This Is Us? That’ll Be The Day…

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Guilty Pleasures … Episode 1,012,325.

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… I was watching an episode of THIS IS US last night… and not just because I’ve had a minor crush on winsome girl-next-door Mandy Moore for years which – gulp – even to me seems kind of creepy knowing that I’m easily old enough to be her father.

Hey, there’s a psychotherapy session for another day. Squeeze me in between Norman Bates and Harvey Weinstein.

I watch the show because the stories are so raw, so borderline melodramatically overwrought, so personally intense… but eminently watchable. Every character is flawed and still lovable, so human.

This Is Us.

My only wish is that maybe they find time to shine a few more splashes of sunshine in their scripts. The best cinema and TV have a delicately sculpted balance of carefree and fun blended with sorrow and gloom.

I crave deep emotion and pathos, but I don’t want to plummet down a dark hole having them create a need in me for antidepressant pharmaceuticals where none exists at the moment.

This Is Us - Season 1

Last night’s episode titled That’ll Be The Day pierced me, and not only for the obvious reason of at last discovering the root of the family’s pain… you and I know that Buddy Holly’s song ends… that I die… yes, we now know when and how Jack died. I don’t want to seem impatient but OMG… that was more than enough foreplay.

In between distracted bites of carrot/banana/pineapple cupcakes with cream cheese icing I made earlier in the day, I was intimately drawn in when Randall (the adopted black “triplet”) said to his screwed-up white actor-brother Kevin, “… Dad’s already been gone longer than we had him.” 

Randall realizes that he’s lived longer without a father than he did with one.

Yes. This Is Us.

I’m now the age my mother was when she died.

Yes. This Is Us.

Randall reminded me that I’ve lived much longer without a mother and father than I did with parents. Inside, there’s this little nag telling me I’m a “dead man walking.”

The writers of This Is Us know how to turn us inside out, diving and examining the passage and import of our lives. That’s where its power lies.

Of course the writers of the show are skilled story-crafters who weave the past and present in wonderfully evocative ways, always leading us up and down alleys… alleys we know exist and what lies down them, but we desperately want them to show us even so. That’s impressive.

For years after, the triplets Randall and Kevin and Kate all live mournful moments in their lives because of the last interaction they shared with their father. An inner tape recording of their final conversation plays incessantly, shaping the adults they’ve become.

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It’s slightly tragic that we might allow ourselves to be affected by one negative prattle moment with someone we love.

My last conversation with my Mom on a sunny April afternoon didn’t end with a smile and a hug… it was more like me looking up like a little teenage jerk and saying, “God, stop bugging me Mom, I’ll apply at McDonald’s tomorrow or the next day”.

A month later I was a cherubic McBurger Flipper and my mother was lying cold underground.

That vaguely negative moment was our last, and I’ll admit that it lingered unhappily with me for a short while, but it doesn’t affect my tranquil memories or love for my Mom. A moment of crabbiness shouldn’t impinge on our obvious love and closeness.

I have a scrapbook in my head filled with cheerful memories and moments that have crowded out almost every other unfavourable second.

The arts we view and listen to pass through a fine filter between our ears as they reach our brain. A colander lies within us picking out the explanatory snippets telling us about who we are.

As you read these words, you may be delving inside, reliving some portion of your life that I’ve just reminded you of.

This Is Us.

We watch, absorb, connect, and live our lives over again – for better or worse – on-screen.

This is how we watch movies.

This is how we read books.

This is how we listen to music.

This is how we take heed of our neighbour telling us about his new motorcycle, or her sister’s operation.

Right now I’m enjoying the guilty pleasure of sitting here snug in a cozy office chair staring out my window. Random moments with free-ranging thought clouds.

Short fragments of dialogue between Kate, Randall and Kevin ping-pong through my head along with some soft guitar licks that punctuate and reinforce the sentiments of their story.

A luminous white snowline runs halfway down the valley hillside across in Naramata as I absorb delicious harmonies of Foxes and Fossils singing Helplessly Hoping, envisioning myself as the male “Fossil” singer in the middle… listening to my inner voice whispering…

This Is Us.





I Do Stupid Things

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Everything was fine until I did something stupid.

Isn’t it always that way?

We looked first-class as we entered the east-end restaurant where her friends and classmates had gathered.

It was a fun evening with hoots of laughter and discussions of the ordeals and traumas and goofy occurrences that happen when a group of young people have shared time together for four years.

Long ago in a galaxy far far away…. her high school graduation and prom. I was her date.

Her short, dark brown hair pulled into an up-do, she looked artistically lovely in a flowing amethyst dress and I looked late-teenager handsome(-ish) in a late 1970’s kind of way. It was a toss-up of who had the longer locks that evening.

The night passed, we drank Labatt’s 50 beer (I was legal, she may not have turned 18 yet) and danced to a DJ, and then after the “prom” we adjourned to her friend’s basement rec room for the “all-nighter party”.

Angela was cute. We had a fun night. I liked her. Friends. That’s all.

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This is where the stupid part comes in.

We had been chummy for a few years while working evening and weekend shifts at our local McDonalds. She was a friend and classmate (at the nearby Catholic high school) of the girl I had a mad love for – the one I had taken to my own grad a year earlier – and who had dumped me a couple of months earlier.

As the all-nighter party approached morning and the excited momentum of the evening quietly slowed into an adagio, I could feel the devastating disappointment in her eyes… disappointment that all her girlfriends were making out with their dates… but we weren’t.

And so, as the sun rose – against my best judgment, and while paradoxically trying to make her feel better – I made out with her sans feelings of attachment or sensual desire.

“Made out” in the sense that no clothes were shed but lips touched. Maybe a breast was fondled, I honestly don’t remember now.

We drove down her street in my old tawny-toned Rambler American as daylight settled over the cool dew glistening on the lawns of her neighbourhood.

She was giddy and blissfully happy when I left her at her parents’ front door.

I felt crappy inside knowing the love in her eyes didn’t catch a similar reflection back from mine.

She had a major crush on me that lasted for a couple of years afterwards that I never reciprocated… at least after that one night.

In today’s parlance, I “ghosted” her.

And to show you how stupidity isn’t always a one-off, I did a similar thing with another amiable young lady when I moved to Yellowknife a year or two later. That time, clothes were shed.


Some things are plain old Stupid-dumb.

Some things are Stupid-hurtful.

Angela was Stupid-hurtful. I’m sorry Angela.

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And stupid-hurtful isn’t just something we do to others. Sometimes it’s self-inflicted.

… stupid-hurtful like… I blame myself for my Mom’s early death at age 60. I can’t leave behind the internal message that if I’d known CPR or artificial respiration, she might have breathed long enough, might have had a heartbeat long enough for an ambulance ride into the skilled hands of a real doctor. Her heart health wasn’t my responsibility as a 15 year-old, but a basic CPR course may have given me more time with her.

That’s stupid-hurtful to me, and yet at 2 a.m. I can’t shake the bastard thought despite it being nonsensical.

Some things are plain old stupid-dumb.

… stupid-dumb like… to keep my McDonalds job as a pimply teenager, I wore a wig… a short-haired wig that kept my non-corporate-conforming shoulder-length locks from the critical eyes of management.

… stupid-dumb like… as a 12 year-old, I cooked fried rice for my family’s traditional Sunday night dinner… clink tinkle tinkle… those are the sounds of hard rice landing on dishware when you don’t boil the rice in water first before frying.

… stupid-dumb like… as a student lab intern, reporting test results that had the potential to kill an unborn baby had an astute surgeon not called my lab supervisor for confirmation of my calculations before making the first cut into the Mom’s abdomen.

… stupid-dumb like… walking off the edge of an elevated deck in my yard where I had removed the stairs for renovation just a day earlier.

… stupid-dumb like…

Well, you get the idea, right? Even Forrest Gump had it right: “Stupid is as stupid does

Stupid must have a weight attached to it because sometimes my head feels heavy.

For all of the things we forget in our worlds – and we all forget sooooo much – the stupid things have a way of indelibly ingraining themselves in our psyche, like burrs in deep grass.

It’s fascinating and maybe even infuriating that I struggle to see the cherubic faces, to hear the angelic voices of my young children at their many Christmas concerts and dance performances and basketball games, and yet, I can vividly see and feel the sharp ends of a projectile nail protruding from my 11 year-old leg while playing a dumb game with childhood friends.

Stupidity doesn’t play fair.

And somehow, when I search for a silver lining to my playbook, I reflect on the conclusion that stupidity is directly related to life lessons and humility because the end result of any stupid thing I’ve done has a positive rebound effect of making me more aware of my terminal ordinariness… taking me one baby step forward on the bumpy road to becoming humble and kind.

I wonder if Sir Isaac Newton understood a few centuries ago that a whole lot of stupid does the job of gravity, holding us firmly to the ground?

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A Simple Sunny Day Conversation

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… muddled darkness still filled the winter-chilled room when I slid back into my dream …

William Goldman, Nora Ephron and Aaron Sorkin sat in a haze of talkers’ block, frustratingly biting fingernails and pulling hair over a discussion of how… how and why they write their movie screenplays.


THE William Goldman (Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, All The President’s Men, The Princess Bride),


THE Nora Ephron (When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, Julie & Julia) and


THE Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing, The Social Network, Molly’s Game).

Three spirited and gifted talents, hardworking Jewish folks, mystically wired to type out brilliant lines of cinematic dialogue that the world slurps up like delicious soup from a beautiful pottery bowl in the sunshine.


Butch Cassidy: Do you believe I’m broke already?
Etta Place: Why is there never any money, Butch?
Butch Cassidy: Well, I swear, Etta, I don’t know. I’ve been working like a dog all my life and I can’t get a penny ahead
Etta Place: Sundance says it’s because you’re a soft touch, and always taking expensive vacations, and buying drinks for everyone, and you’re a rotten gambler.
Butch Cassidy: Well that might have something to do with it.
William Goldman

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Just like in the movies they wrote, the conversation flows like silky sap from maple trees in early spring.

Why do we bother writing if it’ll all just be rain down a drain when we’re gone?’

‘And why am I trying to write lines coming from people who are smarter than me? I don’t think it can be done.’

‘Sure, and why do we make tasty foods to eat when the basic building blocks of healthy life don’t require any flavour, or at least pleasant flavour?’

All so serious.

Nora smiled and sighed loudly. Shaking her head, she tilted up to the royal blue, squinting into the sun beating down on them as they sipped margaritas on Sorkin’s back patio overlooking the resonant Pacific on California’s coast. A slew of gulls squealed and shrieked over the waves.

Guys, this is silly. There is no reason to writing.’

‘There is no reason to life. It just is.’

‘Stop obsessing about why and enjoy the trip, the process.’

You can never have too much butter – that is my belief. If I have a religion, that’s it,‘ she added, not knowing why.

Nora was always so grounded. So sensible. Or maybe it was the tequila-tainted inebriation talking.

But of course, Nora is dead and has access to metaphysical ideas and thought that the rest of us here on earth can’t see yet.

Except dreams.

Dreams allow us that delicious fusion of combining life with death, truth with fiction, oil with water.


Sally (on faking orgasms): “Nothing. It’s just that all men are sure it never happened to them and all women at one time or other have done it so you do the math.”

Nora Ephron

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People don’t talk in real life like they do in the movies. That’s the beauty of what we do.’

Real people don’t kidnap couples from the side of the road and boldly declare, “We’re Bonnie and Clyde. We rob banks!” Never been said outside of a movie theatre.’

Yeah or … “You can’t handle the truth! Son we live in a world that has walls, and those have to be guarded by men with guns. Whose gonna do it, you, you lieutenant Weinberg? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago, and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury, you have the luxury of not knowing what I know, that Santiago’s death while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence while grotesque and incomprehensible, to you, saves lives.” ‘

‘That’s true, we can’t write the boring stuff, but we can take conversations and make them sound alive, believable as if it really happened just the way we wrote it. Audiences want to believe’

Believe, huh? No one believes or cares that we wrote crap for years that no producer or studio would touch.


NEWSROOM’s Will McAvoy (to college students proudly calling America the greatest country in the world): “There is absolutely no evidence to support the statement that we’re the greatest country in the world. We’re seventh in literacy, 27th in math, 22nd in science, 49th in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, third in median household income, number four in labor force and number four in exports. We lead the world in only three categories: number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real and defense spending, where we spend more than the next 26 countries combined, 25 of whom are allies.”

Aaron Sorkin

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Aaron jumped up and after a slight wobble, arrowed himself back into the house, returning just as quickly with a thick, yellowing manuscript in his hand.

‘Look, I wrote this screenplay for Warren Beatty years ago. It’s called Ocean of Storms. It’s embarrassing. There’s no music in this. It’s totally missing any rhythm. I wish I could write it from scratch all over again.’

‘Shit you guys… I’m dead … Sleepless no more… so listen up while you can.’

Nora leaned forward, scanning the faces of both men. Goldman and Sorkin straightened in their leisure chairs, looking all the part of schoolboys in short pants ready to be chastised by the wise schoolmarm.

‘We all want instant perfection. You want a meaning to writing or life? I’ll give you my secret. Free, keep your dimes in your pockets.’

‘You do what you do well and know that it will never be good enough.’

‘You write and you write and you get a teeny fraction better, maybe not every day but at least every year or every decade. And you capture joy like children’s marbles knowing that your abilities and understanding are tiptoeing up a mountain who’s peak is in the clouds and you’ll never see the peak no matter how high you climb because the little secret is… there is no peak.’

‘All you do is keep making the mountain higher and higher like you’re some Godless one who can build their own mountain. And once in a while you stop climbing and look around at the beautiful scenery below because the higher you climb the more magnificent the view becomes.’

‘We’re all a bunch of Shakespearean fools, or insecure Charlie Brown’s. The climber one day stumbles and falls, but the mountain still stands there for others to ascend and make larger.’

The limey margaritas tingled and settled inside in a soft, mellow pillow…

… my dreamy haze was lifting in early morning light as, in a muted unusual moment, all three, the great dialogue communicators, sat quietly, reflecting on a simple, sunny day conversation.

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The Smartest Gal In The Room?… A Grand Fiction


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I’ve sat in the darkness and sobbed salty, wet tears… tears from knowing that no one has ever suggested I’m the Smartest Guy in the Room and … sigh … never will.

It’s all good and well though, cuz I know I’m not alone.

When I watch Sarah Huckabee-Sanders walk into the Press Briefing Room of the White House, I think much the same about her.

Intellect need not apply. Sarah is today’s Queen of Grand Fiction. We all know who the King is.

I feel humiliated and dirty like a well-worn diaper when I watch and listen to her, maybe even like a male rape victim… beat up and confused.

But c’mon, really, is that a fair assessment?

Sarah’s doing a job, paying the bills, makin’ the bacon. She has conviction and blind faith. She has more balls than Sean Spicer (Spicey) was ever endowed.

No one has ever accused her of sexually harassing the poor men and women of the press. There’s never a suspicion that she’s grabbed anyone by the pussy or penis. She’s just good folk.

So, is Huckabee-Sanders just a hard-working Mom who’s found a place in the world to bring in a few dollars to support her family? Is any level of bottom feeding acceptable when it comes to feeding Scarlett, Huck, and George? Does she peer into her morning mirror and smile at herself with satisfaction at an important job well-done?

My only answers must be… drumroll please… NO. NO. And please NO.

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Huckabee-Sanders is a propagandized parrot that grew up at the knee of ignorance who continues to chew and regurgitate beefy Washington Whoppers fed to her in the back rooms of Maniac Mansion.

She can’t help it. Her ignorant sneers of disgust and self-deception are built-in.

It’s in her genes. After all, her father Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas Governor, was interviewed by Canada’s Rick Mercer once, and asked this question:

Our capitol building in Canada is actually a downscale model of your Capitol building, except it’s made out of ice. It’s an igloo, you see. Now, we’re worried about global warming and the fact that it might, uh, melt, so we’re putting a dome over it but in order to pay for it we have to attract tourists. Would you be interested in visiting Canada’s National Igloo?”

Huckabee smiled into the camera, and looking the perfect politician, beamed congratulations to Canadians on the success of their campaign.

“Hi, I’m governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, wanting to say, congratulations, Canada, on preserving your National Igloo.”

The very same Mike Huckabee attempted runs at the presidency in both 2008 and 2016, proud daughter Sarah at his side. Warms my heart.

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Sarah and Dad Mike

Just like her boss, Sarah is totally fascinating to watch. She’s a 35 year old buzz bomb.

Normally, you know, I take a passing, ho-hum, interest in American politics.

But the past year’s fun and frolics in Washington have me mesmerized. I can’t help it. I’m totally entranced by the characters and plotlines that are moment-to-moment stunning in beauty and scope.

I’m in awe of this scenario playing out in much the same way I felt when I stood at the rim of the Grand Canyon and looked over the magnificence. It feels otherworldly and breathtaking and… dangerous.

Huckabee-Sanders is a Waste Management officer that collects all the foul, ugly “stuff” off the floor of Trump’s Oval Office and then gleefully returns to the Press Room with a disdainful curl of her lip. Once installed at the lectern, she opens the garbage bag and begins flinging the musty trash into the gobsmacked gathering.

It’s hilarious and fascinating… and yes, scary as all hell.

Here, let me put it another way.

In my musical world, I play with a little cool gadget called a looper.

The looper is a metal box, about the size of a cigarette package (do people still smoke cigarettes?) that sits on the floor with a button (my button is definitely smaller than yours!).

When I want to tape a short segment of my guitar playing, I press the button with my foot and the loop records my guitar licks until I press the button with my foot once again.

When I come back around to the same place in the song I just recorded, I press the looper button twice with my foot and it replays the section I recorded earlier.

This allows me to play another slice of music that adds a layer onto what I’ve already played. In effect, I become a one-man band as I play with myself (hmmm… maybe I should re-word that section! Fuhgettaboutit!).

Sarah Huckabee-Sanders often reminds me of my looper in the manner that she says something totally fabricated and ridiculous, and then when questioned further, loops back and adds another sonic layer of absurdity over the base line she’s already laid.

Sarah’s a press room virtuoso (a) with a southern drawl.

Each day, senselessness is produced anew.

As Frank Bruni wrote in the New York Times this November: “For some 20 minutes every afternoon, down is up, paralysis is progress, enmity is harmony, stupid is smart, villain is victim, disgrace is honor, plutocracy is populism and Hillary Clinton colluded with Russia if anyone would summon the nerve to investigate her (because, you know, that never, ever happens). I watch and listen with sheer awe.”

I could dish up innumerable strange utterances that have come from Huckabee-Sanders throat but I can’t type and giggle incessantly at the same time.

Sure, I normally abhor reality TV, but the real-life version is too intoxicating to ignore. If only Shakespeare had lived to write his comedies and tragedies in the 21st century. The source material is endless.

The cast and characters of this American tragi-comedy have given me something akin to ice cream brain-freeze. I love it and I hate it.

Just because reporters say something over and over and over again doesn’t start to make it true.”

Hopefully, one day Sarah Huckabee-Sanders will listen and take her own words to heart.

A bright, active imagination like hers could be put to productive use if she joined a club of writers and added her voice to the world of Grand Fiction.

In the meanwhile, Huckabee-Sanders brings bittersweet levity and laughter to millions like myself as we await the arrival of divinely perfumed spring.

I avidly look forward to Sarah’s next press conference and find myself pondering if maybe… maybe… sweet songsters Hall & Oates were prescient when writing their tunes in the 1970’s:

If you feel like leaving you know you can go
But why don’t you stay until tomorrow?
And if you want to be free
You know all you got to do is say so
Sarah, smile
Oh, won’t you smile awhile for me, Sarah?