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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

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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…

 

 

Cake Therapy With CNN

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I am a CNN fan boy.

A few years ago, I’d catch the occasional minute or two of Wolf or Brianna or Anderson. On Blitzer… On Keilar… On Cooper… 

It was passerby TV viewing. Ho hum… take in a moment of toothy-grinned Obama speaking to the camera and merrily continue on with MY day.

ROUTINE World. Happy World.

Sadly today, I’m a full-fledged CNN addict.

They handcuffed my inner liberal bias and are holding me hostage. I’m in their grip and I can’t let go. HELP!!

I feel dirty.

Thanks Donald.

NON-ROUTINE World. Sad World.

In the old world, it used to be that “polite” Canadians genially crossed paths and discussed the changing weather patterns. Gonna be a hot one today eh Ginger Snap?…

Today, the passing eye-rolls of interchange revolve more and more around what shovelful (dump truck!) of nonsense hit Twitter overnight. OMG, Can you believe that sh*t?…

500+ days back, when the U.S. election results were shockingly finalized, I predicted we’d do a throwback to the Dark Ages for a few years.

But it’s become even darker than I could have pie-in-the-sky imagined.

It’s like the 50 Shades phenomenon a couple of years back. A huge portion of the population was swept into a surreal madness of worship of a man who merrily abuses and proudly dominates women.

My understanding sense was senseless. I didn’t/don’t get it.

Trump 50 shades.jpg

And now there’s this insanity sweeping a whole nation, a nation that has been a world power, the beacon of hope and possibility for a peaceful and tolerantly accepting world for 100 years.

Sure, every story has its dark sides and America has held a few snotty handkerchiefs in its back pocket, thanks in part to slavery and misogyny and treachery. Nobody’s perfect…

…oh yeah… cake. Don’t forget the cake.

I always buy too many bananas at my local Superstore.

It began as an accidental overbuy when I’d purchase a 6 banana bunch (… daylight come and me wanna go home…) and then always find myself with 2 or 3 extras at the end of the week when we’d head off again and buy 6 more bananas.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat… Buy. Blacken. Buy Again.

Maybe it’s an OCD thing. Maybe it’s a “don’t carry out the same action and expect different results” scenario.

Where was I going? oh yeah… cake.

I love banana chocolate chip cake (I love lots of cakes… almost any cake in fact).

Banana Chocolate Chip cake.jpg

The deliciously smooth moistness and combination of banana and chocolate builds a delectable ambrosia effect that piggybacks on my love of peanut butter and banana sandwiches.

It’s a relatively healthy addiction, unlike my desire to smoke one Cuban cigar per week during the gorgeously sunny summer months.

And it doesn’t involve me spying through my neighbour’s window while they’re having sex…. EWwwwwwww! See? Healthy!

Building a banana chocolate chip cake is my sugar-drenched passport, my freedom to exclude the gluten free, superfood, and paleo folks who buffet me with their winds from all sides almost every day.

Take this!… eggs… and this!... white flour…. and THAT! chocolate…

So almost once weekly, I turn up the volume to CNN and gorge on the fetid faeces that emanate from the cake-hole of the TRUMPster whilst mixing flour and eggs and brown-black bananas and sugar … baking a yummy sweet cake for MY cake-hole.

Soothing with food.

My mind wanders in loop-de-loo circles and twists… why would Butch and Sundance think they could ever shoot their way out of that little Bolivian town?… I miss watching my young kidlets at their end-of-the-year ballet concerts… will the fear be greater in my head or my stomach when I dive out of an airplane in the next couple of weeks? I hope the spy couple who escaped back to Russia in the TV show The Americans, will get to see their children again in their lifetime.

Butch and sundance.jpg

Weird random thoughts.

But anything to escape the CNN-Trump vortex for a few blessed minutes.

It’s a perplexing thing where I hate the impulse to watch Trump as he clumsily – spitefully – maliciously – twists and batters our 3rd rock world towards an unhappy ending.

Baking a cake is an antibody vest I can wear (and eat!) to protect myself against the nastiness and darkness coming from the south-of-Canada kingdom. It makes the world feel normal again somehow.

As written in DESIDERATA, I have to accept that there are some things I can’t change in the world.

It’s OK for me to be narcissistic in my own space, show up and focus on getting better in my own world today and not fret about the future.

We can’t always magically succeed. But we can get better.

My banana chocolate chip cake can always be better too, but it does take continuous practice. Weekly, in fact!

Oh… and here’s the simple recipe I use to anti-Trumpify myself while watching CNN … You’re Welcome!

LARRY’S BANANA CHOCOLATE CHIP CAKE

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup butter, melted

1 cup white sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup sour cream (low fat works fine)

3/4 cup chocolate chips

2 ripe, medium bananas, sliced or mushed.

PREPARATION

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 9×5 inch loaf or 8 inch cake pan.

In a large bowl, stir together the melted butter and sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla, mix well.

Combine the flour, baking soda and salt, stir into the butter mixture until smooth. Finally, fold in the sour cream, chocolate chips and bananas. Spread evenly into the prepared pan.

Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the loaf comes out clean. Cool loaf in the pan for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

EXERCISE!…

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comes in lots of forms

… they all hurt until they feel great.

 

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  • Writing this blog exercises my writing mind, pushing me to be as clear in my communication as possible.

I spend a good deal of time writing, rewriting, editing and re-editing these posts to make them as understandable and relevant as I can manage (you may think I fail terribly… oh well!).

It’s frustrating and sometimes hurts my head trying to finding new ideas and new approaches that fulfill my needs while also hopefully finding a message that occasionally intrigues you.

A satisfying payoff comes every 4 or 5 blog posts when I hit on a thought, maybe a metaphor or a way of thinking that sends a chill of thrill up my spine.

It’s like finding a hidden cinnamon bun in the freezer and no one is around to catch you eating it… 0 calories!!

  • Playing and practicing my guitar exercises a part of my brain that requires coordination and memory and nuance of tone, timing, and volume.

I rehearse and practice songs over and over, trying out different keys and styles of approach (is this better in country format, jazzy, or slow and soulful?).

Jackson Browne would sit at his piano practicing a song, or even just one line of a song for hours until he hit on just the right sound he wanted. I think the best musicians follow a similar pattern to Browne’s.

Tonight I’ll sing his song THESE DAYS at an Open Mic with my own interpretation that I’ve practiced over and over.

The hurt heals to delicious pleasure.

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  • Investing exercises another part of my brain.

It’s the numbers part, the analytical and decision-making areas that weigh and decipher and calculate risk vs reward.

There’s a large set of reality-based and psychological components that need assessment and a steady mindset to produce a High-5 satisfactory return on dollars invested.

The level-headedness required to persevere when bad stuff happens to good investments is challenging, but ultimately rewarding when good analysis turns into good returns.

  • Running and other physical activities like spin class, yoga, and boot camp exercise my body.

Physical exertion forces large volumes of oxygen-rich blood to the areas where it’s needed to perform and work hard.

I try to work myself hard for at least a small amount of time each day… sometimes as little as 20 minutes with high intensity stuff. Half marathon training can consume a 2 hour period for long runs in preparation for a race.

I don’t mind if my body screams and hurts a little. Sorry to disagree with the “experts”, but sometimes… a little pain does produce gains.

The best showers are the ones that rinse away a ton of salty sweat.

sweaty guy

Exercise of all kinds comes down to habit and focus. Yes?

Self- discipline. Yes?

We all know that exercise in all forms is important in our lives.

Wrong… MOST of us know.

Here’s what Donald Trump thinks about exercise.

In a book (Trump Revealed) by the Washington Post’s Mike Kranisch and Marc Fisher:

After college, after Trump mostly gave up his personal athletic interests, he came to view time spent playing sports as time wasted. Trump believed the human body was like a battery, with a finite amount of energy, which exercise only depleted. So he didn’t work out. When he learned that John O’Donnell, one of his top casino executives, was training for an Ironman triathlon, he admonished him, “You are going to die young because of this.”

And, like all things TRUMP, I disagree. Every reputable scientific study disagrees… but there I go off on an unfocused tangent. Bad Larry. Yes, I digress.

Exercise is about habit and focus and self-discipline. But we also know that exercise is usually hard, a challenge to body, mind and soul.

Sometimes to pocketbook. OUCH!

For me in my life the hardest exercise is the creative process.

creativity ocean

 

Being creative exercises my sub-conscious mind and my powers of observation and interpretation and Idea Sex.

I can procrastinate my life away when I become lazy and try to avoid the creative process that I both love and hate.

I love the end result. I hate the process that takes me there.

We went to see the movie DEADPOOL 2 this week. WTF, Another tangent?

It’s the kind of movie you either love or hate.

It’s the 21st century equivalent of those 80’s and 90’s movies like AIRPLANE! or NAKED GUN… a bit of silly slapstick, a bit of Monty Python, buckets of blood and comic “violence”, even a kiss of romance.

But OMG, its approach to the superhero genre is so irreverently abrasive and inventive and original and CREATIVE.

I am in awe of the thought process (plus the multi-millions of dollars spent in its production) and independent manner that led screenwriters down this path.

I must have had some exercise in watching the show because my laughter muscles hurt afterwards.

Laughter can be THE best exercise, right? Shower time!

deadpool 2.jpg

 

A Masterpiece… Am I Ready?

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Okanagan Lake.jpg

Ommmmmmmmmmm…..

When we take a deep yoga breath and open our eyes and senses to the world around us we can see the universe as a beautiful painting. The breezes flow like fairy sprites across the canvas blending colour and texture.

To truly appreciate an exquisite piece of art, we first have to stand back and absorb the totality before we hone in on the minuscule fine points that, brought together, produce a masterpiece.

Masterpieces are created one step, one brush stroke at a time, in the same way that a war is looked back upon as a series of battles that produced a final outcome. OK, maybe that’s not a pretty comparison, but you get the point.

Bob Ross painting.jpg

Life is made from science but is best appreciated as art…

In a few weeks I’ll become a granddad for the first time.

My baby is having a baby. I’m not sure I’m ready.

Am I ready?

I always ask myself, “Am I ready?

I’ll tell you my answer at the end of this.

Soon, a small genetic piece of me will usher himself into the world and hopefully live for 100 or more years as a fractional portion of my proof of existence.

He’ll grow and laugh and cry, living his life one heartbeat, one day at a time just like I have, just like my mother, my grandfathers and great-grandmothers did.

This isn’t light stuff. This comes down to the meaning of life and weighty philosophical thoughts.

Granddad. It’s a title that I can’t quite grasp.

grandfather painting

In reality, for my entire life, I’ve struggled with titles of all kinds … paperboy, burger flipper, laboratory technologist, husband, father, brother, gardener, hockey player, writer, triathlete, musician, tutor, cook, bartender, the list goes on and on.

Every time a new title presents itself I’ve sat and asked myself, “Am I ready?

I’ve shivered and trembled and worried. My first niece was born when I was 11. I shivered. I married when I was  24 years old. I trembled. My first child was born when I was 26. I worried.

My first grandchild will be born when I’m 60. I shiver and tremble and worry. The beautiful masterpiece, the fine details and curlicues of a perfect life might turn into tangles and knots. But that’s short-lived worry that is really a mirage.

I know it’s insecurity that makes me think this way. I know it has to do with self-esteem and confidence. Am I ready?

It’s silly really because we all find ourselves “titled” every day by the roles we play, the things we do.

Not one of these titles has sat well on me because they’ve all been challenges that defined me and encased me in shoes of concrete. I am this. Or I am that. To be or not to be… and most importantly… can I do it?

These titles in some way – and in my interpretation – suggest that I must have some sort of expertise that I feel uncomfortable claiming.

Yes, I am a musician… well actually I play a bit of guitar and sing but Sir Paul is truly a musician, not me.”

Sure, technically I’m your father, but I don’t bring all the wisdom and wonder to the role the way Atticus Finch did in To Kill A Mockingbird, or Charles Ingalls on Little House On The Prairie. Now those men were Dad’s.”

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For many years I struggled with the sense of inferiority that often held me back through fear of failure. If I aim for this “title” and don’t quite make it, well, people will look down on me as a total failure.

The good news is that while in my 50’s, the fear of failure and insecurities that held hands with that fear slowly melted away like the globally-warmed ice glaciers in Alaska…

Titles don’t have the power to shape my view of myself the way they once did.

I don’t like failure any more than I ever have, but I accept that bastard failure as part of the process that carries me forward and gives me great satisfaction when I do overcome an obstacle.

And truthfully, I haven’t cleared every obstacle.

I took violin lessons for 4 years. I practiced and practiced. My family suffered the earfuls of pain. I never could coax a beautiful sound from that fiddle. Honestly, I sucked. OK, so violinist isn’t a title I hold; I’m good with that because I made a valiant attempt at learning. I grew in the process of sounding bad.

Today, although they still sound a bit foreign in my head, I’ve come to view titles as honours, accolades, recognition of what I’ve accomplished. Titles don’t define me, but they reflect the journey I’ve taken, the rivers I’ve crossed: some quiet babbling streams, some raging torrents.

Or in the case of the title Grandpa, a recognition of how far my children have come, an indirect reflection of the painting I began years ago when I was an intern in life (I’m still an intern).

Which brings me back around to the question I posed earlier… Am I ready?

I regret that I was never able to make a connection to any of my own grandparents as they were already gone or nearing their end when I arrived – the curse of being born to elder parents.

Now here I have an opportunity, a once-in-a-lifetime chance to carve out a connection as a grandparent.

It’s a title that requires nothing more of me than a loving presence.

There is excitement and newness in the beginning of a life, the anticipation of what-will-be. The joys and the worries.

OK…

My paintbrushes are cleaned and set to dab on the unvarnished canvas that awaits a brand new masterpiece.

Put me in Coach! I am ready.

……………………

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man in the moon…

 

 

 

 

Is There A Right Way To “R”etire?

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rocking chair3

My “R” word. Retirement.

There. I said it.

For me, saying Retirement is akin to verbalizing “Voldemort”, you know, Harry Potter’s deadly nemesis… “he whose name shall not be spoken“.

Shits and giggles.

Last night, I “worked” again after 6 months time away.

Bartending.

Pouring Pinot Gris, popping Budweisers, mixing Lamb’s Navy Rum with Coke, concocting a pretty Caesar.

Paid work.

It was fun to be back in the alcoholic saddle once more.

Now technically, I’ve been retired for almost 4 years (how did that time go by?).

But really, gosh darn it, I’m not even close to being retired. I’ve rejigged and rebranded, but retired? Nope. I’ll delve into this a bit further on.

Most people I meet in my age category are either retired or thinking about pulling the plug soon’ish.

I love it when I come across a 70 or even 80 year-old who still gets up most days and journeys off to an office or whatever, where they continue plying their trade, working their knowledge and experience because they love and need that stimulation and enjoyment.

Retirement, Schretirement.

Hallelujah for them.

working 80 year old

I suppose that each of us at some point searches within, finding what retirement could mean in our own life.

Used to be that folks worked til 65 and then collapsed on a couch or a rocking chair and died a year or two later on. Now, not so much…

  • For some, the retirement ideal means a day filled with nothingness.
  • Others retire to a life of leisure and play.
  • For yet others, retiring is quitting the 9-5 aspect of work, but then taking on consulting work in their same field, scaling back the time input but not changing the focus of their efforts.
  • Some folks parlay a fun hobby or treasured interest into a new career more enjoyable than their lifelong vocation.
  • There are the ones like Linda at my gym who take a scattershot approach to each day; a hybrid blend of various pet interests, paid work, and volunteerism. Linda divides her days into about 4 or 5 segments where she exercises (gym, curling, golf), volunteers at the school, reads a library book, takes a yoga class, attends a local lecture in the evening.
  • And sadly, for some, the thought of retirement is an unattainable dream, at least along the lines of what marketing dreamcatchers would have us buy into. Either a lack of savings, or employment income that rarely soared above a minimum wage, leaves a gaping hole of cashlessness where a monthly cheque of passive income (dividends, company pension, dividends) would be desirable.

You may know that I have a few pet peeves… things like the totally subjective (might I say “fake”!) meaning of words like moderation, or middle class, or retirement.

When we say these words, every person has a different version of just what that means. You know, potato, potahto.

Example? I’m running in a half marathon race in two weeks. At this stage of my training, a 15k run is a moderate run distance. In your world, a 5k walk may be crazy big, or… if you’re crazy (in my mind) perhaps a 42.2 k run is your everyday. Moderate? Who knows… Same goes for retirement.

Moderation?…….         or ……        Moderation??

My personal definition of retirement means deciding what each day will look like because I have the freedom to chart my course. The point of leaving work isn’t so that I’ll will never earn money again because that’s somehow bad. The point of it all is to have control over my time. TIME, more valuable than BITCOIN or Gold.

I work most days but it’s a rare day when someone pays me to do something. There’s a different feeling, a different philosophy and approach to work when there’s a $$ figure attached.

I liked my job as a medical lab tech/database miner and reporter but I didn’t love it. Or at least I didn’t love it after doing it for 30+ years.

I enjoyed the people I worked alongside, but the work itself? Well, it lost its luster and uniqueness and excitement years ago. The adrenaline rush I would get when called in at 2 am to do blood tests and crossmatches on car crash victims had long passed.

I suffer from boredom anxiety. It’s a blessing and a curse.

I need newness and creative expression. I need to be doing something different on a regular basis. That’s just me.

My “retirement” story is a lot like Linda’s, above. I exercise daily. I cook and play guitar. I garden and tutor English. I chop vegetables at the soup kitchen, I read and write blog posts. I savour warm sunny days and feed the chickens. I puff a cigar from time to time and renovate bedrooms. I bartend.

The retirement story we’ve been hearing about in our society is still relatively new.

People haven’t been retiring in droves for much more than a century now, but that’s still plenty old in terms of our personal memories.

Our memories have strong mental pictures and associations with retirement that mostly have to do with people in their later years. People with lots of gray hair. Grandparents, elderly neighbours, aging parents. Those are the stories we know, so those are the stories we attach to retirement.

But, powerful as these stories may be, they don’t dictate what retirement is, or what retirement could be. Those stories are changing, and dramatically, for those who retire younger and healthier.

When your day comes, or if it has already come, you’ll need to decide what your retirement story will be. It’s your book, your story.

There’s no “r”ight way, no wrong way…

There are so many possible visions and choices… like playing some gentle music in a care home for the elderly…

I decided it would be a great retirement “gig” to play my guitar occasionally at seniors’ homes.

So first, I went online, looked up and practiced playing some of my parents’ and grandparents’ old tunes. 

Then, I was able to get myself hired by a Penticton nursing home to sing for patients by their bedsides.

After serenading one cute, bedridden older lady for a little while,  I got up to leave and said, “I hope you get better soon.”

She smiled sweetly at me and replied, “I hope you get better too.”

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K-Tel vs Amazon… and the Winner Is?

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Capitol record club

Those were the days my friend…

OK, dammit I’ll admit it… it really gets under my skin when people talk about the “good old days”.

Good old days… Did you mean those good old days of cruel slavery and gruesome world wars and where women were unable to vote or own property?

Hmmmm… are we talking about the REAL “Good Old Days” or “New Age Trump days”?

Good old days was one of my Dad’s favourite expressions and I often hear it today when I’m in the company of the elder generation (notice how I’m carefully avoiding placing myself in this category… you know… VANITY is my name!)

I’ll know I’ve crossed the Rubicon to advanced Seniordom (SeniorDUMB?) when I believe that ALL things in the world were better when I was younger. Canned peas definitely were NOT a positive feature of my childhood dinners.

C’mon, every day is fresh and new and has the wide-eyed capacity to be a good day, or sometimes bad. Let’s face it, there are days of exhausting trial.

There are so many exceptionally positive things about the world of 2018 compared to, say, the world of 1918 (speaking of world wars).

Under the category of not better but different makes me search through my inner hard drive for some stuff that was popular in my young days and is now defunct, non-visible, like, gone… gone… gone.

I cast back in my memory banks wondering whatever happened to Capital Record Company, or K-Tel, or Book-of-the-Month Club.

In my 1960’s and ’70’s early youth, I loved all of those companies.

What a delight I’d feel, almost like a Christmas morn awakening, when I opened a cardboard mailing package containing a monthly LP record by Three Dog Night (“One is the loneliest number….), or peeling the plastic covering off K-Tel’s 40 Greatest Beach Hits of 1969… or a brand new shiny hardcover edition of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood.

three dog night

It felt like the planet had delivered the Science-Fiction model of humanity that Montreal’s Expo 67 promised visitors with its motto, Man and His World.

The Jetson’s maybe wasn’t just a cartoon. Good dog Astro!

Further, whatever happened to daily milk truck delivery or eggs, or potato chip or soda pop or orange juice deliveries, all brought by separate delivery truck?

It was crazy the stuff that could be trundled up my street by some middle-aged family man (or woman, we had an egg lady) in an old delivery truck. We never locked our house so they could deposit their goods inside the door.

These were iconic entities of my youth along with the one-armed Fuller Brush man who’d regularly appear at our door, or the knife-sharpening guy who walked up the road ringing a handbell and dragging a pull cart.

But best of all for us kids, was the Good Humor Truck, more affectionately known as the YUMMY MAN.

Yup, the ice cream truck with its sing-song jingle and its heavy insulated doors that hid the delectable Strawberry Shortcakes and Buried Treasures and Tiger Stripes.

He’d open one of those doors and big wafts of ice-cold clouds poured out while he reached in for our precious jewels of creamy sweetness.

good humor truck.jpg

Over the decades we lost these services as bigger and bigger grocery chains took control over the shopping experience with lower and lower prices and the convenience factor that put most of our daily needs and wants in one spot.

Gone was the need to traipse from the baker to the butcher to the dairy, the megastore had them all.

Truck-to-door delivery service wilted away like autumn frostbitten flowers… but much like clothing fashion that circles back around… the Phoenix has arisen from the ashes and we now have…

… a return to the past with home delivery of millions of products by the likes of Amazon and Best Buy and grocery stores and hundreds of others online.

The good old days we hear about have returned with steroidal gusto…

The crazy busy, the telecommuters and agoraphobics of the world have found a sweet spot where they really never need leave their safe houses.

Want to watch a movie tonight? Easy-peasy, just order from Apple or Netflix. You can lie back in bed, wireless iPad linked in, while the pizza boy delivers your intermission snack right to your comfy bedside.

The world will once again come to you with low prices and free delivery. Eggs and milk and books and music (oh, did someone mention PORN?) are available in a flash and a click.

Soon enough the Gen X’ers and Gen Y’ers and Millennials will be looking back in their rearview memory mirrors and reflecting fondly on their good old days just as every generation before has done.

It’s the Circle of Life where everything old becomes new again and the world wakes up from its humble slumber and forges off to work newly dressed in a shiny tech-happy wrapper.

From time to time in my nostalgic moments, I find myself wondering why songwriters and musicians don’t make music of the quality they used to, you know, like in the good old days?

But know what? I’m kidding myself even there. I’ve paused at the edge of the Rubicon, not quite ready to make the crossing.

In my youth there was only one Three Dog Night.

Today, there are dozens, hundreds… thousands of musicians and songwriters as good as or better than Three Dog Night…

Yes, these ARE the good days my friend…

Good-old-days

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