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Becoming A Better Hooker…

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Humour’s a funny thing, don’t you think?

Does today’s blog title make you smile, or think, WHAT? … who knows, maybe it annoys you because it sounds sexist.

It doesn’t really matter to me because it drew you in by its provocative, sexual overtone… I’m sorry if you feel manipulated. Stay with me for a minute here and see if I can make you smile.

I was reading another blogger’s post the other day when I spotted this visual about Panty Prose and PadVertising. I couldn’t help but chortle.

PADvertisement

We all know that funny stuff is very individual and subjective, but who can’t see the teehee in a photo that takes our Mad Men advertising world to a whole new level? Between the legs humour…

Sometimes it takes such a small thing to bring a smile, a grin, a twinkle, inward or outward. My smiles don’t always show on the outside, but they’re lurking in the cheek muscles.

I’ve always loved The Sound of Music… and the quaint, lyrical essence within the ditty My Favourite Things.

So today, I give you… a tasty few of my Favourite Funny-Smiley Things:

  • DAILY: I stopped regularly reading the comics’ section of the paper years ago when I left behind my Hamilton Spectator newspaper delivery route. Yet today, most mornings I have a tiny chuckle as I take my first glance at the back of the local Penticton Herald newspaper and catch the BIZARRO cartoon of the day.

Bizarro.jpg

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  • ONGOING: Monty Python – a childish, absurdist, but occultly intelligent humour that strikes a huge funny bone or… misses totally. I’ve met people that either align themselves in the LOVE or the HATE camp… I place myself firmly in the “Pro-Python” LOVE group.

monty python.jpg

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  • MOVIEAirplane (or Monty Python and the Holy Grail). Once again, as absurd and juvenile as a silly walk but I can’t help but titter over inanity like:

Rumack: Can you fly this plane, and land it? 

Ted Striker: Surely you can’t be serious. 

Rumack:  I am serious… and don’t call me Shirley.

Airplane movie

………………………

  • SONG: Carrot Juice is Murder by Canada’s Arrogant Worms (even the group’s name is silly!). I love it when mainstream conventional thought goes topsy-turvy – the notion that vegetables have sense and feeling is simultaneously cute AND terrifying. Dystopia! Where will ill-fated vegans go when consciousness is discovered in the celery-set?

carrot hug .jpg

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  • STAND-UP COMEDY: I wiggle with the laughter that comes with talking about “nothing” the way Jerry Seinfeld can do it. I snicker at my fellow-Hamiltonian Martin Short’s character Jiminy Glick. And one of my all-time favs has got to be Rita Rudner… the low-key Sweetheart who soft-peddles a clean and gentle that tickles my giggle gene.

………………………

  • SEASONAL: The sun warmed his elfin fuzzy nose as he stretched into a yoga Cobra pose- it was a friendly little gesture to the sky and the water of the lake behind. I search the shoreline for him each day that I drive into Penticton.

I know if it’s cloudy, there will be no sighting. But if the sun switch is turned on, so is my petite rodent friend. The marmot is my morning sun-smile.

Marmot on rock.jpg

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  • WORK-LIFE: In my professional prime, when I worked in the lab, I saw and touched and smelled a lot of stool… feces… waste matter…  dung… ah hell, let’s call it what it is… SHIT!

I took the work of diagnosing problems in your shit seriously, so I hope it won’t disturb you that I always tried to brighten my moments by finding something funny in your droppings… corn kernels and other vegetative anomalies that resembled rorschach inkblots in the clouds.

SHIT

It’s all a part of the way we cope with life’s shit, you know.

In your day-to-day life, you encounter similar muck and filth. I know you do.

Life is filled with real and metaphoric shit.

So I hope you manage to unearth a small hoot or belly laugh in unexpected ways.

Yes Virginia, we need humour in the world: the amusement, the irony, the absurdity, the gosh-darn plain fun to pull and push us forward in our daily lives.

And maybe… maybe next time you slip your drawers down, cast a glance southwards and think of an advertisement that would fit the “smile” bill for you…. “The Quicker Picker Upper”… or….“Tastes So Good, Cats Ask for It by Name”… or… “Imagination at Work”.

First The Twist, Then The Hustle, and Now The Senior Slide

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Grumpy old men.jpg

I’m tired of complaining. I hate it when I sound like a Grumpy Old Man.

I’m fighting the Senior Slide into Assholedom.

Glen, a regular visitor to my gym, is 93 this year and he still smiles and talks with buoyant cheer. He’s a superstar inspiration. The perfect iron pumper with a positive perspective.

Of course that’s negated by mid-70’ish Ron at the soup kitchen who volunteers to help the downtrodden, drug- and/or mental health- challenged souls, then ironically… acts like a classless Soup Nazi who hates the clientele. I don’t get it.  Shitcakes with soup.

I rarely used to swear and there I’ve gone and uttered profanities twice in the first 4 paragraphs.

OMG, the Senior Slide is happening…. I don’t want that on my dance card!

Senior Slide.jpg

The real reason I’m fearing the onset of Senior Slide is the weather outside. And my overreaction to the nip in the air.

There are great swirls of pine and fir branches doing sunbathed cha-chas in the crisp breeze outside my window.

And in the distance, across mirrored Okanagan Lake and the valley, the soft, rounded peaks of the undulating hills, thrown up like toss cushions caught in the March winds, are still … STILL… coated with snow, evergreens poking through the whitewash like prickly slivers on my hand.

The symphony of chattering robins and chickadees and flickers is the best streaming music channel going.

It’s March and this is the Okanagan Valley. Spring.

Living in the Okanagan in Canada is the equivalent of living in tropical La La Land or Miami in the States.

The mere whiff o’ nasty chill weather here is usually less reality than an imaginative head trip… kinda like fake weather news.

We know that REAL winter is out there somewhere but we don’t want to see it or experience it.

I occasionally admire the throngs of people that live in New York City or Toronto, those who love big city life, the incredible restaurants and amazing, diverse cultural opportunities- Open Mic nights every day of the week!

Then I remind myself that these “lucky” souls are also burdened with the additional joy of dealing with the Great White North head-high snowdrifts; the regular frustrations of Currier and Ives winter scenes that linger on for 80 days and nights beyond when that furry rodent pops his toothy little face above the ground in early February.

Here in the bucolic interior valley of British Columbia, winter is typically a quick blast of 3 or 6 inches of January snow, followed in short order by deliciously mild, springlike days leading to daffodil, tulip, snowdrop and daphne blooms by mid-March.

tulips.jpg

Typically. Usually. Most years.

Not 2017. Nope.

Even our backyard hens are sounding off about the weather like crabby little bitches. We give you eggs every day and this is what you give us in return?, the girls seem to be clucking.

This is where I find myself playing the grumpy old man.

I’ve lived in the Arctic and in northern BC.

I’ve played broomball at -35C on frozen Frame Lake surrounding Yellowknife.

I’ve cross-country skied over snowbound Alberta mountain passes listening to the bass rumble of avalanches in the near distance.

I’ve tasted hard-frozen maple syrup poured over shaved ice during Quebec City’s Winter Carnival.

Yes, I’ve survived and thrived in climates that can kill in a matter of minutes, the sensation of cruel polar air freezing my moustache brush and the alveoli in my lungs.

So, paradoxically, it seems silly and ironic to me that I now whine and whinge whilst the “spring” temperatures outside my window float barely below or around the freezing point.

Is it possible that I’ve lost my thrill of the challenge? Weather or otherwise? What faculty or personal test will I next see slipping away in the fog?

Am I sliding closer to the point of no return where my children decide the time has come to set me on a floating ice island to oblivion?

Is this weather issue the thin edge of the wedge where Assholedom becomes a wolf that demands daily feeding?

I don’t think so. I hope not.

My childish mind wanders onto bizarre weather tangents of apparent nonsense… Is it possible that global warming has been scared chilly with the ascendance of Trump? Are the weather Gods cowering in cold, dark horror like little babies in fear of a nasty tweet at 1:44 am.?

Trump tweet

Sorry, I slipped away there for a moment. See? It’s happening…

Ultimately, my answer to this question of Senior Slide is… I don’t know.

I do know that deeper understanding of ourselves, others, and the world around us comes with experience and seeking to see from the inside and not merely looking in from the outer edge.

Perhaps it’s part of the natural process of growing up, growing old.

Sometimes wisdom is knowing that not every question contains a neat and tidy answer. Wisdom.

I also know that regardless of any “slide”, I’d prefer to tap-dance on the sunny clouds of Pharrell William’s Happy than shuffle in the sewers of Scrooge and The Grinch.

 

Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you know what happiness is to you
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like that’s what you wanna do

There Is No Try…

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Yoda

Yoda said it… there is no try.

Everybody knows the influence of Yoda in their lives.

Luke Skywalker didn’t believe he could use the force. Yoda told Luke that trying is just a form of doubt.

I’ve teased my kids for years when they say, “OK, I’ll try that!“.

I morph my voice into that fuzzy green Buddha-of-Wisdom Yoda and squeal out a squished and really really atrociously uttered,

There is no try… Do or do not”. 

They just wince, shake their heads, and walk away like they’re dealing with a crazy man.

try to be Yoda. I love it when my kids try anything that they’ve never attempted before. To try is to reject failure as an answer. Trying is a synonym for bravery.

To try is to hope. And what is life without hope?

And so, much like I see 50 shades of grey in just about everything I touch with my eyes and my mind, I understand the black or white value of “Do or do not” power BUT also its limitations.

Yoda said, “There is no try…“, and like an approaching steam train where you’re anxiously holding on by your fingernails waiting for the whistle to blow, he adds…

“… Do or do not.” 

It’s a simple statement about an unfertilized ovum line-dancing its way down a fallopian tube broadly grinning with dreams of promise and potential.

Without the charm of trying in life, we leave that poor wee egg without a sperm donor to kiss Sleeping Beauty to life and fulfill her destiny. Soon to be flushed away in a bloody flood out to the Dead Sea of Tampon.

medicis

I was at an Open Mic night at Medici’s Gelateria – an old restored Catholic church –  a couple of weeks back.

I did my 3 tunes, then after a really nice a cappella song by a pair of teenage girls, an elderly lady climbed the two stairs to the stage with an elderly guitar in her fragile elderly arms.

She shuffled to the microphone, her silver-grey hair poking out in waves beneath a wide-brimmed flowery Minnie Pearl hat, her pale purple cotton dress edged with lace swaying lightly against her thin calves.

Smiling brightly, she introduced herself as Angela, and then launched into an overly lengthy, high-pitched story about her diabetic health issues and the difficulties in eating well while living from a motel room.

There was a sweet sadness in her smile and a blue halo around her as she spoke in a little girl voice, not looking for pity, but wanting to explain and make a case for her musical deficiencies.

After a few minutes she stopped talking. She played and sang.

The song was Paper Roses ( a #1 country music hit for 14 year-old Marie Osmond in 1973). Although she strummed very simple guitar chords, her voice was strong and well-keyed. Her smile and voice resonated through the high-ceilinged former church, now Gelateria cafe.

paper-rose

All was well until partway along she strummed an off-chord… then another and … flustered, she stopped mid-song in embarrassment.

She looked out at the audience and plaintively asked, “is it me or is my guitar the problem?

I only took up playing the guitar 2 years ago and so I don’t always play the right chords…

She was trying her best to perform publicly after trying to learn the guitar in her elder years.

 

Looking down at her old guitar, she started up again and played a couple of lines from the song but it became obvious that her singing melody wasn’t in sync with the chords coming from her guitar.

She broke off strumming her instrument and continued singing in perfect pitch, embarrassed but determined…

…until all of us in the audience smiled back at her bravery and joined in singing along the simple words to her song…

I thought that you would be a perfect lover
You seemed so full of sweetness at the start
But like a big red rose that’s made of paper
There isn’t any sweetness in your heart

Paper roses, paper roses,
Oh how real those roses seem to me
But they’re only imitation
Like your imitation love for me

As Angela and the audience sang the last few words of the song, a cloudburst of joyful, enthusiastic applause rang loudly through the room.

I don’t think that most of us would have ever walked up those stage stairs the way Angela did that evening. It was embarrassing, right?

Her musical skill and ability was mediocre at best.

But it was her strength of positive spirit and character that endeared and entertained us despite her lack of high-level talent.

Angela had tried so hard, and if you were Yoda, I think you would have said, “she not only tried, but she did”. 

You know by now that I’m always looking for mentors and inspiration in the words and deeds of those around me and afar.

Sometimes I actively search for a bright beam of light in the night sky, a beam filled with ideas and strength and passion where I can catch a ride to a new destination.

More often than not, that beam of inspiration emanates from a bright star, a guitar playing mentor/hero like James Taylor, Eric Clapton or Keith Urban, a writer like Stephen King or Rachel Joyce, a chef like Jamie Oliver.

But I love those unintended surprises of encouragement and motivation that radiate from a back eddy, an unknown tributary of innocence and secrecy that flow in like a gentle old lady with a voice and a guitar.

She tried. We should all try.

I don’t think trying is doubt. I think trying is hope.

I’m not sure we should be relying on little green creatures to be our life consultants (and definitely not large Larry GREEN creatures either!).

I’ve told you this secret before but I’ll repeat it again.

I use you. I use you so I can try…

I use you to motivate me to write and to explore the minutiae of life, the little things that may seem meaningless… yet still, in their simplicity, like a statement from Yoda, contain BIG messages and stories.

When you converse with a good friend, you realize that life is a series of stories on a tender scented breeze, that slowly turns the pages… pages occupied with the boredom and exhilaration… the smiles and tears… of our book… one-by-one-by-one…

Book of life.jpg

 

 

 

Soup Crackers … How Close Are You To Being A Walking Wounded?

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Zodiac killer

“Hey!”

A grey, grizzled guy in a Kal Tire baseball cap got shoved backwards into the lineup of folks clad in their worn Salvation Army winter coats in front of the serving window.

I’m a naive kind of guy.

I looked up and directly over the 35’ish year-old woman’s shoulder that I had just handed a wax-paper bag containing an egg salad sandwich on multigrain bread.

At first I thought it was just a friendly greeting… a – “Hi, how are ya!”, until they began angrily shouting at each other.

I zipped out from behind the counter and stepped between the two “combatants”. I wasn’t going to be a hero or anything. “C’mon you guys, this isn’t the place or time.”  Did I look tough and menacing or what? NOT!!

The heated tension diffused quickly – more likely because they were afraid they’d be ejected before filling their empty bellies than because of my calming presence. My magic just ain’t that strong.

This is Lunch Time at my local soup kitchen.

Soup kitchen

11:30 to 12:30…. 365 days a year… Two or 3 soup choices, 4-6 sandwich varieties, sometimes a tossed green or potato salad, a wide choice of “stale-dated” desserts (cookies, pies, cake, muffins, jello), and lots of milk, juice and coffee to wash it all down.

And the price is right.

No charge, no questions asked. You wanna come for lunch, you’re welcome.

I wander in 2 or 3 mornings each month to chop all the vegetables needed for a “mirepoix”, the flavour base for most stews and soups: two parts onions, one part carrots, and one part celery.

And, depending on what’s been donated, sometimes we chop rutabagas or peppers or parsnips or cabbage or mushrooms to toss in the soup pots.

That’s a lot of chopped veggies when making enough soup to feed between 100 and 200, depending on the season, the time of the month, the temperature outdoors.

The angry “shover” in the “schoolyard” altercation – Paul – looks like a roly-poly grownup version of Charlie Brown – round head with a reflective sheen to his baldness, tiny pee-hole-in-the-snow-eyes.

I’ve come to know this fellow Paul from short interactions over the previous few months.

I know he’s a troubled guy, despite a usually calm, almost tender voice. A voice really quite soft for a man that likely approaches 250 or so pounds.

And when he speaks it’s with a Donald Trump-like lips-forced-outwards position as if he’s trying to blow kisses while he’s talking.

trump

And like Trump, he’s a guy with dark demons inside.

Paul asked if he could help at the soup kitchen on Christmas day because he didn’t want to be alone and he doesn’t like anyone in his family.

A couple of months back, Paul buttonholed me while I was “bussing” – clearing and cleaning tables after the soup and sandwich and desserts had been consumed by the daily flock.

He – out of nowhere – asked if I had read a book about, or heard of this guy – a serial killer known as the Zodiac Killer.

Ah…. nope …“. I continued to wipe down the table nonchalantly, fearfully worried he might be making a confession.

He continued on, “The Northern California based Zodiac Killer claims he murdered 37 people in the late 1960’s, although police have only confirmed 7. Two of them survived the attacks.”

With each passing word he spoke, his level of animation and fascination grew, his eyes took on a luster of excitement in the telling of his story, his knowledge, his fascination.

For 10 minutes he had me cornered, while he outlined the details of the nasty man and his nastier deeds, how the police had mismanaged the case and had never found the culprit.

I listened as my mind raced in circles to determine if talking about the serial killer was just an academic fascination, or … was there an internal excitement for him, maybe a sexual arousal, almost a desire to be him?

I’m not a trained therapist or student of the mind; I never know who the killer is ahead of time in TV police dramas – I’m just not that capable of reading people.

I don’t know the inner turmoils or traumas that have shaped and affected Paul’s life.

I know he has struggles, I know he feels inner pain from things that have happened.

I also know that every person, every man, every woman, passing in front of the service window where I hand out a sandwich and a bowl of steaming soup has an inner story, a personal struggle.

The folks I see at the soup kitchen are the “Walking Wounded”, the ones whose conflicts have left them too damaged to fully function in our world in a way we would describe as “normal”.

If we repaired their teeth, gave them a shower and some fresh clothing, most of those I encounter at the soup kitchen – at least those who aren’t meth addicts with pockmarked ravaged faces – outwardly, they could be “Us”, you or me.

In amongst our smiles and joys and cheerfulness, small, or sometimes large grey clouds float in and out of our days.

Humanity gives no person, no matter how rich, no matter how famous, no matter how talented, a free pass on troubles.

Really?

Yup. All of us are “Walking Wounded” …

It comes down to degrees.

It comes down to circumstances, strength, attitude and probably the resilience within our genetics.

I was lucky to be born in the 20th Century. I was lucky to be born in affluent North America. I was lucky to be raised within a loving family.

It’s a sunny day in my mind knowing that I’m the one standing on the serving side of the soup kitchen counter.

And it’s REALLY sunny if, after a morning of peeling, dicing and chopping big bags of carrots and onions and celery, I can walk out the Soupateria door … and … because I’m a numbers guy, still count to 8 … oops, sorry … 10 on my fingers.

finger-slice

 

On The Lightness of Being An Evangelist of Positive Passion …

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Two wolves

BEWARE!

Look both ways before crossing my path because I’m not always sure that I’m heading in the right direction.

I’m sorry. Don’t worry.

This is all just a metaphor for my choices in life.

We ALL have a direction. We ALL have choices.

We ALL make choices, even if we choose to do nothing … that’s a choice too!

positive passion

This is where my concept of Positive Passion vs Negative Passion comes into play ….

Many dive into politics and weighty issues. This is a good thing in most cases.

With lofty intentions they dive into the stinky diapers of the world and try to make changes, or try to change the opinions of others, or fight injustice and inequality.

The most common form of this arises in protest of government edicts or legislation.

Unions and armies have fought their negative passions for eons. Protesters have died in Tiananmen and Tahrir.

They are filled with passion, but it’s a negative passion. It’s a contra passion… an “against something” passion.

I feel inferior when I encounter people like this and yet I don’t change.

I’ve made my choice. Why? What choice?

I’m not a negative passion kind of person.

I decided some time back that I want to fill my life with positivity. I want to do and live positive things with positive people in a positive way.

Happy dog

I want to fill my life with Positive Passion, not Negative Passion.

Check out this Letter to the Editor in my local Penticton newspaper last week. It suggested we find something we don’t like in the world and then fight against it as our life’s passion. Negative Passion.

I hear, “what can I do” or “nothing is going to change.” 

There are many people and organizations tackling challenges we face; environmental, social and economic challenges that have the power to cripple if we let them. In the face of these challenges, these people are making changes that few of us hear about, or if we do hear, our hopelessness doesn’t allow us to register. 

I say, “Get mad, get motivated and get moving.” Action is the only thing that ever has, or ever will, change anything.

First, what bothers you?

Finding your discontent is the key to discovering your passion, and when a person is passionate, there is nothing that can’t be accomplished.

Second, “get motivated.”

Who else shares your pet peeve? I can guarantee there is a person, people or an organization already tackling the challenge you see.

Third, “get moving.” Contact one of those people or organizations. Start your own movement, volunteer, donate, whatever you can do with  whatever you have is good enough. Never let anyone tell you your efforts will never be enough.  

It’s noble and elegant, isn’t it? Superheroes fighting crime and injustice.

But I don’t want to fill my mind with negativity. I don’t want to be mad. Why do I want to be bitter and angry?  “Finding your discontent is the key to discovering your passion” just doesn’t work for me.

I try to float a bit lighter, filled with positive thoughts, positive energy; perhaps I can lessen just a teensy bit some of the problems that exist by the approach that I take.

Will I solve all the issues, the myriad of problems that beset us? Nope, not by a long stretch.

Don’t call me Polly’annish.

But I know that when I smile and see a grin mirrored back by others, problems somehow seem less significant, less bothersome. Smile dynamics break through where confrontation fails.

Here’s another approach that I’d describe as Positive Passion… this is from my local Penticton Herald newspaper Letters to the Editor, same as the example above. Positive Passion.

 

As the Okanagan summer draws to a close, we gratefully acknowledge the tremendous support given to the Soupateria.

Donations of fresh fruit and vegetables from local orchards, farmers and home gardeners have been delivered. Merchants have donated bread, baked goods and various food items. Service clubs, churches, businesses and individuals given assistance in various ways. These  contributions have enabled us to continue providing a hot, nourishing lunch each day.

To the end of August, 30,506 “signed in” lunches were served, an increase of 945 over the same time period in 2014. Due to the influx of seasonal transient workers, numbers grew exponentially.

These numbers will drop dramatically at the end of harvest time. However, as a result of the downturn of the economy, the local clientele continues to grow. Many new faces appear in the lunchtime lines. 

Our dedicated volunteers have been champions, giving of their time and talents throughout this long, hot summer. The smiles of appreciation from clients, their compliments to the soup makers, and their cooperation during a busy season have made the effort well worthwhile.

On behalf of everyone here at the Soupateria, to the community of Penticton,  we say, thank you.

What a beautiful, thankful way to deal with a problem that exists. Feeding the positive wolf.

I respect, sometimes even admire, those who choose to fight with negative passion.

BUT.

I’ve made my choice.

I’m choosing to feed my positive wolf.

ACCENTCHUATE_THE_POSITIVE!_