Home

The Post of Christmas Past

2 Comments

.

Today is December 25 and, like Ebenezer Scrooge, I’m casting my eyes out my window onto the snowy, blowy streets and across the fruit orchards with wonderment and warmth and gratitude.

Of course there is no young boy passing by to whom I can toss a farthing to purchase the biggest turkey in the butcher’s display, and that’s OK. Not everything must be Dickensian…

This frosty morning I’m pulling forward a flashback to Christmas of 2012, a mere 10 years back when I posted the following little essay.

I’m not sure that it’s aged well (much like me!) over a short timeframe, but it is what it is.

Maybe this provides you an opportunity to reflect on who would sit at your holiday table today if you had a magic wand to enact any scenario you wished.

And… a final note: Christmas gives us an opportunity to reflect and to be thankful, and I want to say a big thank you to each and every one of you for reading my posts and offering comments or opinions, whether through this site, Facebook, e-mail or personal contact!

May all your wishes come true, today and in your many many years to come…

Now friends, let’s fly back 10 years to a Post of Christmas Past…

HAPPY HOLIDAYS 2012!

The year end is approaching quickly.  And this means that many of us spend the long, dark wintry days turning inwards, becoming introspective, seeking meaning and reason in life. Do you think there’s more to it all than Facebook?

This search may be especially true for those of us who don’t put our trust in a higher power or being. Not believing in a deity and/or afterlife significantly compresses the time allotted for finding significance to our existence.

After all, to us heathens, existence and eternity usually means something like 40 up to about 100 years, really not a whole lot of time after you make your bed, eat breakfast, brush your teeth, and sleep.

Turn off the TV I tell myself, time is running out. Time management for the atheist is the #1 priority right after food and sex!

So I say…

Damn you Christians with your eternal time in heaven with all of your loved ones and no worries about global warming.”

Damn you Muslims and your reward of 72 (some say only 40) virgins.”

Damn you Buddhists and your Nirvana and reincarnation.”

I won’t damn YOU Jews since you’re a bit confused on the whole afterlife side of things already, so why should I make you suffer more consternation with my words.”

Christmas 2012 will be unusual in my world as this will be the first time in 27 years that we’ve not had all or most of our 3 kids at home. They’ve provided the meaning to the season for so long, that I’ve forgotten that there were other reasons, you know… all of that birth of Christ child stuff and Wise Men and Shepherds and HOHOHO and pretty girls… oops sorry, I’ve slipped off on a Charlie Brown tangent. Blockhead!

Since the Christmas dinner table will be extra light on offspring this year, I’ve decided to enjoy a very special Christmas meal serving up 6 courses of my most appealing and satisfying guests from now and days gone by.

      Let’s Eat…   

Course 1 – Appetizers

With Authors James Michener and Leon Uris… a dinner that starts with appetizers should be filled with creative ideas and thought to whet the appetite. These guys aren’t literary heavyweights. But they have written a huge volume of amazingly researched, diverse, and well-written historical fiction covering all parts of the world.

I devoured their books in earlier years. And today I’d love to bite into some of their ideas on the writing process and organization.

I’m astonished by those who can be so determined to focus and deliver a huge body of work in one lifetime. Sure they’re old white guys, but inspiration comes in all colours, ages, and genders. 

I also loved radically individualistic Ayn Rand’s ideas in my younger days, but just can’t bring myself around to her level of narcissism at this point in my life. Fortunately, just looking in my bathroom’s mirror and seeing the “funhouse” image it reflects back is enough to keep me grounded!


Course 2 – Soup

Mom photo

With My Mom...Warm and inviting and full of goodness, this soup course will be my visit with a Ghost of Christmas Past.

It will be wonderful to have my Mom at my table this year. It’s been 39 years since she died and I was last able to sit at her table and share in the Christmas feast. She made the BEST roast potatoes.

Like any good, doting son, I’d want to tell her how much I love her and miss her after all of these years.

As the first person I encountered in life who showed me unconditional love, I would want to tell her about my successes and mistakes, knowing that she would listen, but not judge. And I’d want to tell her that she gave me the grounding and support I needed to go out and make a pretty damn good life, despite all of my fears and worries (Mom was a HUGE worrier herself). And I’d want to apologize to her for not knowing the basics of CPR when she needed it back in 1973.

Course 3 – Salad

Warren-Buffett-ninja
Buffett is my favourite ninja…

With Legendary Investor Warren Buffett… what would a Christmas buffet be without a Buffett?

Well, not overly filling, but chock full of nutritious thoughts and concepts. Buffett is known as the Oracle of Omaha, and probably the best stock market investor of this generation. He’s also such a folksy kind of guy.

It should be fun to have him at the table, telling little stories about life and making great stock investments. It’s not very often that you meet people who are highly intelligent and independent-thinking who can also relate to people in a relaxed and personal way.

Making billions of dollars, almost all of which will go to charity when he dies, while playing a silly NINJA makes him my kind of guy. Buffett can take a story about a one-armed baseball player and an Iowa chicken and make a heartfelt parable of it that relates directly to the reality and oftentimes insanity of the investment world.

Course 4 – Main Entree

obama_clinton

With Former U.S. President Bill Clinton… Clinton needs to be the main course because, despite his personal foibles (I’m buying you pants without a zipper for Christmas, Bill!), he’s one of the most substantial minds in the whole wide political world.

Clinton, like Obama, is one of the seemingly few rational and caring political-type Americans out there today. Clinton can spontaneously dissect just about any complex world issue and bring to it a common sense approach and potential solution.

There are many minds out there to admire, but Bill Clinton’s is at the top of my list. One discussion with Bill and I’ll be feeling overfull this Christmas.

Course 5 – Dessert

With Actress Reese Witherspoon… dessert should be a light, fluffy, and sugary sweet confection.

The perfect dessert, like fine wine, also has an underlying layer of complexity and depth. This is why I’ve invited actress Reese Witherspoon to this occasion rather than my gut-instinctive initial choice, Pamela Anderson.

The Queen of Jiggle, Anderson is just too much fluffy cotton candy that leaves me feeling sickly nauseous after consuming. The first lick is sensually encouraging, but a few bites later you can only feel regret.

I like Witherspoon even though she isn’t my favourite actress… she is sweet and light, but hidden behind her fluff-laden translucent facade is a woman of some core substance. She has a nice finish on the palate that leaves me satisfied and wanting more.

.

.

Course 6 – Cheese and Wine

With Singers/Songwriters Carole King and James Taylor… it takes two to finish this delectable Christmas dinner because they’re inescapably intertwined for me.

After a large repast with so much to digest, some harmony is needed in this course for settling purposes.

Other beautifully harmonious cheese and wine pairings could be Simon and Garfunkel, Karen and Richard Carpenter, Don Henley and Glenn Frey, Lennon and McCartney, Milli Vanilli (just kidding there!).

But ultimately, what better finish could there be to a meal filled with symbolism and meaning shared with friends and relatives than with a blending of voices in “You’ve Got A Friend”? Whenever I’ve been “down and troubled”, a touch of musical melancholy from either of these two feels like rays of warm sunshine on the first sunny April day.

TaylorKing
JT Carole King Now

.

Finally, the anxiously anticipated Christmas dinner is done, the turkey (tofurkey maybe!) has been deboned and made ready for next week’s soup and sandwiches.

There’s an awareness of satisfaction in knowing that we’ve made it through another year, however tumultuous or sensational.  A year filled with events that made us jubilant, made us cry, made us impatient, made us content, made us angry, made us appreciate.

.

So. Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Happy Kwanza, Splendid Solstice… whatever you choose to pay tribute to, I celebrate with you and I can only hope that your gala feast with whomever you’d relish sharing it, is SPECTACULAR!

What Would YOU Say to You in YOUR Valedictorian Speech?

4 Comments

Time travelling time… close your eyes and settle back into the days when you were first an “adult”… living on your own, supporting yourself, making your own life decisions, taking responsibility.

Look closely at the picture of young you, a you without wrinkles or sore joints, a brain not totally cluttered with information overload, a full head of hair that doesn’t resemble thinned cotton batting, firm of voice and musculature.

You consist of all those desirable things that physically are optimum, humming along at peak operation, a brand new Tesla with a full battery… BUT…

… you are green and inexperienced, naive and over-confident, perhaps supercilious even?

Now, imagine yourself in a cozy chair by a warming fire, sipping a cup of tea and chatting with the YOU that was THEN.

.

What would you say to yourself? What words of reflected wisdom would you share from a life lived through an additional decade or two, perhaps 5 or 6?

This is deep stuff to mull over; to review those things you would like to change or strengthen or eliminate, or… hopefully celebrate… in the choices you’ve made, the directions you’ve taken.

I remember reading a book a number of years back titled Letters From A Businessman to His Son… I don’t recall it really well other than I liked it and took away some helpful ideas to digest. There are a number of other books out there of a similar nature… notes of wisdom learned and earned through life lived.

To take on this introspection is akin to giving a Valedictorian Speech to yourself… ponder yourself as someone like David Foster Wallace (This Is Water) or Steve Jobs or Mother Teresa, people who had immense life experience and made not only great successes, but also terrible mistakes. To live is to be HUMAN, in both the good and bad.

Today, I’m going to give a brief “Valedictorian Speech” to myself with 8 small thoughts on just a few of the things I think of as important in what I’ve done and what I could have done, knowing then what I know now. Too, some are reminders of what I should be doing today where I continue to slip despite knowing better.

.

None of this is new or original, but repetition is always helpful, right? So let’s go…

  1. SLOW DOWN/SHOW PATIENCE – I’ve generally tended towards living life in a rush. My inner to-do list each day typically includes 3 more items than I can reasonably do and do well, so I run from one item (or one person) to the next so that when my head hits the pillow at night, I feel like I’ve checked most of them off my list. So I say, slow down just a bit young man and yes, “smell the roses”… revel a bit in the moment… see the smiles or frowns, taste the tastes, hear and see the nuance in so much of what you are involved with. You may accomplish less, yes, but you will appreciate more. Appreciation of all that is good and feeling more deeply the less good, makes for a richer life.
  2. FOCUS – this has connection to the point above. By slowing down and focussing, by taking time and patience to work hard and intently at fewer things that you feel passionately about will give you a greater connection and sense of satisfaction and well-being. I’ve learned this over a long period of time through my love of making music, but I also know that it extends to anything that is truly important for us. FOCUS, for me, has been my great A-HA discovery in life.
  3. LISTEN AND APPRECIATE – If I have a “beef” with my fellow humans (and I won’t exclude myself from the category), it is the lack of true listening and attempts at understanding that keeps us at a distance from a better, more humane world. Listening intently to each other is a lifetime learning quest that EVERY ONE of us should work at daily.
  4. HELP AND PROTECT THOSE WHO ARE WEAKER – despite all the talk of us being created equal, we remain fathoms away from any true resemblance to equality, which means that we, as individuals, and as a world, need to strive to protect those who for whatever reason are thrown into the world with unintended disadvantage(s). I’ve said many times here in this blog and to myself that I won a lottery prize in where and when I was born. I’d be foolish to suggest that we all deserve exactly the same life and benefits, but the ideal to move more in that direction would benefit us all.
  5. BE WILLING TO LOOK STUPID IN ORDER TO BECOME SMARTER – as a young man I know you hate to look stupid in front of others, to ask the dumb questions. But you know what? Very few others can look outside their own internal thoughts and worries to care much if you look dumb. Worry not – so long as you have an honest intent to grow smarter by asking and doing the dumb things to better yourself, then DON’T WORRY BE HAPPY!
  6. REMEMBER TO SEE THE WORLD IN GREY – EVEN TECHNICOLOUR – AND NOT SOLELY IN BLACK AND WHITE – the world is filled with nuance and complexity… don’t let yourself fall into the trap of seeing only the surface of what is said and done around you. Many will spew opinions (or what they believe are facts) with only a tiny understanding and no wish to know more. Take your time in weighing the meaning of those things that look simple but in fact have so many more aspects and ripples. Showing how convoluted and contradictory life can be, also heed OCCAM’S RAZOR that says, often the simplest, obvious solution to a problem is the best solution.
  7. BALANCE LIFE – try to avoid a seriously concentrated life that focuses only on one or two aspects of a complete set of human traits. Health and happiness will follow…. Belonging. Community. Creativity. Curiosity. Family. Love. Mental and Physical Health. Purpose. Fun.
  8. ACCEPT THAT CHANGE IS CONSTANT AND INEVITABLE – the world is a metamorphic thing… change always has, and always will be with you, day after day after day. Accept it, and don’t let it make you bitter or disillusioned. The world you know as a young person will not be the same world you live in 30 or 40 years from now. Your children and grandchildren will experience the world differently from you. Some things will be worse, and some will be better, so get used to it. Be willing to listen, learn and change your mind a hundred times during your years as you discover more along the path. Learn from the changes, interpret and resist if it makes real sense to resist, but don’t resist merely because something is different. Learn to tell the difference. Enjoy fully the positives.

FINAL CAVEAT: Unless the “positive” above is a positive result for a sexually transmitted disease, then don’t enjoy fully.

The Coolest Game on Earth

4 Comments

Sure, he lives in the States, but deep down in his heart lies the lifeblood of a maple leaf-pure (oops, Canadiens-pure) Canuck.

I’m talking, of course, about my friend Jim Ferguson who regularly jumps in here to share with us his more serious, as well as lightweight thoughts on everything going, much the same as this ADHD’ish Man On The Fringe has for some years now.

Jim and I met in the hallowed halls of Stanton Yellowknife Hospital in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories (in Canada’s Arctic region) in 1977, and have been fast (but growing more slow) friends ever since.

During our stint in the frozen north, Jim and I played hockey together… actually against each other, as I dressed for the Westown Wheelers and Jim was a member of the Twin Pines Totems.

But enough about olden days from me. It’s time for Jim to bring out his pads and tell you about his most Canadian of experiences… take it away Jim…

Yvan Cournoyer

Today I want to blog about a topic near and dear to my heart and the hearts of most Canadians.

No! I’m not talking about beer, poutine, smoked meat sandwiches from Dunn’s Famous Smoked Meats in Montreal, or where on Oak Island Captain Kidd’s treasure is buried. I’m talking about the “coolest game on earth” …

HOCKEY!

Hockey is part of the very fabric of Canadian life for so many of us (count my mum out… she despises the game for reasons to be discussed later).

How often have you heard someone say that hockey is “part of our culture”? If I have heard that once, I’ve heard it a million times!

We eat and breathe the game and have strong allegiances to our favourite teams and our favourite players. For me it has been, since I was a wee lad, the Montreal Canadiens, and my favourite player was always the Roadrunner, Yvan Cournoyer – all 5’ 7” of him flying up and down the ice with great speed and scoring highlight reel goals from both sides (he was ambidextrous).

I have great memories of watching Les Habs on Hockey Night in Canada (HNIC) on Saturday evenings with my dad and brother.

It was hard not to be a hockey fan growing up in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia in the 1960s.

We would receive hockey gear for all birthdays and at Christmas too. We rarely missed HNIC on Saturday nights. Those “original six” games were something to behold even on our B & W TV.

We had a small lake a ½ mile from our house where we would scrape off a rink and play hockey from morning until supper time, day in, day out during the winter months. In the summer we played street hockey all the time. What’s not to like about that schedule, eh?

My dad was an excellent hockey player growing up in Quebec in the 1930s and 1940s. That was certainly an inspiration for me to want to play.

He was a good goalie and in junior hockey played against the likes of Jean Beliveau and other eventual stars of the NHL. He boasts that the “pre-Habs” Beliveau never scored on him although he did split dad’s head open cracking him across his “melon” with his stick in frustration one time.

My grandad and grandma were even approached by representatives of the Canadiens seeking permission to move dad to Montreal to finish high school and to groom him for the possibility of eventually trying out for the junior Canadiens and maybe the “big club” one day. But… his parents refused, and dad (seen in photo below-top centre) would eventually join the Royal Canadian Air Force where he backstopped the Western Europe RCAF Flyers against the top European teams during the 1950s.

I played organized hockey growing up in Dartmouth NS during my younger days and then in the Annapolis Valley during my high school years. I loved the game.

I was on the Central Kings Rural High Wildcats in grades 9, 11, and 12. In grade 10, my parents decided I needed an “attitudinal adjustment” and a shot in the academic arm and sent me to Kings College School (KCS) in Windsor, NS.

KCS, founded in 1788, is the oldest boy’s school in Canada (now Kings-Edghill).

I remember my dad selling me on the KCS opportunity by telling me “they have a good varsity hockey team and it’s a private school, so you are on the ice every day if you make the team”. That was enough to sell me on the opportunity.

What he didn’t tell me was that the coach at the time was an egomaniacal former American Hockey League (AHL) goalie and former junior hockey coach in Halifax who used to compete against my dad, who was then owner and coach of the Dartmouth Junior Arrows across the harbour.

Let’s just say that the coach made my life a living hell when I tried out for the team BUT I had the last laugh (I think?) …I made the team.

One other interesting hockey point about KCS worthy of mention. There has been and continues to be great debate in Canada as to the birthplace of hockey. The debate centres on whether the game originated in Montreal or at KCS in Windsor NS!

Having the KCS connection, I am promoting KCS as the birthplace of hockey (no bias here, eh!). Evidence suggests that the lads at KCS took the Irish field game Hurley and adapted it to the ice in the 1800s and the rest is, as they say, history.

Varsity hockey was a main sport at KCS in 1973-74 when I was a student there. No doubt the history of hockey at KCS was a strong motivator for us kids to want to play for the varsity team. It certainly was for me.

Not everyone is a hockey fan.

As noted above, my mum has NEVER liked the game and has always felt that dad, my older brother Dave, and I wasted too much of our time in front of the TV watching “those damn games” or playing the game.

My dad continued to play as an adult for whatever squadron he was with at the time.

I played at all levels through high school and in a brutal adult league in Yellowknife as a young man. Larry and I both played in that league, and it was a battle every game especially against the RCMP/Yellowknife police team – the dirtiest team of the five teams in our league. I still have bruises and pains from those games…😊 [Ed. note: Me too!]

Mum was so against our love for hockey she eventually developed a sadistic streak and started to watch HNIC with us and cheer on the OTHER TEAM just to piss us off! Thankfully that only lasted a season or so and she got bored.

I loved the game so much that when I was in Nome, Alaska from 2002-2005, I teamed up with a few guys from Minnesota who also love the game and we started a youth hockey program for the kids of Nome.

We built a NHL-sized outdoor rink and before you know it we had almost 70 kids sign up. We did an old-fashioned “equipment drive” through the mail in Minnesota and scored many boxes of gear, skates, etc from a Catholic high school team in St. Cloud and we were able to outfit the whole group of kids with much of the gear they would need.

We would practice and play in all conditions including MINUS 20-degree temps. These kids were dedicated and hearty boys and girls.

Lastly, I spent 6.5-years in Alpena, Michigan working in a busy family medicine clinic.

The “biggest game” in town was the high school hockey team and the rink was packed for every game.

Jim wearing his Alpena jacket but playing outdoors at -20 in Nome, Alaska

I decided to take in a game during my 1st winter in town and one of my friends was manning the penalty box and mentioned to the coach that I was Canadian and a former hockey player. Next thing I knew I was talking to the coach after the game, and he asked me if I would serve as an assistant coach of the team to which I said “absolutely”.

I spent 6 seasons as an assistant coach, and working with the youth sharing my passion for the game only deepened my love for the game even more. The highlight of that 6-year run was making it to the 1999-00 Division 1 State finals where we lost to a powerful private school in the title game.

So now…at 64-years-old, I have turned my attention to my 85-year-old mother-in-law and have brainwashed her into thinking she is an avid hockey fan…😊

We sit in front of her TV watching games a couple of times weekly and I get to tell her who to cheer for and of course she is a Habs fan (much to the chagrin of her son back in Boston…😊)! It doesn’t get any better than that!

Game on!

Peace,

Jim

Jim’s Dad Ian playing goal with the RCAF in the mid-1950’s

The New Relativity Theory- The TAO of Larry

Leave a comment

When I hear my father’s voice coming from my mouth, I know I’m an old fogey… let’s face it, merely using the words “old fogey” qualifies me in the Old Fogey Hall of Fame.

It gets worse.

Old fogeys are angry and cantankerous, opinionated and gassy, poorly dressed and often foul-mouthed. I don’t want any of that. I reject old-fogey’dom (even if I share some traits!)!

My Dad often prefaced his sentences with, “In the good ole days….”, or, “In the olden days…

To a kid like me, those 4 or 5 words were the very earliest and best noise-cancelling headphones ever… my ears automatically hit MUTE when I heard them uttered.

More and more as we grow older, we live less and less in the present. The past is our reality.

We begin comparing peoples’ manners, prices, architecture, movies, songs, and, well, you name it, to the way things felt, looked, tasted, and smelled in our younger years… yup, in the good ole days.

It’s all about our personal reference point.

Our reference point for the history of the world begins the day and year we are born.

There is life Before Larry (BL), Early Larry (EL), and finally, After Larry (AL) (substitute your name for Larry).

Everything I learned in school was in the BL times and is truly meaningless, at least to a hapless tween.

BL history is a rehash of the dumb things that occurred in science and the universe in bygone days, which has absolutely no relevance to anyone between the ages of 5 and 15. I grew up believing that Columbus was a hero…. YAY… you discovered North America… huh says every First Nations’ person???

EL covers the time territory between about 15 and 55 years. This is when all things important and memorable occurred. The entire relevant and consequential history of the earth (in our view) takes place in this time frame.

Finally, and the stage I find myself in now is the AL period. This is the time when most of life’s major events have already happened and now all things get compared to those “good old days” of EL

EL is the way things were meant to be, according to the TAO of Larry (once again, substitute your name here). Nothing that happened before or after this era should ever change.

  • Old fogeys slip into grousing about the younger generation and their use of computers and cellphones and games.
  • Old fogeys protest the need for “apps” to do stuff.
  • Old fogeys lament the loss of courtesy.
  • Old fogeys say ALL politicians are liars and all people are heterosexual.
  • Old fogeys say that their music was better and more melodic/more danceable/more XYZ.

Old fogeys think that everything was better in years past because that was their norm, their reference point from which to judge the world.

Funny but true? The world changes. Always has. Always will.

Some things will be better. Some things will be worse. Most things will be neither except in the subjective eye of the beholder.

The universe is expanding and so should we.

Perhaps the best way to go about life, regardless of whether it’s from the reference point of BL, EL or AL is to remember the wise words of Desiderata…

…”And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”

Good Ole Days for this Good Ole Boy

2 Comments

Goodnight Jim Bob… goodnight Mary Ellen… goodnight Grandma… goodnight John Boy…..

… and on and on through the list of names called out in the cricket-clamorous darkness of a Virginia depression-era family.

Almost anyone of my vintage (or any of my children whom I forced to watch reruns!) would recognize the closing dialogue of this show…

Probably next to Hockey Night in Canada (Leafs vs Canadiens! GO Habs!!), my most treasured television program of my younger years was a treacly, heartwarming, and often bittersweet show called The Waltons (1972-1981).

I loved the show so much that we even named our eldest daughter after one of the show’s characters, Erin Walton.

The program for me was a bit like like Billy Joel’s lyrics…“it’s sad and it’s sweet and I knew it complete, when I wore a younger man’s clothes.”

WTH? Billy Joel on the road again?

I was perspiring, sweltering, glowing… working like a salt-stained Trojan through a treadmill run this week when I “ran” across a TV station replaying a 1970’s episode of The Waltons.

YES!

And yes again… because like so many things we look back on many years afterwards, it was even more syrupy and corny than I recalled, but still… I felt the heart-pulling pangs of lost innocence, the sweet scenes of family love and respect and order, even good Christian Godliness at its most pious.

The smell of pine trees and fresh-baked apple pies came through my TV screen; I could hear and touch the cool, rippling waters of the nearby fishing river and the hazy cloud of road dust clogging my nostrils as an old Model A Roadster or Ford Pickup rattled by on the 1930’s country roads.

My late father liked to describe his youth as “the good ole days“. As he spoke these words, I could see him playing “episodes” of his life inside his head.

As we age, we find ourselves looking back on the past in various forms of dreamy wonder and filmy carefreeness (I hope this is the case for most). Our minds fill with images and sensory input that meanders in and out while we sleep or as we pass through our daily lives.

Yet as sweet as the idea of “good ole days” is, I’d suggest that everything was rarely as fully idealistic and romantic as we might recall, but… so what… it seems better to try and idealize our past than to suffer through the traumas and dramas that were an inevitable part of those times.

Yesterday, just like today, was a mixture of breathtaking beauty and agonizingly beastly events. It comes to us all in varying degrees.

The Waltons helps me turn to this wondrous, dreamland state where it was always warm and sunny, everyone laughed and got along famously, Mom’s food (Mom’s were always the cooks in those days) was simple but delicious, and a summer day lasted a week.

Like the Waltons, my parents, siblings and I would come together and share Sunday dinners (always Roast Beef… in those times, the only vegetarian at our table was the cow we were consuming) each week as a group around the table.

We would chat and babble and portion out our stories of the day and the week just passed…

… my Mom would tell her tomboy tales of playing baseball on the farm with no gloves and smile as she reminisced of how her hands would ache from catching hard balls with no padding or protection; Dad would shell out his stories of his parents’ floral shop and his sisters playing piano in the parlour….

It was comforting to listen to sentimental remembrances of times I would never experience…

… and as I think back about all of this … I can hear those “Waltons” nostalgic sounds of harmonica and autoharp, the plaintive trumpet and accordion… as I enjoy the romantic memories of my own “good ole days”.

It’s A Wonderful… River…

2 Comments

Joy and Peace…

Sure, Joy and Peace, but you’d expect in this COVID year that isolation and loneliness might be prime themes too because we know that really, despite all the uplifting messages flooding radio and TV, that…

… Christmas has shadows of schizophrenic experience for many; the river of happiness melts into another counterpoint tributary of sadness, each river and tributary a personal journey of a life lived.

I love the bittersweet… the blend of jubilation and melancholy… the summary of life and living.

This week, while listening to beautiful seasonal music on the radio, one song sunk its teeth into me… Joni Mitchell’s bittersweet RIVER… a song I don’t even remember hearing until maybe 15 years ago, despite its release 49 years ago in 1971.

It’s coming on Christmas
They’re cutting down trees
They’re putting up reindeer
And singing songs of joy and peace
Oh, I wish I had a river
I could skate away on

River, from Mitchell’s 1971 BLUE album, was never released as a single.

Derivative of Jingle Bells and set at Christmas time, its opening and closing melody is “Jingle Bells” in a minor key. Yes, those minor keys that pour a mist of sadness over us.

River is thought to be Mitchell’s lament over the loss of a relationship with her “best baby that I ever had”, the one who “made me weak in the knees”, singer Graham Nash… although Mitchell is a bit coy in letting that out.

And now, in the last 20 years, River has ascended to holiday-hit status as an antidote to all those “songs of joy and peace.” “We needed a sad Christmas song, didn’t we?” Mitchell said with a chuckle on National Public Radio in 2014. “In the ‘bah humbug’ of it all.”

Aside from the sumptuous richness of the production of the song (so lush you can feel the rubbing of your shoulders with Joni on the piano bench)… taking her message of loss and sorrow and turning that blueness into something of beauty is clearly one that rings true for many.

Just drown in the chilly airiness of her singing “fly” near the end of verses 2 and 3.

And River was never truly written as a Christmas song.

Listening to the song, this week before Christmas, I’m struck by thoughts of other creations from times-past that have unexpectedly ridden a tsunami wave of popularity…

Another example… this time a cinema case-in-point:

It’s A Wonderful Life… the Frank Capra produced, Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed-acted Christmas masterpiece.

Released 74 (!) years ago in 1946, it barely caused a blip on the popular radar. The film had disappointing attendance and sales, and didn’t even return its cost of production ($6.3 million).

Nominated for Best Picture in 1947, it lost out to The Best Years Of Our Lives. Jimmy Stewart lost in the Best Actor category to Frederic March, also from The Best Years Of Our Lives.

Stewart had barely returned from a 4 year-long stint as an Army Air pilot who flew 20 combat missions over Germany when he took on the role of distraught son, brother, father George Bailey and turned the suicidal character into an emotional icon of film. Critics derided it as overly sentimental…

… it languished in the movie backwaters until the 1980’s when it was released royalty-free into the public domain. It’s A Wonderful Life is now ranked #20 on the top list of movies by the American Film Institute.

The rest is history, the film is a fixture of holiday watching. And today… we all know how an angel gets his wings, right?

My Christmas is best savoured with the bittersweet…

… the unloved Charlie Brown tree, sailing away on Joni’s long river, the recovered desperation of George Bailey…

In whatever way you find your journey through this COVID holiday season – whether you say Merry Christmas or Happy Hanukkah or Kwanzaa (Habari Gani)…

… may you discover some Joy and Peace in your little corner of the world.

Tech Time Machine… You’re On A Rocket…

Leave a comment

Marty McFly… let’s hop into your DMC DeLorean time machine and juice up the flux capacitor.

OK, set the time back by 30 years to 1990 (if this takes you into prenatal times, please please tell me what that looks like, I want to know the answer to that as much as I’d like to see into my post-life times).

I’m thinking about time travel right now for a reason.

Looking back with today’s eyes, 1990 was a “foreign country” for us all.

Thirty years ago this week, I stood in chilly Okanagan Lake waters at 7 am on a Sunday morning with nearly 1,000 others clad in wetsuits.

Supportive family members and friends came from near and far to give me a cheering boost for an event I had trained so hard for in the year leading up to this day.

My heart was pounding in my throat, both in exhilaration and terror (the good news is that in the lake, you can pee your pants and no one knows better other than the swimmer directly behind you. Sorry… TMI?)

We participants were all ready to dive in at the sound of a booming cannon – the cannon that starts the Ironman Canada triathlon race, a 3.8k swim, followed by a 180k bike, finishing with a 42.2k run. Great way to spend a relaxing Sunday.

But today, I’m not only thinking about the gruelling race, but also about the huge changes to our world in these oh-so-short 30 years.

Here are a few other things that cross my mind.

It’s about our world and technology.

I’m thinking about how many folks pulled out their cellphones and snapped photos of their friends and loved ones jumping into the water that August 1990 morning. How many photos got posted online for the world to see within seconds…

Here, let me answer that for you… pull out my calculator… hmmmm, 960 participants multiplied by an average of 4 or 5 relatives and friends watching from behind the barriers…

… and the answer is???? ZERO. None.

Huh? Why not Larry?

Well, a myriad of stuff has changed for you and me in 30 years… call a taxi… right! Wait until next Tuesday to watch your favourite TV show… hardly! Meet your life partner-to-be at a bar… *cue laughter*….

A few more examples…

1990. No smartphones… a few cellphones (owned by 4% of North Americans in 1990) sure, but pretty much no such thing as a smartphone with a camera embedded. The first early versions were still 12 years in the future.

These days, when I enter even the tiniest running or other athletic race (in non-COVID times)… camera phones are everywhere, all the time.

In 1990, there were no smartphones, no text messages… no Tesla’s or other electric cars… no BlueTooth, no Facebook, no YouTube.

In 1990 you paid your utility bills at the bank or by snail mail with a personal cheque.

Watch a movie in 1990? Just run by your local VHS rental store or Blockbuster and make sure your neighbours aren’t there when you sneak into the “ADULT” section in the back.

In 1990, you answered your landline phone (usually corded) because it was someone you knew calling (although no call display told you who), no telemarketers or scams.

In 1990, when you wanted to find a street address or your way through a strange city, you hauled out something called a map and found the location with your fingertips, not your GOOGLE.

In 1990, people read books. I mean books made of paper and glue and hard and soft covers that had pages you turned and needed a flashlight to read under the covers. No eReaders, no Kindles (first released in 2007), no Kobo’s. Bookstores were popular “social media” gathering spots in 1990.

In 1990, did you drive through your local Starbucks for a Sexagintuple Vanilla Bean Mocha Frappuccino? Of course not. Starbucks had barely 100 stores in 1990, probably none in your area. Just Mary & Joe’s Cuppa Joe House (or Timmy’s for us Canucks) was on your corner in those prehistoric coffee days. Espresso drinks were something Europeans drank.

In 1990, a blog? Is that something stuck in your toilet?

In 1990, when you listened to recorded music, it was usually from a cassette tape, a big step up from 8-track tapes! Your choices were vinyl or cassette. CD or mp3? Huh??

In 1990, a restaurant meal or a plane trip usually involved breathing in someone else’s secondhand smoke. In my province of B.C., smoking was legally allowed in restaurants until 1996. Smoking on flights within Canada was first banned at the beginning of 1990.

Feel free to tell me some other things I’ve missed.

And finally, in 1990, when I crossed the Ironman finish line (below) as the evening sun set and my muscles cried, my kids were 5, 3 and 1 years old. It’s so long ago that I can barely picture them in my head. They were so cute.

Right McFly, bring me back to 2020.

Those little kids are older and smarter than me now. Yes, that’s right, they are older than me… I was 19 years old in 1990 and today I’m still… 19. (I turned off my time machine long ago. That’s new math for you.)

More importantly though, they were healthy then and they are healthy today.

I’m a lucky man to return to 2020 in my older DeLorean body.

OK Boomer…