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I Have 24 Going On 25 Things That Can Make Me Smile…

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liesl3

 

I am sixteen going on seventeen…

Now, Liesl will forever be going on… well… 74.

Liesl dead… Gone.

Charmian Carr was the charming eldest Von Trapp daughter Liesl in the movie The Sound of Music. She was sweet and flirty with an angel’s voice that left me sporting an 8 year-old laddie crush.

The romantic lilt of her song as she danced through the moonlit glass house with her 17 year-old love Rolfe was the sweetest tease and… well…  I wanted to be 17 going on 18 right then. My boyish hormones probably felt their first steamy tsunami rush because of lovely Liesl.

And now sadly, she’s the first of the “children” (or the adults for that matter) to leave us.

The Sound of Music is my very favourite musical of all time with simple, timeless ditties and classics that are stuck forever in most of our heads… whether Doe (re-mi) a deer a female deer or How do you solve a problem like Maria.sappy, syrupy and yet so sweet.

My kids grew up in a warm hugging Sound of Music milieu. It was our go-to video to pop into the old VHS machine when we parentals needed a rest or respite from wearying non-stop kiddie activity.

Our 3 wee munchkins would plunk down quietly, spellbound, in front of the TV every time the frightful thunderstorm blew through the shutters and curtains of the Von Trapp mansion.

One-by-one the lightning-terrified batch of Von Trapp moppets jumped aboard Fraulein Maria’s bed to simply remember their favourite things so they wouldn’t feel so bad …

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Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favourite things.

Cream colored ponies and crisp apple strudels
Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles
Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings
These are a few of my favorite things.

Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes
Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes
Silver white winters that melt into springs
These are a few of my favorite things

When the dog bites, when the bee stings
When I’m feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don’t feel so bad”

It was uncomplicated and sugary but filled with beautiful imagery that sweeps us into clouds of personal reflection.

It was Liesl’s passing this week that set me in a reflective state of mind and had me wandering through long lusty lists in my own head.

Favourite things. What are a few (OK, a whole lot!) of MY favourite things? Let’s see…

  • the first sip of hot velvety latte in the morning
  • the bittersweet shift of a major chord into a minor chord in a song’s chorus
  • peanut butter and banana sandwiches
  • the achingly beautiful perfume of the Lily of the Valley bloom in early spring followed weeks later by the scent of fresh summer lavender blooms crushed in my hand releasing their fragrant oils.
  • the multi-layered harmonies of the Eagles or The Beach Boys or Zac Brown
  • the fruity flavour of a chilled glass of Gewurtztraminer or Pinot Gris on a winery patio 
  • the soft-textured touch of fleece inside a warm sweater on a cool fall day as leaves tumble to the ground
  • Maureen’s oatmeal chocolate chip cookies
  • chocolate… Cadbury Fruit and Nut or WunderBar
  • my guitar in perfect tune
  • creamy smooth Banana Cream or Coconut Cream or Key Lime Pie
  • the morning trill of a chickadee in the birch tree
  • the sensuous look and erotic feel of feminine lace
  • writing 500 words of a blog or one whole verse of a song while in a trance without consciously thinking
  • the cool softness when my head first hits the plush pillow at bedtime and the warm weight of the downy duvet caressing my weary limbs.
  • the thrill of satisfaction when crossing a finish line at the end of a gruelling running race or triathlon
  • the exhilaration of selling a stock pick that has doubled or tripled since purchasing it a year or two back
  • playing and singing Fire and Rain late in the dark evening solitude
  • the salty taste of Clamato juice served in a plastic cup with a few ice cubes on an airplane flight to a far-off destination
  • Cara’s killer boot camp “300”
  • the rare book that refuses to let me stop reading at the end of a chapter because I have to know where it’s taking me.
  • the intoxicating scent of salty buttered popcorn mixed with the anticipation of a perfect movie as the theatre lights dim to darkness
  • sweet maple syrup on a freshly made blueberry banana pancake
  • warm sunrise on a mildly breezy Cuban beach
  • the scent of cigar smoke circling me
  • Marsha’s soothing yoga voice, “Release, relax and just let go…”
  • the sound of my kids chattering at the dining room table 
carolekingjamestaylor10_main

James Taylor/ Carole King… another favourite thing.

My favourite things.

My favourite things remind me of SEEDS; the abundant seeds I have planted in my world; seeds that sprout and flourish .

Some germinate instantly, like a glorious firework burst, and fade quickly, which is okay. Others are slower, more perennial, carrying on satisfyingly like a waterfall, for years of ongoing pleasure, unending foreplay.

My favourite things.

My favourite things remind me of GRATITUDE.

Easy to say, sometimes hard to remember when life is feeling shitty or unfair. Blaming is draining. Complaining is draining. Gratitude is inner peace and calm, sunshine even in the rain.

Liesl? You and your siblings have always been on my list of favourite things.

Rest now, sweet songstress that tugged at my boyish heart.

So long… farewell… auf wiedersehen… adieu…

liesl

PS Care to share 5 (or more… or less…) of your favourite things?

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There Is No Try…

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Yoda

Yoda said it… there is no try.

Everybody knows the influence of Yoda in their lives.

Luke Skywalker didn’t believe he could use the force. Yoda told Luke that trying is just a form of doubt.

I’ve teased my kids for years when they say, “OK, I’ll try that!“.

I morph my voice into that fuzzy green Buddha-of-Wisdom Yoda and squeal out a squished and really really atrociously uttered,

There is no try… Do or do not”. 

They just wince, shake their heads, and walk away like they’re dealing with a crazy man.

try to be Yoda. I love it when my kids try anything that they’ve never attempted before. To try is to reject failure as an answer. Trying is a synonym for bravery.

To try is to hope. And what is life without hope?

And so, much like I see 50 shades of grey in just about everything I touch with my eyes and my mind, I understand the black or white value of “Do or do not” power BUT also its limitations.

Yoda said, “There is no try…“, and like an approaching steam train where you’re anxiously holding on by your fingernails waiting for the whistle to blow, he adds…

“… Do or do not.” 

It’s a simple statement about an unfertilized ovum line-dancing its way down a fallopian tube broadly grinning with dreams of promise and potential.

Without the charm of trying in life, we leave that poor wee egg without a sperm donor to kiss Sleeping Beauty to life and fulfill her destiny. Soon to be flushed away in a bloody flood out to the Dead Sea of Tampon.

medicis

I was at an Open Mic night at Medici’s Gelateria – an old restored Catholic church –  a couple of weeks back.

I did my 3 tunes, then after a really nice a cappella song by a pair of teenage girls, an elderly lady climbed the two stairs to the stage with an elderly guitar in her fragile elderly arms.

She shuffled to the microphone, her silver-grey hair poking out in waves beneath a wide-brimmed flowery Minnie Pearl hat, her pale purple cotton dress edged with lace swaying lightly against her thin calves.

Smiling brightly, she introduced herself as Angela, and then launched into an overly lengthy, high-pitched story about her diabetic health issues and the difficulties in eating well while living from a motel room.

There was a sweet sadness in her smile and a blue halo around her as she spoke in a little girl voice, not looking for pity, but wanting to explain and make a case for her musical deficiencies.

After a few minutes she stopped talking. She played and sang.

The song was Paper Roses ( a #1 country music hit for 14 year-old Marie Osmond in 1973). Although she strummed very simple guitar chords, her voice was strong and well-keyed. Her smile and voice resonated through the high-ceilinged former church, now Gelateria cafe.

paper-rose

All was well until partway along she strummed an off-chord… then another and … flustered, she stopped mid-song in embarrassment.

She looked out at the audience and plaintively asked, “is it me or is my guitar the problem?

I only took up playing the guitar 2 years ago and so I don’t always play the right chords…

She was trying her best to perform publicly after trying to learn the guitar in her elder years.

 

Looking down at her old guitar, she started up again and played a couple of lines from the song but it became obvious that her singing melody wasn’t in sync with the chords coming from her guitar.

She broke off strumming her instrument and continued singing in perfect pitch, embarrassed but determined…

…until all of us in the audience smiled back at her bravery and joined in singing along the simple words to her song…

I thought that you would be a perfect lover
You seemed so full of sweetness at the start
But like a big red rose that’s made of paper
There isn’t any sweetness in your heart

Paper roses, paper roses,
Oh how real those roses seem to me
But they’re only imitation
Like your imitation love for me

As Angela and the audience sang the last few words of the song, a cloudburst of joyful, enthusiastic applause rang loudly through the room.

I don’t think that most of us would have ever walked up those stage stairs the way Angela did that evening. It was embarrassing, right?

Her musical skill and ability was mediocre at best.

But it was her strength of positive spirit and character that endeared and entertained us despite her lack of high-level talent.

Angela had tried so hard, and if you were Yoda, I think you would have said, “she not only tried, but she did”. 

You know by now that I’m always looking for mentors and inspiration in the words and deeds of those around me and afar.

Sometimes I actively search for a bright beam of light in the night sky, a beam filled with ideas and strength and passion where I can catch a ride to a new destination.

More often than not, that beam of inspiration emanates from a bright star, a guitar playing mentor/hero like James Taylor, Eric Clapton or Keith Urban, a writer like Stephen King or Rachel Joyce, a chef like Jamie Oliver.

But I love those unintended surprises of encouragement and motivation that radiate from a back eddy, an unknown tributary of innocence and secrecy that flow in like a gentle old lady with a voice and a guitar.

She tried. We should all try.

I don’t think trying is doubt. I think trying is hope.

I’m not sure we should be relying on little green creatures to be our life consultants (and definitely not large Larry GREEN creatures either!).

I’ve told you this secret before but I’ll repeat it again.

I use you. I use you so I can try…

I use you to motivate me to write and to explore the minutiae of life, the little things that may seem meaningless… yet still, in their simplicity, like a statement from Yoda, contain BIG messages and stories.

When you converse with a good friend, you realize that life is a series of stories on a tender scented breeze, that slowly turns the pages… pages occupied with the boredom and exhilaration… the smiles and tears… of our book… one-by-one-by-one…

Book of life.jpg

 

 

 

Reverse Planning Your Way Along The Yellow Brick Road

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hypocrite-spray

I’m a big hypocrite.

I often say “Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail”.

And I mean it, but honestly, I don’t always follow that strategy.

For example, I began writing this “FRINGE” blog just over 4 years ago much the way I do many other things in my life…

… to see where it might take me.

Yup. No plan. Just did it.

That’s not planning. Or maybe it’s reverse planning.

Reverse planning makes sense.

Sometimes in the ebony darkness of night when I’m laying in the hot tub, or returning from a late night of bartending, I’ll look into the immense infinityness of the sky.

I’ll pick one star and stare at it as if it belongs to me.

There are 7.4 billion souls in this world so why can’t we all own a star of our own and wonder. Was there a plan in place to make that star? I don’t think so.

It’s a random occurrence… a random piece of the jigsaw puzzle that makes up this universe. It just happened. No plan.

I’m generally a practical kind of guy and so, for many years, planning ahead for the “next” thing has been my approach. Here were/are a few of my plans…

PLAN #1: If I save 10% of every paycheque for 35 years, invest it at, say, a conservative 8% return, I’ll have a million bucks when I head out the big “R” door (sorry but I have a hard time saying RETIREMENT… it’s a word that should itself be retired).

PLAN #2: Forget Plan #1 and birth 3 beautiful kids, spend a few hundred thousand dollars nurturing and raising them to follow Plan #1 and provide for me when I walk out the big “R” door. (ASIDE: DUMB plan… Don’t ever make Plan #2 your #1 “R” plan, it’ll NEVER pan out the way you hope.) Just enjoy your kids cuz they’re cute.

PLAN #3: Forget all the plans and live in the World of Oz, and seek out the Yellow Brick Roads that lead into the abyss, the unknown. Via Reverse Planning.

reverse-planning

I try not to do things because it’s what the world around me says I should.

If I had followed the “recipe”… I might have been “successful”. You know, traditionally successful. I had a modicum of grey matter in my Green head.

I had tons of chances and opportunities to rise up the snakes and ladders game of success. But that would have been heading into a shitstorm for me. A plan, yes. But a bad plan.

I’m getting older – likely more foolish, definitely more impulsive – now I just wanna dive in to something…”Ready. Shoot. Aim.“-style …

Magically delicious, I’m discovering in recent years that while concrete plans are lovely and a pretty important framework for life, the most pulsating, invigorating and wondrous events seem to occur by the theory of “A Random Walk Down Main Street“.

I’m pushing the string now instead of pulling it.

There’s something very energizing about travelling down an unknown foreign alley to see where it will lead…

Most of what I do today I don’t do for money. I truly love the almighty dollar, but it’s a tool, a Harry Potter wand for my use, not the object of the game.

Sure, I spend hours each week researching and investing my money in APPLE and VICTORIA’S SECRET but outside of that, the stuff that occupies my hours and days very rarely results in a financial gain.

I do things for the challenge, the sense of accomplishment and fireworks and enthusiasm it fills me with.

Things like learning to make sushi. Teaching new immigrants English skills. Drilling over and over the tough guitar licks in Fleetwood Mac’s Never Going Back. Mixing my first Strawberry Daiquiri. Making toilet paper origami Ogopogos.

I’m looking to reinvent myself with ideas and options every day. I’m learning new skills, practicing new efforts, trying on new careers for size.

five-people

We’re not only the average of the five people around us.

We’re the average of the habits we create, the things we eat, the ideas we nurture, the talents we pursue, the content we consume.

Writing this blog is part of the whole reinvention process. It’s a part of my life’s circle that contributes to the whole “me”.

Writing is my way of mining myself for ideas and directions.

I really don’t know what I’m thinking or writing about until I’m about halfway along the route. I begin typing away and then the mysterious muse appears from behind a mystical cloud and begins leading me.

It’s as if someone else is doing the thinking, the writing. I merely act as the conduit for the inner machinations of my mind like a violinist in the orchestra watching the maestro for the baton’s leadership and direction.

I began this post a few days back writing about Labour Day passing and how it was the start of a New Year. Then 500 words along I realized that a transformation of thinking had taken place…perhaps IDEA SEX… and I was now talking about how to plan a day, a week, a life via reverse planning.

When I write a song, I don’t know if it will be good until I’ve finished and played it a couple hundred times, making changes constantly. Is it more suited to a country or jazz or folk format? How about the pacing, does it sound more powerful played lento or allegro? Does the chorus need to be higher pitched?

If it still stands up proudly after too too many repetitions, it’s a keeper. Otherwise, like potential careers and other lesser and more important choices we make, it goes into the garbage bin making room for the next idea, the next song.

Reverse planning is shotgun life.

READY. SHOOT. AIM.

Spray your targets of interest, delicious potential passions, lightly sampling and tasting and trying an amuse bouche of a dozen or a hundred things.

Then take the best of what you find along your route and make it your life.

Then look up at YOUR star in the dark dark sky and see how much more brilliantly it shines.

night-sky-star

 

 

 

These Are The Good Old Days…

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Carly Simon kinda summed it up way back in 1971 (before it became the Heinz Ketchup jingle) when she strummed and sang ANTICIPATION:

Stay right here…

…’cause these are the good old days”

 

Ah yes… the GOOD OLD DAYS

During my childhood, Dad frequently spoke warmly of the “Good Old Days“… halcyon times before electricity, before cars, before long-haired hippies.

… but Dad left out the parts about millions displaced and brutally killed during World War 1 and World War 2 and the Depression era… worries and tragedies.

dust-bowl-refugees.jpg

In my local Okanagan newspaper last week, celebrated Canadian author Jack Whyte wrote about the good old days of advertising when ads were so much more honest way back when…

… but Jack left out the parts about doctors advertising the health benefits of smoking and cartoon camels and singing DDT characters… sorry Jack, but this was honest advertising of a bygone era?

Bust enhancer  sugar-ads1.jpg DDT1.jpg smoking-ads11.jpg

And today we have Donald Trump mewling through angry pursed lips about making America great again. Seriously Donald?

… but Donald? Donald! Bad boy!

You left out the parts about… and I’m only scratching the surface here… about the good old days when we lived in a world of:

  • slavery and segregation
  • lack of women’s rights and the vote
  • no government pension, medical or welfare payments
  • the 1960 average North American lifespan was 68 (versus about 79-82 today)
  • North American infant mortality was 58 per 1000 in 1933 (6 per 1000 in 2010)
  • hand washing clothes
  • African women with a lifespan 16 years lower in 1960 than today
  • no fridges, freezers or microwave ovens in every home
  • women with no tampons or HRT
  • banks with long lines that closed tight by 4 pm Monday to Friday
  • no air conditioners
  • no seatbelts or airbags in cars
  • no open heart surgery, no diabetes treatment, no effective treatments for depressive and bi-polar disorders, no effective treatments for smallpox, tuberculosis, syphilis, whooping cough, and measles
  • nothing remotely resembling gay, religious, or aboriginal rights

You’re right Donald, I agree that those were the good old days.

But more importantly I say… BULLSHIT Donald!

bullshit

THESE are the good old days!

YOUR good old days were good because, like most of us, you selectively remember the untroubled sunny moments lying out on sandy beaches by the lake or ocean, the mouth-watering taste of Mom’s steaming apple pie, the fresh scent of Dad’s new gas-guzzling car.

These are all the faint, selectively sequestered memories of the wonderful, pleasant things that happened years ago. We all do this, remembering the positive times, the broad smiles, the cute giggles, the glories.

Selectively, most of us push aside memories of cruel bullying that occurred in schools, sexual molestations by creepy uncles, fears of barbaric dental visits, nasty horrible tastes of cod liver oil pushed down our throat by Mom, scary draft cards and eviction notices received in mailboxes.

Of course, good old days are much much easier to re-create and glorify when you’re male, white-skinned, wealthy, straight, or privileged in any way.

But regardless of our plights, all of us are living in the good old days right now because the good old days are a combination of a reality AND a fiction we create in our minds.

Tiny Tim Crachit and Oliver Twist lived in the (fictional) good old days in their better moments.

Adolf Hitler and Idi Amin and Pol Pot and Josef Stalin lived in the good old days.

Helen Keller and Anne Frank and Mother Theresa lived in the good old days.

You and I are living in the good old days today… the same as we were when we were children.

WRONG!

There NEVER were and there NEVER will be good old days.

EVERY day has always been good. EVERY day has always been bad.

Somewhere. For Someone.

YOUR chance, your choice. Every moment in life is a wonder or a catastrophe. Again, your chance, your choice.

Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl said:

“The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.”

Good is a concept interpreted by every person individually.

Donald Trump has chosen to find despair and evil all around him despite the factual reality of humanity’s improvement in almost any realm.

Trump has chosen, and more heinously is using, the sad pessimist’s road that says yesterday will always be better than today.

LA-DI-DA Donald.

Never will this world be the Shangri-La, the perfection.

The epitome of heaven for every person on this planet will never exist.

EVERY day has always been good. EVERY day has always been bad.

Somewhere. For Someone.

But the bright optimists in our midst will always believe that sunshowers are a legal reason for skipping school and swaying, dancing in the rain.

I choose optimism.

I choose to believe, to know… that we’re living in the best of times, so I’m gonna dance bare-footed in the streets like no one’s watching…

Stay right here… 

…’cause these are the good old days”

 

dancing in the rain.jpg