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Photographs and Memories Are Silly

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family photo 1960.jpg

You know how you enjoy going through old photo albums and reminiscing about your friends and family and your bizarre hairstyle – and OMG those clothes you were wearing?  Why did your mother let you wear THAT skirt? What the hell were you thinking?

So silly.

I’ve been writing this “Fringe” blog for 7+ years now and after 384 posts, I’ve packed up a suitcase load of words and shared mercilessly.

I’ve filled buckets of seriousness and barrels of silliness… it’s a recipe that kind of sums up life, doesn’t it?

And for anyone who thinks that workplace retirement is a time of total relaxation and leisure, there’s another door you might want to look behind in your own Oz-World that contains a few dozen time-consumers…

Which brings me to this blog post… I have a closet-full of items to be attending to this Canadian Thanksgiving weekend (cutting down monster hedges and music practice and tutoring and meal prep for a large gang) … and so I’ve given myself permission (thank you Larry) to recycle and reuse… no, not my favourite old and well-worn Calvin Klein boxers… nope… today I’m recycling/reposting a blog post from this month 5 years ago.

Speaking of Oz-World, I took in the film JUDY this week… Ms. Garland was trapped in a world of sadness mixed with ecstasy and way too much drugs and alcohol. Perhaps a dose of silliness like I’ve described below would have de-stressed her days a tiny bit… maybe silliness would have allowed Judy to spend a bit more time on this planet amongst us… but alas, she’s over the rainbow now…

On this Canuck Thanksgiving weekend, I hope you find a few moments of silliness to tickle your inner self … cuz, Thanksgiving is… In Your Pants!

 

Silly is … In My Pants

October 4, 2015

PEI Autumn

I’m just beginning to see millions of leaves succumb to their slow, colourful deaths as we pass the fall equinox. It makes dying a beautiful thing.

And it got me to thinking about changes, and seasons, and those things that are predictable in our lives and other things that change and surprise us.

Take the moon for example. We all know that full moons contribute to the “surprise” factor.

Full moons make crazy things happen, things we’d never expect. This past week’s Harvest “Blood” Moon – wasn’t it stunning? – probably had more impact than usual.

Something that surprised me? Maybe it was full moon inspired?

Singer/Songwriter James Taylor got really silly on Jimmy Kimmel’s late night show the other night.

Yup, James Taylor. I love his music but he isn’t normally a silly kind of guy.

“You’ve Got A Friend” and “Fire and Rain” are beautiful, deep, hardly silly songs. He croons serious songs that melt into our hearts and our heads.

Silly? Adding the words, “in my pants…” at the end of each line of Taylor’s music definitely qualifies as silly. ” … But I always thought that I’d see you again… in my pants

So it must have been the moon. Right? Must have been.

Thank you James for reminding me that we all need to be silly sometimes.

Silliness can be an important part of our humanity, our ability to cope when times grow tough. Norman Cousins (Anatomy of an Illness) wrote all about finding humour and laughter in life when confronted with serious pain or illness.

Sometimes I find myself slipping into an earnest seriousness. I have to slap myself on the side of the head to remember to be silly, not to take everything so damned humourlessly. Then I feel better.

Fix the mood and everyone dances like feathers …

There’s a guy who is my age that I work with in the Greek restaurant where I’m a bartender … he’s a server/waiter. Let’s call him Fred.

When everything is calm and quiet, he’s sweet and charming. Full of light humour and smiles. Mr. Congeniality.

But once lineups form at the door, tables in the restaurant fill up, and the hum of activity snarls into a roar, Fred turns into a yelling monstrosity of an animal. He becomes a toddler that only knows “ME“!

It’s like he might just throw himself to the floor and begin crying and stamping his feet unless everyone does everything for him … RIGHT NOW!!

Cosby as Dr. Jeykll

I don’t like Fred much at these moments. His blood pressure readings must be reaching into the clouds way above us.

Later, when customers begin shuffling out of the restaurant, sated and satisfied and a teensy bit tipsy from the delicious libations I’ve poured, Fred sloughs off his nasty mask and returns to his “resting pulse” rate of friendly and charming.

He’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with a serving tray and a menu pad.

I can’t blame the moon for Fred’s tantrums. This is his normal reaction, the way he copes when stress begins to pile on.

I feel badly for him and badly for those around him who have to do their jobs despite his vile behaviour. Fred should try singing, “… in my pants“.

But let me tell you about another server I work with – let’s call him Mark – somewhat younger, who always finds a way to laugh and giggle through the busiest times.

He’s smart and good at his job, just like Fred, but Mark always finds a way to stay calm and goofy.

Mark gets the same work accomplished as Fred but everyone around him is more relaxed and smiley as he does his thing.

Mark works two jobs most days and is on his feet for hours and hours at a time, always with a smile and a goofy laugh. I like working with and being around Mark. He makes me calmer and sillier.

We all have our own unique personalities and ways of coping when things turn tough. It’s hard to smile sometimes.

I know I can stress out and get tense and humourless.

But I’m trying really hard to find the silliness, the humour in every situation. Really good or really bad.

Humour is like air … you can’t always see it with your eyes but it’s blowing and floating around us, helping us survive the tough stuff.

Maybe humour is like a religious tonic for non-believers, soothing us when times get rough, a bridge over troubled waters.

When things get busy in the restaurant this evening … while Fred is flailing disruptively, I figure Mark and I will be hearing “…in my pants” dancing in our heads.

... in my pants ... and I ain't afraid to show it ...

 

Where Do Your Random Thoughts Lie?

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lookng stupid

Me at 3:30 am…

The brain/mind is like an involuntary muscle – the heart, the lungs – it doesn’t shut down when we sit down, lay out, sleep.

It merely shifts into another gear (often overdrive) and happily/miserably purrs along without our assistance.

This is a great thing when we need answers or reflection, practice or emotional intelligence… not so fabulous when we need a mental rest from the things that worry and bother us.

And so… Welcome to my Stranger Things mind on this early autumn’ish day.

Sleep used to be a surefire thing, then kids came along, then age crept up … and now it’s a Vegas crap-shoot…. what will I get tonight? Snake Eyes… *WTF*… or… Bingo… Lucky 8!

Yes, the following Sunday morning random thoughts have set up house inside me, coursing like a spring freshet creek through this mind and body that have decided sleep is an over-hyped marketing concept brought to us by Sandoz.

Let’s get started, shall we?

  • Is it true that people who drink their coffee black are more likely to exhibit psychopathic traits? Or am I merely rationalizing my smooth, creamy latte with artificial sweetener habit?
  • Don’t you hate it when you can’t understand your own language when spoken by someone with a strong accent? I’ve tried watching Derry Girls on Netflix (such a cute show) and struggle to understand 1/4 of the heavily-accented Irish tongue.
  • If people make you sick, maybe you should cook them longer. And no exotic spicing combination will ever make the A**holes in our lives taste yummy. Do these comments make you think I’ve had one too many cups of black coffee?
  • Why do I pick living worms off the road and throw them back into the grass but step on spiders in my house? And why have we munched down billions of cows and pigs for God-knows how long, but step back in shock and horror at the idea of eating a horse, a dog, or a guinea pig?
  • I’ve felt handcuffs on my wrist twice in my life… does this make me a criminal or a sex addict?

IMG_1866

  • It was totally normal for everyone to get measles when I was a kid, and now it’s a deranged serial-killer lurking everywhere. When will the common cold become Public Enemy #1?
  • How has humanity come so far to construct 100+ story skyscrapers that can withstand hurricane and tornado-force winds and yet thousands die in one story huts on small southern islands?
  • If we’re so righteous and worried about global warming and overuse of earth’s resources, why do so many people have monster RV’s towing Jeeps behind with a motorcycle attached? Turduckens on wheels!
  • Going to sleep each night is like rebooting your computer… you get a fresh reset that starts your program day and then hours later it’s filled with gobbledygook and junk files that need to be trashed.
  • Are the secret people on the moon and Mars hiding from us because we’re invading aliens? Do they make Sci-Fi movies about gross-looking Earthlings?
  • If I enjoy reading so much, why do I always nod off after 10 minutes of reading a book I really like? Years back, I’d easily read a page-turner in a few days or a week… now it consumes a month or two… or more.
  • What god would take away the hair I like on my body and re-sprout it in other weird locations where I just shave it off?
  • Is the meaning of life feeling guilty for everything I do, eat and say? A banana is good for my health… but they burned down a forest to grow it, abused children to pick it, and consumed a ton of fossil fuels to ship it to me… *arggggh* … will history judge me harshly for my peanut butter and banana sandwiches?
  • I still don’t understand the attraction for women to the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon… I try to put myself in feminine shoes to come to grips but I’m clearly not Cinderella, cuz they never fit.
  • 1960-1970 went on forevvvvver…. 2010- almost 2020 took 5 hours.
  • Donald Trump must be God because he can do or say anything and still he’s omnipotent. All his lesser disciples crumble and tumble to their smelly graves but he is politically immortal. I’m waiting for the first subpoenas, but it seems more and more likely hymns are in the works… “Lying in the Rock of Ages” ?

……………..

  • And one final random thought … if there is such a thing as reincarnation, for sure I’ll never be able to come back as Mother Teresa (my lack of religious belief and all)… but maybe I could return as Joan Baez, an angel for the less fortunate, equipped with a great guitar and singing voice. I’d live on as Diamonds and Rust...

Joan Baez

Good Grief: Are You Shitting Me?

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lucky shit

Damn… I’m … We’re … Lucky.

No shit!

Today, in 2019, we don’t die from diabetes (immediately) or childbirth or smallpox as much.

Diphtheria, TB, cholera, syphilis? Not a whole lot.

A whole pile of diseases and conditions to which we had little choice in the matter (Type 2 diabetes aside) don’t typically ravage families and communities they way they once did.

Who gets scurvy anymore? Rickets? Plumber’s butt?

Sure, we’re lucky. But I’m still scared you know. I’m not resting on Easy Street.

There are a million diseases that can ruin our lives today; we have a long list of conditions that continue to stymie our ability to diagnose and treat effectively. Which brings us to….

*drumroll*

Medical scientists and researchers are starting to put other people’s shit inside of us to make us feel better.

Stool transplants.

Dumpster diving in reverse. Shit surrogacy?

stool syringes

The medical community is dressing it all up in formal evening wear by relabelling fecal transplantation as bacteriotherapy or fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT).

What moron thought up this idea? A bunch of pre-med frat boys on an overnight bender? Hey Pete, instead of smoking the hell out of these doobies, why don’t we hook up a tube between our assholes and exchange some real shit?

Nope, it began long before stoned college dudes.

Fecal transplants originated in ancient Chinese medicine more than 1,700 years ago. In those good ole days, this involved drinking a liquid suspension of another person’s feces — umm, no thanks? I’ll stick with chocolate ice cream milkshakes please.

The consumption of “fresh, warm camel feces” has also been recommended by Bedouins as a remedy for bacterial dysentery. Umm… did I mention NO THANKS?

The first use of faecal transplants in western medicine was published in 1958 by a team of surgeons from Colorado, who treated four critically ill people with severe pseudomembranous colitis (before C. difficile was the known cause) using faecal enemas, which resulted in a rapid return to health.

……………..

But why would I want your shit? Isn’t that what sewage treatment plants are for?

According to the Wikipedia gods:

Stool transplant, is the process of transplantation of fecal bacteria from a healthy individual into a recipient; it involves restoration of the colonic microflora by introducing healthy bacterial flora through infusion of stool, e.g. via colonoscopy, enema, orogastric tube or by mouth in the form of a capsule containing freeze-dried material, obtained from a healthy donor.

The effectiveness of stool transplantation has been seen in clinical trials for the treatment of Clostridium difficile (CDI) infection, whose effects can range from diarrhea to pseudomembranous colitis.

Due to an epidemic of Clostridium difficile in North America and Europe, faecal transplant has gained increasing prominence, with some experts calling for it to become first-line therapy for CDI.

In 2013 a randomized, controlled trial of stool transplant from healthy donors showed it to be highly effective in treating recurrent C. difficile in adults, and more effective than vancomycin alone.

Faecal transplant has been used experimentally to treat other gastrointestinal diseases, including colitis, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, and neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s.

In the United States, human feces has been regulated as an experimental drug since 2013.

poop transplant

The authors of a 2016 review suggested that fecal transplants may eventually treat additional conditions such as:

  • diabetes
  • chronic fatigue syndrome
  • fibromyalgia
  • obesity
  • mood disorders, such as depression
  • nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
  • hay fever
  • arthritis
  • asthma
  • eczema

Nice … I’m ?happy? … but you can’t just shove someone else’s faeces inside of me and expect me to smile and say thank you very much.

Faecal transplants are NOT on my Flavour of the Month list.

OK, maybe if I transplant the faecal matter of someone handsome and charismatic, it could make a beautiful difference in my life. I could be Tom Cruise or Chris Hemsworth … but no, I don’t want to be a Scientologist or speak with an Australian accent.

I’ll happily take your heart or lungs or kidney (but only if you decide you don’t need them anymore), but keep your own damn poop, OK?

In my lab career, I poked around in thousands and thousands of others’ multi-hued, multi-textured night soil… I could write a fabulous Dr. Seuss book called Oh, The Doo-Doo I’ve Seen. 

I’ve carried my own shit around for … well … a lot of years.

But, if you think – all of a sudden – that I want to carry yours around inside of me for the foreseeable future…

well…

YOU are full of ………….

 

dog poop

I’m Marvellous, Almost Mrs. Maisel Marvellous

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Mrs Maisel 2

I love Mrs. Maisel.

She’s Marvellous, don’t you think?

You know who I’m talking about, right? That Amazon-Prime-lady Rachel Brosnahan who plays a young, separated Jewish mom in 1958 New York City.

She works a department store gig by day and then hits the nightclub stand-up stage most evenings.

Her comedy routine on stage is a bit like watching Seinfeld … actually, I think she is Jerry Seinfeld in a dress. Master of her own domain…

Mrs. Maisel (“Midge”) blathers on about her day’s routines and the crazy things her parents say or her ex-husband does, but in a charming and funny, occasionally profane, way. Snapshots of nothing and everything all at the same time.

The dialogue for the show is reminiscent of watching anything written by Aaron Sorkin (yeah, I’m a fan boy of his) … The West Wing, The Social Network, A Few Good Men, Moneyball … or Nora Ephron (yeah, I’m a groupie of her’s too)… Sleepless in Seattle, When Harry Met Sally.

The creator/writer/director for The Marvellous Mrs. Maisel is the marvellous herself Amy Sherman-Palladino who in years past created The Gilmore Girls.

It takes incredible talent to write comedy, sharp, and fast, but there is always humanity and emotion too. Comedy is best when it shoots an arrow to the heart sometimes. Tears and laughter are fine bedfellows.

Her rapid-fire, witty dialogue requires your strict attention because the fun lines zip by so rapidly.

But truly, I love Mrs. Maisel mainly because I’m very different (yes, she is much cuter than me) from her.

I could never be a stand-up comic. I would SUCK!

stand up comic

How does someone stand at a microphone for 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes … an hour … and relate stories, tell jokes… sometimes rehearsed, often improvised on the spot? I can’t riff a good knee-slapper about the underwear I’m wearing (or not!) today even if my life depends on it (get it… DEPENDS!.. OMG, there’s hope for me).

Nope, that’s not me. I’m not so marvellous at that stuff.

I struggle to remember the lyrics for a 3 minute song I’m playing. I can’t remember your name within 10 milliseconds of our introduction.

But I can give a prepared speech in fine fashion (or so I think). Why?

Why thanks for asking.

I write these blog posts (kind of like a prepared speech) because I can ruminate – like a cow chewing its cud in the pasture – over my words for hours, days if necessary. And I do.

I even write amazingly erudite paragraphs in my night-dreams, and the day I can remember them when I awake, I can die happy, although I don’t think I’ll be happy when I die, but who knows, do you? And there I go talking like Mrs. Maisel …

The pairing of supreme writing and verbal skills are like oil and water, pasta and sushi, forks and power outlets, my testicles and a sharp knee jab… you get the gist. Not an easy combination. Most of us channel the muse in one OR the other, if we’re lucky.

Verbally I stumble and stammer and look befuddled like Robert Mueller… oy vay, don’t get me started.

With writing, I can parse and edit … edit and parse … so that I come up with a (hopefully) well thought-out and comprehensible phrase or two.

The delay I get in writing (like the 7 second TV broadcast delay) helps me avoid the quicksand that my lack of filters (of which I’m constantly reminded!), sadistically, maniacally, tosses me into without my really trying.

And so Mrs. Maisel… I humbly bow to your skill-set, your humour, your smiles, your bravery in a man’s world… perhaps Aaron Sorkin wrote deftly about A Few Good Men …  but Amy Sherman-Palladino? … you’ve nailed it here with One Good Woman.

Brava!

DSC00208.ARW

8 Things That Probably Mean You’re Not Canadian … Sorry, Eh?

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Mountie moose

O CANADA our home and native land ….

Wait a minute… I can’t hear you singing!!

OK… perhaps you prefer O say can you see … or… Allons enfants de la Patrie, perhaps God save our gracious Queen … all are uplifting.

A few days before the Trump’ster blurts something bombastic and self-serving and frankly stupid in front of the Lincoln Memorial next Thursday … Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will stand before the citizens of the True North of North America and remind us with some eloquence of what makes a Canadian… well… Canadian.

Yes, Monday is Canada’s 152nd Birthday. A baby in global terms…

What Trudeau says won’t please every citizen of the land, because the nature of a diverse country shaped in a multicultural kaleidoscope of skin tones and religious and gender leanings, is that there will be disagreements and philosophical variations …

… but for the most part, Justin will speak in terms and pictures that will make most of us proud to carry the Maple Leaf passport.

Sure, there are things that annoy and anger me about my homeland. As a country we’ve committed our fair share of sins, just ask the Indigenous folks who have lived here for millennia …

And to be clear I’m not a raging fan of nationalistic pride… I am a greater fan of a global community where the goal is to achieve a more or less equivalency of living standard for all folks.

It’s kind of corny and in some ways naive, but I’d rather live a positive dream, than wall off others in fear of what I might lose by their prospering.

Nonetheless, I’m greatly fortunate and appreciative of the hand-up I was given at my birth to springboard out into a huge country of great wealth and freedom to shape my own destiny.

So, are you ready to find out if YOU are…

CANADIAN? YES or NO?

Trudeau.jpeg

Just to be clear, not everyone can be a Canadian.

But if you think YOU might be a Canadian, read through the following list of 8 for either confirmation or denial.

 

  1. If you haven’t said “sorry” at least 3-4 times in the past 24 hours, you’re definitely NOT a Canadian. Canadians apologize for talking, for walking, for breathing… we say “sorry” instead of prayers when we go to bed at night … it’s in our DNA … I’m sorry but that’s just the way it is.
  2. If you say “Aboot” instead of “Abowt”, you are NOT Canadian. I know this bucks the accepted norm that others outside of Canada believe. To be fair, the occasional stand-up Newfoundlander might be heard uttering ABOOT, but it gets lost in the mist of the Atlantic Ocean. To be clear, this pronunciation guide does not carry over to the word “route” which may be spoken as “ROOT” or “ROWT”, either can be accepted within the Canadian vernacular.
  3. If you popped a beautiful bouncing bundle of new life in recent memory and reluctantly went back to the salt mines to pay for your groceries after a mere 3 weeks or 3 months, you’re NOT Canadian. Canadian maternity leave is a year long for those who can manage it … Employment Insurance pays Mommies and Daddies to look after their little Sweeties (for a while anyways).
  4. If you can’t recognize a flag with a red maple leaf as its emblem, you’re NOT Canadian. Canada has the coolest, most recognizable flag… who the heck couldn’t know that a big red Maple Leaf represents Canada? OK, I’d have preferred blue bars (instead of red) on either side and a blue stripe across the top to represent the 3 oceans on our borders, but Canada is about compromise, I can happily live with all red.
  5. If you pay a monthly premium for health coverage with co-pays and deductibles, or struggle to buy expensive drug treatments, you’re NOT Canadian. It’s cliched, but as I listen to Democratic debates south of the border, I appreciate all the more that even without a perfect health care system in this country, there aren’t multitudes of bankruptcies and families destroyed by lack of adequate health care.
  6. If you reject the notion of helping the world’s desperate and downtrodden, you’re NOT Canadian. Canada accepted the most refugees of any country last year … The UNHCR’s annual global trends report shows that Canada took in 28,100 of the 92,400 refugees who were resettled in 25 countries during 2018. This is very meaningful to me in my role as a tutor to a young Syrian refugee brought to this country in 2016.
  7. If you detest the notion of same-sex marriage or the freedom of choice for women to decide what can or can’t be done to their own bodies, then perhaps you’re NOT Canadian. Yes, and even marijuana is legal now… the True North is strongly high and free…
  8. If you don’t like the taste of clam juice mixed with tomato juice and vodka, then you are likely NOT Canadian. We drink this strange mixture in abundance and think it tastes good, also… we put “u” in the middle of words for no good reason, we say “eh” all the time, pronounce “z” as “ZED” and lieutenant as “leftenant”, sometimes we wear shorts in the dead of winter, we don’t own handguns or assault weapons, we call our money “loonie” and “toonie”, we eat Kraft Dinner like it’s the National dish, and we pick up our morning coffee at “Timmies” like it’s a citizenship requirement.

So, did you qualify to be Canadian?

If not, I’m SORRY, but don’t fret.

And don’t give up.

Work hard and try again next year. Canadians believe in second chances, eh ? …

Happy Birthday Canada

birthday cake.jpg

A Square Peg… Or How I Started As A Wine Virgin

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funny wine

Mmmmmm… nice overtones of peach and grapefruity citrus with a strong acidic finish and a light touch of oakiness.

Yes… a pretentious yet sensitive wine with a sunny hint of snot, clown tears, and liquid viagra. Great with roadkill or Cap’n Crunch.

The wine world is viewed by a lot of people as a mixed word salad of pompous ostentation.

Pinot Meunier, Reisling, Cabernet Merlot, Chardonnay. Still or frizzante. White, red or rose.

For someone who doesn’t drink much booze, the demon drink has been a prominent part of my life for the past 5 years since I hung up my laboratory petri dishes… a new set of chemicals (ethyl alcohol) and microorganisms (yeasts) has displaced the E. coli’s and Salmonellas that I sniffed and puzzled over for more than 3 decades.

Each of the past 4 summers I’ve mixed and poured my heart out, bartending a couple of nights a week at a local Greek restaurant. Martinis, Margaritas and Sangrias were my stock in trade.

I thrived on the enthusiasm and fast pace – the steady flow of staff and patrons that cascaded life right back at me. Bartending has a certain scent of glamour and mystery I love.

However, for a guy who routinely wakes up each morning ready to fly (or spin or HIIT) at 4:30 or 5:00 am, concocting colourful umbrella-festooned drinks at 9:00 or 10:00 PM, well… it’s not the very best collaboration conceived.

Be Best.

Thanks Melania… my best is early in the day which makes my new summer job a “best” fit.

Living in Canada’s Okanagan Valley today means an exposure to grapes on just about every hillside… we’ve become a pint-sized version of Napa or Sonoma,  Mosel or Reine, Loire or Bordeaux, Tuscany or Collabria, Coonawarra or Kangaroo Island.

So this summer, I’ve decided to hang up my evening bartender’s apron and try on a daytime sommelier’s cape.

Signing on for a couple of mornings each week at a winery 5 minutes walk down my road is just the fresh breath I need.

8th Gen wines 2

My morning role is minimal – I set up and send boxes of wine to restaurants and wine club members who receive regular shipments of the fermented juice.

And when (if) my time allows I’ll set up shop at the counter of the tasting room and pour out mini-sips of liquid and words of wine wisdom to the visitors passing through.

But back to the jargon of wine country.

The other night, for a few hours, I and the entire crew of wine hosts (perhaps 12 of us) sat and quaffed our friendly owner/vintner’s full line of libations. Being paid to drink and eat is hard work!

Like car salespeople, we were test-driving the vinos on offer to the local and tourist throngs that flock to this region in the summertime.

Of course I’m new to this world. A square peg in a round hole. A virgin in disguise as a well-oiled call boy.

The other hosts/sippers have mostly completed college and university courses that detail the importance of terroir (terror?), the crush (schoolyard romance?), the malolactic fermentation (marshmallow what?).

The table was covered tip to tail with long-stemmed and tumbler-style glassware of different sizes and conformations. In front of me I counted 5 unique sipping vessels.

I immediately displayed my impeccable knowledge-base of the fermented grape by sloshing a generous spurt of water into the Cabernet Merlot tumbler. Oops! Nothing to see over here folks…

The wine was skilfully poured by our smiling hosts (the wife and husband owners) and with each sip we were served an encyclopedic description of where it was grown in the valley, the soil type, the micro-climate, the time of picking, crush method, fermentation approach …. and on and on … did I mention… on?

Yes, it was overwhelming for this neophyte. Fascinating, but overwhelming.

8th gen vineyard.jpg

The descriptor word salads were sashayed forth in great abundance and splendour… yada yada yada

I smiled, and in contrast to my younger years when I would have blushed and tried desperately to fit in, I didn’t make any attempt at looking remotely intelligent (like the others).

I didn’t even verbalize any (not one) erudite comments that displayed my astounding breadth of knowledge as a oenologist. This is good and oh, this one’s yummy maybe wouldn’t have added to the mastery and understanding of the gathering.

I came, I sipped, I listened. And I enjoyed. You translate that into Latin!

I fit in like the paparazzi observing a special event, recording and enjoying but also realizing that I’m not (yet anyway) a true part of the world of this vintage group.

The good news is that no one made me feel lesser for my “virginity”. The warmth of the evening and the people I shared it with was a tasty introduction to my new “chemical” society.

Afterwards I shuffled (straight, mostly) home and whispered quietly into the cool night air and stars above … Cheers… Salud… Prost… Gun Bae… Santé…

cheers

 

Trivial Pursuits… Ken vs James … A David and Goliath Moment?

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Jennings and Holzhauer

… In the red corner, checking in at 162.5 pounds, soaking wet … undisputed champion and winner in 74 rounds of nerdish intellectual battle …

Kennnnnn Jennings (and the crowd roars…)

 

… and in the blue corner, weighing 165 pounds… the up and coming contender, the king killer from Las Vegas, Nevada…

Jamesssss Holzhauer (another sizable roar…)

JEOPARDY

The regal sport of trivia nerds and Alex Trebek groupies.

If you’re of a certain age… you might remember when Muhammad Ali was at his peak of boxing perfection and popularity. Everyone oohed and ahhhed when he’d “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” in the ring. He was brash, loud and seemingly invincible.

In 1969, some promoter dude concocted a “reality show” where he spliced together a fictional dream boxing match, titled The Super Fight, between 2 undefeated pugilists from different eras – Ali (31-0) and Rocky Marciano (49-0).

At the time, Ali and Marciano were the only undefeated heavyweight champions in history and fans often debated who would win had they met in their primes. Ali and Marciano were filmed sparring for 75 one-minute rounds producing several possible scenarios for a genuine fight, with the result claimed to have been determined using probability formulas entered into a computer.

Who won? Drum roll….. sorry … no spoiler alerts here…. head to the GOOGLE for your answer.

ali-marciano.jpg

And today, we could see another Super Fight, a match of kings-at-their-trade with Trebek in his role as the referee.

It’s been 15 years since Ken Jennings packed his big punches while James Holzhauer (at this writing), remains on a roll like a hot bettor at the craps table in Vegas.

Jennings and Holzhauer are freaks of trivia nature. The hard drives inside their heads are multiple times larger than 99% of us. Their ability to retain gigs of data, access it quickly, and then skilfully out-click all of their opponents consistently is … well … mind boggling.

So, for those of us who enjoy the sport of watching excellence vs excellence in any arena, a pitched match between these 2 trivia superheroes might be just the thing to take our minds away from the 10,000 lies and Congressional hearings and Venezuelan coups.

OK, it may not attract the feverish crowds that slurp at the trough of Game of Thrones or Avengers: End Game and their huge markets of physical battle-related contests and the endless speculation of who will be having sex in next week’s episode.

I’ve yet to see anyone naked on Jeopardy, much less have a sexual encounter, but intellect can be sexy, don’t you think? Ohhhh hunny, it makes me so hot when you know the capital of Lithuania…

I admit that I’m a Jeopardy fan… a trivia nerd if you will.

I shout out my answers (sorry, questions) at the TV with no buzzer button to handicap my responses. I play my Walter Mitty part and accept Alex Trebek’s congratulatory handshake at the end of the episode.

I’ve dreamed of becoming a contestant – to match wits and tidbits of esoteric info that float through my head.

Yes, I even took the online qualifying test, but alas, have never heard back.

I harbour no illusions that I would ever make a close battle with James Holzhauer… the friendly, little daughter-loving, quiet but clever-spoken whiz kid.

I’m just hoping for a Super Fight between old master Ken and young grasshopper James.

And the winner is … Who is Sean Connery? No, I mean Turd Ferguson….

Nope, these days it’s always James Holzhauer.

Funny Jeopardy.jpg

 

 

 

 

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

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unhappy chocolate

 

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

Has everything become verboten?

Everyone should have the liberty of free choice.

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

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

But.

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

FOOD.

Yes, glorious food. I love food.

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

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

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

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

.

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

………………………….

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

.………………………….

.

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

I’ll get there soon, OK?

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

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

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

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

cooking garbage

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vive la liberté!

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

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

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

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

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

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

cooking dog.jpg

Let Them Eat Cake… What Are Your Positive Addictions?

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Marie Antoinette

Marie Antoinette:

Qu’ils mangent de la brioche”

 

As it turns out, Madame Marie likely never spoke those words, but nevertheless… I would so love to eat cake every meal of every day.

My dream world consists of one food group … SUGAR!

Cinnamon Buns and Black Forest Cake for breakfast.

Key Lime Cheesecake and Matrimonial Square for lunch.

Bakewell Tart and Boston Cream Pie for dinner.

Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut Bar as Evening Snack.

The perfect diet for the perfect day.

Fool! Wake up Larry! That’s not the perfect diet for the perfect (long) life.

I know YOU’RE perfect, but I’m not … there’s an addict… a Sugar Monster inside me (maybe I could sell him to Sesame Street).

Cookie monster.jpg

Damn… we live in a world of honeyed riches for the not-so-rich Mr. Average. This is a thick problem for this not-so-thin Monsieur.

How many types of sugary sweetness are there and why am I so magnetically drawn to each of them?

How many sensuously slinky saccharine seductresses sway and dance before my eyes before my mouth must take them in?

If anyone in this world deserves Type 2 diabetes, it’s me.

I tell myself that if I only exercise like crazy 5, 6, 7 times each week and somehow sweat sufficiently to keep my weight below 200 pounds, then I’m immune from the ravages of modern metabolic syndrome.

Yeah, it’s probably a delusion … a childhood imaginary friend that is invisible, especially to me. Addictions hide out in the open like the glasses we’ve lost on the top of our head.

We all have blinders on don’t we? Somewhere in our lives?

There are harmful addictions galore in this world of fallible humanity. Alcohol, drugs, sex, smoking, gambling… sugar.

We always talk about the harmful addictions. We should talk about harmful addictions and the pain they germinate.

I freely confess to my sugar addiction … but you know … I also confess to a slew of beneficial addictions.

Maybe sometimes… no … often… we need to look at our half-full cup and remind ourselves that despite our failures, our weakness, our fallible selves… we also contain a cornucopia of goodness that doesn’t necessitate a daily or weekly visit to a 12-step meeting.

…….. POSITIVE ADDICTIONS ……..

I hold inside myself the nuggets of addictive behaviour that cause me to lace up running shoes and hit the sweaty streets or gym … I make special meals to celebrate others… I share the education I was so generously afforded with others who weren’t given those same opportunities to learn… I study and practice music so that I can share moments of musical joy with my self and with others … and more.

I know these are addictions because I feel the edgy withdrawal effects when they’re absent from my life.

I feel like a lesser being when a week passes and I haven’t felt my heart rate hit 150. I sense a loss in the world if a family member’s birthday goes by and I haven’t taken the opportunity to carry a candle-laden cake to place in front of them and share in the joy of their life’s passage. Positive addictions.

When we offer our time or energy to anything that makes a day better for ourselves or another, we’ve succeeded.

We’re all boats out on a foggy night … sometimes the best we can do is shine a flashlight on the brilliant parts of ourselves that reflect that light and allow the darkness to remain in the shadows.

My tummy is rumbling … all this optimistic thinking is making me think of … oh yeah … CAKE!!!!

Positive addiction

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

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