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Sweet 16 Jobs I’d Love YOU To Have

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Close a door, open a window…

After I “retired” in 2014 from my long medical lab career, I left the sweet bacterial scents behind and began looking for fun and captivating things to do.

No, it wasn’t out of boredom, or financial need, but in a spirit of adventure; a mini adrenaline shot maybe? SHOT! SHOT!!

But where would I bite?

The Menu: the first entree I took on was bartending, with a volunteer side dish of Soup Kitchen vegetable chopper, followed by a dessert of local college literacy and ESL tutor.

Next up came a post-prandial sip of a few hours weekly as a shipper at a local winery.

And now, here I am in almost-post-COVID mode and my mind is – in slow motion – seeking ideas for future stimulation…

Let’s step back for a second…

… you stare at yourself in the mirror (full-length nudity isn’t required here, but you can decide) and ask yourself: Who am I?

You’re bored or frustrated; an adrenaline junkie or an artist; perhaps recently retired, and hopefully not just Waiting For Godot.

You’ve worked in the same job, the same profession for 5, 10, 25 years and are looking for a change? Of course you are. Life is too short to be boxed into one vocation for decades. Carpe diem and all that…

If you’ve woken up with vivid dreams of taking on a brand new challenge, I have some juicy ideas for you.

Actually, these schemes are for me, but maybe it will fire up your own creative juices and dig up some exciting idea bubbles for you.

These are all real jobs, however, to be candid, some of them are Looney Tunes as hell, while others do have real merit… only you can decide which is which and move forward in your fun future.

Let’s explore:

1. CHOCOLATE TASTER – Heaven… I’m in heaven… sure, chocolate taster jobs don’t require any formal qualifications, but you do need to have an acute sense of taste and smell to do this job effectively. Large chocolate companies have several chocolate tasters they use to make sure their product is delicious. You can think of yourself as a Sommelier de Chocolat.

2. LIVING STATUE – Who knew you could be paid for standing still as well as laying down on the job? Performing as a living statue is one form of busking, especially in places with a high level of tourism. Living statue performers strategically choose a spot, preferably one with a high level of foot traffic, then create the illusion of complete stillness while standing. Sometimes, passers-by won’t realize you’re a real person, which can deliver a shocking surprise when the “statue” gives them a small gesture (such as a wink or nod). The objective is to create fun moments of interaction that result in a tip. In truth, I’ve actually done this “job” twice as a non-profit fundraiser – once as Jack Frost (below) and another time as The Grinch – it’s a blast and kids love the tease!

3. CUIDACARRO – yup, in Spanish this means “taking care of a car”… all you need to do is get thee to a city with sky-high theft crimes and let wealthy car owners pay you for standing watch over their car to make sure it isn’t stolen, or disassembled and put on blocks while they’re elsewhere, peacefully sipping scotch or Dom Perignon. How cool is that?

4. MUSIC THERAPIST – Ah hemmmmm… music therapy practice means establishing caring and professional relationships with people of all ages and abilities. Empathy, patience, creativity, imagination, an openness to new ideas, and understanding of oneself are important attributes. Music therapists are musicians as well as therapists, so a background in and love of music are essential. To get the inside track, individuals thinking of music therapy should consider gaining some experience through volunteer opportunities or summer work in nursing homes, camps for children with disabilities, and other settings which serve the needs of people… even animals. Doh re mi!

5. DEODORANT TESTER SNIFFER– almost as much fun as being a chocolate taster, but NOT at all! In order to test the effectiveness of new products, “odour judges” are hired to smell volunteers’ breath, feet, and armpits. To make sure their judgment is accurate, sniffers have their sense of smell tested monthly. This is one job that really does pass the sniff test.

6. AUDIO ENGINEER – Like to work the graveyard shift with narcissistic, ego-driven musicians? An audio engineer (or a sound engineer) works with the mechanics of recording, mixing, and reproducing sound. Audio engineers are not the same as sound producers, writers, or performers, as they deal specifically with the technical and mechanical aspects of music and sound — nothing else. If you like to hear the same song performed 100 times consecutively, this is your chair.

7. PERSONAL TRAINER – Are you jacked? Ripped? Look good in tight spandex? Share your secrets… a personal trainer works one-on-one with a client to develop and implement a fitness training regimen that helps them lose weight, get stronger, improve physical performance or invest in their health. Trainers introduce clients to individualized exercises that are based upon their personal goals, skill level and needs. Side benefit: all the protein bars and kale smoothies you can stomach.

8. HOMICIDE DETECTIVE – Law & Order… Bum bum… If you faint at the sight of blood, jump forward to #9. Beginning at a crime scene, a homicide detective works alongside forensic specialists to examine evidence. Detectives also spend a significant amount of time interviewing witnesses to form an educated guess about how a homicide happened and who may be responsible. After identifying suspects, a detective makes arrests and performs interrogations to gather further information about a murder. If a case goes to trial, they may assist the prosecution by testifying in court. Prepare yourself for vivid dreams until the day you die.

9. VOICE ACTOR – my brother has, later in life, taken acting classes, and picks up acting gigs here and there. He does the full physical job of acting, but for the less “camera-inclined”, there are speaking roles where your face never gets a chance to entice paparazzi… ie. the voice actor. Voice acting is a performance art where actors use their own voices to entertain or market to an audience. But lending just your voice to a cartoon or a goofy commercial can be more difficult than physical acting on a TV series, so be prepared to prepare and work hard. “Alexa, find me a voice acting job!”

10. SPEECH WRITER – ever since I watched the first episodes of The West Wing, I wanted to be a speech writer like Sam Seaborn (Rob Lowe). I love the art of oration, but lack the gravitas in my own voice to become Barack Obama or Walter Cronkite (who?). The next best thing? Write eloquent and memorable speeches for Barack or Walter, Kamala or Justin, Pierre or JFK. Ask not what you can do for your next job… If this job bores you, maybe try this next one…

11. PROFESSIONAL SLEEPER – just like it sounds, the professional sleeper is someone who gets paid to sleep. REALLY! They generally do this as part of scientific research where scientists analyze their sleep patterns or to evaluate the quality of various sleep-related products. I’ve worked with more than a few colleagues over my career that I know are perfectly suited to this position… it’s definitely not your average 9 to 5 job…

12. PROFESSIONAL MOURNER – Do you really want your funeral to look like the crowd at the Olympic Opening Ceremony? It is a tradition in South East Asia that a loud funeral will assist the dead as they travel to the afterlife, so professional mourners are hired to cry and weep loudly throughout the service. This is almost the equivalent of being a voice actor, and most certainly is not a dying profession.

13. BIKE COURIER – riding slalom on busy car-clogged streets… yes! Adrenaline jockeys… bike couriers are most common in large cities with downtown cores and business districts where vehicle deliveries can be costly and hard to schedule due to traffic jams, construction, parking availability, and other factors. Enter the bike courier: often hired to deliver items such as food, clothing and articles for photo shoots, digital files on flash drives or hard discs, legal, financial, or other sensitive documents, corporate gifts, medical samples. You gotta have strong legs, and a strong heart to deliver hearts for transplant.

14. DEAD BODY REMOVER or CRIME SCENE CLEANER – OK, simple really, but not always really simple. You never know what you’re going to run into during a home body removal or post-death clean-up. Some people with predisposed conditions, or ugly homicides or messy accidents that ultimately cause their death may die days or weeks before they are found. You have to remove them and it can get downright gross. Skin slip, purge, faeces, urine, insects, odour. This is bloody haunted house stuff for the bravest of souls.

15. GOLF BALL DIVER– are you tired of standing in the blazing summer sun, salty-sweat stinging your eyes… waiting to take your Tee shot, knowing that it’s sure-as-hell gonna land in the stupid water hazard? Simple answer: put your Calloway Big Bertha back in its bag and find a cool job on the other side. Summer is sweet when you dive into those cool ponds to collect the balls all the other suckers have wasted in futile attempts to be the next Tiger or Annika. Keep in mind, not all ponds are pristine, sand-lined, leech-free, swimmer’s itch clear delights. Murk and mayhem may await!

16. AMUSEMENT PARK VOMIT CLEANER – Whoa, that roller coaster ride was more than you bargained for.. and so is the disgusting mess you left behind in the car you were riding. Did you think all that stomach churning effluent just magically disappears when the coaster comes to a stop? Hardly! Take on the “Chunker Challenge” and make the ride squeaky clean and sweet-smelling for the next inhabitant – discreetly and quick as a wink!

So, there you go, a few ideas to stimulate your creative juices. The good news is there are a ton of other fabulous jobs out there that will kindle your fires, amuse, excite, animate, scintillate… and… repulse.

I’m still tossing around some other first-class opportunities like professional whistling, fortune cookie writing, snake milker, water slide tester and professional snuggler.

So many choices, so little time…

Funeral For A Chocolate Eternity

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Today, a spicy little twist from this Man On The Fringe.

As we enter a Northern Hemisphere summer, I’m offering up this rehash/reprint from a younger, stronger, handsomer… me.

Eight short years ago (June 2013) this week I wrote this post, a fantasized vision of my own funeral.

Morbid, maybe… but also how fun really! Let’s hit the time machine on this mini pseudo-philosophical tale…

………………

The rear swing door of the black hearse sitting in the horseshoe-shaped driveway was already gaping open like a Domino’s pizza oven, impatiently waiting for the deceased’s delivery.

.

hearse door ajar

Sun rays were prying their way between the clouds, trying desperately to make this final day bright.

Alone, I hesitated a second at the tall, heavy oak door of the generic staid but stolid funeral home – I pulled it open. Within seconds, a tall, dark-suited bespectacled man approached.

Did you know the deceased well?

He was dignified and compassionate in his well-honed professional approach to terminal matters.

Very, I said, grinning in a sheepish, modest sort of fashion.

In fact, I AM the deceased.

I spoke in a breathy whisper, hoping he would pick up on the discretion I wanted for such an unusual occurrence. He barely blinked when I said it though…

How often does this happen? This guy was a pro. He slide-stepped a quarter turn sideways and gestured with a sweep of his arm that I might like to enter the chapel.

I was worried that I would be noticed when I passed into the dimly-lit open hall so I sat down quickly on one of the empty long wooden pews at the back of the room.

Funeral chapel

Fortunately, in churches and funeral homes, people don’t turn around to look behind them. You only look left, right, or forwards. I haven’t perused the holy book lately so perhaps it’s some religious rule, maybe even a commandment–  that you don’t turn around unless they start to play “Here Comes The Bride“, and then it’s rude NOT to turn around.

Music … I love music. Jim Croce’s “Time in a Bottle” was just ending and the distinctive guitar picking of James Taylor began softly echoing off the high wood-panelled ceiling of the chapel – “You’ve Got a Friend”… I closed my eyes and absorbed one of my favourite songs.

I was adjusting my pant leg when a woman’s voice coming from my right whispered, “Are you the dead fellow?

My eyes were just adapting to the low lights of the room. Surprised, I turned to see an elderly woman scrinching her way, sliding gently towards me on the bench. She looked familiar, but only in the way that any woman of her age might remind you of your grandmother. She was squinting at me through her thick eyeglasses.

How did you know that?

– Well, you might think its a bit strange, but I come to a funeral here every week. IF there’s a funeral on a Friday. I have bridge club on Thursday and my daughter comes to help me out on Wednesdays. The other days just don’t feel like funeral days to me. I don’t know, maybe it’s because I’m Catholic. Fridays feel like a funeral day.

She slid her hands slowly over the knees of her dark dress to straighten the pleats that had been disrupted on her slide towards me.

– I never know the dead person, but I enjoy a good funeral. I get to see and hear the sum of a person’s life in about a half hour. I learn a lot about what’s important to different people. Sometimes it’s all just religious rigamarole – sandwich without a filling – almost like the dead person never existed. But sometimes, there’s a whole gourmet dinner laid out of a person’s soul. It makes me see my own life better somehow. I like those ones.

She fell quiet when she spotted the man in the dark suit, the same one that greeted me at the front door, approach the podium at the front of the room.

man speaking at funeral

He paused at the metal-faced lectern, looked down quietly at his notes, then slowly looked back up, and began:

One of the great benefits of living for a number of years, is that we absorb and observe and enjoy the things that make our time as humans on earth special and memorable. We experience the multitude of stages that constitute a life. Birth, childhood, teen years, first loves, fast cars and vehicles, first jobs, the stresses and great joys of family life and interacting with people that surround us. We see beauty, and pain, in so many forms, often those things that we glance past in early years become the treasures of our later lives.

-If Larry was with us here today, if he was sitting right here in this chapel at this moment…

He glanced with a small ironic smile towards the back of the room where I was sitting.

– if he was here, he would want us to reflect on the things that mattered greatly to him and at least take them into consideration in the living of our everyday lives. 

Hallelujah brother, I wanted to yell out.

But I didn’t want to distract the modest crowd of mourners and well-wishers who had broken away from their daily existences to say a final farewell to a small piece, a fragment really, for most of them, of their lives.

Aside from close family, a funeral, at its most basic level isn’t really about the person who has passed. A funeral is about how each of us reacts in the moment, decides our own personal life course, and editorializes how we’re doing so far.

– Highly spiritual but not a typically religious man, Larry suggested in his final requests that I put in a good word about 5 things that stood out for him and that made his own existence special and noteworthy.

spiritual path
  • Love of creativity. Creativity surrounds and envelops us every day. Almost everything we touch from simple kitchen gadgets to fancy cars is there because another human conceived and made it. Our medicines, our clothes, chocolate bars. You name it, simple or complex, it needed creativity. Music, sculpture, yes even Fifty Shades of Grey… they all originated in the amazing mind. We need to observe and appreciate the good and great we’ve created and be mindful of the not so good. But more importantly, we need to be an active participant and create within our own sphere too. Create a garden, create a meal to be remembered, create a poem, create a pair of socks. Perform some idea sex and create something totally unexpected. Absorb others’ creations but take the time to make your own little masterpiece too.
  • Love of at least one other who loves you back. The warmth of another’s love and respect is what makes humans human. It grounds us, it gives us purpose. Giving love to someone else lifts up the poorest beggar to the richest monarch. It can’t be bought, it can’t be sold, but it’s more valuable than the Crown Jewels.
  • Love of health and activity. Our bodies are striated top to bottom with muscle. Bone and blood and muscle thrive on movement, active movement. Our mind muscles and our body muscles all feel better when they’re exercised and strengthened. An internal global sense of health and well-being starts with active movement.
  • Love of the unknown… fearlessness. Stepping to the edge of the metaphorical ledge makes our heart race and our soul sing. Horror movies are so popular because they take us to the edge of our comfort zones, creating a sense of exhilaration, but pulling back and leaving us drained from a cathartic high. Taking ourselves to the limit or into an area that intrigues but intimidates us at the same time is a fantastic journey that puts LIFE into life. I’m told that Larry confided once that running marathons or learning another language in a strange, exotic locale filled him with fear. But, living and pushing forward into that fear is exhilaration exemplified.
  • Love of the senses. This is a world replete with sights, sounds, smells that can overfill our senses, and yet we often downplay or ignore them. We need to learn to slow our breathing and absorb the plethora of beauty in all its forms that surround us. The smoothness of pine needles, the scent of seafood in a crowded marketplace, the roar of a jet piercing the sky overhead, the glitter of the setting sun rays caressing the lake surface at sunset. Our lives can be so much richer when we take the time to appreciate the exquisiteness around us.

– So, Larry asked that we all retreat within ourselves today and reflect on those things we feel an affinity, a love, a respect, a passion for in our days and years living this amazing miracle that brought us to this place, this time, this world that evolved from no one yet knows what or where.

Oh, and one more thing. Larry wanted me to add…  eat some chocolate … always eat some chocolate!

Life can be as simple as that sometimes.

coffin crisp

The time felt right for me to leave.

The old lady next to me turned and nodded knowingly with a small smile. Leaning in slowly, she bussed her lips against my cheek and whispered, “Thank you for the lovely soulful meal you made for me today. I’m going to think about the things that were important to you. I’m glad we had this chance to meet.

I stood and took one last look over the group of my friends, my relatives, my life.

Some were smiling, some were gently wiping beneath their eyes with white kleenex; the ladies dressed in mixtures of short and long skirts, with sweet floral smells and red lips. Men in dark suits, some in clean blue jeans and open necked shirts, a disjointed harmony of style and generation that spoke of honour and fashion.

To my own surprise, I felt good. It was a bittersweet moment knowing that my own few eternal seconds had come and passed so so quickly.

I turned and pushed my way through the door of the chapel. Instantly, a brilliant white light shone through the upper windows of the funeral home, the sun had won its skirmish with the clouds.

I wasn’t sure where the white light led but I felt a robust attraction to first one exit door on my left and then an equally strong pull towards an exit door on the right.

On each door a sign was posted prominently on its surface. The one to the left stated:

Buddha awaits your reincarnation

The sign on the door to my right said:

Chocolate Eternity

I hesitated and thought deeply.

SERIOUSLY? All of life’s philosophies come down to this?

Maybe death can be as simple as that.

I paused for a moment longer, then smiled a little smile and stepped confidently forward. I’d made my choice.

With all my strength I threw open the door.

2 more doors

A Man In Tights… Just Isn’t Necessary…

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NO… a man in tights is not a pretty sight… at least not to me…

… nor is the male Speedo bathing suit (crotch hammock) considered a SuperStud look, at least beyond the sightlines of an Italian Riviera beach…

… further … and at a more personal level, I’ve been oft reminded of my own Speedo debacles many times in the late 80’s and early ’90’s by my kids- with the haunted look of Edvard Munch’s The Scream on their faces – whilst training diligently for triathlons adorned in this briefest of briefs…

No… a man in tights or anything similar just isn’t necessary.

Back in my kid’dom, my family went summer camping at Port Elgin on Georgian Bay, an offshoot of Lake Huron.

These were the best kid summers ever, befitting the iconic Beach Boys era of music and bikini’d babes on the beach. Close your eyes and envision Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon running in the sun-drenched sand.

Occasionally on one of those sticky-humid summer evenings when the late-day sun cast beautiful amber tones on our faces, we’d get lucky and my parents would take us out to a “professional” wrestling match at the local arena.

Passing through the building’s doors the atmosphere was excited and boisterous, swirling scents of fresh popcorn, underarm sweat and cigar smoke filled the arena air.

The famous “tights” boys of the time were Whipper Billy Watson (always the gentlemanly good guy), Haystacks Calhoun, Bruno Sammartino, The Sheik (the ultimate villain, racism thrived!), Sweet Daddy Siki.

For a pre-pubertal boy, these nights were the closest thing to a wet dream there was…

… the tights that squeezed like sausage casings over the generally rotund bodies were colourful and fashionably imaginative… and anatomically revealing… which makes me wonder today just what Billy Watson’s “Whipper” nickname referred to??

It just wasn’t necessary…

It was in this timeframe that I personally began flirting with sexy undergarments …

I’m an old-time hockey player… as a 6 or 7 year-old, I began wearing a garter belt to hold up my hockey socks before I had any knowledge of gender issues. Marilyn Monroe uses these? Does she play hockey too?

If my Dad had only known about it, I may have been pulled from the Parkdale Steelers hockey team. A gentleman of his Mad Men era wouldn’t calmly tolerate a boy of his wearing girly underthings.

Years passed, and in my high school of the 1970’s, a number of the boys looked to impress the sweet female audience in our classes.

Preparing themselves in the bathroom before the start of class, the brawny bold guys sat down manspreading in their desk chairs with cocky grins on their faces… they carefully ensured their clothed member was skillfully outlined down either the right or left leg of their tight pants, like a hungry, adolescent serpent hiding in the bushes.

I don’t know if sex sells in the high school classroom but they were trying their best to impress with largesse.

It just wasn’t necessary.

One last example: who really wants to see the bulky enclosure that male ballet dancers use to hide/highlight their elephant trunk?

I enjoy dance performance… but, sometimes, I find watching the dance becomes less about technique and beautiful movement… and more an observation of what the hell is that pup tent apparatus, holding everything in place down there?

I wonder if maybe the wine served at intermission is really intended to wipe away the lingering vision of the lycra crotch bubble (“hello, my face is up here…”).

As a general observation, men’s fashion when it comes to the area where the twig and berries hang out is a scary and precarious thing.

I figure there’s a reason why male anatomy mags never really took off the way the girlie mags did… us boys don’t carry the same artistic lure in our “Y” region… we pack functionality for sure, but any aesthetic beauty was shunted aside for this usefulness.

It’s reassuring for you – and my kids – that I’ll likely never be found in “tights”, or a Speedo, again in my lifetime… small mercies and all.

Today, I carefully shield my gentletalia from public view as much as possible… it’s my kind and gentle contribution to fairness and all that is good in the world…

… and heavens, should there be an accidental exposure? Well, the skillful Stephen King couldn’t put a more chilling horror show together with all his weird word’ish expertise.

Let’s face it… it just isn’t necessary…

Back To The Future aka The Way We Were…

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I’m guilty and so are you… probably…

Every generation, at least in the past 100+ years thinks…

… that’s there’s something hugely wrong about the next generation.

They’re irresponsible or lazy or inappropriate or ill-mannered or off-base.

It’s your kids, Marty! Something’s gotta be done about your kids!”

Doc Brown, Back To The Future

……..

Yup, just plunk yourself down at a table in a bar or a coffee-shop (when it’s COVID-allowed) and listen to the vintage-gangs of older men or grey-haired women… catch the greasy wafts of Brylcreem and Oil of Olay mixed with caffeine and righteousness...

John will gruffly complain about the government and how they coddle the unemployed or the youth, “we worked hard for everything in our day, there were no handouts.”, he’ll say.

Susan will lament about how the new Mom’s are slack and overly-attentive to their children’s every scrape or bruise, “it’s like the sacred kids can’t breathe without their mother’s phone camera catching every blessed inhale.”

So, are they right?

All of us have a fixed point of reference in our lives, and that point begins the moment we cry out and inhale our very first breath.

Everything that is “normal” in the world is what happens after our “birth”day and in our first few years.

The normal world isn’t what occurred 100 years ago or 100 years from now… it’s what we see and hear with our own eyes in our early years.

Case in point: The house where you grew up probably didn’t exist 100 years before you were born, but to you … that house is what is NORMAL, not the forest of trees that lived there for hundreds of years before.

Before and after that, it’s just a cluster-fuck… all aberrant and crazy.

Think about it and reflect a bit… every school, every job, every value and every technology that rolls out is compared to what we’ve personally experienced through our life: our own formative days and years.

I’m convinced all the old crotchety people *which might mean ME* we encounter are viewing the world through this jaundiced lens… which is why we so often hear the elder generation say… “it’s not like it was when I was growing up“.

And they’re right… it’s not.

Countless things have changed and will keep on changing.

Our existence – like a rose’s bloom – is in constant flux.

Generations back, fathers and sons shared the same “worldview” from generation to generation knowing that they were farmers today and farmers tomorrow… mothers and daughters knew that they were housekeepers and child-raisers for all their days.

But the Industrial Revolution followed by the Information Revolution came along and the wheels kept spinning faster and faster. Farmers became accountants and assembly line workers, housewives evolved into lawyers and engineers.

Parents grudgingly adjusted to the new reality while hoping this revolutionary change would stop with them.

But it never did. And their kids pushed the envelope and kept “remodelling and retooling”. They loved Elvis and Marilyn Manson, not Bach or Benny Goodman.

To your parents and grandparents, you became the one that was leading a ridiculously misguided life.

Time passed, and one day you perhaps became a parent yourself. And the wheels of change kept on rolling, rolling, rolling.

Today, every child is bombarded by hundreds of TV shows on a dozen platforms, thousands of websites, daily changes to software and apps that they use in every waking moment.

Kids’ Moms and Dads both work outside the home and tread life’s water as fast as they can with outdated tools that were given them 10, 20, or 30 years back.

They paddle hard but they’re helpless against the flood coming at them.

These same kids too will find themselves snowed under one day in the near future and recount to their own kids about how life was simpler and more sensible in their day.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with each successive generation… different, yes, but not wrong…

The way we were isn’t the way we are… nope…

We are living in a Back To The Future world… good golly Miss Molly… Marty McFly is… US!

PS Random thought from the blog post of INVERSE:

Riddle me this: Both of these organs guard their contents closely, appear wrinkly on the outside, and can determine the course of an individual life. What are they?

We’re talking about the brain and the testicles.

Human male testes and brains create more than 13,000 of the same proteins, more than any other tissues in the body, and partially control what makes humans unique.

So don’t laugh when men think from below the waist… it’s a part of our smart DNA….

And Now For Something Deliciously Different…

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You gotta eat… right?

OK, well, other than Karen Carpenter… What? Too soon?!

Food for me is like the rest of my existence… it’s an ADHD kind of thing…

I detest mealtime rehashes (at least in the short term).

Every meal, every night… better be something very different from last night or the night before or the …

And something else… you could be forgiven for thinking that as a former lab guy, I would be extremely precise and scientific in my cooking adventures.

That I’d follow recipes to the T like some Julia Child or Child of Julia… BUT, sadly… you would be wrong.

Perhaps I was born to be a lab researcher because I’m constantly tinkering with food preparations… add some turmeric here… more tomato paste there… definitely another teaspoon (although WHO uses an actual teaspoon?) of cinnamon…. less cumin today but let’s throw in some fenugreek leaves.

………….

A man who measures life, never knows his own measure”… from Today’s Special (movie)

………….

And of course the magic ingredient to any dish – savoury or sweet – is a smidgen of sugar.

There’s still more lucky magic for this spoiled late-model westerner…

… beyond my early-life acquaintance with WASPy European cuisinery styles, I’ve been exposed to a hodgepodge of ethnic approaches to cooking through neighbours, friends and relatives…

… but also from various journeys afar to play in the kitchens of cooks from San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua to Havana, Cuba, from Marrakesh, Morocco to Udaipur, India, from Cusco, Peru to Xian, China.

Guinea pig (cuy) in Cusco, Peru
Curry preps in Udaipur, India
Chicken Tajine making in Marrakesh, Morocco

But this COVID era has metaphorically abducted the frying pan from my hands, so I thought I’d review and reflect on some of my favourite “victuals” movies … food flix are a socially acceptable form of sensual porn, don’t you think?

Just this morning, after deciding to write about this topic, I shockingly realized that I’ve missed out on a cornucopia of delectable comestible cinema… why have I missed so many of these yummy selections?

Sure, I’ve absorbed Ratatouille, Fried Green Tomatoes, Chocolat, The Hundred Foot Journey, Julie and Julia… plus most of TV’s Anthony Bourdain, Stanley Tucci in Italy, and The Great British/Canadian Baking Shows… sorry Gordon Ramsay… your food porn is too much like a sexual assault to make it onto my food-lovin’ playlist.

Today, for fun, I thought I’d list a mere few of the movies for you to consider watching that different sites and reviewers think are the Best of the Best, Most Delicious of the Delectables, Chewiest of the Chows.… with a helpful international cuisine guidepost so you can pick your favourite dish from a country of your choosing.

So, here goes… some wonderful calorie-free cinematic morsels for you to chew on and digest:

FRENCH

Babette’s Feast

Julie and Julia

Chocolat

Burnt

Ratatouille

ITALIAN

Big Night

Dinner Rush

MEXICAN

Like Water For Chocolate

Tortilla Soup

CHINESE

Eat Drink Man Woman

BBQ

Fried Green Tomatoes

Uncorked

INDIAN

The Lunchbox

The Hundred Foot Journey (French/Indian)

Maacher Jhol

Nina’s Heavenly Delights

Today’s Special

KOREAN

Always Be My Maybe

Antique

CUBAN

Chef

JAPANESE

Tampopo

The Ramen Girl

Sweet Bean

GERMAN

Mostly Martha

• And finally… to finish off this culinary erotic expedition… a movie about PIE!!

WAITRESS… who could go wrong while sampling these classics… MARSHMELLOW MERMAID PIE, FALLING IN LOVE CHOCOLATE MOUSSE PIE, NAUGHTY PUMPKIN PIE, OLD JOE’S HORNY PIE

… try feasting your palate on some of these cooking movies… a lusty love story in every bite.

My Life As A Bigoted, Elitist, Racist, Misogynist, Atheist

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Y

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ou could hate me. Maybe you should hate me.

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There is no doubt in my mind that I’ve done or said something in my lifetime that should enrage you… it’s inevitable that I’ve uttered undiplomatic comments about your gender, or sexuality, or ancestry, or intelligence, or religion.

I haven’t always been sensitive or “woke”. I can understand that you might hate me. I’ve had to erase many many words from my vocabulary that are laced with hidden, and often unintended, hatred.

I’ve lived the most privileged of privileged lives ever in history. I don’t have to buy a lottery ticket, because I won the biggest prize by merely being born a white-skinned male in North America in the 20th century. BINGO!

I’m a billionaire by universal standards of fortune. It’s both wonderful and challenging at the same time.

I’m living in a different world today than the one I was born into… and I’m adjusting and learning and trying… but I also know I’m living my days reading a road-map (without my reading glasses on) that doesn’t have clear cut directions.

In my early years, I said and did things that were hurtful and hateful and just plain stupid when I look back. Many people my age and in my circumstances did the same.

We echoed stuff our parents and grandparents said without understanding who we were mocking and knocking. I won’t give examples, but you probably know the kinds of things to which I’m referring.

It seems pretty clear to me now that making jokes about someone’s gender or sexuality or skin colour or religious beliefs – even hair colour – is crazy dumb and not helpful in any way.

Fortunately, my awareness factor has risen thanks to the resistance movements of Women’s Liberation, LGBTQ+, #MeToo, BLM, and a host of other trod-upon groups.

And yet… today I still get confused and make unintentional gaffes.

I know that no matter how much I try, I still stumble and hurt or offend. I take this for granted and carry the awareness or non-awareness around my neck like a scarf… one that tightens and restricts my breathing when I stray, and warms me when I’m on the right track.

The planet is growing smaller and smaller (metaphorically) and the privilege I was given as a birthright is one that everyone deserves no matter where they are born, no matter their skin colour or language, no matter their gender identification, no matter their choice of partner, no matter their belief or non-belief in a god.

I can’t change what I was or believed in my younger years, but today, we all can make a choice to accept and rejoice in the variety of humanity in much the same way I rejoice in eating delicious foods from India or China or Peru or France or even McDonald’s.

We ALL deserve a rightful and generous place in the world. At the very least, it’s a right we deserve to start out with and maintain if we live in a way that continues to earn this right. Does that make sense?

So, you can choose to hate me and I’ll get it.

But I’ll be a lot happier (and so will you I think) if you try… just try… to understand that I’m crawling, grasping my way out of this cocoon of ignorance, and will make slips and blunders as we wander this complex, cosmic road together.

I’m trying to leave my life as a bigoted, elitist, racist, misogynist, atheist behind… OK, perhaps not the atheist part!…

…and I will always wish for you and everyone the “billionaire” status I was given with my first crying breath, as a part of our birthright.

My Very Early Letter to Santa

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VROOM VROOM… I’d love to be a hybrid. All muscle, no fat.

Like my car, a Toyota Camry that switches back and forth between battery power and fossil fuel… a mix of all the eco-goodness with only a wee tiny snippet of the deplorable. Nothing’s perfect, yes?

What I’m getting at here is that while I appreciate ALL of my wonderful, amazing positive points – far too many to count in a short blog post (“Larry, people are sick of hearing about how humble you are”) -, like Tevye in Fiddler On The Roof wishing to be a rich man, or the Barenaked Ladies wanting a Million dollars (really? a million? only? amateurs!)…

… I’d like to Super-Size myself and morph into a superhero in all areas of my personal humanity.

Let’s go for a different version of Super-Size…

This could be a major makeover…

Areas such as:

  • physique-wise
  • intelligence
  • business/finance
  • compassion
  • philosophy
  • lover
  • fighter
  • musician
  • writer
  • philanthropy
  • teacher
  • learner…

Obviously, I’ll need help here (no need to nod your head in agreement!)

But who do I know with the power to transform me?

Tony Robbins is booked until 2027, Angela Merkel and Jacinda Ardern are tied up fighting the COVID threat, Oprah charges too much, even the Google doesn’t know God’s cell number or postal code.

BRAINSTORM!

Maybe a carefully-worded begging letter to Santa would do the trick. This is his downtime so the time to ask is now…

Santa is mystically powerful (his sleigh runs on hybrid reindeer) and knows all about me, he even sees me when I’m sleeping and knows when I’m awake. This is Idea Sex in its finest form.

My fingers are crossed… let’s put this missive together:

Dear Great Omnipotent Father Claus:

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Larry here… How are YOU? I am fine. How’s the Ms. and the People of Diminished Stature?

It’s been awhile since I’ve written to you.

It’s long overdue but firstly… I’m sorry about the letter of complaint I sent you in January 1962 when you brought me a Casper the Friendly Ghost doll instead of the GI Joe action figure I specifically asked you for, while sitting on your lap in the Centre Mall in Hamilton. It was a child’s rash outburst that I’ve felt really badly for all of these years. I hope you’ve found it in your heart to forgive me and refrain from shifting me onto the NAUGHTY list.

Still, I’ve been a huge admirer of yours since… well… since, forever. Will Ferrell sends his best too!

You’ve brought joy and happiness to billions of us mere humans, and never once been found to have diddled with children, or swindled grocery money out of grandmas, or instigated a violent riot against any government (you weren’t involved in the Cabbage Patch caper, right?).

I know it’s early in the Christmas Wishlist year but I kinda need your help.

I’m just a simple, modest, super humble guy. During these viral days I’m trying my best to make myself into a better, stronger, and smarter version. Vitamin C and Viagra have only taken me so far.

I’ve been thinking about all the people out there that excel in realms and spheres whom I admire and look up to.

As a perfect example Santa, I am in awe and desirous of your generous spirit and jolly good mirth, but sorry to say, I don’t want your “bowlful-of-jelly” tummy. I want the very best of my heroes without their drawbacks, I have plenty of those already.

You probably need to get back to your late-winter nap, so this is the crux of my note. Here’s what I’d like you to send my way ASAP with many thanks Mr. Big…

In no specific order, I’d like a teaspoon or 2 of the supernatural pixie dust from each of the following:

    • the physical prowess, mental strength, and skills of Jesse Owens, Patrick Mahomes, Clara Hughes, and Wayne Gretzky
    • the writing chops of Stephen King, Aaron Sorkin, John Steinbeck, and Nora Ephron
    • the investing acumen of Warren Buffett, Peter Lynch and Catherine Wood
    • the compassion genes of Mahatma Ghandi, Terry Fox, Harriet Tubman, and my Mom
    • the intellectual capacity of Barack Obama, Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill, and Yuval Noah Harari
    • the philanthropic know-how of Bill Gates, Melinda Gates, MacKenzie Scott, and Priscilla Chan
    • the oration skillset of Pete Buttigieg, Stephen Lewis, Winston Churchill, and Barack Obama
    • the balls of Elon Musk, Greta Thunberg, Steve Jobs, and the Chess girl from The Queen’s Gambit
    • the music magic of Tommy Emmanuel, Keith Urban, James Taylor, Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Harry Chapin, the Eagles, The Beach Boys

Thanks for helping me in my quest for perfection.

Oh… one last small thing… Do you think you can do something about this nasty virus so little kids don’t need to be nervous about going to school, or visiting their grandparents?

Is my list too much?

Well, just do the best you can and I’ll put whatever you can’t manage this year on next year’s list, OK? Delayed gratification is a virtue…

Mr. Claus… I think you’re the best… they should make you a Saint… too late?.. how about a movie? that too? for sure a bubblegum card… well deserved Big Guy!

Sincerely, your little friend, Larry

PS. Virginia O’Hanlon, as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, was surely right to look up to you.

My 8 Unimpeachable Quarantine Goals for 2021

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A daring bloodless revolution is underway…

… not in Tehran or Washington… nope… in the confines of my home.

Do I think New Year’s resolutions are passé? … well… not so much… but…

… OK, I’m still a goal setter – and it may just be my advancing age – but it’s more likely this whole COVID thing has me becoming more discerning and self-critical.

The belly button gazing has become more intense (and fogged by fluff).

The choices and opportunities for setting goals and achievements has narrowed substantially this past year. Today…

• I substitute PBS Rick Steves episodes for international travel destinations

• CNN is a surrogate for fantasy literature stories

• baking powder or starter mix does its bubble-dance in place of hard-as-toilet-paper-to-find yeast

• energetic hikes to the refrigerator take up the sweaty role of boot camp classes

• snatching a package of toilet paper from an elderly lady’s shopping cart makes for a high-five victory (and a lap of shame too, Larry)

Author Jim Collin’s Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAG) remain out-of-bounds for awhile still.

So… my major mental activity these days is to categorize my minor-league goals; here are a select few of these 2021 Humbled Downsized Miniaturized Goals (HDMG):

  1. Hygiene: Brush my teeth at least twice a week. Finger rubbing between brushings scores chocolate bonus points. Avoid smiling at hygienist daughter: stay focused.
  2. Hygiene: create a small business of mobile face-mask washing kiosks outside malls and grocery stores to remove crusty spots and brown saliva stains from customer masks worn for weeks and jammed into filthy pockets.
  3. Exercise: Run 5k at least once a …. run 5k over the coming year. Marathon Stretch Goal– keep weight gain to 26.2 lbs.
  4. Exercise: Climb to the very top of local mountain, Giant’s Head, carrying a case of Double-size Charmin toilet paper, without the assistance of bottled O2 or an accompanying medic… train ahead of time with YouTube Couch Cross-Fit and BedBounce Yoga classes.
  5. Mental: Read War and Peace in original Russian… or 10 Trump tweets in English, whichever is less difficult to understand. Late breaking: No more Trump tweets, nyet… so War and Peace it is… da!
  6. Mental: Yell out in properly verb-conjugated Spanish at the neighbour’s Chihuahua when it poops on my property…. el perro gordo loco….
  7. Creative: Write 10 blog posts that don’t mention the words Trump and F*ck in the same paragraph. Also: write one full post using only my left pinkie finger.
  8. Investment: pour entire pension fund assets into toilet paper futures using Bitcoin (Larry, do you even have the slightest understanding of what bitcoin is?)

  • BONUS Goals:
    • Cooking: Work on sculpture-based meal-making using a combination of Beyond Meat and Chia Pet seeds. First up: Bob Ross Meat(less)loaf. Also: Send my 2 yr-old grandson’s famous recipe for Stinky Cheese Donuts to Tim Hortons.
    • Juvenile: Dress up as Miss Piggy and eat frog legs for breakfast.
    • Music: Write a Broadway musical about Trump called Hangry Humping On The Resolute Desk.

Welcome to silly season. So what will be YOUR goals for 2021?

Hang on cuz this will be a year of necessary continued patience and finding something funny in the absurd. Even many Holocaust survivors found room in their lives for dark humour to lift their spirits.

Those afflicted with COVID, or those with someone close-by affected, need the respite of laughter to distract and soothe. To quote my COVID long-hauler Irish cousin, “Let’s not forget all the positivity among the pain – those little glimmers of sunshine in the darkness that got us through.

Now’s a good time to start your own home-bound res(v)olution…

The Week That Was In A Year That Is…

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I don’t have to explain… You get it, right?

I will hold my tongue over the many surreal things that have occurred in the last 7 days… because… TEAM?…

*hear the swelling roar*

… it’s time for the coach’s pep talk! Let’s go…

You’ve been scared. You’ve been stressed. Your permanent press is gone and you’ve been tumbled dry.

The U.S. election and coronavirus have sucked the gall out of our gallbladders, the storm out of our brains, the oysters out of our shells, the prick out of our boils (Larry, that’s too far…), the life force out of so many of us.

It’s been a week of numbers galore and I am a Number’s Guy but…

TIME OUT!

• It’s recess time.

• It’s time to get past the pity party.

• It’s time for self-care and self-repair.

• It’s time to be our own leader.

• It’s time to refresh and reset on Desiderata and become centred once again.

Ommmmmmmm…. that’s better.

It’s time to get back to the things you have control over (like wearing a simple mask for a few more months); become your own lighthouse in the dark night that surrounds us for the moment, remembering that THIS TOO SHALL PASS.

It’s time to listen to beautiful music that enervates and relaxes. Here’s a pretty James Taylor/Mark Knopfler song to help (Sailing to Philadelphia); a cup of awe-inspiring guitar by Knopfler, a handful of superb harmony vocals, blended with a side of history lesson included gratis.

Get out there and bake some fancy sourdough bread… or make a Curried Shepherd’s Pie like I did this week… yup, look for some Idea Sex in whatever you love to do. I love curries, I love Shepherd’s Pie…. so why not Curried Shepherd’s Pie… here’s a recipe link.

Take care of yourself both mentally and physically. YouTube has tons of yoga and boot camp classes. There are free seminars, university and college courses to be had online (Coursera is a good example).

Try to focus on the positive things you hear and read. We all have the human tendency to focus 10 times more on the negative. It’s a part of our neanderthal survival mechanism.

We have a long way to go team but let me remind you of a few of the positive forces in our world.

1. Global life expectancy (Our World in Data) has been rising steadily since the turn of the 20th century, and has increased nearly 3 years in the last decade alone. It’s now 72.6 years old, compared to life expectancy just a century ago when most people didn’t make it to 40. No country in the world today has a lower life expectancy than the countries with the highest life expectancy in 1800.

2. Child mortality in the world is in dramatic decline (United Nations)- Global child mortality fell from 19% in 1960 to just below 4% in 2017. Average rates in Africa are now lower than the European average in 1950. In the last decade alone, child mortality fell 26%. This number will continue to dwindle.

3. Today, nearly 60% of the world’s population has access to the internet (World Bank). We passed the 50% milestone in 2018 and the trend is accelerating. With such rapid progress, internet access may soon become a universal human right.

4. More people have access to reliable electricity today than at any point in history. In 1990, around 71% of the world’s population had access; this increased to 87% in 2016. Over a billion people have gained access in the last decade. Today, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), 90% of the world’s population has the use of electricity.

5. Rapid growth of solar and wind energy (Our World in Data) – solar energy generation increased twenty-fold from 2010 to 2019. During that same period, renewable energy generated by wind increased three-fold to 1,430 gigawatts. Fossil fuels will be relegated to the buggy whip makers’ museum before our grandchildren grow old.

6. The number of people in extreme poverty has fallen from nearly 1.9 billion in 1990 to about 650 million in 2018. In the last ten years, we have reduced global extreme poverty by nearly half to 9.3% in 2020 (World Bank). If it weren’t for COVID-19, that number would be even lower. For example, the World Bank estimates that if the pandemic hadn’t ravaged the world economy, the global extreme poverty rate in 2020 would be 7.9%.

Listen up. I’m not Pollyanna. I’m merely hopeful.

The world has it’s work cut out for it, but there is ample reason for hope going forward…

… hope is what we all need not just this week but everyday and every year.

Now come on in and give me a cheer on three … one, two, (oh Larry, you’re such an idiot).

Happy (Your Choice) Holiday

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I unilaterally declare November 1 as the first International Pet Peeve (IPP) Day!

(FULL DISCLOSURE: I’ve discovered in writing this post that there is actually a Pet Peeve Week… the second full week of October… who knew!?)

Everything out there seemingly has it’s official day and flag (although I haven’t gone so far as to draw up a symbol for IPP yet).

This is a Lilliputian rant lamenting a change in our world. It’s a grain of sand in my shoes… a pea under my mattress… a first world problem, you get it.

And if I describe you in this post (heaven forbid!), please know that I accept and honour your choices and health needs.

We all have a part of us – larger or smaller- that rejects change; change irritates because we get comfortable in our patterns and routines… who wants to change their belly button fluff clean-out day from Tuesday to Thursday?

Anything new that makes us think deeply or differently, or creates a bit more labour for us is a nuisance, a fly in our soup. COVID is a full colony of flies in our soup!

Hear me out: I want to accept and embrace change where it leads to an objective improvement in the world.

I want to accept the many many rightful protests of those (you know most of them by now) whom have historically been under the thumbs of rich, white men (like myself minus the rich part).

So as I chastise you here – perhaps – for making my life a teensy bit more challenging, this is not authentic drama.

Let me move on and explain before you fall asleep…

One of my life delights, a passion you might say, is cooking. You too? Excellent!

Since the very first time I made fried rice as a 10 yr. old without realizing that rice should actually be cooked in a liquid before frying, I’ve loved to play in the kitchen.

Slicing, dicing, and piecing together the jigsaw puzzle that is a delicious ethnic dish (or baked good says my Sweet Tooth inner voice) of any sort is my “big boy sandbox” fun…

… lots and lots of ingredients and a healthy melange of various spices – although not too spicy hot in my latter years.

A good part of the joy comes in the sharing… inviting family or friends to join in on a hopefully succulent meal with maybe a splash of wine… well… this is likely the greatest reach towards heaven for me.

Here’s where my pet peeve kicks in… it’s the change part.

We are a global citizenship of 7+ billion folks with a similar number of likes, dislikes, nutritional requirements, and ailments that need attention, like the child excitedly calling out for Mommy’s awareness as she dives into the pool.

The internet (and some legitimate medical professionals) has untold stories of the horrors of dairy, grains/gluten, meat, chocolate, nuts/seeds, alcohol, the list is longer than Santa’s Naughty and Nice scroll. In millennia gone by, we were just too busy fighting the Huns and other hordes to question: Was Attila celiac? Or lactose intolerant? Or allergic to nuts, or vegan or ….

Part of our desire to live in a healthy state to 100+, as well as our desire to treat animals with respect has altered our collective perception of what we can put into our mouths and tummies.

And so… when we invite guests to share a meal nowadays, the puzzle pieces I can play with often don’t belong to the same boxed set as yours.

I scramble (but not eggs) to accommodate a lengthy list of do’s and dont’s that change with each visit. This tour of my table might require a lack of cheese, whereas the next drop-by says no chicken or perhaps tofu.

So let me say: I love you and understand your needs, but I’m sorry to say, a good deal of my “sandbox” joy has been sucked away by this Dyson vacuum of allergies, intolerances, and choices.

Like all changes thrust upon us, I’m adapting. I’m Yoda trying…

But also know when you drop in for a meal that the thinness of hair on my head is not only from my –granted – advancing age, but from the hair pulling I go through to make sumthin’ that, against growing odds, tastes like heaven for us all.

Happy IPP Holiday!

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