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Springtime… and Longer Days… on Lake Okanagan

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Jerry P. – grey mane a ruffled nest atop his head – rumbles by on his rollicking old red Massey Ferguson tractor and twinkles a toothy oversized wave hello.

Jerry’s getting older, maybe in his mid-70’s now, but his childlike gregariousness hasn’t dwindled a bushel or a peck over the years that he’s orcharded his peaches and apples on this spot in Summerland.

The Blossom Fruit Stand his long-gone Dad built, has been a stolid landmark on the graceful meandering highway towards Penticton for more than half a century.

The locals and tourists stop to buy fresh, juicy cherries from Jerry while oohing and aahing at the big floral display of scented roses encircling the parking area.

Jerry grew up here, schooled, partnered, procreated and toiled here. One day he’ll die here in this Okanagan Valley.

The sight and sound of Jerry rattling along these days is as much a sure sign of spring and incoming summer as thirsty chirpy robins at the bubbling pond, or darting calliope hummingbirds at the flowering almond in the backyard.

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Are you, like me, feeling like a child on Christmas morning with the days growing longer, like Donald Trump’s nose?… even the sun shines into our bedroom window at 5 am now, simultaneously both wonderful and irritating because who wants sun blazing in their eyes at the break of dawn? There are greater horrors I know… such as…

… the dark days of December and January.

Shortened winter days are a perennial struggle for me, a passage in a dusky, shadowed tunnel, constantly looking up and forward for the radiant glow that I know awaits… finding purpose in making the days pass productively in the headwinds of underlit hours and weeks.

Seasonally affected? You bet. It’s like (BEWARE: Gender Appropriation ahead!) patiently awaiting, then shedding the monthly feminine menses that afflict and inflict, to reluctantly tolerate the discomfort, but never blissfully embrace.

I was reminded this week – struck actually – while driving down the sloped hill on the winding, paved road from the Summerland Ornamental Gardens, of how my soul yearns for spring… the long, sunbathed days… the mild, garden-perfumed air.

My spirituality, my inner enthusiasm, lives and thrives in the burgeoning splendour of springtime.

The view of the Okanagan Valley and lake that spreads out when coming down from the Gardens is beyond my ability to decently describe, almost like my inability to recount my first sighting of Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate overlooking the Incan treasure.

The Okanagan vista is a precious watercolour painting awash in royal blue water, white incisions of late snow, hunter green treescapes with slashes of raw umber rock and soil on the hillsides.

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The undulating hills that hug the lake are infused with 5 o’clock shadow-stubble of Ponderosa pine and Douglas fir; a few scattered Western larch, sage and rabbit bush fill gaps like puzzle pieces in the landscape.

Lush greenery abounds in the vineyards and orchards holding ground close to the lake, the Spartan and Ambrosia apple blossoms filled with the busy humming of bees doing their perennial work before French-Canadian kids and Mexican temporary workers take over to finish the job through the season.

The vernal freshness and blueness of the water below sucks you in. The big lake, while fairly narrow, stretches like a towering basketball player 135 k. in both directions, from Penticton in the south to Vernon in the north of the valley.

The lake is incredibly… dangerously… high this year.

A huge collection of logs and tree stumps have washed down the creek, overflowing from melting snows, ferociously rinsing the creek beds of anything not solidly held in place. The flotsam and debris and logs have crashed into the lake like a messy pileup on a foggy highway.

For the next few weeks at least, it will seem like a thousand bumpy wooden Ogopogos (local version of the Loch Ness Monster) have come to the surface to feed on insects and larvae. Canada Geese will line their fluffed goslings up to rest on bobbing bannisters.

Soon… tender, melodious spring will fade into searing summer like blossoms blowing from the peach trees, and it’s a sweet lover that leaves me behind, a lover I’ll forgive and welcome back again and again.

Logs on Okanagan Lake

Spring is where an atheist like me encounters the greatest struggle – the redness of tulips and the sharp golden sunsets, the music in ecstatic, twitterpated birdsong – how is it that somehow, miraculously, a random beauty springs from ethereal blankness?

Yes, spring is here in the Okanagan.

Jerry is happily out and about on his tractor, and my heart soars with the Ospreys as they take wing, feathers tickling the azure sky.

Andrew Greeley writes:

Perhaps the worst thing which can happen to us humans, is to lose our wonder. The tragedy of closing your mind and heart to the wonders of Spring … the wonder of a new born baby … the wonder of love … the wonder of Christmas … Unless you learn to cherish the beauty of Spring, you will never be free from your poverty of aesthetic appreciation.”

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I Love You Chrissy Metz…

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If I were a REALLY fat person I wouldn’t be brave enough to put myself through the humiliation.

I met Chrissy Metz for the first time a week or two ago and I think I’ve fallen for her. Kind of like how I fell for Sarah Baker on Louis CK’s show a couple of years ago.

I’m embarrassed to admit it but I’m probably as superficial as they come.

Nope, not probably. I’m Trump superficial (but not quite as misogynistic or xenophobic). I treasure obvious eye-appeal.

Women, foods, scenery, book covers, you name it. I love the blatantly pretty and dishy.

First, a little segue.

I went for a short walk this week along the Penticton beachfront during a coffee break while volunteering at the soup kitchen. As I strolled the quietly winding pathway past couples sitting on benches looking out and enjoying the day I felt myself melding and absorbing into the wonder of a spectacular autumn day.

The sky was royal blue with a few white jet contrails crisscrossing like Twitter hashtags. Light lapping waves whispered along Okanagan Lake’s sandy shoreline.

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The morning air was clean-smelling, mild and crisp, and the hillsides of the valley stood out like a 3D cutout against the bright azure background… and I heard my inner voice speaking, reflecting, “is there any place in the world as beautiful and desirable as this?”

Snapping to, I immediately self-corrected because I know that while I do truly live surrounded by scenic eye candy, my own experience has shown me that there are a million spectacular and wonderful places to live.

As a matter of fact, YOU live in an impressive and unforgettable place. I know you do.

You might even find yourself describing your home town/city/countryside to others as GOD’S COUNTRY.

And you’re right. It is.

We ALL live in God’s Country. Yup.

Don’t laugh or guffaw at me, because those of you who know me, also know that God and I are not really on speaking terms… he/she has adamantly refused to speak to me and in turn I’ve ignored him/her… or was it vice versa?

I know it’s childish but it’s the way I handle my relationship with omnipotent beings. I’ve never talked to Superman or Wonder Woman either.

Anyway, God’s Country is an expression we use to symbolize how much we appreciate our magnificent physical surroundings.

I’ve lived in a number of areas in Canada (the big cities, the prairies and the northern tundra are all incredible) and I’ve visited a number of spots in the world…. every one was amazing in a unique and pleasurable way.

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Sorry about that lengthy diversion. I’m back to Chrissy Metz now. Sort of.

When I returned to the soup kitchen after my waterfront stroll, I passed by the two industrial-size garbage bins out front, then wended through the growing throng of those lined up an hour or more ahead of time waiting for the front door of the Soupateria to open for lunch.

The group is outfitted mostly in polyester and synthetic Salvation Army-provided jackets and worn, torn sweaters, and bruised Value Village T-shirts. Stained, crooked and missing teeth are common. Some smoke, some check cellphones they can’t afford, quiet chatter amongst friends and acquaintances.

These are the folks on the other end of the 1% scale we hear about so much these days, except instead of sitting atop the 99% pile, they slide downwards and reside on the bottom 1% end.

There’s salt and pepper bearded John with the FM disk jockey voice who could pass for a salty sea Captain.

30-something Margaret with short blonde hair and the wrinkled face of a 70 year-old.

Rob with his angry-looking countenance and silver dumbbell nose piercing.

Talkative rotund Peter who loves chatting about serial killers.

Matt the young meth addict with a ravaged face, one blatantly bulging lower cheek as if he’s holding a hard-boiled egg inside his mouth.

Robin the distinguished-looking aboriginal man with his gentle tan-toned Spaniel companion by his side.

I look around but can’t spot my friendly favourites, Mary and Joseph – they’re not here today, I hope they’re OK – and many others I recognize as regulars but don’t know by name.

I like most of these people. They’re real people who’ve lived real lives, mostly enormously difficult lives.

And like the scenic beauty that exists everywhere one chooses to live or visit, there’s a human beauty here that’s not always immediately visible to the surface scan of the eyes.

I’m consciously aware of the beauty even in this group, all of the people everywhere that don’t fit the perfection mould… and that makes me think of Chrissy Metz.

Yup, I’m finally back to Chrissy Metz.

There’s a new fall TV show I’ve watched twice now called THIS IS US.

It’s an earnest, heartwarming kind of show produced by the same people who made the series 30-Something in the 1980’s. The characters are quickly drawing me in with their worries and warmth, their flaws, their humanness, their humour.

But the one who stands out most for this guy is the character Kate played by Chrissy Metz. Ms. Metz has acted in other shows but this is my first encounter with her.

She plays the role of a 36 year-old fat girl. Not plump fat, but 300-400 pounds fat. Breaking chairs fat.

She speaks the unspeakable, informing us about the world as she experiences it.

I love her intelligence and practicality. I love the strength of character she exhibits. I love the pain and embarrassment she feels and still manages to bear. I love the humour she mines and hauls to the surface despite her anxieties.

And so, despite my shallowness and superficiality, I find another source of inspiration in the beauty of the not-so-obvious in our world.

There’s the poke-me-in-the-eye delights of mountains and lakes and skies, the sweet mimosa sunsets and spectacular structures built by humanity.

And there’s also the power and strength and beauty of those who live their lives in a challenging way every minute of every day, in soup kitchen lines and in serious acting roles.

I love you Chrissy Metz.

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Psst … C’mere … Wanna Tattoo?

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For God’s sake, just say NO.

The other day I asked my friend Pamela if she has any tattoos.

This is a little game I play with women … many women with tattoos have them in secretive but intriguing places, and so they have to show me their “taboo” tattoo – on the slope of the breast or at the nape of their curvaceous bum crack – they want to show it to people, but are nervous to “bring it out” unless asked.

Anyway, Pam said,

Would you put a bumper sticker on a Ferrari?”

Great answer. She’s right. Ferrari Tattoo I’ll be honest – I sometimes see a tattoo that I think is attractive, but it’s invariably small and not easily spotted – usually on the shoulder, near the hip bone, or at the ankle.

But I think Pam is in the minority opinion these days from what I see out and about.

There are a ton of metaphorical non-Ferrari Jettas and Corollas roaming our streets, “bumper stickers” hung out like full-size colour billboards on the highway.

It’s difficult to look at tattoos branded on the arms of Holocaust survivors and think of the positive aspects of permanently inking our bodies.

But, self-expression is an important feature of the human race and, like a book chapter, each tattoo worn tells a story of the individual – some of the stories are intentional and filled with passion, others are deeper-rooted and less obviously intended.

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And to my keen observing eye, body art is growing into a huge phenomenon with no signs of slowing down.

According to my high-tech info bible Wikipedia:

In January 2008, a survey conducted online by Harris Interactive estimated that 14% of all adults in the United States have a tattoo, just slightly down from 2003, when 16% had a tattoo. The highest incidence of tattoos was found among the gay, lesbian and bisexual population (25%) and people living in the West (20%). Among age groups, 9% of those ages 18–24, 32% of those 25-29, 25% of those 30-39 and 12% of those 40-49 have tattoos, as do 8% of those 50-64. Men are just slightly more likely to have a tattoo than women (15% versus 13%).

When I attend a lunchtime hot yoga class in Kelowna that is filled mainly with pretty, toned, 20-somethings, of a class group of about 20 persons, my companion Kara and I are close to being the only ones with no visible tattoos.

Isn’t it enough to not blend in because of our ages, but then to snap out further as body art-compromised too? How can I, Mr. conservative, be the freak?

Yoga tattoo

When I was younger, I would come across a tattoed person occasionally, usually a guy who had been in the armed forces, with an anchor on his upper arm, or a biker dude with MOM angled over top of a bright red heart.

“Dare” tattoos layered on at night while out liquored up with the buddies.

Tattoo parlors were dingy little shops in seedy areas of the inner city, scary places where you weren’t sure you would escape alive, or at least with all of your facial features unarranged, and minus unwanted infections.

And then one day it changed.

Tattoo parlors sprouted like spring daffodils, broadcast seeding the city streets with a rainbow-tinted assortment of human art studios.

What used to be back-alley naughty stuff has become mainstream for both men and women … so what’s going on here?

Are we becoming Maoris needing to symbolize our family heritage and marriage status?

WTF

I’m perplexed and need to know. Try these thoughts on for size and tell me if I’m heading in the right direction…

Every generation, every decade, has its theme that we reminisce about 20 years later.

The 1950’s had bobby socks and Buddy Holly and hanging out at the local drive-in eating burgers and fries while really it was all about hooking up with cute girls and guys.

Then the 1960’s came along and the Beatles and the Vietnam War, hallucinogenic drugs, and prominent assassinations were all the craze – literally. Protests sprung up in a bunch of cities and university campuses, but it was really about hooking up with cute girls and guys.

The ’70’s had bell-bottom pants, disco and lava lamps, pet rocks and James Taylor, the Bee Gees, Queen,  and Supertramp, but it was really about hooking up with cute girls and guys.

And on and on we go…

Are you detecting a theme here?

Maybe, just maybe, tattoos are the fashion of the early 2010’s, a hair style or clothing trend that makes us more sexy, more appealing and more likely to have sex on a Sudbury Saturday night.

The sight of an undulating snake on the arm of the Adam Levine look-alike is the deal clincher that will bring on the O-face for that Woo Hoo girl looking for her Bad Boy.

Yes, tattoos are about belonging, like sharing a cigarette in front of your high school with the cool gang. Could you possibly be a Hell’s Angel member and not carry the skin-art marks of acceptance?

When your best friend is prematurely cut down in the prime of their life, what is a more soothing tribute than having their name etched into your ankle with a group of friends?

A few years back, I was thrust from between my mother’s legs art-free. It’s true.

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This is just a temporary tattoo I had drawn onto my shaved chest on a conference bet that I … WON!

 

Since then, I’ve had occasional little daydreams of throwing my conservative nature to the wind and popping a half-pint of colour onto my ankle or chest. But in the end, I suspect I’ll exit this world in the same natural state that I was born.

Temporary could be the way to go:  Indian culture has henna tattoos, kids have their tattoo stickers … why not inked “compression sleeves” that can be changed like your hair colour or the outfit-of-the-day?

Me? I’ll never own a Ferrari nor will I boast a bumper sticker on this practical Honda Civic that is me.

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Fat Girls …

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On behalf of all the fat girls, I’m making you represent all the guys…” 

 

beach girl

Trouble getting dates? Yeah, right…

Some things just get to me.

Not very often.

But sometimes.

Today I want to tell you about a TV episode I saw recently that affected me deeply.

It scratched and inflamed a raw nerve that was an oozing wound inside me.

Maybe it’s because of the guilt I feel for being so shallow… or  maybe – just maybe – because I’ve felt the same way – inadequate – at times for similar and slightly different reasons.

Do you know Louie CK?

Middle-aged, slightly rotund and unkempt, somewhat depressed-looking, stand-up comic-guy? I don’t know, maybe he’s the new Rodney Dangerfield. Anyway, he’s pretty popular right now.

I can’t quite figure out whether I like him or LIKE him yet. He’s a lovable teddy-bearish kind of gent, but I don’t want to get sucked into his vortex of minor, low-level gloom. I’m perplexed, is he funny or a downer?

Louie has his own comedy series on FX network called … yup, LOUIE.

It’s kind of like Seinfeld, where Louie does his brief stand-up comic bit followed by a usually semi-autobiographical, weird story arc of an aging, divorced father.

It’s set up to make us feel squirmy and uncomfortable with that unsettling awkwardness that many of us feel from time to time. He’s got the stunned look down pat.

Only for Louie, it’s awkward ALL of the time.

Louie

I’ve had awkward moments.

Once, when I was in my late teens, I climbed into a hot, sticky backseat for a car ride back home from a McDonald’s employee picnic with a dude and his girlfriend – said girlfriend happened to be my ex-girlfriend who I wasn’t 100% over yet.

I sat, feeling sweaty, squirmy, edgy in the back, like a little kid getting a ride home with Mommy and Daddy … uncomfortable? I felt so small.

Many of Louie’s uncomfortable moments revolve around his difficult and embarrassing attempts at dating in NYC. He’s dying to be loved but he’s also the least smooth operator living in the civilized world.

The Episode of Shame

The installment of Louie that affected me so much was one where Vanessa, a plus-sized but sweet-faced server-girl at the club where Louie does his stand-up routine asks him on a date.

(BTW Aside:  the Louie show is worth watching just to see the little girl (Ursula Parker) who plays his 8 year-old daughter Jane. AMAZING little actress!!)

In his typical Louie dazed-style, he looks blankly at Vanessa, gut hanging over his belt, and hums and haws around a way to say “no thanks”.

Sarah Baker as Vanessa is stunning in her frank portrayal of the “fat girl”. She utters such an honest and heartwrenching statement about men and women in western culture that it hurts.

On behalf of all the fat girls, I’m making you represent all the guys,” she says. “Why do you hate us so much? What is it about the basics of human happiness, feeling attractive, feeling loved, having guys chase after us, that’s just not in the cards for us? Nope. Not for us.”

It’s a wonderful and moving soliloquy, isn’t it? Could you feel yourself squirm a little? Maybe you saw yourself in either Vanessa’s position, or maybe Louie’s. That’s the beauty of this episode.

We hold a mirror to ourselves, and we don’t love what we see.

And I reluctantly realize I, like Louie, am guilty as charged.

Yup, I avoided dating fat girls in my early years. I dated a fat girl for awhile – and like Vanessa says in the clip above, we even had sex –  who was very cute and then I backed off when I felt like I was too good. She didn’t match up to the image of what I felt I deserved.

I wallow in the shallowness of my internal self. There are ugly parts to me.

I feel guilty knowing the truth about myself … but then I look in the mirror again.

I realize that just like a fat girl, I have limitations too.

Every one of us has limitations.

Every one of us has the potential to be rejected for something we are or we aren’t.

But I live with my flaws and deficiencies and make the best of it. Sure, I occasionally set myself up a pity-party and knock back a drink or two, but it gets boring quickly and so I head home early and refresh my outlook.

Yes, the storyline is about fat girls, but you might substitute nerdy guys or short guys or an unattractive person. 

We can be fat, we can be ugly, we can have little boobs or a short penis, we can be short or stupid, bald or buck-toothed. Life sucks. But it is what it is.

Yes, I’ve avoided dating fat girls. But really hot girls and too-many-to-count average-looking girls have ignored me and definitely wouldn’t have sex with me in my youth. It’s true, even though since I grew out of my tween chubbies, I’ve been reasonably slender all of my life.

But I don’t look like Rob Lowe, or Tom Cruise, or thank heaven, Mick Jagger. I don’t own yachts like Bill Gates. I don’t have the compelling intellect of Bill Clinton (and any cigars I’ve had were strictly for smoking!). My gifts are modest but worth unwrapping.

We can accept it or change it. We have choices and if we decide to accept our lot, then so be it.

There will always be Louie’s out there that make us frustrated, but really we’re frustrated with ourselves.

So, Fat Girls … fat girls, I’m sorry. There is no perfection, even if looks like sometimes there is.

I feel for you and I want for you what you want, but I can only tell you what most of us (should) know and reluctantly accept.

Life sucks. Shit happens. Sometimes.

I’m shallow.

But we all have something about us that makes us lovable and makes us special to someone else.

And when we find that someone, it makes the wait all worthwhile.

I promise, Vanessa.

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