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Hip Hip Hooray… Ain’t Your Bathroom Great?

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Dog on toilet

CRAP … I lost another game of iPad solitaire while sitting on the toilet.

Yup, CRAP!

The very best place for sitting, game playing, thinking, contemplating, figuring, worrying, laughing, reading, and of course… shitting… is in the bathroom. Instant privacy and quiet.

Just the other day I wandered aimlessly upon a moment of intense gratitude. We all need more gratitude moments.

I live in a house that has an indoor bathroom. With a toilet.

I’m gonna take a wild guess that you do too.

Call it what you will… loo, WC, restroom, washroom, head, lavatory … by any name we should all smile with great glee at this thought.

In February when the cold winds and snows were pouring off the white-shrouded mountains like perilous nasty whitewater waves, I was warm, dry and windless in my cozy little comfort station.

It seems such a simple expected perk of life. So simple.

 

Diner toilets.jpg

But I don’t have to look too far off into the distance to glimpse other areas and eras where this would be a huge luxury.

In post-cyclone Mozambique news today, a reporter makes note of: “Three thousand people who are living in a school that has 15 classrooms and six, only six, toilets.”

On a “First Class” train journey from Jaipur to Mumbai, India a couple of years back we had to balance ourselves in a squat position over a pit toilet as it jostled back and forth with the rhythm of the clickety-clack.

You guessed it. The smell and sights within the squalid little room were stomach-churning.

And of course, historically within my home country Canada, just a few generations back, my relatives all hiked outside every single day, every season. No cushy pillowed wipes… it was newspaper and Eaton’s catalogue time.

In the humid heat of fly-enriched summer and icy-terrained winter, my grandparents did their business in a highly-scented wooden box just like in the opening graphic scene from the movie Slumdog Millionaire.

………………

Well, not quite like that but you get the idea.

Our world is encased in oodles and oodles of technology, and yet, for me, despite the inventions of:

  • cars and airplanes
  • computers
  • television and movies
  • recorded music and all the electronics it comes from
  • telephones
  • automatic washing machines and dishwashers…

… that enhance my standard of living… and yes, I could go on and on … there is probably no human-devised invention that enriches my life more than indoor bathroom plumbing.

Praise be the in-house toilet.

We really don’t take time often enough to reflect and en-wrap ourselves in gratitude for the modern luxuries that enrich and simplify our daily passage.

Which is why I am dedicating this week’s blog post in praise of the indoor toilet.

You may think I’m wasting your time, you might like to poo-poo me, sure, tell me to piss off, possibly you don’t even give a shit …

… but I will continue on giving a crap about such delightfully uncomplicated things that bring me comfort and joy, even if I can’t win this stupid game of solitaire!

ipad toilet

I Have 24 Going On 25 Things That Can Make Me Smile…

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liesl3

 

I am sixteen going on seventeen…

Now, Liesl will forever be going on… well… 74.

Liesl dead… Gone.

Charmian Carr was the charming eldest Von Trapp daughter Liesl in the movie The Sound of Music. She was sweet and flirty with an angel’s voice that left me sporting an 8 year-old laddie crush.

The romantic lilt of her song as she danced through the moonlit glass house with her 17 year-old love Rolfe was the sweetest tease and… well…  I wanted to be 17 going on 18 right then. My boyish hormones probably felt their first steamy tsunami rush because of lovely Liesl.

And now sadly, she’s the first of the “children” (or the adults for that matter) to leave us.

The Sound of Music is my very favourite musical of all time with simple, timeless ditties and classics that are stuck forever in most of our heads… whether Doe (re-mi) a deer a female deer or How do you solve a problem like Maria.sappy, syrupy and yet so sweet.

My kids grew up in a warm hugging Sound of Music milieu. It was our go-to video to pop into the old VHS machine when we parentals needed a rest or respite from wearying non-stop kiddie activity.

Our 3 wee munchkins would plunk down quietly, spellbound, in front of the TV every time the frightful thunderstorm blew through the shutters and curtains of the Von Trapp mansion.

One-by-one the lightning-terrified batch of Von Trapp moppets jumped aboard Fraulein Maria’s bed to simply remember their favourite things so they wouldn’t feel so bad …

favourite-things-2

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favourite things.

Cream colored ponies and crisp apple strudels
Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles
Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings
These are a few of my favorite things.

Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes
Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes
Silver white winters that melt into springs
These are a few of my favorite things

When the dog bites, when the bee stings
When I’m feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don’t feel so bad”

It was uncomplicated and sugary but filled with beautiful imagery that sweeps us into clouds of personal reflection.

It was Liesl’s passing this week that set me in a reflective state of mind and had me wandering through long lusty lists in my own head.

Favourite things. What are a few (OK, a whole lot!) of MY favourite things? Let’s see…

  • the first sip of hot velvety latte in the morning
  • the bittersweet shift of a major chord into a minor chord in a song’s chorus
  • peanut butter and banana sandwiches
  • the achingly beautiful perfume of the Lily of the Valley bloom in early spring followed weeks later by the scent of fresh summer lavender blooms crushed in my hand releasing their fragrant oils.
  • the multi-layered harmonies of the Eagles or The Beach Boys or Zac Brown
  • the fruity flavour of a chilled glass of Gewurtztraminer or Pinot Gris on a winery patio 
  • the soft-textured touch of fleece inside a warm sweater on a cool fall day as leaves tumble to the ground
  • Maureen’s oatmeal chocolate chip cookies
  • chocolate… Cadbury Fruit and Nut or WunderBar
  • my guitar in perfect tune
  • creamy smooth Banana Cream or Coconut Cream or Key Lime Pie
  • the morning trill of a chickadee in the birch tree
  • the sensuous look and erotic feel of feminine lace
  • writing 500 words of a blog or one whole verse of a song while in a trance without consciously thinking
  • the cool softness when my head first hits the plush pillow at bedtime and the warm weight of the downy duvet caressing my weary limbs.
  • the thrill of satisfaction when crossing a finish line at the end of a gruelling running race or triathlon
  • the exhilaration of selling a stock pick that has doubled or tripled since purchasing it a year or two back
  • playing and singing Fire and Rain late in the dark evening solitude
  • the salty taste of Clamato juice served in a plastic cup with a few ice cubes on an airplane flight to a far-off destination
  • Cara’s killer boot camp “300”
  • the rare book that refuses to let me stop reading at the end of a chapter because I have to know where it’s taking me.
  • the intoxicating scent of salty buttered popcorn mixed with the anticipation of a perfect movie as the theatre lights dim to darkness
  • sweet maple syrup on a freshly made blueberry banana pancake
  • warm sunrise on a mildly breezy Cuban beach
  • the scent of cigar smoke circling me
  • Marsha’s soothing yoga voice, “Release, relax and just let go…”
  • the sound of my kids chattering at the dining room table 
carolekingjamestaylor10_main

James Taylor/ Carole King… another favourite thing.

My favourite things.

My favourite things remind me of SEEDS; the abundant seeds I have planted in my world; seeds that sprout and flourish .

Some germinate instantly, like a glorious firework burst, and fade quickly, which is okay. Others are slower, more perennial, carrying on satisfyingly like a waterfall, for years of ongoing pleasure, unending foreplay.

My favourite things.

My favourite things remind me of GRATITUDE.

Easy to say, sometimes hard to remember when life is feeling shitty or unfair. Blaming is draining. Complaining is draining. Gratitude is inner peace and calm, sunshine even in the rain.

Liesl? You and your siblings have always been on my list of favourite things.

Rest now, sweet songstress that tugged at my boyish heart.

So long… farewell… auf wiedersehen… adieu…

liesl

PS Care to share 5 (or more… or less…) of your favourite things?

Soup Crackers … How Close Are You To Being A Walking Wounded?

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Zodiac killer

“Hey!”

A grey, grizzled guy in a Kal Tire baseball cap got shoved backwards into the lineup of folks clad in their worn Salvation Army winter coats in front of the serving window.

I’m a naive kind of guy.

I looked up and directly over the 35’ish year-old woman’s shoulder that I had just handed a wax-paper bag containing an egg salad sandwich on multigrain bread.

At first I thought it was just a friendly greeting… a – “Hi, how are ya!”, until they began angrily shouting at each other.

I zipped out from behind the counter and stepped between the two “combatants”. I wasn’t going to be a hero or anything. “C’mon you guys, this isn’t the place or time.”  Did I look tough and menacing or what? NOT!!

The heated tension diffused quickly – more likely because they were afraid they’d be ejected before filling their empty bellies than because of my calming presence. My magic just ain’t that strong.

This is Lunch Time at my local soup kitchen.

Soup kitchen

11:30 to 12:30…. 365 days a year… Two or 3 soup choices, 4-6 sandwich varieties, sometimes a tossed green or potato salad, a wide choice of “stale-dated” desserts (cookies, pies, cake, muffins, jello), and lots of milk, juice and coffee to wash it all down.

And the price is right.

No charge, no questions asked. You wanna come for lunch, you’re welcome.

I wander in 2 or 3 mornings each month to chop all the vegetables needed for a “mirepoix”, the flavour base for most stews and soups: two parts onions, one part carrots, and one part celery.

And, depending on what’s been donated, sometimes we chop rutabagas or peppers or parsnips or cabbage or mushrooms to toss in the soup pots.

That’s a lot of chopped veggies when making enough soup to feed between 100 and 200, depending on the season, the time of the month, the temperature outdoors.

The angry “shover” in the “schoolyard” altercation – Paul – looks like a roly-poly grownup version of Charlie Brown – round head with a reflective sheen to his baldness, tiny pee-hole-in-the-snow-eyes.

I’ve come to know this fellow Paul from short interactions over the previous few months.

I know he’s a troubled guy, despite a usually calm, almost tender voice. A voice really quite soft for a man that likely approaches 250 or so pounds.

And when he speaks it’s with a Donald Trump-like lips-forced-outwards position as if he’s trying to blow kisses while he’s talking.

trump

And like Trump, he’s a guy with dark demons inside.

Paul asked if he could help at the soup kitchen on Christmas day because he didn’t want to be alone and he doesn’t like anyone in his family.

A couple of months back, Paul buttonholed me while I was “bussing” – clearing and cleaning tables after the soup and sandwich and desserts had been consumed by the daily flock.

He – out of nowhere – asked if I had read a book about, or heard of this guy – a serial killer known as the Zodiac Killer.

Ah…. nope …“. I continued to wipe down the table nonchalantly, fearfully worried he might be making a confession.

He continued on, “The Northern California based Zodiac Killer claims he murdered 37 people in the late 1960’s, although police have only confirmed 7. Two of them survived the attacks.”

With each passing word he spoke, his level of animation and fascination grew, his eyes took on a luster of excitement in the telling of his story, his knowledge, his fascination.

For 10 minutes he had me cornered, while he outlined the details of the nasty man and his nastier deeds, how the police had mismanaged the case and had never found the culprit.

I listened as my mind raced in circles to determine if talking about the serial killer was just an academic fascination, or … was there an internal excitement for him, maybe a sexual arousal, almost a desire to be him?

I’m not a trained therapist or student of the mind; I never know who the killer is ahead of time in TV police dramas – I’m just not that capable of reading people.

I don’t know the inner turmoils or traumas that have shaped and affected Paul’s life.

I know he has struggles, I know he feels inner pain from things that have happened.

I also know that every person, every man, every woman, passing in front of the service window where I hand out a sandwich and a bowl of steaming soup has an inner story, a personal struggle.

The folks I see at the soup kitchen are the “Walking Wounded”, the ones whose conflicts have left them too damaged to fully function in our world in a way we would describe as “normal”.

If we repaired their teeth, gave them a shower and some fresh clothing, most of those I encounter at the soup kitchen – at least those who aren’t meth addicts with pockmarked ravaged faces – outwardly, they could be “Us”, you or me.

In amongst our smiles and joys and cheerfulness, small, or sometimes large grey clouds float in and out of our days.

Humanity gives no person, no matter how rich, no matter how famous, no matter how talented, a free pass on troubles.

Really?

Yup. All of us are “Walking Wounded” …

It comes down to degrees.

It comes down to circumstances, strength, attitude and probably the resilience within our genetics.

I was lucky to be born in the 20th Century. I was lucky to be born in affluent North America. I was lucky to be raised within a loving family.

It’s a sunny day in my mind knowing that I’m the one standing on the serving side of the soup kitchen counter.

And it’s REALLY sunny if, after a morning of peeling, dicing and chopping big bags of carrots and onions and celery, I can walk out the Soupateria door … and … because I’m a numbers guy, still count to 8 … oops, sorry … 10 on my fingers.

finger-slice

 

Sweetness in the Springtime … And the Living is Easy …

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sun thru window

There is something strangely delicious in the streaming rays of sun lancing – like blood spurting from a sharp knife wound – through the north-facing window of our bedroom at 5 am.

It’s especially wonderful because like a lunar eclipse, it’s both infrequent and fugitive.

For about a three month window starting in mid-May, the tilt of the earth gives us this bright early morning gift.

I wiggle with a boyish enthusiasm as I jump from my bed, almost as if it was Christmas morning and Santa’s treasures lay bountiful by the sparkling yule tree.

Spurning my more typical half- to full-naked walkabout the house to turn on tea kettles and release sleeping felines from their cozy bedrooms, I pull on some pyjama pants and a t-shirt, slip on the well-worn blue slippers anchored by the bed and dance myself outdoors to take in the heady smells of sweet lilac and pine and any other spring bloomer that happens to be awake and alive …

Fluffy neighbourhood cats, peering at me as if I were a predatory coyote preparing to feast on their flesh, scamper away when they spot me. The chirping of robins, the high-pitched song of the American Goldfinch and the occasional cry of a loon are sweet hymns in the air.

I look upwards and spy a couple of crossing white jet contrails against the azure background, like little frothy whitecaps on Okanagan Lake; a flying tin can filled with sunny vacation dreamers or darker worriers of a dozen kinds.

female-goldfinch

 

You know, I have to jump and take advantage of my excitement and enthusiasm at this time of year … because … if I close my eyes for even just a moment, the days shrink shorter like a man in an icy lake, wrinkled orange leaves drift softly to the ground and I’m left in a colourless, muffled, non-flora scenario.

Even Antonio Vivaldi knew how wonderful spring was when he composed his violin concerto The Four Seasons. Is any piece of music more evocative of springtime or any other season than his masterpiece?  I rest my case.

Of course the other seasons are beautiful in their own right, but they don’t trigger the same spontaneous enthusiasm from my inner core.

It’s a very special excitement mainly because it is so brief. If long, mild spring days lasted throughout the year, would I feel the same zeal, the same excitement that blossoms inside me each bright spring morning? I doubt it.

………………….

The things that are most scarce in our life bring on the strong urge to appreciate and treasure their uniqueness.

Let’s ponder this for a moment.

Those things that are plentiful in our lives we develop a muted response to, we become desensitized … a blasé sense of “it doesn’t really matter much”.

“Larry, I don’t quite get it …”, you say … “Can you give me a few examples?” 

Sure.

Some things most of us have plenty (or too much) of:

  • Food
  • Water
  • Sight
  • Peace
  • Sex
  • Taylor Swift
  • Chocolate
  • Kardashians
  • Selfies

Swift selfie

We take these for granted because they’re always there, especially Taylor Swift and the Kardashians.

We forget that previous eras, earlier generations, struggled for survival in the wilderness and put their lives on the line through famines and wars and childbirth. We all know how that in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.

But we forget the attitude of gratitude. We become desensitized to the wonders of what we have.

Things we often feel short of:

  • Money
  • Time
  • Sex
  • Gratitude
  • Esteem
  • Helium
  • Chocolate
  • Laughter

chocolate laugh

Everyone seems to want the time and money to make their own choices, and yet, most of us work hard and long to pay the monthly bills. And so when the opportunity arises to eat some creamy sweet chocolate after a round of raucous sex, we feel the wonders of play. But if we experience this every day… well… it just becomes a chore that feels onerous and stale. Right?

I know… I know… I can hear you. “Larry… you put CHOCOLATE and SEX on both lists, what’s with that?

The Man on the Fringe knows that we all have different appetites when it comes to sweetness of all kinds … different strokes for different folks. I like to accommodate all tastes in my writing.

………………….

I love and appreciate springtime and then after its brief visit, I lament its passing.

The only thing that keeps me smiling after the daffodils and tulips finish their bloom is knowing, understanding, believing … that the start of another football season will finally bring my Hamilton Tiger Cats a long-delayed Grey Cup in November … close to the shortest day of the year when my springlike dreaming rises again once more.

And then I find my gratitude, realizing that I could have been born a Toronto Maple Leafs’ fan.

I rest my case.

Ticats