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The Wish List

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wishlist

I threw up 3 times as I wandered down the dimly lit hallway between patient rooms in the early morning of the Medical ward.

The nauseating scented mixture of faeces and putrid, infected wounds came at me in foul waves, each odorous swell bringing up another heaving tsunami from stomach to throat. My head pounded, I felt woozy.

I needed a bed to lie on more than some of these patients.

New Year’s morning long ago…

Frigid arctic air wrapped itself around Stanton Yellowknife Hospital like a parka as I performed my rounds of collecting blood samples for testing I’d carry out back in the lab.

Stupid and 21 years old. That was me.

When you drink a full 26 oz. bottle of Tanqueray gin on New Year’s Eve – solo – knowing full well you’ll be carrying out medical testing at 7 am the following morning, you qualify for the Young and Stupid Hall of Fame.

drunk-larry

This is what 26 oz. of gin (and dark hair!) looks like…

On the other hand, it also meant I was living out part of my boyhood wish list; a New Year’s Wish List that I’d held in my head since I was 13 years old.

Almost from day one of our existence, we consciously or sub-consciously form visions and dreams of a surreal Sci-Fi world of who and what we’ll become some indistinct day in the still-to-come future. Destiny filled with misty water-colour visions of careers, families, activities, material accumulations.

Like a gentile’s bar mitzvah moment, when a young man like I once was reaches the age of 13, 14, 15 … he begins to fervently dream of the “Wish List”.

It’s a boy’s wish list inventory or directory of cloudy desires and unattainable-at-the-moment cravings for his personal world that hopefully… hopefully, will be.

It’s a Scrooge-like night trip of scrambling over obstacles to the promising road lying ahead.

I imagine every adolescent boy’s wish list resembles something slightly different depending on where he’s born and his siting on the social hierarchy, but my list was a triumvirate of adrenaline high, chemical high, and lustful heavenly high.

This boy’s list?

  1. DRIVING A CAR
  2. DRINKING ALCOHOL
  3. SEX  

My list was laid out in a logical chronological order according to society’s expectation, but I was more than happy to consider a re-arrangement of the list’s sequence. Yup, flexibility is my middle name.

Since I’d haphazardly discovered at 13 years old that sex with myself was kinda fun (that story may have to be shared in a later blog post…nahhhhh!), I was nervously anxious to share that fun with someone of the opposite gender in the room. As soon as possible.

Mind you, I grew up in a good United Church household that was 1. favourably disposed towards driving a car… 2. middling on the consumption of alcohol scale… and 3. dead set against penetrative sex before marriage.

In the hallways of my juvenile mind and with Christian moral STOP signs everywhere, I figured that my sex wish could be deliriously, happily accomplished should I find a willing sweet someone to kiss and a breast to fondle. It was a modest dream, don’t you think?

OK, I’ll tell you the end of the story now to quench your need to know.

In the months and years that followed, my list was fully and fruitfully accomplished – and no, not in the order listed.

Drinking alcohol was the first “wish” checked off.

In my fourteenth year, a hazy party hue of Golden Wedding Rye Whisky mixed with coke offered me by my cool, oldest sister and her husband, ushered in my first adolescent drunk night.

CHECK.

Golden Wedding Rye.jpg

A long and eventful 3 years later, I wrote my beginner’s driver’s licence test the day I turned 16.

CHECK CHECK.

Shortly after I turned 17, I bought myself a Rambler American from a sleazy used car salesman for $950. That was HUGE money to me. I was ecstatic, proud that I had saved enough after less than a year of flipping McDonalds burgers ’til 1 am at $1.55 per hour.

And, that car, well… the first night I owned it, I dropped by McDonalds where a burger buddy Brad and I somehow managed to coax a couple of fine young lady friends into our cars for a humid summer’s evening of cruising the city streets.

At the end of the long, boyishly-exciting night, I gallantly returned the prettiest of the girls back home. Although no sex (or anything remotely close) occurred, I overcame the pounding heart in my throat and somehow squeaked out a “will you”… a “could we“… and secured the promise of a date the following weekend.

You can now engage your imagination with the knowledge that this led to my first girlfriend and the attainment of the final (and most anticipated) peak on my wish list (FULL Disclosure: if you must know, it was the slightly-muted-but-happily-satisfying “peak” for a boy brought up with United Church underpinnings).

CHECK CHECK CHECK!

A few decades have unexplainably slipped by since my adolescence, liquid mercury between my fingers.

I’ve written and conjured up many many wish lists and goal lists over the years. We all need wish lists and self-promises, things to anticipate and look forward to. Anticipation of chocolate after you’ve eaten your peas.

As you awake on the first morning of 2017, I hope you don’t feel the nauseated waves I experienced back when I was 21. There’s no need for you to join me in that Hall of Fame.

Instead, may your WISH LISTS, both past and present, fill you with warm sensations, giddy enthusiasm, and youthful spark for who you once were, and have yet to become.

Cheers to you for 2017… ting!

teenage-boys-drinking-beer.jpgHere’s to cars and girls…

The Sweetness of a Solstice Symphony

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paris-snow
.
Paris with the snow falling. Paris with the big charcoal braziers outside the cafes, glowing red. At the cafe tables, men huddled, their coat collars turned up, while they finger glasses of grog Americain and the newsboys shout the evening papers.
     The buses rumble like green juggernauts through the snow that sifts down in the dusk. White house wall rise through the dusky snow. Snow is never more beautiful than in the city. It is wonderful in Paris to stand on a bridge across the Seine looking up through the softly curtaining snow past the grey bulk of the Louvre, up the river spanned by many bridges and bordered by the grey houses of old Paris to where Notre Dame squats in the dusk.
     It is very beautiful in Paris and very lonely at Christmas time.”
Ernest Hemingway

………………………………..

Christmas. The Beauty and the Beast.

Merry Christmas. I mean that.

I’m a Godless atheist. But…

I look forward to Christmastime… perhaps more for the coming of Winter Solstice than the coming of a Jesus child.

Maybe that’s not true.

I loved Christmas as a kid when I awoke and dashed out to the living room and found Santa presents like electric car-racer sets and Slinky’s and ukuleles, and Mom sat, wearily exhausted on the couch from all the Christmas preparations but smiling through half-closed eyes, enjoying the excited sounds of her family gathered ’round a Scotch Pine tree in the living room.

I watch old 8 mm. home movies now and twinkle inside at the filmy dream of my family that shared warm cheer 50 years ago.

I love Christmas for the food. The ribbon salad and warm sage-scented stuffing. Chocolate and shortbread everywhere, gooey sweet rum caramel-sauce-laden Christmas pudding.

I love Christmas for the all-is-calm solemnity of a belief system that involves majestic pageantry and the echoing sounds of beautiful harmonious carol singing inside a high-arched church or cathedral.

I love Christmas for the little lights strung everywhere and the soothing warmth of a crackling fire.

I love Christmas because once, soldiers set down their killing weapons and stopped fighting; cold, worn-out men from both sides ventured into No Man’s land on Christmas Day to mingle, play football, and exchange food and souvenirs.

I love Christmas for the sappy movies and shows- Bing and Rosemary in White Christmas, Jimmy and Donna in It’s A Wonderful Life, Charlie and Lucy in Charlie Brown Christmas, The Grinch and Cindy Lou Who.

bing-and-rosemary

I love Christmas for the positive feelings shared by the people I encounter in my life passages. “Merry Christmas“, we call out to anyone and everyone. It’s about the togetherness of people; Christmas makes people ruminate about love and doing nice things for others. A mild Chinook Yule-breeze changes peoples’ attitudes at Christmas.

Like a laboratory centrifuge (forgive me, old lab tech talk!), Christmas concentrates the emotions, the glad and the sad.

Joyous tears. Melancholy tears.

Christmas brings me a soul-seeping inner sadness and pain because I know others, who either by choice or by chance, have no connection to the spirit of togetherness on Christmas. Family either doesn’t exist or is estranged. I want everyone to feel good on Christmas Day and I can’t make it happen. I’m impotent in a way that no Viagra can resurrect.

My soup kitchen experiences have brought me into contact with dozens who have no place and no one to bring them warmth. Many – the dejected and lonely, even many of the volunteers – gather for lunch at the soup kitchen on Christmas day so they feel a connectedness to something and someone. Family.

I struggle with the bittersweetness of it all.

We invest so much of our lives in one day… one day that reminds us of the best and the worst in our lives.

skating

But, bear with my warped mind here… maybe a way – one strange way- to celebrate Christmas is to get naked like old-style pagans and pay tribute to the wonder of our own birth… how we began our lives as a billion to one long-shot chance on a blind date between an egg and a sperm (despite definitely knowing that OUR Mom and Dad never did that dirty horizontal dance!).

A 9-month prenatal courtship followed by that violent jettison from a wet and warm den down a slippery hallway. Surrounded by tired, sore and smiling parents. Our first words were cries, our first meal the rich milk of our mother. Swaddling clothes but no manger. Definitely no sheep or oxen.

A small elf [us] was unleashed on the world.

A new birth… the poetry and wonder of a life unwritten. It’s a Bach cantata, a Beethoven Moonlight Sonata written one harmonious note, one bar at a time.

Our own personal Christmas story… a rebirth, a new page turned in the next chapter, the next few bars in our grand symphony.

Christmas and Solstice are a Dickensian-like recall of spirits from our past, misty connections and ephemeral moments that slipped past but live on and breathe in our interior world.

May your days be merry and bright….

………………………………..

Anyone who believes that men are the equal of women has never seen a man trying to wrap a Christmas present.”

santa resting.jpg

The New Frontier… I Want A World…

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it-was-the-best-of-times

With apologies to Dickens, it’s… A Tale of Two Issues.

I’m repelled by Donald Trump – it’s as if some midnight jokester set a steamy bag of dog shit on my front doorstep – but dammit…

… That A-hole is making me money.

On paper, at least.

It irks me that I rub my hands together joyously in egocentric financial glee.

It’s a conundrum. I feel guilty.

It’s two-faced that I snort happily at the trough of increased wealth as my investments benefit, based almost solely on the market-swelling narcissistic tweets and ramblings of a Bah Humbug man, a man who points and yells out to adoring white-skinned (and white-hooded!) crowds spreading virulent hatred of immigrants and women and parents of dead soldiers.

Since Trump’s election to President last month, my stock holdings have soared skyward like an Olympic pole-vaulter that has finally discovered the tricky technique of gliding over the high bar.

Sure, I did my homework and carefully selected the stocks – the Apples and Aflacs, the L Brands and Royal Banks and 20 others. I chopped the vegetables and set out the spices for the monetary soup, but Trump mixed it together in the pot and magically cooked the soup to an unexpected, unnatural greatness… again, for the mainly white and wealthy.

trump eating.png

…………………

DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
Papa says, ‘If you see it in THE SUN it’s so.’
Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?

…………………

YES Virginia… we all have personal issues of hypocrisy and confusion that divide us internally. I wrestle and spar with my occult demons regularly.

You see, I want a world filled with leaders who respect and desire peace and accommodation and compassion for others.

…………………

VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

…………………

I want a world where we hunger for everyone to do well, for all 7+ billion humans to have a standard of living that reflects a similar paycheque for similar work… in the affluent western world, we fret about women making the same wages as a man for the same work, and yet, we live in a world where we selfishly tolerate billions of men, women and children living in poverty despite working laboriously hard and very long hours.

…………………

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

…………………

I want a world where the air is comfortably breathable in Boston, Berlin, and Beijing; a world where fish aren’t thoughtlessly killed off by industrial toxins and oil spills, a world where animal habitat is as important as human housing.

…………………

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

…………………

I want a world where women are regarded with the same respect as men in every way, a world that doesn’t victimize and use girls as sexual chattel, prevent them from educating themselves, mere toys for the rich and famous to grab by the pussy.

…………………

You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

…………………

I want a world where we can all enjoy the amazing richness of peace and wealth and understanding that a 21st century globe deserves.

Surely we’ve absorbed and learned countless lessons that millennia of missteps and hardships have taught us.

This is our new frontier.

We talk in glowing epithets of Christmas spirit, and births of new hope.

If the true Christmas spirit is what most of us truly long for… I hope… hope looking through my optimistic rose-coloured glasses… that we’ll continue to push and search and work towards a place where we gaze not only inwards, as I do with my investment portfolio – no Virginia, I’ll never be Mother Teresa or Ghandi or Mandela – but outwards too with a generous spirit and a desire of goodness for all.

My sugar-plum dreams are filled with a planet that cries out in unison…

Make The World Great For Everyone“…

… not only America… not only white men… not only Christians, Jews, Muslims, Bahá’ís, Hindus, Buddhists… an aspiration, an inspiration for better…

…………………

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

No Virginia.jpg

 

 

Canadian Winter and Snow Music…

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Snow-day.jpg

SNOW DAY!

This morning I awoke to the first snowfall of the winter season here in the Okanagan Valley… Car windows coated with a duvet blanket of white cotton… Pine and spruce tree boughs lightly sugar-dusted like shortbread cookies at Christmas…

Snow is dreadful, frightening.

Snow is exhilarating, cheerful.

Canada and snow are inseparable like Gretzky and hockey… Favre and the Green Bay Packers… coffee and Tim Hortons (or Starbucks)… Messi and FC Barcelona… U.S.A. and apple pie…  you get the picture.

Falling snow can be like the gently bobbing sea: warm, inviting, a comfortable friend… but like a revolutionary turncoat it can swing vicious, all gnarly and nasty and powerfully scary, a demon in downy disguise.

I’ve seen human corpses frozen blue-toned stiff and lifeless in snowbanks in Yellowknife, sad remnants of alcohol-induced sleep on a -40C night under the emerald dancing blaze of the Northern Lights.

I’ve inched my old Rambler American cautiously towards a January intersection in Hamilton, Ontario, lightly tapped my brakes to obey a red light, and unheeding she kept on rambling, rambling, sliding, right into the middle of the skating rink crossroads … luckily no other cars decided to tango … or tangle with me on the slush-laden icy street.

I’ve motored along through whiteout blizzard conditions on midnight highways near Brandon, Manitoba and 100 Mile House, B.C.  Unable to see 10 feet in front of my headlights, I hoped, I prayed like hell in my very best heathen form that no other car or 18-wheeler truck would suddenly materialize out of the ether – the snowy fog – where I’d have no chance of stopping outside of plowing into their personal space, a twisted mess of metal and bone and blood.

I’ve tumbled ass-over-teakettle unexpectedly to the hard ground, and watched (while snickering guiltily) others nose-dive dangerously from the slickness of snow-ice underfoot.

Yes, snow can be dangerously terrible.

night-whiteout

But I’ve also felt an icy chill on my cheeks and heard the wush-wush glide of my cross-country skis on hard-packed trails under glorious sunny skies, vistas of snow-laden conifers lining my way, grey whiskey jacks laughing and squawking down at me from their branches.

I’ve sipped steamy hot chocolate around a bonfire as Charlie Brown fluffy snowflakes flittered and danced in the mandarin-orange glow of firelight.

I’ve taken a bow saw to the trunk of a bushy, snow-covered Scotch Pine tree in the frosty wilderness to drag it back as a celebratory Christmas tree in William’s Lake, B.C.

I’ve watched in serene fascination at the feathered airforce: dark-eyed juncos and quail and pine siskins – an occasional hungry hawk – winging and dipping and chirping in my yard as they devour as many seeds as they can to fill their high energy needs for a cold cold day.

I’ve sat in the evening darkness listening to one of my favourite guitarists Bruce Cockburn play his melancholy song of snow and winter chill and missing a lover on “The Coldest Night of the Year“.

I’ve savoured the child-like delight of listening to a caffeine-hyped CKOC radio announcer utter my two very favourite words as a 10 year-old…”SNOW DAY!“… no school.

Yes, snow can be invigoratingly wonderful.

snow angel.jpg

Part of that wonder and pleasure is snow music.

Bundled warmly in parka and mukluks you can eavesdrop – silvery breathe fogging the still air – on the crunchy sound of intensely cold snow beneath your toasty feet.

Snow walking is snow music with a steady rhythmic beat. Swoosh-crunch-swoosh-crunch… the metronome ticks time to your motion… Swoosh-crunch-swoosh-crunch…

Have you ever noticed how Charlie Brown’s (Vince Guaraldi actually!) music “Christmastime Is Here” has an insistent incessant snow-drifting brushes-drumbeat at its base. That’s snow music.

I don’t hear snow music often anymore. I don’t immerse myself in snow the way I once did. I miss it sometimes even though I’m growing more cold and snow-phobic than ever. That’s the curse of aging. I think Leonard Cohen sang about such things.

By Canadian standards I live in a tropical enclave – Canuck Hawaii – where the pain of Arctic chilblains lasts only a few weeks before mild springlike breezes and green grass and daffodils materialize once more.

My kids never had the delight of experiencing a snow day here in mild’ish B.C. I feel sorry for what they’ve missed.

Ice and snow continue on for months in places like Edmonton and Saskatoon and Hamilton and Halifax. Children in those and many other chilly cities are able to wake up, stretch little kiddie limbs, then smoosh their noses against their windows and smile excitedly.

Smile because a thick blanket of fun white stuff has smothered their yards and streets overnight.

Smile because they can put on their coats and boots and scarves and toques and mittens and instead of sitting at their school desk, they can slide down hills and build snowmen and throw snowballs.

Smile because it’s a SNOW DAY!

And they can also smile because they can turn off their iPods and iPhones… and listen in to the brisk seasonal tunes of SNOW MUSIC.

snow music.png

SpanFrenPunjablish 2… the UNCUT version…

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(thank you for bearing with my “Premature Publishing” problem of 2 days ago and returning for the rest of the story…)

panda shoots.jpg

I get confused sometimes. OK, often.

Language is a crazy thing, ain’t it?

A panda walks into a café. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and proceeds to fire it at the other patrons.

“Why?” asks the confused, surviving waiter amidst the carnage, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder.

“Well, I’m a panda,” he says. “Look it up.”

The waiter turns to the relevant entry in the manual and, sure enough, finds an explanation.  

– Panda… Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China.  Eats, shoots and leaves –          

eats-shoots-and-leaves

In 2003, Lynne Truss wrote a non-fiction bestseller titled… you guessed it… Eats, Shoots & Leaves. It’s a tongue-in-cheek look at how communication can be thrown in the air like pizza dough, becoming a total gooey mess when simple punctuation marks are either omitted or improperly used in writing and reading.

……………………………..

I love languages like I love music.

Languages are music, they have a rhythm, an accent, a pace that distinguishes each in a similar way to how we distinguish folk music from country music from classical music.

When we hear a non-native person speak in English, most of us recognize their accent as Spanish, or Indian, or Russian. The notes and rhythm are different but unique.

It’s music, plain and simple.

I’m tutoring a handsome, oh-so-polite, young Indian man, we’ll call him Ramesh (no, it’s not his real name) who wants to pass his IELTS (International English Language Testing System) test to stay here in Canada (psst… don’t tell the Trump’ster, he might build another wall).

Unbeknownst to him, he’s teaching me as much as I’m hoping to teach him.

Learning can happen anywhere. I like that.

But Ramesh thinks I’m an English-language God… a golden deity of language.

I don’t want that responsibility on my shoulders.

I’m already sweating bullets, worrying that he may not pass his exams – at a cost of $350 – in January. Ramesh has a business administration certification but currently works at a gas station for $10.50 an hour.

I’ll probably have terrible stressed-out diarrhea the day of his test.

He respectfully calls me “Sir” but in a funny twist of formal vs informal language, he injects the filler word like 2 or 3 times in every sentence, so much like my own teenage kids did 10 years ago.

In a 3 minute speech he recited to me a week ago, I, like, stopped counting at 35 likes. It’s like those potty-mouthed F-Bomb guys at my, like gym, that I spoke about, like last year. They, like, can’t help themselves. (ASIDE: this week, Ramesh only used like 4 times in 3 minutes! That’s, like, commitment and progress…)

I’m pretty good with most grammar issues and … spelling? Well.. spelling is my Herculean strength. I possess rippling Arnold Schwarzenegger spelling muscles.

arnold-schwart

Olympians are often gifted with superior athletic abilities and skills. My Olympic genetic gift is a knack for spelling correctly without having to think or try. It’s a minor endowment, but I always appreciate it like a shiny toy from Santa under the tree.

I used to think I was a fair grammarian as well, but a simple query by Ramesh this week brought me tumbling humbly back to earth.

His question?  “when should I use ‘has been‘ vs ‘have been.

The rules of syntax I thought I owned rose like a helium balloon to the sky as I fumbled for a coherent answer. You probably haven’t hesitated a milli-second in wonder over this one, have you?

According to Quora:

Both “Has been” AND “Have been” mean something began in the past and has lasted into the present time.

  • This meaning is known as present perfect continuous.
  • Use “has” when describing specific persons (not yourself) or a non-person (e.g. an animal or an object).
  • Use “have” when describing yourself or a group (both human and non-human).

I know, blah… that’s boring. I’m with you.

My point here is that I take for granted the knowledge that lies within. Some things just … are.

I discovered a whole lot about the rules of language almost 7 years ago in Cusco, Peru while we were studying Spanish alongside shiny, intelligent, young, Dutch, German, Brazilian and American students.

We were learning Spanish, yes. But we were also uncovering the reasons for language usage that apply in English and other languages at the same time. It was like unearthing buried treasure on a beach while innocently making sand castles.

So here I am today, learning once again.

Ramesh is asking the tough questions that make me sit back and think, “Hell yeah, why is it that when two or more adjectives are used before a noun, they must be used in a specific order.”  

This is something we native English speakers do without thinking because we simply knows what “sounds right.”  

“The large purple cotton bag belongs to her,” is fine.
“The cotton purple large bag belongs to her,” is not.

Right?

Who wouldn’t be confused? Who can explain why this is? It just is.

But I can’t tell Ramesh I don’t know.

Actually, I do do just that (what a silly language where we place two do‘s together and it makes sense!). And then I come home and study the reasons why.

I’m having to put in my 1,000 hours of study and dedicated practice so I can understand and help Ramesh join Canadian society.

He’s a charming and amiable young man.

I want him to enjoy a life in Canada and experience ice skating and fluffy snowflakes made into snowmen.

I want him to idle in a Tim Hortons Drive-Thru and order a double-double.

I want him to learn to say “eh” and cheer for my Hamilton Tiger Cats football team.

Ramesh is helping me get past my own confusion, which is a good thing, because I don’t want him to, like, Eat, Shoot, and Leave this country.

a-woman-without-her-man

SpanFrenPunjablish

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OK Friends… in one of my regular gaffes, I’ve accidentally published this post unfinished, unedited and 2 days early!!

PLEASE FORGIVE my senior stupendous stupidity and ignore this posting (or not, you’re the BOSS!)… I will finish this and re-send on Sunday as per my usual pattern. 

Thanks for bearing with my twitchy PUBLISH finger… hope you’ll come back and see me in 2 days…

 

panda shoots.jpg

I get confused sometimes. OK, often.

Language is a crazy thing, aint it?

A panda walks into a café. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and proceeds to fire it at the other patrons.

“Why?” asks the confused, surviving waiter amidst the carnage, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder.

“Well, I’m a panda,” he says. “Look it up.”

The waiter turns to the relevant entry in the manual and, sure enough, finds an explanation.  

-Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China.                                Eats, shoots and leaves-

 In 2003, Lynne Truss wrote a non-fiction bestseller titled… you guessed it… Eats, Shoots & Leaves. It’s a tongue-in-cheek look at how communication can be thrown in the air like pizza dough, becoming a total gooey mess when simple punctuation marks are either omitted or improperly used in writing.

I love languages, like I love music.

Languages are music, they have a rhythm, an accent, a pace that distinguishes each in a similar way that we distinguish folk music from country music from classical music.

When we hear a non-native person speak in English, most of us recognize their accent as Spanish, or Indian, or Russian. The notes and rhythm are different but unique. It’s music, plain and simple.

I’m tutoring a handsome, oh-so-polite, young Indian man, we’ll call him Rakesh (no, it’s not his real name) who wants to pass his IELTS (International English Language Testing System) test to stay here in Canada and unbeknownst to him, he’s teaching me as much as I’m hoping to teach him.

But he thinks I’m an English God… a deity of language. I don’t want that responsibility on my shoulders. I’m already sweating bullets, worrying that he may not pass his exams – at a cost of $350 – in January.

He formally calls me “Sir” but in a funny twist