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8 Things I’ve Learned At Age 60+

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Lincoln with man bun.jpg

I’m how old? Get the f*** out… can’t be…

Or…. can it?

What’s that Serenity Prayer thing about “having the wisdom to accept what you cannot change…“, yeah, my age qualifies under that…

Socrates said, “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”

Socrates was a clever man, but I’m not buying into his philosophical ditty there…

I know lots, but I also have the wisdom to know that I have a ton to learn…

I have so much to learn… my days may wither and shrivel on the vine, and still, I’ll never really truly know if a God exists (although I’m pretty heavily invested in Stephen Hawking’s NO side) … how to fold a fitted sheet… why women have to bleed every month just for the pleasure of having children… why McDonalds doesn’t sell hot dogs… or… if chocolate comes from a bean, how come it’s not in the vegetable group?

But still, I DO know lots. I’ve survived to this point through the school of hard knocks and picked up a few valuable tutorials along the tortuous passageway of years. I’ve come a long way from, “Larry, don’t touch the iron with your hand.” “Yes, Mommy.

I’m not an expert, just an observer and sifter. I sift and I weigh, I ponder and I sift some more. Then I make my conclusion which usually sits in a grey zone. Maybe that’s why my hair’s gone grey – the older I become the more grey zones that inhabit my inner space. Like right now … I can’t decide who to vote for in today’s municipal election.

voting ballot

But this doesn’t stop me from sharing my siftings anyway… sucks to be you, eh?

A few points that stand out for me in my continuous lifelong education? Try these:

    1. Don’t stop even if it hurts (a little). If you’re on the right track: physically, educationally, personally… don’t bail because things hurt a little. Perseverance and persistence are hallmarks of success in any endeavour. The price of this improvement often involves a modicum of pain… my body usually moans an achy-breaky ballad after a long run, my fingers are sore and dripping blood (just kidding) after a productive practice session on guitar.
    2. Be responsible for your own finances. No one cares about your financial health today and tomorrow with the same intensity as you. Don’t buy into something with your hard-earned and saved capital unless you understand it and its risks well. Market makers love to yell FIRE even when there’s barely the hint of smoke in the air. So when the market yells FIRE, don’t run for the exits. The one true time to run when it comes to investing and markets is when you hear the term, hot tip... HOT TIP = FAKE NEWS 90% of the time.
    3. Discipline is key. OK, it’s bloody cliche’ish but the way to get better at something you love is to do it, over and over, then over again, practice (with intent) like crazy… put in the 10,000 hours, the 1,000 hours. Your inner happiness soars when you do something you never believed possible. Do the tough stuff first, then relax.
    4. People need to be complimented. The world is full of walking wounded – I see this constantly when I’m bartending at the Greek restaurant, or dicing and chopping at the soup kitchen. People’s inner voices dwell on the negative about themselves so often, but we can give a great gift to anyone. Remind your family members, friends, and even minor acquaintances of what they’re good at, what makes them special. I was a Microbiologist in my lab career, dwelling on the tiny points of life… nowadays I’m drilling in on the personal micro level… there are those who like to be acknowledged and recognized on the grand stage – the macro- and still others that prefer privacy and humbly favour a micro acknowledgement… I’m trying to live like a Microbiologist in my personal relations today. Simple e-mail notes of recognition or appreciation can be huge in a person’s day. I try to do a least a couple of these each week.
    5. Forget who you think you are or were. Don’t become trapped in a vision of “you” that was created when you were 20, or 30, or 40. Orange may be the new black and you may be the new “________” (you fill in the blanks). Letting the preconceived notions and concepts that have been drilled into us by our family, friends, and society shouldn’t prevent us from reinventing, reimagining who we are and can be. A scientist’s occupational life doesn’t rule out an artistic vision in later years. A bean counter can find rejuvenation in bean cooking. Throw the gates open and allow new ideas to filter through.  Kudos to Val who now fundraises for the Sally Ann, Jim who grows his own medicinal herb garden, Betty who tutors a young El Salvadorian woman, Chris who runs from soup kitchen cooking – to Critteraid – to Okanagan Gleaners that prepare and send dried soup mixes around the world. All new life episodes.
    6. Don’t complain, whine and bitch. For God’s sake, take responsibility. Your life is yours and no one else’s. The hardships (and successes too) are what make us stronger and more flexible and understanding and compassionate. Complaining breeds anger and distrust. Whining holds us back from taking the positive steps to improve and move forward. Bitching, well, bitching is mere manure oozing out of an angry, frustrated mind.
    7. Be a mentor and an intern. Help others along their path. Share your wisdom and expertise (with permission) with those who will listen gratefully. At the same time, drop your own ego and allow others to help you along your path. Both giving, and receiving wisdom and knowledge are gifts.
    8. Google is in my head. I’m getting older and my “hard drive” (in my head, not my pants!) is overstuffed like Grandpa’s armchair, which means it takes longer to access names and numbers and Jeopardy answers. But the beauty lies in letting my subconscious do its thing and find answers in its own time. When I relax and allow my mind to process, answers are magically floated to the surface. Google may be the fast food of today’s world, but my slow food is far more satisfying.

Keep learning and growing… after all the Serenity Prayer also says, “grant me the courage to change the things I can.“… that includes ourselves… one day I may even learn how to fold that *&^$% fitted sheet!… ah hell, maybe I’ll Google it!

google is my brain

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I Like To Nap… So Sue Me… Positive Addictions.

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nap time.jpg

True story …

I spend a lot more time napping and less time reading the news now than before.

Addiction Confession: I used to be a Globe & Mail’aholic and I still consume too much CNN and Chocolate!

I know that Brett Kavanaugh is huge in the news, but what can I do other than watch the children give each other bloody noses in the government schoolyard? Will my observing make a change? I think not.

I know that Trump thinks that Canada and Justin Trudeau are being nasty and unfair in trade negotiations … SAD… (boo hoo donald… you don’t even deserve to be capitalized a**hole). Will my opinions be the butterfly-wing flapping that miraculously changes the tide of trade? I think not.

I know that drinking lots of lattes will/won’t give me cancer, heart disease, impotence, flatulence, and the inherent ability to speak Italiano. Will quaffing less caffeine improve my quality and quantity of life? I think not.

I know that my Hamilton Tiger Cats football team (BTW, the Tiger Cats were a “question” to a Jeopardy answer this week!) will struggle to win their game against BC this weekend, but will my cheers tip the scale in their favour? OK, on this one I think I can have a positive effect! (Last minute UPDATE: Hamilton 40 – BC 10… I’m right!)

Chocolate and Tiger Cats are addictions that will sizzle along with me as they slide my chilled corpse into the crematorium chamber.

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Football AND chocolate donut… OMG!!

The point I’m going after this morning – and I think I do have a point – is the old “don’t read/watch the news” … be the one to “create the news“.

News noun vs News verb.

I’ll never write AI code. I’ll never run a successful entrepreneurial company. I’ll never win an Olympic medal. I’ll never cure Ebola or Irritable Bowel Disease.

But that doesn’t mean I, nor you, should despair. Nope.

A human being’s success isn’t always measured in the millions or billions, like McDonalds’ hamburgers. One or two great burgers can be life changing.

A lot of our personal victories can be counted on our fingers and toes. A lot of success needs a telescope or microscope to recognize.

Creating the news can be a small-scale operation like those mini-loans operations in Third World countries that give women opportunities to be courageous and self-sufficient.

Saving … improving… the world can be intimidating. It looks like too big a bite for most of us “non-lions”. It’s like a huge tsunami wave coming at you, perhaps a giant skyscraper tumbling over you, crashing in a monstrous wave.

Disaster.

But step away, go a kilometre or two inland and that terrifying tsunami shrinks into a gentle manageable wave that pushes and tugs at our fragile knees and toes but allows us to stay upright and do the job we want to accomplish … to stand and be counted as making something happen.

To be the news verb and not the news noun.

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Did I mention naps?

Can naps be labelled an addiction?

People get confused when I say “I need a nap“. They think I’m hip and 21st century-cool saying, “I need an app“. But I’m not cool.

Doesn’t matter. Naps are an important part of my “create the news” plan.

Sleep is my creative bliss time… I often do more productivity-wise with my eyes closed than open.

Sleep and nap time are where the old sub-conscious puts on its big boy pants and goes to work.

The challenges of navigation through difficult music passages, new blog ideas, personality frictions, altered approaches to tutoring… they all hatch on the nap front.

All of the thought and planning personnel needed to make good stuff happen for me is sitting down restlessly, yet patiently waiting… patiently waiting in the inner office of my mind.

They’re sipping lattes, eating donuts and cinnamon buns – where’s the fresh fruit? – and chattering quietly but the meeting hasn’t been called to order yet.

At this point, I stand up and leave the room (nap).

They don’t appreciate me watching over them, so I happily vacate the space and away they go. Suddenly, the buzz in the room takes on a spirited youthful energy and life as the zzzz‘s emanating from me in the outer office increase in intensity.

Twenty minutes or half an hour later, I stir back to the surface, wipe away the sloppy drool at the corner of my mouth, then open the office door.

I rub my eyes as my faithful representative at the adjourned meeting gives me a synopsis and plan based on the group’s deliberations.

Answers and remedies and focussed ideas flow on broad rivers that were filled as I snored. BEAUTY!

It’s a pretty great day when not only can news be a verb in our lives, but so too can the power of napping transform into a verb… ACTION.

The morning is morphing closer to an afternoon and I can feel the zeal and energy slowly drain, like thick syrup, from my head and my fingertips.

I’ve been typing away here for a few hours.

Thanks for joining me in this sunrise to high noon journey.

I can now go forward in my day and make that news verb a reality, but…

… only after I’ve grabbed a quick nap… such a terrible addiction!

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Arrogant Earworms

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Ceti eel.jpg

I want to scream until blood gushes from my eye sockets.

In the movie STAR TREK II: The Wrath of Khan (which we saw at a Prince Edward Island Drive-In theatre in 1982), there is an earworm scene.

As part of his plot, the villain Khan (Ricardo Montalban… good to the last drop) introduces us to his household pet: a loathsome, slug-like creature called a Ceti Eel.

You see, their young enter through the ears and wrap themselves around the cerebral cortex. This has the effect of rendering the victim extremely susceptible to suggestion… Later, as they grow, follows madness and death…”

I don’t remember a thing about the movie other than this repulsive scream scene that sticks in my head like a Chinese finger trap.

I suppose you could say it’s become a visual eyeworm about an earworm.

The good news is that I don’t usually scream (there is one exception, the cliffhanger will be resolved below) when I’m infected with a musical earworm.

Most earworms – those snippets of music that refuse to go home when they’re told –  are a trivial annoyance, although there are occasions when they can be a pleasurable repetition inside our heads.

I’ll admit I cringe and throw up a little in my mouth when I’m contaminated by incessant YMCA or Chicken Dance song scraps, unless … I’m thoroughly ensconced in a Molson or Smirnoff haze. Then it’s Dance Fever! You too?

Earworms come in lots of flavours.

Commercial jingles are the bane of the earworm world.

Successful jingle writers know they can plant their flag at the pinnacle when the ditty they penned is hummed by millions of office and factory workers for many years afterwards…

  • “I am stuck on …”
  • “I wish I were an …”
  • “Double Your Pleasure, Double Your Fun …”
  • “Meow, meow, meow, meow …”
  • “Plop plop, fizz fizz …”
  • “Like a good neighbour …”
  • “I’d like to buy the world a …”

Notice how I didn’t complete the jingles as a test to see if you could figure out the product being advertised? Pass or Fail?

Yes, most of these are oldies, but knowing that they’re from decades past and I’m still consciously aware of them tells me just how juicy the jingles are.

The earworms I love are catchy songs like Tommy Tutone’s 867-5309, whistling Bobby McFerrin’s Don’t Worry, Be Happy, Pharrell Williams’ Happy, The Proclaimers’ 500 Miles.(who doesn’t love the word Havering?).

I don’t even mind Meghan Trainor’s All About That Bass, that Psy guy’s Gangnam Style or Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance Rah-rah-ah-ah-ah-ah

They’re all fun and bring a smile to my face.

 

Happy2

I chuckle out loud when I get the anti-vegan Arrogant Worm song, Carrot Juice is Murder jammed in my head….  Carrot Juice constitutes murder (and that’s a real crime)
Greenhouses prisons for slaves (let my vegetables grow)…

But understand that not all earworms are fun and games.

Earworms that aren’t joyous or cute but make the tenderness of melancholy so very sweet are the violin theme from Schindler’s List and the sad saxophone strains from the movie, Summer of ’42. They impart a late night ache inside me that inexplicably soothes.

My all-time favourite?

I carry a soft space of wonder for Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody . The opening harmony lines :

Is this the real life?
Is this just fantasy?
Caught in a landslide
No escape from reality

… gets caught in the sugary spiderwebs inside my head.

I’m in a universe of awe when I contemplate how the song – a modern symphony, with so many intricate movements – was ever constructed by Freddie Mercury.

Bohemian

OK, finally… worst of the worst earworms. Scream worthy! Ceti Eel screamworthy?

Drum roll please …..

Boney M. Anything by Boney M.

Top of the exasperation list? Mary’s Boy Child, Rasputin and Rivers of Babylon.

Even writing the names of these songs and I’m holding back a torrent of stomach contents. And of course, now I have this electronic buzz reverberating through my skull… NOOOOoooooooooo……

Hark now hear the angels sing, a king was born today
And man will live for evermore, because of Christmas Day …

Earworm … BAD

Earworm … GOOD

In the end, isn’t any earworm playing through your head better than a disgruntled voice telling you at 2 am how you could have handled such and such a situation better? Or, what you should have said as a smart retort to a nasty comment directed your way?

Of course. And much much better than a Ceti Eel earworm slipping slyly into your ear canal.

I’d even take Boney M over that.

(Care to share your favs or detests?… I’m all ears…)

Boney M.jpg

 

 

 

 

Why is Simple So Hard? E-Mail Hell…

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From: Larry Green
Sent: Sunday, September 2, 2018 06:01 AM
To: Donald J. Trump
Subject: Re: FAKE E-Mails

 

Fake e-mail

What?

I get an e-mail from a friend, relative, or acquaintance at least once a week that is unintelligible. Clipp. Incomple. Non-sensi…

This week I got two in one day.

I’m gonna vent here because … well… maybe because I’m worn down by the smoky haze that hotly raging forest fires have inflicted on this valley for the month of August… or …

… maybe just because I’m sad that summer is winding up already and I’ve barely managed to swim in Okanagan Lake 3 or 4 times.

The trout are sending me soggy letters telling me they miss me.

When I was a young grasshopper, my English teachers pounded into my head the idea … the notion … that when you communicate with anyone, whether written or spoken, you need to remember your 5 W’s and H. Right?

Standard, journalistic stuff. Grammar gold nuggets.

And, if YOU don’t understand the 5 W’s and an H, then you’re probably on my “GD Frustrating Communicators” list.

OK… the 5 W’s are Who, What, Where, Why and When… the H is How.

Yes, I get impatient. Please shoot me in a few years if I start making remakes of Grumpy Old Men. 

Angry e-mail.jpg

Like many of you out there, I know that there are only so many hours in a day and I want to travel somewhere stunning and exotic in my existence.

Truthfully, I waste a lot of time. My head likes nothing better than to float in the clouds, a lazy glider dipsy-doodling in the updrafts of invisible feathers.

And… if I get to the end of my day… and I feel like I’ve taken even a baby step forward, maybe a tiny 1% improvement in some area of my life, well…  I sleep better.

So, when folks send me an e-mail that’s supposed to help me along in my travels, I don’t want to be stuck in an airport holding lounge because they didn’t take the time or manufacture the thought energy to be clear in what they are saying.

You’re squandering my raindrops of time. Let me fly!

I know you have a wide-open prairie landscape of background and context inside your head, so please open up like a spring wheat kernel and share it with me, OK?

Right, an example.

This week, I got this e-mail from a friend (who hopefully doesn’t read my blog posts!) I play guitar and sing with sometimes:

Well it looks like this Friday night is back on at the request of the Widow …won’t be here 2 weeks down the line.. I’m not really ready for Right Down the Line yet Larry so if you are coming to play this week do your own stuff if not we’ll do it together in two weeks.

OK. Weird grammar aside (I accept punctuation and spelling gaffes in e-mails) I’m scratching my head wondering what’s wrong with me… like,

  1. Who the hell is the “Widow”?
  2. And, who won’t be there in 2 weeks, you or the “Widow”?

Is this message supposed to be encrypted in code so some crazed Nazi won’t intercept and lay waste to the earth?

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Author Ursula le Guin :

two people talking, form a community of two. People are also able to form communities of many, through sending and receiving bits of ourselves and others back and forth continually — through, in other words, talking and listening. Talking and listening are ultimately the same thing.

When you talk (write) to me, we both need to touch… feel… taste… the meaning and emotion of the communication dance. 1,2,3…1,2,3…

A good dance partner is clear in communicating the motion, whether giving or receiving.

Ginger always knew that Fred would be coherent and definite, Fred always knew that Ginger was conveying an equally clear response (even when dancing backwards in high heels!)

I write for a whole host of reasons, some selfish, some altruistic.

I write because words and language are ravishing and elegant and sexy.

I write because I want to understand.

I write because I want to communicate and be understood.

An e-mail message surely shouldn’t be a jigsaw puzzle of jumbled, mismatched pieces that I can’t decipher.

Bottom line…

• Who? All of us. Me included.

• What? Write an e-mail where I can understand your meaning and emotional direction.

• Where? Anywhere. Isn’t e-mail fantastic that way?

• When? All day, everyday.

• Why? So I don’t misunderstand and read your words through my own crazy, warped filter.

• How? Easy. Remember and use your high school 5W’s and H! Voilà!

Simple and yet so hard it seems.

No FAKE News or E-mails here.

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I think that I shall never see…

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Poetry

Poetry…

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic ’til I’m gathered safely in
Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove
Dance me to the end of love (Leonard Cohen)

For most of my life, I’ve not truly, verily… understood poetry.

Mud puddles and Gobbledegook!

Sure, I’ve understood and tried to use poetic language in my prose, my letters, my e-mails, my blog posts… language is a beautifully scented rose in life’s garden …

But the essence of a poem: the stanzas, the subtlety, the nuance, the deep intrigue that typically holds hands within a poem have usually left me spinning – confused and suffering from a deep-seated feeling of “inferiority”… why don’t I understand what the poet is saying?

Poetry typically oozes emotional depth… am I merely too shallow to swim in these waters?

I know I can be accused of laziness.

In high school I enjoyed reading poetry.

My teacher would recite each line aloud and explain the meaning submerged within the words, like weed tendrils floating beneath the lake’s surface… the pain, the glory, the love … “ah, so that’s what she is saying, this is good stuff.”

Poetry is very cool.

Then… the teach would send us home with an assignment to read such and such poem or sonnet.

She’d command that we come back the following day with a well thought out interpretation of what the writer intended and why their choice of cutting metaphor and incisive imagery was so cleverly insightful and amazing. So deep.

“But Ms. French, I’M NOT deep.”

“Dr. Seuss I get… Bartholomew Cubbins and his 500 hats makes total sense… but this Shakespearean sonnet is about ….?love?… which physic did except? huh?”

My love is as a fever, longing still
For that which longer nurseth the disease,
Feeding on that which doth preserve the ill,
Th’ uncertain sickly appetite to please.
My reason, the physician to my love,
Angry that his prescriptions are not kept,
Hath left me, and I desperate now approve
Desire is death, which physic did except.
Past cure I am, now reason is past care,
And frantic-mad with evermore unrest;
My thoughts and my discourse as madmen’s are,
At random from the truth vainly expressed:
    For I have sworn thee fair, and thought thee bright,
    Who art as black as hell, as dark as night.

 

The weeds kept dragging me down into the darkness – I wallowed and drowned in starless misunderstanding.

Even music lyrics, like written stanzas of poetry are my dyslexia… a Johnny Flynn song I’ve been rehearsing with a musical partner lately goes like this:

Now quick to the cut are we waking
And seeing it all as the dream
The pillars that raised us are shaking
And Samson’s will is the theme
That one minute we see and the next we don’t
In our minds in the devil’s long tail
Slapping sense to its peak and a hard strung out week
And so back to the love in our sails
Gonna sweep this house clean out
Gonna blow out all of the lights
We’ll dream back up the Amazon
We’ll steer her home tonight
We’ll steer her home tonight

 

Samson’s will is the theme… huh?

The rhythm of the waves slaps at the shoreline but I can’t see where they’re coming from, the wordy fog too thick for my understanding.

But wait… there’s hope.

Now maybe… maybe… music, for me, has been the parallel substitute, the lyrical language that is my poetry… the wandering melody and harmony the stanzas of beauty that make my beating heart rise high and float with the clouds…

Music without words is its own poem. When we listen to music we feel the tugs and pulls of joy and sadness: the long drawn out sorrow of death, at times the elation of love, the passage of time.

Can you listen to Pharrell Williams sing and not feel HAPPY? Take in the strains of Vivaldi’s SPRING and the violin’s vision of birds flitting in their bouts of twitterpation?

What is this if not poetry?

Psychologist Howard Gardener proposed a variety of types of intelligence: visual-spatial, verbal-linguistic, logical, interpersonal, bodily-kinesthetic, intrapersonal, naturalistic, and musical-rhythmic.

So perhaps … the poetry that we each find in our world is a factor of where our intelligence muscles originate.

Maybe you see and sense poetry in the movement of your body, your neighbour in the logical ways of numbers and math formulae.

But for me, I’ll pick up my guitar and delve into the musical poetry that reads true joy into my harmonious heart.

And occasionally, when I need some of that old-fashioned wordy-kind-of-rhyme,

I’ll slip into a scintillating stanza or two from Dr. Seuss or even Shel Silverstein…

Falling Up Shel Silverstein.jpg

 

The Man From A.B.I… or… D.R.O.Y.L.

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boy improving

Yeah, that title’s a wee bit of a stretch. I do that sometimes when I want to draw you into my message.

So here’s the message…

Always Be Improving… akaDon’t Rest On Your Laurels…

I was at the beach late yesterday afternoon – the off-white sand of Sunoka Beach is sweetly satisfying in the blazing hot Okanagan August sunshine – and was stunned when I spotted a group of 4 – one man and three women – in their beach chairs beneath a blue shade umbrella at water’s edge.

No, I wasn’t stunned because they were stretched out naked, airing out their naughty bits (although I was in the buff – ok, maybe not), but because each, instead of eyes down into their iPhone or Samsung device, were eyes down into … wait for it… a book. Cue the piercing screams.

Four people. Together. Every one of them. Submerged. In a book!

I tried hard not to stare. Really hard. I felt myself drawn in to the bizarre visual like some creepy Peeping Tom.

I couldn’t tell for sure but it didn’t look like they were studying their scriptures or 50 Shades of Grey. 

Maybe they were exploring. Maybe they were learning. Maybe they were improving.

The sight ran against my expectation, like seeing a camel casually loping down Main Street in Vancouver.

camel in town

I felt shocked. I felt shocked that I would feel shocked. But I felt pleased too.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with perusing your phone. Communication is a good thing – to a point.

But an amoeba won’t likely ever grow into a Homo Sapien if it never improves and becomes a greater entity than its parent, its grandparent.

We’d probably all be amoeba still if we only carried phones. Hmmmm…. do you think amoebae could have invented an iPhone?

…………….

Henry Winkler “the Fonz”, in a later episode of TV’s Happy Days, gifted us the expression jumped the shark, that moment when we’ve crossed the dividing line into devastation, certain oblivion.

But “Eey… Correct-amundo“… the Fonz didn’t allow a momentary defeat to shape his life trajectory.

Today? Well, Winkler doesn’t look at all like the cool Fonz anymore. He has made himself over into a new popular character Gene Cousineau on the HBO show Barry.

winkler then and now

Winkler says: “When I was 27, I knew who I wanted to be as an actor, at 72, I am getting closer.”

Winkler learned, studied and grew.

I’ve jumped the shark too many times to count. When I was 19 I knew I wanted to write songs. I tried but I wasn’t ready. I’m not 91 yet but I too am getting closer to what I want to be.

Whaddya mean, closer?

Learning and trying and growing is the gunpowder in my head. Learning is how I’m getting closer.

We all traverse the spectrum of our lives like a Russian nesting doll. At different points through the years we grow and change and “unnest” a new entity of ourselves that carries us forward. Da

I’ll never be the boy wonder I’d like to be, but the effort put in to improving just a tiny bit every day keeps me both juvenile and rejuvenated.

Let’s face it. I’m just you sitting here in this chair, watching a tiny ant wandering around the desk surface, typing away with my host of worries and insecurities and ideas and dreams. I have lots of weaknesses and so I reach out… to learn.

We all open our doors in the morning and bravely head off into the world in different directions, the places we lead our lives, the places – hopefully- we love and want to be.

Reading good books, practicing and developing our skills and interests, keeping a keen focus on the important and not the trivial, attempting to be as fearless as possible and not worrying so much about what others think of us when we attempt and fail…

It’s the pursuit of ABI or DROYL that matters. We all need a sense of purpose – the desire to learn and improve. It’s our Northern Star.

It doesn’t matter where your focus, your passion lies. Learning and growing, always improving, inspires an inner flame of enthusiasm.

Always Be Improving is a lovely way to open your eyes to the morning each day.

It can be as individual as your fingerprint, the pattern of your iris, or even a beautifully romantic, wintry snowflake.

And… exactamundo… it just don’t matter whether the ABI inspiration hits in the midst of a marathon run… lounging in the bath… waterskiing over a voracious sea predator… or yes, better yet … while stretched out naked in the sun.

reading while naked.jpg

WORLD ON FIRE!

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OK fire

Okanagan Valley fire this week…

FIRESTORM…

I’m a new age kind of primeval guy…

I love words and their power and usage… and … I love fire, although at times I fear its power and usage…

Fire can be fun, even flirty.

I play around with words like kindle, spark, burning, ignited, flicker, fuming, blaze, zeal, combustion, inferno, smouldered.

Every one of these words says FIRE.  But in your mind, each also kindles other thoughts, right?

Let me give you a small example of some presumed (cheesy Harlequin-style!) fiery narrative from the movie When Harry Met Sally.

The first time they met through a mutual friend, Sally didn’t have even a flicker of love for Harry. By contrast, as he spit grape seeds out the car window on a “friendly” road trip to New York, Harry looked over and thought to himself, “Sally is hot.” 

Ten years later when they met once again, they instantly felt a spark of sexual attraction, a kindling of desire for each other, but they tried to ignore the inner coals of ardour.

Beneath it all however, their true feelings kept smouldering.

Finally one night, in an unexpected development, their passions inflamed and blazed, and they made love. 

That was fun FIRE.

Sally Orgasm2.jpg

BURNING INFERNO!

Language fills me with delicious wonder in how we transform and manipulate certain words into other meanings that give depth and nuance to the joy of speech and writing. Wordplay in the novels we read, the movies we watch, brings us a kaleidoscope of delight.

But. Yes, there’s always a but.

Fire can be frightening.

Today, I’m looking over this computer screen and out my window at a not-too-distant wall of grey-white smoke.

A sooty curtain obliterates any view I typically have of the picturesque hillsides filled with Ponderosa Pines speckling the east side of Okanagan Lake.

Three nights ago, forks of jagged lightning dramatically crashed to ground minus any rainfall that may have quelled the youthfully energetic flames that erupted.

As the sun set, creamsicle-orange flames flicked the dark sky, reaching their fingers up to share their fiery heat with the moon and stars.

It was as startlingly beautiful as a Hawaiian sunset over the Pacific but much more ominous than romantic.

And now, when the sun arises each morning, the beautiful clear vistas we’ve enjoyed for the first month of summer have transformed into hazy greys and browns and oranges set against a noisy sky full of water bomber planes, aircraft bearing huge bellies of bright red retardant, helicopters with big buckets trailing beneath.

The heavens are abuzz as if a heavy, swarming mosquito infestation has suddenly hatched.

The perennial regularity of fire is the new normal in this dry interior valley; each summer season brings a host of rippling flames to one section or another of our tree-laden hills.

water-bomber.jpg

Fire is heavenly… fire is hell… we love fire… we hate fire.

I’ve played with fire my entire life… most psychiatrists would slot me into the pyromaniac category with little hesitation.

The best part of camping when I was a kid was the arrival of sunset in the trees, when I’d kindle little fires inside a stone circle next to our family tent-trailer, happily feasting on the heady scent of smoke, poking away at the mesmerizing glimmer of coals crackling and popping.

I loved receiving cheap cologne sets as a birthday gift, not only because it triggered a momentary sense of being grown up but… yes… the alcohol in the fragrant elixir made for fun little fires on the concrete floor in my garage… thinking back, I probably smelled of smoke until I was 13 years old. Bottle that, Calvin Klein or Armani!

Later on, in my first lab job in Yellowknife, while collecting blood samples, I looked forward to entering the hospital rooms of tiny elderly Inuit women who’d be snacking on wild red berries and who reeked of strong wood smoke. I’d breathe deeply of the musky scent they carried from their far north homes. So much sweeter than my birthday colognes!

Fire can create sadness and calamity.

A woman I work with when I’m bartending these days lost a child in a motel fire years back. Her baby snatched away in an instant. How could she ever again look at or think of fire without reliving a horror tragedy? Where does she find her smile thanks to fire?

Musically, I remember Stan Rogers, a treasured Canadian singer/songwriter (Northwest Passage , Barrett’s Privateers) with huge potential who perished at age 33 in an airplane fire on the tarmac in Cincinnati. Smoke-snuffed possibilities and promise.

FIRE. Beauty and the Beast.

Where would we be as humanity without fire.

The fire in her eyes. The fire in his belly.

Fire is enthusiasm, fire is lust, fire is fearsome, fire is strength.

You’re fired! Fire at will! 

It’s fire that feeds our hungry bellies and fire that feeds our vivid imaginations.

Yes… merely peering out my window this week at wind-fanned smoke and flames has struck a fire in my head with words and ideas that carry me along this journey from my past…  to my today… and give me inspiration for the future.

That is one powerful word.

FIRE.

Beauty-and-the-Beast Fire.jpg

Surprises, Epiphanies, And Seeds.

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seeds

In 1977 I had a life changing-, life expanding-epiphany.

The epiphany? I had choices. WE have choices. 

Seeds.

I had just recently left my teen years, turning 20 years old, a freshly minted college grad… thick, dark hair and a future of limitless potential, but…

… I didn’t know that I had choices. Really?

I knew there were boxes I could open that contained minor differences, but the general course of my life was pre-determined as if I were some young Amish kid.

Pre-determined similarly to 50 years earlier when girls had free choice to be anything they wanted, you know, either… teacher or nurse. Woo Hoo!

Choice?

Not real, life changing choices where I raised the jib and held the rudder. Choices that let me contain and control the wind.

Foolishly, I didn’t know that until I picked up the phone one late September morning and a lady on the other end of the line said:

“Larry, this is Marg Ramsden in Yellowknife. We received your resume for a lab job and we’d like you to come and work for us.”

Yellowknife! Yellowknife?

Did I really send a resume to Yellowknife? What was I thinking? Yellowknife?

Arctic-ice-cold-dark-winter-night-isolated-Eskimo-territory Yellowknife? (remember, Eskimo was a happily acceptable term for the Inuit in 1977).

Then… I was offered another lab position that very same day in the Hamilton hospital lab Blood Bank where I had interned.

That was the box I was conditioned to expect.

Obviously an easy decision, right? At least I thought so.

Nice big city 600-bed hospital job crossmatching blood vs. tiny cold remote northern 72-bed hospital where I’d cover all the lab departments (hospital labs usually encompass Blood Bank, Haematology, Microbiology, Histology and Biochemistry).

Why would I trade the familiar homey scent of Hamilton smog and my “Oskey Wee Wee” Tiger Cat football team for belligerent black flies, murderous mosquitoes and -45C temperatures?

Then I surprised myself.

Yup, there can be unexpected earth-tremors along our journey.

Surprise. Life changing.

Yes, I burned away the easy choice and nervously put myself onboard a Pacific Western Airlines (PWA) Boeing 737 in Toronto that touched down first in Edmonton, then in Yellowknife, on a chill October Arctic evening as lovely tiny snowflakes fell.

I was so isolated and naive in my little world that I had tried to book a flight on TWA (TransWorld Airlines) instead of PWA … the TWA agent had no idea what the hell a “Yellowknife” was… I had no idea what the hell a “PWA” was.

My palace was shattered like a beach sandcastle hit by a rogue wave, but I only realized that in retrospect.

That was the first seed.

crumbling palace

As I slowly grew acclimatized and comfortable in this foreign northern life, my slightly older roommate kept talking about the great time he’d had travelling throughout Europe a couple years back. I would never do that. Never.

Of course, my roommate did a lot of crazy things like drinking an entire bottle of beer while standing on his head at parties.

I’d never try that either. NEVER.

But the seed was planted.  No, not THAT seed! I’ve never quaffed a beer while standing on my head.

Head stand beer.jpg

And so, two years later in 1979 I backpacked my way throughout Western Europe. (a few years ago, I wrote about an unusual event from that trip in another post.)

Another seed.

That was a surprise. Never ever dreamed of doing that until I did.

It was slowly dawning on me that the choices in my life were mine to make if I only opened my head to possibility… oh yeah, that and… conquering the fear factor, just like I conquered (OK, conquered may be too strong a word… I edged by…) the fear factor in jumping out of an airplane a couple of weeks ago.

I’ve enjoyed gardening, sowing and tending beautiful flowers and vegs and fruits since I was a wee gopher. I know, weird kid!

Once you become a gardener and can finally see that seeds are what grow into luscious plants that nourish us, well, you begin paying attention and looking for seeds to blow into your yard.

Some seeds turn out to be weeds that are ugly and beg to be pulled and composted. Out, damned spot! out, I say!

But then other seeds land lightly, push through the fresh earthy humus and put on an amazing display like you’ve never ever seen.

These are the seeds and plants you tenderly water and provide nutrients so that artistic natural beauty is of your own making.

Choices are the seeds that we can select to make into our life art.

Not every seed is a ravishing stunner, a scented rose, a splendiferous bougainvillea, but we can’t always tell the beauties from the rejects until we give them a try.

As John Denver sang, “… some days are diamonds, some days are stone…“… or why not a bit more bluntly from Mary Chapin Carpenter, “… sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug…”

A tiny example? Sure. More recently, a small seed that’s become a beautiful bloom for me has been tutoring a young Syrian fellow.

While he thanks me profusely, believing that I’m giving him a big jump in his new calmer world in Canada, in reality, we’re both gardeners that are enjoying the fruitful benefits of expanding our worlds.

The laughter we share when he knows he’s being mischievous in English and whispers the “F” word with a sly grin reminds me of how interconnected and similar we all are despite the huge differences.

I’ve had lots of surprises and epiphanies and seeds that drifted into my sightlines over the years.

My eyes may be growing older, but in some surprising ways, I can see better now than I ever have in my life.

Baby-With-Funny-Glasses

13 Ways To AVOID Checkout Diarrhea & Vomiting

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General-Store

grocery aisle

Supermarket shopping is kind of routine fun, isn’t it? Sometimes?

Most weeks, like children with baby carriages, we roll our little buggies up and down long concrete-floored aisles, each side of those aisles filled to the gunnels with FOOD.

How things have changed.

One hundred years ago, you’d walk into a shop with a bell above the door that jingled when you entered.

Then, you sidled over to a counter where a man or his wife, that you’ve known your whole life, stood with a neat apron ready to gather the provisions you’d need to eat and live for the next week, or two weeks, or a month.

Once collected together, there were no plastic or paper bags to put it all inside. Perhaps you had a hand-sewn sack you brought with you to carry your sugar and salt and flour.

It’s a scene plucked right from Anne of Green Gables; Anne Shirley and Matthew Cuthbert place their order while Anne fantasizes about puffy-sleeved dresses in the window and Matthew fantasizes on buying a butcher’s knife to hack out his sister Marilla’s tongue to stop her incessant nagging and chatter!

But… I have yet to see a historical film or photo that showed ANY magazines lined up in neat racks beside the counter for the amusement or education of the shopper.

Grocery store mags.jpg

Through today’s eyes, how did we ever survive without this information and hot tips, advice and enlightenment? 8 Ways To Easily Gut A Hog or Pick Your Perfect Corset would have sold faster than buckets of lard or molasses in 1906.

All of this is to say that shopping has changed dramatically and is changing even more at this point in history.

The mags and tabloids play on our insecurities of how we do everything from painting window trim to whether anal-oral sex is A-OK (yeah, it’s not!).

The headlines foment worry and anxiety.

One of the best ways to avoid anxiety and stress – to avoid fears of inferiority or inner terror – I’ve learned in my many many years of shopping, is to avert my eyes totally from the magazine shelves at the checkout cattle chutes.

DANGER & CAUTION warnings should be placed in front of each display where photos of beautifully coiffed stars and starlets, or grotesquely photoshopped pics of Jennifer Aniston or the latest Bachelorette adorn the covers of the glossies along with the BEST information and advice ever offered for incredible sex or amazing beauty or stupendous rock hard pilates abs.

Which all brings me to my point. Sorry to have subjected you to 400 words of nonsense. But thanks for sticking with me this far.

The meat of this post comes now…

Magazine advice

I will share my expertise with you and it won’t cost you a dime.

To save you the bother and distress of exhausting your psychic energy and hard-earned dollars on next week’s grocery run, look away from THOSE headlines and ingest the following simple and succinct (AND free!) advice on trouble avoidance as I offer you …

MY top magazine-style tips:

  1. AVOID STD’s easily don’t get naked with anyone other than yourself. This will also avoid the laughter that accompanies your lover’s first views of you al fresco.. who needs that?
  2. AVOID Childhood Obesitydon’t feed your children. Today’s kids spend far too much time indoors glued to technology. Healthy children will get tons of exercise foraging outdoors for sustenance alongside rats and raccoons.  
  3. AVOID Holiday Weight Gain don’t feed yourself. However, if you insist on pigging out, consume only foods you’ve left at room temperature on the kitchen counter overnight or salads prepared on cutting boards where raw chicken has recently been dissected. 
  4. AVOID Alzheimersdon’t grow old… ever. Participate in fun sports like mountain-climbing, scuba diving, running of the bulls, and skydiving to nudge the avoidance process along.
  5. AVOID saying SH*TKeep your mouth shut. Opening it results in 4-letter profanity of all kinds + obesity, so just keep it closed. If this is too difficult, Home Depot carries staple guns that are invaluable in achieving this objective. Think those words all you want in the wasteland between your ears…
  6. AVOID Airport Security Worry stay home at all times, bombs are everywhere. Want to travel? Watch Anthony Bourdain or Rick Steves on your phone or TV.
  7. AVOID Climate Changepurchase BEANO or anti-gas tabs of your choice… it’s not only cows that produce climate changing methane gas. Mens’ clubs are a dying breed for a reason.
  8. AVOID Gun and Knife Deaththe knights of old wore chain-mail… cops and soldiers wear bullet-proof kevlar vests… so what’s wrong with the rest of us? Why don’t grocery stores and Walmart offer fashionable anti-missile wear for the everyday person? Trés chic … DUH!
  9. AVOID ProcrastinationLook down at your shoes. Are you wearing NIKE runners? Good … then JUST DO IT!
  10. AVOID Food Wastestop buying food that is healthy for you but you hate. Have you seen how much green leafy vegetable matter goes into compost piles and landfills? Nobody throws out potato chips or deep fried fish sticks. Simple, eh?
  11. AVOID Unwanted Pregnancy – see Point #1 above… nobody ever got pregnant masturbating…
  12. AVOID Shark Attacksmove inland and stay away from any water source that contains NaCl. FACT: There have been NO recorded deaths from shark bites in ANY freshwater lake in all of human history… moving inland also offers good anti-tsunami protection as a side benefit.
  13. AVOID naming children Angelina, Brad, Jennifer or Britney – these names are the kiss of death and will bring you a lifetime of astounding wealth but also heartache and unrelenting paparazzi attacks far worse than any shark bite.

Brad pitt.jpg

So there.

You now know how to live a satisfying, diarrhea- and vomit-free grocery shopping life.

Of course in today’s shopping world you could easily avoid ALL “checkout distress” by simply ordering your groceries online with delivery to your door.

Truthfully, I’d hate to miss the myriad joys of grocery shopping: the harsh fluorescent lights, the spills in Aisle 7, shopping cart handles saturated with bathroom bacteria and snotty viruses, pumped in Muzak, screaming children and exhausted parents, frigid cold frozen pizza aisles, cart wheels that won’t run straight, and supermarket dents in your car door.

Who would ever really want to avoid THAT?

Tantrum.png

 

Divine Guidance or… Where The Muse Really Resides

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gods creativity

I heard a guy interviewed on the radio yesterday.

He said, I don’t know if any of us are actually creative.

I say… BULLSHIT!

Here’s some more of what he said… Steve Engels (Associate Professor of teaching- Computer Science -University of Toronto):

I don’t know if humans are creative sometimes.

I mean it’s the idea of creativity is something, well and I’ve studied is getting inventions or innovations. A lot of things that we create that are new are really inspired by things that we’ve seen before.

Very few people come up with something completely original in a vacuum. And so we find ways of combining and recombining things we’ve seen before and we do it in new and innovative ways. So we try to draw from that in order to come up with something that models human creativity.

But I don’t know. I mean I sometimes think the more we dig into this to try to figure out whether our A.I.’s are being truly creative the more we are questioning whether any of us are actually creative.

He just defined creativity while calling it “not creativity”.

I get where he’s coming from.

For most of us, creativity suggests making something from nothing; God-like lego assembly with no kit or instructions included.

But creativity can’t break the laws of physics any more than I can reject gravity… or banana cream pie.

This is my take.

Reality laws tell me that creativity is taking a million great ideas from every sector, every personal experience, every gender, every religion, every song, every story, every invention….

…. then tossing it all into a blender and whizzing it around like Dorothy’s house cannonading from Kansas to Oz… until a “new” concoction comes frothing up that no one has ever seen before.

Sara Blakely did that.

“I look at any object and try to think of any use it has other than what people had planned for it.”

And then she acted on it. She saw a pair of pantyhose, cut off the feet and created a multi-billion dollar company, Spanx. 

That’s creative, isn’t it?

Spanx men

The most creative of modern musician/songwriters like Brian Wilson and Hank Williams and George Harrison freely admit to consciously or sub-consciously borrowing ideas from other songwriters in their music.

Harrison’s My Sweet Lord has the same chorus melody line as The Chiffons’ He’s So Fine. But it’s not the same song.

When I sit and strive to write a meaningful song with lyrics, melody and harmony that meld together as a coherent whole, I’m not starting from scratch (even though it feels like it!) Oh no…..

I draw on that old Idea Sex where I lay out a recipe card that mashes together my love of country and folk and classical: a teaspoon of Keith Urban, a cup of James Taylor, a pinch of Civil Wars’ guitar work and a dollop of Mary Chapin Carpenter-type imagery.

Paul Simon, Tommy Emmanuelle, Eric Clapton, Valdy and Lady Antebellum are all crowded around peering over my shoulder too, pointing a finger here and there as guidance.

Even Bach, Beethoven and Mozart didn’t create something from nothing. They thought they were receiving divine inspiration from above, but really it was their peers and ghosts of the past that silently infiltrated their writing quills.

They were inspired and molded by a profusion of others’ “creativity”.

In turn they inspired dozens of generations afterwards.

I recently finished a book titled “How To Fly A Horse“, by Kevin Ashton. Ashton relates that all creative ideas are built on the shoulders of hundreds and hundreds of generations of talented, motivated, creative people. Each generation adds more blocks to the structure of art and architecture and every other field of progress.

Steve Jobs didn’t wake up one day from a halcyon dream and decide out of nowhere about designing the iPhone.

It took millennia for thousands of engineers and inventors and dreamers to bring us to the magical moment where Jobs could creatively piece together something that has revolutionized and altered our world tremendously.

Funny-Iphone-02

Creativity is really about taking a whole bunch of lego sets and instead of building the structure pictured on the outside of the box, we use our childlike imagination and life’s experiences to make a new construct that no one else has envisioned in its totality.

Creativity is hard work. Exhaustingly hard.

Inspiration is only the start line and the end result lies a sweaty-hard one hundred metres down the track… sometimes 42.2 kilometres. Not everyone who lines up in the blocks makes it to the finish line.

But those who don’t put in the effort and time to try (yes YODA, there IS try…) will never triumph.

God doesn’t pick a favourite football team to win and the Muse picks no favourites to be creative.

She sits in her beach chair waiting patiently at the finish line, sipping chilly Pinot Gris, cheering and begging us forward but never lending a hand to draw us the last few metres.

It’s inside of us.

That’s what divine creative guidance is all about Charlie Brown.

Julie Moss Ironman

Julie Moss crawls across Ironman finish line in 1982…

 

 

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