Home

A Man With A Shrug…

2 Comments

Yes, I shrug… maybe I’m the wrong colour…

My last name should be Grey, not Green.

I see grey everywhere in a world that is often painted and presented to me in binary form… yes or no… black or white.

I change my mind at almost every corner.

You could call me Mr. Wishy-Washy, but you know, I take this as a point of pride.

I’d even humbly suggest it’s a sign of later-life wisdom.

In my late teens and early twenties, my favourite book was Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, a book promoting Rand’s political philosophy of individualism. I bought her whole storyline of Darwinian survival of the strongest individual, screw the rest of the weak world. I was strong. I was invincible. I was just like Helen Reddy, minus woman parts!

OK, I lied… my favourite “read” was actually A Man with a Maid, an early Victorian porno version of 50 Shades of Grey.

For a young dude it was erotically titillating with the use of shackles and seductive feathers in a man’s quest to rape women, although it was never laid out as rape; girls really just needed an education in how their bodies could be pleasured.

Seen exclusively through a man’s eyes, women in this tale came around to loving him and embracing their hidden sexual soul once they learned the charming and sensuous ways of his lust. *Nope, sorry fella, it’s just rape*

Today, neither Atlas Shrugged, nor A Man with a Maid find an exalted place on my book reading list. They’re in my remainder bin because…

I’ve changed.

I almost shrug in embarrassment to think that I enjoyed either novel, or welcomed things into my head that I now see as repugnant.

But, along the unending road to understanding, compassion, and seeing the world through the eyes of others, I can take some satisfaction in knowing that maybe, just maybe, I’m smart enough and flexible enough to change my opinion, any opinion, based on new insights or facts brought to my attention.

At times the metamorphosis I undergo is just so GD clear and obvious, while at other times it happens with me flailing on the floor, kicking and screaming. Whichever way it occurs doesn’t really matter so long as the change takes place.

Whether its Rand’s individualism, A Man With A Maid’s rape culture, drug laws, or LGBTQA+ rights, … whether it’s politics or philosophy, science or climate change, human rights or economics, or anything else you might name, the critically important point I aim for is to keep an openness to ideas.

An openness to saying… I think I’m right, but I might not be; I need to consider the issue from many angles.

A wide-eyed openness to scrutinize and question, evaluate and internally debate…continually learn… it’s too easy and lazy and bullheaded to merely rationalize with this is what I’ve always believed, or this is what my parents or teachers or clergy taught me.

And of course, to be fair, it’s equally important to recognize, after reflecting as calmly as a Hindu cow, when a change truly isn’t necessary or desirable when the only good reason is… because… it just is.

Because is kindergarten thinking.

Sure, I’m Mr. Wishy-Washy.

I even get frustrated with myself at times because of my vision of “greyness” in so much of the world.

Oh well…*shrug*… sucks to be ME!! Or does it?

Another Year of the Non-Marathon – 8 Anti-Pandemic Motivating Ideas for YOU…

4 Comments

It’s spring, at least for us northern hemisphere’ites… and all feels blissfully… normal…

… the birdies are totally randy and twitterpated (way too many PDA’s! even PDF’s!)… houses are selling above asking price within milliseconds of being listed for sale… daffodils and snowdrops and daphne are all in sunny rainbow bloom …

Springtime, and the acacias are blooming”… (The Eagles)

… but of course, not EVERYTHING is normal, not anywhere, at least not on this small blue planet that Elon Musk is trying to escape. Dark ominous shades of COVID clouds persist, for a little while more anyways.

We’re all finding NEW adventures and new ways of doing things we love because many of the old adventures and old ways have been subtracted from our daily arithmetic.

Maybe you’ve made 5,000 sourdough loaves, or crocheted 75 doilies, or binge-watched Bridgerton sex-scenes 6 times, and ZOOM’ed 10,000 work meetings or chatted with family members…

… in my case, I’ve spent my COVID sabbatical year writing and recording probably a dozen new songs, which is WAY above my normal productivity.

Sure there have been changes, and I really do miss helping out at the soup kitchen, but… most of the things I love to do haven’t been profoundly affected by this year of closures and partial re-openings followed by more closures, and then more re-openings followed by… you get the idea.

However, the one thing that I’ve missed the most is external motivation.

I thrive on motivation which is why I’m constantly searching for mentors and leaders and thinkers who inspire me to get off my butt and JUST DO IT!

Once again this year, for the second year “running” (thank you COVID), I’m missing my spring Half Marathon race in Vancouver (first Sunday of May) that typically pushes me hard – physically and mentally hard – in training from January to May each year.

It’s a beautiful spring run – surrounded by 10,000 other crazies like me – with fresh, early morning ocean air, and gorgeous snowy mountain vistas that blunt the mountain of advancing pain in the waning kilometres of the race.

Training preparation is the motivational voice whispering in my head that tells me to run a little farther, a little faster. I’m the dog with his ear listening intently to his master’s voice on the RCA Victrola machine.

Now, if you’re a strong self-motivator and don’t need a looming deadline, I hereby award you a gold star and applaud your discipline and energy; I bow to you humbly.

You’ve already graduated and can leave the classroom now. But, if you’re at all like me and need a reminder and a push… especially in viral times like these…

… well, let’s work together and push ourselves forward until this pandemic is in our rear-view mirrors!

In the “tips and pushes” I’m listing below, I’ve largely focussed on physical exercise for my examples… but they can just as easily apply to gardening or reading, piano or sewing, or a hundred other pursuits that get your heart rate or enthusiasm gene excited…

*8 Ways to Inspire and Motivate Your Way Through A Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Pandemic*

  1. My biggest personal item… JUST start. Don’t wait and wonder when the motivation or inspirational moment will arrive. For me, the stimulus occurs when I decide to make it occur. It ain’t magic, it’s simple (but ironically difficult) perspiration and dedication.
  2. EAT the elephant one bite at a time. Sure, a terrible cliche, you say? So true. It’s super easy to be dissuaded from starting a big project because it’s … well… BIG! Broken down into a bunch of tiny steps, it’s amazing how the big can be tamed by focussing in on the small stuff and taking one teensy step after another. When I run a half-marathon, I don’t cross the start line with the entire 21.1 kilometres coursing through my head… instead I focus on one kilometre at a time… first kilometre goal in 5 minutes and 15 seconds. Kilometre 2, can I closely match the first kilometre time? When I reach the final 5 or 6 kilometres, my mind tells me to try and only slow by no more than 5 seconds per each kilometre. Yup, one bite or kilometre at a time.
  3. FIND your focus – it’s easy (so so easy) to be distracted by a dozen or more things on your TO-DO list. It takes a lot of discipline to narrow your focus and decide on the most important stuff to tackle. This is why I usually do my run training early in the day, so I’ve accomplished this and can let my TO-DO monster go wild for the remainder of the day.
  4. TALK up your ideas and desires – by sharing your goals and plans with others you build in a voluntary “peer pressure” system for yourself. Many of us like to show our relatives and friends that when we say we’ll do something, we follow through and do it. YOU have sticktoitiveness… YES!
  5. MUSIC – this works even when I’m looking to motivate myself to write… music! Listening to music we love has a magical power to excite, energize, and motivate us when we need a lift. Today, 30 years after I first heard it, John Parr’s song MAN IN MOTION (also the theme song for Rick Hansen’s wheelchair-around-the-world-tour to raise money for spinal injury research) still pushes me to go much harder than I would otherwise, when running a track interval training session. Music is a genie in a bottle that needs a release… if you only let it…
  6. FIND your competitive spirit – no, not in the way we normally think of competitiveness. The approach that I’m looking for here is the internal drive to go beyond what we have done before. Maybe a friendly competition with yourself to, for example, finish a boring or routine task. Repeating a single line of a guitar lick in practice literally 100 or more times isn’t always fun, but eventually carries me to where I want to be. The routine things are often what we have to surmount to get to the greatness of our overall goal. Call it a necessary evil.
  7. AVOID the ruts… yes, ruts can and will kill motivation. And ruts, like SH*T… happen. Change and variety can bring you a freshness and new approach to your task, so mix things up. Try varying what you do instead of just going through the motions. As an example, when preparing for a half marathon, I mix up my types of exercise so it’s not only running. I bike or swim, or play some soccer for the mental break away from only running. Try listening to music and podcasts that you usually don’t listen to. A refreshed mind is a good way to keep the enthusiasm up. Rah rah!!

  8. REWARDS – this is the super fun part. If you’re really looking forward to a nice reward after you’re done with a task or a project, then your motivation tends to go up. Tea or latte break. Exercise break. CBD or THC oil break. Cookie or ice cream break. Martini or Margarita break. One minute “self-appreciation” break. OK, a Bridgerton sex-scene break! During the half marathon run, I readily admit that I begin to hallucinate and fantasize about the food table set up after the FINISH banner… cookies, muffins, donuts, bananas, juices. Dangle those carrots *ahem, more like chocolate Larry* in front of your nose and celebrate to keep your motivation up.

Congratulations… we’re fired up and ready to get going. Let’s not let this golden moment pass us by while we await our “old” world – somewhere over the rainbow – to return…

A New Forking Year…

2 Comments

What to do… What to do…

OK, I didn’t anticipate the year we’re just finishing.

You did?

Well, I bow in homage to you Nostradamus… maybe I didn’t read my Chinese horoscope closely enough as we leave the Rat behind us and enter the Ox’s domain!

I placed no DoorDash or SkipTheDishes order of COVID virus for 2020.

Traditionally, starting out a new year, I’d think and ponder about Christmas bills, my running and swimming goals, and if stock markets would rise or fall through the year and how my and my kids’ investments would fare… silly me…

… because… then came the virus. 1918 redux.

All of our lives changed immediately… overnight.

Millions were and are affected. Tragedies and near tragedies abounded in every nook and cranny of the globe.

It just happened and we’ve all had to whip ourselves into a different pretzel contortion of ourselves each week to adjust to the “new” world.

Another set of protocols for daily life were pronounced regularly, sometimes every few days.

Every country, every province/state/county, every town and city had its own set of rules du jour. We’d slog to the top of Mount Sinai and pick up our updated slate of Ten Commandments… depending on the current bend of the “curve”.

Looking back to pre-COVID time, my normal ADHD-based world was filled with lots of activities and social interactions in a swath of different directions. I typically thrive on a cornucopia of varied pursuits.

Not in 2020, nope nope nope.

But away to the window they flew like a flash… yes, Santa’s research elves went right to work in their North Pole labs …

… and through the miracle of today’s research, technologies and communications, science’d the shit out of this virus, and here we are in less than one year with a solution in a syringe, set to reverse the tide of this microscopic demon.

Despite our worldly problems and challenges, we are so very fortunate to live in 2020 and not 1918.

Fortunate that in only six months or a year from now, we’ll open our doors, rip off our masks, and step out into the sunshine of the world-as-we-once-knew-it… and clocks will start to tick once more.

Which begs a big question of us all.

Should we return to the old “me” or… is it a chance to create a new “me”? It can be our version of New Year’s resolutions.

Let the inner debate begin. What have we learned about ourselves during this period?

Isn’t the inner dialogue best faced now while in the throes of isolation, before the push and pull, the swell of the tides drags us back into the sea of “normality”?

I can’t answer the questions for you.

For myself, I know I have a tendency to over-schedule my life. It’s a blessing and a curse of having many interests and desires. I want to do everything that grabs my inner passion.

But I also know that as a semi-introvert (I guess the true term is omni-vert), I’m also beginning to feel a minor pulse of uneasiness rising.

As much as I enjoy the outside world, I also enjoy solitude, and the need to reflect and just let my mind wander aimlessly into corners and alleys where I discover inner worlds that no airliner can carry me.

Isolation has given me time and permission to focus so much more intensely on one of my great interests, music. Practising, writing, playing, creating, experimenting.

Almost 2,500 years ago, Socrates gave us his guidance: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Occasionally old white guys have wise messages (but ONLY occasionally!)

So, entering 2021, I’ll challenge you to examine your trajectory as will I.

Will the road you journey be the same as before… or will the Ox lead you to a courageous turn down the fork of a road unknown, novel, and undiscovered?

Whichever path you trek, make it YOUR path.

And in a nod to a year’s end and your new beginning… a song for Old Times Sake, a reminder of longstanding friendships: remember to take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne.

Here’s a little guitar instrumental based on Robert Burns poem that I put together this week.

The Week That Was In A Year That Is…

7 Comments

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).

The BOLDNESS of Stepping Over Fear

Leave a comment

Do you ever wonder who that person inside you is that calls him/her/themself YOU?

The wonder seems surreal… maybe dream-like… or perhaps even an ephemeral but distant memory.

Surreal and real are mirror images if we summon the courage and boldness to make them so. Today I feel this even more deeply with the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I’ll miss her immense courage, her intelligence, her boldness…

A life with a rich garden of special treasured moments, I believe, takes a willingness to harness the BOLD when you would so much rather run in the opposite direction.

I’m a self-professed introvert… OK, maybe I cross the line a bit, so let’s call me an ambivert (anything but a pervert!)

I was not a bold person in my youth, and honestly, I’m not overtly a bold person now. But I’m surely bolder today than I once was. You can be too.

I’ve known a few fearlessly confident types, and I don’t pretend that I’m one of them. I lean towards equating boldness with extroversion. A small life lesson: it doesn’t have to be.

Hell, I remember sobbing in the aisles of Towers department store when I was 4 or 5 years old when I lost sight of my Mommy. It’s likely that we reunited in less than 2 minutes, but I was a nervous child.

I loved reading and the idea of adventure, a voyage… it’s wired into the construct of what it means to be human. To live vicariously through the eyes of others is entertaining and enjoyable but it doesn’t linger and tingle in the same way as personal experience.

I didn’t believe I was daring enough to set out on my own adventure, but I was pretty sure I wanted to experience it all the same. I just wasn’t convinced it was in me to make it happen.

Fast forward to today and I’ve done some bold *cough cough some might say foolish/crazy* things; this hubris allows me to close my eyes and visualize myself in the mirror wearing a “mini” cape.

Looking back, it’s a mere two seemingly small steps I took in one short period of time of my early adulthood that freed up the inner BOLD guy inside me, giving me the confidence to push ahead despite fear.

Yes, they were infinitesimally small steps in mankind’s history of courage, but they taught me the lesson that many small fears overcome are the path to larger, bolder ones.

What were these steps?

1. September 1977 – roaming around the small apartment I shared in downtown Hamilton with my sister, preparing to head off for a job interview for my first professional position as a lab technologist. The job: Immunohematology (simply put: Blood Banker) technologist at the hospital where I had recently finished my internship year to qualify as a “tech”. I showered and dressed for the interview for a job I really didn’t relish, but one that stroked my young male ego and offered stability and security. If offered the position, I knew it was the easy choice and I would be on my way in life and adulthood.

Then the phone rang: Hello? “Larry Green?” Yes it is. “This is ____ at the hospital laboratory in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. We have an unexpected opening for a technologist and wondered if you’d be interested in the position?” (Voice in my head: you sent me a letter just 2 weeks ago saying there were no jobs available). Ummm, I’m interested but need some time to think about this. “OK, but could you let us know of your decision in the next day or two?” Yes, I can do that. Thank you for your call.

The voltage in my heart skyrocketed like a defibrillator with this unexpected offer. Yellowknife… 4900 km. away and located in the cold, dark Arctic. Land of Inuit and Igloos. I figured I was crazy… but… I’ll let you guess which choice I made that day with 2 very different job offers burning in my head?

(Aside: when I prepared to venture off to Yellowknife for the job, I was told to book a flight with PWA (Pacific Western Airlines). This naive/ignorant eastern Canadian lad had never heard of PWA and thought I was told to book with TWA (TransWorld Air). I phoned TWA to book my flight and the operator there said not only did they not have any scheduled flights to “Yellowknife”, but she had never even heard of the place! At this juncture, I envisioned a dog-sled trip to my new northern posting…)

2. Not long after stepping over the fear of the unknown and flying off into the Great White North to work in a small Arctic hospital, I had an unexpected message from a high school friend, Richard. Was I interested in flying off on a backpacking trip through Europe?

Three months of daily travel and adventure? Hostels and train trips? Eiffel Tower and Checkpoint Charlie? Hell… that sounds scary I heard the voice in my head saying. A hundred decisions to make every day of where to go, where to stay, which alleys to avoid, which foods to eat.

My head filled with frightening scenarios of strange people speaking to me in a dozen different languages when I knew only English and a modest amount of French. My comfort zone +1,000. I went over the “on one hand” and “on the other hand” debates in my mind… before swallowing hard and saying … YES! Three incredible months followed.

But… more than the excitement and adventure and the inner fears… those two hugely small decisions launched me on a life journey that showed me the strength I hadn’t known existed inside me.

Somehow I found a way to step over the often paralyzing dread. I now knew that fear was to be respected and accepted, but not a home of prison bars and roadblocks.

I’ve stepped over the unease a hundred times since and it always gives me the knot in my stomach, the race in my heart.

Each step forward can build on the one before.

Here’s a fairly recent example. A few years back, playing my guitar and singing other peoples’ songs on stage was a giant obstacle. Today, I still feel the nerve-racking butterflies as I climb the stairs to the stage and see the audience faces before me… and then launch into playing my very own songs. Despite the initial fear.

And to be perfectly honest, I’ve stepped back occasionally because in the moment – feeling almost like when I cried with separation anxiety as a child – I lacked the mental strength to go forward… absolutely… but…

… most times, I recognize that I’ve been to this cliff-edge before and made the step over fear… and…

… COWABUNGA!

R.I.P. Ruth Bader Ginsburg – your wisdom will be sorely missed.

Advice Column… Be The GOAT …

2 Comments

Mommy! Mommy!!

Watch me Mommy… WATCH ME!!!

goose watch

I’m locked in and feel the need to give a lecture… maybe it’s because my adult kids roll their eyes when I launch into my spiel… or maybe it’s a viral side effect…

… will you be my soundboard for a couple of minutes?

I’ve opined and pondered about the magic of 10,000 hours and/or 1,000 hours as keys to prowess in whatever area(s) your greatness lies…. the Greatest Of All Time (GOAT).

It’s not my original idea, but it is magic. Hard work magic. Stinky, sweaty magic.

YOU have greatness of a kind that is unique to you. Your mother knows… FaceTime or Zoom with her and ask her… send flowers too, after all it is Mother’s Day.

Now is the time to strike. Be the GOAT.

One thousand hours is somewhere in the orbit of 42 days…

… which sounds almost biblical in terms of Noah and arks and making sure we keep at least 2 Unicorns and 2 Ogopogos and 2 “Murder Hornets” alive during the big rain (saying this feels eerily dramatic to me as I look out my window and see a water curtain, the first big rain occurring in Summerland in far more than 42 days).

1,000 hours. 42 days. Passion.

1000 hours free

OK, I’ll give you sleep and meal time… let’s be generous and say 84 days.

Over many decades, I’ve squandered my 1,000 hours a 1,000 times, so do as I say and not as I do. But I honestly Yoda try, now more than ever.

So… If you’re on an employment recess, a vacation from your vocation… thank your lucky stars (as long as you have food, shelter, and good health).

This is your chance… your once-in-a-lifetime – once-in-a-hundred years – opportunity.

And especially, if you’re on the south side of mid-life, say, under 40 or so, listen up because the coming years will slip past like a Midsummer Night’s Dream.

COVID-19 has passed a beautifully wrapped gift into your capable hands and is daring you to open it.

Just Do It. Open it…

Capture the glorious “infection” of energy and motivation… the call to action.

Don’t: squander the gift.

Don’t: delve further into the cavernous recesses of Netflix or AmazonHuluHbo-world.

Don’t: rollover in bed… burp, fart… then eat one last potato chip.

DO: Wake up every day and set aside at least 2 hours to work into the passion that you feel. You need time (it doesn’t have to be all in one session, split it up into 2 segments if you wish) to let the muses and folkloric and genetic powers rise to the surface.

DO: Get a little obsessed. Focus. Drill in. But don’t become a stalker, OK?… channel your obsession positively. I am not your accomplice in court!

IMG_1866

I’ve already served MY time in my younger days! That moustache is a crime!

Let’s sum up today’s mini-lecture, shall we?

You need patience and persistence.
You need confidence in yourself.
You need inspiration and cheerleading from any source you can find.

We all want to hear our Moms calling out to us telling us how wonderful we are… and if by chance you don’t have a Mom to tell you this… I’ll tell you… YOU are wonderful!

A year or two or three from now… I want you to look back and say to yourself… “as bad as the virus was, as worrisome as the time was, it gave me the gift to do important things that allowed me to explore my real self and find a fabulous path going forward.”

Make the 1,000 hours, these mere 42/84 days, your personal “ark building” moment and discover the GOAT gold at the end of the rainbow after the contagious rains let up.

Tomorrow, you might learn how to paint nudes, and NOT at PornHub!:

https://coursehorse.com/san-diego/classes/art/drawing/drawing-and-painting/live-model-

… and then …

…. move on to some group singing (Fleetwood Mac tonight!):  Choir!Choir!Choir! – check their FB page for details: https://www.facebook.com/choirx3/

OK…  now get out there (by which I mean stay in) and give your Mommy a big hug (by which I mean, from 2m away!)

moms day card 2020

The Blessing And The Curse … COVID-19 Version

Leave a comment

blessings-curses

Quick… TRIVIA Quiz…

What are the names of the 7 von Trapp family children in the movie THE SOUND OF MUSIC? (Don’t cheat… answers may be found at the end of this post).

The Sound of Music (or to be really silly in these dark COVID times… it might be renamed The Sound of Mucous) has been a recurring theme in this house for the past few weeks. If you’ve never heard of or never *NOOOOO* seen the movie, this might be a good time for you to sign out of this post… just sayin’…

Since the oncoming rushing train we’ve labelled COVID-19 was introduced to us in the last couple of months, the entire world has had this sci-fi common experience of physical isolation, but definitely NOT social isolation.

This isn’t your great grandparents’ version of the Spanish Flu… *drum roll* … introducing the INTERNET! Have you heard of it?

The planet has adapted in many many ways to keeping our hands and expelled body fluids away from each other.

The friendly exchange of our body’s bacterial and viral biome with others has been our way of communicating, connecting and bonding with our family, friends and acquaintances for millennia.

Shake my hand, hug me, cheek buss, bum pat (SLAP… OK, this one is long out of bounds!)…

STOP! Do Not Touch! Anyone! Anything!

It’s tough and it can be slightly embarrassing or uncomfortable. It’s just plain weird to turn a lifetimes’ social learning and flip it on its head.

Which brings me back to The Sound of Music.

Early on in this isolation period, our family began a weekly Zoom get-together on Monday nights to have a Pub Trivia Night in Canada.

It’s a weekly chance to remind me why I didn’t get selected to join the Jeopardy TV family despite challenging the “Contestant Test”.

Physical isolation YES… Social Isolation NO…

In week one of our Zoom sessions, we posited the final BONUS question to our physically-distanced kids and partners: What are the names of the 7 Von Trapp family children in the movie THE SOUND OF MUSIC?

Despite some close attempts, no one quite accomplished the task successfully.

Then, once again, in week 4 of the family Zoom nights, our daughter posed the same question. And again, no one quite jumped over the high bar.

Furthering this Sound of Music theme that has been stuck in my little head… I finished up my online tutoring session with my Syrian friend this week by asking him to listen to a YouTube version of Julie Andrews and the 7 von Trapp children singing… My Favourite Things.

His homework quest was to listen to the spirited song and then write down all of the favourite things that Julie (ie Maria) and the children list in song. The good news is that he managed fine although he found Julie Andrews British accent a bit “dawwwnting”.

 

Our favourite things have changed now that COVID-19 has taken and taken.

We all have a sense of what we’ve given up during this enforced “Lent-of-Sorts”. There are myriads of sadnesses and laments over what and who has been lost.

My mind wanders this way and that… I was watching a TV documentary about country singer Garth Brooks last week. He calmly stared into the camera, slowly flipping his hands back and forth, and said, “Everything you want has a blessing and a curse…”

… and this led me to the Idea Sex concept of this week’s blog… to combine COVID-19 and My Favourite Things  (the curse and the blessing)…  granted, an odd combination… but folks… you’re dealing with an odd mind here… so….

… here goes…

These Are A Few of My 8 Favourite Things

COVID-19 Version

1. This one is easy … and clever too. The Coronavirus version of DO-RE-MI

 

2. Music. The needed push for me to quit procrastinating and spend some time not only playing and practising guitar (this is easy), but also the time to sweat through songwriting sessions (this is NOT easy!). Developing unique and interesting melodies is akin to running the half marathon for me… intense and exhausting but ultimately exhilarating. Does this sound more like a happy ending than a songwriting session?

3. Garden. Setting up a new low-water use irrigation system for the garden. The old 1990’s underground sprinklers are fabulous for soaking huge areas in huge quantities in water… but this is so 20th century thinking. Drippers and micro-sprayers use a fraction of the water and accomplish the goal of keeping everything lush, colourful and beautiful, just like my own peacock’s feathers (right, in your head Larry!)

4. Exercise. Re-discovering my self-motivation exercise gene. For many years, I’ve relied on spin classes, boot camp classes, yoga classes, organized runs etc, to get me out the door and sweating. Now I wake up (and it’s almost light now at 5 am!) and begin my own motivational self-talk session that eventually results in a salty sweat-stained set of shorts and T-shirt. Then I get out of bed. My beer and bread belly has only increased – you can’t see me, right? – marginally!

5. Cooking. Working harder and with more enthusiasm to broaden my ethnic cooking horizon. For many years, I’ve routinely alternated the style of cuisine I prepare… Indian, Italian, German, Moroccan, Thai, Peruvian, North American, and so on, you get it. My quest now is to expand on these ethnic directions by adding new dishes into the mix. Wanna try my Pad Thai Pizza, Prime Rib Ceviche, or Schnitzel Tajine?

6. Vegging. Yes, oodles of time where there are multitudes of streaming shows that entice and seduce like creamy smooth chocolate. My favourite indulgence recently is the Netflix mini-series UNORTHODOX… or is it Gossip Girl? shhhhh… Recent credible research suggests that binge-watching produces a surge of IgG and IgM antibodies biologically active against… absolutely nothing.

7. Soul Searching. Having an intense internal conversation with my inner voices and demons where I play Trevor Noah or Jimmy Kimmel to myself. I earnestly ask myself all the questions I’ve always wanted answered: Why does Mom love my brother more? If I’m so GD handsome, how come no one ever asked me to pose for Playgirl magazine? Should I sue Keith Urban for plagiarizing my voice?

8. Toes. Yes, rediscovering long distant body parts is great fun and refreshes me on things like simple arithmetic (how many are there again?) and also … just what have my piggies been doing all these years since childhood? And why is my toe jam more like toe peanut butter? So many intriguing questions… so much time.

Thank you COVID-19. And finally …

*The von Trapp childrens’ names?

  • Liesl
  • Friedrich
  • Louisa
  • Kurt
  • Brigitta
  • Marta
  • Gretl

beefcake fav things

HOT? Maybe… but Definitely NOT on MY list!

 

 

 

The Day My Dad Was Sick And I Began My Journey to Wisdom

6 Comments

father son

My Dad and I were never close.

Nope, not even close to close.

We were acquaintances who happened to live under the same roof for 16 years. Ghosts treading the same floors in different dimensions.

I’ve spent many years feeling bitterness and resentment towards the man who housed, fed and clothed me.

There was no abuse … sure, the occasional routine spanking – it was still the era of spare the rod and spoil the child – no, my beef with my father was benign neglect.

He never joined in with my mother at my school events, attended my hockey games, or helped with delivering my newspapers when the snow was deep the way Mom did. He never helped with my homework or joined me in making little plastic car and airplane models, never threw a baseball my way. He didn’t teach me how to drive or tell me that one day I’d have to shave hair from the edges of my ears (really?!?).

I think that many of us harbour some ill feelings towards at least one of our parents.

It’s pretty amazing that these childhood feelings can linger for decades afterwards, which perhaps helps me understand why we prosecute war criminals and sexual predators (yes, YOU Harvey W.) many years after the acts occurred. The hurts stick to you like flypaper.

In the early winter of 1974 I was on a French class school trip to Quebec City … what joyous fun and freedom it was for a 16 year old to share a hotel room with two buddies in a “foreign” city…

… to experience the Quebec Winter Carnival, taste the frozen maple taffy, cavort with Bonhomme Carnaval, eat filet mignon in an historic old restaurant, and sip French wine (yes, underaged!) with classmates from long plastic canes designed to secretly tote alcohol.

And there were girls on the trip! Even more, there were teenage girls in the Quebec streets who spoke… French! Oh Mon Dieu…

Bonhomme carnaval

Then the phone rang in my hotel room and the fun ended all too soon.

Only a few months after my Mom’s unexpected death, my Dad had been diagnosed with acute leukemia and was being aggressively treated in hospital with nasty chemo chemicals to combat the blood cancer. There were yeast sores all through his mouth and he could barely drink. The chemotherapy designed to save him was brutal and life threatening all on its own.

The voice on the phone said that he was dwindling – quickly – and I should perhaps book a train ticket and return home ASAP if I wanted to say a final goodbye.

I “bravely-in-a-boys-don’t-cry-sort-of-way” held back any tears and began packing and lamenting the end of my teenage frolic en francais.

Shortly after I received another phone call… Larry, don’t worry, he probably isn’t as bad as we first thought, he should survive the next couple of days. Stay there and enjoy your time in Quebec.

Right.

Turns out my Dad survived the chemo (and leukemia) and lived another reasonably healthy 7 years.

And you might think that we became close (or closer) as a result of his illness and the near-death experience, but we didn’t. The big chill remained. The Hollywood happy ending never occurred in real life.

But. Over many years I’ve let the bitter taste dissipate. Melt and absorb back into the universe. It becomes so dilute that it can’t do any harm anymore.

I’m not perfect. I’ve realized that I’m a product of my upbringing and environment and so was my Dad. In his shoes: with his parents, school, and life experiences, would I be any different? I don’t know.

My Dad wasn’t a bad guy. In many ways, he was a good fellow, just not a good Dad to me.

I will never totally understand the man he was, but I understand now through my own life history how a life is molded and shaped … how diamond is often imperfectly formed over time from coal through heat and pressure.

You might say I’ve grown a tiny bit … which is really a synonym for older and … wait for it …

WISE?

WISDOM?

Maybe?

buddha

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

Leave a comment

funny wine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be Best.

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

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

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

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

8th Gen wines 2

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

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

But back to the jargon of wine country.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8th gen vineyard.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

cheers

 

Don’t Do This …

2 Comments

hummingbird and lilac

Can you smell the delicious sugary-sweet scent of roses and lilacs in the light spring breeze? Stop … slowly … breathe in deeply …

The hummingbirds and bees turn the dial in their noses up to high before diving in to get their mind-blowing fix of nectar. It’s their cocaine snort. Maybe that’s why they buzz …

Speaking of buzz …

Hey Larry, how was your weekend?”, someone probed me on Tuesday this week.

Well… sniff… er… umm… oh yeah, I ran a half marathon with 18,000 others in Vancouver on Sunday … but I can barely bring it to the surface.

I hate it when someone asks me what I did last weekend. Or what I’m doing next weekend. Shit … I don’t know.

It’s not because I hated what I did … it’s because …

… I can’t remember what I did yesterday, or the day before yesterday, or the past weekend. What I’m doing tomorrow is pretty foggy.

What did I have for breakfast? Who did I help out? To be or not to be…

Days, weeks, months and years flash by… it was 2010 yesterday.

Give me my calendar and my notes so I can re-live the past and remember the future.

forget me not.jpg

No, I don’t have Alzheimer’s or dementia (yet, I hope)… it’s just that my process is do … done … move forward to the next do and the last do that’s done is filed at the back of my internal hard drive. Got it?

How many weekends do I have remaining to forget? chggg cgghhh rumbl grggl (internal calculator adding up)… let’s say I live to 75 … I have about 700 weekends to enjoy and remember before last call.

……………..

In many of my posts over the years, I’ve listed a few things we can do that I believe work well for the construction of a life well-lived.

Today I’m taking the reverse course and telling you NOT to do what I typically do. Yes, I’m embracing negativity as a life lesson to you.

RUSH RUSH RUSH… This is not a process I recommend to you.

These days we hear a whole lot about meditation and mindfulness… I have friends out there like Jimmy and David and Denise and Marsha who take the time and patience to focus intensely on the moment at hand. Smart folks.

I admire those who stop and smell the roses and lilacs. And remember.

Alabama had a great pulsating song:

Can’t be late
I leave plenty of time
Shaking hands with the clock
I can’t stop
I’m on a roll and I’m ready to rock

Oh I’m in a hurry to get things done
Oh I rush and rush until life’s no fun
All I really gotta do is live and die
But I’m in a hurry and don’t know why

I’m in a hurry, yes, and I do know why.

I was at an Open Mic a couple of nights back. It’s an experience. It’s a memory. I wanna drink in as much as possible and the friggin’ clock never stops tick-tick-ticking.

Each experience we inhale – we participate – slows it all down. Injects a moment with life.

Treadmill existence is both good and bad. I know this. I know I rush too much.

I’m gonna try (yes Yoda… try!) slowing down a tiny bit.

But at this point I also know that when I slowwwwww down too much (for me)… I feel the urge, the burn, the ache.

So perhaps do as I say and not as I do …

I want to live forever and continue to – in my own hapless way – forget, yes, forget… all the great things, the activities, the people, the conversations, the corny puns and silly innuendo, the luscious foods, the harmonies, the books, the Cuban cigars and Gewurztraminer sips, the blog posts…

… and especially, the sweet flowery perfumes and birdlovesongs that sail gently through my window on brilliant spring mornings.

rose at window.jpg

 
 

Older Entries