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Once Upon A Bromance

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Like Butch and Sundance, I’m in a Bromance.

My man and I have an especially unusual bromantic connection that spans international borders…

… by language, religion, ethnicity, age, cultural traditions… just about everything about us is, or was, different.

Although we’ve “been together” now for almost 4 years – getting together a couple of times a week – over the past year and a half we’ve spent even more time together than previously.

Depending on the rules of the COVID day, we’ve shared cups of steaming coffee or tea via ZOOM or at the local college or at 6 a.m. in a Tim Hortons’ coffeeshop, me and my Syrian bro (student/friend)…

… to study with intent for the Canadian Citizenship test.

We read and discuss, laugh and tease, he’ll go off topic like he did yesterday with an excited story about his daughter winning a new bicycle in a school contest, or even sometimes grousing over our problems.

This gentle man and his wife (and 5 beautiful, enthusiastic young kids) are exiled refugees that have been living in Canada for close to 6 years.

Each day they become just a tiny bit more “Canadian”… no, not yet by law or official decree, but for sure by custom and language.

I can perceive this change intently when he speaks in idioms to me: “Oh Larry, you’re Over The Hill!”, or, “Are you pulling my leg?“, or, when he casually orders a “double-double” now at Tim Hortons.

He’s not the only one who’s changed… yup, he’s changed me too.

I greet him each time we meet, As-salamu alaykum… (Peace be upon you)… my understanding and knowledge of Syria, the Middle East, Arabic language, and the Muslim faith have all bloomed too.

In much the same way that I learn about myself by writing these blog posts, I find that I learn about myself by working and chatting with a man who has been tossed across the globe to live in my country, my culture, so that his family can be safe from bombs and bullets and torture.

Never in his wildest dreams did he see a life in largely white-skinned, Christian-dominated, English-speaking North America as part of his future.

Never in my wildest dreams did I envision spending hundreds of hours explaining what it means to be Canadian to a young, Arabic-speaking, brown-skinned Muslim man.

He looks to me for learning, cultural understanding, and even basic knowledge that eluded him in his homeland. I shook my head in disbelief when I realized he had no idea there was an ocean (what’s an ocean?) separating Syria from Canada.

It’s clear that he’s had an awakening… BIG TIME!

I can tell because… long ago… I had one too.

My awakening came over 40 years ago when I left my hometown of Hamilton.

My eyes were opened by seeing different geographies and histories, architectures, ideologies and politics, and and and… I was wearing translucent blinders (and still am no doubt) because I had never had the opportunity to see and experience what was behind other doors.

If you spend your whole life only seeing the colour green, red has no meaning.

These new experiences were a little like a hallucinogenic LSD trip. Colours and textures were changing, my understanding rose bit by bit. The light rainbow had changed and would never go back to where it was… ever.

Today I know to actively look for other “colours” in the world.

I see this same vision of new light and colours in my Syrian friend. It’s scary and exciting for him. I get it.

OK, back to where we began this post.

What is it to be Canadian?

For those who’ve not studied or seen a citizenship test (Canadian or otherwise)… it ain’t a walk in the park for a native-born Canadian, a university graduate from another country… and certainly not an elementary-schooled Syrian.

Citizenship isn’t handed out like pre-wrapped candies at the door on Halloween.

One “earns” citizenship by working hard to understand the history and culture of this young country, this Canuck land painted one stroke at a time with thousands of years of indigenous history and millions of immigrant stories.

I have my fingers crossed that my young “bromantic” partner and his family will soon wave the Maple Leaf as new Canadians and become sewn into this quilt of many colours.

My Life As A Bigoted, Elitist, Racist, Misogynist, Atheist

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Y

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ou could hate me. Maybe you should hate me.

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There is no doubt in my mind that I’ve done or said something in my lifetime that should enrage you… it’s inevitable that I’ve uttered undiplomatic comments about your gender, or sexuality, or ancestry, or intelligence, or religion.

I haven’t always been sensitive or “woke”. I can understand that you might hate me. I’ve had to erase many many words from my vocabulary that are laced with hidden, and often unintended, hatred.

I’ve lived the most privileged of privileged lives ever in history. I don’t have to buy a lottery ticket, because I won the biggest prize by merely being born a white-skinned male in North America in the 20th century. BINGO!

I’m a billionaire by universal standards of fortune. It’s both wonderful and challenging at the same time.

I’m living in a different world today than the one I was born into… and I’m adjusting and learning and trying… but I also know I’m living my days reading a road-map (without my reading glasses on) that doesn’t have clear cut directions.

In my early years, I said and did things that were hurtful and hateful and just plain stupid when I look back. Many people my age and in my circumstances did the same.

We echoed stuff our parents and grandparents said without understanding who we were mocking and knocking. I won’t give examples, but you probably know the kinds of things to which I’m referring.

It seems pretty clear to me now that making jokes about someone’s gender or sexuality or skin colour or religious beliefs – even hair colour – is crazy dumb and not helpful in any way.

Fortunately, my awareness factor has risen thanks to the resistance movements of Women’s Liberation, LGBTQ+, #MeToo, BLM, and a host of other trod-upon groups.

And yet… today I still get confused and make unintentional gaffes.

I know that no matter how much I try, I still stumble and hurt or offend. I take this for granted and carry the awareness or non-awareness around my neck like a scarf… one that tightens and restricts my breathing when I stray, and warms me when I’m on the right track.

The planet is growing smaller and smaller (metaphorically) and the privilege I was given as a birthright is one that everyone deserves no matter where they are born, no matter their skin colour or language, no matter their gender identification, no matter their choice of partner, no matter their belief or non-belief in a god.

I can’t change what I was or believed in my younger years, but today, we all can make a choice to accept and rejoice in the variety of humanity in much the same way I rejoice in eating delicious foods from India or China or Peru or France or even McDonald’s.

We ALL deserve a rightful and generous place in the world. At the very least, it’s a right we deserve to start out with and maintain if we live in a way that continues to earn this right. Does that make sense?

So, you can choose to hate me and I’ll get it.

But I’ll be a lot happier (and so will you I think) if you try… just try… to understand that I’m crawling, grasping my way out of this cocoon of ignorance, and will make slips and blunders as we wander this complex, cosmic road together.

I’m trying to leave my life as a bigoted, elitist, racist, misogynist, atheist behind… OK, perhaps not the atheist part!…

…and I will always wish for you and everyone the “billionaire” status I was given with my first crying breath, as a part of our birthright.

How Do You Solve A Problem Like Winter…

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I loved winter as a kid.

As long as my scuffed hand-me-down skates and hockey stick were sitting by the back door, and a frozen rink – made through frigid late nights by my Mom – waited in the backyard or in the park across the street by Glen Echo School, I was one happy pint-sized Canuck.

Getting my Mom to drive me and my friends to Chedoke Ski Hill for some night schussing under the lights was also a perfect way to finish up a winter’s day… accompanied by a comfortably singeing hot chocolate reward at the end.

Winter was:

• Scotch Pine Christmas tree scent and Santa Claus

• Apple crumbles and Mom’s sweet Christmas sticky pudding

• Pine logs crackling in the fireplace

• Watching snowflakes drift lazily past streetlights at night

• Licking long icicles that we broke away from house roofs

• Kids with snow-caked mittens hanging by wool threads from coat sleeves

• Jack Frost lacy patterns on windows in the morning

• Nutcracker and Johnny Mathis music (but NO Boney M!)

• Snow Angel making and tobogganing

• Snow drifts that necessitated “Snow Days”… NO school days

• Christmas lights on houses and trees… LOTS of lights!

My sister Betty finds her inner “angel” child in this winter’s Ontario snow…(I hope she’s OK, I haven’t heard from her in weeks!)

And I love winter now… if… and especially if… it lasts only about 1, maybe 2 months, tops.

Nope it’s not cold weather that creates problem status here.

OK, sure, it is cold weather a bit but it’s much much more than that. (Honestly, by Canadian standards, we don’t even have cold weather here in Summerland)

And yes, it is a pain to have to put clothing on, layer over layer, latex over lycra, wool over fleece, only to find that yes, like Robert Munsch’s children’s book (I HAVE TO GO) you really do need to pee.

And the problem isn’t jogging on sloppy, slippery roads, feeling your finger and toe tips growing more numb by the frosty minute.

Nope, the real problem with winter is DARKNESS.

In my first professional lab job in my early 20’s, I lived in Yellowknife, NWT (above the Arctic Circle) for a couple of years. It was a fabulous place to live for awhile… but…

… in the winter:

Did you know that DARKNESS is the only thing you see when you go to work in the morning? … when you slip down for a coffee break mid-morning?… SEMI-DARKNESS… and when you’d head home later in the day? … Yup, DARKNESS! Bloody Hell…

I don’t think human eyes are genetically built for darkness the way cats’ eyes are. We humans are meant to live our days in… well… daylight. Lots of it.

Did I hear you say you want proof?

• We cry for our Mommy’s when we’re little because we know that monsters live, thrive, and eat children in the dark. (Also, we know that spiders crawl in our mouths while we sleep in the dark)

• We get frightened when we wander streets and alleys in the dark of night, despite the glow of red lights (wrong streets do you think?)

• We put windows in our houses to let light spill over us, and so our neighbours can spy on us walking around naked (you’re making people nauseous Larry)

The solution is and should be simple: TECHNOLOGY!

We can outsmart Mother Nature and the Laws of the Universe with technology.

Light is simple for us ever since we discovered fire and our ability to harness water power…. we brighten our homes and buildings continuously.

We should be lighting our outdoor world year-round – north and south hemispheres – using a human-made “fix” when needed in the winter months.

We have in the neighbourhood of 6,000 satellites orbiting our globe currently… 6,000!

I believe that Elon Musk and Richard Branson and Bill Gates could set aside their Mars habitation plans for a wee bit, and put their science genius hacks to work today at reflecting sunlight, or creating powerful solar lights that illuminate us to daytime brightness during the dark days of winter. Spotlight please.

It’s a small request. All I ask is that you give me 16 hours of outdoor brightness every day and I’ll take the ravages of winter storms with a lunatic Joker grin on my face.

Finally and totally unrelated to winter darkness… I’m popping in a song I recorded this week here in my songwriter’s lair.

Six or seven years back, I wrote this song about unfulfilled longing and desire between a waitress and a travelling salesman.

It’s simply titled THE WAITRESS. I hope you enjoy it…

On The Road To Becoming a Dinosaur…

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I’m not fully there yet … but, for God’s sake, just send in the meteor now to decimate me totally like the real dinosaurs.

Actually, I’d suggest shoving me off on some northern ice floe but those are mostly melted away now, replaced by Arctic yachts, Inuit bikinis and palm trees, yes?

WHAT? That sounds a bit desperate Larry.

So, am I correct in thinking that I’m losing my power, cracking open the door to irrelevance… to dinosaur’dom?

First, the glaringly obvious – yes, my arms are growing shorter (actually, it might be my spine *measure myself against the wall* … yes, it definitely IS my spine that is shorter)… my skin is getting scaly and rough… and when I get up to pee in the night (dinosaurs always got up to pee in the night, yes?), I sort of wobble back and forth on my legs like a T-Rex or a human toddler, until I feel my balance sensors kick in.

But not all the signs of dinosaur’osity are so undisguised.

It’s taken a few years for me to realize and understand this transfer of “power”, but it’s growing clearer to me that a transformation is underway and will likely develop more completely in years to come.

Sometimes, it takes a while to understand that small changes add up to a larger shift. Only when we look back afterwards, is it blindingly obvious.

OK, I sense your confusion. It might not be clear what I’m getting at, so let me go into more detail. I’ll give you 3 examples in today’s TedTalk… er.. LarryTalk!

1. PROFESSIONAL Work. I was a medical lab technologist for 37 years, most spent in the Microbiology trenches, hunched over agar plates, identifying bacteria, parasites, and fungi that cause infection and then informing doctors which antibiotics or other therapeutics would most likely be successful in eradicating the little microscopic buggers.

It was only in the last 5 years or so of my career that I became truly cognizant of the rapidity of change in knowledge and best-in-class treatment options. The pace was scary. I began worrying about my ability (and honestly, desire) to keep current.

When the fateful day came that I stayed awake at night worrying if I had provided the “best” treatment advice available, I knew that I had to make a MAJOR effort to regain/retain currency, or get the hell out of the way for those with the drive and energy to take it on. I was shape-shifting into a dinosaur.

Instead, I morphed into a happy computer database geek for the last few years of my working career and left the agonizing worry behind. I probably saved a few lives in making this change which kind of makes me a SuperHero, right? (No Attaboy‘s needed here!)

 

2. YOUNG folks begin to talk “around” me. My road to invisibility is slowly being built as kids in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s no longer view me as a source of infinite wisdom, knowledge and authority. Omnipotence Lost.

I can see it coming at me in my world because I know a few decades back, I began looking at my elders in a similar way. I found myself viewing them as pseudo-dinosaurs who deserved respect, but bit-by-bit I realized that I wasn’t putting as much weight or blind belief in their words. The new world was passing them by.

Akin to my first point above, the younger generation(s) can see that older people are struggling to keep up with the humongous social and technological changes that are overtaking us. I’m pretty sure the earthquake – the massive turning point – was when we found seniors’ living rooms filled with VCR’s that flashed 12:00 incessantly.

 

3. INVESTMENT tenets. I’ve been an amateur “investment analyst” for decades, developing a toolbox of skills that have helped provide me and my family a reasonable standard-of-living despite a relatively small income.

It has been a stimulating hobby that just happened to have a financial payday attached. But… big but (not BUTT, not yet at least!)… these investing tools I relied on for decades are slipping because of rapid technology change.

For sure, the principles and tenets of analysis are still valid, but they reflect a world of much slower change. As I’ve told my own kids, ten years ago I could, for example, count on big banks and large industries that were well-managed to produce good returns to me as a shareholder for many many years to come.

Now, because of disruptive technology and logarithmically fast research efforts, the strongest of the strong can be knocked off their pedestal overnight. We are making buggy-whip makers of almost every “old” company in weeks and months instead of years and decades. We can only guess who the winners and losers might be.

The only solution I can come up with at this moment is to hold a large, diversified bag of well-run “new age” companies, knowing that it will only require a couple of winners to make a successful portfolio. 

……………..

So my friends… I’ve got my eyes wide open, bobbing like a prize boxer, as I (Yoda) try to dodge the meteor that threatens my relevant existence.

We’re all in the same ring, floating like butterflies, doing the magic dance of keeping up.

It’s fascinating and dizzying, exciting and scary.

Do you think the real dinosaurs saw the meteor before it finally hit?

Advice Column… Be The GOAT …

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Mommy! Mommy!!

Watch me Mommy… WATCH ME!!!

goose watch

I’m locked in and feel the need to give a lecture… maybe it’s because my adult kids roll their eyes when I launch into my spiel… or maybe it’s a viral side effect…

… will you be my soundboard for a couple of minutes?

I’ve opined and pondered about the magic of 10,000 hours and/or 1,000 hours as keys to prowess in whatever area(s) your greatness lies…. the Greatest Of All Time (GOAT).

It’s not my original idea, but it is magic. Hard work magic. Stinky, sweaty magic.

YOU have greatness of a kind that is unique to you. Your mother knows… FaceTime or Zoom with her and ask her… send flowers too, after all it is Mother’s Day.

Now is the time to strike. Be the GOAT.

One thousand hours is somewhere in the orbit of 42 days…

… which sounds almost biblical in terms of Noah and arks and making sure we keep at least 2 Unicorns and 2 Ogopogos and 2 “Murder Hornets” alive during the big rain (saying this feels eerily dramatic to me as I look out my window and see a water curtain, the first big rain occurring in Summerland in far more than 42 days).

1,000 hours. 42 days. Passion.

1000 hours free

OK, I’ll give you sleep and meal time… let’s be generous and say 84 days.

Over many decades, I’ve squandered my 1,000 hours a 1,000 times, so do as I say and not as I do. But I honestly Yoda try, now more than ever.

So… If you’re on an employment recess, a vacation from your vocation… thank your lucky stars (as long as you have food, shelter, and good health).

This is your chance… your once-in-a-lifetime – once-in-a-hundred years – opportunity.

And especially, if you’re on the south side of mid-life, say, under 40 or so, listen up because the coming years will slip past like a Midsummer Night’s Dream.

COVID-19 has passed a beautifully wrapped gift into your capable hands and is daring you to open it.

Just Do It. Open it…

Capture the glorious “infection” of energy and motivation… the call to action.

Don’t: squander the gift.

Don’t: delve further into the cavernous recesses of Netflix or AmazonHuluHbo-world.

Don’t: rollover in bed… burp, fart… then eat one last potato chip.

DO: Wake up every day and set aside at least 2 hours to work into the passion that you feel. You need time (it doesn’t have to be all in one session, split it up into 2 segments if you wish) to let the muses and folkloric and genetic powers rise to the surface.

DO: Get a little obsessed. Focus. Drill in. But don’t become a stalker, OK?… channel your obsession positively. I am not your accomplice in court!

IMG_1866

I’ve already served MY time in my younger days! That moustache is a crime!

Let’s sum up today’s mini-lecture, shall we?

You need patience and persistence.
You need confidence in yourself.
You need inspiration and cheerleading from any source you can find.

We all want to hear our Moms calling out to us telling us how wonderful we are… and if by chance you don’t have a Mom to tell you this… I’ll tell you… YOU are wonderful!

A year or two or three from now… I want you to look back and say to yourself… “as bad as the virus was, as worrisome as the time was, it gave me the gift to do important things that allowed me to explore my real self and find a fabulous path going forward.”

Make the 1,000 hours, these mere 42/84 days, your personal “ark building” moment and discover the GOAT gold at the end of the rainbow after the contagious rains let up.

Tomorrow, you might learn how to paint nudes, and NOT at PornHub!:

https://coursehorse.com/san-diego/classes/art/drawing/drawing-and-painting/live-model-

… and then …

…. move on to some group singing (Fleetwood Mac tonight!):  Choir!Choir!Choir! – check their FB page for details: https://www.facebook.com/choirx3/

OK…  now get out there (by which I mean stay in) and give your Mommy a big hug (by which I mean, from 2m away!)

moms day card 2020

What If You Landed On A Strange Planet?

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UFO

Freefallin’…..

UFO’s have been in the news quite a bit lately.

I’m intrigued by the notion of UFO’s and how we humans visualize what an alien landing on our “shores” might look like or act.

Rarely do we see an imagined extraterrestrial closely resembling an earth human… more often we see greenish-toned creatures with scales and large ferocious teeth.

UFO’s are scary and threatening to us in most cases.

Yet, if we were to travel to another planet that had living beings, would we really enter their air space with murder and mayhem in our hearts? Wouldn’t peace and harmony be our message?

And so we come to this week’s blog… this week’s song.

To make this more real and “down-to-earth”, I’m posting this set of song lyrics about “aliens” in my own world, equating their arrival in Canada to the scenario of a UFO arriving on the surface of our earth.

In previous posts I’ve talked about how I work and play with a Syrian refugee family in my area who have lived in this foreign land of Canada for almost 4 years.

The old world they left behind, and the new one they entered when they disembarked from a jet onto the tarmac at Pearson Airport in Toronto are light-years apart for these lovely people.

The young parents’ lives have been flipped and shaken as if they were rag dolls.

Syrian family

Musically, I hear a quiet bass droning in the background as the melody of guitar and recorder plays out a march, like a ticking clock moving forward in time.

This song could be sub-titled:

One Small Step for Man, One Giant Leap for a Syrian.

YOU ARE A UFO

The schoolyard dust a daily friend
farm that held no borders
The air was calm and warm
your brothers’ calls familiar
then a new day broke hell
with clouds that lit a storm

You packed a bag and wandered far
along quiet lines with many others
left your home where soldiers warred
where bombs and bullets threatened
bully tyrant who ripped your life
your tears he never cared for

….

CHORUS

You are a UFO that landed
in this universe apart
in hibernation from your nation
soul burned across a border
and a home that’s just a house

….

Years slid by in sun-baked camp
Your eyes so shy, smile drained and dry
yet morning breaks another day awoke
phone call beckoned with a chance
one week later you climbed the steps
to a westward craft of hope

The others greeted you with smiles and promise
strange words that made no sense
trembling smiles over months and years
dreamy memories crushed under winter’s ice
through long night’s darkness cloak
your kids never saw your tears

You feel the stares the daily threat
the stories from the news
when you wander streets with kids in tow
lunch-bags and schoolbooks under arms
others spy your covered head and shake
about dangers that somehow you impose

BRIDGE:

How long will this prison hold you?
when will the air smell sweet again?
and carefree gossip with your neighbour
turns your hair to grey

The pace is slow the march relentless
new words bloom up like flowers
low prayers take hold in clash of courage
coiled spring relinquish power
now worries that afflict the native ones
are the stakes that frame this brand new cage

….

CHORUS

You are a UFO that landed
in this universe apart
in hibernation from your nation
soul burned across a border
and a house that looks like… home

happy syrian family

BIG or SMALL, Some Have It All…

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Johnny CAsh

Dammit… Where are my pants?… no, not the beat-up, torn garden jeans. Although the rips would make me look like a fashion icon in today’s style.

I want the black ones that I wear with my black button-up shirt that make me feel like Johnny Cash… real bad ass… I Walk The Line…

Depending on the time of year, the pants will fit me either too big or too small. Winter small, summer big… spring and fall are the goldilocks just-right periods.

I know it’s all relative but I’m feeling BIG and small simultaneously.

I feel BIG because my world can be anything.

I can pretend I’m Tom Hanks in the movie BIG and do all sorts of adult stuff that makes me look grown up.

BIG.jpg

I can write a blog post each week that any person on earth with a modicum of technology can access and read. I’ve been to remote villages in godawful poor countries where there’s no safe water supply but they have cellphones and internet. BIG.

I can write songs, play guitar and sing on different stages all around my region. It’s like being a rock star on a tiny stage. BIG.

I can buy and sell stocks on any North American stock market just like a big shot Wall Street trader or even the Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffett. BIG.

I sometimes help others who, by no choice, were given a lower placing on the lottery list of life. I was, again by no choice, put pretty darn close to the top of the humanity heap for access to education and financial wealth. BIG.

BIG is good.

BIG is good

Is SMALL good too?

I feel small.

My impatience and my “seed growth are incompatible forces that thwart my dreams and goals.

My seeds grow way too slow for my taste. There are parts of ourselves – dreams, hopes, beliefs – that are the seeds waiting to germinate.

There are stories galore of small peeps like me who made a huge splash with their creativity and energy.

J.K. Rowling was small once. So was E.L. James. KD Lang. Samuel L. Jackson. So was Louis CK (maybe not such a great example)… hmmm… maybe if I go by my initials? LW Green? Nope, don’t feel the creative energy swelling…

Those folks have seeds that keep sprouting and growing in a seemingly endless flow.

Fortunately, I learned in my previous Microbiology lab-life that seeds (spores) can lie dormant for months, years, centuries.

They’re not dead.

But…

They’ll only spring to life if one day they perceive the conditions are right for them to survive. Then they split themselves open and take a make-it-or-break-it-risk.

It’s more than a sprint to be the winner of the Kentucky Derby… the risk is either success (LIFE) or failure (DEATH).

I think we all have seeds inside ourselves that can be germinated and grown.

seed germination

 

A whole lot of writers and musicians have had moderate popular success with appreciative audiences that adore their work and output.

Not every song needs to be played for 25,000 people in an arena to make it worthwhile and special. A hall of 200 admirers can be a lifetime achievement.

Not every book written need sell a million copies to make a complex, wonderful story.

Small movie? We sat through the quiet flick Maudie last year. Oscar-worthy, it was seen by a relatively small number of folks and yet had beautiful, heart-tingling imagery and a soulful message.

Germinated seeds.

In most cases, germination doesn’t really mean life or death… success or failure.

Merely making the effort to succeed is enough. There are layers to seed growth. Not every plant has to be a huge monolith, like Jack’s beanstalk.

But I still feel small.

I’m spending a good deal of time these days working with a Syrian refugee who is struggling mightily to make the unexpected, tumultuous transition to Canadian life.

His seeds of potential are buried deep inside the earth under layers of war and deprivation, and I fear it may take years to surface and germinate.

The relatively palatial lifestyle of native-born Canadians and other Syrians who came before him with higher levels of education are irksome and heavy on his soul.

He’s helplessly hoping impatient because he can’t turn off the images that bombard him in his new country.

He wants it all for his family, a wife and four young children. I want it for him too and wrestle with the discomfort and ache of watching his contest.

His desire to be BIG in a new land seems to barely match my small goals.

Here I am dealing with my 1st-world desire to channel my inner Man-in-Black Cash. On the other side of the fence, is my Syrian friend who merely wants enough language, education, employment and green cash to raise his kids to be good Canadians and become part of the dream he floats alongside of but isn’t part of, at least not yet.

I feel BIG, yes, but really I feel small.

Canada's PM Trudeau shakes hands with a Syrian refugee during Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill in Ottawa

Are You Winning The Wind Game?

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March Wind

March wind is a jolly fellow;
He likes to joke and play.
He turns umbrellas inside out
And blows men’s hats away.

He calls the pussy willows
And whispers in each ear,
“Wake up you lazy little seeds;
Don’t you know that spring is here?”

kites.jpg

March is the month of wind.

As a kid I awoke in the morning reminded of the sky-high possibilities of kite flying in the raging breath of March breezes.

It was time for me and my buddies to put down our beat-up hockey sticks and bring out fresh diamond kites as well as those weird contraptions called box kites that I could never figure how to fly.

Lion winds. Hobo winds.

Cold winds, warm winds.

No winds, sunny winds.

I’m a big boy now and March in the Okanagan Valley this year has been full of rain and largely free of gales, but the metaphorical winds remain steadfast and perennial.

Wind – like a lot of things in life – is how we come to see and feel it rather than how it comes to us… how we perceive the breezes and gusts.

Every day can feel like an eternity of wind, which can be a bastard… or a sweetheart.

So, what’s your score? how did the wind blow in your world this week?

scoreboard

Here’s how I perceived and scored my game winds this week…

  • Run Training: In early morning semi-darkness I shouldered into a stiff south wind on the backside of the running track. It slapped and cursed me in the face and chest each time around the track… I cursed back. And in the end, I ran harder and still zipped around the course at the pace I had assigned myself, gasping for air as I reached the finish stripe on the track.

I overcame and still won.

Two days later I finished an indoor (no wind!) 8 k tempo training run (in preparation for May’s Vancouver Half Marathon) a minute faster than my goal time. Another small victory.

SCORE: Me 1, Wind 0.

  • Tutoring: I sat next to my Syrian friend, struggling with the trials of teaching him English. We have heaps of fun together but the winds were so strong this week that we seemed to take one step forward, then 2 steps back. I searched for calm eddies and ideas where I could pass the message into his head so that he may one day soon find quality work and support his young family in this new and foreign country. He wants it badly and I want it for him… but…

I concede that the wind won the struggle this week as my student could barely remember how to spell his own name in English. Vowels be accursed.

Score: Me 1, Wind 1.

  • Cooking: There was a cantankerous wind in the soup kitchen line this week when one of the patrons pulled out a needle and prepared to shoot up his fix just 3 spots from the serving window.

The other patrons in line let out yelps of panic and angry disgust. Who could blame them?

Score a point for each side here as we gently ushered him outdoors to finish his “work”… he scored a hit in a private, safe place… we even delivered him a sandwich and dessert outside… and the other guests in line remained safe and well fed.

Sad story and a sad Tie.

Score: Me 2, Wind 2.

  • Performing: I played my guitar at a new place in town on Tuesday night. A restaurant/pub-by kind of place.

There were lots of stiff noise winds… the sounds of loud drinking voices and general restaurant hubbub. The sound system was sub-par which made performing and drawing in the audience a wee bit o’ a bitch.

On the plus side, those who were listening to us sing were loudly enthusiastic and positive. Also, the trial of noise and poorer sound quality were good tests of our ability to concentrate and focus on the music despite the obstacles.

The song lived on and that fugly wind storm lost this battle.

Score: Me 3, Wind 2.

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Wind can be exhausting or exhilarating, yes? Sometimes both at the same moment.

OK, I narrowly escaped with a win this past week as the last winds of March faded away. My lion ate the lamb which makes me a terrible vegan.

Winter winds are shrivelling quickly and we can feel the revving of the summer T-bird, a wind with its own personality and presence.

Inner success is feeling those winds blow, knowing that they’ve come to test you, then turning up your powers and buckling down to overcome and turn tears into smiles.

The wind is a friend that can dress like an enemy… a sweetheart that looks like a bastard…

The score in the game of wind is all in our perception.

Perception

21.1 Step Program … Kilometre by Kilometre…

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Don’t you just love the delicious wafting scent… the blossoming of ammoniacal urine and floral faeces running through Vancouver’s early spring air ?

Hundreds, no, thousands of anxious runners strung themselves out like soldiers in a mess-hall lineup in front of the sky-blue Porta-Potties for one last disposition of “jitter’s urine”.

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The BMO Vancouver Marathon… or in my case, Half Marathon… 21.1 kilometre run.

The daybreaking sun playfully jumped in and out of the clouds… sometimes making itself visible, other times hiding away in the fluffy bushes like a roguish child.

A blanket of heavy saturating dew hugged the grass beside the roadway in Queen Elizabeth Park, and despite the breezeless calm, a chill still permeated through to my bones: one part cool air, one part pre-race nervousness.

And then the march began… packed into tight “corrals”, fenced in like cattle on our way to the abattoir, the swarms of NIKE-foot’ed, UnderArmour short’ed, Adidas singlet’ed runners moved enthusiastically forward like a hungry serpent… forward… towards the large overhead banner pronouncing RUN|START.

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We sang O Canada loudly and badly and then bass beats of thrumming heart-racing music cranked up… the gun fired and the slow crowded shuffle began, a shuffle that attempted to look something like a run, but was still really a walk.

Thousands of nervously energetic feet and bodies jostled for space and tried to avoid tangles and tumbles. That’s how it is at the start of any large race.

For the first 10 minutes, intense concentration is needed to ensure a safe progression forward. It would be devastating to train for months only to be injured in the first kilometre, or worse, 100 metres.

And then the concentration slowly drifts and slips and finds itself anchored in shady bays and bright harbours never anticipated.

If you’ve ever participated in a run like the half marathon, or any other kind of race, you know the mental games that play over and over in your head…. kilometre by kilometre… the body at work, the mind at work…

Here’s how my mind “played” while my body worked last Sunday morning.

  • 1 km – I could be sleeping in right now. But I never do… so… Why did I sign up for this again? Oh, right. Food at the finish line. This man’s stomach rules. Well, along with another little part of his anatomy. The song running through my head? St. Elmo’s Fire … Rick Hanson’s Man In Motion theme music from years back… I’m psyched. I feel fantastic!

 

  • 2 km – Hey, don’t they film The Walking Dead in Vancouver? Maybe we’re all zombie extras being filmed for the series… Boy does that Cambie Street Bridge ever look majestic in the sunshine. Vancouver is THE best on a bright day.  I could eat it up.

 

  • 3 km – The first water station… I kinda forgot how I’m really bad at drinking water while running… cough, hack… All systems are feeling pretty good…. You never notice the uphill on a bridge when you’re driving but whilst running? Oh yeah…

 

  • 4 km – That downhill side of the bridge makes me feel like Superman, I must be moving at 20 miles per hour…. NOT! Hmmm… BC Place stadium really is BIG! If I were Donald Trump, I’d say it’s ‘UGE!

 

  • 5 km – I wonder what essay question I’ll formulate for my tutoring student next week? … Isn’t that young couple ahead with the matching running shirts and shorts adorable? I’d better slow just a bit, I’ve done this enough times to know about the killer hill coming up… conserve energy!

 

  • 6 km – I really must set myself down and do some songwriting soon… I procrastinate too much … OMG, there’s a McDonalds, I’ll bet those people clapping and cheering are drinking hot lattes… mmmm… alright, another Aid Station… grape Ultima drink by the cupful… tasty, but nowhere near as good as a latte.

 

  • 7 km – I wonder if I could make up some Gaelic curse words? But how would I start? Oh, they probably would just say “Téigh Dtí Diabhail”, but it would be pronounced “fuck” or “feck” to make it simple and universal. Oh oh, I feel a twinge in my left calf muscle. I hate it when I get a twinge, sometimes they become full out cramps or muscle pulls, please let it pass… Téigh Dtí Diabhail…

 

  • 8 km – OK, we’re coming into Chinatown, just listen to those Chinese musicians playing at the side of the road, they’re good… I could stop and listen to them for awhile… nope nope nope! don’t fall for that trick, keep moving along. Calf settled down now, good… the sweat is making my shirt all clingy. I just hope my nipple bandaids hold on.

 

  • 9 km – And I see the hill ahead… here it is… OK, this is good, the hill is pretty long and fairly gradual, but you’re keeping up a good pace. I’m passing quite a few runners, I like that. Last year, I got passed by a lot of runners at this spot, that deflates the hell out of me. Around the corner now and the hill should be finished…YAY!… What? Oh shit… I forgot, the hill continues for another 2 or 300 metres… alright, dig in, you can do this…

 

  • 10 km –  Is the Oxford comma really important to the world, I know I like it, but is it truly necessary? Conclusion? Yes, we need that comma as much as world peace… as much as political truth… Oh no, my mind is totally slipping away. Shouldn’t there be another aid station by now… and where the hell are the gel packs with chocolate goo in them?

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That would be me humming along in the red sleeves and blue shorts…

HALFWAY MARK

  • Great! I loved that nice long, gradual downhill into Yaletown… and the aid station had GELS… I can suck on that chocolate goo for 2 or 3 kilometres and I’ll feel great again. Hey, there’s that restaurant where I played at Open Mic last year. Hmmmm, I think my pace is slowing a little. Holy Smokes that view over the Burrard Inlet is gorgeous…

 

  • 12 km – the crowds are getting bigger at the roadside… I loved that sign back there that said, “Run like United tried to take your seat!“… or another… “Worst Parade Ever!“… the cheering folks help to lower the pain levels… thanks everyone… drinks on me at the finish line!

 

  • 13 km – time for a full physical assessment. Checklist: Lungs are doing great, no hard breathing or going anaerobic… that’s the Devil’s Kiss. Upper body is relaxed and comfortable. Nipples are still bandaid’ed and happy. Feeling some stiffness in the hip flexors, I’ve worked hard on building strength in those babies, maybe not enough though… I’ll have to keep monitoring that area… Mission Control says all systems still GO!

 

  • 14 km – Let me overthink a bit here… Investing in my head… is Apple becoming too expensive to continue holding, did I inadvertently buy L Brands (Victoria’s Secret) for “boyish” reasons other than a great investment thesis? What was that song that Johnny Cash sang? 25 Minutes To Go… a countdown to an execution, a certain death… why would that song be coursing through my head right now?

 

  • 15 km – Good thing I released that blog post last night and didn’t wait until early this morning. I wonder what I’ll write about next week… hey, perhaps a chronicle of this race kilometre by kilometre… maybe? OK, just entering Stanley Park, the sun on the tall cedars ahead is so lovely. I’m in a good group of runners right now, we’re all pacing each other perfectly.

 

  • 16 km – I wonder if all of these runners know that the BIG secret to having a successful race is to have a complete BM before the run… so important… the look on some of their faces says to me PROBABLY NOT! What an enchanting tunnel of trees we’re passing through… I feel like Anne of Green Gables riding a buggy through the Lane of Apple Blossoms.

 

  • 17 km – OK, this is where I know I often run into huge fatigue, should I slow my pace to conserve some energy for the finish… did my track training do enough to boost my stamina for the last 4 kilometres? Decision time? OK, I’m gonna stay on this pace for as long as I can and we’ll see if those old hip flexors hold up… fingers crossed.

 

  • 18 km – Damn, I hate being a guy, the tight bums on the two young ladies ahead of me are mesmerizing. I’ll try to use them for distraction to cover the pain that’s seeping in and make the next kilometre pass quickly. I really think those chocolate gels give me a boost. I may not have the energy that I had at the start, but I rarely feel this good this far into the race.

 

  • 19 km – Jeezus, even these small climbs in Stanley Park feel like mountains now. I can look over the water to the North Shore mountains, but the scenery is losing its awe-inspiring luster. I can feel dry salt on the palms of my  hands… dehydration signs. We’re heading into survival mode from here on out. The discomfort levels are climbing… climbing… climbing…

 

  • 20 km – Gimme a break buddy… we’re on a narrow pathway just before we veer into downtown Vancouver and you just have to take a selfie while you’re running… and veering back and forth in front of a few of us runners who are looking ahead to the finish… IDIOT, you could have caused a major crash and for what?? OK, I can tell I’m getting really tired and grump…. wait a sec…. I can see the FINISH LINE!! Pick up the pace lad, you can do it!

21.1 km – THE FINISH – the crowds are as big and loud and as enthusiastic as ever… hey, I see my gang over there cheering… Hi Guys, it’s me! I hear Steve King’s famous announcer’s voice calling out our names over the loud rock music as we near the line… there’s fire raging through my lungs, lead weights in my legs…

Keep pushing, faster, harder, stronger… and… AND…. we’re there!!!

YAY! Holy Smokes… sunshine and orgasmic exhaustion, a pretty special combination, a good combination, a life affirming combination.

OK, 2:02:16, not my best time ever, but I feel pretty good, maybe a bit wobbly, nothing a sandwich, a cookie, a banana, and lots of fluid won’t correct. Thanks for the finisher’s medal, smiley lady! Look at all the race photographers snapping pics of us beat up but smiling finishers.

I think I’m glad that I got up this morning.

It’s a Téigh Dtí Diabhail’ing good morning.

 

 

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The New Frontier… I Want A World…

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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.

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…………………

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.

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