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The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed a Mountain…

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Stairway to heaven

I’d love to live to 100… but, if I don’t… well… if the news about anti-depressants being detected in municipal water systems is true, at least I’ll knock on the Pearly Gates with an upbeat smile on my face.

I may even throw a tiny teehee at St. Peter about whether I’m in the right place…

……………….

(Tragically, three friends die in a car crash, and they find themselves at the gates of heaven. Before entering, they are each asked a question by St. Peter. 
“When you are in your casket and friends and family are mourning upon you, what would you like to hear them say about you?”, asks St. Peter. 
The first guy says, “I would like to hear them say that I was a great doctor of my time, and a great family man.” 
The second guy says, “I would like to hear that I was a wonderful husband and school teacher who made a huge difference in our children of tomorrow.” 
The last guy replies, “I would like to hear them say…… LOOK!!! HE’S MOVING!!!!!”)

……………….

That’s me!

I’m not really afraid of the actual dying part, but I am nervously anxious of missing out on all those things that are important around me.

There is a universe of incredible beauty that wraps itself around us in warmth and comfort… the melody lines of the songbirds, the peach-blushed fiery sunsets and star-speckled inky night skies… the cozy love and generosity of our treasured ones.

I don’t want to leave any of that grace, that splendour, in the rear view mirror. Must all of the soul-elevating harmonic music disappear?

Years back, I used to think that once my kids were born, I could at last die happily knowing there would be investment and insurance $$ to give them a good forward push down the toboggan hill of life. What more could I possibly need from this world?

toboggan

But here I am – still – today, brimming with I’m-so-lucky pride over my grown up kids, and I’m acclimatizing myself to the idea that I’d really like to see the cute faces of, and share time with my yet-to-be-born angelic grandkids.

And I’d still love to visit a ton of places like Cairo, Moscow, Budapest, San Antonio, Texas and The Alamo (here’s a moving modern-day hurting song about the Alamo that I studied in a songwriting course).

So… life at 100. Yea or Nay? Would you like a piece of that cake?

In 2011, the Canadian Census enumerated 5,825 people aged 100 years and older, or a rate of 17.4 centenarians per 100,000 persons. The 2016 census counted 8,230 centenarians, a 41.3 per cent jump over the 2011 figures. That’s pretty impressive.

Yup, our odds are on the increase.

But, I’m already nearing the dropping off point where my Ma died (aged 61).

And in another decade I’ll catch up to my Dad’s departure gate of life (age 73). “Those passengers in Age Rows 70-75 may now approach the gate.

I sense that I’m stepping ever closer to the raggedy sharp edge of a cliff with no railings and no safety net below.

The weighty question: Do our parents write the rough draft of our autobiographies?

I’m going for a “To 100 or Bust” re-write of my life story, but we’ll see what happens.

100 years old.jpg

Here’s the plan: I’m doing some positive stuff that my parents were culturally blind to in terms of health and longevity. They knew nothing about fibre content of various foods, Type 2 diabetes, or the true lung and heart choking seriousness of smoking and weight control.

It’s a crap shoot but I figure I can do a few things to nudge my odds up the steep wall… what’s to lose?… my grandkids deserve a TMI-sharing curmudgeon in their lives.

Will current scientific knowledge and my own resolve get me over the genetic hurdles I face, and welcome me into the Centenarian Club?:

  • I exercise just about every day… run, yoga, bike, boot camp, tennis, HIIT train, swim, spin class. It’s a part of my habit train that I can’t and don’t want to get off. Endorphins and muscles are just too much fun!
  • I sleep 7-8 hours most days… add in delicious naps and I can get to 9 if I’m lucky. Unlucky you to be around me when I miss those zzz’s… I don’t function well on poor or shortened sleep.
  • I try to help others… I often feel damned guilty about not picking up hitchhikers, but my altruism comes through in other areas like working at the soup kitchen and tutoring ESL and literacy students. I pretend it’s only to help others, but it makes ME feel good.
  • I eat a fair bit of fresh fruits and vegetables (my parents thought – OMG! – that canned green peas were health food). And under the TMI category… my bowel habits are exemplary! That’s the GOOD! Here’s the BAD!: I do eat more meat than I know is best and I have an insatiable sweet tooth for baked goods and chocolate.
  • I drink scads of water plus a cup or two of coffee (via latte) each day and one or two glasses of wine or light beer each week. Depending on the science article-of-the-week (Fake News?), this may be helpful. I know it’s enjoyable.
  • I drive my car between the lines on the road and generally stick pretty close to the posted speed limits… which is why I love driving in Utah or Montana with their 85 miles per hour legal highway speeds!
  • I exercise my mind with reading and blog writing and practicing guitar. The mere mental exercise of trying to remember the recipes for a ton of mixed drinks in my occasional bartending “retirement” job is a huge cerebral workout. Then add in figuring out what the new words mean that my kids throw at me is a bonus (e.g. “He was the BOMB!”… “What? he blew up?”)
  • I hang around as much as possible with people that are supportive, make me smile and sport upbeat positivity. I cross the street to avoid the unfortunate Debbie or Donald Downers who throw gloomy anchors in all directions.

You may have noticed that I like certain numbers. Investment returns of at least 15% annually… 10,000 practice hours… or 1,000 hours… 8 hours of sleep… sub 2-hours for a half marathon run.

Life is a cup of meaning in the joy of numbers.

Today I’m adding a new number to my list.

100. 

I like goal setting as an incentive to a milestone or mountain peak.

Why don’t we climb up this mountain and see if we can summit and high five at the 100 peak of life?

mountain peak.jpg

Are You Reeling In The Years?

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Time passing painting

Your everlasting summer
You can see it fading fast
So you grab a piece of something
That you think is gonna last
But you wouldn’t know a diamond
If you held it in your hand …

Are you reelin’ in the years
Stowin’ away the time… 

Steely Dan

HOLY SH*T! Time is fleeting and I can only stow away so much time and information in this brain of mine.

My cerebral hard drive has grown full of tentacles and webs, roads and rivers that scramble to run in parallel, understandable pathways.

This is good news and bad news.

Good because, like you, it means I’ve lived and experienced a packed life crowded with amazing input and exploits, colours painted in and outside the lines, canvases overflowing their edges, a satisfying sip of vin rouge. The richness thrives inside me like a sumptuous secret garden.

Bad because the fine details, those photographs and memories that are so blissfully joyous – the tiny babies’ breaths of experience lost, the golden sunrises – are often the most wondrous heartbeats and painful to lose.

Inspector Clouseau

Bad too because my memories are only mine, and when I suck in that last breath, all of the memories will flame out like a supernova into infinity.

Infinite jest. Time and years.

July of 2017 is only halfway through its course and still I feel the Sunoka Beach sands of summer slipping between my toes. So fast.

Do you remember when the hot, humid childhood Julys were everlasting? It was slow-mo like a 45 rpm record played at 33 rpm (only those of a “certain” age will get this reference)

There were long days filled with scrub baseball games in the field across from my house on Rainbow Drive, carefree flirting with Cathy and Adele on the playground swings next to Glen Echo School, camping in the family tent-trailer in my backyard with Jerome or Renato or Frank, under-the-blazing-sun swimming in the Rosedale outdoor pool.

Summer contained a miraculous blending of enthusiastic fun, sunburnt skin, and frustrating, juvenile boredom in a world with only 3 black and white TV stations.

That was then.

Now, July only lasts a week, maybe two if I’m lucky.

HELP.

Would someone please take the amphetamines away from the clocks, the liquid mercury from Father Time.

The rapid passage of time has me clinging to minutes and hours like an anchor in a riptide.

And I’m slowly realizing that maybe… maybe… this new age term “mindfulness” is the only way to reel in the quick march forward.

mindfull.jpg

I’ve gotta slow down… I’m a do’er, moving from one idea, one project, one activity to the next… because I thrive on playing like a sponge and absorbing the world around me.

But it’s all too superficial. Let me explain.

Six or 7 years back I took a correspondence course from Acadia University in Nova Scotia on Ancient through Renaissance History.

It shocks me now that I’ve retained so little. I learned and knew the names of old Popes and Roman Emperors and the writings and philosophies of Aristotle and Machiavelli. I knew the Ottoman Empires and the Visigoths and the Moorish tribes.

And when I finished the final exam, I moved on to my next project.

But now when I see these same names come up in episodes of Jeopardy – my source of all relevant knowledge today! – I draw blanks consistently. You see I was so intent on learning quickly and moving forward that I let the juicy stuff melt away like a summer popsicle.

I berate myself and anguish over the struggles I have to remember what I see and read, and now I’ve come to this confusing and contradictory two-part conclusion (after all, each of our lives are jammed with inconsistencies e.g. driving an electric or hybrid vehicle while owning a huge home with central A/C) :

  1. My approach has always been to move fast… surf the waves… impatiently doing “stuff” and grabbing onto the next exploit that awaits. I’ve treated experiences and opportunities like Big Mac junk food, yummy but fleeting. Being aware of the moment i.e. mindfulness, hasn’t been an arrow in my quiver. I think its time for me to come around to embracing “slow food”; especially those times while reading or just being with others whose company I enjoy. Maybe Steely Dan’s lyrics to reel in the years and stow away the time is good advice.
  2. Conversely, enjoying much of life’s adventures and escapades are meant for the moment. Bombardment of the senses is wholly beautiful and satisfying in itself. Not every experience cries out to be consciously retained forever to make a fully-lived life. I don’t remember the specific minutiae of being with my buddies, jumping into a clear, cool, blue swimming pool as a kid, but I savour the memory of how wonderful it made me feel. Ofttimes, that’s enough.

We all know that life is a work in progress, never ever complete until “dust-to-dust, ashes-to-ashes“.

But I think that if I just let up sometimes and mindfully allow my multiple senses to observe, then the race-to-infinity clocks will slow their incessant march along with me.

Sometimes I need to decelerate the pace and feel the diamond I’m holding in my hand.

woan with dog at sunset

Morning Has Broken…

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Are you a Morning Lark…

Cape Cod Morning

Cape Cod Morning… Artist: Edward Hopper

… or a Night Owl?

Nighthawks.jpg

Nighthawks… Artist: Edward Hopper

An early morning Okanagan Lake ripple concentrically riffles its way outwards, softly handing the light reflection onward from one small wave to the next like an Olympic relay team passing a baton from start to finish…. silent symphonies of silky azure grasping tones from the sunrise sky.

A gentle southern breeze from Oliver hovers over the water, lazy like a Texas drawl, drifting northward up the valley.

The delicate paintbrush of sun casts narrow, gauzy shadows across the clay cliffs, highlighting the vertical veins and wrinkles patiently etched and scratched through wind and rain millennia. You raise your eyes and drown in its beauty.

I’m a morning person.

I like it that way.

Okanagan lake dawn.jpg

As a kid, I loved jumping out of bed on a cloudless summer day and smelling the perfume of lilac and lily-of-the-valley blossom in the air, invisible clouds of blissful scent that gave a sense of deliciousness to the dawn.

I’d wander the pathways of my little vegetable garden and absorb the trill of the morning songbirds.

My energy and creative spark are morning-centric.

Today:

  • I write my blog posts in the morning, signing off my computer before noon.
  • I do my “hard” guitar practice and songwriting in the morning hours.
  • I hit the gym, or pool, or track, for intense exercise… yes… in the early am, often before the sleepy sun pulls itself out of bed for the day.

Honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Except.

Being a morning lad makes my… summertime… part-time… evening-time… forays into bartending a challenge.

I love the aura of creative flow I feel when I concoct, blend and shake red, and yellow, and blue cocktails, adorning them with pinwheels of lime or zesty curlycues of lemon peel… but… yawn.

If only folks enjoyed imbibing their alcohol at 7:30 am with a warm pancake and a slice of bacon and then calling it a day by noon, I’d be in bartending heaven. I’d be floating on a natural energy high, perhaps boosted a touch along the route by a “Vitamin C” latte fix or two.

But reality persistently insists that alcoholic consumption is in the nighttime haven of humanity… many of us even watch the ticking clock, feverishly counting down the seconds before joyously pronouncing “Happy Hour” at 4 pm or 5 pm, abiding by the unwritten rule that booze is verboten any earlier.

When pouring and mixing drinks for others, I find that by 11 pm when the patrons, servers and staff in the restaurant are decidedly looking awake and energetic, I’m coaxing, prodding, imploring my eyes to prop open and remain alert.

And on other evenings, when I go on stage to sing and play my guitar at Medicis’ Open Mic night, I hope for an early slot on the entertainment slate. At 7:30 or 8 pm, I’m primed and wide awake and set to perform. Put me in Coach!

Time passes, another light beer settles in, and by ten o’clock, my eyes are growing heavy and I fear my voice will sound tired and croaky. In fact it never does, but as I tap my toes and enjoy the other entertainers’ music, I worry and fret that I may not be at my best.

It’s occurred to me that I could suggest to David the owner that he try out an Open Mic “Daytime” edition!, but I know it would never fly.

medicis night

Me, on stage at Medicis

Need another example? I frequently enjoy a night at the local Cineplex, inhaling fluffy bags of salty, buttered popcorn, and catching the latest Wonder Woman or Maudie flick.

There are two evening showings, but it’s always the early showing, the 6:30 or 7:15 edition that I sign on for. Starting the film at 9:30 or 10 pm means when the lights lower in the house, my eyelids kinda do the same. No one likes the unintended snoring sounds of Shavasana next to them in the theatre. Can’t help it.

Something that makes humans so special is that we are a species that can adapt to new environments.

As a Man on the Fringe, I adapt into these environments where I plug my square peg into a round hole (hmmm, maybe that’s an unfortunate choice of wording!) because they expand my quality of life, adding technicolour to my world like the moment Dorothy opens her door to Munchkin Land. “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.

Many of the joys and desires in life occur as the sun sets, flaming in orange and pink hues at the western horizon. When the sun fades to twilight… as darkness oozes into the corners and crannies… the curtain rises on romance and sensuality and danger.

So while I’ll never fully adapt to the schedules of these times, I do my best to set mind over matter, sharing in the beauties that exist in the shadowy nighttime world.

Then as the sun bathes the far side of the planet, I’ll dream of the sensory delights and pleasures that await me when the loon’s call brings me back to life and I open my eyes and ears and nose to another deliciously fresh morning.

Once again, I wander the pathways of my little vegetable garden and absorb the trill of the morning songbirds.

moon and earth.jpg

Oh Maudie… Story Of A Life

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Maud Lewis painter

Maud’s bent and twisted body – aged from a physically taxing lifetime –  drew in and, softly, expelled its final breath… at last she drifted away in peaceful silence.

I wanted to reach up and hug her comfortingly, consolingly, in my arms.

You see, some smiles are too rare, too precious, to be drained away like a diamond floating softly to the ocean depths, forever lost to this world.

MAUDIE… the movie. I think it could have been called A Beautiful Life.

I’m a bit of a cinephile… or probably more accurately, I’m a popcornophile who takes shameless advantage of moviegoing as an excuse for a salted-maize addiction.

The storylines and sense of transport I feel within a movie theatre are wondrously dreamlike. There’s an ambience of significance and awe in a darkened theatre that I don’t appreciate as fully when I watch films on the home screen.

What’s on this weekend?, I’d say to one of my young buddies.

In what seemed only a few moments ago, I relished taking the Main West bus to uptown Hamilton with one of my boyhood friends like Renato or Jerome – we’d wolf back the scrumptious Cheeseburger Platter at the Arch Restaurant before ambling down King Street to the Capitol Theatre or Palace Theatre.

I’d plunk my 2 quarters down – earnings from my paper route – onto the counter of the outside front booth, and then it was the obligatory pass by the snack bar for some popcorn and a Kit Kat chocolate bar.

We’d sit in the balcony of the cavernous theatre with the ornately sculptured, curved ceiling, before the screen flashed to life like an early summer sunrise, and then, Bridge Over The River Kwai, or Bonnie and Clyde, or James Bond (the oh-so-sauve Sean Connery variety) began.

bonnie-and-clyde-poster

The lights slowly dimmed, the curtain accordioned up to the ceiling.

The opening scene of Bonnie and Clyde began with the “click-click” Brownie camera sounds of the opening credits with black x white still photos of Faye Dunaway (Bonnie Parker) and Warren Beatty (Clyde Barrow) slowly fading away into murderous blood red.

To this day it remains my favourite opening montage to a movie ever. Talk about foreshadowing in the first breaths of a film.

As always, I’m in a constant state of cinematic awe over the writing and directing and acting abilities that can bring me so many real and imagined scenarios. I fall head-over-heels in disbelief at the spectacle, as if Santa really and truly does come down our chimney each Christmas.

Anyway, that’s neither here nor there because I’m here today to ramble on about a flick that we saw this week in the local Movieplex: an understated, almost unheard of cinematic wonder called Maudie.

Maudie.jpg

If ever a movie was made that could grab you by the curmudgeon’s heart and squeeze tender, gentle smiles with its story of unconventional love, this one is it.

The camera leads us along the “small” life of Maud Lewis – a severely arthritic woman passing her life in the rural Nova Scotia backwaters – that had my heart twisted in tender tangles.

What sets Maud story apart from the everyday ordinary is her strong will and capacity for painting simple things in colourful Folk Art-style.

Slowly over the years, an appreciative audience for her simple outdoor nature art scenes grows. In the 1970’s, two of her paintings were ordered by the Nixon White House.

Maud lewis painting.jpg

Maud’s tale of dealing with her arduous physical infirmities and the cruelties of the ones who should love her most is filled with compassion and sentiment so heartbreaking and yet still uplifting. Beautiful, touching, but never falling into syrupy or maudlin.

The mixture of movie art with painting art is lovingly expanded by the aching, alluring Maritimes’ backdrop through the seasons of the year, through the seasons of living.

MAUDIE… An exquisite, small film of a graceful, small life, done in a beautiful fashion that, like a tide returning to the eastern shoreline, brings home for me once again the notion that not everyone needs to, or must live life on the grand stage.

Greatness arrives in many guises, some never seen to the outside world.

No. More important to me is the essence of Maud Lewis, the reminder, that the final sketch of our lives surely should be a verb, an activity… not a noun, a passive observation.

MAUDIE-Poster-

TRUE GRIT

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boxer-girl

Over and over and over I played the same 4 bars.

No, not my local Peacock’s Perch, Blue Mule, Barking Parrot, or the Copper Mug. I’m talking music and guitar practice.

I’ve been doing this for almost a week now.

da capo: The same 4 bars repeated over and over on the guitar from the beautiful song Angelina by Tommy Emmanuelle. The song’s intricate-contorted-finger movements and timing have pushed me beyond my level of comfort and ability. My bee-sting-callused fingertips keep squawking at me to give up.

This is good. This is great actually.

This is grit.

I’m working on grittiness. Beethoven was gritty. Edison was gritty. Martin Luther King Jr. was gritty. Lives filled with roadblocks and challenges.

With each passing year I admire and respect the grittiest souls amongst us more and more.  If you’re a gritty person (I’ll define you a bit more in a minute if you’re not sure), I am a drooling fan of yours.

grit-book.jpg

Along this line of thinking, I’m reading a popular book right now entitled, “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth. My mind likes to have both a non-fiction as well as a fiction book running simultaneously (my current fiction book is titled Shantaram)

Duckworth has climbed over Malcolm Gladwell’s back, building on his theme in Outliers, another favourite book of mine that popularized the 10,000-Hour Rule.

Gladwell recounts how the Beatles performed live in Germany over 1,200 times from 1960 to 1964 before attaining huge fame, amassing more than 10,000 hours of playing time.

beatles.jpg

Bill Gates met the 10,000-Hour Rule when he gained access to a high school computer in 1968 at the age of 13, and spent 10,000 hours programming on it.

I’ve inhabited a relatively lazy life. 10,000 hours was craziness to me. It always seemed like too much work, too much effort. I smugly rationalized my attitude, tricking myself by believing, “Work Smart, not Hard”. 

Slipping into the time travel machine that is my mind, I recall in my early, mainly school-bound years, I was blessed/cursed with a mind that could get by on cruise mode.

One quick review of my Shakespearean Coles Notes and I could score 80% on the English Lit test, so why go bat-crap all-Jeopardy-perfect crazy for 90 or 100%. Hard work was for suckers, right? I felt a sense of righteous superiority.

I was a mini Donald Trump sans comb-over or whatever that thing is that sits on top of his head. Yup, scary.

Hell, even Miss Putns, my Grade 2 teacher at Glen Echo School, commented in my report card that, “Larry needs to work on his superiority attitude.

Grade 2!

Humility didn’t come any easier to me than grittiness.

Wikipedia defines grit as:

“perseverance and passion for long-term goals.” Those individuals who are deemed more successful and influential than their contemporary counterparts typically possess traits above and beyond that of normal ability. While ability is still critically important, these individuals also possess “zeal” and “persistence of motive and effort.” Grit is conceptualized as a stable trait that does not require immediate positive feedback. Individuals high in grit are able to maintain their determination and motivation over long periods despite experiences with failure and adversity. Their passion and commitment towards the long-term objective is the overriding factor that provides the stamina required to “stay the course” amid challenges and set-backs.

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance … great alliteration for a book title, and I love the concept, the idea of passion. But the perseverance part has been my Waterloo.

I’ve embraced passion like sweet chocolate candy to my soul.

When I feel enthusiastic about something: music, renovation projects, gardening, exercise, party planning… I dive in with childlike zeal and fervour. I soar through the clouds in a glider on a sunny updraft. The endorphins drive me forward like a Tesla, no driver needed, the energy is organic and unforced.

And if the project or object of my zeal is short-term, well, I know I can pull off amazing stuff (oops, there’s that shitty righteous superiority rising to the surface once more!).

Passion I possess.

running passion.jpg

Running Passion…

But if the undertaking grows long-winded or too tough, creeping too far out of my comfort zone, I’ve generally felt an inner weariness that infects my enthusiasm like a nasty virus. I feel my gusto and energy drain away back to the ocean in low ebb.

I’ve eaten all the pizza my appetite can handle, and I leave the less desirable crusts behind for the scavengers to finish up. Another unfinished, another incomplete project.

I’m a big boy now and I wear big boy pants.

I’ve seen enough evidence in my years to know that those who succeed in their worthwhile efforts are often not the smartest, the brightest, the most gifted. It’s more about the determination, the perseverance, the grit.

I know what I have to do. How about you?

Chewing away at my lack of perseverance and growing my grit is a project, a goal. I like goals. Always have.

My new attitude going forward is “Work Smart AND Work Hard”.

Those of you who have grit learned that lesson long before I did. Thank you for your patience waiting for me to catch up.

By the way? Those 4 bars of beautifully harmonic Angelina?

They sound FANTASTIC… now… only 106 more bars to go!

GRIT!

glen and willie.jpg

Passion AND Grit…

 

 

 

 

The New Frontier… I Want A World…

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it-was-the-best-of-times

With apologies to Dickens, it’s… A Tale of Two Issues.

I’m repelled by Donald Trump – it’s as if some midnight jokester set a steamy bag of dog shit on my front doorstep – but dammit…

… That A-hole is making me money.

On paper, at least.

It irks me that I rub my hands together joyously in egocentric financial glee.

It’s a conundrum. I feel guilty.

It’s two-faced that I snort happily at the trough of increased wealth as my investments benefit, based almost solely on the market-swelling narcissistic tweets and ramblings of a Bah Humbug man, a man who points and yells out to adoring white-skinned (and white-hooded!) crowds spreading virulent hatred of immigrants and women and parents of dead soldiers.

Since Trump’s election to President last month, my stock holdings have soared skyward like an Olympic pole-vaulter that has finally discovered the tricky technique of gliding over the high bar.

Sure, I did my homework and carefully selected the stocks – the Apples and Aflacs, the L Brands and Royal Banks and 20 others. I chopped the vegetables and set out the spices for the monetary soup, but Trump mixed it together in the pot and magically cooked the soup to an unexpected, unnatural greatness… again, for the mainly white and wealthy.

trump eating.png

…………………

DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
Papa says, ‘If you see it in THE SUN it’s so.’
Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?

…………………

YES Virginia… we all have personal issues of hypocrisy and confusion that divide us internally. I wrestle and spar with my occult demons regularly.

You see, I want a world filled with leaders who respect and desire peace and accommodation and compassion for others.

…………………

VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

…………………

I want a world where we hunger for everyone to do well, for all 7+ billion humans to have a standard of living that reflects a similar paycheque for similar work… in the affluent western world, we fret about women making the same wages as a man for the same work, and yet, we live in a world where we selfishly tolerate billions of men, women and children living in poverty despite working laboriously hard and very long hours.

…………………

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

…………………

I want a world where the air is comfortably breathable in Boston, Berlin, and Beijing; a world where fish aren’t thoughtlessly killed off by industrial toxins and oil spills, a world where animal habitat is as important as human housing.

…………………

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

…………………

I want a world where women are regarded with the same respect as men in every way, a world that doesn’t victimize and use girls as sexual chattel, prevent them from educating themselves, mere toys for the rich and famous to grab by the pussy.

…………………

You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

…………………

I want a world where we can all enjoy the amazing richness of peace and wealth and understanding that a 21st century globe deserves.

Surely we’ve absorbed and learned countless lessons that millennia of missteps and hardships have taught us.

This is our new frontier.

We talk in glowing epithets of Christmas spirit, and births of new hope.

If the true Christmas spirit is what most of us truly long for… I hope… hope looking through my optimistic rose-coloured glasses… that we’ll continue to push and search and work towards a place where we gaze not only inwards, as I do with my investment portfolio – no Virginia, I’ll never be Mother Teresa or Ghandi or Mandela – but outwards too with a generous spirit and a desire of goodness for all.

My sugar-plum dreams are filled with a planet that cries out in unison…

Make The World Great For Everyone“…

… not only America… not only white men… not only Christians, Jews, Muslims, Bahá’ís, Hindus, Buddhists… an aspiration, an inspiration for better…

…………………

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

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Don’t write what you know, write what fascinates you… and 21 more brilliant things I’ve Learned…

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22 Things I’ve Learned Since I Began Blogging…

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After writing 236 blog posts, I figure I’ve learned one or two things along this joyous journey, some about writing a blog and a few others about living a fuller life.

I’ll share a few of these with you and then you can add on the hundred or more that you figure I should have learned, right?

  1. Creativity isn’t a noun, it’s a verb. Treat your creative force as an action to be developed and actively teased into the open. The creative spark isn’t something that’s given to us like a Christmas gift, wrapped in neat bows and ribbons and cantookles and sneedles. One form of Boot Camp works the body muscle … another form involves the inner imagination muscle.
  2. Writer’s block is a fiction story. Persistence in writing something… anything… blasts away block walls like sugar infusions beat back the Marathon runner’s WALL. I’m a perpetual work in progress and really need to heed this lesson in my songwriting.
  3. I write about the fabric I know mostly, but I also try to write about stuff that is new to me so that I can learn while I write. Constantly learning anew gifts us deeper breaths and enthusiastic heartbeats.
  4. Polls cannot be relied on as truth. People lie and hide their occult souls from pollsters.
  5. We’ll never know the full capacity of our brain and its power to reason and formulate idea sex. There is no human mystery greater than the inner intricacy that lies between our ears (the second greatest mystery is the bewildering and seductive complexity that lies between our legs! We’ll never understand that one either)
  6. Beautiful music is a loving muse that brings forth beautifully elegant words in writing. Listening to music I love invites novel metaphors and descriptive adjectives that lie hidden in the forest.
  7. Listening to the real message in what people say is far more interesting than the obvious, surface stuff. Writing is all about observing deeply and closely, whether in a person’s spoken words or in the moody cloud layers bear-hugging the November hillsides or the serpentine striations in the bark of a Ponderosa Pine tree.
  8. It’s far better to Yoda try and fail than to fail to try in fear of what might go wrong. Theodore Roosevelt: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds should have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly;…who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” 
  9. The 1,000 hour or the 10,000 hour rule of practice really does pay dividends. I’m a lazy sort who like to gloss over the hard stuff. Both my writing and my guitar playing are significantly improved with consistent day-in-day-out concentrated effort. I wish I had taken this concept to heart while studying piano as a kid. So, how lazy am I? I began this blog post with the idea that I’d write 33 things I’ve learned. That’s how lazy!
  10. Women are generally much better managers of important stuff like families and organizations and governments. Testosterone is a bombastic nuclear weapon in a 21st century world, a world that performs better with more resilient pillow fights and fewer knife brawls.
  11. None of us really understands anyone else‘s difficulties or challenges until we’ve shared their experiences. “Never criticize a man until you’ve walked in his moccasins.”
  12. Leave the ambiguous, uncertain words out of writing. Either state an opinion or don’t. I’m pretty sure this is usually important or … just maybe it’s not. Wrong. 
  13. Children thrive on stories. Adults are much the same. This goes to the heart of the writing concept “Show, Don’t Tell“. People are far more intrigued by a point illustrated through an anecdote or story than they are by being told directly. We all love stories. When I gaze at a canvas of visual art, I look for the story the painting tells me. Stories are our comfort food.
  14. Pancakes are the perfect breakfast food. Hot, fragrant, mobile-if-necessary, sweet or savoury, all 4 (5 if you count chocolate as I do) food groups in a perfect circular package of yumminess.
  15. Blog titles that include the word “sex” or a sex-related term will ALWAYS get more readership. It’s too easy really. It’s like answering poll questions. We don’t reveal the true nature of our hormonally bawdy thoughts publically, but privately, the carnal rivers never stop flowing.
  16. The stocks I sell today are the ones guaranteed to double in share price in a week or two. This goes along in tandem with the dollar rising or falling sharply in reverse harmony to what I’ve predicted when someone asks me for advice in making a financial decision. Be warned: If I boldly predict one thing, run full out in the other direction. Take that to the bank!
  17. The terms MAN and WOMAN cover a broadly huge scope of gender identity. Our world is a nuanced place and masculinity and femininity are part of the 50 shades domain. Every aspect of gender identity deserves to be respected.
  18. Life is far too short to hang out in the company of compulsive negativity and naysayers. Keep the smilers and positives at your side and the sun will always be warming your insides like hot chocolate.
  19. Fiction books are amazing things. I used to be very pragmatic and believed I could only learn from non-fiction. WRONG! Quality fiction (like 50 Shades of Grey… NOT!) informs us about history, humanity, ourselves, in a constellation of ways we don’t always understand. See point #13.
  20. The older you get, the faster time flows past. I began my formative period with a thick mane of 70’s style dark hair where days passed as if in a horse-drawn surrey… that’s transformed itself into a follicularly challenged salt-and-pepper-fringe-on-the-top Ferrari Formula One racing car. Where the hell is the brake on this aging sucker?
  21. Write in very short paragraphs. People are intimidated by reading long diatribes of information in huge long chunks. Break it up so that it is far less fearsome to the sight. In today’s world, folks listen to musical songs that tend to last 3-5 minutes, not 20 minute symphonies . We absorb in small chunks. It’s who we are in 2016.
  22.  Everybody has a story. Good and bad. Everybody. That person who’s life looks so perfect. The one with the big house or the one who pushes a wobbly grocery cart down the street. They’ve got a story. Everyone needs compassion in some form. Everyone has compassion to give.

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Oh, What A Lucky Man… He Was…

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He rose groggy from his snug bed at 4:09 am, absorbing the chilly touch of the wood floor on his toes and shuffled past the window’s view.

Somewhat startling, it appeared as if fresh snow was a light sugar coating on the shrubs in the front yard, the Kerria, the Boston Ivy climbing up the wooden trellis… the Ponderosa Pines all tip-covered in white frosting. How???

He was taken aback as it didn’t make reasonable sense. When his eyes closed just a few hours earlier it had been 8 degrees celsius outside… had a rogue Arctic front sprinted in from the north like an Olympic athlete in such a short time?

Playing detective and investigating further, he wandered sleepily through the quiet house darkness to the back dining room.

As he grew closer to the large picture window overlooking the yard and chicken coop, bright golden light flooded the floor in front of him.

Now that makes sense, he whispered.

An almost-full moon hanging high in the sky was blanketing the outdoors and pressing through the house windows with a coat of lustrous brightness, much the same as snow on the coldest, darkest nights of winter.

Tiny pinprick stars in the sky surrounded the spotlight-bright moon as if the stars were actually moons circling the true Earth moon.

Despite his early morning wooziness, a recognition grew inside him that not everything greeting us is initially as it seems. There is a subtleness and complexity to life that evades us unless we look more closely or evaluate more fully. And superficial looks lead us to luck.

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It can be easy to simply believe that luck is either happily with us or tragically against us.

Luck that isn’t merely coincidental circumstance… the narrowly missed car/bicycle crash, the bullet or knife that evades an artery by a fraction of an inch, the whispered hot stock tip that actually results in a ten-bagger (10 times the original investment)… is really a horse of a different colour.

I used to say NO a lot…

NO is a very useful word to utter when it’s something you truly don’t want to do. Say NO when you really mean it.

But I used to say NO often because I was fearful, nervous, afraid of not succeeding or making an embarrassing dumb fool of myself. I have an extraordinary capacity to do and say embarrassing stuff. Even still.

I feared raising my hand in Miss Mole’s high school Science or Mr. Warneke’s Math classes even if I felt confident in my answer… the scary WHAT IF‘s ruled the inner hallways of my head. Those kids that did raise their hands didn’t always have the right answers. Are they destitute druggies filling the soup kitchen lines now? Hmmmm…. I hope not.

My WHAT IF has largely been replaced with my WTF now. Who cares if I ask a dumb question or don’t know an answer? So long as I’m not hurting anyone else with my words or questions… who cares?

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I say YES a lot more now than ever.

YES is a very useful thing to say when it’s something that enthuses and excites me and fills me with a heartbeating rush of desire to accomplish or try a new adventure, large or small.

Sure I’m still a bit fearful, nervous, afraid of not succeeding or making an embarrassing dumb fool of myself. Not every YES turns into a pot of gold… not very leprechaun is a magically delicious lucky charm.

Irrational fear (you really should be afraid of loaded guns and mama bears!) … like that fear of rejection when I didn’t ask a girl out on a date in my teens, or the fear of giving a botched presentation… is a barrier that holds us back from truly living, dying long before we take our last breath.

Fear be damned.

I don’t rely on luck…

I rely on chances popping up like Blue Jay batters… regular chances to spot and then walk through an open door and finding the inner strength to say YES when I see the opening.

I rely on the 1,000 hour rule to give me more and more opportunities to find open doors. Skills we hone are the building blocks to more doors.

I rely on Idea Sex… mixing and blending ideas makes my mind sharper, more creative. Sharpness means more chance and opportunity to progress and grow and feel an enthusiastic glow from the new things I try …

Of course, my amalgamated thoughts on luck and opportunity and a life lived more fully could be as untrue and as false as “moon snow” in the middle of the night.

The good thing is I don’t mind looking silly if I’m wrong anymore. Luck is on my side.

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Mary and Joseph…

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drone

… toodle quietly down early morning Martin Street of Penticton.

To an overhead drone, they would appear as small ants searching out scraps of food to return to the nest.

Mary is well in front, treading swiftly in her motorized scooter chair; a pair of worn teddy bears bob like crazy marionettes attached to the back of her seat as she breaks her mother’s back running over sidewalk cracks.

Her beady grey eyes are focussed on the walkway and the direction of travel.

White tangles of unkempt hair, untouched by a brush or comb this morning, catch errant whiffs of air movement like little fireworks going off in all directions. The studied concentration on her face leaves you with an impression of a pilgrimage.

They enter and emerge from long, dark shadows pasted across the quiet road by Ponderosa Pine and Norway Maple scattered along their route, doors opening and closing.

The air is fresh and applesauce delicious this early in the day before the dry Okanagan heat settles into town by 10 am. Light chirps of flickers and chickadees sift downwards from the branches above.

Rotund Joe slowly plods, like a proud Clydesdale workhorse, well behind Mary. His right hand behind his back grasps the handle of a child’s plastic wagon filled with sundry items that are incongruous with daily life … thrift store ingredients that may or not make it to the shelves.

Mary and Joe are no Okanagan Casabella Princess and Prince. Almost comic book-like, standing next to each other they look like the fruit-shaped salt and pepper shakers gift we received many years ago.

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Joe – the salt – is a round, red apple with a warm but mischievous grin… plump and elf’ish jolly.

Mary is the matching pepper shaker, not narrow or small on the top but definitely fanning out pear-like below her waist. She sports a narrow pinched mouth that accordions wide open when she smiles; a smile that comes often and readily.

I shudder when I see the state of their clothing, the ripped track pants, untucked stained shirts and polyester jackets that the Salvation Army wouldn’t deem acceptable to sell. Ketchup stains on two year-olds are kind of cute but on 70 year-olds it’s just kinda sad.

I don’t know where they live, this sweet couple.

I don’t know where their morning journey began.

I don’t know where or when they met.

Children? I suspect not, but I haven’t a clue.

I’ve seen their daily show played out on many many occasions as I’ve driven to my volunteer job at the local soup kitchen, and even at other times while just going about some chore of my own in town.

They arrive early to the front entryway of the Soupateria and sit on the wooden benches outside, chatting to themselves and other regular stragglers whose main social appointment of the day begins and ends right here.

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There are so many troubled souls that come through the doors of the soup kitchen – all ages, all shapes and colours, all genders – it can be heartbreaking to observe and think of the stories that led to the moment at hand.

Lately, I’m finding the crop of soup kitchen users are a strangely crabby lot compared to those of the past 2 years I’ve worked there. I’ve been checking the night sky more than usual for full moon phenomenon but to no avail.

What I really love about Mary and Joe is that no matter the traumas or tragedies they’ve lived – I’m certain there have been many breakages – they treat me and everyone they encounter like a long lost friend.

A friendly, gentle warmth exudes from their inner souls.

Any exchange with these two and you’re almost certain to walk away with a smile in your heart. Kindness sloughs from them like the dust off Charlie Brown’s buddy Pig Pen.

Each day when they reach the front of the line at the serving window of the Soupateria, through his stubbly grey beard, the first question Joe asks of the volunteer behind the counter is,

And how are you today?

I’ll look over and it’s like bright sunshine emerging from foreboding clouds.

It’s not an empty courtesy to hear him say this.

He enunciates the word YOU like no one else matters in the whole world. Then he listens carefully for the response.

After the friendly exchange, he chirps, “I’ll have egg salad on brown today please!”

A few minutes later without fail, Mary, at the end of her soup and sandwich lunch, always shuffles gingerly to the serving window and in her muffled, child-like voice, calls out a cheery thanks to the volunteers behind the counter.

I smile thinking of the holy irony of their names and then seeing Mary in deep focus, mounted on a small scooter on her diurnal sacred journey to Bethlehem.

Mary and Joe are pitifully stunted and incomplete by most of our societal measurements and yet… I see them as superheroes.

I don’t like the Silver Screen superheroes so much, the Batmans, the Supermans, the Wonder Womans and so on. Give me Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan and a Rom-Com any day.

The superheroes I prefer, the ones I truly admire, quietly walk the backstreets of our world, not striving to save humanity but somehow, in their inimitable way, giving others an uplift without even trying.

They’re the ones in anonymous costumes, no flowing capes, no stretch lycra bodysuits: the Marys and Joes on the street, the Chris and Lauraines in the soup kitchen, the Davids and Patricks in the Greek Restaurants, the Ricardos and Arturos who patiently, humorously teach me Spanish… all those who give freely without expectation of wealth or fame or even a pat on the back.

Because we spend so much time living in the illusions and challenges of our own lives we forget, often not noticing the beauty and strength of others we encounter day-to-day.

Mary and Joseph? Simple, plain folk.

They’re out there with gentle smiles, filling the loneliness of their’s and other’s lives… one another’s peaceful, green oasis in the desert where the horizon is limitless and sometimes painful.

Always with a smile…

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SUPERHEROES really ARE just like the rest of us…

Looking for Mr. Goodbar-“tender”…

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Set loose the bloodhounds and investigative detectives… WOOF WOOF… ah-oooooOOO!

The search is on.

I “retired” two years ago this week from a job… a medical laboratory career that I lived for 37 years. That’s a bunch of 18-wheelers full of pus and poop and piss I tested folks.

I didn’t hate the job, nope. It was a good profession where I worked with people I liked a lot, but… I needed a new life vista in my front window, so…

I munched my way through a sweetly delicious “Bye Bye Pie Party” with my lab friends on my 57th birthday and walked out the door. Larry has left the building…

When I began in the lab in the 1970’s it was ridiculously considered a sort of girly job, a fairly low paying position that few men entered because they couldn’t meet those societal assumptions about supporting a wife and family on such low wages… kind of a “McJob”.

Of course I’d lived a real McJob life already.

For 4 and half years through high school and then college, I flipped burgers like a McDonalds All-Star… in fact, I did win pins and trophies as a McDonalds All-Star. I was a Big Mac-makin’ Bobby Orr… a Cheeseburger-slingin’ Usain Bolt!

I knew what a McJob looked and felt like. There is nothing wrong (other than bargain basement pay levels) with McJobs if you have the right attitude.

Lab technology didn’t feel like a McJob. It felt important and necessary and when I wasn’t accidentally trying to… OMG… kill unborn babies, it provided a decent but not extravagant livelihood thanks to progress made through numbers’ negotiation, both union-based and my own.

Proctologist

Where was I? Oh yeah… Retirement.

Did I say I recoil from the word retirement? I do.

It lost its meaning, its life, way back in the day my Dad retired as an oil company accountant in 1972.

He had been holding on by his fingernails for the day… the year when he finally turned 65 and walked out his office door so that he could live the “good life”.

He hated going to work each morning. It was like a daily stab in the heart when he walked out the door of our house on Rainbow Drive.

I never saw him smile more than that day he woke up for his morning cup of percolated Chock-Full-O’Nuts coffee and didn’t have to strap on his suit and tie costume and drive away in our pale green 1970 Ford Galaxie.

Retirement used to be the glorious, long-awaited, anxiously-anticipated end of a lifetime of striving and hard work and sacrifice. Enjoyment of the job wasn’t a particular requirement.

All the Don Drapers out there put in their 40 hours weekly for 45 years (minus the relaxed 2 week summer camping trip with screaming, whining kids).

Then magically one day they stopped cold turkey like a lifelong chain smoker who finds salvation and brushes away the smelly ashtray that was their mouth for decades.

Freedom 65.

Rocking chairs on front porches.

Beach sunsets and gluttonous Seniors’ buffets in Florida.

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Work was a nasty word they horked up and spit on the sidewalk like coughed-up phlegm. Yuck!

A month, a year, a couple of years later they silently inhaled one final breath and expired in their La-Z-Boys while watching the late news on TV. The good life.

The Story of a Life. The End.

Today, there are no doubt a scant few who still aspire to this retirement scenario of unrestricted leisure and endless sloth. Maybe you can tell me where to find them.

The retirees I’m seeing, the retirees I’m encountering on the streets and in restaurants and in running races I participate in… the retiree I’m becoming… are more like excited born-again Christians with new purpose and direction.

Sure, some find new part time jobs out of financial necessity, that bill-paying evil.

But so many of these boomers are leaving their careers, wandering out of the dark forest and exposing themselves to the wide open plains where sunshine and positive choices abound like jackrabbits emerging from their underground dens after the storm ends.

Most of the retired folks I come across are seeking out new vistas like me, new jobs and hobbies and interests that bring a profound sense of joy and verve to our lives… new sources of stimulation that set off little fireworks explosions in our heads (hopefully those aren’t strokes!)

I just want to get more competent at something. Almost anything.

I love the feeling of accomplishment. It’s another kind of orgasm. Much much tidier.

When I took a one week bartending course a year ago, I was searching a new side street, an alley that hopefully held some wonder and something unexpected. The occasional evening I spend pouring drinks for pay (and Male Prostitute tips!) now has expanded my life story.

It’s not a vocation. It’s a personal life expander.

In the past few weeks, I’ve begun spending one afternoon each week working on English language and coping skills with a small group of young Syrian refugees, helping them adapt to a dramatically new world order for them and their children.

From the outside, it looks like I’m doing them an altruistic favour.

I hope they benefit. I think they benefit.

I know I benefit. I know 2 or 3 words in Arabic. I share small jokes and smiles that cross a cultural divide in a world that doesn’t need more walls erected.

My world is expanding and improving little-by-little.

And that’s why I’m searching today.

I’m actively searching for new life expanders, new ideas, new directions.

Ideas that will transport me into new areas, dark caves I’ve not explored but where a tiny flashlight will illuminate a new creative direction in my world.

What my ‘purpose’ will be a month from now, a year from now, whenever, is a total mystery that I’m painting one brushed pixel at a time.

There is no real purpose.

It’s about making choices that invigorate and enthuse me.

And – aside from that other kind (nudge nudge wink wink) – what’s more fun than a “head” orgasm?

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PS. One final but important point I want to impart? These new choices, ideas and caves where we invest our “retirement” energy should fall neatly into the realm of the notions described in Sarah Knight’s book: The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck: How to Stop Spending Time You Don’t Have with People You Don’t Like Doing Things You Don’t Want to Do

 

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