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The Collector

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Miranda (Samantha Eggar): I’ve stayed the four weeks. 

Freddie (Terence Stamp): I just have to have you here a little longer. 

Miranda: Why? What more can I do? What more can you want? 

Freddie: You know what I want… it’s what I’ve always wanted. You could fall in love with me if you tried. I’ve done everything I could to make it easy. You just won’t try!

DEMONS …

When I was a kid I saw a movie called THE COLLECTOR (1965), starring Samantha Eggar and Terence Stamp.

It was an early version of the movie ROOM … a young woman drugged, kidnapped and kept prisoner in a small cellar next to her captor’s house.

For me, a young boy, it was pretty scary – disturbing really – and gave me nightmares about being stolen away from my family.

Making it even more real in my world were the trending Hamilton Spectator newspaper headlines about the actual abduction of a pretty little 12 year-old girl from a nearby town, whom I believe was, sadly, never located.

Terence Stamp’s character, a lonely, unbalanced young man, stalks, chloroforms and kidnaps pretty, young art student, Samantha Eggar.

Stamp is a butterfly collector and treats and looks at Eggar as if she is one of his collected specimens. Ewwwww.

He holds her imprisoned in a windowless stone cellar that he has prepared with a bed, some furnishings, and an electric heater.

Desperately seeking her freedom, Eggar tries to connect with Stamp, to bargain with him, and even finally to seduce him, but ultimately fails.

Many weeks go by, and the reality dawns on Eggar of just how unstable Stamp is and that she will never leave alive.

While being taken from the house to the cellar in the rain, she seizes a nearby shovel and strikes Stamp in the head with it. Wounded and angry, he manages to pull her back into the cellar, breaking the heater during their struggles.

For three days, Eggar remains locked in the cold cellar, soaking wet.

Stamp finally reappears to find her terribly ill, and he goes into town to get her medicine.

When he returns, Eggar lies dead.

The eerie final scene shows Stamp back behind the wheel of his van – collecting, once again – stalking a young nurse.

Collector Van

ANGELS …

As a kid, I was a collector too.

NO, not THAT type of collector. A far more innocent type of collector.

And not a hoarder either … a collector.

Stamps, coins, hockey cards, Leon Uris books, fluorescent wall posters, 1967 Centennial memorabilia, fireworks. My head was filled with excited dreams of riches and future palaces based on my shrewd collecting prowess.

I’m pretty sure I would have collected chocolate too but somehow it never seemed to escape my wee hungry eyes and tummy. Come to think of it, fireworks never seemed to stick around long either in my eager little pyro hands. BOOM!

I spent many hours organizing my coins into various collector books and albums with plastic paper bill slots. My “mint” condition olive green Canadian King George $20 bills were handled gently so as not to bend edges or dirty the cotton paper.

King George $20 bill

My hockey cards were alphabetized and grouped into singles, doubles and triples. The “traders” were set aside for taking to school for attempts at swapping Davey Keon for Frank Mahovlich, or Gordie Howe for Stan Mikita.

Those riches and palaces?

The coins and bills I thought would bring me future millions of dollars are currently worth only pennies more than their face value. The $20 bill above that I loved so much as an 11 year-old would probably fetch a full $25 at the local collector’s store today.

When I rummage through my old collections now, I reluctantly realize my “serious” attempts were really just child’s play. Collecting things was one small facet of my childhood fun and distraction from the devil’s work.

And it was far more productive and filled with imaginative substance than so many alternatives.

Alternatives like walking my neighbourhood streets with friends Kevin, Renato or Jerome, searching for half-smoked cigarette stubs – cautiously avoiding any with lipstick residue –  pitched to the curb by the plethora of smokers of the day.

We’d gather up the barely-used cancer sticks and cart them off on our Good Friday hikes to the Devil’s Punchbowl for an afternoon of campfire beans, nausea-inducing but very grown-up smoking, and boyish chatter about the giggly pony-tailed sweeties from our Grade 5 classrooms. Devil’s work.

I often wonder sometimes. OK, occasionally. Rarely …

Do everyday people collect things anymore? Do you?

I know there are many avid collectors of one sort or another out there today given the sales of EBay and similar auction sites. But that is collecting of a more serious, adult nature with big bucks involved. Not kids’ play.

I don’t really encounter people of my kids’, the Generation-X or Generation-Y cohort, that collect things.

Maybe the all-encompassing phenomenon of iPhones and Xbox One’s and PlayStation 4’s just dug a big hole in the backyard and buried the pastime of collecting.

Moms of my generation were happy when we kids were occupied and out of their hair.

Kids disappeared after breakfast, showed up for supper, and again when the streetlights came on, and whatever we had been doing in-between was pretty much our own business.

So long as the police were never called, there was family and neighbourhood harmony.

We didn’t really know or understand it at the time but collecting stuff was a positive childhood way of making our demons dance with our angels.

Dancing angels

 

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WTF! WAS it TRUTH or FICTION?

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false-memory-dilbert1.jpg

It’s all a lie.

We lie to ourselves without even trying.

Over the past few years there’s been lots of talk about False Memory Syndrome.

We’re swimming in a raging turbulent river of false memories – both in our personal stories and those that chronicle the entirety of humankind.

I’ve been reminded lately that what we “know” to be totally true from our younger years may just be a fractional truth with a good-sized dollop of “memory muscle on steroids”. False memory syndrome.

Remember the big house you grew up in? The one you visited again years later, and it’s much smaller than you recall?

My old home on Rainbow Drive in Hamilton sure is. How did 6 of us ever live together in that shoebox? How did my Dad ever squeeze an in-ground swimming pool into that tiny city lot?

Or the immensity and majesty of the horse you sat on for that now-yellowing photo taken by Mom, and how over the years the huge stallion where your legs didn’t quite reach the stirrups mysteriously transformed into a small pony.

We have a picture book of stories in our head, but is it reality, or the imaginings of a romantic mind?

mind images

Do you believe memories are real and trustworthy?

The second that a moment slips into our past, it becomes a malleable impression for kneading and manipulating by our inner interpreter.

Sure, obvious facts remain intact – the date and time of our birth, the names of our ancestors – but very quickly the steamy temperature of that humid August day in the Rockies and the whopping length of the fish that got away morph into a slippery new world of fiction.

How can I trust any collective knowledge we have about actual history? We constantly rewrite our own memories, and we constantly rewrite history. We see the past through the lens of our current, very personal, eyes.

When I was a schoolboy, explorer Christopher Columbus was a European hero who “discovered” North America and made my beautiful world possible. HAIL Columbus!

Somehow, while I was boyishly crushing on my pretty blond teacher Miss Taylor as she outlined Columbus’s glories at the front of my Grade 4 classroom, she left out that small part about Native peoples’ annihilations with weaponry and merciless viral diseases brought along in the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria. Not to mention that Leif Eriksson touched down in Newfoundland almost 500 years earlier.

Why would you lie to me Miss Taylor?

Our memories of events change, evolve, grow, embellish with time.

This all makes me suspicious of ANY history.

History and its stories for the most part are written from the memory banks of human beings, people looking back and recalling the events as they occurred from their own personal perspective. Hatred, love, compassion, heartbreak and ecstasy all change the nuance and colour of the crayon colouring of the picture.

This is the nature of all our lives and the reason that we men have hoisted this “6 inches can be divided four times by the length of a 12 inch ruler” fiction on women. (don’t worry if you missed my point here!)

The-fish-that-got-away.jpgAre we talking fish … or something else??

Sensational stories make for better history and also an improved recollection of the moments of our lives?

Who amongst us wishes to believe our days and life highlights were really just mundane minutes amplified from within.

I think we all want our lives to reflect something bigger, something better than they may have truly been. This is a good thing, because we should all believe we’ve lived a life of meaning and importance, whether a tadpole in a small pond, or a shark in a huge ocean.

My own interior false memory syndrome memory of my hockey prowess is built upon a single game played on soft outdoor ice on a November evening sometime in the mid-1960’s. Under the floodlights on that night I (factually) scored 7 goals for my Parkdale Steelers against the opponent team.

Yet years of inner mind-manipulation have transformed that one glorious event into something akin to how I was “this close” to being the next Bobby Orr or Wayne Gretzky. I became a bigger “house” than the facts would ever bear out as true. And I’m just fine with that.

When I step down after performing, playing my guitar and singing on a small stage, the inner movie that shines on the walls of my mind is that of a famous rock star, a revisionist story of myself as Elton John.

Am I seeing and remembering reality or just an imagined vision? And … does it matter? What hurt am I inflicting by making myself bigger and better?

Have you noticed at family gatherings when aunts and uncles, or brothers and sisters, chat about events of the past, the stories sound very different to your own even when they are about the same moment in time?

Those moments have all been sifted and recalled through a different filter in each mind present. What was so obviously happiness and joy for Aunt Cathy somehow looked like sadness or rejection from your perspective.

Your reality is different from mine. We each have to interpret our lives in a way that makes sense to us. The books, the music, the movies you love so much will not be exactly the same as those I treasure.

It’s not truly important that our memories and recollections of our own personal histories reflect “facts” and a full reality. Reality is of our own making and choosing – a collage of our own interpretations.

I’m still happily living in my own little “Walter Mitty” world where I depart from my enormous Downton Abbey Castle each morning to score the big game winning touchdown for my Hamilton Tiger-Cats before singing to a SOLD OUT audience that evening in Madison Square Gardens alongside Billy Joel.

It’s my party and I’ll decide which memories are true or false.

WTF! It’s all true. Just ask my “good pal” Martha Stewart, “… and that’s a  good thing!

martha stewart.jpg

 

 

Wanna Do’s … or … Gotta Do’s

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Q – How are bloody car wrecks and Donald Trump the same?

A – As morbidly terrible as they are, you just can’t look away from the carnage …

Donald Trump 2.jpg

I’m sorry, that isn’t part of this week’s post, I’m just being my normal distracted self.

Let’s see …

Last week I:

  • made bread pudding and banana bread and Chicken Tikka Masala
  • swam 48 laps and went to spin class and 2 boot camp classes
  • wrote a blog post
  • ate popcorn and watched the movie Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (in THAT order!)
  • did a 16 k. run
  • went grocery shopping
  • helped build a Little Free Library (LFL)
  • watched Donald Trump be Donald Trump (we are soooooo screwed!)
  • prepared my tax return
  • went to a local hockey playoff game
  • researched possible investments in Monsanto and Transforce (I didn’t buy shares of either), and lastly,
  • took in the final episode of Downton Abbey (Hallelujah, Lady Edith finally got her man!).

For someone like myself, an undiagnosed mild form of ADHD kind of person, this is the perfect week.

HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER

Yup. The Perfect week.

I’m not trying to boast about all the things I’ve done, because I know many of you do far more than this in any given week.

You have to. It’s called survival.

But if you look a bit more closely at my list, you might notice that all of these things are what I would describe as recreational, my Wanna Do’s.

Yup, even grocery shopping and doing my tax return are fun Wanna Do things for me.

In earlier days, I spent long years where my weekly To-Do list included necessary things like vacuuming the carpets, washing clothes and dishes, doing the grocery shopping, doing the banking, driving the kids to ballet or soccer, making Shepherd’s Pie that my kids hated.

They were much more obligation-oriented Gotta Do’s, than fun, desirable, Wanna Do’s.

All that time I was slowly constructing the base of the chocolate layer cake that would become my life … preparing for the day when the sweet cream-cheese icing was all that was left of that yummy cake.

But my cake was never a single flavour indulgence. I built layers of different flavours to preserve my sanity and to allow my many outlets – passions, if you will – to flourish.

I purposefully placed my life on a teeter-totter, balancing the needs and desires and enjoyment of the moment while looking out on the golden sea horizon, attempting to see the life I wanted to be living in 25 years.

Did I do a perfect job of it? Of course not.

But I did have the good fortune of working with a lot of people in my jobs that I enjoyed being around. And when I didn’t, I made the tough decision to move on.

I never earned a whopping sum of money, so I saved and invested what I had in a reasonably successful way.

Inspirational guru Tony Robbins always talks about “should’ing” all over ourselves.

should

I made sure I didn’t “should” all over myself and bow to the expectations of the societal voices that try to dictate what our lives should look like.

I worked a 3 day work-week for the last 20 years of my lab career. My sanity was preserved, and my energies were able to be expended in directions that made me happy even though I wasn’t climbing the rungs of any corporate ladders.

When I found foul-smelling stool sample testing tiresome (I said to myself, “enough of this SHIT!”), I purposefully became a transformer and slipped on the clean underwear of a laboratory database miner for a number of years.

My sense of achievement and self-esteem was sourced in different life drawers.

I was self-aware enough to know the things that I enjoyed doing rather than the things others thought or suggested I should be doing … competence in the technical aspects of my job wouldn’t naturally lead to me being the good people manager that was often the expectation.

Last week at boot camp class I was talking to Marjana – an energetic Iraqi woman who, forcibly displaced, moved to Canada a couple of decades back.

Years ago, she opened a restaurant in Vancouver, a Middle-eastern bistro with special Arabian Night theme events.

Marjana worked every day, 12, 14, 16 hours a day for 4 years, non-stop, just like my current “boss” Georgios. He owns the Greek Restaurant where I play the role of bartender occasionally.

Both of these folks were/are incredibly dedicated to their work. My brother Gord did the same as the owner of a Mexican restaurant a few years back.

All of these people made a success of their projects by immersing themselves fully and passionately.

I am in total awe of these people.

But I don’t want to be them. Nope.

For all of those who love or need to focus solely on one matter at once, I will tell you how much I admire your ability to do the same.

This is what makes a great entrepreneur – a laser focus on one objective and doing everything everyday that takes you towards that goal.

Frankly, it would drive me crazy to be an entrepreneur. I would lose my zest for life like a grape shrivelling into a raisin under the scorching sun.

Such intense focus never made it onto my Wanna Do list.

I can only focus on one area for an hour or two before losing my enthusiasm and drive.

As Marsha my dedicated, delicate yoga instructor smiles and softly sings, “there are many paths to the same objective.

I’ve spent my life hound-dogging a diverse path leading towards the jelly-bean bowl of Wanna Do’s.

Selfish? Indulgent?

It might appear to you that I’m narcissistic and self-centred.

Perhaps, although I try to balance the scales of self-indulgence with volunteer and charitable Wanna Do’s. But even fruitful charity has the seed of ego at its centre unless you’re Mother Teresa.

I think that a truly perfect week should have the space and freedom to accommodate a cathartic moment of Shakespearean mixed comedy/tragedy.

And that’s why Donald Trump is gonna stay on my Wanna Do list for the foreseeable future.

todo-list

 

 

Winter Games and Alzheimer’s Sex

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Lucy-chocolate-factory

I’ve heard you asking…“Larry, why aren’t you writing about Idea Sex anymore?

Well …. I’ve listened and so … here’s another blog post about IDEA SEX! You’re welcome…

Today I’m mating my Teenage Virginity with BC Winter Games with Alzheimer’s Sex … you’ll understand in a minute.

Last week, we volunteered to make a few sandwiches and lunches for aspiring young athletes from across and up and down the province of British Columbia. Right, just a few.

Maybe … let’s see … 5,000,000 sandwiches constructed from 10,000,000 slabs of whole-wheat bread layered with sliced ham or beef, plastic-wrapped (OK… it was 5,000 sandwiches! But it felt like 5 million) … then pitched into brown paper bags to cuddle with a banana, an English Bay chocolate chip cookie, Kellogg’s granola bar, SunRype juice box, and a packet of mustard.

Truthfully, the lunches were extremely boring … which errant sock drawer did the organizers’ creativity gene get lost in?  Lunch of champions? Perhaps not.

The work itself was reminiscent of watching TV’s Laverne and Shirley on the beer-making assembly line, or Lucille Ball standing by the conveyor belt as chocolates raced past her. Fun, but a touch mind-numbing too.

sandwich assembly line

A lot of random musings roll through your head – like fluffy clouds drifting lazily across an azure sky – when you’re on an assembly line.

But mainly? SEX.

Things like, how –as a guy –  you spent your entire teenage years dreaming and wondering what it would be like to lose your virginity. Scrumptious virginity-plundering sex with a satin-skinned, sweet, floral-scented honey.

Carnal fantasizing yet feeling the pure undefiled terror of not knowing what to do, how to do, where to do … oh the numbness and freedom of the assembly line.

After fabricating the daily athlete energy packs, we’d wander about to the various sports sites and observe the up-and-coming potential Olympians.

There were moments of breathtaking inspiration watching a sleek speedskater zoom ahead of the pack like he was wearing a jet pack, pulling away from the other skaters as if they had parachutes dragging from behind.

Or the tiny little fella, maybe 11 or 12 years old with figure skates holding his feet to the ice … watching as this minuscule dynamo, solitary on the expansive ice surface, floated upwards, spinning round and round, almost taking off into orbit, before finally, slow-motion returning to the icy earth with balletic grace and an excited grin of satisfaction.

Speed-Skating.jpg

But while I watched on, I found myself becoming more interested in the anxious parents gazing over their young charges.

I scanned the faces of the young parents emoting their own hopes and aspirations, replaying the life they had lived or wished they had lived.

Dreams enjoyed, dreams quashed.

The drama and grace of their child’s activity played out on the drawing board of their faces.

Then the memories began resurfacing.

I began re-living the inner atmosphere of fear, of pride, of the emotion and pleasure, the soul-searing heartbreak and joy of raising these creatures from a precious pairing of two individual gametes to this remarkable moment.

Because 10, 15, 20 years ago? That was me.  Sitting … cheering … jumping up yelling out a hurray … lowering my head into my hands in frustration.

Snapping back to the present, the milieu was like an out-of-body experience. I was a heavenly angel calmly observing the whole scenario detached from above.

Harry Chapin sang about this still-life moment in All My Life’s a Circle, the rising of the sun each morning, the day’s commute to and from school or work, the birthday and Christmas celebrations.

This circle of life where – as my adult son and I discussed only yesterday –  one day we’re listening impatiently to our father’s unwanted words of advice or reprimand, then, in what feels like a few short breaths later, hear ourselves repeating those same words to our own offspring.

It was a shock the first time I heard my father’s voice coming from my mouth.

And it occurred to me while watching this sports’ stuff, you know, the kids, the coaches, the parents, it was great fun at the time but like Alzheimer’s sex, as much fun and as enjoyable as it is, you forget about it.

The beauty, the excitement, and the delicious passion of the moment drifts further and further back in dusty eddies and recesses in your mind.

Eventually, barely realizing the loss, it becomes a mirage beyond sight, almost as if it never happened …

… until …

… you go to the Winter Games and the electrified feeling of being a sport’s parent returns.

You get to enjoy the present moment and the excitement and enthusiasm while simultaneously feeling an inner joy at the passionate memory of similar moments in your life.

I admit that I fear and maybe even shrink from the notion of growing older. I relish and prefer the sunny days when my thoughts revolved around the loss of my teenage virginity more than I look forward to twilight Alzheimer’s Sex.

I can’t turn back the clock or slow the aging process in any meaningful way, but I can capture moments of grace and beauty surrounding me today and enjoy the warmly satisfying reconnection to earlier days.

For me, it’s like concocting a fancy new cocktail in my bartender job … Idea Sex is another way of marrying our present adventures with our past.

ALZHEIMER