Home

Am I A (Gentle)Man?

4 Comments

LAR GORD HOCKEY TIFF (1).jpeg

I grew up on sports.

Yup, that’s me above dropping the puck for my brother on the backyard rink our Mom built us over many late and frigid nights.

When I was a kid, I played hockey and football and baseball. I golfed and skied and tennis’ed. I swam. I biked. I ran. I even bowled.

Lots of team sports. It was camaraderie in a peck of pals.

I hugged and patted the butts of many a young boy in my childhood which seems a bit creepy now that I think about it!

Before and after school, anytime I wasn’t delivering newspapers or sleeping, I was across the street in the park with a glove, a ball, a stick, a club, or a bat in my hand.

Like every day. Rain and snow… yes, even mud… just added to the “fun”.

Before and after family meals there was a steady stream of friends calling at the door… can Larry play street hockey? football? baseball?

I loved sports. I loved my buddies.

I’m thinking about sports this week because of flamboyant Canadian jock-jerk Don Cherry who poisons the well of understanding and compassion by calling out others who don’t look or act like him… in this week’s case… immigrants.

Previously, over many years, he’s attacked: French-Canadians, Europeans, people of colour, and women, with Trumpian insults.

Don cherry

He’s opinionated, aggressive and boorish. Yet, many adore him.

Not me.

I spent a lot of time in dressing rooms and locker rooms as a youngster. Comfortable and at home until … I reached the teen years and … things changed.

Listening to Mr. Cherry reminds me of this uncomfortable transition period in my life.

At 13 or 14 years old, when the brawny hormones and cultural conditioning kicked in, many of the nice, kind boys I hung out with for years put on unusual costumes that I didn’t recognize.

Their bodies were changing and they became young men.

The tone of team sports changed too, into a more macho’ized form of activity. The games we played grew more aggressive and angry.

Team sports felt less like games and more like an outlet for anger and short fuses.

Sure, sportsmanship continued to exist, but was harder to find in this virile forest.

Slower than most, I too became a man, but I think in a slightly different way than many of the guys surrounding me.

Months and years passed and I grew more and more uncomfortable with the “toxic masculinity” that necessitated frequent swearing, heavy drinking, misogynistic joking.

Toxic.jpg

It was growing harder to be a “gentle man” and still remain a part of the core of the team, regardless of talent and skill.

For me, the fun in participating in team sports sadly faded.

I participate in lots of physical pursuits today, but team ones? well… infrequently. My last organized hockey game was more than 10 years ago now.

Like everyone, I have my contradictions.

I still enjoy watching most team sports… I’ve been an avid booster of the Hamilton Tiger Cat football team for decades… OSKEE WEE WEE (don’t even ask!).

Hockey (minus the fighting) is physical and fast and can be as exciting as ever.

Soccer mastery amazes me.

I idolize the dedication, passion, and skill exhibited by athletes. Sport at its best is a beauty and an inspiration to our world. The Olympics give me goosebumps.

When I see examples of observable good sportsmanship, I shiver inside. One small example:

In a cross-country running event in 2012, Spanish runner Ivan Fernandez Anaya had an opportunity to win the race after Kenya’s Olympic bronze medalist Abel Mutai slowed near the finish line thinking that he had won.

Instead of overtaking Mutai at the last second and claiming glory, Anaya urged his opponent over the line and settled for second place.

Anaya later told the media that he didn’t deserve to win and Mutai had created a gap that he could not close if he hadn’t made the mistake.

sportsmanship

That, my friends, is a gentleman, and likely a better man than I.

Our “civilized” world today is dealing with anger and aggression in far too many places. Many leaders and people of influence (like Don Cherry) are directing us towards our inner darkness.

We need more and more examples of positive leadership and good sportsmanship to encourage, inspire and lead us to become our “better angels”.

We’ve come a long way Baby towards sculpting the clay of more gentlemen into “gentle men”. Still, the journey isn’t near over yet.

But the departure of Don Cherry is one more positive step along that road.

gentlman boy

 

 

 

Childhood Solstice

Leave a comment

kids play at sunset.jpg

This week’s song lyric is a reflection on summer and youth …

… we all carry within us a trunk filled with sunny memories of long, warm, (hopefully) carefree summer days.

My early boyhood in Hamilton, Ontario was a mix of outdoor sports (football, baseball, tennis), mischief with friends, occasional flirting with a young crush, delivering newspapers, family meals … all within the milieu of a hot, humidity-soaked summer day next to Lake Ontario.

And of course, the bittersweet notion of summer solstice… that moment when the procession of long…  longer … longest days … comes to a halt and the slow slide towards fall and winter begins…

This 6-verse song – like summer wear – is going semi-naked … chorus-less and bridge-less. The rhyme pattern is a bit ragged but I’m OK with this… just because!

Most current songs you hear have a chorus with a distinct “hook” that makes the song memorable and humm-able – think of your favourite songs and how you often remember the words to the chorus but not the verse …

… which means that when I get to setting these words to music, each verse will need to have a catchy melody line with a sense of a “hook”.

music hook

OK, let’s go…

Here is this week’s song lyric:

CHILDHOOD SOLSTICE

First summerday breeze so stifling and damp
I have sunburns from the beach
grassy field stains on my pants
I have a laugh and a lust of playground flirting
Wallowing in my head, barely within reach

Lugging “The Spec’ from doorstep to door
I have the weight of canvas bag
black newsprint on my arms I abhor
I have the Scot’s brogue of Ogilvie sisters
Apartmentized pair of old tea-sipping crags

Then breath-sucking afternoon swelter
I have the sound of the truck chime
strawberry shortcake for a nickel or dime
I have Good Humour icy popsicle that melts
Syrupy orange on my face and sugary grime

The sun still high but here it is suppertime
I have Friday night eggs from the pan
Monday night chili made by Dad’s old hand
I have Sunday roast beef with everyone there
Tomato juice and steamed corn we eat with our hands

Nighttime flickering moths on streetlamps
I have chords of Paul and Carole and James
bouncing beats of Mungo Jerry
I have harmonic strains of Brian and brothers
Black and white Dick Van Dyke and The Dating Game

My head weighs down on this soft downy bed
I have baseballs and footballs thrown in my head
Mom’s amen kiss on my cheek cheeky-red
I have water sucked hard from a sprinkler
Glazed-over eyes playing hopscotch with stars

kids play.jpg

The Lamp Is Burning Low …

Leave a comment

winter ghost 2.jpg

Winter almost ghosted us here …

As we creep alongside the start of a new month, there is finally a tiny white cupcake frosting layer on the ground.

Typically by this point, the Okanagan Valley has reliably weathered through a bum-chilling cold snap (or two) where the temperature slips downwards to -15C, occasionally even -18C or so.

Even though the temperatures haven’t dipped much below -5C this season, and snow has been virtually non-existent, the vistas outside my windows are at long last those that resemble true winter. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas….

It’s in these greyer days of winter when my mind absorbs the darkness and wanders to the family and friends and acquaintances whose footsteps can no longer be heard treading the halls of real life.

In many ways, it’s surreal, like maybe they never truly existed, like whispers in the forest.

I know they did, but it still feels dreamy, water slipping between my fingers.

I had grandparents and parents, aunts and uncles, in-laws, neighbours and friends; real fleshy, imperfect people who lived the same as me, ones that breathed and worked and fucked and worried and laughed and shit and sweat and dreamed…

moon dream

I dreamed of my boyhood friend Frank the other night.

When Frank died in a motorcycle accident in 1989 (age 32) I sobbed my memories and smiles and worries as I read the mournful letter his Mom sent me.

Her writing was a grief-laden waterfall of tears in words.

I washed over that painful parapet along with her in the bittersweet memory of youth lost. Heartbreak poured across the page from her pen.

I once saved Frank from the certainty of high school suspension when he was falling down drunk at a Grade 11 dance … we played touch football in the summer and street hockey beneath winter street lights … he and I shared a strange enjoyment of growing Venus Flytrap plants … he trounced me regularly at chess and ping-pong matches … we ate up the love in his Mom’s Hungarian cooking whenever – day or night – we walked through the door to his house … we consoled each other when our hearts were broken by pretty young attractions …

Thirty years on, and he, and others, still live inside me, the laughter and the tears.

We all carry an inner vision of those who mattered to us and are gone, those who were a part of shaping us from rough pieces of clay … I never met 3 of my 4 grandparents and yet I still envision them as components of my real world … a puzzle piece in my creation.

When I play my guitar quietly in the dim light of wintry evening darkness, my mind and heart wander the bygone roads where so many have travelled, where so many have faded into the fog.

These lives are the profusion of faces and voices I’ve known or known of … those whose memory lamp is burning low but not yet extinguished … within me.

candle burning

 

 

 

The Wish List

4 Comments

wishlist

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

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

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

New Year’s morning long ago…

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

Stupid and 21 years old. That was me.

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

drunk-larry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This boy’s list?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Drinking alcohol was the first “wish” checked off.

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

CHECK.

Golden Wedding Rye.jpg

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

CHECK CHECK.

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

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

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

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

CHECK CHECK CHECK!

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

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

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

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

Cheers to you for 2017… ting!

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

We’re Only BIG Kids…

Leave a comment

 

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”
—Flannery O’Connor

puppy sleep.jpg

Sleep is the new …

Do you ever wake up with library stack volumes of penetrating thoughts, insightful ideas, nagging worries… racing around the Indianapolis Speedway in your head?

Of course you do. We all do. Some to far greater extents than others.

The Speedway motor sounds are far too deafening to catch any more sleep and the racing cars keep knocking over the sheep you were counting jumping a fence.

Once the green START flag is raised, you might as well hold up the white flag of surrender and give up on any further zzzz‘s for that night.

I spent a good couple of hours during my “sleep time” a couple nights back reflecting, thinking foggy mountain circles on what I might write about this week.

This is a bit unusual for me. Tap tap tap.

More typically a blog topic idea comes fairly quickly at the start of each week; something catches my eye or my quirky imagination and then it’s my job to whip out a trusty lasso and wrangle the thought, the image, the idea into submission.

After doing this a couple of hundred times now, it’s rarely that difficult to electrify bright luminescence from the light bulb floating above my head.

My ADHD mind winds along the railway tracks, surmounting craggy hills, plunging down through lush green valleys, then presses through some dense Coquihalla fog as my writerly passageway gathers momentum and fills with a multitude of varying tangents… investing, running and other exercise modalities, gardening, writing, music writing and guitar playing, building things, Kama Sutra positions.

I try to read a lot of varied articles and book chapters to stimulate my thoughts, procreating the idea sex that directs me somewhere useful from a blog writing perspective.

This week the idea train had difficulty finding the station. I know it seems impossible, there being guiding tracks and all – clickety-clack – but nonetheless I struggled. A minor case of writer’s constipation?

Where did I end up when the train finally did pull into the station?

No dead ends.

1960 playground

CHILDHOOD

Back to childhood thoughts.

Eager boyhood dreams filled with impressions and memories about the innocent playfulness and the reality of childhood, then gazing into the grown-up future and living, loving and working as a big person.

I was virginally green, wide-eyed.

I thought big people were infallible.

Always right.

All knowing.

To be totally trusted.

Kind of like human forms of the God I heard and sang hymns about in church. I could have been abducted so easily, but then… who would have wanted me, this cherubic little hockey-playing paperboy?

It never occurred to me until years later – and it came as a shocking surprise I have to add – that grown-ups were… really… wait for it… little kids in big people clothes. Yup.

I could have written that 1988 movie “BIG” that starred Tom Hanks (I’m still dying to get a floor model piano that you play by jumping with your whole body) as a kid in a man-sized body playing in an adult world.

It hit the nail on the head.

We’re kids still inside, fallible, and nervously wondering if we have the right answers to the test questions.

big piano

The grassy playground beside my elementary school, Glen Echo, was a precursor, a SimLife preview of grown-up reality charged with more responsibilities and worries.

Years passed by and I grew bigger and older but I was still hopeful little Larry Green running around on the green park grass chasing after the Lucy-held football like Charlie Brown… chasing after the cute little Red-Haired Girl looking for love and affection… chasing after good marks in Arithmetic and Social Studies that would please my teacher Mrs. Putns… chasing after the excited crowd on the playground circling around one of the bigger bullies beating the bloody-nosed tar out of some poor pint-sized kid… chasing after a few dollars from my Hamilton Spectator paper route so I could buy that beautiful shiny bike with the banana seat (I soooo loved my bike with the banana seat!)

banana seat.jpg

What a gorgeous banana seat!

One day we wake up in an office cubicle or behind a cash register or computer keyboard.

Now we’re the grown-up. (Cue Elton John’s Circle of Life!)

The expectation and belief that adult-life is, would, be perfection and all-knowing is long gone in the realization that the playground grass has wilted but the players are pretty much still the same. It’s not a bad thing, rather only an eye-opening observation that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

We spend our years in cycles, patterns that replay from childhood to grave.

Within those patterns from time to time we experience the very human but mysterious deja-vu sensation, a memory of a flower’s perfumed scent from summer camp, a flush of arousal reminiscent of a teenage kiss, a catchy song chorus that transports us to Grade 9 math class.

Forget Elton John, cast aside the Pride Rock scenario.

My BIG dream, once I finally fell asleep the other early morning was filled with another song.

Harry Chapin sang, “All My Life’s a Circle“,

All my life’s a circle;
Sunrise and sundown;
The moon rolls thru the nighttime;
Till the daybreak comes around.

All my life’s a circle;
But I can’t tell you why;
Season’s spinning round again;
The years keep rollin’ by.

It seems like I’ve been here before;
I can’t remember when;
But I have this funny feeling;
That we’ll all be together again.
No straight lines make up my life;
And all my roads have bends;

There’s no clear-cut beginnings;
And so far no dead-ends.

moon road

The Collector

4 Comments

 

Miranda (Samantha Eggar): I’ve stayed the four weeks. 

Freddie (Terence Stamp): I just have to have you here a little longer. 

Miranda: Why? What more can I do? What more can you want? 

Freddie: You know what I want… it’s what I’ve always wanted. You could fall in love with me if you tried. I’ve done everything I could to make it easy. You just won’t try!

DEMONS …

When I was a kid I saw a movie called THE COLLECTOR (1965), starring Samantha Eggar and Terence Stamp.

It was an early version of the movie ROOM … a young woman drugged, kidnapped and kept prisoner in a small cellar next to her captor’s house.

For me, a young boy, it was pretty scary – disturbing really – and gave me nightmares about being stolen away from my family.

Making it even more real in my world were the trending Hamilton Spectator newspaper headlines about the actual abduction of a pretty little 12 year-old girl from a nearby town, whom I believe was, sadly, never located.

Terence Stamp’s character, a lonely, unbalanced young man, stalks, chloroforms and kidnaps pretty, young art student, Samantha Eggar.

Stamp is a butterfly collector and treats and looks at Eggar as if she is one of his collected specimens. Ewwwww.

He holds her imprisoned in a windowless stone cellar that he has prepared with a bed, some furnishings, and an electric heater.

Desperately seeking her freedom, Eggar tries to connect with Stamp, to bargain with him, and even finally to seduce him, but ultimately fails.

Many weeks go by, and the reality dawns on Eggar of just how unstable Stamp is and that she will never leave alive.

While being taken from the house to the cellar in the rain, she seizes a nearby shovel and strikes Stamp in the head with it. Wounded and angry, he manages to pull her back into the cellar, breaking the heater during their struggles.

For three days, Eggar remains locked in the cold cellar, soaking wet.

Stamp finally reappears to find her terribly ill, and he goes into town to get her medicine.

When he returns, Eggar lies dead.

The eerie final scene shows Stamp back behind the wheel of his van – collecting, once again – stalking a young nurse.

Collector Van

ANGELS …

As a kid, I was a collector too.

NO, not THAT type of collector. A far more innocent type of collector.

And not a hoarder either … a collector.

Stamps, coins, hockey cards, Leon Uris books, fluorescent wall posters, 1967 Centennial memorabilia, fireworks. My head was filled with excited dreams of riches and future palaces based on my shrewd collecting prowess.

I’m pretty sure I would have collected chocolate too but somehow it never seemed to escape my wee hungry eyes and tummy. Come to think of it, fireworks never seemed to stick around long either in my eager little pyro hands. BOOM!

I spent many hours organizing my coins into various collector books and albums with plastic paper bill slots. My “mint” condition olive green Canadian King George $20 bills were handled gently so as not to bend edges or dirty the cotton paper.

King George $20 bill

My hockey cards were alphabetized and grouped into singles, doubles and triples. The “traders” were set aside for taking to school for attempts at swapping Davey Keon for Frank Mahovlich, or Gordie Howe for Stan Mikita.

Those riches and palaces?

The coins and bills I thought would bring me future millions of dollars are currently worth only pennies more than their face value. The $20 bill above that I loved so much as an 11 year-old would probably fetch a full $25 at the local collector’s store today.

When I rummage through my old collections now, I reluctantly realize my “serious” attempts were really just child’s play. Collecting things was one small facet of my childhood fun and distraction from the devil’s work.

And it was far more productive and filled with imaginative substance than so many alternatives.

Alternatives like walking my neighbourhood streets with friends Kevin, Renato or Jerome, searching for half-smoked cigarette stubs – cautiously avoiding any with lipstick residue –  pitched to the curb by the plethora of smokers of the day.

We’d gather up the barely-used cancer sticks and cart them off on our Good Friday hikes to the Devil’s Punchbowl for an afternoon of campfire beans, nausea-inducing but very grown-up smoking, and boyish chatter about the giggly pony-tailed sweeties from our Grade 5 classrooms. Devil’s work.

I often wonder sometimes. OK, occasionally. Rarely …

Do everyday people collect things anymore? Do you?

I know there are many avid collectors of one sort or another out there today given the sales of EBay and similar auction sites. But that is collecting of a more serious, adult nature with big bucks involved. Not kids’ play.

I don’t really encounter people of my kids’, the Generation-X or Generation-Y cohort, that collect things.

Maybe the all-encompassing phenomenon of iPhones and Xbox One’s and PlayStation 4’s just dug a big hole in the backyard and buried the pastime of collecting.

Moms of my generation were happy when we kids were occupied and out of their hair.

Kids disappeared after breakfast, showed up for supper, and again when the streetlights came on, and whatever we had been doing in-between was pretty much our own business.

So long as the police were never called, there was family and neighbourhood harmony.

We didn’t really know or understand it at the time but collecting stuff was a positive childhood way of making our demons dance with our angels.

Dancing angels

 

A Canadian Boy’s Wintry Night …

4 Comments

fa_oldpond_o

Early December was an exciting time for me as a kid.

Sure, Christmas was coming soon.

Christmas tree lots jettisoned broad, bright beams of light into the dark night sky to announce their Scotch Pine locations.

Mom mixed and baked multi-coloured fruitcakes, punched out warm, buttery-scented shortbread in Santa and bell shapes, and Food For The Gods squares were layered with sweet pink icing.

Black and white versions of Charlie Brown’s mournful Christmas tree and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer’s stop-action encounter with Misfit Toys were the latest TV phenomenons.

Charlie_Brown_Christmas_tree_coloring.filminspector.com_14

But even more important than all of that Christmas magic? MORE important!

I could finally put on my hockey skates once again.

Ice formed on the rinks, in the ponds, and Mom flooded the backyard rink after we went to bed.

I would lace up my hand-me-down, beat-up leather CCM skates and transform into Davy Keon, or Jean Beliveau, or Bobby Orr or Boom Boom Geoffrion. I’d fold newspapers into a long narrow bundle and slip them under my pants for shin pads and I was ready.

ccm skates

I was a star on ice.

Nothing … I mean nothing … was better than feeling those skate blades come into contact with ice for the first time of the year as I stepped through the rink’s gate. It was a full blown kiddie orgasm.

To feel the slide … to hear the intoxicating swoosh of a freshly sharpened skate blade on hard ice. Wushhhhhh ….. wushhhhh … getting ever faster as you swooped around the corner of the rink.

Chill winter air rushed over my ruddy pink cheeks, a Montreal Canadiens toque kept my head toasty.

School would let out at 4 o’clock, and I would deliver my Hamilton Spectator newspapers to my 35 customers. Then I was free.

Remember how summers lasted for years when you were a kid? Two months would go on and on and on … it was fabulous.

Just like that, winter evenings lasted hours and hours.

This allowed oodles of time for under-the-streetlights road or playground hockey with my neighbourhood buddies.

And if we were lucky and the city workers were active like midnight elves, an ice rink would miraculously appear out of nowhere in the park across the street, complete with old wooden boards fashioned into a hockey arena structure.

With or without ice, most times we would just set rocks or pieces of wood on the ground to mark the goalposts.

And occasionally, just occasionally, one of our group would come into a shiny red-posted goal complete with netting as an unexpected gift. We were terrible opportunists too. We’d invite someone to play with us just because they had their own net. No other reason.

Such a treasure. A real goal to shoot balls and pucks into.

With a real net, when you scored a goal there was no need to run 50 metres down the road to retrieve the wayward tennis ball “puck”. It stayed inside the net. Luxury. 

School homework and projects had to wait until 8 or 9 pm so that the last slapshot – the last slapshot that scored the settling goal, aimed at Dave or Hugh or Larry or Jerome playing goalie – could be enjoyed in the chilly night air.

When it was time to wind up the night’s play, we’d all agree that the next goal would be the winner. Didn’t matter if the score was 7-2. “Next goal wins!” The excitement of scoring that winning goal was intense.

And finally, when the cold weather had settled in with determination in Southern Ontario, there was ice on the outdoor skating rink at Parkdale Arena. Organized hockey could begin.

The Parkdale Steelers, my hockey team for the season, would contact me and I had a schedule of upcoming games.

In my really young years I was a hockey star.

This was mainly – solely actually! – because few kids had spent enough time on skates to stay on their feet for more than 5 or 10 strokes across the ice.

My Mom’s homemade backyard rink and a couple of season’s skating help from my sister Betty and brother Gord had me well trained for remaining upright and also to hold a puck on my stick blade for a trip the length of the ice surface.

I had done my 10,000 hours of preparation with icy-frozen toes to show for it.

LAR GORD HOCKEY TIFF (1)

Hockey Stars in backyard training… brother Gord and me in my CCM’s and newspaper shin pads dropping the game puck …

By default I was the “hot” scoring ace for a few years. Nobody could stand long enough to stop me. To this day I still possess and treasure my MVP patch as the Wayne Gretzky of my Atom hockey league.

With each passing hockey season, the magic drained from my skates and I became just another body on the team. Other kids grew bigger than me, stronger than me, faster than me. I loved playing still but my “star” turn was over.

I stopped playing hockey a few years ago.

Nowadays I only skate a couple of times each winter, usually indoors but sometimes I get up into the Okanagan hillsides where outdoor skating is still a winter pleasure.

When my skates come into contact with the frozen water and I hear the cutting, swooshing sound beneath my feet, I feel the same elation I felt as a kid.

The ice rises up and gives me a warm sentimental hug and says… “get out there kid and score some goals“.

And for a few moments in my mind, I hear my friends’ echoing voices shouting under the streetlights with snowflakes rushing past, I see the satisfying swish of a tennis ball in the back of a net, I smell my Mom’s vanilla-scented shortbread.

I feel a happy December warmth inside like James Stewart returning to Bedford Falls after his fateful winter’s night with Clarence the Angel.

Its-A-Wonderful-Life

 

What Movie Plays In YOUR Head?

Leave a comment

To love is to suffer. To avoid suffering, one must not love. But then, one suffers from not loving. Therefore, to love is to suffer; not to love is to suffer; to suffer is to suffer. To be happy is to love. To be happy, then, is to suffer, but suffering makes one unhappy. Therefore, to be unhappy, one must love or love to suffer or suffer from too much happiness.”

   Woody Allen – Love and Death

dreams2

I’m a dreamer.

Sometimes my entire life seems like a movie – almost another dimension that I view from some heaven-like place far removed.

I spend a whole lot of time inside my head envisioning things I’ve done and enjoyed or things I’d like to do and enjoy.

Occasionally I relive the bad stuff too, but it usually gets nudged out by the positive thoughts. A baby’s birth seems to stick more readily than a loved one’s funeral. Isn’t the human mind great?

A little voiced narrative runs through my head as if Woody Allen was in there writing a screenplay for his next flick. I could be a little neurotic New York Jewish guy soooo easily.

My narrative sometimes involves a group of us pre-pubescent Canuck schoolboys dreaming of future lives as hockey stars with nubile little puck-bunnies swarming around.

We don’t really know what to do or say with these cuties yet – even if we feel a pleasurable stiffening in our jeans – but we know there’s something tantalizing and special about them and one day we figure we’ll know and understand the allure.

But until that time arrives the only stiff rod in our hand is a hockey stick.

For now, it’s enough to just feel the juvenile desire.

First we develop the talent and then worry about the puck-bunnies… Gretzky knew that at the age of 13 and was willing to wait another 15 years for his LA-model puck-bunny to materialize.

gretzky

So, from time to time, I’ll watch the movie of my life and see myself playing street hockey in the chilly winter air under the nightlight of Glen Echo School in Hamilton.

I look up into the inky winter-black sky and see the ivory snow flecks gently drifting down towards my pink-cheeked face. I’m wearing my PeeWee Parkdale Steelers hockey jersey with three clothing layers underneath to stay warm.

By the time my friends Rick, Jerome, Rick, Hugh and Larry and I finish our night game – the lively clapping sounds of hockey sticks hitting pavement turn silent – I’ll have peeled off all but the final ribbed-cotton t-shirt because of the heat built up by running and turning and jumping and slapshotting.

Future visions of becoming a Montreal Canadien or Chicago Black Hawk rattle around excitedly in our heads. I’m guessing we all wanted to become pro hockey players, but perhaps a stray thought of becoming a future ABBA singer was bubbling around, I don’t know!

…………………………

Fantasy is a huge part of so many of our lives…. I know this if only because Harry Potter, Katniss Everdeen, Luke Skywalker and Hugh Hefner have all thrived and flourished massively in the masses’ imaginations.

We love to spend time in other worlds. Worlds within our world or worlds galaxies distant.

But I prefer fantasies of my own making and choosing, not those of J.K Rowling, Suzanne Collins, or George Lucas.

For me, the best way to lay down the tracks for future “home” movies is by living in the moment with some focus and taking the daily actions that will create these movies…

That means I have to actually do stuff for my imagination to make stuff up …

My body craves movement and so most times I have to live the actions first that then synthesize the movie. I don’t want others’ fantasies occupying my head. I want the homegrown variety that involve me and enthrall me based on my own life experiences.

Once I’ve actually done something… gone swimming or canoeing, made a fancy dinner, run a Tough Mudder race, hiked into Machu Picchu …

… then my imagination can kick into gear and make my very own Walter Mitty fantasy world.

Imagination and dreaming are incredible human attributes. We all have a staggering ability to build worlds and stories from within.

My head fills with Olympic record swim times, Michelin Four Star meals I’ve prepared, war zones I’ve conquered with bravery, finesse and panache, and Incan kings I’ve encountered.

No matter what pain or suffering we encounter – and there are ample quantities of those – an engrossing book, a marvellously powerful movie, an incredibly real dream, have the breathtaking power to refresh and rejuvenate our minds with hope and joy and love.

Playing movies in my head works even better.

Life is full of misery, loneliness, and suffering – and it’s all over much too soon.”

Woody Allen

Childhood Pyromania and Idea Sex …

Leave a comment

fire fist

Why I’m not locked away in solitary confinement is beyond my understanding.

As a youngster, I loved fire.

Kumbaya Campfires, fireplace fires, smoky autumn piles of leaves and prunings, fireworks’ and firecrackers’ fires … sizzle fizzle… BANG!

Nothing made my pulse quicken more than to strike a match and set something … just about anything … aflame.

And if I didn’t have a match… well… a good little magnifying glass could substitute as an igniter. It was gloriously satisfying to see a little whisp of smoke rising from a scrap of paper where the magnifying glass had concentrated the mid-summer morning sun’s rays.

I cringed inside when a couple of friends thought it was cool to sizzle a live ant on the ground with the magnifying glass. The ant would try to run away from the pinpoint concentrated heat, but eventually it would succumb and an ugly, acidic smelling smoke arose from its flesh. The kindness of Buddhism hadn’t filtered into our little lives yet.

Those are the guys who are probably in solitary confinement these days.

On summer mornings, I could sit on the floor of my family garage – after Dad had driven our pale green Ford Meteor off to work – and make fire magic for a couple of hours easily.

The alcohol-based Aqua Velva cologne sent by my Aunt Lilian the previous Christmas was wonderful stuff for fueling flames … plus it smelled great at the same time. I think she sent it to me, her young nephew, to make me feel grown up. She would have had a cardiac arrest knowing the use I put it to.

Aqua velva

I’d pour a few fragrant drops of the blue-tinted cologne into a small jar lid sitting on the garage’s cement floor. Then I’d see how close a lit match needed to be before there was a small “woof” as the flame ignited a hot, almost transparent, blue-green flame that danced in the air over the jar lid.

It burned away for 5 or 10 seconds and I would hold small twigs or twisted wads of paper over it to see if they too would ignite. Those little round red rolls of “caps” for kid’s cap pistols were perfect to hold over the flame and listen to their sulphury loud “crack”.

It was fascinating, and now, looking back, maybe a tiny bit creepy at the same time.

That was then. My childhood pyromania has thankfully subsided.

I still enjoy the primal sense of a dancing flame in the firebox of my woodstove, but I save the cologne for splashing on my weathering grown-up face.

Now, as an adult, I’ve left that burning desire for real fire largely behind – the flames I long to see and feel now are those of creative spark.

Whether I’m crafting words in this blog post, or in creating music, I feel the same searing rushing blood in my temples that I experienced as a child pyro.

The heat produced now is a physics phenomenon of action-reaction.

creative spark

Occasionally, I write something as if someone else has occupied my body and is making up the words that flow from me – a magical mystery.

Or sometimes a melody materializes out of some ethereal spot that I’ve never been to or seen.

I know it’s all related to my active sub-conscious making connections and melding ideas – yup, IDEA SEX – in the brain’s underworld that is largely unknown and mysterious to us all.

But like Virginia’s Santa Claus (from New York’s Sun 1897 editorial writer Francis Pharcellus Church ):

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. 

Idea sex exists and it works like Santa’s little unseen elves, creating and cutting and pasting until a new combination of artistic phenomenon arises to the surface and erupts.

The physics action/reaction I spoke of above is to think of a problem, a challenge or an idea that has me scratching my head seeking an answer or a coherent, interesting thought. Another analogy that might make sense to you is when you try to think of someone’s name whom you you’ve just bumped into after 10 years … it won’t come.

I set the challenge quest on a little floating boat, anchored in a safe harbour.

Then with a light shove off from its moorings, I set the craft adrift to go out on the ocean wherever it wishes.

I turn my head and walk away and let the challenge reside in the background, relaxing and trusting that my sub-conscious has sprung into action, searching and bobbing through my lifetime’s file of memories and experiences.

The magic sometimes takes 5 minutes … sometimes 5 hours … but usually an overnight passage is enough to bring the boat back to port and deliver the goods.

Toy Boat 3

It’s as amazing as it is mysterious and wonderful.

It’s comforting somehow to know that my enthusiastic desire for flames still exists after all these years, even in an altered form.

The metaphorical hot flames I create today are far less likely to send me into a locked cage than the real fiery ones of my youth.

And … in fact, the idea sex potential that lies inside us all produces a heat that can make us feel more powerful than we’ve ever felt …

…………………..

Before he goes into the water, a diver cannot know what he will bring back.” 
― Max Ernst

Choosing My Own Path…

Leave a comment

shame 2

THERAPY TIME!

My Dad was ashamed of me fairly frequently as a kid, teenager and young adult (He died when I was 23, so I never saw his take on my later years.)

I was a good kid, a pretty good son.  I think I was one of the white sheep in the family (I won’t mention any “black sheep” by name!).

I was:

  • a good student,
  • a fair athlete
  • respectful of adults
  • had some musical talents
  • I delivered newspapers every day and paid for most of my own “extras”
  • I didn’t do drugs.

Of course I wasn’t perfect.

I was also:

  • a lazy student (then AND now!).
  • I was a bit arrogant – my Grade 2 teacher did mention my “superiority attitude” in a report card
  • I became moderately chubby in my early teen years
  • I illicitly sampled frighteningly horrible mixtures of my friends’ Dads’ homemade Italian and Hungarian wines on a regular basis from the age of 13 onwards.
  • I snuck into crowded wedding receptions at the local Greek Orthodox church to get free alcohol.

better than you

I realize now the great power that resides in the hands and words of parents as they raise their young, often unknowing the good and bad they impart so innocently to the cherubic sponges in their care.

SHAME is a nasty thing to hang on your kids. I was lucky, really, because so are physical or sexual abuse, or neglect, or a bunch of other mean, nasty things that somehow end up screwing with our heads for months and decades to follow. Those were never a part of my life experience.

But my father tried to put me in jail. The warden was called, “Mr. What Do People Think of You“.

I’ve lived now almost as long as my father – I still don’t agree with everything he did, but in every year that passes, I gain a better understanding of who he was and why he did the things he did.

There is wisdom to be found in the Indian prayer:

Oh, Great Spirit, grant that I may not criticize my neighbor until I have walked a mile in his moccasins.”

Understanding

Understanding.

Yup … Understanding.

I’ve thrown away my ignorance and I “get” it.

Whaddy mean? “Get” what?

Well, I get the things we normally shake our heads at and say, “why did he/she do that? … what could possibly motivate a person to live their life that way?”

And if I don’t truly “get” it, then I can at least remind myself that something in their history has shaped them and pushed them in a certain direction.

I UNDERSTAND, even if I don’t really get it.

Understanding is one of the reasons I enjoy travel so much. In the people I meet and the places I go I develop a growing understanding – a realization that everyone simply wants the best for themselves AND for their families.

No matter how old I become, I still carry in my head my father’s disapproving voice, his disappointed expression, because my hair was too long, or my grades too low, or my decision to live common-law before marriage not acceptable to him. There’s not enough street drugs or Lucy’s 5 cent therapy to rid the voice and facial disappointment.

But I’m OK with that, because …

I’ve Chosen My Own Path.

I’ve decided it wasn’t my Dad’s fault when he wanted me to be a star for all the neighbours and relatives to look at and see the shine reflect back on him.

He was likely raised in a lake of shame himself and it was a part of his genetics … a part of my genetics that I have to push back against cause my Mom swore to me that I was his son. My Ma would have never lied to me, right?

My mother, like so many mothers, was always the counter-balance, the unconditional loving sort that took me as I was. Aren’t (most) mom’s great?

My Dad probably journeyed through life with one or both of his own parent’s voices ringing in his ears, and my kids probably live their days with my voice in theirs’ – poor sots …

Watching the movie WILD this week (a great movie BTW in this reviewer’s opinion!), I was reminded of how we all seek meaning and understanding in our own way.

Reese Witherspoon (as the main character Cheryl Strayed) wanders the difficult Pacific Crest Trail while fighting an internal battle in her mind that wanders uneasily through the difficulties of her life – until at the end of the exhaustive trail she gains a greater understanding and acceptance of herself.

She chooses her own path knowing there are missteps and fumbles, loves, losses, joys – and realizes that her life is all about her own choices – good or foolish – that eventually brings her to a peaceful place and an acceptance of herself.

My Dad wasn’t a bad man. He was a good guy who supported a household and a family of 5 kids. He kept us safe and well fed. He went to church on Sunday and paid his taxes. He laughed at his own bad jokes and drank alcohol infrequently.

He wasn’t a perfect man or father, just like I’m not a perfect man or father to my kids. I resented him for many years. But I’m past that now that I’ve lived and walked some of the roads that he travelled.

I’m choosing my own path and learning understanding along the way.

Thanks for taking the time to be my therapist … Your 5 cents is in the mail …

Lucy Charlie Brown

 

 

Older Entries