating, exhilarating, gut-wrenching, soul-satisfying wonder.

We’re all given one and some of us – the optimists – appreciate it and thrive and glory in everything, even the bad parts.

And others of us – the pessimists – find pig shit in the sunniest of days.

It’s all a matter of approach and viewpoint and self-talk .

I called myself an optimistic-pessimist for many years. The thinking in my head was that if I had low expectations, then anything that somehow rose above those depressed levels would make me a happy, contented soul.


C’mon Dawson … Always Look on the Bright Side of Life …


But I’ve changed.

I try to look at all things in life now from an optimist’s perspective. I expect the best and if it doesn’t pan out, oh well, this too shall pass, and tomorrow or the tomorrow after that will bring a sunnier day that I can enjoy thoroughly.

Today, as in life, I’m approaching my runs from an optimist’s POV.

I used to enter running races and triathlons feeling enormous internal pressure to meet my goals for time. I needed the affirmation that I had trained hard enough and had sufficient strength to push myself just a bit more, a bit more.

I needed my internal Mommy to tell me I was a good boy. I wouldn’t kick myself if I didn’t reach my goals, but I felt let down. There was an intense pressure to succeed.

When I enter a race now, I have a goal time in mind. but I don’t invest myself so thoroughly in achieving it the way I used to. My laissez-faire stance just says to me, “I’ll do my best and if I make it, fantastic… if not, fantastic still” .

Just two weekends ago I ran alongside about 14,999 others in the Vancouver Marathon/Half Marathon (I ran the half marathon section). It was a gorgeous sunny Vancouver day that would make anyone wonder why the heck they didn’t move to Vancouver long ago (aside from $1 million dollar average home prices). Mountains, oceans and sunshine are human seductive candy.

Running inside bucolic Stanley Park on a bright day while looking over Burrard Inlet, cruise ships in the harbour, is the definition of modern-day heaven.


My mind was in “runner’s peace” for the first time as I glided, almost effortlessly along the forested roads through the park. I crossed the finish line over two minutes sooner than last year, but it didn’t really matter.

I’ve silenced my inner Mommy.


Because I’m still doing it. Just doing it. Like Nike.

I’ve been a pallbearer enough times … I’ve been to ample funerals and Celebrations of Life to love and appreciate the rise and fall of my chest, the beat of my heart.

And how many of my friends and acquaintances stopped running years ago because of knee issues and hip issues and age issues and and and.

The body we’re assigned either holds up or it resigns.  I’m fortunate in knowing that my runner’s resignation is still somewhere, someday, further along in the future, and for that I’m content and happy.

I’m still doing it and feeling like I’m a little kid myself hanging upside down on the playset.

The aging demons in my head have gone silent and I’m just a running fool for one more year.




My ONE Deadly Sin …



I am so uncool.

My friends have always been so cool.

During my teen years, many of my friends drove trendy, sporty, cool cars – T-birds and Challengers and Grand Prixs and Chevelles and GTO‘s.

I didn’t.

With my limited McDonalds’ earnings I bought a staid old 1967 Rambler American sedan… $900 as I recall. I earned $1.55 per hour at my McJob. Yup, $12.40 for an 8 hour shift that ended at 1 am on a school night. A tankful of regular leaded gas cost me $4.95.

My poor friend Denise had to tolerate the woes of sharing a ride to college with me every school day in this drab brown sedan that would have fit our parents’ “cool factor” much more appropriately.

But my best boyhood friend Frank was a different story. Frank always had a hot car or motorcycle in his parent’s driveway.

  • Datsun 240Z …
  • Pontiac Sunbird with sunroof …
  • Toyota Celica …
I'm not convinced it was the car that really interested us young guys ...

I’m not convinced it was the curvy lines of the Datsun 240Z that really interested us young guys …

His cars all had fantastic sound systems that shook them like ferocious rumbling earthquakes as he accelerated from 0 to 5,000 mph in 3.2 seconds. I loved Frank’s cars.

Sadly, Frank loved motorcycles too. You can guess the ending there. I think when Frank’s Mom wrote to tell me of his violent, accidental death at age 33, my young kids saw me cry for the first time.


You know the 7 deadly sins?

1. Greed 2. Gluttony 3. Lust 4. Envy 5. Sloth 6. Wrath 7. Pride

I could easily qualify for platinum status in each of the 7 deadly sins, but the one I have to cop to today is ENVY.

You see, now that I’m approaching raisin status (wrinkled, dried-up old dude) I have to confront the many demons that have lived inside my head for decades.

If I don’t expunge them, I’m sure to be hell-bound. Isn’t that the way it works?

And if I don’t deal with these things now, then when?

I shouldn’t wait till I’m playing a harp in heaven or roasting weenies over the bonfires of hell. Yup, now’s the time.

I’ve never owned a hot, sporty car. I’ve never even attempted lustful procreation in the backseat, although … come to think of it … I came close to it in the front seat on Grade 12 graduation night. But some stories should never be told.

Nowadays when I drive my Honda Accord around town I catch images – blurs really – of hot convertible Corvettes, and Mercedes and Porsches zipping past.

The inevitable takeaway for me is the driver – they’re not kids. They’re drivers with bare-pate-covering baseball caps, or the grey-white hair, or shiny bald spots catching the sun’s rays.

Elderly woman driving convertible sportscar, close-up

Most of these hot car drivers I see on the highways don’t look like hunky Don Draper or Marilyn Monroe or George Clooney… maybe more like past-his-prime leather-faced Mickey Rourke or Mickey Rooney or Marilyn Manson … old dudes …

Anyway, the same guys I was envious of with their hot cars in high school and college are still turning me envy green. It shouldn’t, but sometimes it just does. But why?

We exist in a world where this appealing image of coolness is hard to dispel.

Our heads are constantly bombarded with exciting images and temptations of all the sexy, shiny accessories that will make our life on this earth a passably tolerable experience. We love shiny, sleek stuff.

It’s really quite puzzling because I’m feeling envious of something I know I don’t really want. But score one for the marketers. They’ve gotten into my head.

Like any shiny new child’s toy or an adult’s fancy new fitness treadmill, I’d probably shiver in giddy excitement for all of 15 minutes if I owned a hot, sporty vehicle that hugged corners at 100 kph.

I’d feel so cool. So cool.

But I’d know I was fooling myself.

Soon enough the luster would surely fade and I’d be just as happy with my Honda Accord. And then I’d have a life hobbled with $50,000 of buyer’s remorse.

I’m not cool. I’m just too conservative and practical. I like my hair short, I like wearing neckties, I like to read about investing.

Coolness really wasn’t one of the options built into my genetic MSRP fully-loaded options package. I’m not to blame. It’s really my parents’ fault.

James Dean in his Porsche Spider was cool … Steve McQueen in his Mustang was cool … Johnny Depp in his Chevy pickup and Robert Downey Jr. in his Audi R7 are cool.


Brad Pitt in his Chevy Camaro is cool, right?


How cool am I really?

I’m just a Rambler American inside with a nighttime wet-dream of becoming a Datsun 240Z.


Cars just don’t come any cooler than this…






I Love to Shop… Online



There were blood baths at the entry doors to K-Mart and Sears.

Remember those Cabbage Patch Kid days when people stampeded and bludgeoned each other to get the hot doll toy of the day? Shoppers gone wild.

Every couple of years a toy phenomenon like Cabbage Patch Kids vomits from the earth like a volcano, capturing munchkins’ imaginations the way that APPLE  iProducts (you DO have an Apple Watch by now surely!) enrapture adults’ attention and excitement today.

Our society is captivated by shopping and consuming. Many of us love to accumulate pretty things.


  • Some folks abhor shopping.

  • Some people tolerate shopping as a necessary evil.

  • Some people love to shop.

  • Some people live to shop.

I generally find myself in the middle where shopping goes.

I don’t love shopping for the sheer joy of wanderlust walking through stores, eyeballing lovely things that I have no premeditated intent of bringing home with me, like lovable lost golden lab puppies.

The EXCEPTION? When travelling, I love to meander through shops and markets, observing people, absorbing local sounds and exotic scents, hoping for a stupendous surprise of a piece of art or clothing that calls out my name.

But that’s something completely different.

Shopping as a hobby or sport is pretty new to our world.

Disposable incomes have risen in the past few generations and worldwide trade has brought enormous selections of products at low prices to our local shops.

Stores are filled to the gunnels with food and drink items from every corner of the globe; clothing and hard goods fill enormous ships traversing the oceans before landing like exotic Orient spices for our eyes to wonder and wander over.

It’s an amazing miracle of our 21st century world that items within reach of only the super wealthy a generation or two back, are widely available to almost anyone  with something resembling a middle class income. It’s a breathtaking transformation that makes me starry-eyed.

I know that it’s only May and early springtime, but let me share with you a Christmas fear that I lived with for years.

Christmas Shopping. Christmas shopping struck terror in my heart.


The hunt through malls and shops in search of gifts for my family and friends felt like a shock-and-awe journey through a steamy Vietnamese swamp in the 1960’s.

I felt tense and worried; my heart pounded in my chest with fears that I would go home empty-handed. It was a sojourn filled with a glimmering hope of success, but without a map, it was so often doomed to failure.

I wanted the perfect gift to present itself to me like the Northern Star pointing out baby Jesus in the stable. The inner dream was that a bright light would shine gloriously on an item that I knew was perfect and meant to be purchased and brought home with delight and glee.

Alas, it was all mostly just a dream and any dollars I spent felt more like bleary desperation than comfort and joy.

And the hurried presence of hoards of other shoppers merely added a greater essence of urgency.

It was as if everyone else knew exactly their quest while I foundered hopelessly… and the normally pleasurable sounds of Christmas music wrapped tightly around me like a noose, pleasantly but irritatingly yelling out that I must succeed at all costs.

Those were difficult days for me.

But, fortunately, the world has found a new way to make my shopping “trips” a relaxing, joyful experience and I now feel the comfort and joy I was always promised in song by Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney.

Internet shopping has given me a new lease on life and consumerism that is totally freeing and joyful.

Mnan Xmas shopping

I can do my searching day or night… there are no snowstorms, packed mall parking lots, frenetic shoppers making my blood pressure rise. The selection I want is unlimited and available at my fingertips. The costs are often less than I would pay if I shopped in person.

What’s not to love about this?

Now when I choose to enter a shop or a mall to look around, I feel relaxed and happy.

There is no elephant weighing me down, no pressure to buy. I can breathe and observe and enjoy the ambiance as if I were in a foreign marketplace just wandering and taking in all that my senses can absorb.

If I see something that I like or am intrigued by, I make a mental note and later, when I’m relaxed by my computer sipping a hot cup of tea, I shop and compare and take my time to make a decision that fills me with a good, warm feeling.

Technology irritates and frustrates many people. But I’ve finally come round to firmly and joyously believing that Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. 

Santa Claus is the spirit of Christmas joy that lives inside my computer – as silly as that may sound.

When the inevitable day arrives that Cabbage Patch Kids are all the rage once again, I won’t fear the shopping devil that had me so terrified in earlier times. I’ll just shift my mouse and find the best price at my favourite online retailer.

Then, laying one finger aside of my nose,
And giving a nod, and one click of a mouse I suppose,
I’ll finish my shopping ‘ere I call it a night,
Shopping in your pyjamas is such a delight.