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Some Hero Sandwiches Just Smell Bad

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Confusion.jpg

I lived a confused life.

  • It might be that I’m getting old.
  • It might be that I’m an entitled white male.
  • It might be that the Trump world we currently inhabit is spinning off provincial and national despots faster than the acceleration in Elon Musk’s Tesla car or  SpaceX rocket.
  • It might be the minute concentrations of toxic chemicals in the water I quaff in quantity during my runs.
  • It might be my boyish enthusiasm simply overwhelms my good sense.
  • It might be that I switched years back from briefs to boxers.

Or…. It might be that through the internet, human understanding and relations are evolving so rapidly that none of us can live with any certainty of what is appropriate for more than 15 minutes.

I seek out and bow before skilled mentors and inspirational folks that guide me forward towards the “better”. Musicians, athletes, politicians, philosophers, mothers.

I possess a pedestal-in-waiting for the human Wonders of the World.

A fairly recent phenomenon has us (mostly appropriately) tearing down the reputations and glories of people and monuments that we’ve held in high repute for eons.

Columbus NOT

I grew up believing (based on my school teachers’ lessons) that Christopher Columbus was a pioneering hero, Lance Armstrong was a cycling god, Bill Cosby was a comedy legend. The names add up: Michael Jackson, Ben Johnson, Tiger Woods, Mel Gibson, countless politicians and entertainers of all stripes, and on and on.

All fallen angels (though Tiger’s wings have recovered somewhat lately). We see our world through the eyes of today and the knowledge that informs what is good for all.

This week has added a new demon to the pile: Kate Smith, the singer who famously belted out God Bless America to Philadelphia sports’ fans in the 1970’s and 1980’s.

Discovered to have sung songs with racist lyrics decades earlier, Smith’s reputation has posthumously crashed like a Boeing 737 Max airplane. Statues and accolades are melting away like Confederate army memorabilia.

Kate Smith syatue

History viewed in retrospect is a harsh judge.

There are two schools of thought on the concept of hero worship:

1. The personal lives and peccadilloes of high achievers remain separate from the achievements themselves. The greatness of the act supersedes the nasty underbelly of the individual. For most of my life, this has been convenient and I’ve subscribed to this notion.

2. Greatness of achievement and quality of character are inextricably entangled. The eminence of the act must be equally matched by the essence of the person themselves.

Now, because life is complicated and nuanced, a third option has occupied my mind space and is my current default.

Like everything else going, this too could change over time.

Here’s my thinking.

3. There are some inherent evils that are pretty much non-disputable, regardless of where you come along in history and the mores of the time.

If you kill, rape or abuse others… common sense, and every religious text has some pretty clear guidelines that forbid inhumanity to humanity and other life forms.

So, when any achievement is glorified or assisted by the placing of one’s thumb or boot-print on another, how can we praise such an accomplishment?

Crossing an unknown dark ocean despite the fears and the secrets it held was an amazing attainment by Columbus and other explorers… but what they did to the peoples they encountered at landfall was barbarously cruel and inexcusable.

How can I celebrate the performance of any politician who (knowingly) advocated that young Aboriginal children be removed from their parents and families and whisked off to residential schools for years?

While the songs that Kate Smith sang (and honestly, Smith was NOT a great singer) are abhorrent in today’s world, I don’t believe that she was a bad person who wished to hurt others… merely a product of the life into which she was born.

We’ll all be judged tomorrow for our beliefs of today. Heaven help us.

Damn… I started out really wanting this post to be light and humorous. MAJOR FAIL! No monuments for me …

I guess that the intermingling of my confusions and my desire to find appropriate mentors dodged its way past my humerus.

Cosby Evil fingers.jpg

Cosby’s Evil Fingers

Happy Money And The Gift Of Time

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Stock market.jpg

6:30 am Pacific Time.

Every weekday at 6:30 am (Toronto and New York stock markets fire up at 9:30 Eastern time) I log onto QTrade and check the share prices of stocks in my own accounts, my wife’s accounts, and each of my kids’ accounts.

It’s a numbers’ obsession. It’s a money obsession.

When markets wake up feeling depressed and downcast and I see my lifetime cache of dollars slowly circling the drain in a downward spiral (like a good part of last year), I catch a lonely grey sensation, rub my eyes and forehead, and remind myself that stock markets are bi-polar … doom and gloom one moment, sexy exhilaration the next.

Yes Larry, This Too Shall Pass.

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And then, on other mornings, I sip from my steaming cup of latte – the frothiness on the surface forming happy little animal clouds –  and jump up and down inside when everything is floating upwards (like this year so far), the $$ in my accounts gliding up the x and y axes of the graph like a jet roaring upwards and away from the runway at 250 kph.

Yup, on these good days, I silently kiss myself for the wonderful assessments I’ve made of the various companies that comprise these portfolios. I feel like a clone of Warren Buffett. (Then I remind myself: A fool is wise in his own eyes. King Solomon)

It’s energizing and exciting. It’s Happy Money.

Or it can be.

Let’s face it, we need money only slightly less than we need oxygen and sleep and sex.

Happiness gets a boost in my world when there’s an increase in money… and … when there’s an increase in time.

OK, we all know that time will never increase, which is why it is so valuable for those of us mortals (everyone) that will revert to dust in too short a time frame.

Which brings me to today’s book tip (more valuable than any hot stock tip I might offer):

Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending… (Elizabeth Dunn/Michael Norton)

My eldest daughter, a pretty smart cookie, went to a talk by the book’s female author in Vancouver and suggested I take a look at the book.

The bottom line message the authors send our way is to spend money on things that will actually bring us more joy in our lives.

  • Buy Experiences
  • Make it a Treat
  • Buy Time
  • Pay Now, Consume Later
  • Invest in Others

I won’t go into great detail about the contents here, because I’m gonna use my time to enjoy the experience of playing my guitar.

A couple of small examples that might send you on your way to happy money?

I savour the flavour and texture of a morning latte… hot, sweet and frothy. Caffeine wet dream.

But I know if I quaff this sensual treat every day it loses its delicious lustre. I become desensitized to its yumminess.

So… I consciously decide to regularly go for a day or two and sip milky tea or regular coffee instead – both enjoyable in their own right, but not so sumptuous.

When I return once again to a creamy latte, I’m transformed and delighted (Aside: this is why daily sex can be a bad choice too! … just sayin’).

Another example. When I travel, I avoid last minute bookings even though the money savings can be substantial. A healthy dose of the joy in travelling comes in the form of anticipation … the daydreamy visions and expectations that float through my head as I conjure the people, the sights, the scents and tastes costs me nothing and yet adds exponentially to the overall enjoyment of the upcoming journey.

Money is a passport to time. Money gives me the freedom to help others and explore regions of personal passion, like music and nature, running, cooking, and even for this Number’s Guy… investing in the stock market.

6:30 am is one small part of my weird but Happy Money time.

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Wondering Where The (Dande)Lions Are… The Migration of Birds, Wines and Music

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Sun’s up mmm hmmm looks OK … the world survives into another day … and I’m thinking about eternity … (Bruce Cockburn)

Everything’s behind normal (is there really such a thing?) in the spring season in this part of the world.

Even the dandelions are hiding away in fear of an unvaccinated chill.

But that’s all changing …

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The delicate, darling cedar waxwings who swoop in from parts afar have made their first guest appearance this week – almost 3 months later than we normally spot them swarming in like honeybees to the Mountain Ash tree and its fermented orange-red berries.

The waxwings and robins stagger away in wobbly circles after feasting in a drunken haze, like Star Wars X-Wing fighters.

American Goldfinches parade across the yard, little wind-blown soprano-voiced daffodils, as Downy Woodpeckers lightly punch a quiet percussion rhythm in the tall birches overhead.

Regrettably, the flickers too now hang like feathery rock climbers on the wood siding of the house, attempting their best break and enter. Noisy thiefs.

Yes… SPRING is here… the world is twitterpated with life and sensual exhilaration.

There is sex going on all over my yard. I have to close my blinds to the rampant fornication.

Moving on …

I know I’m not snowdrift crazy (sidebar: that’s fake news) when, as the days grow longer in daylight length, the musical soundtrack inside my head shifts into a new phase, a new mode.

Don’t you feel the changeover happening inside you too?

It’s the same as how my wine preference migrates away from the dark meaty reds … the Pinot Noirs and Merlots … into more sparkly rosés and Riesling/Chardonnay land, even Gewurztraminer!

flying wine bottles

Birds migrate, wine migrates, and music migrates too.

The denser, more complicated musical arrangements of autumn and winter have been boxed up and sent to the basement of my brain until the snows of December return.

Sunshine that lasts as long as the limbs on Daddy Long-legs spiders now suffuses me with bright pop-py tunes that lilt and float and flit like hummingbirds from ear-to-ear through my heart and back out through my mouth in trumpeted sounds of joy.

And… the migration of the music is slightly changing its tune this time around the sun for me.

Over the past year or so I’ve begun collaborating in musical partnerships of different stripes.

Each week now, not unlike birds migrating into my yard, a lovely coterie of talented musicians and singers drops by the mini-music studio that is my living room – the chairs and couches happily sharing their space with the cords, microphones and amplifiers, the recording studio mixer board, the guitars and banjo and mandolin hanging from the walls.

When I strap on my guitar to play, the euphoria and enjoyment of my music soundtrack is expanding just like the universe. Stephen Hawking would be so impressed.

This is good stuff.

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Music is a universal experience. Every culture, every person has an internal musical dance they love.

I’m listening to and playing my “normal” folk and country-style tunes -yes,  the James Taylors and Carole Kings and Paul Simons – while at the same time adding in sweet French love tunes, some mournful blues, the 50’s Everlys and Elvis, even a bit of jazz.

Each one of my musical guests sits and settles in – a cup of herbal tea or a glass of wine at their side, and shares their talent with me, adding a syrupy richness to my soul, tablespoons of delicious spice.

There is such a beautiful magic that happens when we share our voices, our instrumental talents, our ideas and excitements …

… the harmony of springtime and music shared is uplifting, a spiritual energy re-born as the flowers and birds rejoice along with us.

And shhhhh …. sometimes, a sip or two of delicious spring wine while playing and singing makes the song even sweeter … just ask the lusty cedar waxwings, little drunk revellers carousing out in the trees.

drinking beatles

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Sugar-Free, Carb-Free, Meat-Free … Is THIS Freedom?

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unhappy chocolate

 

All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.”
Charles M. Schulz

Has everything become verboten?

Everyone should have the liberty of free choice.

I’m 100% invested in freedom. All for it.

For millennia (and today still) we’ve worked and struggled and evolved, fought wars, disease, and terror … much of it in the name of freedom… freedom to do and be who we want.

But.

A little piece of this wonderful liberty scheisse is sending vexatious ants into my Calvin Klein’s. It shouldn’t, but it does…

FOOD.

Yes, glorious food. I love food.

I love food of almost every origin, every ethnicity, every food group, every farmer’s field or pasture from Dewar Lake, Saskatchewan to Cusco, Peru to Marrakesh, Morocco and beyond.

Childrens’ entertainer Fred Penner sings a cute little ditty about food… well, sandwiches to be truthful … but I’ll amend his words a wee bit for my purposes:

Food is so beautiful, food is so fine –
I like food, I eat it all the time.
I eat it for my supper and I eat it for my lunch;
If I had a hundred types of food, I’d eat them all at once!

.
Food is sustaining of life, the scrumptious repast for 7 billion human souls, but it’s so much more than that, isn’t it? Shouldn’t it be?

.

Food is family, food is flavour, food is fuel, food is love, food is passion, food is sharing.

………………………….

Humour keeps us alive. Humour and food. Don’t forget food. You can go a week without laughing.”
Joss Whedon

.………………………….

.

So, if food is all of these wonderful things, what’s your beef (get it? beef!) Larry?

I’ll get there soon, OK?

I have this zeal for cooking … especially cooking for others.

Cooking is a key part of my socialization, my way of connecting with others. Booze helps too, fo shizzle, but food is the real glue.

Nothing warms my heart more than a group of family or friends at our decorated table with smiles and gustatory enjoyment, relishing a meal I’ve prepared.

Oh sure, I get kidded by my kids about the old Uncle Buck line :

cooking garbage

But … in the past few years my Joy of Cooking has begun to slowly melt away when it comes to having guests. Julia Child shrilly mews from the beyond.

Today, every meal prepared for visitors seems to require a “non-consumable” list from each attendee – the list of allergies, sensitivities, likes, dislikes, dietary peccadillo-of-the-week.

If all of our society migrated like Wildebeests in the same direction simultaneously, I could handle that.

But no, each individual is just that… individual. Each plate set at the table comes with a unique dietary request.

What was once a treat for me – cooking and preparing a celebration of flavour – has become an arduous serpentine journey through esoteric cookbooks and websites in search of the acceptable meal-du-jour.

I get it, I do. We all want to feel our best … if food is a helpful adjunct to that end result, I’m happy for that.

Vive la liberté!

All this freedom, while emancipating and gladdening, has meant that at least some of us pay the price of less enjoyment when it comes to the group repast … the giddy moments of pleasure I used to feel in dreaming up culinary delights … now diluted and slipping away in the murky mist.

In today’s world, it kinda appears that food enjoyment comes more from the ubiquitous Instagram snaps of each picturesque meal, rather than the pleasure in tasting.

Change is the constant, right? Adjust and move forward.

I still thrive on making new and old dishes that encompass different ingredient choices that sometimes circumscribe and confine.

This old dog merely has to keep learning new culinary tricks.

That’s my sob story and I’ll just have to eat it.

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